Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ghana Independence 50th Anniversary Tribute: Kwame Nkrumah and the Fifth PAC in 1945

The Fifth Pan-African Congress at Manchester in 1945

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
Editor's Note: The following is excerpted from a chapter initially published in the Summer 1998 edition of Pambana: Journal on World Affairs. This monograph series was founded and edited by Abayomi Azikiwe from 1984-2000 at Wayne State University in Detroit. The title of this particular monograph series publication is "Pan-Africanism: Historical Analyses From The Grassroots." It was number 23 in the overall series. This excerpt is being published in honor of the 50th anniversary of the independence of Ghana on March 6, 1957.

The Fifth Pan-African Congress at Manchester (1945)

After the conclusion of World War II, the momentum of the anti-colonial struggle accelerated. Just prior to the war's end, Kwame Nkrumah had completed his graduate studies in the United States and took up residence in Britain. He had been given a letter of introduction to George Padmore from CLR James, who was residing illegally in the United States under the name C.R. Johnson. Nkrumah immediately linked up with Padmore and the recently formed Pan-African Federation, that grew out of the work of the International African Service Bureau (IASB). It was this collaboration that created the call for the re-convening of the Pan-African Congress.

After much prepatory work, the Congress was opened on October 15, 1945 in Manchester, England. The meeting witnessed the largest participation ever of Africans from the continent, which portended much for the political developments that would unfold on the continent over the next two decades. According to Nkrumah, "the preponderence of members attending the Congress were African, its ideology became African nationalism--a revolt by African nationalism against colonialism, racialism and imperialism in Africa--and it adopted Marxist socialism as its philosophy." (Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah, 1957, p. 53).

Dubois was appointed as the chairman of the Congress and assisted in drafting its resolutions. Then 77-years-old, he had been a participant in the Pan-African movement since the 1900 meeting in London that was convened by Henry Sylvester Williams. The Congress was attended by a host of representatives from student, trade union, professional and peasant organizations, that were committed to full independence for colonial out-posts in Africa and the Caribbean.

In a final report of the Congress in Manchester, it stated the following:
"The Fifth Pan-African Congress meeting in Manchester with 200 delegates representing 60 nations and groups of African descent finished work today and will adjourn with a mass meeting tomorrow at Charlton Town Hall. On thursday and friday complaints and appeals were heard from Ethiopia and the West Indies. Ethiopia demands the return of Eritrea and Somaliland and ports of the sea. She charges that England is occupying and proposing to keep some of the grain lands of Ethiopia. The delegates from the West Indies, that former Empire of sugar by sugar for sugar, complained of poverty and neglect with land monopoly and low wages in the face of a 100 percent increase in the cost of living. This situation brought revolutionary strikes and riots in 1938, led by Butler, Bustamane and Payne, who were promptly thrown in jail. Reforms followed. Something approaching Home Rule has been granted in Jamaica and other places, but there has been insufficient reforms in various islands. Later a black professor from Londondery reported on French Africa and its rising nationalism." (Andrew Paschal, Dubois Reader, 1971, p. 242).

After six days of deliberations, the Congress passed an unprecedented final resolution which reads as a militant document whose design was to usher in the total liberation of the continent and it's peoples globally:
"The 200 delegates of the Fifth Pan-African Congress believe in peace. How could they do otherwise when for centuries they have been victims of violence and slavery? Yet if the world is still determined to rule mankind by force, in order to achieve freedom, even if force destroys them and the world.
We are determined for Black Africa autonomy and independence so far and no further than it is possible in the 'One World' for groups and peoples to rule themselves subject to inevitable world unity and federation.
We are not ashamed to have been an age-long patient people; we are willing even now, to sacrifice and strive to correct our all too human faults; but we are unwilling longer to starve while doing the world's drudgery, in order to support by our poverty and ignorance a false aristocracy and a discredited imperialism. We condemn the monopoly of capital and rule of private wealth and industry for private profit alone. We welcome economic democracy; wherefore, we are going to make the world listen to the facts of our conditions. For their betterment we are going to fight in all and every way we can." (Paschal, Dubois Reader, pp. 250-251).

In the closing years of the decade, the struggle within the colonial territories took on more of a mass character. These developments were influenced by the independence of Korea and Vietnam in 1945, of India in 1947 and the Chinese Revolution of 1949. The United States of America had become the leading global imperialist power after the conclusion of World War II with the usage of the atomic bomb against Japan at Nagasaki and Hiroshima in August of 1945. By the conclusion of the decade an anti-communist hysteria was guiding the domestic and foreign policy imperatives of the US. Nevertheless, the sentiments that were echoed at the Pan-African Congress in Manchester were reflective of the independence movement that would soon erupt with full force on the continent of Africa.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-Africa News Wire. When this excerpt was written he was serving as the director of the Pan-African Research and Documentation Center, an independent investigative and publishing house on world affairs.

No comments: