“Negro Workers, Defend the Soviet Union and the Chinese Revolution!” – The International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers and the Political Rhetoric of The Negro Worker

Cover of the April 1932 issue of the Negro Worker


The International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUCNW) was an initiative by the Red International of Labor Unions (RILU, also known as Profintern) to attract and organize the black working class – or toilers, according to an older militant vocabulary – in the African Atlantic during the interwar period. Established in 1928 as the International Trade Union Committee of the RILU, it belonged to a group of new committees and organizations formed during the so-called Third Period, when the Third (Communist) International or the Comintern inaugurated its new “class-against-class” policy. Among other things, this policy was a broadside attack against reformist and social-democratic trade unions and parties, targeting them as “social fascist.” In comparison to the previous “united front from below” tactics, which had opened up a limited space for co-operation between communists and social-democratic or reformist labor organizations over the course of the 1920s, the new tactic called for vigorous “revolutionary” oppositional politics, especially within the labor unions.1 

These “class-against-class” tactics were to be fully applied in those countries where Communist parties existed and/or where Communists were members of trade unions. While this was the case throughout Europe, a large part of the Americas, and Asia, a different situation prevailed in the Black Atlantic.2 Although the Comintern had recognized the importance of “Negro work” in the United States and in South Africa during the 1920s, other parts of the Black Atlantic, such as sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, or Europe remained blank spots on the mental map of the Comintern leadership. In addition, the activities of the Communist Parties in the United States and in South Africa still left large sectors of the black population untouched.3 In this empty space, radical Pan-Africanist organizations such as the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People counted thousands of black activists in their membership rolls and especially the former organization had followers and admirers throughout the African Atlantic.4 

Key Pan-Africanist thinkers such as W.E.B. Du Bois or Marcus Garvey stressed that black people all over the world were oppressed and exploited. Du Bois had declared that racism, segregation, and discrimination separated black and white people in the United States and claimed that the black population could only overcome its plight by uniting and agitating for civil rights and racial justice. Garvey, the leader of the UNIA, went even further by calling for a “back-to-Africa” movement and propagated the slogan for a “United Africa.”5 

The Pan-Africanists’ focus on racial oppression was a challenge for the Communists. On the one hand, from its beginnings the Comintern had declared its support for the national independence of all “semi-colonial” and colonial nations: the former being first and foremost China, the latter including all Asian and African colonies. But what about oppressed people within a nation, such as the African Americans in the United States or the black population in South Africa? Matters became even more complicated in 1928 when the Comintern launched the so-called Black Belt thesis, i.e., the idea of an autonomous black republic in the U.S. South.6 As an added difficulty, Comintern theorists in Moscow soon had to come to grips with the stark fact that few of the downtrodden and oppressed black toilers in the African Atlantic were Communists; at best, they were lukewarm to the message of the Communist parties in their respective nations and seemed to have little interest in joining Communist sections of the labor unions. 

The foundation of the ITUCNW was the first step in a sustained effort by the Comintern and RILU to build an alternative, radical formation in the African Atlantic. In contrast to the Pan-Africanist organizations which directed their message to black people in general, the ITUCNW presented itself in the African Atlantic as a class organization whose exclusive, but expansive, concern was the black proletariat.7 The first part of this brief introductory article will track the rhetorical strategy deployed in in The Negro Worker, the organ of the ITUCNW, with an analysis of the call for a global united front during the Manchurian Crisis of 1931–32.8 However, since I only have access to copies of the journal from 1928 to mid-1932, I will be unable to cover any rhetorical shifts after August 1932.9 While in earlier essays I have highlighted the discursive centrality of class by mainly using unpublished material from the Comintern Archives in Moscow, in this article I will solely concentrate on texts published in The Negro Worker.10 

