Monday, December 31, 2018

History of the Pan-African Congress by George Padmore (Editor) 1947--The Challenge to the Colonial Powers
The delegates to the Fifth Pan-African Congress believe in peace. How could it be otherwise when fur centuries the African peoples have been victims of violence and slavery. Yet if the Western world is still determined to rule mankind by force, then Africans, as a last resort, may have to appeal to force in the effort to achieve Freedom, even if force destroys them and the world.

We are determined to be free. We want education. We want the right to earn a decent living; the right to express our thoughts and emotions, to adopt and create forms of beauty. We demand for Black Africa autonomy and independence, so far and no further than it is possible in this “One World” for groups and peoples to rule themselves subject to inevitable world unity and federation.

We are not ashamed to have been an age-long patient people. We continue willingly to sacrifice and strive. But we are unwilling to starve any longer while doing the world’s drudgery, in order to support by our poverty and ignorance a false aristocracy and a discredited Imperialism.

We condemn the monopoly of capital and the rule of private wealth and industry for private profit alone. We welcome economic democracy as the only real democracy. Therefore, we shall complain, appeal and arraign. We will make the world listen to the facts of our condition. We will fight in every way we can for freedom, democracy and social betterment.
History of the Pan-African Congress by George Padmore (Editor) 1947--Declaration to the Colonial Workers, Farmers and Intellectuals
The delegates of the Fifth Pan-African Congress believe in the right of all peoples to govern themselves. We affirm the right of all Colonial peoples to control their own destiny. All Colonies must be free From foreign imperialist control, whether political or economic. The peoples of the Colonies must have the right to elect their own governments, without restrictions from foreign powers. We say to the peoples of the Colonies that they must fight for these ends by all the means at their disposal.

The object of imperialist powers is to exploit. By granting the right to Colonial peoples to govern themselves that object is defeated. Therefore, the struggle for political power by Colonial and subject peoples is the first step tow towards, and the necessary prerequisite to, complete social, economic and political emancipation.

The Fifth Pan-African Congress therefore calls on the workers and farmers of the Colonies to organise effectively. Colonial workers must be in the front of the battle against Imperialism. Your weapons-the Strike and the Boycott-are invincible.

We also call upon the intellectuals and professional classes of the Colonies to awaken to their responsibilities. By fighting for trade union rights, the right to form cooperatives, freedom of the press, assembly, demonstration and strike, freedom to print and read the literature which is necessary for the education of the masses, you will be using the only means by which your liberties will be won and maintained. Today there is only one road to. effective action-the organisation of the masses. And in that organisation the educated Colonials must join.

Colonial and Subject Peoples of the World-Unite!
History of the Pan-African Congress by George Padmore (Editor) 1947
Memorandum to United Nations Organisation.

A Resolution calling for adequate representation of the coloured peoples of the world within the United Nations Organisation was presented to the United Nations Secretariat by Dr. W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, International President of the Pan-African Congress. It states:

“The undermentioned organisations and individuals representing or supporting the rights of African Negroes and descendants of Africans in the West Indies and the United States of America, strongly endorse and respectfully submit the following proposals initiated by the Pan-African Congress.

The great need of the world today is intelligent citizenship capable of controlling the actions of men by democratic methods of government.

One of the greatest obstacles to this accomplishment is the poverty, ignorance and disease in colonies, especially those in Africa.

In spite of all efforts to overcome these conditions by the colonial powers, by philanthropy and missions, and by the efforts of the Negroes themselves, progress is hindered by the difficulties which these Negroes have in making known their needs and wants and the opposition that confronts them. In addition, there is the widespread assumption that Negroes lack the intelligence to express their views and can only be represented by imperial governments or by other spokesmen not of their own choosing.

It is just, proper, and necessary that provision be made for the participation of designated representatives of the African colonial peoples in such business of the United Nations as concerns them. The truth of this principle cannot be denied. Provision should be made for such participation to the maximum extent possible under the present charter of the United Nations, so that the grievances and demands of the Africans can be freely expressed.

Already for nearly half a century peoples of African descent have been holding Congresses. Their object has been to increase mutual knowledge of each other and cooperation among the various African peoples and their descendants in America. Such Congresses have been held in London, 1910; Paris, 1919; London, Paris, Brussels, 1921; London, Paris, Lisbon, 1923; New York, 1927; Manchester, England, 1945. Other conferences of African peoples have also been held during recent years. The organisation of the Pan-African Congress has not been wholly representative, but it has far-reaching and increasing influence among Negroes and has helped to bring persons of Negro descent in the Americas in sympathy and co-operation with their African brethren.

American and West Indian citizens of Negro descent regard it as especially appropriate that they should share in the responsibility for the liberation and modern development of Africa. They have already shown the world that they contribute to human progress. Moreover, African Negroes themselves have made far more progress in modern culture than they are usually given credit for and have a growing class of educated persons capable of expressing their desires. Even those who lack modern education have the training of ancient and highly developed cultural patterns which render their opinions and desires of value.”

