George Padmore 1930

The Negro Liberation Movement and the International Conference
(January-February 1930)

Source: The Negro Worker: Bulletin of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers of the R.I.L.U., No. 1-2, Vol. 3 (January-February 1930), pp 3-7.
Transcriber’s Note: ‘In July 1930 an ‘International Conference of Negro Workers’ took place in Hamburg, in Germany .... Although the meeting was originally to have been held in London, this had proven impossible due to Britain’s imposition of entrance bans on potential participants. More important, colonial governments had been instructed to stop would-be delegates from leaving their respective territories’. See Susan Campbell’s ‘Introduction to The Negro Worker’.
Transcribed: by Christian Høgsbjerg.

Notwithstanding the reign of white ruling class terrorism and the ruthless subjugation of the black toiling masses of the world, the revolutionary spirit among Negroes is rapidly exerting itself. Recently we have had manifestations of open revolt against Imperialist Rule in Africa, and the West Indies.

The Negroes in the USA are also rapidly being drawn into the class struggle of the American proletariat, and are demonstrating outstanding militancy, especially in the Industries in which they play an important and intricate part.

The colonial struggles are being conducted on the great objective and subjective difficulties. On the one hand, there is a lack of conscious leadership; and on the other, isolation from the more advanced and experienced proletariat of Europe and the United States. Nevertheless, the very conditions under which the Negro peoples throughout the world live, drive them into the orbit of the struggle and prepare them to play an ever-increasing important role in the international revolutionary movement.

It is absolutely necessary for us to link up these spasmodic revolts with its main current, and thereby give leadership and direction to the nascent revolutionary movement of the black toilers.

What are some of the conditions confronting the international Negro working class?


Revolt in South Africa

In this land of Anglo-Boer Imperialism, the struggles between the natives and the oppressors are becoming sharper and sharper daily. Several clashes have already occurred between the black workers and their class-conscious white allies against the employers and the South African Government. These fights, however, are weakened by the disunited situation which presently exists in the trade union movement. In South Africa we have several conflicting trade union elements. On the one hand, unions which bar Negroes outright, and on the other, the Industrial and Commercial Union, a native reformist organisation split into three warring camps, led by Ballinger, an English ILP member, Kadalie and Champion, native reformists, and the Non-European Federation of Trade Unions, affiliated to the RILU.

The last-named organisation, because of its militant program under the leadership of the Communist Party of South Africa, is making tremendous gains among the natives. Alarmed by this, the police recently carried out a series of czarist raids upon native quarters in Durban. Both the Party and the Union organised monster mass demonstrations of the natives against the attempts of the Government to saddle increased taxes upon the workers, and to introduce new legislative which is directed to outlaw the revolutionary movement. Efforts were made by’ the military to break up these meetings, but the workers fought back and held their own. The natives are also conducting an heroic struggle against the Master and Servants’ Act, a capitalist law which makes it a criminal offense for the Negro workers to go out on strike.

The South African bourgeoisie led by Pirow, the Minister of Justice, and backed up by the military forces of the State and Fascists’ organisations, have instituted a reign of white terror throughout the Union with the hope of crushing the militancy of the natives. But this has only served to accelerate the struggle by driving the Negroes in larger and larger numbers into the revolutionary trade unions and the Communist Party, the only real champions for a BLACK SOUTH AFRICAN WORKERS’ AND FARMERS’ GOVERNMENT.


East Africa

In Kenya, Rhodesia, and Tanganyika, the British imperialists are increasing their attacks upon the natives in order to carry out their scheme of forming a new colonial market for further exploitation by uniting these colonies together under a centralised political administration. In this respect they are sadly disappointed for the natives are already beginning to mobilise their forces to resist further encroachments upon their territories. Strikes are frequently taking place among the semi-proletariat in these regions, In Basutoland, where the population is 498,781, of whom 1,603 are Europeans, a peasant organisation called the Lekhotla La Bafo, has been established in order to mobilise the agrarian and village masses against the Europeans, who have already annexed the most fertile sections of the country.

West Africa

In the past, the agrarian policy in West Africa was not as acute as in the East African Colonies, but recently, big British corporations, such as Lever Brothers, the Nigerian Tin Co., and Elder, Dempster & Co., have increased their investments throughout the West Coast Colonies. This has led to a new land policy, which aims to expropriate the land from the peasantry in order to develop large scale plantatations. To facilitate this imperialist design, the Government of Nigeria has introduced a new taxation scheme which alms to drive the natives entirely off the land.

The first application of this new land policy met with militant resistance in the South Eastern Province in the Colonies. On December 11th, 1929, when the British tax collectors appeared in the villages to receive their tolls, the natives led by well organised bands of women staged demonstrations of protest and refused to pay. Troops were called on the scene in order to shoot. Forty-four were killed including 43 women and one man.

In Gambia, the native workers have been deprived of the right to organise into trade unions in Bathhurst by the British Colonial Administrator, acting at the instigation of the foreign capitalists. Shortly after the natives had created a union, the employers issued a manifesto denouncing the organisation, and called upon the Government to suppress it. This the representatives of MacDonald’s ‘Labor’ Government quickly did by declaring the Union illegal.

Thus we see the complete collaboration between His Majesty’s Social-Fascist Government and the British traders in the colonies.

The bloody massacre in Nigeria together with the every-day outrages perpetrated in other colonies in Africa and the West Indies, shows the extent to which MacDonald and his lackeys will stoop in order to carry out the plans of the British bourgeoisie.