Unsurprisingly, a “class-before-race” argument is strongly elaborated in The Negro Worker, its main thrust directed towards leading Pan-Africanist activists and organizations. While such an emphasis may seem crude in light of urgent contemporary efforts to articulate the relationship between class and race, a close examination of this focus on the black working class reveals more complex tendencies at play: indeed, a subterranean history of internationalism and anti-imperialist analysis.11 As Harry Haywood later noted in his autobiography, Black Bolshevik, the ICUTNW itself was “the first attempt to bring black workers together on a world scale,” and the organization’s founding conference was “the first time black workers from Africa and the Americas had gotten together.”12 And despite the structural constraints of Third Period Comintern ideology, The Negro Worker drew attention to the sheer heterogeneity of the black proletariat in the African Atlantic, and possible spaces where solidarity could be forged between a wide set of actors.13 The keyword often used across its pages, “black toilers,” encompassed a vast range of labor forms, sites, and political subjects, from railwaymen in South Africa, rubber workers in Liberia, dockworkers in European ports, to miners and sharecroppers in the U.S. South. In C.L.R. James’s assessment, the publication provided “information, advice, guidance, ideas about black struggles on every continent” – a precious hub of political communication and education for both organized and unorganized workers.14 

Under the editorship of Trinidadian and CPUSA member George Padmore during the period covered below, The Negro Worker ran reports and articles from ITUCNW members on the extensive constellation of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist activities (strikes, revolts, uprisings, emerging labor movements, and conferences) taking shape in Africa, Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean, even reaching into India and China.15 In Minkah Makalani’s assessment, Padmore uncovered and developed a “productive tension” between “Moscow’s mandates” – with a recognition of the material importance of the Comintern to anti-colonial struggle – “and an expansive coverage that had African liberation,” including African diasporic liberation, “at its core.”16 In so doing, he and the other integral ITUCNW activists constructed an impressive transnational formation, which contested the global processes of interwar capitalism and established spatially stretched alliances and political networks spanning metropole and periphery.

But this intercolonial focus and black internationalist outlook ran into real limits. In their internal correspondence and in their correspondence with other (white) Communists, the leading figures of the ITUCNW, including Padmore, the African American labor union activist James W. Ford, and the Surinamese activist and CPUSA member Otto Huiswoud were highly critical about the racist attitudes they found among leading Communists in the United States and in Europe.17 Nevertheless, while Padmore was an especially staunch critic of the blatant racism he faced in the British and French Communist Parties, none of the black Communists voiced their criticism in texts published in The Negro Worker during this period. While Padmore began to openly criticize the Comintern and the Communist parties for racial attitudes after his break with the Communists in 1933–34, Ford and Huiswoud did not.

The Class Rhetoric in The Negro Worker

The Negro Worker was the mouthpiece of the ITUCNW. Initially, it was edited and published by the “International Negro Workers’ Information Bureau” in Moscow. This Bureau was in effect the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers of the RILU as James W. Ford, the first editor of the journal, informed his readers in 1928.18 Ford stressed that the RILU included in its ranks workers of all races, and further underlined that its aim was to combat all forms of reformism and white chauvinism. Therefore, he concluded, the RILU had decided to establish a new umbrella organization – the ITUCNW of the RILU – which included representatives from black workers in the United States, the Caribbean, Africa, and Latin America.19 At this point, the vision in Moscow seems to have been to establish a kind of a Black International. However, these plans were shelved in October 1931 when the Executive Bureau of the Comintern decided that the activities of the ITUCNW were limited to the British, French, Belgian and Portuguese colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.20

The political language and rhetoric used in The Negro Worker was that of the Third Period, but with specific objects of criticism and audiences: all issues contained attacks against “reformism” and Pan-Africanists, as well as calls for a international united front of workers irrespective of their color. In April 1930, African American Communist Harry Haywood made an appeal to combat all forms of “national reformism among Negro toilers,” namely the British Labour Party, the Social Democratic Parties, the Independent Labour Party, the Amsterdam International, and the American Federation of Labor, in addition to the “Negro middle classes and intelligentsia.”21 One month later, RILU Secretary general Alexander Lozovksy declared that “the Negro workers are part and parcel of the whole international proletariat,” underlined the international struggle of the working class for social, national, and racial liberation and concluded that “without the class struggle it is impossible, nor can it be possible, to abolish race oppression.”22 In fact, the first official proclamation of the ITUCNW after its (re-) establishment at the First International Negro Workers Conference in Hamburg in July 1930, ended with a genuine “class-against-class” line: “Down with the Social-Fascists and Reformists from the Second and Amsterdam Internationals, lackeys of capitalism and traitors of the working class!”23 George Padmore put forth a similar message a few months later: “The social-fascist parties and trade union organizations, whether affiliated with the Amsterdam and II International or the American Federation of Labor in the United States, have not defended the interests of the black and white workers.”24 

