Across the continent of Africa, a web of laws silenced African speech. On the eve of World War II, a small, impoverished group of Africans and West Indians in London dared to imagine the end of British rule in Africa. Printing gave oppositions a voice, initially through broadsheets, tracts, pamphlets, later through books and articles. The group launched an anti-colonial campaign that used publishing as a pathway to liberation. These writers included West Indians George Padmore, C. L. R. James, and Ras Makonnen, Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta and Sierra Leone's I. T. A. Wallace Johnson. They formed a part of International African Service Bureau (IASB), and the communists saw them as "generals without an army, they have no base and must depend on their pens". Padmore saw 'trusteeship' as a concept invoked as far back as the late nineteenth-century conferences that divided up Africa. Pan-Africa, a monthly periodical T. Ras Makonnen put out, reported that Richard Wright urged his listeners to form an international network of 'cultured progressives'. Labour-powered nationalism was to Padmore more than a drive for self-government. With the Gold Coast political ground so unsettled, neither Nkrumah nor the Convention People's Party (CPP) made Wright privy to their operations. Inspired by the movement for self-government in British West African colonies, French radicals like Leopold Senghor were rebelling against French political control. In 1969, when a small American publisher reissued A History of Pan-African Revolt , James added to it an epilogue explaining the 'rapid decline of African nationalism'.
Across the continent of Africa, a web of laws silenced African speech. The country is ruled by a criminal code that makes for intellectual terrorism unsurpassed anywhere else in West Africa. For an African, writing a book, asserting his view of the world in a form that Europe had claimed as its own was in itself a political act. In George Padmore's view, the nineteenth-century 'scramble' for Africa was being re-enacted in Ethiopia and in South Africa, a self-governing dominion that wanted control over nearby British protectorates. In a book published in Britain, no restrictive colonial laws would limit Padmore's ability to subvert British rule. Far from preparing Africans to take their place as equals in the modern industrial world, the British were exploiting African labour and resources to maintain their own position in the international capitalist system.
Through writing and publishing together, C. L. R. James, George Padmore, Johnstone Kenyatta, Wallace Johnson, and their allies strengthened their common belief that they could bring into being a new, independent Africa. In the communal act of writing and publishing, they created an 'imagined community', an Africa free of imperial rule. Unlike Kenyatta, both James and Padmore, their own ties with African tradition attenuated by centuries in the New World envisioned an Africa becoming more rather than less Western and leaving its tribal ways behind. Ras Makonnen recalled that the communists saw them as '"generals without an army, they have no base and must depend on their pens"'. Communists had worked themselves into positions as magazine editors and reviewers, and, Fredric Warburg feared, were certain to hand out rough treatment to books that were unsympathetic towards communism.
The issue of self-government for the Empire's subjects was a different matter altogether. While George Padmore's argument for self-determination gained urgency from the war, in the Soviet book he also made his contribution to wartime thinking about postwar life. The evidence thus far, Padmore thought, suggested that development, under the British, could be a long time coming. Like the czarist regime, the British had kept colonial people uneducated, untrained, unindustrialized, a shortsighted policy. The Soviet Union had succeeded in educating Asian peoples more backward, to Padmore's mind, than Africans and had brought them rapidly into the industrial, modern world. Africa could do the same if Africans ruled themselves and if African states were socialist. Socialism was essential because the ethnically diverse African states would necessarily be multinational. In a capitalist economy, divisions might be expressed as racial conflict, but the true cause would be economic.
George Padmore saw 'trusteeship' as a concept invoked as far back as the late nineteenth-century conferences that divided up Africa. Padmore interviewed Yagoub Osman for the Socialist Leader and the Crisis and sent an article to his friend Ivar Holmes in Norway with the hope that it could be published there. In Africa: Britain's Third Empire, probably already underway at this point, he wrote at length about the Sudanese situation, offering an analysis more complex than his journalistic reports. Pan-Africa, a monthly periodical T. Ras Makonnen put out, reported that Richard Wright urged his listeners to form an international network of 'cultured progressives'. Although part of the Pan-African Federation, West African National Secretariat (WANS) had its origins in a desire to move beyond what its organisers saw as the moderate declarations of the Pan-African Congress and actually seize power in Africa.
Losing control of its Asian empire, Britain was turning to Africa to shore up an economy battered by war. In West Africa, tribal conflicts exacerbated by British rule could result in disaster. Whatever the difficulties in creating unity out of diversity, George Padmore saw encouraging evidence that Africans could come together under the leadership of militant trade unions. So long as African economies and governments were still controlled by foreigners, these unions could have more influence on development than they would have if Africa had its own strong capitalist class. Labour-powered nationalism was to Padmore more than a drive for self-government. Padmore had helped to foment the revolution he reported, and his Gold Coast visit helped solidify his position as Kwame Nkrumah's adviser and strategist. In his own mind, Padmore was more than the chief publicist for the Gold Coast revolution.
Richard Wright had thought that he would be welcomed as a great man, and Africans did not even know who he was. To these reasons Wright biographer Hazel Rowley adds another: a genuine fear of communist influence in Africa. 'Nevertheless', Rowley has written, 'it was an act of betrayal, Kwame Nkrumah was no pawn of Moscow, and George Padmore unequivocally shared Wright's hostility towards Communism. With the Gold Coast political ground so unsettled, it is not surprising that neither Nkrumah nor the Convention People's Party (CPP) made Wright privy to their operations. Although the CPP was not directly affiliated with communist organisations, leaders acknowledged modelling their party on the Russian Communist Party. 'In short, it is a Communist minded political party, borrowing Marxist concepts and applying them with a great deal of flexibility to local African social and economic conditions.
Inspired by the movement for self-government in British West African colonies, French radicals like Leopold Senghor were rebelling against French political control, preparing the way for both 'self-determination and the federation of all West African territories'. Although George Padmore offered Pan-African socialism as a distinctive African path towards the future, he was still promoting a pre dominantly Western vision, with no place in it for tribal chiefs. Like more academic modernisation theorists in the 1950s, Padmore believed that the task facing Africans at this historic moment was to transform their traditional societies into modern societies. In 1969, when a small American publisher reissued James Hooker's 1938 book A History of Negro Revolt, retitled A History of Pan-African Revolt, James added to it an epilogue explaining the 'rapid decline of African nationalism'.