People gather to celebrate the life of communist activist Claudia Jones

Comrades from Friends of Socialist China participated in the third annual commemoration of the birth of Claudia Jones (21 February 1915) organised by the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) at her graveside, to the left of Karl Marx, in London’s Highgate Cemetery on Sunday February 25. 

Claudia was outstanding activist and leader of the US, British and international communist movements, who creatively enriched and developed Marxist-Leninist theory on questions of national, racial and gender oppression in particular. A staunch friend of China, she met with Chairman Mao Zedong on her 1964 visit to the People’s Republic, shortly before her tragically early death at the age of 49.

More than 50 people attended the ceremony including a delegation from the Chinese Embassy led by Minister Zhao Fei.

Dr. Claire Holder, who was the longest serving Director of the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s largest street festival that was originally inspired by Claudia, read the text of her February 2, 1953 speech from the dock immediately before she was imprisoned under US anti-communist legislation on account of her struggle for peace and in particular against what she called the “bestial Korean war”, which was then still raging.  

In a speech that surely ranks among the greatest made by a communist revolutionary before a bourgeois court, Claudia noted that she was being sentenced for an appeal that, “urges American mothers, Negro women and white, to emulate the peace struggles of their anti-fascist sisters in Latin America, in the new European democracies, in the Soviet Union, in Asia and Africa to end the bestial Korean war, to stop ‘Operation Killer’, to bring our boys home, to reject the militarist threat to embroil us in a war with China, so that their children should not suffer the fate of the Korean babies murdered by napalm bombs of B-29s, or the fate of Hiroshima.

“Is all this not further proof that what we were also tried for was our opposition to racist ideas, so integral a part of the desperate drive by the men of Wall Street to war and fascism.”

This theme was echoed in speeches by CPB General Secretary Robert Griffiths, who referred to the immense destruction visited upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Korean people during the war of 1950-53, and by historian David Horsley of the CPB’s Anti-Racist and Anti-Fascist Committee, and the author of a pamphlet on Claudia’s life, who said that if she were still with us, Claudia would surely be at the head of every demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza. 

Other speakers were veteran Pan-Africanist activist and scholar Cecil Gutzmore and Fran Heathcote, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the largest trade union representing civil servants in the UK. The proceedings were chaired by CPB Chair Ruth Styles.

Floral tributes were paid by the Chinese Embassy, the CPB, the CPB London District Committee, the Young Communist League, PCS, the Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils and Friends of Socialist China. Among the attendees were Michael and Paul Crook, sons of the veteran communists and lifelong friends of China, Isabel and David Crook. Michael is also a member of the Friends of Socialist China advisory group.

The following report was originally published by the Morning Star.

More than 50 people gathered at London’s historic Highgate Cemetery on Sunday to celebrate the life of legendary communist activist Claudia Jones.

Jones, who is buried to the left of Karl Marx, died on Christmas Day 1964, having made a massive contribution to the movement for socialism in the United States and Britain.

Among the speakers was Fran Heathcote, the first female general secretary of the PCS union.

She highlighted the continued attacks and superexploitation of low-paid women and black members who work in outsourced industries.

Leading pan-African activist Cecil Gutzmore highlighted the continued racism faced by the black community in Britain.

Historian David Horsley said that he was convinced that “comrade Claudia would have been at the forefront of today’s fight for migrants and refugees.”

Dr Clare Holder, a past director of the Notting Hill Carnival, read out the statement Jones made to the US court before her deportation to Britain. She said it was as “powerful as others made by others such as Castro and Mandela.”

Communist Party general secretary Rob Griffiths recalled how the Smith Act in the US “was used against trade unionists, socialists as well as communists.”

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