The idea of an International Conference of Negro workers was first mooted at the 2nd World Congress of the League against Imperialism held in July 1929 at Frankfurt-on-Main, where among the 400 odd delegates that came from all parts of the world, there were a number of Negro delegates from Africa and America, besides various non-Negro delegates directly interested in the organisation of the Negro masses for the struggle against imperialism.
The report submitted to that Congress on the conditions of life of the Negro under British, French, Belgian, Portuguese and American imperialist exploitation showed clearly:
1.) That there was a considerable similarity in these conditions in the various African colonies.
2.) That the Negro workers in the various colonies were isolated from one another and from the workers of other countries.
3.) That the vast Negro masses were completely unorganised.
4.) That they were being politically misled and deceived for the benefit of the capitalists and imperialists by Garveyism, Pan-Africanism, national reformism and trade union reformism.
It was felt that is was essential to undertake the organization, particularly the trade union organisation, of the Negro workers, the co-ordination on an international scale and the organisation of the anti-imperialist struggle of the Negroes on class basis as against the racial nationalism that was being preached by black capitalists and agents of imperialism.
In order to achieve these ends, a provisional International Committee of Negro Workers was substituted, under the chairmanship of James W. Ford, national organiser of the Trade Unions Unity League, U.S.A., and it was resolved to convene an International Conference on July 1st, 1930, to take place in London, the metropolis of the largest slave empire of the world.
“Labor” Government Closed Door.
But at this critical moment, the profits and privileges of the British slave drivers are being carefully protected by the “Labor” Government, and the organisers of the Conference were informed on May 21st that His Majesty’s Government would not allow the Conference to be held in London.
The organisers then decided to hold the Conference in Hamburg where, after unavoidable delays, occasioned by the change in its venue, it was opened on July 7th. There were delegates, including a woman, from 7 important unions in the United States of America, (Miners, Railway workers, needle traders etc.) and Delegates from Jamaica, Nigeria, Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast and from the former German colony of Cameroon, as well as the White delegate from the South African Negro Workers’ organisation.
Owing; to the absence of representation from the French colonies, East Africa, from the Belgian and Portuguese territory and from the Latin-American countries, it was obvious that this first meeting of Negro workers was more a preparatory conference, the political importance of which is none the less considerable. The very fact that such a conference was held and a clear line of policy and action laid down in the resolutions are bound to have a strong influence upon the development of the struggle
African Negroes most clear.
There is one observation that deserves to be recorded regarding the Negro Conference. There is a marked difference between the Negroes form the United States, who are industrial workers with completely proletarian psychology and outlook, and the delegates from Africa who have more of the mentality of the small farmer. The conditions of the problem in Africa necessitate different methods and tactics from those in the U.S.A. and there may be a tendency for the Negro workers from the USA to look at the African Negroes’ question too much from the American point of view. Nevertheless, it is a gain to the Africa worker – to come into contact with representatives of the far more advanced Negro proletariat of America. This contact has been achieved by the Conference.
Source: V. Chattopadyaya, “The First International Conference of Negro Workers, Hamburg 7 July 1930,” in A Report of the Proceedings and Decisions of the First International Conference of Negro Workers (Hamburg: Self-published, 1930).