Framing a Radical African Atlantic

African American Agency, West African Intellectuals and the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers


In Framing a Radical African Atlantic Holger Weiss presents a critical outline and analysis of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUCNW) and the attempts by the Communist International (Comintern) to establish an anticolonial political platform in the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa during the interwar period. It is the first presentation about the organization and its activities, investigating the background and objectives, the establishment and expansion of a radical African (black) Atlantic network between 1930 and 1933, the crisis in 1933 when the organization was relocated from Hamburg to Paris, the attempt to reactivate the network in 1934 and 1935 and its final dissolution and liquidation in 1937-38.
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Biographical Note

Holger Weiss, Ph.D. (1997, Helsinki University), is Professor of general history at Åbo Akademi University in Finland. He has published widely on African, global and Atlantic history, including Between Accommodation and Revivalism: Muslims, the State and Society in Ghana from the Precolonial to the Postcolonial Era (Finnish Oriental Society 2008).

Table of contents

1. Outlining the plot: The Comintern and the African Atlantic
2. Reconstructing the ITUCNW archives
3. Categorization and assessment of the ITUCNW material
4. Actors on Stage: Identifying Key Activists, their Networks and their Whereabouts


I. The Communist International and the ’Negro Question’
1. The contours of a radical cosmopolitan African Atlantic world
2. The Comintern, anti-colonialism and the Negro Theses

II. A Communist Agitator in West Africa?
1. The Making of an African Bolshevik
2. The Münzenberg Connection
2.1. Drafting a resolution on the Negro Question
2.2. Approaching Casely Hayford and Kobina Sekyi
2.3. Meeting Mr. Richards
3. Dreaming about a West African Workers Party and the realities of political activism
3.1. Aborted contacts: The WAFU and the LAI
3.2. Moscow and West Africa – Promises and pitfalls


III. The Sixth Comintern Congress and the Negro Question
1. The establishment of the Negro Bureau
2. The establishment of the ITUCNW

IV. Moscow 1929-1930: The Negro Bureau, the (Provisional) ITUCNW and the World Negro Workers Conference
1. Ford in Western Europe: Critical reflections and practical considerations
2. The 1929 Manifesto of the Negro Bureau
3. The Negro Bureau and the British Communist Party
4. The Negro Bureau, the LAI and the Münzenberg-network
5. Focus Africa: Prospects and difficulties
6. Organising Africans in Berlin
7. Further criticism: the lack of emphasize in colonial work

V. Towards a Global Agenda: The ITUCNW and the World Negro Workers Conference
1. Moscow
2. First contacts with Africans
3. Bleak prospects in Berlin and London
4. Caribbean and West African sojourns
5. Meanwhile in the USA…
6. Instructions and Plan B
7. London – Paris – London
8. Activating Plan B: Berlin to organize the conference
9. Hamburg, eventually…

VI. From Hamburg to Moscow and via Berlin back to Hamburg
1. The political consequences of the Hamburg Conference
2. The Fifth RILU Congress and a new focus for the ITUCNW
3. Meetings in Berlin and the outlines of an African agenda
4. Any hopes for African radical activism in Western Europe?
5. Kouyaté, the LAI and the lack of support to the DSLVN
6. The establishment of the RILU Negro Bureau and the Hamburg Secretariat


