Appeal to Negro Seamen and Dockers (1932)

Ral­ston Craw­ford, Unload­ing the Car­go, 1942.

Editorial Introduction

The recent stream of research pro­grams and stud­ies on ques­tions of logis­tics, crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture, and glob­al sup­ply and dis­tri­b­u­tion chains has been indis­pens­able to our under­stand­ing of con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ism and its com­bi­na­tion of the accel­er­at­ed, mobile cir­cu­la­tion of goods, ser­vices, and infor­ma­tion with new forms of labor dis­ci­pline and exploita­tion.1 Over the past fif­teen years or so, there have been vital inquiries into the geo­gra­phies of inter­modal trans­port, poli­cies of labor force seg­men­ta­tion and con­trol, and the strug­gles of ship­ping, ware­house, and retail work­ers.2 This last area is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant: the pow­er to block the mate­r­i­al struc­ture of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion and cir­cu­la­tion, to dis­rupt it at its “choke­points” has been a focal point of activist strate­gies across the inter­na­tion­al ter­rain.3 The port block­ade, which has played a role in Pales­tin­ian sol­i­dar­i­ty efforts, the Occu­py move­ment, anti-aus­ter­i­ty protests in Greece, and work­ers’ strikes in Chile – is per­haps the most vis­i­ble tac­tic of resis­tance along these lines.

The sig­nif­i­cance of long­shore­men, har­bor­work­ers, and mar­itime labor­ers, their capac­i­ty to scram­ble the nerve sys­tem of cap­i­tal-in-motion, is well-known to stu­dents of work­ing-class his­to­ry. These water­front and ship-bound work­ers have often been deci­sive actors in the most bit­ter, extra­or­di­nary, and con­se­quen­tial episodes in the glob­al class strug­gle. But much of this rich lega­cy of protest can often be lost in the rapid tech­no­log­i­cal changes and migra­to­ry pat­terns which have com­plete­ly trans­formed the spa­tial and tem­po­ral char­ac­ter­is­tics of labor con­di­tions under “sup­ply chain cap­i­tal­ism.”4 In the Unit­ed States, we have well-doc­u­ment­ed accounts of the Indus­tri­al Work­ers of the World and the Inter­na­tion­al Long­shore and Ware­house Union’s endur­ing tra­di­tions of rad­i­cal orga­niz­ing in the inter­war peri­od. But scant dis­cus­sions exist of the short-lived Inter­na­tion­al of Sea­men and Har­bour Work­ers (ISH), which stands as a fas­ci­nat­ing ini­tia­tive towards mil­i­tant union­ism, com­mu­nist agi­ta­tion, and mul­tira­cial sol­i­dar­i­ty with­in transna­tion­al mar­itime net­works.5