However, the main enemies and targets of the ITUCNW were the “Negro bourgeois leaders” who were branded as traitors of the black proletariat. Branded as the “tools of the bourgeoisie imperialists,” Marcus Garvey and “Garveyism” were singled out as promoting reactionary utopias among black proletarians.25 Padmore was very frank when he declared that “Negro reformism,” most notably “Garveyism,” was the biggest obstacle for sensitizing the class-struggle among the black working class in the African Atlantic: “Reformism among the Negroes has its social basis in certain sections of the Negro middle class and intelligentsia. […] In the struggle between the imperialist ruling classes, and the oppressed Negro workers and peasants there can be no middle road, but only the road of class struggle.”26 The challenge of the ITUCNW was to expose the “Negro reformists,” underlined Otto Huiswoud, denouncing them for joining the imperialists and white capitalists “in their attempt to suppress the revolts of the Negro masses,” particularly in West Africa, Belgian Congo, South Africa, and in Haiti.27 

“Negro, White and Indian toilers, form a united front with your Chinese class brothers!”

Time and again, The Negro Worker was to highlight the power of a global united front of the multiracial working class. “Of paramount importance is the question of linking up the struggles of the Negro toilers with those of the toilers of other nationalities and races,” declared Haywood, who then concluded: “The Negro workers must become conscious of the fact that their struggle are not the struggles of the Negroes alone, but that they are an integral part of the revolutionary upsurge of the toiling masses of all nations taking place in the present period as a result of the ever deepening crisis of world capitalism and the consequent efforts of the imperialists to place the main burden of the crisis upon the toilers in general.”28 The message was clear: it was class solidarity, in its heterogeneous composition, over racial solidarity that mattered.

A test case for the class rhetoric in The Negro Worker and its possible political effects came with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in autumn 1931.29 Communist response to the Japanese aggression was orchestrated by the Comintern’s West European Bureau as well as the European Bureau of the RILU.30 Giorgi Dimitrov, the head of the West European Bureau, sent a message to Moscow and urged the Comintern to issue an order to all Communist parties to step up a campaign against the war danger and in defense of the Soviet Union. However, the Comintern headquarters was slow to react. Only in November did the Comintern issue an appeal where it warned that the Far Eastern conflict might lead to a world war and that the Japanese were preparing to attack the Soviet Union. The appeal included a call to establish China aid committees and to organize protest meetings and demonstrations against Japanese aggression.31 

The overarching strategy of the communist-led “Hands off China” campaigns was to call for a trade union boycott on commerce with Japan. The core group to be mobilized were the anti-war cells of dockers and seamen, their task being to block shipments of ammunition and war material to the Japanese troops in China. To further strengthen the campaign, the European Bureau of the Profintern issued in February 1932 a direct call to all metal and harbor workers to prevent the transportation of military supplies destined for the use against China and the Soviet Union.32 At this point, the “Hands off China” campaign had been incorporated by other communist organizations, such as the League Against Imperialism, the International Union of Seamen and Harbour Workers, and the ITUCNW.

A first missive for international solidarity was published in The Negro Worker in late 1931. In line with the Comintern theses on the forthcoming Imperialist War, namely that the imperialist powers were constantly preparing for an attack upon the Soviet Union, the Black toilers were called to act against the Japanese aggressors and to defend the Soviet Union.33 Following its earlier attacks on “Negro reformism,” the call made a vehement claim for the efficacy of class-based strategy:

