Letter from Joseph Needam to Lord Boyd Orr about Presidency of B.C.F.A.

1, Owlstone Road, Cambridge 16 Apr 65

My Dear Boyd Orr,

Returning to Cambridge today I have just read your letter of 13 Apr about the suggestion that you should become President of the Britain-China Friendship Association. I would advise against this, but I must explain why.

The fact is that the secretariat of the BCFA was always dominated by the British Communist Party. Before the days of the Sino-Soviet dispute this merely had the disadvantage that a broad basis of support could never be obtained ? the organisation was proscribed by the Labour Party, and very few prominent people were willing to be associated with it. By the last Annual General Meeting a year ago, however, about half the active membership was alienated by the natural tendency of the party members to sympathise with the Moscow viewpoint and to deprecate the dissemination of the Peking viewpoint. There were many, however, who felt that the latter should, in the mere interest of facing the facts, be made known, without of course necessarily identifying themselves with it.

This situation gave and an opportunity for breaking away from the former strait-jacket and setting on foot a new organisation of a much wider type. Hence the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU), which will hold its inaugural meeting on 15 May next. I resigned from the Presidency of the BCFA in order to devote myself to the work of launching the new body, but I have continued as an ordinary member.

Herewith I enclose some papers that may be helpful to you in elucidating the matter. No notice was taken of my conciliatory speech at the AGM; a last effort to keep the groups together. Further explanations are given in a circular letter which I sent to BCFA members who wrote to me after my resignation. The list of sponsors is now much larger than that given in the orange paper, as you will see from the invitation to the inaugural meeting of SACU, a copy of which you must already received.

With warmest regards, Yours sincerely, J. N.

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