VII. The ITUCNW in the RILU- and CI-apparatus, 1930-1933
1. Visions about a ‘Black International’
1.1. A truncated radical African Atlantic?
1.2. The end of the Black International
1.3. November 1931: Exit Ford, enter Padmore
1.4. Frieda Schiff – more than Padmore’s secretary?
2. The Hamburg Secretariat within the RILU-apparatus
2.1. The RILU Negro Bureau
2.2. The February and March 1931 RILU-Instructions to Ford
2.3. The June 1931 Reminder alias the 1931 July Resolution
2.4. A new beginning: The October 1931 Resolution
2.5. Further corrections: The December 1932 Resolution
2.6. Who pays who: The transfer of money from Moscow via Berlin to Hamburg
2.7. Controlling propaganda
3. The link between the ITUCNW and the ISH
3.1. Two Black Comrades in Hamburg
3.2. Working locally, acting globally
3.3. The 1932 World Conference of the ISH in Altona
3.4. Comrade Jones: An agent provocateur of the ITUCNW - and the ISH?
4. Black assistance to Red Aid
4.1. Connecting people: enlisting participants for IRH congresses
4.2. Visions about IRH Sections in Africa
4.3. The International Scottsboro Campaign
5. Brothers in arms? The ITUCNW and the Münzenberg-network
5.1. Wishful thinking: The LAI ‘Goes West Africa’?
5.2. Who represents whom? Ford in the orbit of the Münzenberg Platforms
5.3. The Negro Number of the AIZ
5.4. Towards a fruitful cooperation? Padmore, the “Münzenberg-Konzern” and the ISH
5.5. Students from Africa
5.6. Comrade Bilé and the fate of the DSLVN
6. Race or class: Criticizing international solidarity as racial lip-service

VIII. The Radical African Atlantic, 1930-1933: Writing Class, Thinking Race
1. The establishment of a radical African Atlantic network
2. 5000 copies of the Proceedings…
3. The Padmore-net, 1931-1933
3.1. “Our object is … to stimulate the revolutionary spirit of the masses”
3.2. Impossible connections: the Belgian and Portuguese African colonies
4. Reaching out to West Africa
4.1. A revolutionary in Gambia?
4.2. The problematic Sierra Leone Connection
4.3. Setbacks and new contacts in the Gold Coast
4.4. “Yours sincerely R.B. Wuta-Ofei”
4.5. The Nigeria–option: a promising start and disappointing end
4.6. Our man in Lagos: I.T.A Wallace-Johnson
4.7. Establishing a radical cell in Liberia
4.8. The rise and fall of the West African connection
5. The global link: The Negro Worker
5.1. From the Negro Worker to the International Negro Workers’ Review and back
5.2. “The Negro Worker should be built into a popular mass journal”
5.3. Global dissemination, African participation?
5.4. The Negro Worker and the activities of the Hamburg Secretariat
6. “Thousands of new connections”: The radical African Atlantic in late 1932


IX. Mission Impossible? The collapse and rebirth of the radical Atlantic network
1. The end of activities in Germany
1.1. Escape and Reorganization: From Berlin and Hamburg to Copenhagen and Paris
1.2. The yellow trunk
1.3. The International Committee for Mutual Aid to Negro Workers
2. Exit Padmore, enter Huiswoud
2.1. Still existing: The Negro Worker
2.2. The critique
2.3. The August 1933 meeting in Paris
2.4. “Au revoir”
3. The rebirth of the ITUCNW
3.1. The Reorganization of Negro Work: New structures and old tactics
3.2. The Crusader News Office in Antwerp
3.3. Yet another new beginning: semi-legal existence in Amsterdam
3.4. Copenhagen – Harlem: The Negro Worker disguised
4. Momentum lost? Renegades, radicals and the Abyssinian campaign

X. Our comrades in West Africa
1. The rise and fall of the Lagos connection
2. The Liberian cell
3. Calling the Toilers in the Gold Coast
4. Collaborating with Comrade Wallace-Johnson
5. Comrade Robert and the activities in the Gold Coast
6. “Nevertheless, the high level of struggle developed in many recent strikes in the African colonies must be noted”

XI. Moscow’s final call – and yet another new start?
1. The never-ending reorganization of Negro work
2. Envisioning a radical African Atlantic International
3. A redrafted manifesto and an aborted conference
4. “Who and what is the ITUCNW remains for the Black colonies almost as much as a mystery as ever”




All interested in the history of the emergence of radical Panafricanism, anyone concerned with the history of the Communist International as well as radical international solidarity during the interwar period.


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