Revolts against forced labor in French Equatorial Africa have also occurred within recent months. These uprisings were put down with tremendous slaughter. French troops massacred hundreds of natives, and in some cases wiped out entire villages with machine, guns and aerial bombardments.

The Haitian Revolt

Haiti, an economic colony of American Imperialism in the West Indies has been the scene of the latest revolt against American occupation. This struggle lasted several days and met with a general onslaught by the United States Marines. The Uprising began with a strike of students of the national University in Port-au-Prince, but soon spread among the native clerical staff of the Customs Department, which is under the direct supervision of American Officials. The dock and transport workers also joined the strike. Within a few hours after the students had appeared on the streets demonstrating against the Borneo Administration, and the United States Imperialism, the peasants who represent the most exploited section of the population organised battalions and armed with machetes, (long knives used for cutting sugar canes) and sticks, marched on Port-au-Prince, bent upon overthrowing the Government and seizing the capital.

As they approached the city, they were met by Marines at Aux Cayes, and ordered to halt. This they refused to do. The soldiers then shot into their ranks killing five and wounding twenty.

President Hoover informed of the uprising immediately despatched the Cruiser GALVESTON, and 500 more Marines with the bombing plane WRIGHT, to ensure victory for Yankee Imperialism.

Haiti is of tremendous importance for American imperialism both economically and strategically. Situated in the Caribbean, within short distance from the American mainland, and overlooking the Panama Canal and the proposed Nicaragua Canal, Wall Street is determined to maintain a strangle-hold over the Republic.

Since 1915, American marines and financial advisers have been in control of economic and political affairs of the country. During this period over 2,500 natives, chiefly peasants, have been murdered by the marines. The peasants have been exterminated from the lands in order to provide for the expansion of large-scale coffee, cocoa and cotton plantations, controlled by foreign corporations. Forced labor has also been instituted in order to guarantee the construction of roads and railways. The National Bank of the Republic has become the private property of Wall Street bankers. Freedom of speech and press, as well as all oppositional political parties to the Borneo regime, have been ruthlessly exterminated.

In short, Haiti has been turned into a slave colony under the Dictatorship of a black puppet maintained by the bayonets of the marines as the President of the Republic.


West Indian Federation

There are also signs of unrest among the natives in the British West Indian colonies of Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados and Grenada, as well as the United States Virgin Islands. In the first named group of Islands, a Nationalist Movement has already crystallised itself around the Labor Party of Trinidad. Meetings are being held throughout the Island rallying together the workers and poor farmers under the slogan of ‘THE WEST INDIES FOR THE WEST INDIANS’.

On the occasion of the recent visit of Sir Sydney Olivier, now Lord Olivier, one of the leaders of the British ‘Labor’ Party, as Chairman of a Royal Commission to inquire into the sugar industry, the black workers of Barbados staged protest demonstrations in Bridgetown, the capital of the Island, demanding the abolition of their present semi-slave status, and the right to elect their own representative to the Legislative Council.

As to be expected, the reformist Lord, frowned upon these demands; but the natives are becoming more and more politically conscious and are determined to carry on the struggle for colonial freedom.

In Jamaica, a colony of great revolutionary traditions (the Maroon Rebellions), the natives are again showing signs of unrest, Labor and political organisations are springing up among them with such rapidity, that the colonial government has ordered the native regiment disbanded, replacing it by British soldiers because they fear that in the event of an uprising native soldiers would go over to the toilers.

American Imperialism through the United Fruit Co, one of the biggest corporations operating in Latin-America and the West Indies, is dealing a death blow to British interests in the banana industry in Jamaica. This rivalry has had a tremendous effect on worsening the conditions of the Jamaican workers, who, however, are learning to use the strike weapon with much success. A number of political strikes took place among the dock and transport workers last year resulting in many clashes between the workers and the soldiers.

The United States

These militant demonstrations are not confined to the colonial Negroes, but are also evidenced in the various bitter struggles participated in by the colonial workers in the United States within recent months.

The Negro miners in the Southern Illinois coalfields are today fighting gallantly alongside their white brothers against the combined efforts of the employers, the treacherous bureaucracy of the United Mine Workers’ Union of America, the State and Federal Governments, to break the strike.

A Negro, William Boyce, is the Acting-President of the Revolutionary National Mineworkers’ Union, which is leading the struggle.

Unifying the International Struggles

However, this wave of indignation and rebellion of the Negro toilers of the world lacks unification, and because of this these black workers are unable to achieve the maximum results in their rebellions against their imperialist oppressors.

‘Being the victims of the capitalist greed and inhuman oppression, the toiling Negroes are widely used by the imperialists as cannon fodder for their plunderous wars and for the struggle against the revolutionary movement. It was thus in the last world war, and it will be thus in the new bloodbath being prepared by the imperialists. Neither are the Negroes to occupy the least place, according to the imperialist plans, in the war being prepared against the USSR, the only Fatherland of the Toilers of All Nations and Races,

The Negro masses are still disunited, and they have no united organising centre for the struggle, which greatly weakens their resistance to imperialist oppression. This is why the INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF TOILING NEGROES, scheduled to take place in LONDON, on JULY 1, 1930, will be of vast significance for the emancipatory movement of the Negroes and for the entire international revolutionary movement.’

All class-conscious Negroes must make an effort to participate in this historic event, which will be the first time that the broad toiling masses of Negroes in the United States, Africa, the West Indies and Latin America, will come together and organise into a powerful International Movement, on the basis of a genuine revolutionary program in order to carry on the struggle more effectively for the liberation of the brutally oppressed Negro race from the fetters of white capitalist-imperialist domination.