AN IMPORTANT new book, Pan-Africanism and Communism, was launched last week in North London at an event in Harrow Civic Centre attended by 120 people including several academics. The Mayor of Harrow, Councillor Nana Asante, who helped to proof-read the text, presided over the event.
The author, Hakim Adi, said it was the result of 10 years' research in London, Paris and Moscow, and was “an attempt to portray a period forgotten by many and also the subject of distortion and controversy”.
The title recalls an earlier work, Pan-Africanism or Communism? by George Padmore, a Trinidadian who began his political career as a communist but ended it as a Pan-Africanist and anti-communist.
Hakim’s book provides a wealth of new material on the role of the Comintern in the revolutionary struggles in the African colonies and the African Diaspora during the inter-war period, often under extremely difficult conditions, and the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers after 1928 in Africa, the US, Europe and the Caribbean.
It highlights Lenin’s important role as the first leading communist to talk about socialism and revolution outside Europe in the colonies, and the “Negro question” (as it was then known), which became a leading priority when the Comintern was launched in 1919.
In later years the Comintern would be highly critical of some communist parties for their lack of work on the “Negro question,” including the French and British parties. On its part the old Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) focused on the struggle in India at the expense of Africa and British colonies elsewhere.
Many will be surprised to know that the leading American civil rights activist and Pan-Africanist W E B Du Bois joined the CPUSA in 1959 at the age of 91, and after visiting the Soviet Union in 1936 – the height of the Stalin period – said: “If this is Bolshevism, then I’m a Bolshevik.”
Another leading Black American communist, Claudia Jones, who rose to prominence as a founder of the Notting Hill Carnival, became an active member of the CPGB only after being deported from the USA.
In a lengthy and lively debate, Hakim defended the work of communists, saying that despite the mistakes and the loss of commitment of some, overall they had worked to create a more just and fairer socialist world.
Pan-Africanism and Communism, by Hakim Adi, is published by Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ, and is available in the UK for £28.99.