Class – not Race War. This new war of enslaving the Chinese people and stealing their country points an important lesson to the Negro workers and toilers of other darker races. It exposes the whole misleading reformist programme of the Negro capitalists, landlords and intellectuals in America who try to hide up the class policy of Japanese imperialists behind idle talk of “unity of the darker races.” Never will all the people of any race be united under capitalism, where there is rich and poor, exploiters and exploited. These fakers know this, but in order to make the poor working class blacks forget their misery, the so-called Negro leaders are trying to create the impression among Negro masses that all people with a dark skin, whether they belong to the capitalist or working class, have the same interest.”34

In contrast to the message of the Pan-Africanists, the author of the call – presumably lead editor George Padmore, although it is likely that the text had been drafted in Moscow – made it clear that the exploitation of the poor, downtrodden, and colonized was a global phenomenon and could only be understood as a class struggle. Exploitation traversed racial lines, and the only way to fight exploitation was to build a multinational, anti-imperialist united front:

Rich Chinese, Japanese, Indians and Negroes exploit the poor of their own race in just the same way as white capitalists oppress the white workers. Exploitation knows no colour-line. A capitalist and landlord is the same bloodsucker, no matter what colour he might be. This is what every Negro worker must recognize in the present conflict in Manchuria; for only in this way will the Negro masses be able to expose the deceptive plans of their own capitalists, landlords and other schemers who, like Marcus Garvey, in order to build up their capitalist business enterprises in America and Africa are trying to get the masses of this race to believe that all black people have the same interests – whether they be capitalists, landlords or workers.35

The Negro Worker was to carry a call to the black toilers in the African Atlantic to join the “Hands off China” campaign in each issue during the spring of 1932. In March 1932, it rallied behind a resolution of the International of Seamen and Harbour Workers and urged black dockworkers and seamen to stop the transportation of war material to Japan.36 Still, whenever possible, the call was used to attack the “Garveyites” and denounced them for backing Japanese imperialism:

We have a tremendous task at the present moment in fighting the ideology of the Garveyites who are telling the Negroes that Japan has started to make the world supreme for the darker races. When one takes up the daily papers and reads how the Japanese imperialists are massacring thousands of Chinese workers and peasants, with their women and children it seems hard to believe how any twisting of words might give what the “Garveyites” would make the Negro masses think. Yet the situation exists, and with the help of the pamphlets which I hope you will send me and the courage of the revolutionary workers of the world, we young workers will fight until we have completely exposed the Negro reformists.37

This was a timely analysis, as it uncovered the link between Pan-African utopianism and Japanese imperialism – Japan had been held in high esteem among black intellectuals in the African Atlantic as it provided a model for non-Western modernization.38 

The onslaught in The Negro Worker against the “Negro bourgeoisie” continued over the next months. In August 1932, Cyril Briggs, founding member of the African Blood Brotherhood and CPUSA member, published a direct attack on Marcus Garvey, accusing him for having betrayed the black toilers.39 The “class-before-race” rhetoric, with an anti-colonial bent, was highlighted in the same issue by Padmore when he published yet another forceful, vivid call for global, cross-racial solidarity in defense for the Soviet Union:

We must organize today and join forces with the white workers of Europe and America, the yellow workers of China and Japan, the brown workers of India and other lands and tell these imperialist murderers, these capitalist bandits and cut-throats, these human scavengers who thrive upon the dead and the living, these scourges of humanity, – that we will build an iron ring around the Soviet Union, that we will refuse to fire one shot against our heroic comrades of the Soviet Union who are showing us the path to freedom and emancipation.40

Concluding Reflections

A close reading of the discourse of the leading figures of the International Trade Union of Negro Workers in their journal The Negro Worker reveals that it highlighted a “class-before-race” perspective. This does not come as a surprise – the Red International of Labor Unions had established the organization during the so-called Third Period. Starting in 1928 and officially ending in 1935, the Comintern and its various sub-units, committees, and sympathizing mass organizations followed the “class-against-class” policy, fiercely attacking reformist, Social Democratic, and Socialist leaders and parties. The International Trade Union of Negro Workers was no exception to this line: it was to be an organization for the black toilers and workers only, not for the black bourgeois leaders or activists. Its main target was Marcus Garvey and his United Negro Improvement Association, which was the leading Pan-African organization in the early 1930s.