Organisations which supported the petition:

New York State Conference, NAACP; James Egert Allen, President.
National Council of Negro Women, Inc.; Mary McLeod Bethune, Founder, President.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Mae Wright Downs.
National Sunday School, B.T.U. Congress; Dr. W. H. Jernagin, President.
National Bar Association; Earl B. Dickerson, President.
West Coast Regional Office, NAACP; N. W. Griffin. Regional Secretary.
American Teachers’ Association; Walter N. Ridley President.
National Association of Coloured Women, Inc.; Mrs. Christine S. Smith, President.
Non-Partisan Interfaith Citizens Committee; C. B. Powell, A. Qayron Powell, Co-Chairman.
National Negro Congress; Max Yergan, President.
Council on African Affairs; Max Yergan, Executive Director.
Southern Negro Youth Congress; Esther V. Cooper, Executive Secretary.
Improved Order of Elks of the World; J. Finley Wilson, Grand Exalted Ruler.
Negro Newspaper Publishers Association; Frank L. Stanley, President.
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.; D. W. Jemison, President.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.; George A. Parker, National President.
National Medical Association; W. A. Younge, President.
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity; Augustus G. Parker, Grand Polemarch.
Second Episcopal District, A.M.E. Zion Church; Bishop W. J. Walling, Presiding.
Alpha Phi Alpha; Belford Lawson, President.
Pan-African Federation, Manchester, England, affiliated with 12 organisations of Negroes in Europe and Africa; Peter Milliard, M.D., President; T. R. Makonnen, Treasurer.
League of Coloured Peoples, M. Joseph-Mitchell, Secretary.
National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons, representing 140 organizations, 410 towns in British West Africa; Nnamdi Azikiwe, President.
Non-European Unity Committee, Union of South Africa; Z. R. Mahabane, Chairman.
His Excellency Ras Has Immru of Imperial Ethiopian Legation has expressed his “sympathy for your efforts in the interest and welfare of the African people and to wish you success."
Nyasaland African Congress; C. Matinga, President-General.
The African Development Association; F. C. Archer, Founder, Secretary-Treasurer.
St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union; Jos. N. France, General Secretary.
Trades Union Congress of Jamaica; Ken Hill, Vice-Chairman.
The Barbados Progressive League; Grantley Adams, President; H. W. Springer, General Secretary.
The Barbados Workers’ Union; H, W. Springer, General Secretary.
International African Service Bureau; George Padmore, Chairman.
Kenya African Union; W. W. W. Awori, Secretary.
Kikuyu Central Association of Kenya; Jomo Kenyatta, Secretary.
West African Youth League (Sierra Leone); Wallace Johnson, Secretary.
Caribbean Labour Congress; Richard Hart, Secretary.
The Voice of Coloured Labour--General Strike in Nigeria by George Padmore (Editor) 1945
10. General Strike in Nigeria

On June 21st, 1945, after the failure of protracted representations to the Government for salary increases to meet the very much increased cost of living, 150,000 clerical and non-clerical workers in the Nigeria civil service, came out in a general strike of all Government departments. The non-clerical unskilled workers were claiming a minimum wage of 2s. 6d. a day.

Since 1941, the cost of living in Nigeria has risen by over 200 percentum as a direct consequence of the war. The Government acknowledge this fact, and has granted several kinds of allowances which effectually benefited rather a few European officials than the Africans, Examples of these allowances are the Separation Allowance, the Cost of Living Allowance, and the Local Allowance. The African workers, especially those in the non-clerical services, who have been most seriously hit by the rise in prices, received little increase in wage.

The Historic Resolution

At a mass meeting held on Saturday, the 19th day of May, 1945, at the Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos, a resolution was passed unanimously by 17 Unions declaring, among other things:

“(i) That we strongly deplore the callous attitude of Government to the sufferings, of the masses of African workers, mostly men with large families, as set out in a previous memorandum issued by the African Civil Servants Technical Workers’ Union (Nigeria),

“(ii) And further that failing a grant in full (repeat: in full) with effect from the 1st April, 1944, of the extremely modest demand contained in the letter Of 22nd March, 1945, to wit:

“Labour: Minimum daily wage to be 2s. 6d. per day;

“Subordinate grades between Labour and Standard Scale: 50 percent increase on the existing Cost of Living Allowance; within one calendar month hence, i.e., not later than Thursday, the 21st June, 1945, the Workers of Nigeria shall proceed to seek their own remedy, with due regard to law and order on the one hand and starvation on the other.”

“That a minimum daily wage of 2s. 6d. be established for all unskilled labour.”

In a reply to the letter referred to above, dated 31st August, 1944, the Government wrote:

“A general review of emoluments and other conditions of service of all Government servants will, it is proposed, be undertaken as soon as possible after the war.”

In another letter, dated 11th June, 1945, the Government wrote that: “An increase in money wages will not secure any betterment in the conditions of living unless plentiful supplies of foods and goods are available...agricultural production cannot be expected to show immediate improvement and existing conditions are likely to continue for some time.” This reply, naturally, did not satisfy the members in the non-clerical branch of the service owing to the indefiniteness of the time at which the points raised on their behalf are likely to be considered.

It is clear from this summary that the workers of Nigeria have exercised all patience and exhausted all constitutional means to come to a reasonable settlement, but the Government was not willing to co-operate.

