Thursday, February 23, 2017

George Padmore: Pan-African “communist”

Courtesy of my Verso Radical Diary: On this date in 1934 George Padmore (Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse) is expelled from the Comintern (although arguably remaining a ‘communist,’ or at least a socialist) and shifts his focus to African independence struggles.

“An anecdote suggests [George Padmore’s] power of persuasion. [Cyril C.] Ollivierre [a fellow West Indian student at Howard University and president of the campus Garvey Club] and Padmore met as dishwashers at Camp Kinderland, a resort for leftwing working-class Jewish New Yorkers which had opened in 1923 in Hopewell Junction. When washing up for a large party, the two fell behind. As the stacks of dirty dishes mounted in the steaming kitchen and the waiters’ voices became more and more abusive, Nurse [i.e., Padmore] grew indignant. Ollivierre, a more pliant man, commenced to scant his efforts, merely dipping plates for a cursory swish, a course of action which brought about his downfall, but in the meantime earned him a respite. Nurse refused to do so. Instead, he stopped, rolled down his sleeves (always one for proper dress) and marched to the dining room where he excoriated the startled diners for abetting the exploitation going on beneath their noses. Some of the men marched back through the swinging doors and helped catch up under Nurse’s supervision.”

According to James Hooker, “[George] Padmore’s strength was his indefatigable nature, remarkable memory and sense of organization. He was able to state his aims concisely, collected statistics avidly, read the capitalist press in detail and quoted from the generally accepted academic sources when he touched upon sensitive issues.” Several of these virtues are exemplified in Padmore’s Life and Struggle of Negro Toilers (London: Red International of Labour Unions, 1931), “the back cover of which showed a gigantic Negro hovering over the United States, West Indies and Africa, snapping the links in the slave chain which connected these distant places,” while its contents displayed “an amazing amount of information on the condition of black men in three continents, described their various organisations, showed statistical tables of the black man’s role in the various militaries of the great powers (including the United States), and explained the role of the new section of the RILU [Red International of Labour Unions]. The book, though on occasion lapsing into jargon, is in the main straightforward journalism which conveys a feeling that the black men of the world are at last awake, with the appropriate weapon of their deliverance at hand. Of his ten books or extended pamphlets, this and his last, Pan-Africanism or Communism? [London: Dennis Dobson, 1956], are probably the best known.” — from James R. Hooker’s Black Revolutionary: George Padmore’s Path from Communism to Pan-Africanism (Praeger Publishers, 1967). 
Recommended Reading:
  • Adi, Hakim. Pan-Africanism and Communism: The Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919-1939. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2013. 
  • Baptiste, Fitzroy and Rupert Lewis, eds. George Padmore: Pan-African Revolutionary. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 2009. 
  • Hooker, James R. Black Revolutionary: George Padmore’s Path from Communism to Pan-Africanism. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1967. 
  • Makalani, Minkah. In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. 
  • Padmore, George. How Britain Rules Africa. London: Wishart Books, 1936. 
  • Padmore, George. Pan-Africanism or Communism? The Coming Struggle for Africa. London, Dennis Dobson, 1956. 
  • Robinson, Cedric J. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000 (1983).
More—but not all—of Padmore’s writings are found online at the Marxist Internet Archive.

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