The German section of the League for the Defense of the Negro Race (1929)

The League for the Defense of the Negro Race was founded in September 1929. It was made up of about thirty Black men and women living in Berlin, most of whom came from the former German colony of Cameroon. Among them was the actor Louis Brody, the architect and activist Joseph Bilé, and various representatives of the performing arts. The secretariat of the League for the Defense of the Negro Race was housed at Friedrichstraße 24 in the offices of the League against Imperialism, of which it was a part and which was responsible for its finances. Both organizations worked under the auspices of the Communist International.

Activists of the League for the Defense of the Negro Race spoke at gatherings of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and other communist organizations. The cultural producers in the association put on a theater revue in 1931 entitled Sunrise in Morning Land that was even reported on by the African-American press. But their ambition to open a Black Theater in Berlin collapsed due to a lack of financial support from their sister organizations.

The unexpected lack of financial support coming from the League against Imperialism forced the League for the Defense of the Negro Race to stop their political activities. The complex network of communist and anticolonial organizations nevertheless helped politicize members and — as in the cae of the secretary of the association Joseph Bilé — led to a political career within the Communist International.

The League dissolved itself in 1932, but the reasons for this cannot be clearly established. The lack of financial support and tensions within the Comintern network over the relative importance of racial oppression vis-á-vis class oppression are likely factors.


Statutes

§1
The association takes the name League for the Defense of the Negro race (German section): after successful entry into the Register of Associations it has the addition ‘registered association’. It forms a section of the Ligue de Défense de la Race Nègre. The base of the association is Berlin, district of the law court Berlin-Mitte.

§3
The aim of the association is:
1. From International Standpoint:
The emancipation of the Negro race in every respect and by all means in active solidarity with the intellectual and manual workers of the whole world.

2. From National Point of View:
a) To seize the national independence of the Negro people of Africa and to establish a large modern state. To this aim the peasants, workers, officials, merchants, soldiers and sailors, students and black schoolchildren are called upon to organize themselves on the basis of their particular demands.

b) To seize the national independence of the African islands, for example Madagascar.

c) To fight for the national independence of the Antilles and to bring them together in the form of a confederation. This task, however, is subordinate to the independence of black Africa.

d) To support the American Negro is his fight for political, social, economic liberation and the removal of racial barriers in the parts of the United States where they have gained civil rights.

e) Active resistance against all political doctrines which demand the annexation of Negro countries and the assimilation of Negroes as part of colonialism.

f) Defend the absolute independence of Abyssinia and Liberia with the upmost vigilance.

g) In the meantime denounce in the press, at political gatherings, in international congresses, etc the arbitrary acts and misdeeds of the colonial administrations.

3. The tasks for the section are dependent on further developments, local needs and the strategy of the central office.

In Europe it is the task of the section to provide moral and material support for members; in times of illness, unemployment, accidents, etc. Further, as much as is possible it must organize its members in the white trade unions, which loyally associate with Negroes. With these trade unions and other connections the section must strive to find work for unemployed Negroes. 44

The association is not to be run as a business operation.

§4
Anyone descending from a Negro can be a member of the association, also the wives of Negroes, who themselves are not Negroes, can be members.

§5
Entry into the association follows through registering with the committee.

§6
Membership is ended:
a) following death
b) through withdrawing from the association. Withdrawal from the association is only permitted after a two year period of notice. The period of notice has to be submitted in the form of a letter to the association’s committee.
c) Through expulsion, this can only take place through the meeting of the membership and on account of exceptional grounds.

§7
Membership contribution is at least 1RM a month.

§8
The committee of the association is composed of the following people:
1) The President
2) The Secretary
3) The Treasurer These people make up the committee following the terms of §26 of the Code of Law.
The committee legally and extra judicially represents the association. The committee is voted in for the period of a year by a meeting of the members

§9
Meetings of members will be called once a month. An extraordinary general meeting is to be called instead of the monthly meeting every December. At this extraordinary meeting the vote for the committee will take place.
In addition a meeting of members is to be called when a tenth of the membership ask for this in writing, providing their reasons for this.

Berlin 17. December 1929

Joseph Bilé
Luois Bepe Mpesse
Richard E. Dinn
Thomas ul Kuo Ngambi
Victor Bell
Manga Akwa
M. Kotto Priso


Source: Statutes of the League for the Defense of the Negro Race, translated by Robbie Aitken.

 



Die “Liga zur Verteidigung der Negerrasse” (LzVN) wurde im September 1929 gegründet und war ein Zusammenschluss von ca. 30 in Berlin lebenden Schwarzen Männern und Frauen. Die meisten Mitglieder stammten aus der ehemaligen deutschen Kolonie Kamerun. Unter ihnen waren der Schauspieler Louis Brody, der Architekt und Aktivist Joseph Bilé sowie verschiedene Vertreter der darstellenden Künste. Das Sekretariat der LzVN befand sich in der Friedrichstraße 24 in de Räumen der ihr übergeordneten Liga gegen Imperialismus, welche auch die Finanzierung der LzVN sichern sollte. Beide Organisationen standen unter direkter Einflussnahme der Kommunistischen Internationale.

Aktivist_Innen der LzVN sprachen bei Versammlungen der KPD und anderen kommunistischen Organsationen. Die Kulturschaffenden innerhalb der Vereinigung führten 1931 eine Theaterrevue auf  (“Sunrise in Morning Land”), über welche sogar Schwarze US-amerikanische Zeitungen berichteteten. Ursprüngliche Ambitionen, ein Schwarzes Theater in Berlin zu eröffnen, scheiterten an der fehlenden finanziellen Unterstützung der Schwesterorganisationen.

Das unerwartete Ausbleiben finanzieller Mittel durch die Liga gegen Imperialismus zwang die LzVN zur politischen Untätigkeit. Das komplexe Netz aus kommunistichen und antikolonialen Organisationen verhalf Mitgliedern aber zu einer politschen Schulung und — wie im Falle des Sekretärs der Vereinigung, Joseph Bilé — zu einer politischen Karriere innerhalb der Kommunistischen Internationale.

Die LzVN stellte ihre Aktivitäten 1932 ein. Die Gründe für das Ende der LzVN können bis dato nicht eindeutig belegt werden. Schlechte Finanzierung und strittige Zuständigkeiten innerhalb des KomIntern-Netzwerks sind allerdings naheliegend.