Such a message inevitably comes across today as dated, simplistic, even misguided in its strategic implications. And yet, the sheer scope of the regions and sections of the working class encountered in its pages deserves our attention today. As contemporary activists figure out and debate how to articulate shared concerns and “connect” their respective struggles, after the heady times of the anti-globalization movements, this black internationalist focus and imagination retains considerable relevance. The Negro Worker surveyed the geographies of colonialism and imperialism through the labor regimes which marked the uneven development of global capitalism, and in doing so also plotted the different trajectories and strategies of anti-colonial struggles (like the position of maritime workers in the “Hands off China” campaign). The resonances of this effort to map and analyze the variegated spaces where relations of power and antagonism arise can be seen in the study guides, documentaries, and pamphlets published by anti-imperialist collectives of the 1960s and ‘70s, like the U.S.-based Africa Information Service or Africa Research Group – a subaltern form of knowledge production. Today we need to chart the distance not only from the plantation to the assembly line, but from the diffuse, often racialized, terrains of waged and informal employment in the metropolitan cores to the factory-complexes, export processing zones, and other sites of intensified capitalist exploitation of the postcolonial world.41 

Padmore’s correspondence with readers across the African Atlantic reveals, at least in part, the reach of the publication. Some readers sent anti-colonial manifestos, or report-backs on their immediate struggles, which they hoped that Padmore would publish in The Negro Worker.42 One of those readers was Quacoo Hamilton, from the Gold Coast. Only the last page of his letter can be found in the archives, but the few remaining paragraphs reveal a politically conscious person who fully backed the radical message of The Negro Worker. The tone of Hamilton’s text reads like a convinced Black Bolshevik, a future party cadre committed to fighting the class struggle:

New Blacks born let us have human feelings in our hearts. Let us save our situations. Let us follows [sic] our comrades in U.S.S.R. The only land of new civilisations, no race prejudice, abolished of feudal systems and all sorts of crooked ways which capitalist of old Tsarist Russia created to dim the eyes of our Russian comrades. Long live Lenin if he could be seen!!! The saviour of human [?]. Long lives the workers of U.S.S.R., may Stalin also live long and to guides U.S.S.R. into invaders in time of capitalist u[n]expected attacks.43

However, such declarations seemed to have been rare, and the effective appeal of the political rhetoric of the Negro Worker is unclear. By 1935, the attacks on the black bourgeois leaders and organizations were to cease; and as an outcome of the Seventh World Congress of the Comintern, the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers was to be transformed and envisioned as a Black International. Nevertheless, this plan could never be realized. An evaluation of the Comintern’s “Negro work” conducted in Moscow in 1936 merely stated what was already obvious: The International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers was not and had never had been a mass organization; its only impact in the African Atlantic had been through its journal, The Negro Worker. Back in Moscow, the Comintern quietly liquidated the organization in 1937.44 

  1. On the Third Period, see Matthew Worley, ed., In Search of Revolution. International Communist Parties in the Third Period (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2004). On the RILU, see Rainer Tosstorff, Profintern: Die Rote Gewerkschaftsinternationale 1920–1937 (Paderborn: Schoenigh, 2004). 

  2. John Callaghan, “Storm Over Asia: Comintern Colonial Policy in the Third Period,” in In Search of Revolution. International Communist Parties in the Third Period, ed. Matthew Worley (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2004), 18–37. 

  3. See further Edward T. Wilson, Russia and Black Africa Before World War II (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1974); Mark Solomon, The Cry Was Unity. Communists and African Americans, 1917–1936 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998); Marika Sherwood, “The Comintern, the CPGB, Colonies and Black Britons, 1920–1938,” Science & Society 60, no. 2 (1996): 137–63; Jacob A. Zumoff, The Communist International and US Communism, 1919–1929 (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2014). 

  4. Minkah Makalani, In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917–1939 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011). 

  5. See further, Hakim Adi and Marika Sherwood, Pan-African History. Political Figures from Africa and the Diaspora since 1787 (London: Routledge, 2001). 

