C.L.R. James 1973
CLR James, marxist and pan-africanist historian and theorist, wrote extensively on the African-American national question beginning in the late 1930s.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
CLR James, marxist and pan-africanist historian and theorist, wrote extensively on the African-American national question beginning in the late 1930s.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Reflections on Pan-Africanism
Transcript of speech given on November 20, 1973;
Transcribed: by Damon Maxwell
A very distinguished writer, George Lamming, a West Indian, makes it a rule to despise what is called “suspense.” He says he has no use for it in his writing and I think that in regard to what I have to say in these two evenings I should get that subject clear and keep you out of any suspense you might have. Tonight I am going to speak about the history of Pan-Africanism up to the independence of the Gold Coast and Ghana, and certain things that grew from it.
Tomorrow night I am going to speak about developments after that; then the perspectives of what is taking place in Africa,what we are seeing and what the future is likely to be. So that tonight up to the Independence of the gold Coast and Ghana and certain things that flow from it so that we know where we are. Now much of it will deal with my personal experiences and personal responses to people.
There is this book, Africa, Britain’s Third Empire by George Padmore and it is dedicated by Padmore to W.E. Burghardt DuBois, father of Pan-Africanism, scholar, and uncompromising fighter for human rights, Harvard, Fisk, Wilberforce, Fellow of the American Association, International President Pan-African Conference.
Now that is the attitude that Padmore had to Dr. DuBois and that is the attitude that all of us had to him. For us he is the originator of the Pan-African movement both in theory and in fact and it is astonishing the number of subjects and the spheres of intellectual organizational activity in which Dr. DuBois was 25 years ahead of all other persons in the United States and a good many elsewhere.
When Dr. DuBois died, I know an editor of an American magazine wrote me asking me to write something about it. He told me what the others are going to write and I wrote to him and told him that I wasn’t going to write that at all and I would like him to understand that I would not refer to Dr. DuBois as a most distinguished black man and a most distinguished leader of our people. That is no good. It is lowering the man from what he is.
He is one of the most remarkable persons of the 20th century. In field after field he was 25 years in advance of all the persons who lived with him. Now Padmore dedicated this book to Dr. DuBois and we looked upon him, not as our leader, I wasn’t thinking of him as a leader in those days, but he was a man, whose books we read, all of us who were interested in those matters.
And we also read the books of Marcus Garvey. Dr. DuBois had begun historical writing both on the history of Africa and the history of the United States, he had formed the Pan-African Conferences. One after the other, from about 1919 until about 1929 and that was part of his conceptions and of what he wrote regularly in the NAACP paper which he founded. We grew up on that. Padmore and I in the West Indies: we read Garvey’s paper, “The Negro World.” I used to buy Garvey’s paper every Saturday morning in Frederick Street about 10 or 15 yards from the police station.
That is important, because the paper was banned by the police, and I am certain that inside the police station a lot of them were reading it, too. too. So we were brought up on Marcus Garvey and his “Negro World.” None of us thought of going to Africa, but we read Garvey and were quite satisfied and pleased with him and we read Dr. DuBois. That educated us.
As far as I know that was the only way we got some education on the affairs of black people in the Caribbean. Otherwise we learned what they taught us in the schools. They were very good schools, secondary schools. All they taught us about Africa was how backward they were and how beneficial the British invasion of Africa was and the slave trade was not so bad because it brought backward people in touch with civilization and taught them Christianity. It may not have taught them very much Christianity but at least it got them on the road. And that is what we learned.
So it was Garvey in his paper and DuBois in his books and a paper that he published later that changed our whole attitude. George Padmore and I were very friendly. I knew him and I knew his father, his mother. I knew his sisters. His father was a teacher. My father was a teacher. We were boys together. We never talked about Africa. We talked about the West Indies. He went to St. Mary’s college, I went to Queen’s Royal. We would spend vacations together.
Neither of us thought about being political leaders of African emancipation. We didn’t think about Africa at all. That was not in our conception. Well, Padmore left Trinidad and went to the United States and there he got in to talk to Dr. DuBois, that is the reason for this dedication. He understood the kind of man he was and the expansion of the intellectual habits of black people and the way they looked upon themselves and the way they looked on the world around them.
He joined the Communist Party. Then the Communist party recognized that he had great ability and took him to Moscow where he became head of the International African Negro movement. All the communists were doing for the African people and people of African descent, Padmore was in charge of.
