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GEORGE PADMORE


[1902-59]

[“Caribbean Emancipators", publication by the G.B. U. Public Relations Division, Office of the Prime Minister, Trinidad and Tobago, 1976].


Trinidadians have played a conspicuous part in the Pan African Movement, and in the African anti-colonial struggle. H. Sylvester Williams originated the movement in 1990. George Padmore was one of the fathers of African liberation in the 1940s and 1950s.


Born Malcom Nurse at Arouca in 1902, his father was an interesting personality, a black schoolmaster, entomologist and agricultural instructor. Malcolm's grandfather was a Barbadian who had been born a slave. He was educated at Tranquillity, St. Mary's and Pamphylian High School in Port of Spain. For a time he worked with the Guardian, but he hated it and was soon fired. Trinidad seemed too confined for the highly intelligent and ambitious young man. He left for the U.S.A. in 1924, proposing to study medicine.


But Nurse was not destined to the respectable world of Negro professionalism. Soon after his arrival in the USA, Nurse entered the Communist Party, taking the cover name of George Padmore when engaged in Party Business. He became quite an important figure in the US Communist world. For Padmore, only the Communist seemed to offer an answer to the colour question: it didn't exist. Workers would unite to throw off their chains regardless of race or nationality. It was a time when the USSR seemed to be the great hope for radicals all over the world, especially the colonial world. In 1929, Padmore went to Russia and became the head of the Negro Bureau of the Communist International of Labour Unions. He also served as Secretary of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUC-NW). Both these bodies were COMINTERN agents to agitate and moblise the Negro people in the colonial world and in the USA. For a time, Padmore enjoyed great personal authority and prestige as an honoured foreign comrade in Moscow. He founded and edited Negro Worker, the organ of the Communist Negro movement.


But disillusionment was to come. In the early 1930s, Stalin's regime reduced its anti-colonial activity in order to gain greater acceptance for the USSR from the west. The ITUC-NW was disbanded in 1933 because it was especially objectionable to the Western Imperialist powers. Padmore immediately resigned all his COMINTERN offices and was formally expelled in 1934. It marked a permanent break with the USSR, though he continued to hold that the USSR was the only state which had successfully eliminated racism. From this time on, Padmore's interests shifted towards Africa and Pan Africanism.


For most of the rest of his life, Padmore lived in London, nearly always in poverty, as a writer, journalist and agitator in the cause of black freedom. Among his most important books were:


How Britain Ruled Africa (1936); How Russia Transformed Her Colonial Empire (1946); Africa, Britain's Third Empire (1949);and Pan Africanism or Communism? (1956).

The last named is probably his most important and certainly his best known book. He also wrote innumerable articles in a variety of left wing journals and papers, mostly on colonial matters. He lectured very frequently, for instance to meetings of the British Independent Labour Party, and conducted political study groups for colonial students in London. His lodgings became, in the 1930s and l940s, the centre of anti-colonial struggle in London. Among the callers were his boyhood friend C.L.R. James, and also a young Oxford undergraduate named Eric Williams.


In 1945, Padmore met a young African from the then Gold Coast, Kwame Nkrumah. There was an instant mutual attraction. On Padmore's death, Nkrumah was to say, "When I first met George Padmore in London, we both realised from the very beginning that we thought along the same lines and talked the same language. There existed between us that rare affinity for which one searches for so long but seldom finds in another human


being. Our friendship developed into that indescribable relationship that exists between brothers."


By then, Padmore's interests focussed on Africa, though he did not abandon his commitment to the wider cause of international liberation. In 1944, with others, he founded the Pan African Federation. The next year, Padmore organised a Pan African Conference at Manchester. W. Du Bois, the veteran American black leader was its Chairman, and among the participants were Garvey's widow, Mrs. Amy Jacques Garvey, and Nkrumah. Padmore was the main planner of the Manchester conference. After his relationship with Nkrumah developed, Padmore focussed increasingly on the Gold Coast as the vanguard of the anti-colonial struggle in Africa. He was influential in persuading Nkrumah to return there to lead the nationalist movement, and he came to see the African as the hope for a free, united Africa.


In 1957,Padmore was invited to Ghana for its independence celebrations - Ghana being the first non-white British colony to gain independence, the first of so many. He stayed on as Nkrumah's personal adviser on African affairs. For just under two years (1957-9) Padmore exerted a powerful influence on Nkrumah, Ghana, and black Africa. There was opposition in Ghana to Padmore's influence - after all, he was a foreigner - but Nkrumah placed great reliance on him. In 1958 he organised a meeting in Accra of the Heads of the independent African states and accompanied Nkrumah on various African tours. But his  began to fail, and late in 1959 he died in London; his ashes were buried in Accra at Nkrumah's request.


Padmore's career is one of considerable significance for the modem history of Africa. He may rightly be regarded as one of the fathers of African liberation. He devoted a lifetime to the cause of the black man's dignity and freedom; his propaganda and agitation kept the issues constantly alive in Europe, America and Russia. Padmore was one of the men and women who inspired the struggle of the black man for freedom from oppression. 


[“Caribbean Emancipators",  publication by the G.B. U. Public Relations Division, Office of the Prime Minister, Trinidad and Tobago, 1976]. 


Reproduced with the permission of the Caricom Secretariat from Caricom Perspective, January-June, 1993
















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