  6. See Oscar Berland, “The Emergence of the Communist Perspective on the ‘Negro Question’ in America: 1919–1931. Part One,” Science & Society 63, no. 4 (1999–2000): 411–32 and Oscar Berland, “The Emergence of the Communist Perspective on the ‘Negro Question’ in America: 1919–1931, Part Two,” Science & Society 64, no. 2 (2000): 194–217. 

  7. Holger Weiss, Framing a Radical African Atlantic. African American Agency, West African Intellectuals and the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2014); Holger Weiss, “Between Moscow and the African Atlantic: The Comintern Networks of Negro Workers,” monde(s) histoire, espaces, relations 10 (November 2016): 89–108. For a Pan-African perspective on the history of the ITUCNW, see Hakim Adi, Pan-Africanism and Communism: The Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919–1939 (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2013). See further the roundtable discussion on Pan-Africanism and Communism in Black Perspectives, July 25, 2015. 

  8. See further, Susan Campbell, “The Negro Worker. A Comintern Publication 1928–1937: An Introduction.” 

  9. Digitized PDF-versions of The Negro Worker are made available by Historical Papers Research Archive in Johannesburg, South Africa, which contains issues originally deposited in the South African Institute of Race Relations, Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation

  10. Holger Weiss, “Global Ambitions, Structural Constraints and Marginality as a Choice: The International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers,” in International Communism and Transnational Solidarity. Radical Networks, Mass Movements and Global Politics, 1919–1939, ed. Holger Weiss (Leiden/ Boston: Brill, 2017), 318–62. 

  11. David Featherstone, Solidarity: Hidden Histories and Geographies of Internationalism (London: Zed Books, 2012). 

  12. Harry Haywood, Black Bolshevik: The Autobiography of an Afro-American Communist (Chicago: Liberator Press, 1978), 329. 

  13. See for example, Garan Kouyaté’s (under the pseudonym G. Kouyatte) series on united actions between harbor workers in France: “Black and White Seamen Organize for Struggle,” Negro Worker 1, no. 12 (December 1931): 19–20; and “Solidarity between White and Coloured Sailors,” Negro Worker 2, no. 2 (March 1932): 27–28. 

  14. C.L.R. James, “Notes on the Life of George Padmore,” in The C.L.R. James Reader, ed. Anna Grimshaw (London: Blackwell, 1992), 290. 

  15. Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse, alias George Padmore (19001959), was born in Trinidad. He had a middle-class background, and worked in the early 1920s as a journalist. In 1924, Nurse left the island and went to the United States and enrolled at Fisk University in 1925. In the following year, he shifted to the Law School at University of New York and, in 1927, to Howard University. Living in New York, he started to engage with radical African Americans in Harlem and joined the Communist Party in 1927. In December 1929, he arrived in Moscow where he stayed until his transfer to Hamburg in October 1931. He was in charge of the ITUCNW headquarters until August 1933. In late 1933–early 1934 he had a rift with the Comintern, resulting in his expulsion from the Comintern and CPUSA. For more on Padmore’s life, work, and political trajectory see Leslie James, George Padmore and Decolonization from Below: Pan-Africanism, the Cold War, and the End of Empire (London: Palgrave, 2014). There is also a valuable discussion of Padmore’s turn away from the Comintern in Makalani, In the Cause of Freedom, chapters 6 and 7. 

  16. Makalani, In the Cause of Freedom, 176. 

  17. James W. Ford (18931957) had been a union activist in the Chicago Postal Workers Union during the early 1920s. In 1925, he was enlisted in the newly founded American Negro Labor Council. One year later, in 1926, Ford joined the Communist Party in Chicago and became an industrial organizer in the city’s South Side. Otto Huiswoud (18931961) had immigrated to the United States in 1910 and had been a charter member of the Communist Party of America in 1919. In November 1922, Huiswoud attended as an official delegate the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in Moscow. In 1929, Huiswoud was in charge of the newly founded Negro Department of the Party and belonged to the Central Committee of the Party. However, due to internal rifts in the Party, Huiswoud was removed from the Central Committee of the Party and was placed in charge of the New York District Negro Department. He retained this position until the end of 1930 when the Party sent him to Moscow. When Padmore was transferred to Hamburg in October 1931, Huiswoud took over his position at the RILU Negro Bureau. Huiswoud reorganized the activities of the ITUCNW in April 1934 and headed the organization until it was liquidated by the Comintern in 1937. 