It was a position of tremendous importance. He published a paper called “The Negro Worker” and he was interested in all the political leaders and so forth. I don’t think up to that time any black man had held a position of such importance. I left Trinidad in 1932 and I went to Britain and there I rapidly became a Marxist and began to become a practitioner and finally became one of the persons most prominent in the Trotskyist movement in Britain.
I wrote a book of Trotsky’s ideas and I wrote a book on the Revolution in S. Domingo which established the state of Haiti. But I wrote that Trotsky book first. And in Britain about 1934 I was going around looking at everything, seeing everything as much as I could, and I heard of a man called George Padmore, a negro who was a great leader of the communists internationally.
And who was having a meeting. I went to the meeting which was held not far from where I lived. And we sat there waiting, about 50 or 60 of us, half white people, half black people. About five to eight this person walked in and he as my old friend from Trinidad, George Padmore. I was quite astonished. I listened to him speaking. He spoke with great authority and the people listened to him.
Afterwards I told him let’s go home to the flat and I took him home and we talked till four o’clock in the morning. At that time I was already a Trotskyist and George was connected with Moscow but that never caused any dissatisfaction with me. We understood that we were concerned with the African movement, I felt that I could be a Marxist, a Trotskyist and also be completely devoted to the African colonial movement. So we never quarreled. But something peculiar happened that night.
He said, “You came here in 1932.” I said, “Yes, I came here in March 1932.” He said, “ I was here in March, 1932, I came from Moscow looking for black people to take to Moscow to educate and organize in the movement. I needed some people badly. If I had known you were here I would have asked you to go.” “If you had asked me in 1932, I most certainly would have gone without a shadow of doubt!”
Well, George went away and sometime in 1934 or 1935 I formed an organization called the International African Friends of Ethiopia, that was in regard to that Ethiopian war and members of my committee were Jomo Kenyatta, there was another splendid man from West Africa called Wallace Johnson; I hear Wallace is a bit old now, but he was one of the finest politicalists I have known, utterly fearless, stood for his political principles and did not waver. There was Dr. Danville who wasn’t too political but he was a very learned man. He was ready to fight, to join the committee and carry on.
We formed this organization and we did rather well. But one day, sometime in late 1934 or 1935 there was a knock at my door and I went do the door and there was George Padmore. Padmore was an extremely handsome man and very neat and careful in all his ways, he always had his papers in order, himself in order, everything in order. But today he looked a little strange.
I had never seen Padmore unshaven. Never. But he looked a little strange. I asked him to sit down and then I asked him what was wrong. I don’t know why I asked him what was wrong but things did not look right. He said, “I’ve left those people you know.” And that was the biggest shock I received since I had gone to Brazil three years before. “I have left those people” meant he had left the Communist Party. And he was the biggest black man in Moscow, dealing with black people and the colonial revolution.
So I said, “What happened?” And he told me. He said, “They are changing the line and now they tell me that in future we are going to be soft and not attack strongly the democratic imperialists which are Britain, France and the United States. That the main attack is to be directed upon the Fascist imperialists, Italy, Germany and Japan. And George, we would like you to do this in the propaganda that you are doing and in the articles that you are writing and the paper you are publishing, to follow that line.”
And George said, “That is impossible. Germany and Japan have no colonies in Africa. How am I to say the democratic imperialists, such as the United States is the most race ridden territory in the western world. So I am to say that Britain and France who have the colonies in Africa and the United States, can be democratic imperialists and be soft to them but be strong against Japan, Italy and Germany. That is impossible.
What do you think of that?” I said, “But George, there is not much you can say about that, that is the line, and when the Communist Party says that is the line, that is the line.”
I want to make a remark about a man called Harold Cruse. He has written a book about black intellectuals, I haven’t found very much in the book to interest me. But I noticed him saying that the Jews are responsible for what is taking place or what took place in regard to black people in the United States.
That man is crazy. Then the Communist Party took a line. You got it in Germany, in Japan, Italy, Germany and in the United States, in Arabia, in Latin America, in Asia, everywhere. So if the Communist Party in the United States was taking a line in regard to blacks: the line was the Moscow line. No Jews were responsible for that.
That is absolutely wrong, I am sure, a great ignorance of the fundamental features of the world believe in. They told George “That is the line.” “Well,” he said, “I’ll take my own line.” And he left them. And so he came to London and joined the International African Friends of Ethiopia. He was very valuable.
But the time came when Ethiopia was very obviously under the control of Italy. For the time being the society didn’t t have very much to do and George Padmore formed the International African Service Bureau. That was the only movement in existence that fought, agitated, and organized for the independence of Africa. That was the Pan-Africanist movement formed in 1935. There was no other that we knew about. DuBois was not doing anything about it except writing now and then. But that movement was the movement for the independence of African people.