In order to render support to the strikers, a meeting was convened at Conway Hall, London, on Sunday, July 15th, 1945, under the auspices of the West African Students’ Union, The International African Service Bureau, The African Progressive Association, the Pan-African Federation, The Colonial Peoples’ United Council, The Brotherhood of African Peoples, and African workers domiciled in Great Britain. The meeting was also attended by members of the Indian community in London and British sympathisers. Similar meetings were held in Manchester and Liverpool. The following Resolution was proposed and adopted by the London meeting:

(I) It condemns with all the emphasis at its command the uncompromising attitude of the Nigerian Government in connection with the events leading up to and the consequences of the said strike, to wit:

(a) The refusal on the part of the said Government to arrive at a reasonable compromise with or concede to the legitimate demand of the technical workers, who have been on strike since June 21st, 1945, for increased cost of living award and the moderate minimum wage of 2s. 6d. per diem, in spite of the phenomenal rise in the cost of living as the direct consequences of the present war, for the successful prosecution of which West Africans have made enormous contributions both in men and materials.

(b) The fascist method adopted by the said Government in stifling public opinion by suppressing the West African Pilot and the Daily Comet, and the alleged threatening of the Editor, Mr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, with deportation from Nigeria for supporting the strikers, and reimposing Defence Regulations which had been repealed in May, 1945.

(c) The studied policy of discrimination pursued by the Nigerian Government as between the different sections of its employees in the award of cost of living relief, as such policy completely negatives its uninformed assertion that an increase in money wages to the poorly-paid strikers would not secure for them any betterment in their conditions of living.


(a) The meeting therefore calls upon the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Nigerian Government to abandon the use of military force and the reimposed Defence Regulations in intimidating the strikers and distinguished citizens of Nigeria; to display real statesmanship in this unprecedented crisis by bringing the strike to an end, releasing the Trade Union leaders under arrest, reinstating the West African Pilot and the Daily Comet, guaranteeing the personal safety of Mr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in Nigeria; and to grant the demands of the Union and refrain from any act of victimisation against the strikers in the exercise of their legal and constitutional rights.

(b) Calls upon the Trade Union Congress of Great Britain to intervene immediately in the present dispute so as to ensure a fair settlement and to use its good offices, in co-operation with the workers throughout the British Commonwealth and Empire to secure for the strikers such wages and conditions of service consistent with the lofty ideals enunciated in the San Francisco Charter.

(III) The meeting meanwhile extends its sympathy to the workers of the African Civil Servants Technical Workers’ Union of Nigeria in their struggle to secure their legitimate demands, and authorises the net proceeds of the contributions made at this historic meeting to be remitted as soon as possible to Nigeria to relieve the hardship caused by the strike to the wives and children of the strikers.

Issued by: Pan-African Federation
West African Students’ Union

Eighty-five pounds were collected at the London meeting; £100 at Manchester and £40 at Liverpool.
The Voice of Coloured Labour--Nigerian Labour on the Move by T.A. Bankole with George Padmore (Editor) 1945
By T. A. Bankole (President, Trade Unions Congress of Nigeria)

9. Nigerian Labour on the Move

Shortly after the outbreak of the general strike in Nigeria, which started on June 21, 1945, Mr. Bankole was released from the office of President of the Trades Union Congress of Nigeria – Editor.

Nigeria, with an area of approximately 372,000 square miles and a population probably not far short of 30,000,000, ranks next to India in the British. Commonwealth, and possesses immense economic resources. Every Nigerian tribe has a form of culture all its own (founded on its traditional code of morals), which the impact of European civilisation has to be prevented from injudiciously upsetting.

In spite of her 84 years of British rule, Nigeria still suffers from grave social, political and economic disabilities. There are clear evidences of overcrowding and bad housing, malnutrition, underpayment, disease, and restricted citizenship-a rather unhappy condition.

The great bulk of the peasantry, comprising some 80 percent of the entire population, still depends generally on subsistence farming. The working population is employed in the civil service, in the mercantile houses (which are, in the main, establishments owned and controlled by foreign monopolies), and in the coal tin and gold mines, generally earning a pittance. Among the educated class are to be found professionals and graduates of British and American universities.

A few trade unions had existed for the protection of workers of certain categories (e.g., the Nigeria Civil Service Union) before trade unionism became legalised in 1938. Since then no less than 85 trade unions have been registered, with an aggregate active membership of about 30,000, besides occasional members placed at about fifteen times that figure. These unions are, most of them, organised vertically and are protective of the collective interests of all the workers connected with the respective establishments in which they are employed.

The Government proposal – about October, 1942 – to enact the Essential Works Order served as a signal for concerting trade union activities; and steps primarily intended to counteract that proposal, on the ground that only employers of labour stood to benefit thereby, resulted a month later in the formation of the Federated Trades Union of Nigeria (renamed the Trades Union Congress about nine months later). This organisation is waxing strong and is capable of great achievements for the workers.

Workers’ needs.
The needs of the workers of Nigeria, thoroughly examined by the T.U.C. at its Conference held in Lagos in August, 1944, and duly represented to the Nigerian Government in a number of resolutions, call for urgent attention. In that connection the following important points are to be noted:

(a) The problem of resettlement and rehabilitation of demobilised soldiers, and war workers is of immediate importance. It is imperative that those of our men who return from the war front still able-bodied shall be resettled in their pre-war jobs and paid decent wages, or else assisted to work on their own under an “Assisted Industrial Development Scheme.” Those of them who return disabled ought to be fully compensated and granted reasonable pension. It still has to be driven home to our Government that our soldiers and war workers who have been making great sacrifices in defence of democratic principles deserve to be restored to a really happy life at the end of the war.