  18. Established in 1928 as the bulletin of the “International Negro Workers’ Information Bureau in Moscow,” the journal appeared as The International Negro Workers’ Review published by the ITUCNW in Hamburg in January 1931. However, already in March 1931, the journal was once again published as The Negro Worker. Ford’s and Padmore’s ambition was to establish The Negro Worker as a mass publication. Each of the first eight issues of The Negro Worker was printed in 1,000 copies. In early 1932, Padmore decided to distribute the journal for free in order to speed up its distribution. The campaign was successful, the circulation steadily increased, and had reached 5,000 copies per issue by the end of 1932. However, decisions made in Moscow to cut the funding to the various units of the Comintern and RILU that had been relocated from Germany after the Nazi takeover in 1933 also affected the circulation of The Negro Worker. When Huiswoud took over as editor-in-chief in March 1934, he had to reduce the circulation of the journal to 2,000 copies as an attempt to cut down costs. The last issue of the journal was published in October 1937. See further Weiss, “Between Moscow and the African Atlantic,” 103. 

  19. “The Organisation of an International Negro Trade Union Bureau by the RILU,” The Negro Worker: Bulletin of the International Negro Workers’ Information Bureau 1, no. 2 (August–September, 1928): 1. 

  20. See Weiss, Framing a Radical African Atlantic, 292–98. 

  21. Harry Haywood, ”Forward to the London Conference of Negro Toilers,” The Negro Worker: Bulletin of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers of the R.I.L.U. 3, no. 6 (April 1930): 1–3. 

  22. Alexander Lozovsky, “Negro Workers Awakening,” The Negro Worker: Bulletin of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers of the R.I.L.U. 3, no. 7 (May 1930): 1. 

  23. “Revolutionary Greetings to the First International Conference of Negro Workers,” The Negro Worker: Bulletin of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers of the R.I.L.U. 3, no. 9 (June 1930): 7. 

  24. George Padmore, “Report & Resolution on the Economic Struggles and Task of Negro Workers,” The Negro Worker, Vol 3 – Special Number: The Hamburg Conference (October 15, 1930): 7. 

  25. J. Reed, “Anti-Imperialist Struggle of the Negro Workers,” The Negro Worker: Bulletin of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers of the R.I.L.U. 2, no. 5 (December 1929): 1–2.; H. Haywood, “Forward to the London Conference of Negro Toilers,” The Negro Worker: Bulletin of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers of the R.I.L.U. 3, no. 6 (April 1930): 3. 

  26. George Padmore, “Report & Resolution on the Economic Struggles and Task of Negro Workers,” The Negro Worker, Vol 3 – Special Number: The Hamburg Conference (October 15, 1930): 7. 

  27. O.E. Huiswoud, “The Economic Crisis and the Negro Workers,” The Negro Worker 2, no. 4 (April 1932): 25–27. 

  28. Harry Haywood, “Forward to the London Conference of Negro Toilers,” 1. 

  29. On Japanese imperialism and the attack on Manchuria, see Prasenjit Duara, “The New Imperialism and the Post-Colonial Developmental State: Manchukuo in comparative perspective,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 4, no. 1 (2006): 1–17. 

  30. Appeal by the West European Bureau of the ECCI and the European Secretariat of the RILU on the Japanese Invasion of Manchuria, published in Inprekorr 11, no. 93 (September 29, 1931): 2080. 

  31. Jonathan Haslam, Soviet Foreign Policy 1930–1933: The Impact of the Depression (London and Basingstoke: MacMillan 1983), 86–87. 

  32. Rote Einheitsfront gegen den räuberischen Überfall auf China und gegen das imperialistische Kriegskomplott gegen die Sowjetunion und Sowjet-China. Kampf gegen die eigenen Ausbeuter und ihre Helfer”[For a Red United Front Against the Predatory Attack on China and the Imperialist War Plot Towards the Soviet Union and Soviet China. Down with the Exploiters and Their Supporters], Reichskomitee Agitprop, February 1932; R1501/20442 Reichsministerium des Inneren, KPD – Revolutionäre Gewerkschaftsbewegung, January 1932 – May 1932, Bundesarchiv Berlin, fol. 469. 