The ISH was a Red Inter­na­tion­al of Labour Unions-linked orga­ni­za­tion, but its activ­i­ties and social con­stituen­cy ren­der it dis­tinct among oth­er Com­intern groups.6 Estab­lished in 1930 as part of the broad­er ini­tia­tive to reach work­ers of col­or in the indus­tri­al cap­i­tal­ist cen­ters as well as the colo­nial or semi-colo­nial ter­ri­to­ries in both the Atlantic and Pacif­ic, the ISH was con­struct­ed to be an umbrel­la body that would encom­pass and bring togeth­er rad­i­cal unions and com­mit­tees of mar­itime trans­port work­ers in which com­mu­nist mil­i­tants had a firm foothold. At one point, it boast­ed chap­ters in 22 coun­tries and 19 colonies.7 The French Com­mu­nist Par­ty, the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Ger­many, and the Com­mu­nist Par­ty of Great Britain, with their exten­sive con­tacts and ties in the ports of Le Havre, Mar­seille, Ham­burg, and Liv­er­pool, respec­tive­ly, were cen­tral levers in this enter­prise. The expe­ri­ence of the ISH should hold our inter­est pri­mar­i­ly for its vision of a transla­tive, cross-region­al polit­i­cal prac­tice, which merged the for­ma­tion of small-group cells on mer­chant ships and “inter­clubs,” cen­ters for meet­ings, instruc­tion, and sup­port, in land­ed ports. As Hol­ger Weiss empha­sized in his arti­cle on The Negro Work­er (the organ uti­lized in ISH sec­tions as a source of polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion and train­ing), Third Peri­od Com­intern pol­i­cy lim­it­ed activists from devel­op­ing effec­tive syn­di­cal­ist approach­es; but through efforts like the ISH, ques­tions about how to fight nation­al and racial chau­vin­ism, how to devel­op appro­pri­ate forms of out­reach and agi­ta­tion amongst a het­ero­ge­neous labor force, and how to set in motion and solid­i­fy cir­cuits of polit­i­cal infor­ma­tion and pro­pa­gan­da across the nodes of impe­r­i­al cap­i­tal­ism were placed on the agen­da.8 As a small but essen­tial part of the inter­na­tion­al work­ing class, mar­itime work­ers held a strate­gic posi­tion in the imag­i­nary and tac­ti­cal reper­toire of anti-impe­ri­al­ism with­in the labor move­ment. One can detect the echoes of this ear­li­er phase in a much lat­er con­junc­ture: at sev­er­al points in 1973, the Bal­ti­more branch of the African Lib­er­a­tion Sup­port Com­mit­tee urged long­shore­men and dock­work­ers to refuse to unload ship­ments of nick­el and chrome from Rhode­sia, “against their impe­ri­al­ist boss­es” prof­it­ing from an ille­gal trade arrange­ment with a racist regime. The work­ers walked off the job each time, draw­ing a con­crete line of sol­i­dar­i­ty. 

The fol­low­ing text is a call to a May 1932 ISH gath­er­ing in Ham­burg, which details the organization’s aims and tac­tics, in addi­tion to a sur­vey of the exploita­tive con­di­tions these work­ers faced. Notable here is the call to break the racial divi­sions of the nation­al mar­itime and dock­work­ers’ unions and to unite the strug­gles of the “rev­o­lu­tion­ary water trans­port pro­le­tari­at” in what Lenin would call the “oppres­sor and oppressed nations” (espe­cial­ly with Africa and the West Indies). The end­ing also includes the peri­od-spe­cif­ic rhetoric which urged sea­men to obstruct and even sab­o­tage ship­ments of war mate­r­i­al, as an act in sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Sovi­et Union’s for­eign pol­i­cy, to the Japan­ese forces dur­ing the inva­sion of Manchuria in 1931-32. 

– Patrick King

Com­rades! Oppressed and Exploit­ed Negro Class Broth­ers!

The Inter­na­tion­al of Sea­men and Har­bour Work­ers (ISH) greets you and appeals to you to orga­nize with­in the ranks of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary water trans­port pro­le­tari­at to fight against the ter­ri­ble exploita­tion and rob­bery imposed upon you by the cap­i­tal­ists, the shipown­ers, the lighter­age com­pa­nies, as well as their white and black agents – the head­men, the steve­dore-boss­es, the fore­men and man­agers. End all oth­er betray­ers of the Negro work­ers and dock­ers.

I. What is the ISH?

The ISH is the only water trans­port inter­na­tion­al which fights for all sea­men, steve­dores, boat­men and fish­er­men, irre­spec­tive of race, colour or nation­al­i­ty. In order to bring about the great­est uni­ty between the white, black and yel­low water trans­port work­ers and to estab­lish a unit­ed fight­ing front against the offen­sive of the cap­i­tal­ists, the I.S.H. will hold a great world con­gress in the port of Ham­burg, begin­ning on May 20th 1932.

At this con­gress del­e­gates will come from every cap­i­tal­ist coun­try as well as the colonies, and will draw up a fight­ing pro­gram for the strug­gle against wage cuts, long hours, bad work­ing con­di­tions, unem­ploy­ment and star­va­tion, as well as the new impe­ri­al­ist war and inter­ven­tion against the Sovi­et Union which has already start­ed in the East.

