W.E.B DuBois was one of the most important revolutionary thinkers and philosophers of the 20th century. His life and work offers the most comprehensive analyses of the roots of white supremacy, the inseparable link between capitalism and the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonial imperialism, and a scientific understanding of history.
In his most well known work The Souls of Black Folk at the beginning of the century DuBois rightly predicted that "the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line- the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea."
DuBois dedicated his life to the fight for peace. He founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples. Its magazine The Crisis would publish messages for the African-American people from Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Albert Einstein. He gave an address To the Nations of the World at the first Pan-African Conference in 1900 and was the torchbearer of the subsequent conferences, which would bring together African and African-American intellectuals and leaders in the common struggle for peace. Later during the McCarthy era anti-communism which targeted all who stood against US imperialism, DuBois answered the charge of being 'an agent of foreign government' with:
"Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called Communists,
Is that condemnation of the Peacemakers or praise for the Communists."
In his book The World and Africa, DuBois argued for the rightful place of Africa in the history of the modern world by first unveiling the historical causes behind the First World War : the war among European nations over possession and exploitation of the colonies of Africa and Asia. "What in reality is the nature of the catastrophe ? To what pattern of human culture does it apply ? And finally, why did it happen ? In this search for reasons we must seek not simply current facts or facts within the memory of living men, but we must also, and especially in this case, seek lessons from history."
During this period, he formed close ties to the Indian struggle through Lala Lajpat Rai and Sarojini Naidu of the Indian National Congress. He described Gandhi as the 'Prince of Peace', maintained correspondence with him, and wrote a review of his autobiography. DuBois even considered having Gandhi visit America, but was forced to conclude that "this land was not civilized enough to receive him as an honored guest." He would write a tribute to Gandhi on the occasion of his death.
Alphaeus Hunton served first as the Educational Director and then as Executive Director of the Council of African Affairs. He was instrumental in furthering the work of the CAA by connecting the national liberation movements in Africa with anti-colonial struggles in Asia. The CAA was led by Hunton, Paul Robeson and WEB DuBois during the Second World War and the post-War period and took a principled stand against US imperialism, recognizing it as the as the single greatest obstacle to peace. The CAA established close ties with the African National Congress and fought against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa.
On DuBois' invitation in 1962, Hunton visited and lived in Ghana and worked closely with Kwame Nkrumah. Following the wave of overthrow and assassinations of many of Africa's national liberation leaders, Hunton became a sharp critic of neo-colonialist policies which replaced colonial powers with chosen "popular" self-government only to maintain economic domination of the West. He maintained that many of the newly independent countries were ruled by "willing servants of their imperialist masters."
Paul Robeson formed close ties with the world's peoples and especially in India, through his music and his unwavering stand for peace . He received the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953. He visited India in 1958 when his birthday was celebrated nationwide, and met with Jawaharlal Nehru.
"Four hundred million in India, and millions everywhere, have told you, precisely, that the colored people are not going to die for anybody: they are going to die for their independence."
ES Reddy speaks at the Year of Dubois, organized by the Saturday Free School in 2018
Romesh Chandra, Source: Wikimedia commons
E.S. Reddy was an Indian diplomat who led the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid. He was deeply influenced by Gandhi and Nehru and impassioned by the cause for Indians and Africans in South Africa. In 1946 in New York, through an exiled Indian revolutionary Kumar Ghoshal, Reddy came into contact with the CAA and met Alphaeus Hunton, Paul Robeson and WEB DuBois. It was the CAA and its fight for peace in Africa that led Reddy to lead the UN against apartheid.
"The Western countries refused to join the Special Committee. As a result, all the members and I thought alike. Not only were we against apartheid, but we supported the liberation struggle and opposed Western collaboration with South Africa. "
Nobel Peace Prize and Lenin Peace Prize winner and UN Commissioner for Namibia, Sean MacBride declared in 1985:
"It has been my privilege to work with E.S. Reddy for close on 20 years, and I can say without fear of contradiction that there is no one at the United Nations who has done more to expose the injustices of apartheid and the illegality of the South African regime than he has. E.S. Reddy has done so with tremendous courage and ability; he dedicated his entire energy and skills to the liberation from oppression of the people of Southern Africa. He had to face many obstacles and antagonisms, coming from the Western Powers mainly, but he had the skill, courage and determination necessary to overcome the systematic overt and covert opposition to the liberation of the people of Southern Africa."
Romesh Chandra was one of the most important figures in the peace movement in the 20th century. As the chief theoretician of the World Peace Council, which he presided from 1977, he broadened the peace movement by adding a serious analysis of imperialism and thereby taking it to the masses of the world, as opposed to the mainly European affair that the peace movement was before. He saw the peace movement as the natural successor of the Indian anti-colonial movement. His formulation of positive peace as not merely the absence of tension, but a presence of justice, reverberates with that of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He further said that "It was this entry into the field of peace and war, which changed the entire attitude of the United States establishment towards Martin Luther King."
Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi's memorial
Dr Martin Luther King saw that the fight for racial justice in America had to be tied to US imperialism abroad, because he "did not fight segregation in buses only to end up being segregated in ideas".
He spoke against the Vietnam War in his 1967 speech Beyond Vietnam: A time to break silence and identified the common enemy of racial equality and world peace :
"I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government."