Garvey was finished about that time. It was a very peculiar movement. There were not many African, not many black people or people of African descent in Britain. There were for the most part about 10 of us, and peculiarly enough, I may talk about that next time, if you ask me, most of us were West Indians.
And there we were, talking about the independence of Africa, organizing for the independence of Africa, writing books and getting them published, writing pamphlets and constantly going to meetings, holding meetings. And most of the people who were there, looked upon us as well meaning but politically illiterate West Indians. “Independence of Africa.” What kind of nonsense was that.
Of course Britain was going to give Africa Independence but in a 100 years or so. But to talk about something recent like that was really not reasonable. George Padmore founded a paper and I was the editor. But he was the leader of the movement and we never quarreled, I continued with my Trotskyism, and George was head of the movement, a man of political tenacity and a one-sided attitude toward what he was doing.
I have not seen his equal anywhere else. I have heard of one or two others. But he was the most dedicated, the most devoted political leader you could think of. And what he was thinking about was the independence of Africa, including the colonial countries. Now to go into what we did. We agitated, we wrote books, we wrote pamphlets, we had meetings, etc.
Now I want to speak about two people. I will speak about Jomo Kenyatta. At the time, and even today, he was not very bright. But he was a devoted African nationalist. You could depend on Kenyatta at any time. If anything came up that was concerned with African nationalism against the nationalist imperialists, Kenyatta could be depended upon.
He could understand, he could not understand, he always voted against. And such men are valued, I assure you. There were one or two other members of the organization of whom I should speak. One was Padmore’s wife, Dorothy. She was an English woman, an educated person, she knew both French and German and was very familiar with Marxism, and history and so forth. And she was tireless in the support of George. Not only in support of the work he had to do, helping with typing, etc., but the number of people who filled up the house and who Dorothy fed, talked to, educated them.
That was her work. She died the other day and nobody has ever said a word about her. I am writing some memoirs of George Padmore and I intend to spend a page or two on Dorothy and what she did. The other person was a man now living in Kenya, called Dr. Makkonnen. This was not a doctor who could write a prescription for me.
His name was not really Makkonnen but that was a name that he assumed after the Ethiopian business and whether he is a doctor of medicine or a doctor of philosophy, I don’t know, but he was a member of our organisation and “Mak” was absolutely tireless and did everything required. He was a very valuable man. If we wanted a meeting, we talked about the meeting, about the hall and everything and then said, “’Mak’ what about it?” and “Mak” would arrange everything. ‘Mak’ would get the hall, ‘Mak’ would get the pamphlets, ‘Mak’ would do everything. And after everything was in order, ‘Mak’ seemed happy to sit in the front and hear me or Padmore on the platform.
And I remember seeing his face, smiling, happy that we were doing well. We rented a big building in Grove, upstairs about 8 to 10 rooms. We paid the rent. How, I don’t know, believe me. If I heard today that ‘Mak’ had some means of making money that could not be distinguished by the police I wouldn’t say no because ‘Mak’ got the money. We were never thrown out. We always had money for what we wanted to do and ‘Mak’ brought it.
Some of us brought some money, but ‘Mak’ could be depended upon in a crisis. When the rent was due, ‘Mak’ would say, “I’ll see what I can do.” and he always was able to do it. I used to suffer from stomach ulcers and ‘Mak’ would look at me and say, “You are not looking well, I know what you need.” And he would cook some fish for me in the West Indian style.
And it put me right. And that is the kind of person ‘Mak’ was. He is today in Kenya. I don’t know if he is doing very well. He worked with Nkrumah in Ghana. He was an absolutely indispensible person. And these are two personalities, Dorothy Padmore, George’s wife, and Makkonnen, the organizer, who were absolutely necessary and indispensable for our organization. But we were alone. There were only eight or ten or us. There were no people. But we kept on writing. We published books. I published two or three.
George published two or three. We published a number of pamphlets and we published this paper I was editor of until I left. But everybody knew us, we were at every meeting, we passed resolutions and so forth. But something happened which lifted the organization to an important place that it didn’t suspect.
President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill met together and made a statement that after the war the colonial territories of Britain would be given independence. Mr. Roosevelt didn’t have any colonies because where the United States was in charge they didn’t call it a colony, they called it a territory. So the Virgin Islands were a territory and that was different. So they signed the statement.