Because the Negro work­ers in Africa, Eng­land, France, Amer­i­ca, and the West Indies are among the worst paid and treat­ed slaves of the shipown­ers and oth­er cap­i­tal­ists, the ISH., is espe­cial­ly invit­ing all Negro sea­men, dock work­ers, fish­er­men and boat­men to elect del­e­gates and to send them to the Con­gress on May 20th. This, in brief is the pro­gram of the ISH. which gives its fullest sup­port and assis­tance to the Negro sea­men, dock­ers and oth­er water trans­port work­ers, wher­ev­er they may hap­pen to live.

II. The Seamen are treated like Slaves.

Com­rades! We all know of the ter­ri­ble con­di­tions which are imposed upon the work­ers at sea and espe­cial­ly upon the sailors and dock­ers of the coloured races. This regime of enslave­ment is get­ting worse from day to day. Unem­ploy­ment and star­va­tion, that is the fate of many thou­sands of Negro sailors and dock­ers who are stand­ing in lines before the docks and reg­is­ter­ing offices of the ship­ping com­pa­nies wait­ing for a job. And those few who final­ly suc­ceed to find work are forced to make longer and longer hours for wages which the boss­es are cut­ting down every month.

Com­rades! Why have the con­di­tions of the sea­men and dock­ers become so bad? At present, all cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries of Europe and Amer­i­ca are under­go­ing a ter­ri­ble cri­sis. This has caused the lay­ing up of many thou­sands of ships, because there are no car­goes to be trans­port­ed. And in order to be able to con­tin­ue dis­trib­ut­ing great prof­its to the share­hold­ers and direc­tors, and pay­ing high salaries to the agents and the oth­er offi­cials of the ship­ping com­pa­nies, these cap­i­tal­ist rob­bers are cut­ting down the wages of the work­ers and are low­er­ing their stan­dard of life.

III. The Policy of “Divide and Rule.

In order to be able to car­ry out this pol­i­cy of wors­en­ing the con­di­tions of life of the sailors and dock­ers, the employ­ers, and their agents, the reac­tionary trade union lead­ers of Amer­i­ca, Eng­land and France, are fos­ter­ing race hatred among the white sailors and dock­ers against their coloured class broth­ers. In this way the Negro work­ers become the vic­tims of the worst forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion; the boss­es give them the heav­i­est and dirt­i­est work, and pay them low­er wages than to the white work­ers. The Negro sailors are put in the most dirt­i­est and over­crowd­ed parts of the ships. They are being giv­en the worst food and they are forced to work under the most ter­ri­ble con­di­tions.

The Inter­na­tion­al of Sea­men and Har­bour Work­ers also calls upon all white work­ers, who are con­scious of their duty to their class broth­ers, to join hands with their coloured broth­ers in Amer­i­ca and in the colonies and togeth­er with them fight against the pol­i­cy of “divide and rule” of the boss­es; fight against unem­ploy­ment, against wage cuts and the length­en­ing of work­ing hours. Only the unit­ed front of all sea­men and dock­ers irre­spec­tive of colour, nation­al­i­ty or race, can improve the liv­ing con­di­tions of the work­ing class.

IV. Betrayal of the Reformist Leaders in America.

The Negro dock­ers in Amer­i­ca are in the dis­ad­van­tage as far as their jobs are con­cerned in the most unjust man­ner„ and they are ordi­nar­i­ly receiv­ing low­er wages than those giv­en to the white work­ers. The recent long and bit­ter strike of the dock­ers in New Orleans against a wage cut of 15 cents (the great major­i­ty of the strik­ers were Negroes) has been com­plete­ly betrayed by the treach­er­ous lead­ers of the Inter­na­tion­al Long­shore­men Asso­ci­a­tion”, who forced the strik­ers back to work.