(b) Nigeria, with her vast potential wealth, is at present under-developed. There is great need for industrial scholarships (side by side with the existing social science scholarships) for the training of candidates to act as the spearhead of the country’s industrial drive. Candidature should not, as hitherto, be confined to Government servants. Methods of selection need to be revised; and the necessary qualifications need include natural aptitude and public spirit. The establishment on a large scale of such industries as fishing, fish and meat curing, building, cement, glazed pottery and tile-making, spinning, textile and shoe-making, to mention only a few, should benefit Nigeria greatly, provided they are developed for the economic well-being of the indigenous population by effectively checking monopolistic influences now so firmly established all over the country. The agricultural and mineral possibilities of the soil have also to be further explored and the use of appropriate modern machinery duly taught with a view to improving productivity and introducing processing to supply part of our local needs.

(c) It is believed that the time has arrived for a comprehensive social security scheme to be made to cover such adverse circumstances of life as unemployment, sickness, accident, old age, etc. This important matter has recently been brought to the notice of the Government, which has not yet declared its attitude.

(d) A point of great Import to the Nigerian T.U.C. is the securing of trade union representation on Government Labour Committees against wanton interference on the part of influential employers. It is necessary to ensure that there shall be no recurrence of a recent episode in which the T.U.C. found itself up against the head of a Government department, who rigidly objected to a trade unionist (incidentally an official in his own department) being nominated to the Labour Advisory Board for Lagos and Colony.

(e) The existing policy of low wages for labour in Nigeria must be reversed. The minimum wage of a mine-worker on the Plateau is 9d. a day; the average minimum wage for unskilled labour is 1s. a day; and that for clerical or technical labour, 3s. a day. It is definitely humanly impossible for most wage-earners to maintain a decent living standard with such a wage level In consideration of this fact, the T.U.C. has been advocating a thorough investigation by the Government of the wages question, and the nationalisation of such industries as mining, transport, timber, etc, to check labour exploitation. There is now a minimum wage-fixing machinery; but it operates rather slowly and, to all appearance, favours the existing order. It could here be mentioned that the Nigerian worker draws no family allowance, nor are his children educated by the State: he therefore labours continually under a great financial strain.

(f) The housing problem is grave. Urgent attention must be given to: (i) provision of adequate dwelling houses for workers (preferably near their work-places); (ii) slum clearing, and (iii) effective rent control. It is most insanitary for six or more people (in many cases including married couples) to live in a room containing 100 square feet of floor space. Most of the tenements occupied by workers are hovels for which high rents are demanded. The bearing of these conditions on health and mortality are too obvious to be stressed here,

(g) The attention of the Government has recently been invited to the need for revising the Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance-(i) to provide improved rates of compensation for industrial and occupational accidents, and (ii) to cover cases of industrial and occupational diseases at present outside its scope. It is shocking that under section 6 (a) of the Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance, 1941, the dependants of a fatally wounded worker should receive only thirty months’ earnings of the deceased worker (working out at £90 with an income of £36 p.a.), and that such compensation should in no case exceed £600. These are progressively reduced under sub-sections (b) and (c). In case of permanent total incapacity from injury, section 7 stipulates that compensation should equal the wounded worker’s wages for forty-two months (i.e., £126 with an income of £36 per annum), but in no case exceed £750. In both cases, the amounts of compensation are meagre and absolutely inadequate. The Government must ameliorate this indefensible position.

Demand for Civil Rights

The continued restriction of the personal liberty of Mr. M. A. O. Imoudu*, President of the Railway Workers’ Union, is regarded by the entire labour force of Nigeria as a specimen of the exercise of arbitrary power by the Government. No tangible reason has been given to justify the rather uncompromising attitude being maintained by the Government in this matter. One thing is clear: Mr. Imoudu is a British-protected person whose only desire is to free his fellow-workers from exploitation, poverty and want. Should trade union leadership be thus menaced?

Another specimen of arbitrary use of governmental power is the placing of the Nigerian Worker (the organ of the Congress) under censorship by an order of the Governor dated the 1st July, 1944. This order, served as it was on the Congress without any previous warning, is regarded by the workers as constituting an unwarranted attack on the freedom of the press-acknowledged throughout the free world as a precious heritage of democracy. The Nigerian Worker is avowedly anti-capitalist in outlook, being unreservedly dedicated to the cause of the workers of Nigeria.

In Nigeria, the Department of Labour serves as the only venue for examining all labour matters, and undertakes preliminary enquiries and conciliation in respect of reported or apprehended trade disputes. It was in connection with its latter function that it was sharply criticised by the Congress-in-Session recently for suspected bias towards employers of labour, and on account of the victimisation of principal trade union spokesmen which had often resulted from its conciliation methods. There have occasionally been cases of mass dismissals of trade unionists as reprisals for daring to lead agitations for improved working conditions. The workers are therefore demanding the introduction of the Industrial Courts system as a much more satisfactory machinery for settling trade disputes.

