The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers George Padmore 1931


It has been estimated that there are about 250 million Negroes in the world. The vast majority of these people are workers and peasants. They are scattered throughout various geographical territories. The bulk of them, however, still live on the continent of Africa – the original home of the black race. There are, nevertheless, large populations of Negroes in the New World. For instance, there are about 15 millions in the United States, 10 millions in Brazil, 10 millions in the West Indies, and 5 to 7 millions in various Latin-American countries, such as Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela, Nicaragua, etc., etc.

The oppression of Negroes assumes two distinct forms: on the one hand they are oppressed as a class, and on the other as a nation. This national (race) oppression has its basis in the social-economic relation of the Negro under capitalism. National (race) oppression assumes its most pronounced forms in the United States of America, especially in the Black Belt of the Southern States, where lynching, peonage, Jim-Crowism, political disfranchisement and social ostracism is widespread; and in the Union of South Africa, where the blacks, who form the majority of the entire population have been robbed of their lands and are segregated on Reserves, enslaved in Compounds, and subjected to the vilest forms of anti-labour and racial laws (Poll, Hut, Pass taxes) and colour bar system in industry.

The general conditions under which Negroes live, either as a national (racial) group or as a class, form one of the most degrading spectacles of bourgeois civilisation.

Since the present crisis of world capitalism begun the economic, political and social status of the Negro toilers are becoming ever worse and worse. The reason for this is obvious: the imperialists, whether American, English, French, Belgian, etc., etc., are frantically trying to find a way out of their difficulties. In order to do so, they are not only intensifying the exploitation of the white workers in the various imperialist countries by launching an offensive through means of rationalisation, wage cuts, abolition of social insurance, unemployment, etc., but they are turning their attention more and more towards Africa and other black semi-colonies (Haiti, Liberia), which represent the last stronghold of world imperialism. In this way the bourgeoisie hope to unload the major burden of the crisis on the shoulders of the black colonial and semi-colonial masses.

Furthermore, as the majority of the Negro workers in the United States and the colonies are still largely unorganised, thanks to the treachery and betrayal of the American Federation of Labour and the so-called progressive Mustie group in the United States, the social-fascist labour bureaucrats of the Amsterdam International, the II International, and the black reformist trade union leaders (Kadalie and Champion in South Africa, Randolph and Croswaith in the United States), as well as the national reformist misleader, Marcus Garvey, the Negro toilers are experiencing great difficulties today in withstanding the ruthless offensive of the international imperialists. Despite these handicaps the Negro masses, goaded into desperation by the inhuman conditions forced upon them on the one hand, and inspired by the revolutionary movement on the other, are beginning to wake up and assume the counter-offensive against their oppressors.

We can already see the beginnings of a conscious effort on the part of these Negro masses to consolidate their fighting forces, and to bring them into closer contact with the advanced ranks of the international revolutionary proletariat, by the holding of a conference in Hamburg, Germany, in July, 1930.

This was the first International Conference of Negro Workers which had ever been convened. At this conference Negro delegates from different parts of Africa, the United States, West Indies and Latin America not only discussed trade union questions, but dealt with the most vital problems affecting their social and political conditions, as for example the expropriation of land by the imperialist robbers in Africa; the imposition of Head and Poll taxes; the enslaving of toilers through Pass laws and other anti-labour and racial legislation in Africa; lynching, peonage and segregation in the United States; as well as unemployment, which has thrown millions of these black toilers on the streets, faced with the spectre of starvation and death.

In view of the present world situation, it is necessary to describe the Life and Struggles of the Negro Toilers, so that the workers in the metropolitan countries under whose imperialism these masses live will be better able to make themselves acquainted with some of the methods which the capitalists of the “mother” countries adopt to enslave the black colonial and semi-colonial peoples. For it is only by knowing these facts will the revolutionary working classes in Europe and America realise the danger ahead of them.

It is also necessary for the workers in the capitalist countries to understand that it is only through the exploiting of the colonial workers, from whose sweat and blood super-profits are extorted, that the imperialists are able to bribe the reformist and social-fascist trade union bureaucrats and thereby enable them to betray the struggles of the workers.

The purpose of this pamphlet is threefold:

(1) Briefly to set forth some of the conditions of life of the Negro workers and peasants in different parts of the world; and

(2) To enumerate some of the struggles which they have attempted to wage in order to free themselves from the yoke of imperialism; and

(3) To indicate in a general way the tasks of the proletariat in the advanced countries so that the millions of black toilers might be better prepared to carry on the struggles against their white imperialist oppressors and native (race) exploiters, and join forces with their white brothers against the common enemy – World Capitalism.