There was an organization in Britain, a very militant organization called WASU, west African Students Union, and I used to go down there and speak quite a lot. And WASU decided to ask Mr. Churchill, formally and officially, if when he talked about independence for the colonies, he meant West Africa. So Mr. Churchill said Yes, he meant West Africa. But he sent Major Atlee down to make them understand that when he said immediately he meant immediately for everybody, but not immediately for Africa, that would take a little time. So there was a great disturbance. People began to say, “Why don’t you mean what you say?”
So after the war the British decided that they would get a lot of Africans from Africa and they got a whole lot of them and I will read you something that was said about them afterwards. They brought them from Africa to Oxford for a conference to explain to them that immediate independence referred to independence immediately but not quite at once.
It will take a little time. So they had this conference at Oxford. And there was Padmore in England with his poor organization. And a lot of these Africans were living alone in England, paid for by the British Government, fed and organized by the British government.
So Padmore decided to hold a conference in Manchester. He invited them all up and they came. By himself he could never have had that conference. If he didn’t have that organization he couldn’t have held that conference. So he had dozens of them up to Manchester and there was a very famous conference.
At that conference there was Kenyatta, there was Nkrumah, and there was laid down at this conference the policy which Nkrumah carried out afterward in the Gold Coast. Now I have to tell you how Nkrumah got in touch with Padmore and how that organization came to have these two men together. I was in the United States in 1941 and a member of my political organization came to me and told me:
“There is a young African here and he says be would like to see you.” I said, “Well, why should he say he would like to see me.” “Well, I told him about you and he has read your book and I told him I could take him to see you and he said his name is Francis Nkrumah.”
So Nkrumah turned up, very neat, very graceful, very assured, he always has been, and we got together and we got to be friendly. And he spent two years with us. We used to go down to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, he would come up to New York and spend some time with us. We were very close until in 1943 he said he was going to England to study law and I wrote a letter, a letter that is famous in our annals.
I said, “Dear George, there is a young African coming to England to study law. He is not very bright, but nevertheless he is determined to throw the imperialists out of Africa. Do what you can for him.” George met him at Waterlee station and there began that combination. Now, why did I say that he was not very bright?
Nkrumah used to talk about surplus value, capital instead of commodities. He had picked up these from some superficial quarters. He did not understand them really. About two years afterwards I saw Nkrumah and had read an article that he had written on Imperialism. He had learned from Padmore’s extensive library and all sorts of papers and clippings. It was fully organized particularly in regard to the colonial policies of the African powers.
And Nkrumah was able to learn and was educated a great deal by Padmore. In addition to that, Nkrumah brought much creative energy and knowledge of Africa and instinctive political development which fortified Padmore and the two of them became a tremendous power together in the movement.
Well in 1947, Nkrumah went back to Ghana and there I am going to speak of two things in regard to the development of colonial Africa, I will leave South Africa for next time. But I am going to speak first of all tonight of the Gold Coast and on the other side Kenya. Nkrumah went to the Gold Coast and when he landed he said he wasn’t sure if they would let him land or not, But the man who was in charge, he said, “Hello, glad to see you.” He said he had been active in Britain and in France where people knew him.
When he went there he knew no one, nobody had any idea of him, he had to begin from the bottom. But Nkrumah began and the struggle in the Gold Coast was a political struggle of the western type. Because the Gold Coast has got three areas. There is the coast itself which is very western, everybody speaks English although he may speak a native language.
Then there is Ashanti and then beyond Ashanti there is another modern area in the north. And Nkrumah went there and began to organize on the coast and he built a movement. Now the Convention Party was a party of the African intellectual, the African elite.
In all these colonial territories there is always a native elite and the more backward the territory the more elitist the elite. These people were there to form a party and they had sent for Nkrumah to come to organize their Convention Party.
They were busy with law and medicine and so forth. So in Nkrumah they wanted someone to organize the party, they weren’t going to leave it to anyone to organize a political party and Nkrumah came and he organized the party and what he did is something I will refer to, so please do not let me forget this. He built a party from the ground up. Nkrumah went all over the Gold Coast, to the country people and in the towns, building the party, let people know that a political party was for self government.
Everybody in the Gold Coast was for self government, everybody. Nkrumah added one more word, “now” – “Self Government Now.” And that upset everyone, because the idea of “Self Government Now” meant that you were going straight at it. Self Government sometime or another meant that you could perhaps make a manoeuvre and Nkrumah didn’t negotiate – he mobilized the population for Self Government now. Now I have to tell you something about what happened to the Gold Coast people, unfortunately, it is very difficult for me to speak about the African revolution in the way that they ought to be spoken about.
