Letter from the B.C.F.A. council to all B.C.F.A. members concerning Joseph Needham's resignation.


694 Holloway Road, N. 19

February 15, 1965
Dear Member,

We are enclosing a copy of a letter we have received from Dr. Joseph Needham in which you will note his resignation as President of the Association and his intention to form another organisation. Dr. Needham has been closely associated with the organisation since its formation and naturally, we regret his decision to resign. As to his Intention to form another organisation we can only say that whereas our intention has always been to preserve the unity of those striving for friendship with China, his proposed move will split the movement and do great harm to the cause of British-Chinese friendship.

In his letter Dr. Needham makes assertions which do not accord with the facts or the history of the Association, If he has "...long been dissatisfied with the position of the Association..." we can only say that he never even once exercised his right as President of the Association to attend a National Committee to express this allegedly long-standing dissatisfaction with our policy and activities. We knew of his opposition to the Policy Statement which declared against the Association as such taking sides or in any way taking part in the dispute in the international Communist movement. This statement was endorsed by an overwhelming majority at the last Annual General Meeting in 1964, even though the contrary viewpoint had the fullest opportunity of expression.

It is not true to say, as Dr. Needham does, that the Policy Statement "forbade discussion on the Sino-Soviet dispute". It did not do this, was not meant to do it and there were innumerable discussions. Individuals did discuss and did take sides but as individuals and not as representative of the Association. The Association naturally and properly distributed thousands of pamphlets and statements published by the Chinese authorities, but this in no way contravened the Policy Statement.

Dr. Needham says that the Association was always unable to "exert influence of weight commensurate with the need of the international situation" and gives as his reason a supposedly close connection with the Communist Party. This Communist smear tactic is much to be regretted in a man of Dr. Needham's standing. It is also rather strange, coming as it does from one who is wanting to establish an organisation that will be distinguished from the Britain China Friendship Association only by popularising or advocating the views of the Chinese Communist Party as opposed to the views of some other Communist Parties. What are the facts?


The Association was formed in December 1949 but the preparations for this began, much earlier, many months before the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Its broad basis was its strength. It had within its ranks people of all shades of opinion - from the left to the right. It soon established itself and became recognised at home and abroad as the only organisation whose sole elm was to defend the Chinese people against slanders and lies, and to make known their achievements.

In the days of the war in Korea, It was this Association which concentrated entirely on campaigning throughout the length and breadth of the country, exposing the war as an act of U.S. aggression and mobilising people to protest against the war. Our influence and support in the Labour movement rapidly grew. It was because of this growing influence that the then leaders of the Labour Party proscribed the Association and gave as their reasons "close connections with the Communist Party". It is hard to believe that Dr. Needham wishes to adopt that same attitude.

In the 15 years of our existence we have constantly defended in this country the interests of the Chinese people. In the conflict with India our policy was complete support for the Chinese proposals to negotiate a peaceful solution to the frontier problem. We have been responsible for thousands of meetings right up to the present time and this work continues week in and week out.

On the present National Committee are members who right from the early days of the conflicts in China in the '20s have actively supported and campaigned in defence of the Chinese people. Included among them are those who organised protests of all kinds at the time of the Japanese military invasion of China In 1931 and 1937, and continue to defend the interests of the Chinese to the present day. Is It really suggested that these are holding back the cause of British-Chinese friendship ?

We recall a previous effort to disrupt our organisation by founding a new one. This was in the early days of the People?s Republic. It failed. We believe this new similar effort will prove just as abortive.

We are for a united organisation of all interested in developing real friendship between the British and Chinese peoples. That organisation is the Britain China Friendship Association which among its tasks has that of popularising the achievements of the Chinese people; securing full diplomatic relations between Britain and China, and working for the restoration to China of her seat in the United Nations.

The Britain-China Friendship Association has faced difficulties before, and has overcome them. We are confident that we shall overcome the new difficulties we face, and that, with your help, the Association will continue to work for the aims for which it was established.

Yours sincerely,
   Stanley Mayne, Chairman
   Jack Driboon, Secretary

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