AS DUAS ESCOLAS DO PAN-AFRICANISMO:
O RACIALISMO E O IGUALITARISMO
Figuras-Chave do Igualitarismo:
George Padmore: A Pan-Africanist from Trinidad
by Jerome Teelucksingh
Malcolm Nurse (1903-1959) adopted the alias of George Padmore in 1927. He was the grandson of an African slave, Alphonso Nurse, who was born on the Belle Plantation in the colony of Barbados in the British West Indies. Nurse later learnt the trade of masonry and migrated to the nearby island of Trinidad. Padmore’s father, James Nurse was a well-educated middle class Black and renowned Caribbean botanist.
George Padmore was born in 1903 in the rural village of Arouca but his childhood and teenaged years were spent in a middle-class suburb in Trinidad’s capital of Port-of-Spain. He attended the prestigious St. Mary’s College of the Immaculate Conception (CIC) in Port-of-Spain. At the age of 19 years he briefly served as a reporter for the “Trinidad Guardian”, a daily newspaper. Due to frequent arguments with the newspaper’s editor, Padmore resigned and in 1924 departed for the United States.
He was interested in pursuing a career in medicine and later law and attended Fisk University, the University of New York and Howard University. During a visit of the British Ambassador to Howard University, Padmore embarrassed the dignitary by publicly protesting against the suffering of Africa under British rule. The young Trinidadian was expelled but it marked a watershed as Padmore had begun a life of a fearless and militant revolutionary.
Whilst working among Blacks in Harlem, Padmore edited a newspaper- “Negro Champion” (later known as the “Liberator”). He decided to join the Communist Party in 1927 and began contributing articles to the “Daily Worker” in New York. Furthermore, he worked with the Communist Party’s American Negro Labour Congress.
In 1929 Padmore decided to migrate to Moscow in the Soviet Union and began lecturing on trade union activities of Blacks in the United States. During 1930-1935, Padmore is credited for the global organization of the Black working class.
Padmore was appointed head of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUC-NW) which was the arm of the Red International of Labour Unions (RILU) or Profintern. In June 1930, the ITUC-NW began publishing the Negro Worker which Padmore edited. This newspaper was read by thousands of Blacks in North America, Europe and the Caribbean. Illicit copies of this publication served as a source of inspiration for the explosion of violent protests among oilfield workers in June 1937 in Trinidad. The vibrant ITUC-NW organized an international conference of Negro Workers in July 1930 in Germany.
Ideological differences led to Padmore’s disillusionment with Communism and the decision to relocate to Hamburg, Germany. In 1935, Padmore moved to London, England, reunited with his childhood friend and fellow Trinidadian, CLR James. Padmore continued a career as a journalist and published articles in working class and Black publications as the Crisis and Chicago Defender, Baltimore Afro-American, the Clarion, the Vanguard and the People. Issues addressed included self-government, racism, imperialism and trade unionism.
Padmore’s role as a voice for the oppressed and exploited working class is evident in his books and pamphlets- “The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers”, “How Britain Rules Africa” and “Africa and World Peace”.
Whilst in London among his friends were Eric Williams (who later became the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago), Paul Robeson, Amy Garvey (wife of Marcus Garvey), and Jomo Kenyatta.
Padmore’s phenomenal organizational ability resurfaced after the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Padmore assisted James who formed the International African Friends of Ethiopia. This anti-imperialist group was later transformed in March 1937 to the International African service Bureau (IASB) by Padmore who served as Chairman. Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican Pan-Africanist, residing in the United States was an influential leader whose Negro world was widely read by millions of Blacks. However, Garvey’s failure to support the striking workers in Trinidad during the strikes of June 1937 in Trinidad resulted in harsh criticisms from James and Padmore at Hyde Park in London.
By 1944, the IASB had been dissolved and Padmore along with other Pan-Africanist formed the Pan-African Federation (PAF) in England. Among Padmore’s illustrious friends was W.E.B DuBois of the NAACP in the United States. In 1945, Padmore writing from the headquarters of PAF, invited DuBois to send a representative to the historic Fifth Pan-African Congress which was to be held in Manchester, England. Furthermore, he informed DuBois of the trade union activities in the British West Indies and the support given to the Jamaican strike in 1946.
In June 1945 Padmore assisted in organizing the All-Colonial People’s Conference held in London, England. He also maintained regular contact with the West African Student’s Union (WASU).
Interestingly, though Padmore was a staunch Pan-Africanist and pro-Black, his work embraced other ethnic groups. By 1946, Padmore was instrumental in establishing the London-based “Asiatic African Unity Committee” comprising Indians and Africans with the intention of building a united front against imperialism. Furthermore, he had a close fraternal relationship with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru of India, the external department of the National Congress and the All-India Student’s Congress.
In 1945 Padmore met Kwame Nkrumah, (a student from Ghana) in London. Nkrumah served as the regional secretary of the PAF in which Padmore was involved. Nkrumah never forgot Padmore’s friendship and organizational abilities. And, in 1957, Padmore was appointed political advisor to the Prime Minister of Ghana, Nkrumah. Padmore began a newspaper Voice of Africa which published by the Bureau of African Affairs in Ghana.
At the time of his death the indefatigable Padmore had been an inspiration for millions of Blacks. He had sown the seeds of anti-colonialism and laid the foundation of an indestructible anti-imperialist movement which resulted in many British colonies gaining political independence.