One thing that I have to tell you is that Nkrumah went to jail and he won an election. I think the vote was 23,000 against 700. Yes, Nkrumah received 22,780 out of a total of 23,132 votes. So that convinced even the British that he had some support. Now, what are you going to do, how are you going to govern the country. They had to take him out of jail and make a leader of him because they couldn’t govern the country otherwise.
The same thing happened with Jomo Kenyatta. They put Kenyatta in jail, they put him away for six years and when they took him out they told him he was not to come near Nairobi. He was kept outside, but they had him in because they couldn’t govern. When a population decides that they don’t want you to govern then you cannot govern them anymore – it is absolutely impossible.
That is what they found. These populations may not be able to read but once they get something in their heads... The British people made one big mistake and they won’t do that again. They would take somebody they wanted to get rid of and put him in jail. They should have made him political leader and their representative. Then he would have disgraced himself soon enough. But once they put him in jail, then the public says, “That is my choice.” So they took Nkrumah out of jail and made him leader of the government.
Now I want to tell you they put Kenyatta in jail, they had to take him out; they put Nkrumah in jail, they had to take him out. I am emphasizing that because it shows the tremendous influence that the mass of the population had on the winning of independence.
You can’t read that in books and it is very difficult to write it but you will have to bear it in mind. It will sound as if all the politics is going on above and the mass of the population simply acquiesced. Well, that was not so – the mass of the population was making its presence felt. And there is one notable example of that.
It took place at Saltpond, Ghana, sometime in 1949. Nkrumah had gone there in 1947 and he had built up the party, the Convention Party. He was the secretary of the Convention Party. But he had his own people in the party. He had built up a youth movement.
So there was a conference at Saltpond and there was a conference that met to decide what would happen to Nkrumah and what was going to happen to the youth movement. Well, they were uncertain, there was a lot of back and forth at the conference and, in addition to the hundreds of delegates, there were thousands of people outside who were coming to hear what was going on because it interested them.
So they wanted to dismiss Nkrumah from the post of secretary and an old chief said no, he didn’t think that should be done. They should appoint a committee to go and talk it over and see what should be done, and they appointed a committee, consisting of a chief and an educated African, named Ginn, as far as I remember, and they went and discussed. And Nkrumah agreed more or less to a policy which would enable him to remain in as secretary but he was not to have the influence over the general movement that he had had. And Nkrumah agreed.
It seemed to him that there was nothing else to be done. He went to the conference and there the people inside the conference started to make opposition and to make proposals and to object and the people outside, Ginn told me this himself and Nkrumah told me afterwards, called Nkrumah out – they had heard what was going on. Nkrumah came out.
And they told him, “You resign; You leave those people in there.” And Nkrumah wrote the resignation on the back of one of the persons who bent before him on a piece of paper given to him and he sent it in to them and said, “I am not coming back.” That is the way that the Convention People’s Party began. Because he did not want to get away entirely from ‘convention’ so they had the ‘convention’ and he formed the Convention People’s Party. And that was Nkrumah’s party. That was the way the party was formed.
I want you to understand, not only did the people have a tremendous influence on the attitude that the government had to the political leaders as can be seen in that they had to be taken from jail to rule, but they actually intervened in political affairs and on the great occasion which was the formation of the CPP they called Nkrumah to come out of there, leave those people, send in your resignation, and he wrote it that and sent it in. Let us not forget that the African people played a role, a role that they are still playing.
So Nkrumah had this political party, the CPP, he had the youth, he had a lot of young people with him, they were called the Verandah Boys because they were not supposed to have beds inside with all sorts of mosquito nets and so forth, but they slept on the verandah or they went outside in the yard. Now they started to negotiate with the government and they decided they wanted to have a meeting to decide on the constitution, an assembly.
So the Governor said you cannot have a constitutional assembly, we are going to appoint some Africans who will tell you the kind of constitution you can have. And Nkrumah said, “No,” we will decide about a constitutional assembly. “You don’t have to have a constitutional assembly, I will hold a constitutional assembly.” And he held his own constitutional assembly. There were at the time something like 70 organizations on the Gold Coast, political organizations, aborigine organizations, cricket organizations, whist organizations, all sorts of organizations. All 70 of them came to the assembly except for one. And Nkrumah said, “Everybody is for us, the Governor doesn’t know what to say.”