Nigerians Want Political Democracy

Politically, the workers of Nigeria are at the moment sadly at a disadvantage. The limited franchise granted to Nigeria over twenty years ago, by its income qualification of £100 p.a., has deprived most of them of one of their elementary civil rights by excluding them from the electorate. The indigenous population of Nigeria, by having four elected members on the Legislative Council (roughly one-eleventh of its membership), maintains minority representation of a privileged minority. The Executive Council admits of no indigenous elective representation whatsoever. It is clear, then, that in the absence of adult suffrage the workers of Nigeria who are giving their services in developing the country can hardly have any voice in its administration. This untenable position must be reversed, and the workers must be enfranchised and endowed as full citizens of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

The workers feel strongly that the existing Constitution of Nigeria – almost a quarter of a century old – has already served its time and must be replaced, without delay, with a new one based entirely on sound democratic ideals and reducing that much-proclaimed doctrine of partnership into practical terms. British workers should deplore and protest against all platitudes designed to insult the intelligence of Nigerians and to traduce the good name of their great, beloved, but much-neglected, country. British administrators in Nigeria would be doing a great national service to Great Britain if they stopped stultifying the reasonable and legitimate aspirations of the people and, by pointing in less disparaging terms to the now visible signs of growth and progress, help to place Nigeria on her feet in the democratic world. They must acknowledge her great advance in recent years.

The Nigerian workers are fully convinced that their immediate task is to ensure that their working conditions are improved; that their living and social standards are elevated; that their civil rights are conceded; and that their country – Nigeria – is, for the time being, granted Internal Self-Government. Peace will abound in the long-contested plums of war for all the world to share! And Nigeria shall not be forgotten!!

* Mr. Imoudu was released on June 2, 1945, and on the outbreak of the general strike was elected to the presidency of the Nigeria T.U.C in the place of Mr. Bankole.
The Voice of Coloured Labour by George Padmore (Editor) 1945
Discussion on World Trade Union Federation

The discussion on this most important question was opened by Mr. Sydney Hillman, leader of the C.I.O. delegation. The views of the colonial delegates were expressed by Mr. J. S. Annan, of the Gold Coast Railway Civil Servants and Technical Workers’ Union.

Mr. J. S. Annan: Mr. Chairman and fellow delegates: I bring to you fraternal greetings from the workers on the Gold Coast, who send you all the very best wishes for a successful Conference. The subject “Basis for a World Trade Union Federation,” is to my mind the core of the deliberations of this Conference. All the workers of the world are anxiously waiting to hear this Conference pronounce on the subject. It is a test case, and upon it depends the justification of the hope and confidence which our fellow workers repose in us. There is a common agreement on the need of a strong international Labour organisation, and I share the views expressed by the leaders of this discussion. It is our considered view that this international body should first of all appreciate and recognise the lasting values in the Trade Union Movements in our countries, and respect the qualities and experience in each national organisation, however small the country may be. Also it would be necessary for the organisation to consider this: that the moment some of us begin to consider that the Colonies, such as the Gold Coast, are small and unimportant, I am afraid it is the very moment that international unity suffers and the strength of the Movement becomes impaired. The International Movement should preach and practice amongst its doctrines the principle of equality and the freedoms embodied in die Atlantic Charter. Secondly, it must build a strong fortification around its members, with a strong and capable body of leaders as sentinels to prevent the spread of Fascism and Imperialism. Fascism is not the only deadly political theory; Imperialism, which exists to exploit the Colonies, is as bad and must at all costs be rigorously extirpated. It is an enemy of Trade Union ideals, and we must determine to check its attempt to encroach upon the rights of the International Labour Movement. This Movement should be in a position to expose to the whole world the subtle evils of Imperialism cunningly couched in popular political propaganda activity. The workers of the Union that I represent are of the view that an international organisation of Labour should be formed immediately and there should be no more delays, for delays are dangerous. There should be an active part played by all members of the working-classes and I appeal to the Conference to do all in its power to set up die necessary machinery for this all-important International Movement before the Conference dissolves on Friday.

Mr. A. Rabinovitz (General Federation of Jewish Labour, Palestine): Mr. President, Comrades: The General Federation of Jewish Labour in Palestine has instructed its delegates to this Conference to give every support to the re-establishment of full Labour unity in the world. The people to which we belong have had the sad privilege of being the first, and probably the foremost, victim of Nazism. We know only too well that the internal strife between workers in the years between the two wars was the most important single factor in helping Hitler to power. This is why we are emphatically and whole-heartedly in favour of Labour unity, unity within each nation and each country, and unity on a world-wide scale. The development of the world Trade Union Movement in the last few decades makes this unity more important than ever before. Practically in every country where Trade Unions exist in some strength, they play their part in the general political life, in one form or another. The unity of the Labour Movement is not only a vital instrument in the struggle of the working class for better standards of wages and labour conditions, which is in itself of enormous value for the workers; unity is also a necessary condition for the fullest possible expression of the political strength of the working class. This is why our Federation, which has always been a loyal member of the organised international Trade Union Movement, and has worked hard for the international solidarity of the workers in its own country, attaches so much importance to this item on the agenda. We sincerely hope that this Conference will discover the greatest possible amount of goodwill and determination to achieve real and lasting unity, the case for which was so eloquently put by Mr. Sidney Hillman in his opening speech.

