Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

George Padmore

(October 1959)

From The Newsletter, 10 October 1959.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

As a negro Communist, the late George Padmore was active in the work of the League Against Imperialism which the Stalinists set up in 1927. There was much to criticize in that organization, but nevertheless the deliberate fading-out of it in the middle 1930s marked a deeper stage in the degeneration of the Stalinized Communist movement – and Padmore reacted sharply against this.

In the days of the Left Book Club, Padmore was one of the few who tried to develop a Marxist approach to world politics, resisting the ‘People’s Front’ confusion spread by that disastrous concern. His book Africa and World Peace (1937) was an important contribution to understanding the realities of imperialist politics, to which all too little attention was given in those days by sincere but muddled left-wingers.

On the ability of General Franco to use Moorish troops against the Spanish Republic, for instance, Padmore wrote:

‘The People’s Front programme in Spain did not once mention the question of colonies ... Had the People’s Front Government made a gesture to the Moors by pointing out to them that the new regime was the defender of their economic, political and social interests, then we feel certain that Franco would never have been able to have deceived these African tribesmen into supporting his cause.

‘This failure on the part of the People’s Front Government is the political reflexion of its class composition. While we recognize that such a regime represents an advance over a feudal-clerical administration, it is nevertheless an imperialist government. And exactly because the People’s Front Government has not broken with the policy of imperialism it is unable to carry out an anti-imperialist policy in the colonies, which alone can convince the colonial masses that People’s Front Governments are fundamentally different from other bourgeois regimes.’


Recently attention has been given in the Press to the centenary of William Wilberforce, the campaigner for the abolition of the slave-trade, which falls this year. This is my excuse for bringing to readers’ notice two books which throw Marxist light upon that episode, one of the most mystified and sentimentalized in our history.

These are The Black Jacobins, by C.L.R. James (1938), and Capitalism and Slavery, by Eric E. Williams (1945), the latter being an American publication.

James’s book is primarily a history of the great Negro revolt in the West Indies led by Toussaint l’Ouverture. In his introductory matter he briefly sets out a conception of the struggle around the abolition of the slave-trade which Williams develops more fully and in a wider setting.

It would be useful if readers would send me the titles of books, pamphlets and articles which they have found valuable in convincing others of the materialist conception of history and which may not be as widely known as they should be. A many-sided propaganda for Marxism is among the principal tasks of the Socialist Labour League, and for this we need to ‘mobilize’ all the material available.

Last updated on 13.10.2011