But at the same time the trade unions were carrying on a strike for trade union rights and Nkrumah invited them to the assembly, they passed all the resolutions and he called for positive action. Positive action was his name for what we knew as a general strike. The whole country faced the government, everything stopped dead. The trade union movement, the civil service, everybody.
So the Governor had only one policy to do – he put them in jail, put the leaders in jail. However, he left out some and they were busy organizing. And then the municipal election took place and the CPP got 58,858 votes and the supporters got 5,570. Now in eastern Europe they have elections, they put up one candidate and he gets 98% of the votes. He hasn’t defeated anybody. I am waiting for the day when one gets 110%. But this is a genuine victory, 58,000 votes against 5,000 and Nkrumah himself got 22,780 out of a total or 23,000 votes cast, So the British government was persuaded that it had to do something and the only thing it knew was to take Nkrumah out of jail and make him head of government business.
And that was in 1953. Now from 1953 until 1957, Nkrumah and Clark, and when Nkrumah got independence in 1957 he dismissed Clark and sent him back, but before he sent him back he made a speech. He said, “If I am to write what took place between 1953 when I came out of prison and the present time when we have independence I doubt if I would find any publisher able to publish it.” Because there was real fighting and intrigue, to squash him, to beat him down, but he managed to survive and come out victorious. And there is a story about that.
Because George Padmore and his wife, Dorothy, told me and made it clear to Francis that he should have gone to independence almost at once, I know that, and in 1957 I asked him, “Well, what do you think about it?” He said, “Well, frankly, I don’t know. I could have gone to independence without a doubt. Nobody could have stopped me. They couldn’t have done anything, but I was uncertain of what would happen because I thought that the commissioners of police and the men in charge of the various areas, they would all have gone, and the government would have collapsed and up to now I don’t know whether I did right or wrong.” I didn’t tell him anything because you don’t go around telling people who have different situations to decide and up to some years later they don’t know whether they decided right or wrong.
But I think that he made a mistake and part of the degeneration of his government was due to that period of ‘53 to ‘58 when he manoeuvered with the British government and the ministers lost the revolutionary drive which had got them into power and which they could have carried on.
Padmore insisted that they should go on, but he said “no,” and they didn’t. I don’t think they would have collapsed. I only found that out afterwards, because in Guinea, the French wrecked the whole country when they left, in the beginning when they became independent there was nothing to speak of in Guinea, but they managed to hold on together. And Nkrumah would have held on and his government would not have degenerated the way it did.
But it was independent in 1957. And I am going to spend sometime speaking about Kenya, but would like to say something here. That Nkrumah became independent in the Gold Coast under the name of Ghana in 1957, and he and Padmore and I sat down and talked. We had been talking a lot about independence for Africa but if anyone had told us that by 1967 there would have been, at least 30 new African states and there would have been at least 100 million African people who would have gained political independence, we would have said – “That is a dangerous man.
He has been sent by the British government to stimulate the people to act in such a way as to smash them down because it is madness to believe that you will have 30 new African states within ten years. What kind of nonsense is that? But he would have been right. We would have been wrong. Because by 1967 there were over 30 new African states and 100 million people had become politically free. This went with a speed and a range that I don’t know with any other political organization. What happened in Africa between ‘57 and ‘67 was not to be believed. It was far beyond all we thought possible. It just happened like that, one after another they went.
So we have to remember that in a country like the Gold Coast it took a certain form, a certain political form. Nkrumah built a political party, he had a newspaper, he had political organizers, he challenged the government, he called a general strike, he was put in prison, he won an election and came out with the enormous figures by which he defeated his opponent.. That was a definite political struggle.
When we go to the other side of Africa, we have something entirely different and this will give you the two different types of political independence that were won in Africa. I want to go over to Kenya. Now Kenya was quite different from the Gold Coast. People like to tell you that the African fighting for his independence had always fought for land. That was not true.
In West Africa, Nkrumah did not fight for land because the whites did not own land in West Africa. It was a political struggle for political independence, to get rid of the imperialists. But that was not the same kind of struggle that took place in Kenya. In Kenya you had some highlands and up there the climate was good and was not too different from the European climate, the territory was good and you could plant coffee.
You had a political power that taught you that the Africans were not intelligent enough to plant coffee properly so you prohibited him and you concentrated the coffee on your land. And there was a built-in European section of the population, the only European section of an African population, an acceptance of Africa, which is something new.
The white man in South Africa feels that he is part of that, he has lived there for hundreds of years, he is fond of the language and he believes he is part of the landscape, he is part of the territory. But nowhere else in Africa were any white settlers able to establish themselves except in Kenya on the highlands where the white people established themselves.
