George Padmore

Britain’s Black Record

(September 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 43, 27 October 1941, p. 3.
Originally published in New Leader (London).
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In a preceding article (printed in Labor Action, October 13 – Ed.), I think I said enough to prove that the Germans – our justified condemnation of Hitlerism notwithstanding – are not the only white folks with a BLACK RECORD. The truth is: imperialist powers cannot afford to turn up their noses at one another, for they ALL have black records. This is an historic fact which seems to have escaped such Britons as the eminent publicist, Lord Vansittart.

The treatment meted out to the defenseless Africans, by representatives of the social class to which Lord Vansittart belongs, shows that British imperialism can also behave like German Nazis when they lord it over a subject race.

The totalitarian regimes applied to the blacks (and to them only) in territories like the Union and Southern Rhodesia were in existence long before Hitler began to institute similar methods, in Europe. Hitler not only copied from British colonial practices, but also largely borrowed the theoretical foundation for his racial philosophy from the writings of another eminent English publicist, Houston Stuart Chamberlin, author of The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century.

Is it any wonder that the Fuehrer has expressed in Mein Kampf great admiration for the British Empire? Hitler has certainly learned much from the British imperialists, especially those who have settled in the colonies.

The Black Man’s Burden

The extent to which reaction has triumphed in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia is best shown by examining the character of legislation enacted in recent years by the Rhodesian government.

On the initiative of certain missionary societies, an ordinance under the title of the Preachers’ Bill was in 1936 presented to the Legislative Assembly, composed entirely of whites. Articles four and five of the bill recommended that:

“Wherever three or four natives are gathered together and conduct a religious service in the presence of a fourth native, which is either of a religious character or instruction in religion, the person conducting it will he liable to both fine and imprisonment unless he is in possession of a certificate granted either by the native commissioner or a missionary.”

Like true Pharisees, these are the people who are forever talking about religious freedom! Freedom for themselves, not the blacks.

When the text of the bill came before the House of Commons for imperial assent, MP’s attacked it so violently that Malcolm MacDonald, who was then Dominions Secretary, was forced to reject these discriminating clauses. For, had Parliament agreed to what the white Rhodesians were demanding, an African father reading the Bible to his family would technically be committing a criminal offense! And, as I said, the bill was sponsored by so-called Christian missionaries!

What was the reason for this un-Christian conduct? To prevent their black converts from organizing churches, independent of white control. Because of the racial attitude of the overwhelming majority of European “Christians” to Africans, many natives who have embraced Christianity have organized a distinct African church under their own management.

The Dutch Reformed Church, for example, refused to participate in the World Sunday School Convention held in South Africa in July, 1940, on the ground that it is against their racial principles for whites and blacks to associate on the basis of “equality, even in the presence of God.”

While opposed to “social equality” with non-Europeans, these men of God still want to control all religious activities among Africans.

Finger Print Passes

This particular bill was defeated thanks to opposition in the House of Commons, but other racial regulations which have had the most disastrous effect for the Africans were enacted. About the same time as the Preachers’ Bill was presented, the Rhodesian Parliament enacted an amendment to the Native Pass Consolidation Ordinance, which received the approval of the Dominions Office in London, this Act provides for the tightening up of control over the movements of Africans, as also do the Native Registration Act of 1936 and the Native Urban Location Ordinance. These regulations correspond to curfew and martial law established in the Nazi-occupied countries in Europe.

Any African, for example, living in a reserve area but wishing to move into a location or native ghetto, must first have his finger prints taken and comply with other identification formalities, after which he is granted a special permit by the European Location Superintendent entitling him to enter the ghetto for a certain period.

Unlike the Poles and Jews in Poland, the Africans are not forced to wear any distinguishing letters on their arms. The color of their skin is a sufficient badge’ of servitude!

Legalized Brothels

Africans living permanently in townships and European districts must observe curfew regulations. They are not allowed to be outside prescribed areas between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a special pass from the authorities. If an African not permanently residing in a “location” sleeps in a tenement (which, incidentally, are built by white labor under the industrial color-bar regulations), the person giving such hospitality is liable to imprisonment on a charge of “harboring,” unless permission was previously obtained.

Under the Registration Enactment Ordinance, assented to by Mr. Malcolm Macdonald in 1936, brothels are now legal in the industrial areas of Southern Rhodesia. This law was bitterly, denounced at the time by certain MP’s, especially Tom Johnston, Secretary for Scotland, but the Rhodesian government wanted it and Whitehall gave its approval.

The ordinance makes it legal for African women to set up brothels and provide mistresses for native miners doing their period of indenture in the mining areas. A man engages a woman to live with him and is under no obligation to support her or his children (if any) when he returns .to his home. The woman is left to take on a newcomer until she is out of service. The idea is that this system will induce a greater flow of labor to the mines from neighboring territories, as the future development of the industry depends upon a continuous flow of cheap labor from outside the colony.

This demand for slave labor is the chief cause of conflict between the industrialists and farmers in Southern Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa, and the reason why Sir Godfrey Huggins, the Rhodesian Prime Minister, is pressing the Churchill government to hand over Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. This is a matter over which “we are not prepared to be put off,” declared Sir Godfrey, addressing a meeting in Salisbury as late as August 5, 1941.

(To be continued next week)

Last updated on 11.2.2013