The reac­tionary trade unions of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Labour which are con­trolled by the worst bureau­crats, refuse to accept Negroes in their ranks and when com­pelled to do so they orga­nize them in sep­a­rate local groups, with the object of sell­ing them to the boss­es and using them as strike break­ers against the white work­ers. This is espe­cial­ly true for the Inter­na­tion­al Union of Sailors in Amer­i­ca and the Inter­na­tion­al Long­shore­men Asso­ci­a­tion.

V. Africa and the West Indies

The con­di­tions imposed upon the Negro sea­men and dock­ers in Africa and the West Indies are yet worse than in Amer­i­ca. They are being robbed and exploit­ed by the ship­ping com­pa­nies and the Euro­pean impe­ri­al­ist exploiters in the most bru­tal fash­ion. For instance, the com­pa­nies of Elder-Demp­ster, John Holt, Unit­ed Air­i­ca, Woer­mann as well as the Amer­i­can, Dutch and French com­pa­nies in West Africa are not only pay­ing to the native sailors and dock­ers in Dakar, Bathurst, Free­town, Mon­rovia, Gold Coast, Nige­ria, Cape Town, Dur­ban etc. the mis­er­able pay of 9d to 1/- sh. per day, but the offi­cers and head­men are forc­ing them to work like slaves, any time they like – 15 to 20 hours a day. The men are even forced to remain on board and to work after their shift is fin­ished. When the work­ers protest and try to orga­nize they are ill treat­ed by the offi­cers, the fore­men and head­men who beat them up and stop their pay.

The same sit­u­a­tion also pre­vails in Kingston, Jamaica; in Port of Spain, Trinidad; in George­town, British Guiana; Bridgetown, Bar­ba­dos; as well as in Haiti, Pana­ma and the oth­er ports of the West Indies and South Amer­i­ca.

At the very moment when the work­ers are con­front­ed with all these bru­tal acts of oppres­sion, the lead­ers of the reformist unions have turned their backs to the Negro work­ers and are open­ly help­ing the impe­ri­al­ists to press their yoke tighter and tighter round the neck of the colo­nial Negroes.

For instance, the reformist lead­ers of Sailors’ Union of France declare about the colo­nial work­ers: “We refuse to regard the natives from the colonies as French cit­i­zens who have the right to work on French ships.”

And in the same way the Eng­lish Nation­al Seamen’s Union, which is under the lead­er­ship of the worst fak­ers, is car­ry­ing on a most shame­less pro­pa­gan­da of lies and slan­ders in its jour­nal, “The Sea­man” against the coloured sea­men on board of British ves­sels and in the ports of Lon­don, Liv­er­pool, Cardiff, South Wales, Bris­tol. The lead­ers of this Negro-bait­ing Union are just out to cre­ate trou­ble in the Eng­lish ports by incit­ing the white sailors against the Negro sailors, and in gen­er­al, to chase all coloured sea­men off British ships.

Instead of prop­a­gat­ing the sol­i­dar­i­ty of the white and coloured work­ers, these reformist bootlick­ers of the shipown­ers are help­ing the cap­i­tal­ists to split up the ranks of the sea­men and dock­ers. They are the very ones call­ing upon the gov­ern­ments to dri­ve the coloured work­ers out of Europe – back to the colonies.

VI. Negro Workers! Join the Revolutionary Trade Union Movement!

Negro sea­men and dock­ers! Only the rev­o­lu­tion­ary ISH and its affil­i­at­ed sec­tions like the Marine Work­ers Indus­tri­al Union in Amer­i­ca, the Seamen’s Minor­i­ty Move­ment in Eng­land, the CGTU in France, the African Fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions in South Africa, and the Inter­na­tion­al Seamen’s Clubs, which are sup­port­ing the pro­gram of the INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION COMMITTEE OF NEGRO WORKERS admit the coloured water trans­port work­ers and dock­ers into their ranks on the basis of com­plete eco­nom­ic, social and polit­i­cal equal­i­ty. It is for that rea­son that we are urg­ing upon all Negro and coloured sea­men and har­bour work­ers to join the rev­o­lu­tion­ary trade union move­ment as well as the ship- and dock-com­mit­tees which are under the lead­er­ship of the ISH, and to fight shoul­der to shoul­der with their class con­scious white broth­ers for bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions.