  33. See “Extracts from the Theses of the Eleventh ECCi Plenum on the Tasks of the Comintern Sections in Connexion with the Deepening of the economic Crisis and the Development of the Conditions Making for a Revolutionary Crisis in a Number of Countries,” in The Communist International: Documents, 1919-1943, vol. 3, ed. Jane Degras (London: Routledge, 2014 [1965]), 152–64. 

  34. “The War Danger. War in the East. Negro Workers, defend the Soviet Union and the Chinese Revolution!,” The Negro Worker 1, no. 10–11 (1931): 3. 

  35. “The War Danger,” 3–4. 

  36. G.P. [George Padmore], “War in the East,” The Negro Worker 2, no. 3 (March 1932), 9. 

  37. E.L.B., “Garveyites Preparing Workers for Cannon-Fodder,” The Negro Worker 2, no. 3 (March 1932): 31. 

  38. See, for example, J. Calvitt Clarke III, “Seeking a Model for Modernization: Ethiopia’s Japanizers,”; Donald N. Levine, “Ethiopia, Japan, and Jamaica: A Century of Globally Linked Modernizations,” The International Journal of Ethiopian Studies 3, no. 1 (2007): 41–51. 

  39. Cyril Briggs, “How Garvey Betrayed the Negroes,” The Negro Worker 2, no. 8 (August 1932): 14–18. 

  40. George Padmore, ”The World Today,” The Negro Worker 2, no. 8 (August 1932): 4. 

  41. See Ferruccio Gambino and Devi Sacchetto, “The Shifting Maelstrom: From Plantations to Assembly-Lines,” in Beyond Marx: Theorising Global Labour Relations of the Twenty-First Century, eds. Marcel Linden and Karl Heinz Roth (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 89–119. 

  42. The “Workers’ Correspondence” section of issues of The Negro Worker was presented as a forum for black workers to share and circulate their experiences and grievances. See a representative example, I. Hawkins, “Negro Leader Tells About Terror in Kentucky,” Negro Worker 2, no. 2 (March 1932): 29. One can draw parallels with this form of “worker writing” with the Barbadian maritime labor organizer and organic intellectual Chris Braithwaite’s column, “Seamen’s Notes,” in the Padmore and CLR James-edited journal, International African Opinion, first appearing in 1938. See Christian Høgsbjerg, Chris Braithwaite: Mariner, Renegade, & Castaway (London: Redwords, 2014). 

  43. Quacoo Hamilton, Gold Coast, to Padmore, no date [first page(s) missing], Archives of the Communist International, Russian State Archives of Socio-Political History, Moscow (RGASPI) 534/3/756, fol. 113. 

  44. Weiss, Framing a Radical African Atlantic, 691–716. 

Author of the article

is Professor of general history at Åbo Akademi University, Finland, and Guest Professor of history at Dalarna University, Sweden. His research focuses on Global and Atlantic history, West African environmental history, and Islamic Studies (with a special focus on Islam in Ghana). His publications include (ed.) Social Welfare in Muslim Societies in Africa (Nordic Africa Institute 2002); Obligatory Almsgiving: An Inquiry into Zakât in the Pre-colonial Bilād as-Sūdān (Finnish Oriental Society 2003); Begging and Almsgiving in Ghana: Muslim Positions towards Poverty and Distress (Nordiska Afrikainstitutet 2007); Between Accommodation and Revivalism: Muslims, the State and Society in Ghana from the Precolonial to the Postcolonial Era (Finnish Oriental Society 2008); Framing a Radical African Atlantic. African American Agency, West African Intellectuals and the International Trade Union of Negro Workers (Brill 2014); (ed.) Ports of Globalisation, Places of Creolisation: Nordic Possessions in the Atlantic World during the Era of the Slave Trade (Brill 2015); and (ed.) International Communism and Transnational Solidarity: Radical Networks, Mass Movements and Global Politics, 1919–1939 (Brill 2017).