In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939

In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939

Minkah Makalani

Language: English

Pages: 328

ISBN: 1469617528

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this intellectual history, Minkah Makalani reveals how early-twentieth-century black radicals organized an international movement centered on ending racial oppression, colonialism, class exploitation, and global white supremacy. Focused primarily on two organizations, the Harlem-based African Blood Brotherhood, whose members became the first black Communists in the United States, and the International African Service Bureau, the major black anticolonial group in 1930s London, In the Cause of Freedom examines the ideas, initiatives, and networks of interwar black radicals, as well as how they communicated across continents. Through a detailed analysis of black radical periodicals and extensive research in U.S. English, Dutch, and Soviet archives, Makalani explores how black radicals thought about race; understood the ties between African diasporic, Asian, and international workers' struggles; theorized the connections between colonialism and racial oppression; and confronted the limitations of international leftist organizations. Considering black radicals of Harlem and London together for the first time, In the Cause of Freedom reorients the story of blacks and Communism from questions of autonomy and the Kremlin's reach to show the emergence of radical black internationalism separate from, and independent of, the white Left.

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American Communist Party ABB radicals joined the Comintern, they soon realized that they had given up a vehicle in which they could continue to elaborate a radical black internationalist project in a way that they believed best suited pan-African liberation. As much as they believed they gained from international communism’s institutions and networks, they soon questioned their place within Lenin’s international. New Negro Anti-Caribbean Nativism The rise of Marcus Garvey brought into stark

Fort-Whiteman blamed any shortcomings on the black newspapers controlled by the “petty bourgeoisie of the American Negro.”59 Although some black papers were highly critical of the ANLC, postconvention coverage was largely positive. The Baltimore Afro-American considered the ANLC unprecedented, while the Chicago Defender argued that it was entirely reasonable for black people to turn to Bolshevism in the struggle against racial oppression. Howard University economics professor Abram Harris saw the

against White Supremacy intern’s Third Period demands. They saw limited gains from a program that viewed race as a problem that could be resolved only through unity between black and white workers. For them, the anti-imperialist struggle required a much broader politics that international communism was unlikely to usher into existence. The Brussels Congress At Brussels, Münzenberg envisioned a world congress in which colonial peoples would denounce and embarrass France, England, America, and

the vanguard of the Negro struggle and said they should put forward a program that “the masses of Negro toilers,” even those “in Africa where they are backward and the degree of development is not high,” could easily comprehend.6 The black radicals who had attended the ICNW had also heard these views from African and African American students studying at KUTV, who generally viewed class as essential to understanding all social relationships. Small, Macaulay, and Bilé, however, rejected the notion

limitations, of greater import has been the “retrospective significance” assumed when ordering those sources to construct a narrative. As Trouillot explains with regard to his approach to Sans Souci’s story, the “evidence required to tell” the story of black radicals in organized Marxism from 1920s Harlem to 1930s London “was available in the corpus I studied, in spite of the poverty of the sources.” To be sure, I have benefited from newly available sources, but this book equally reflects a

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