Com­rades, we have had an excel­lent exam­ple before us. The sailors of the British Navy at Inver­gor­don who are after all bet­ter paid than the coloured sea­men, orga­nized and won a fight against wage cuts. It is only by orga­niz­ing our­selves and fight­ing that we can march towards vic­to­ry over cap­i­tal­ism which is the com­mon ene­my of all work­ers. It is only with­in the ranks of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary trade union move­ment that the mass­es of Negro slaves will be able to throw off the yoke imposed on them by the Amer­i­can, Eng­lish, French, and Bel­gian Impe­ri­al­ists and oth­er impe­ri­al­ist rob­bers and to gain their nation­al free­dom and social eman­ci­pa­tion side by side with the oppressed Chi­nese and Indi­an work­ers.

VII. Comrades and oppressed and exploited black brothers!

Before con­clud­ing, some words of warn­ing! In the degree in which the world eco­nom­ic cri­sis is sharp­en­ing, the impe­ri­al­ist pow­ers, espe­cial­ly Amer­i­ca, Eng­land, France, Bel­gium, under­stand that the only way out of their dif­fi­cul­ties for them is to fur­ther wors­en the con­di­tion of the work­ers and to pre­pare for war in order to re-divide up Chi­na, Africa and the oth­er colo­nial coun­tries. And at the same time all these rob­ber states are plan­ning a com­bined attack against the Sovi­et Union, the only coun­try ruled by the work­ing class, the only coun­try which is con­struct­ing a new social­ist regime, free from exploita­tion, oppres­sion, race hatred and unem­ploy­ment. When this war will break out (and already the Japan­ese impe­ri­al­ists are con­duct­ing the war in Chi­na, with the aid of the Eng­lish, Amer­i­can, French and Bel­gian impe­ri­al­ists) than the war-mon­gers and trade union mis­lead­ers who are today cut­ting down your wages and are throw­ing you on the street to starve will call upon you to fight for them, to help in the trans­porta­tion of sol­diers, to load and unload ammu­ni­tion and arms des­tined to mas­sacre your class broth­ers in the East. Com­rades! You must refuse to make your­self the agents of the impe­ri­al­ist mur­der­ers of these cap­i­tal­ist slave traders; you must fol­low the exam­ple of the Russ­ian work­ers who, in 1917, trans­formed! the war of “their” cap­i­tal­ist class into the civ­il war, and have tak­en the pow­er in their hands.

VIII. Negro Seamen and Dockers, Wake Up!

Let us unite and fight:

  1. Against dis­crim­i­na­tion of Negroes, fos­tered by the war mon­gers and cap­i­tal­ists with the aid of their reac­tionary trade union agents and spies.

  2. For equal pay for all work­ers, irre­spec­tive of race, colour, or nation­al­i­ty.

  3. For ben­e­fit for all unem­ployed sea­men and dock­ers, at the expense of the gov­ern­ment and the cap­i­tal­ist com­pa­nies.

  4.  Join the ranks of the Minor­i­ty Move­ment of the Eng­lish sailors, the Marine Work­ers Indus­tri­al Union in Amer­i­ca and the CGTU in France!