Now I should like to refer to a matter which seems to me to be of great importance to the proper functioning of a world Labour organisation. It is a vital necessity that the international Trade Union Movement should become an active source of help and advice for the working classes of the so-called backward countries. The process of industrialisation, which began there some years ago, has gained in strength and tempo during the war. Many colonial countries, as welt as some independent States with patriarchal or feudal systems of society, are now facing all the complex questions of the modern industrial age. As far as the Middle East is concerned, there was nothing to prepare their people for this change and for the burdens which it involves. There is no Liberal middle-class; there is no Radical professional class, and the general level of the working masses themselves cannot be compared with the level, for example, of the British workers at the time of the industrial revolution. The feudal classes have adjusted themselves fairly quickly to the new circumstances, and in most cases they are the leaders of the various new industries. At the same time, they are doing their best to preserve their traditional hold over the body and soul of their countrymen, some of whom are developing into industrial workers.

My own country, Palestine, has some peculiar features, due to Jewish immigration. We have, as some of you know, a well developed Jewish Trade Union and Co-operative Movement, which has not only succeeded in introducing a high standard of labour conditions without parallel in that part of the world, but also maintains a wide system of mutual-aid institutions, and has established a co-operative agriculture and industry of its own. About 20 percent of our male membership have volunteered for the armed forces. There are in Palestine also beginnings of an Arab Trade Unionism, inspired by the example of, and aided by, their Jewish fellow workers. These beginnings are still small. The Palestine Government estimates the total number of Arab workers belonging to all the various organisations as 12,000, but we believe it will grow. One of these organisations, the Palestine Labour League, closely co-operates with our Federation. Their representative is attending this Conference. This special feature does not radically change the general picture of the Middle East. There is really little chance of a gradual evolutionary development of workers’ organisations in each of these countries out of their own means and resources. A slow process of this kind would, incidentally, spell danger for the achievements of workers in other, more developed countries. Moreover, the concentration of great numbers of industrial workers in certain areas offers a strong temptation for various factions of the ruling classes to exploit these masses for political ends. It is for this reason that some Governments in these countries are taking good care to assure themselves of the control over the Trade Unions. It is for this reason that you often find in control of workers’ organisations such people as wealthy lawyers and landowners, or offsprings of wealthy landowners, and even princes who are not suffering from a surplus of social conscience.

And you must not forget, comrades, that the countries to which I am referring are far from real democracy, even though their Constitutions provide for elections and parliaments. Some of them were under strong Nazi influence until the turn given to the war by El Alamein and Stalingrad. Since then there has been a change of front, but no change took place in the social background or in internal politics. In one of these countries which I had occasion to visit, I was deprived, on crossing the border, of a truly dangerous book; it was “One World,” by Wendell Willkie. I visited another country which is, at least theoretically, at war with Germany, but victims of Nazi Germany are not allowed to cross that country if they happen to be Jews. So you can well imagine what Government control over Trade Unions in such countries may mean.

But even in colonial countries there is, it seems, a good case against Government control or sponsorship in relation to Trade Unions. We all know how strongly British trade unionists are opposed to any Government interference with their internal affairs. How much stronger must the case against such interference be in the Colonies, where Governments are in all social matters lagging at least 50 years behind the mother country.

We very much appreciate the creation of Labour Departments in the administrations of most of the British Colonies. This was done, I believe, in response to the demands of the British Trade Unions, which also provided some of their men to staff these departments, and they are doing useful work. But, comrades, the presence of a trade unionist in the service of a Colonial Administration cannot really change the general character of this administration. I could see in my own country that it did not prevent the Government from lending its support to organisations which are passionately opposed to every form of co-operation between Arab and Jewish workers, and sometimes even take the side of the employers against their fellow workers. As for conclusions, it seems to me that a world Trade Union organisation could not rest content and confine its activities in this respect to careful examination of the bona fides of Trade Union organisations which apply for affiliation. I feel quite certain that we shall have a great many mock Trade Unions in the new industrial countries, unless the International Trade Union Movement will shoulder the burden of guiding and advising the awakening working people. This is a task of tremendous importance, and I would strongly urge this Conference to adopt it as part of the policy to be pursued by the World Trade Union organisation. We must all work for the day when new millions of fellow workers will join us as equals in the world family of organised workers.
The Voice of Coloured Labour by George Padmore (Editor) 1945
Foreword – By George Padmore

The wide and representative character of the Colonial delegation to the World Trade Union Conference in February was significant and encouraging. It was significant for the fact that for the first time in the history of international labour, coloured Colonial workers – the most oppressed and exploited section of the world proletariat – were given the opportunity of voicing their grievances and of expressing their hopes and aspirations through their trusted leaders. It was encouraging because in discussing the question of a new international trade union organisation, the white working class trade union movements of Europe and America, which have hitherto ignored the coloured workers, are apparently beginning to recognise that “Labour in the white skin cannot emancipate itself while Labour in the black skin is enslaved.” This awareness was manifested in drawing the long-neglected and forgotten millions of Colonial workers into the world fraternity of labour.

In this sense the World Trade Union Conference achieved a degree of solidarity which should go a long way towards laying the foundations of the new international federation whose formation has been endorsed.

Colonial delegates came from Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia in West Africa; from Jamaica in the West Indies; British Guiana in South America; from Palestine, Cyprus, and elsewhere. It is noteworthy that the Northern Rhodesian Mineworkers’ Union was represented by a white man, for the Colour Bar in that colony excludes African miners from entering the union.

