The transnational fight for African freedom

The transnational fight for African freedom
Fecha de publicación: 
15 June 2024
Imagen principal: 

GEORGE PADMORE played a central role in developing and building transnational African liberation communities of resistance.

Born Malcolm Nurse in Trinidad in June 1903, he changed his name, as did many (particularly communist) activists of the time, as cover from identification while involved in clandestine activities.

As a university activist student in the United States in the 1920s, Padmore joined the Communist Party and quickly rose in its ranks.
Padmore became one of the leading African activists within the Communist International — known as the Comintern.

He became chair of the Red International of Labour Unions and the executive secretary of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUCNW). There were five objectives of the ITUCNW set out at a conference held in Hamburg in July 1930:

• To carry on propaganda and agitation, calling upon the negro workers to organise themselves into revolutionary trade unions in order to fight for higher wages, shorter hours and better conditions.

• To help the millions of negro workers who were unemployed organise councils in order to demand relief from their government, free rent and non-payment of taxes.

• To agitate and organise the negro workers against the approaching imperialist war and the intervention in Soviet Russia, in which the white capitalist exploiters intended to use black workers as cannon fodder as they had done in the last war.

• To promote and develop the spirit of international solidarity between workers of all colours and nationalities, calling upon them to support the Soviet Union which fights for the freedom of the working class and all oppressed peoples, as well the Chinese, Indian, South African and all other revolutionary movements of the colonial toilers.

• The committee also fights against white chauvinism, social reformism and the reformist programmes of the negro capitalist misleaders, like Marcus Garvey, Du Bois, Pickens and Walter White of the National Association of Coloured People in America; Clements Kadalie and AWG Champion in South Africa, the white trade union faker, Captain Cipriani, in the West Indies; and the missionaries, preachers and other agents of imperialism.

There appears to have been little help from the Communist Party of Great Britain in organising the conference. Authorities across Europe and South Africa created roadblocks to the participation of the conference delegates by denying passports and visas as well as threatening to arrest anyone attending the conference.

Marcus Garvey and the UNIA

Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica on August 17 1887 and was best known for being the founder and leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA). The UNIA was an international self-liberation organisation founded in Jamaica in 1914.

The UNIA saw extremely rapid growth. Garvey inaugurated the New York division of the UNIA in 1917 with 13 members. After only three months, the organisation’s paying membership reached 3,500.

With the growth of its membership between 1918 and 1924, as well as income from its various economic enterprises, the organisation purchased additional party halls in the US, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama and other countries. The UNIA also purchased farms in Ohio and other states.

By 1920 the association had over 1,100 divisions in more than 40 countries. Most divisions were located in the United States, which had become the UNIA’s base of operations. But there were also offices in several Caribbean countries, including Cuba — which had the most.

UNIA was well represented across the British empire with a presence in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and even Australia.

This led to a flurry of activity between different colonial governments trying to undermine the organisation and, especially, Garvey.

The first International UNIA convention was held during August 1920 at Madison Square Garden in New York with 20,000 members in attendance.

The Non-Aligned Movement

In 1955 delegates from 29 countries, representing 54 per cent of the world’s population, gathered in Bandung, Indonesia, to sign a 10-point pledge against war and for the “promotion of mutual interests and co-operation,” amongst what was actually by far the majority of the world’s population.

The early leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) were true political giants of the era. Africans Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana were key figures on the world stage alongside Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru, Josef Broz Tito of Yugoslavia and Sukarno of Indonesia.

This book has sought to chart the role that Africans have played in the resistance to racism and the rise of the global South.

It has also shown that the practice of building communities of resistance at local, national and international levels have been critical to this resistance. I think the world is at a critical point where the political grounds are shifting.

By the end of the decade the far right could well be voted into control of large swathes of the world. The left needs to take up this challenge and build the widest level of unity possible which specifically includes women and people of African and Asian descent.

In 2023 Public Services International published a document called Decolonising Labour Regimes.

The document pointed out that “contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance have their roots in slavery, colonialism and imperialism, which sought the denial of social, political, and economic rights according to race, class, caste, gender, sexuality and geography in order to advance the European capitalist imperialist project.”

The document goes on to say that addressing the root causes of racism “needs an understanding of the historical and contemporary relationship between capital, the construction of racial (and other) hierarchies and capital’s imperative to control labour for the purposes of profit and wealth accumulation.”

The report argues that racial capitalism is at the heart of racism across the globe. This clarity is important — especially coming in a document from a trade union body that has been dominated in recent times by a conservative British trade union leader.

This is a challenge to all of us who want to defeat capitalism, move towards socialism, and achieve an African Uhuru.

African Uhuru by Roger McKenzie is out now, published by Manifesto Press. The book is available via the Morning Star shop ( and every order made gives a slice of the cover price to our daily paper of working-class power and liberation.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.