George Padmore

West Indians Answer Anglo-U.S. Imperialism

(January 1941)

Published in J.R. Johnson’s column, The Negro’s Fight, Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 9, 3 March 1941, p. 4.
Originally published in New Leader (London), 4 January 1941.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The following article was written by George Padmore, English Negro Socialist leader. It appeared in the British New Leader of January 4, 1941.


Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Roosevelt referred to an extensive collection of some hundreds of thousands of newspaper clippings which he had on the West Indies question. A little over half of them, he explained, seemed to think that the U.S. should buy the whole earth, while slightly less than half were opposed. As an example of public opinion concerning colonial expansion, it shows that it would not be difficult for the press to whip up support for any imperialist move in the Caribbean, especially when it is presented as part of America’s “defense” program. Any kind of imperialistic or reactionary move is possible in a democratic country so long as the politicians are shrewd enough to dress it up as part of the struggle against Hitlerism! Hitler is a godsend to our home-bred fascists.

The situation facing the British ruling class is forlorn indeed, for even if they succeed in beating Hitler they will have lost part of their empire. For the first time in her history Britain must come out of a war with less territory than when it started, a prospect causing considerable alarm to some Tories.

Mr. Churchill, however, has no choice; he is in a cleft stick. It is not Wall Street that is begging favours, ’tis the City (London’s Wall Street). And there is no sentiment among thieves.

Behind the facade of friendship, the imperialistic rivalry between New York and London continues vigorously. America needs colonial markets, sources of raw materials and strategic bases, and she intends to collect as many of these as possible. Wall Street is out to convert Britain and her Empire (what remains of it) into economic and financial dependencies of the great North American colossus.

Britain is to be to the U.S. what France is to German imperialism. Canada, the wealthiest of the dominions, already stands in this relationship to Wall Street and it will not be at all difficult to extend the process to other sections of the empire.

Whatever is the final outcome of Anglo-American negotiations, West Indians do not intend to allow themselves to be bartered away with impunity. No colored community could contemplate such “transfer” with indifference, for America’s treatment of Negroes is not one which recommends her as a champion of colored people. Even if Uncle Sam were the most benevolent fellow in the world, it would have no bearing upon the fundamental principle that West Indians, along with all other subject peoples of the world, have an inalienable right to manage their own affairs.

Thus the West Indies National Council, in its Declaration of Rights of Caribbean People for Self-Determination and Self-Government, presented to the recent Pan-American Conference at Havana, declared:

“There comes a time in the affairs of every people when it becomes imperative for them to examine their conditions of existence and to take such steps as they deem necessary for the protection of their vital interests and for the enjoyment of their inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Such a time has arrived in the history of the people who have for centuries inhabited the Caribbean colonies of Britain, France and The Netherlands ... Reflecting and expressing the profound sentiments of the peoples of these Caribbean areas, this committee declares that it is firmly and irrevocably opposed to any sale, transfer, mandate, trusteeship or change of sovereignty of these people without the exercise of their inalienable human and democratic rights of self-determination.”

Despite the opposition of Secretary of State Hull, the West Indian document was adopted by the Conference. And thanks to the support of Dr. Leopoldo Malo, head of the Argentine delegation, the principle of the right of self-determination was incorporated into the Act of Havana. Thus, in the event of any change in the status quo, West Indians will have the right to invoke the Havana Act in support of their claim to self-government. It is significant that the capitalist press in this country suppressed this fact from the British people.

Safeguarding Native Rights

The Nazis are not the only whites who believe in the doctrine of racial superiority. Hitler borrowed much of his hocus-pocus from such Americans as Lothrop Stoddard, Madison Grant, Senators Heflin and Cole Blease and the Ku Klux Klan. Therefore, in order to avert racial conflicts between the Americans and natives, the West Indies National Council have called upon the British colonial governments in those territories where bases have been granted to America to institute the following measures to protect the rights and interests of West Indians:

  1. In each of the colonies a local committee elected by the people should cooperate with the British authorities to supervise civil affairs in the leased areas.
  2. Americans residing on the islands but outside the leased areas to be subject to local laws and customs.
  3. Such Americans not to be allowed to carry firearms in the unleased territories.
  4. Under no circumstances must the Americans be invited by the local government to intervene in local labor and political disputes.
  5. Local labor to be used on the bases, unless of a technical nature not obtainable locally.
  6. No color bar to be allowed on the bases similar to that existing in the Panama Canal Zone.

These proposals are very important, for already the dear cousins are squabbling over who shall control the natives in the leased areas. The Americans naturally want to introduce military rule, while the British officials, jealous of their prestige, are desirous of maintaining their dictatorship. Owing to the difficulty in reaching a settlement of this knotty question with the American board of naval and military experts (under the presidency of Rear Admiral J.W. Greenslade), the governor of Trinidad, Sir Hubert Young, has flown to Washington to confer with Secretary of State Hull.

Whatever the outcome, however, West Indians must realize that they have nothing to gain from agreements between imperialists. Only through their own tireless efforts and constant vigilance in defense of their rights will they achieve their aspiration of a United West Indian Socialist Republic, part and parcel of a World Socialist Federation.

Last updated on 5.1.2013