While most of the Colonial unions represented by the coloured delegates are young, they have nevertheless been able to build up substantial memberships since 1940, when trade unionism was recognised in principle for the first time by the British Colonial administrations.

The Nigerian Trade Union Congress, which came into being only three years ago, now boasts a membership of 500,000 and 56 affiliated unions, covering transport, mining, dock-labour, seamen, public works, government employees, etc. On the other hand, the British Guiana Trade Union Council, with a membership of 10,000, is one of the oldest working-class organisations in the Colonial Empire. It recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and was represented at the Conference by its president, Mr. Hubert Critchlow, who founded and led the movement through its quarter of a century of existence. Mr. Critchlow is the representative of the Negro, Indian and other coloured workers of British Guiana on the Governor’s Executive Council.

Although most of the coloured delegates have served long terms of imprisonment for their working class and trade union activities, their speeches to the Conference did not reflect any of the personal bitterness and rancour that one might have expected from individuals who have been the victims of relentless persecution. For example, T. A. Bankole, President of the Nigerian Trade Union Congress, addressing the closing session of the Conference on the subject of the new international federation, stressed the need for an all-embracing organisation. “At this juncture in world affairs, when labour has adorned its history with glorious achievements in the struggle to overthrow Fascism and to establish a lasting peace, the workers of the world cannot but come together in order to be in a position to contribute collectively to the establishment and maintenance of that peace,” Mr. Bankole declared, and went on to say that he thought this was “why the formation of an international trade union organisation is a prime necessity.” Such an organisation, he emphasised, “must be founded on the principle of equal treatment for all affiliated bodies and their representatives, regardless of the countries from which they derive, and must be nurtured in an atmosphere of mutual regard, discipline and candour. It must keep an open door for all approved labour organisations functioning in all lands” – allied, neutral and ex-enemy.

There was nothing of narrow nationalism, racial or chauvinistic, in the speeches of these black men. Every one of them reflected a high level of class solidarity and socialist conviction.

The specific claims of the Colonial working classes were voiced by Wallace Johnson, President of the Sierra Leone Trade Union Congress, who a few weeks before his arrival in London had been released by the British Government after five and a half years’ imprisonment and exile to Sherbro Island, off the coast of West Africa.

Mr. Johnson called upon the Conference not merely to confine its condemnation to Fascism, which is not the only enemy of the working class. “Imperialism,” he asserted, “is for the Colonial workers as great a menace as Fascism is to the workers of the metropolitan countries of Europe.” He therefore appealed to the Conference to endorse and support the following immediate demands, unanimously approved and adopted by all the Colonial delegates as a Charter of Labour for the Colonies:

The abolition of the Colour-Bar and all racial discrimination in public and private employment.
The abolition of forced labour, child labour, and all forms of slavery, open or disguised, abolition of flogging and other forms of punishment for breach of labour contract as well as penal sanctions for breach of labour contract.
Abolition of all pass law legislation and the establishment of the right of free assembly, free speech, free press, free movement.
Equal pay for equal work, irrespective of race, colour, creed, or sex.
Abolition of racial restrictions against the admittance of African and other coloured workers into existing white trade unions (South Africa, Rhodesia, etc.). Wherever such restrictions continue to operate, Africans and other coloured workers should have the right to create separate and free trade unions.

Trade union and social legislation existing in the Colonies should be brought into line with that existing in the metropolis, or conversely, the same trade union and social legislative principles operating in the metropolitan countries should be made applicable to the Colonial territories.
Concluding his speech, Wallace Johnson reminded the Conference that “Justice, like Peace, is indivisible, and the world to-day cannot remain half free and half slave.” In an eloquent speech, Ken Hill, representing the Jamaica Trade Union Council, the most progressive section of the organised workers’ movement of that Caribbean Colony, called for the extension of the principle of self-determination enunciated under Article 3 of the Atlantic Charter to the Colonial peoples. There is no doubt that he brought to the deliberations of the Conference a comprehensive vision and international outlook as refreshing as it is rare at such gatherings. Hill suggested that “it would be unthinkable if this Conference through its committees did not put forward declarations expressing progressive views on the Colonial question. To do less,” he asserted, “would be to leave the world to be betrayed into another war within the present generation.”

While recognising that the indomitable purpose of the free and democratic trade union movements of the world is to crush Fascism wherever it raises its ugly head, Ken Hill declared: “But we must go further. We must take care that in our preoccupation with this historic task, we do not fail to take steps and use the influence of the international working-class movement to discontinue the system of Imperialism and Capitalist domination, whatever shape or form they take.”

Mr. Hill based his appeal on the contention that one of the main causes of modern wars is the rivalry among the Great Powers for Colonies as markets, sources of raw materials, spheres of economic influence, and strategic bases for aerial, naval and military operations. Consequently, there can be no lasting peace until this conflict over Colonies is liquidated, and with it the whole system of Fascism, Nazism and Imperialism – all of which derive from capitalism.

He maintained further that the world working class should act so that those countries which are represented at such Conferences should “be judged not merely by the size of our contributions to arms and supplies of war, but by the moral values which out unity and association can engender for lasting peace and prosperity in the best interests of the working men and women of the world.”

Inspired by what may promise to be the rebirth of the united labour movement, these black men from the far-flung parts of the British Empire have returned to their respective countries and are continuing with undiminished zeal the struggle not only for national liberation from the fetters of Imperialism, but also for the economic and social emancipation of the downtrodden workers and peasants for whom they speak.

