George Padmore 1938
International African Service Bureau
Source: International African Opinion, Vol. 1, No. 4, October 1938.
Transcribed: by Christian Hogsbjerg with thanks to Marika Sherwood.
To Africans, people of African descent, and colonial peoples all over the world:
You, the most oppressed and exploited, will soon be called upon to take part in a war which threatens to slaughter millions of men, women and children and bring ruin, misery and devastation on a scale undreamt of before.
Our rulers will have us believe that this war is to be fought to save CZECHOSLOVAKIA, a small country, about which most of you have never heard, from Hitler. THIS IS A LIE. If Britain and France go to the aid of Czechoslovakia, it is not to defend international law and order, as they say, but to prevent Hitler from over-running Europe and stealing their colonies. Czechoslovakia in 1938 is being used as a pawn by the Imperialists in the same way as Belgium was in 1914 – to win our sympathy and pity. THIS IS THE TRUTH which they dare not tell us.
If these democratic countries are so interested in saving small nations and preserving law and order, why did they stand aside and allow Mussolini to attack our defenceless brothers in Abyssinia and murder men, women and children with poison gas? It is to mislead you that our Imperialist masters and their black agents are trying to deceive you by calling you to join up and fight for Democracy against Fascism.
DEMOCRACY! Black brothers, what do we know of democracy? This is just a bait to catch us. In 1914 they also talked to us about fighting for Democracy and self-determination. Millions of us died on Flanders field, in Palestine, in East, West and South Africa. But what did we get? More slavery, more oppression, more exploitation.
Brothers of Africa and of African descent, what democracy, what liberties, what rights have we got in these ‘glorious’ Empires of Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, etc., that call upon us to shed our blood in their defence? Our greedy and merciless oppressors have robbed you of your land, broken up your civilisation and substituted instead a regime worse that slavery. They segregate you in your own country, pen you in reserves and locations like cattle, make you carry passes like common criminals, and then pay you starvation wages of 4d. a day.
You in the West Indies, after a hundred years of so-called emancipation, are still denied the most elementary right of human beings. When you ask for bread they give you hot lead! The conditions under which you live are those of Colonial Fascism.
We denounce the whole gang of European robbers and enslavers of the Colonial peoples. German Nazis, Italian Fascists, British, French, Belgian democracies – all are the same, IMPERIALIST EXPLOITERS.
While we deplore a war and the ruin it will cause, Europe’s difficulty is Africa’s opportunity. The blacks everywhere, under whatever flag, in war as in peace, know but one goal: INDEPENDENCE, and we summon our brothers everywhere not to be caught by the lying promises the Imperialists will make. We call upon you to organise yourselves and be ready to seize the opportunity when it comes.
To the Indians, Ceylonese, Burmese, Arabs, and all colonial peoples who fight for the same end we offer a firm alliance and we brand as traitors all colonials who try to drag us into this bloody butchery. Be vigilant, comrades, watch the traitors in your ranks.
Workers of Britain: Though you have neglected us in the past, today in this hour of common crisis, we want you to know that we Blacks bear you no ill-will. The Imperialists are our common enemy, and the present crisis offers us a common opportunity to throw them off our backs. Let us be united against the warmongers and all misleaders of the workers who would send us to be slaughtered under the slogan: ‘Defend Democracy.’ Remember 1914.
White brothers, do not be mislead. Our freedom is a step towards your freedom. In the common effort for the independence of the colonial peoples and the emancipation of the European workers, the black and white workers will rid humanity of the scourge of Imperialism and open a new future for humanity.