They came from Britain. After World War I some of them who had fought in the war and had helped Britain were rewarded and given land in Kenya. Some South Africans came up from South Africa and established themselves on the plateaus and you had a white population in Kenya. Well, this went on for some time and the Kenya people were taught Christianity, a few of them were taught democracy. Some of them went abroad to be educated, not many but one by one. And they came back. And the result was that white people were firmly established in Kenya which has been British only since the beginning of the 20th century.
So by 1950 Kenya, then, presented a spectacle very different from any other colony in Africa. There was this white population constantly increasing and they were saying that they ought to be free of the British Colonial Office, they ought to be given independence because they could govern themselves.
These Africans could in time, a generation or two, by degrees, they could do it. And everything looked fine. And everybody agreed that that was what it ought to be except the African himself. And after a time, about 1950, they broke away, they could not do it as it was done in the Gold Coast.
They formed an army and they went into the forest and raided from outside and those who were outside got together and would strike political blows when they could. They struck political blows at the whites, but they struck more political blows at the blacks who were supporting the regime, who were the Loyalists. So this civil war took place. There was never any civil war in Ghana. But there was a definite civil war in Kenya.
Generals China, Kimathi and the rest of them had their armies in the forests and they fought the British troops. And the British sent out regiment after regiment properly armed, with helicopters, airplanes, etc., bombing their people and they fought a battle to the finish. And what is to be noted is that the black army in the forest was defeated. After a number of years they could not go on anymore. They were unable to have communication with each other and the British forces in the country didn’t have control.
It was very difficult to have control of people who are in the forest. But they were unable to take action in the way that they wanted. Furthermore, the British caught some 50,000 Kenyan people and put them in concentration camps and began to examine their health because they found that they were deficient, some form of insanity, and they put them in there together and they got a lot of doctors, neurologists, psychologists, to examine them because the Africans could not understand that the British were there for the benefit of the Africans themselves.
They put them together, they had defeated them in the forests and they had 50,000 of them put away in concentration camps being examined by psychologists and neurologists because of this insanity – their incapacity to understand the British were there actually for their benefit and they should be glad. The Africans could not see it. The British used to promise some of them, “If you agree that the thing is as we say it is, we will let you go.” Some went out and when they got home the disease got them again.
But there were some who were worse and could not be cured at all and they would remain. So this is what happened. The British found that they had put them in prison outside the forest, they had practically defeated the army but they couldn’t govern the country. What to do?
Now there took place a series of events which I don’t have time to show you in detail, maybe someone will do it for me. The Colonial Secretary would form a constitution, they would discuss the constitution in Kenya and in the British House of Commons and then in the House of Lords, that this is the proper constitution by which the Kenyan people should be governed.
They would send it to Kenya, the Kenyan people would say, “No.” Well, they would consider the question. They would make another constitution, the Kenyan people would say, “No.” They kept on making these constitution s, the Kenyan people kept rejecting them until, ultimately, they had to give them independence. And that was the end of the attempt of the whites in Kenya to establish the white settlers group in Kenya, the only attempt they have been able to manage.
There are whites all about who have the power still and we will come to that tomorrow. But this attempt to form some part of the population who are white was defeated. It was defeated not as in the Gold Coast by political means – it was impossible to have a political demonstration.
These fellows were in charge of everything, they had won everything, they had locked up the fighters, they had defeated the army, they had caught them, they had killed them, and yet they couldn’t govern. Independence was won in Kenya by a civil way. Independence was won in Ghana by political struggles which bought Nkrumah out of jai l ultimately. Now I have one thing to show you.
I have a letter here by Mr. Creech-Jones. Now it appears, in 1963 I think, that I may have written or somebody may have written an article speaking about the Manchester Conference and what the Manchester Conference did. Because it was from the Manchester Conference that Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and various others went back to Africa and began the struggles for independence which ended as they did.
So I want you to read Mr. Creech-Jones’ letter, understand what happened in Kenya, it was a civil war to the end. That Nkrumah was put into jail with the other leaders and it was after this tremendous vote that the British took him out and for five years they fought him until he finally gained independence. So Mr. Creech-Jones’ letter is worthwhile. He said:
“I was a member of the post-war Labor Cabinet and therefore was Interested in your leading article on African Nationalism on August 24. The great political revolution overseas, except in the case of India, has little place in the memoirs of my former Cabinet colleagues, and Padmore’s record of the Manchester African Congress of October,1945 may give the Conference greater significance than the Labor Government gave it. The Labor Government gave it no significance at all, absolutely none.
