The Voice of Coloured Labour. George Padmore (editor) 1945

3. Colonials Challenge Message to Big Three

On the afternoon of February 13th, while the discussion on the formation of the New International was in progress, Mr. Reid Robinson, on behalf of the Committee on Standing Orders presented to the Conference the text of a telegram of greetings addressed to President Roosevelt, Marshal Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill, at that time in conference at Yalta. The text of the telegram presented for the approval of the Conference reads:

“The delegates from thirty-five countries attending the World Trade Union Conference in London and representing over sixty million workers of the freedom-loving countries have learned with deep satisfaction the results of the Crimea Conference. We hail the announcement that the leaders of the British, United States and Soviet nations, together with their general staffs, have agreed on measures for even further accelerating the war against Hitlerite Germany and bringing it to a speedy and victorious conclusion. We fully support your declaration that every vestige of the hateful Fascist regime must be eradicated and the practical measures which you have adopted to bring about this result and to guarantee that it shall be uprooted and completely destroyed.

“We welcome your determination to proceed at once to perfect an international organisation, along the lines of the Dumbarton Oaks proposal, to prevent aggression and maintain peace.

“We are in full accord with your declaration on liberated Europe to assure to the people of the liberated lands fullest democracy and self-determination.

“The great achievements of the Crimea Conference and the unanimity of its historic decisions fully confirm the faith of all freedom-loving people that the problems of winning speedy victory in the war and establishing a just and enduring peace can and will be solved, and all difficulties overcome.

“Meeting here in London, to perfect the unity and close collaboration of the working people of the freedom-loving nations, we pledge our full support to you in carrying out the decisions which you have reached.

“We pledge ourselves to guard and protect the unity of the United Nations in war and in peace, and to work together unceasingly to secure our great common objectives – speedy victory and an enduring peace.”

The Vice-President asked if the Conference agreed, upon which Mr. Asfour, voicing the sentiments of the colonial peoples, asked for the following passage to be included:

Mr. John Asfour: “The Conference also notes with deep satisfaction the right of all peoples to choose the form of Government under which they will live.” In this telegram there is nothing mentioned about this, it only refers to Europe. May such an amendment be added to the telegram?

Mr. I. T. A. Wallace Johnson (Sierra Leone T.U.C.): I rise to support the addition made by the Arab delegate. It is essential that this Conference should register its support of the demand of the colonial peoples for their right to choose the form of Government under which they will live as was enunciated in Clause 3 of the Atlantic Charter.

The Vice-President: I suggest that the telegram be referred back to the Committee and that the delegates who wish to make the alteration should go to the Committee. Do you agree to that?

Mr. Asfour: I make this move in open Conference and I have stated nothing more than has been determined by the Big Three. I submit to the Conference that there is no necessity for this to go back to the Committee. I plead that this amendment be inserted.

Mr. George Isaacs (British Trades Union Congress): I would draw your attention to the fact that two groups of delegates have approved the document as presented, but if you send it back to the Committee, with the proviso that those who have made their observations should have the right to go before the Committee, and give the Committee power to send it off, it will save the time of this Conference and enable it to be sent today.

Mr. Wallace Johnson: I support the appeal made by our Arab Comrade. There is no point in referring it to the Committee. We can approve it and the Committee can insert it.

Mr. R. A. Khedgikar (All-India T.U.C.): Is there any objection to this amendment?

Mr. L. Saillant (General Confederation of Labour, France) (Translation): I do not think there can be any opposition to the amendment that has been presented because we are all inspired here by the most democratic ideals possible. There is an old French Proverb which says “You should not be more Royalist than the King,” and I would change that to say that we should not be more democratic here than the great representatives of the nations who have met together and taken the most historic decision in the history of democratic peoples. I would ask our comrades from Palestine and Nigeria to trust the Committee which has presented this draft resolution, a resolution which should be applauded and regarded with delight by all the delegates at this Conference because it is the expression of the confidence of the World Trade Union Conference in the great democratic nations which have taken the decision.

Mr. Robinson (Reporter of the Committee): Mr. Chairman and delegates: We are in the second day of the second week of this Conference and time is short. I feel that as we have some very important subjects to discuss I should suggest as Chairman of the Committee that this be referred back to the Committee, asking it to bear in mind that there has been world-wide recognition of the principles contained in the Atlantic Charter and that this specific section of the telegram shall conform to the principles enunciated in the Atlantic Charter. With that understanding the Committee will redraft this section of the telegram. If the Conference approve that section, they will then send the wire with those principles contained therein.

The Vice-President: It is recommended that it goes back to the Committee with the instructions of the speakers. Will those in agreement with this recommendation please say “Aye.” (Aye.)

The decision is adopted.

Mr. Robinson later reported to the Conference that the Committee reconsidered the telegram which was to be despatched to Prime Minister Churchill, President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin, and took into consideration the objections which were made, and in order to satisfy those objections lifted from the document the fact that was agreed upon which answered the objections of the delegate and inserted the provision of the Atlantic Charter wherein all peoples may have the right to choose their own Governments. We felt that because of the universal acceptance of the principles of the Atlantic Charter that that would satisfy everyone, so we have despatched the wire to these three honourable gentlemen in order that it will reach them at the most timely hour.

The Vice-President: All those who agree with the amendment say “Aye.” (Aye.)