Written in 1938 while he was still a Trotskyist, CLR James writes about the plan to create a Jewish colony in Kenya. This was not a brand new idea in relation to the rise of Nazism, but had been supported by Theodor Herzl and Joseph Chamberlain (known as the Uganda Scheme).
An African “Homeland”
for the Jewish Refugees?
New “Panacea” Put Forward by World Imperialists Full of Pitfalls —
Only Solution Is “Open Doors” Right Here
Among Africans, as all over the world, there is widespread sympathy for the Jews and detestation of this latest brutality of the Nazis. Africans, more than most other social groups, can understand what it is that the Jews are being subjected to. They are ready to take common action against the imperialists, Fascists and “democrats” who have for generations subjected them to similar persecution in their own country. But the land situation in South and East Africa makes inevitable a wide-spread resentment among Africans at any proposal to send Jews there.
Wherever whites have been able to live in large numbers in Africa, there exists an economic, political and social situation of the most acute tension. The accepted policy is to take the best land for the whites and to segregate the Africans in areas too small for them. This is one of the means by which black labor is assured. Unable to earn a living and money for the Government tax in the restricted areas assigned to him, the African must go to the settler and seek employment at whatever terms the settler offers.
Natives Need Land
This, in Kenya for instance, is the foundation of the conflict between blacks and whites. There are less than 20,000 whites in Kenya. They cannot use all the land they have stolen. But they resist the increasing demand of over two millions African for more land.
To settle thirty or forty thousand Jews in Kenya will be for the native African almost a death-blow. He will see, he sees already, in all who support this, an enemy to his most fundamental need.
Furthermore, the social and political situation will be aggravated. The European in South or East Africa, surrounded by blacks, can maintain his position only by a regime approximating to Fascism.
Racism in Africa
There is no form of racial discrimination practiced by the Nazis against the Jews, that is not practiced by the Europeans in Kenya against the Africans. Any Jew who attempted to behave in a manner different from the ordinary English settler would forthwith be deported from the country. The economic relationship between European and African makes this social system inevitable, and European imperialism will not tolerate any individual departures from it.
The transference of Jews from Germany to Africa means the extension of the Palestine policy to Africa, the strengthening of European imperialism in Africa, with the additional crime that the emigrant Jews will be forced to occupy the position in Africa in regard to the Africans that the Nazis occupy in regard to the Jews in Germany. That is how the ordinary African will see it. He could not help seeing it otherwise.
The more politically-minded, Africans have reacted already. The International African Service Bureau, a London organization, issued a statement on the deliberations of the Evian Conference in its organ International African Opinion. The Bureau attacked Nazism for its persecution of the Jews and stated that an independent Africa would be glad to welcome Jews who would be able to contribute materially to the technical and educational development of Africans. But it opposed this attempt of European imperialism once more to solve its difficulties at the expense of the African.
Join Fight for Jews
The Bureau proposed a united front of working class organizations all over the world to agitate and bring pressure to bear on the capitalist governments of the world for the relief of the persecuted Jews. With such an organization the Bureau was ready to work and would mobilize African support for it.
In the recent Munich crisis the Bureau stood in a united front with the Revolutionary Socialist League (the British section of the Fourth International), the Militant Labor League, the Independent Labour Party, etc., for the revolutionary struggle against war. The millions of Africans will rally to this policy only on the basis of their struggle against world imperialism for national independence.
Support of the imperialist policy of sending Jews to Africa would create a gulf between the potentially powerful African revolutionary movement and revolutionary socialism. It would assist the British and French imperialists who, by sending Jews to African colonies, would be able to use that, if need be, as an argument for defending these colonies against German “aggression.”
Assuredly, the Jews everywhere must struggle, but they must be on guard against being used as pawns by British or French imperialism in the bloody and cynical game of imperialist rivalries. Already L’Ere Nouvelle, the paper of Daladier, the French Premier – who was until yesterday supported by the whole Popular Front of France – proposed the restriction of the Jews in the government service of France. Yesterday’s “democrats” in Czechoslovakia are today campaigning against the Jews.
On the contrary, mass agitation of the workers against the capitalist governments for the right of asylum to the persecuted Jews could help to draw into the struggle against capitalism millions of Africans. The stronger this agitation by the workers and oppressed colonials on a national and international scale the greater the safeguard of the minority of the Jews. The basis of the approach to the Jewish question, here, as always, is the revolutionary struggle against capitalism, or in other words, the road of the Fourth International.
From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 51, 26 November 1938, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.