  5. Orga­nize rev­o­lu­tion­ary ship and dock groups!

  6. Join the ship and dock com­mit­tees of the Inter­na­tion­al Sea­men and Har­bour Work­ers Union which are fight­ing for the fol­low­ing demands on behalf of the Negro sea­men and the sailors of oth­er races and colours;

a) Equal pay for equal work for colo­nial and white sailors.

b) Increase of the wages of the sea­men and dock­ers from the colo­nial and semi-colo­nial coun­tries.

c) Three shift sys­tem for the men on deck and 4 shifts for the men under deck; sev­en hours’ day dur­ing the watch.

d) One free day on shore for every Sun­day spent on the jour­ney.

e) Social insur­ance at the expense of the cap­i­tal­ists and the State.

f) Unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fit; free food, clothes, shel­ter for the unem­ployed.

g) Dou­ble pay for over­time work.

h) Against the sys­tem of rob­bery through “dash­es” and “pay offs” to head­men, boss steve­dores.

i) Equal rights for colo­nial and white sea­men in sign­ing on; and reg­is­ter­ing at the employ­ment office; down with the PC5 in Eng­land,

j) For the right to orga­nize and the free­dom of meet­ing and speech; against the arrest and depor­ta­tion of for­eign born sea­men,

k) For the com­plete free­dom to go ashore on for­eign ports.

l) For the fight against reac­tionary leg­is­la­tion for sea­men and their trade unions!

Negro work­ers, defend the Sovi­et Union which is the father­land of the work­ing class! Hands off Chi­na!

All del­e­gates to Ham­burg on May 20th!

This text orig­i­nal­ly appeared as “Appeal to the Negro Sea­men and Dock­ers!” The Negro Work­er 2, no. 4 (April 1932): 20–24, and was fea­tured in the sec­tion of the jour­nal titled, “The Labour Move­ment.”

  1. For some high­lights, see the excel­lent “Sup­ply Stud­ies Syl­labus.” 

  2. See Deb­o­rah Cowen, The Dead­ly Life of Logis­tics: Map­ping Vio­lence in Glob­al Trade (Min­neapo­lis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, 2014), and her 2014 arti­cle in View­point, “Dis­rupt­ing Dis­tri­b­u­tion: Sub­ver­sion, the Social Fac­to­ry, and the ‘State’ of Sup­ply Chains”; Beth Gutelius, “Dis­ar­tic­u­lat­ing Dis­tri­b­u­tion: Labor Seg­men­ta­tion and Sub­con­tract­ing in Glob­al Logis­tics,” Geo­fo­rum 60 (March 2015): 53–61; Anna Cur­cio, “Prac­tic­ing mil­i­tant inquiry: Com­po­si­tion, strike and bet­ting in the logis­tics work­ers strug­gles in Italy,” ephemera jour­nal 14.3 (August 2014). 

  3. For a fine overview, see Char­maine Chua, Logis­tics, Cap­i­tal­ist Cir­cu­la­tion, Choke­points,” The Dis­or­der of Things, Sep­tem­ber 9, 2014. 

  4. See Anna Tsing, “Sup­ply Chains and the Human Con­di­tion,” Rethink­ing Marx­ism 21 (2009) 148-176; for an ethno­graph­ic approach to the con­tem­po­rary ship­ping indus­try, see Steven C. McK­ay, “Racial­iz­ing the High Seas: Fil­ipino Migrants and Glob­al Ship­ping,” in The Nation and Its Peo­ples: Cit­i­zens, Denizens, Migrants, ed. John Park and Shan­non Glee­son (Lon­don: Rout­ledge, 2014). 

  5. On the IWW’s orga­niz­ing among port and har­bor work­ers as well as sailors, see Peter Cole, Wob­blies on the Water­front: Inter­ra­cial Union­ism in Pro­gres­sive-Era Philadel­phia (Urbana: Illi­nois Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2007); on the ILWU, see Bruce Nel­son, Work­ers on the Water­front: Sea­men, Long­shore­men, and Union in the 1930s (Urbana: Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois Press, 1988). For anoth­er per­spec­tive on the racial com­po­si­tion of sea­far­ers, see Ger­ald Horne, Red Seas: Fer­di­nand Smith and Rad­i­cal Black Sailors in the Unit­ed States and Jamaica (New York: NYU Press, 2005). For a clas­sic, with­er­ing Trot­sky­ist crit­i­cism of the Comintern’s engage­ment with mar­itime work­ers in the U.S. from a mem­ber of the Social­ist Work­ers Par­ty, see Art Preis, Stal­in­ists on the Water­front: A Doc­u­ment­ed Record of Betray­al (Pio­neer Pub­lish­ers, 1947). 