Imbued by the spirit of unity, the West African delegates have already issued a statement declaring that the time is fully ripe for the formation of a West African trade union federation, and that this should be an immediate objective aiming at co-ordinating the advance of the territory of West Africa as a whole. As a preliminary step they propose the formation of a West African trade union advisory council, on the approval of the respective West African trade union congresses, or their equivalents, which shall consist of the present heads of congresses or their accredited representatives, and which shall meet at an early date in one of the British West African Colonies for the purpose of formulating the basis of the proposed federation.

Without a doubt the labour movement in the Colonies is on the move and conscious of its aims. A similar move is taking place in the West Indies, where efforts are being made to bring about an All-West Indian Federation of the trade union organisations in the various islands, as part of the general trend towards West Indian political, economic and social federation.

But while these trade union organisations are officially tolerated, they are meeting with immense opposition from the European employers, especially the mining and agricultural monopolists. Workers who identify themselves with trade unionism are considered Bolsheviks and their leaders are hunted from pillar to post. Not only is it the employers who engage in intimidating the workers, the Colonial administrations themselves are often guilty. For example, in Nigeria, Michael A. O. Imoudu, President of the Railway Workers’ Union, because of his trade union activities, was arrested and deported from Lagos for a number of years by the Governor of Nigeria. Mr. Wallace Johnson, Secretary of the Sierra Leone Trades Union Congress, has suffered similar exile. In the West Indies, almost all of the prominent labour leaders have at some time or another been imprisoned, Alexander Bustamante and Ken Hill in Jamaica, Uriah Butler in Trinidad, Clem Payne in Barbados, and many others. Unlike labour leaders in Britain, champions of the working class in the Colonies are not regarded by the authorities as respectable citizens. They are always subject to molestation.

In the same way newspapers which are not necessarily trade union organs, but which support the struggles of the workers, are often suppressed. The Nigeria Worker, the organ of the territory’s Trades Union Congress, has suffered a long period of suppression. And during the general strike which broke out on June 21st, 1945, and is still in progress at this writing (July 20th, 1945), two of the most progressive African newspapers, The West African Pilot and Daily Comet, have been suppressed. Colonial officials hostile to trade unionism invoke defence regulations to muzzle the press. Under these regulations any editor in Nigeria can be fined £300 or sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment or both without trial. All kinds of charges, from sedition to conspiracy, are levelled against militant Colonial labour leaders who make a courageous stand in demanding elementary rights for the working class. The most usual charge is one of incitement to disaffection, for under Colonial conditions of a plural society, it is very easy to make out grounds for such a charge. In these territories, where the exploiters of labour are white and the exploited black, a demand for higher wages or better conditions of service is immediately interpreted as racial incitement – the black workers against the white capitalists.

The barriers to the building up of trade unions are multiplied manifold in territories like South Africa, the Rhodesias, Kenya, and other East African Colonies, where official restrictions against assembly and freedom of movement and association of the indigenous peoples operate. Nevertheless considerable achievements can be registered, despite all the handicaps.

It is estimated that throughout the whole Colonial Empire there are about 350 registered trade unions, varying in their membership from a few hundred to several thousand. For example, in Nigeria alone, there are over 100 trade unions affiliated to the Nigeria Trades Union Congress.

The Colonies in which the trade union movement is most backward are precisely those where restrictions upon the right of public assembly and movement are most rigidly imposed. Pass laws, vagrancy regulations, penal sanctions, riotous assembly acts, all conspire to make it difficult, if not impossible, for workers to exercise their democratic right of association and collective bargaining. It is therefore not surprising that up to 1945 there were not more than two registered unions in Kenya, one in Uganda and two in Tanganyika.

In view of all the difficulties it is the duty of the more advanced trade unions, especially those in Britain, to render every fraternal support to these coloured workers, who are to-day passing through their Tolpuddle period. Moreover, the British working class have the great responsibility of making every effort to retrieve their country’s honour, for the ruling class of their nation have done everything by their ruthless exploitation and oppression of the defenceless coloured workers of the Colonial Empire to engender hostility between the subject peoples and those of the metropolis. This hostility can only be overcome if the British workers demonstrate in deeds and not merely in words their sympathy with the Colonial workers. It is in their enlightened self-interest to do so, for, as one of the speakers reminded the Conference, “Labour in the white skin cannot free itself while Labour in the black skin is enslaved.” Once this truism is accepted, then the desired bond between workers everywhere, regardless of colour or creed, will find expression in unity of action and purpose.

In this pamphlet we have attempted to bring together the speeches and special reports presented by the Colonial delegates to the World Trade Union Conference. We feel certain that this form of presentation will help the British working class better to appreciate some of the problems which confront the Colonial workers, and which they are making steadfast efforts to surmount. For we believe that the most effective way of arousing interest, sympathy and understanding for the coloured workers is by placing at the disposal of the white workers documented material which they themselves have not the time or opportunity to delve out.

This small contribution to public enlightenment has been made possible through the generosity of the Pan-African Federation, an organisation of Africans and peoples of African descent in Great Britain which supports the endeavours of the Colonial peoples to create strong and virile trade union and co-operative movements as the most effective means of advancing their economic and social well-being.

July 20th, 1945.