Now he goes on to say, and this is typical of what is taking place today:
“But, for the record, it is well to point out that at the beginning of the Second World War the Colonial Office was studying the Royal Commissions’ Report on the West Indies, the Hailey Survey of Africa, the problem of colonial development and welfare, and the Palestine issue. At the beginning of the war they were thinking about it. During the war, too, it worked, with a depleted staff, on colonial post-war staffing, higher education, and certain constitutional work, in addition to the colonial contribution to the war effort.”
Now you realize what happened in the Gold Coast and what happened in Kenya was typical of what took place all over the British colonial territory. Creech-Jones is lying with a straight face. When the Labour Government took office there had been for some years a Party Executive Committee concerned with Imperial and colonial matters. And since 1933 to 1940 the Fabian Colonial Bureau had been at work shaping a constructive policy for the colonies. A constructive policy to put colonial leaders in jail.
“It did not require the impetus of the Pan-African Congress or the demand for Indian freedom to induce the Labour Ministers at the Colonial Office in 1945 to delve ahead with political, social and economic changes in the colonies.”
Now that is a terrific lie. The Labour Government comes, into power in 1945. 1947 Nkrumah goes there, 1951 Nkrumah goes to jail, Kenya fights a civil war. And General Kimathi is caught and shot and General China remains and today is free but everybody calls him General Chanu. And this fellow says that it did not require the impetus of the Pan-African Congress or the demand for Indian freedom to induce the Labour Ministers at the Colonial office in 1945 to drive ahead with political, social, and economic changes in the colonies. This is absolutely untrue.
And that is what they write and that is what they teach the young people in Britain today and what they teach young Africans if the politicians are not sharp enough.. “We already had plans and projects for consultation with the colonial governments.” Most untrue. “We hardly noticed in shaping policy the Manchester Congress.” They hardly noticed it, they never noticed it until the people of the Gold Coast and the people of Kenya made them understand that those who had formed the Manchester Conference were in Africa waiting to form a new Africa.
That is when they noticed it. And listen to this! “Though the individual members of the Congress were soon to matter in their own respective countries (as if that only happened by accident) it was our liberal thought and constructive ideas which shaped Labour’s activity in the Colonial Office.” Every sentence is a lie. “Time was ripe for change as a result of the impact of way, the new international spirit and the spread of nationalism.
Public interest, however, was still at a low ebb because of the preoccupation at home with the national economy and the restoration of peace conditions.” Public interest was not at a low ebb in Kenya, there was a civil war. It was not at a low ebb in the Gold Coast, Nkrumah had to be put in jail and win an election by 23,000 votes to 700. And he said: “Public interest is at a low ebb.” And that is why in Britain they were not concerned with the Manchester conference. We went for it nevertheless.
You know you have to be a minister to be able to lie like that. We went forward, nevertheless, with the devolution of authority from London and the giving of greater responsibl1ity to the colonies. They gave greater responsibility to Kenya and Kenya rejected it constantly. So in the end they had to give up altogether. “Now, thus began the crowded plans for progress in the colonies. In spite of all limited resources of men, materials and finance we launched a revolution of change.” The only revolution of change in the British government was the one that Mr. MacMilllan launched.
He went to South Africa and talked about the wind of change.” “We launched a revolution of change from which the delegates from Manchester were able in their own countries late-on carry out rapid development.” That is a lie. Now I have to spend some time on one minister. He was the colonial minister who did these things. He was one of the leaders of the Conservative Party – McLeod. Some years ago he was speaking at Cambridge University and was able to say something which he had wanted to say for some time and which needed saying. He said:
“Some people say that we gave the Africans independence early, and some say that we hadn’t trained them sufficiently in order to give them independence. But I want to say, I was the minister responsible, and we had to give it to them because we either had to give it to them or shoot them down. And we couldn’t shoot down all the people so we gave them independence.”
But this fellow was saying how the Labour Party had initiated change and as a result those persons at the Machester Conference had gone home and gained power in their respective countries because they had carried out the policy of the Labour Party. That was not so. They gained power in their territories because they had carried out the policies of the Manchester Conference and to this day George Padmore is known as the founder of African independence, and that is a title that he deserves.
And I have said it and will say it again, that such names as Lord Lugard and Marshal Lyautey, the Frenchmen, and such like are being heard less and less in Africa and above all you are hearing more and more the name of George Padmore who organized and initiated the Manchester Conference from which sprang the peoples who led Africa, to independence within a few years.