  6. For his­tor­i­cal sur­veys of the ISH, see Con­stance Mar­gain, “The Inter­na­tion­al Union of Sea­men and Har­bour Work­ers (ISH) 1930-1937: Inter­clubs and Transna­tion­al Aspects,” Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry Com­mu­nism, 8.8 (Jan­u­ary 2015): 133-144; and Hol­ger Weiss, “The Inter­na­tion­al of Sea­men and Har­bour Work­ers – A Rad­i­cal Glob­al Labour Union of the Water­front or a Sub­ver­sive World-Wide Web?,” Inter­na­tion­al Com­mu­nism and Transna­tion­al Sol­i­dar­i­ty: Rad­i­cal Net­works, Mass Move­ments and Glob­al Pol­i­tics, 1919–1939 (Lei­den: Brill 2016), 256-317. For more spe­cif­ic dis­cus­sions, see Josephine Fowler, “From East to West and West to East: Ties of Sol­i­dar­i­ty in the Pan-Pacif­ic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Trade Union Move­ment, 1923–1934,” Inter­na­tion­al Labor and Work­ing-Class His­to­ry 66 (Fall 2004): 99-117; Mari­ka Sher­wood, “The Com­intern, The CPGB,. Colonies and Black Britons, 1920-1938.” Sci­ence & Soci­ety 60.2 (Sum­mer 1996): 137-63; Hakim Adi, “The Com­intern and Black Work­ers in Britain and France, 1919-37, Immi­grants & Minori­ties 28.2/3 (July/November 2010): 224-45; Diane Frost, “Racism, Work, and Unem­ploy­ment: West African Sea­men in Liv­er­pool, 1880s-1960s,” in Eth­nic Labour and British Impe­r­i­al Trade: A His­to­ry of Eth­nic Sea­far­ers in the UK, ed. Diane Frost (Lon­don: Frank Cass, 1995), 22-33); Ver­non L. Ped­er­son, “George Mink, the Mar­itime Work­ers’ Indus­tri­al Union, and the Com­intern in Amer­i­ca,“Labor His­to­ry 41.3 (2000): 307-20). 

  7. Hol­ger Weiss, Fram­ing a Rad­i­cal African Atlantic (Lei­den: Brill, 2014), 339. 

  8. For more on this polit­i­cal labor of trans­la­tion, see Con­stance Mar­gain, “L’Internationale des gens de la mer (1930-1937). Activ­ités, par­cours mil­i­tants et résis­tance au nazisme d’un syn­di­cat com­mu­niste de marins et dock­ers,” PhD the­sis, Pots­dam and Le Havre Uni­ver­si­ty, 2015. 

  9. Editor’s Note: A reg­is­tra­tion form required by the Nation­al Union of Sea­men in Eng­land (at bot­tom a com­pa­ny union of the British Ship­ping Fed­er­a­tion), which enabled union and the employ­ers to exer­cise tight con­trol over the labor force, requir­ing a sub­stan­tial fee and card be signed by both the Ship­ping Fed­er­a­tion and the union before one could find work on a ship. See Tom Vick­ers, “Migra­tion, Polit­i­cal Engage­ment, and the State: A Case Study of Immi­grants and Com­mu­nists in 1930s Tyne­side in the UK,” in Recon­fig­ur­ing Cit­i­zen­ship: Social Exclu­sion and Diver­si­ty With­in Inclu­sive Cit­i­zen­ship Prac­tices, eds. Lena Dominel­li and Mehmoona Moosa-Mitha (Lon­don: Rout­ledge, 2014), 58. 

Author of the article

(ISH) was a transnational organization, tied to the Communist International, which sought to coordinate the trade union efforts of black maritime workers in Europe, the United States, Africa, and the West Indies during the early 1930s.