League against Imperialism

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The League against Imperialism (French: Ligue contre l'impérialisme et l'oppression coloniale; German: Liga gegen Kolonialgreuel und Unterdrückung[1]) was founded in the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Belgium, on February 10, 1927, in presence of 175 delegates, among which 107 came from 37 countries under colonial rule. The Congress aimed at creating a "mass anti-imperialist movement" at a world scale, and was a front organisation of the Comintern. Since 1924, the Comintern advocated support of colonial and semi-colonial countries and tried, with difficulties, to find convergences with the left-wing of the Labour and Socialist International.

According to Vijay Prashad, the inclusion of the word 'league' in the organization's name was a direct attack on the League of Nations, which perpetuated colonialism through the mandate system.[2]

1927 Brussels Conference[edit]

The League's headquarters were based first in Berlin, then London. Its creation was related to the revolutionary surge in China since 1926 and the Comintern's earlier opening towards Sun Yat-sen, leader of the nationalist Kuomintang, which was in a United Front with the Chinese Communist Party. The initiative for the creation of this anti-imperialist league came from various personalities and movements, including J.T. Gumede of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, Messali Hadj's North-African Star, pacifists Henri Barbusse and Gabrielle Duchêne, as well as Albert Einstein, Jawaharlal Nehru, accompanied by Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, socialists such as Fenner Brockway, Arthur MacManus, members of the Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH, Human Rights League) such as Victor Basch. Willy Münzenberg, who benefitted from the Komintern's trust, was in charge of its organization. Reginald Bridgeman was head of the British delegation sent by the House of Commons to the Conference, and became the League's general secretary in 1933.

Three main points were made in Brussels: the anti-imperialist struggle in China, interventions of the United States in Latin America and the "Negro revendications." The latter were presented at the tribune by the South African Gumede, the Antillean Max Clainville-Bloncourt of the Intercolonial Union, and Lamine Senghor. The president of the "Defense Committee of the Negro Race" denounced the crimes committed by the colonial administration in Congo, concluding that:

Imperialist exploitation has as result the gradual extinction of African races. Their culture is going to be lost... For us, the anti-imperialist struggle is identical as anti-capitalist struggle.[3]

Messali Hadj, leader of the Algerian North-African Star, requested the independence of all of North Africa. A manifesto was addressed "to all colonial peoples, workers and peasants of the world" calling them to organize themselves to struggle "against imperialist ideology."

1926-1931: difficulties[edit]

The League against Imperialism was first ignored then boycotted by the Socialist International. Jean Longuet, a member of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO), criticized it, calling it "vague Sovietic chitchat" ("vague parlotte soviétique"). On April 12, 1927, as the Kuomintang armies of Chiang Kai-shek approached Shanghai, their allies carried out a massacre of Communists and workers. In December, the rightists crushed the Canton Commune. The alliance between Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists and the Communist Party of China was terminated, sparking the Chinese Civil War, just as the struggle against the Japanese grew crucial, leading up to the invasion of Manchuria in 1931. The League Against Imperialism's alliance strategy thus failed.

Henceforth, the VIth Congress of the Comintern, in 1928, changed policy directions, denouncing "social-fascism" in what it called the "third period of the labour movement" (reconstruction on new bases of post-imperialist war capitalism). The new "social-fascist" line weighted on the IInd Congress of the League, gathered in Frankfurt end of July 1929. 84 delegates of "oppressed countries" were present, and the Congress saw a bitter struggle between Communists and "reformist-nationalist bourgeois." Divided, the League was basically inoperative until 1935, when the VIIth Congress of the Comintern decided to allow itself dissolve. Nehru had already been excluded, and Einstein, honorary president, had resigned because of "disagreements with the pro-Arab policy of the League in Palestine." In any cases, the League remained composed mainly of intellectuals, and did not succeed in finding popular support.

1932-1936: failure[edit]

The French section never had more than 400 members (in 1932). In 1933, the League published the first issue (out of 13) of the Oppressed People's Newspaper, calls in favour of Tunisia in 1934 and of Ethiopia during the Abyssinian War (1935), which had few effects. The League was basically abandoned by the Communists. Despite these failures, it remained the first attempt at an international anti-imperialist organization, later carried out by the Non-Aligned Movement and the Tricontinental headed by Moroccan leader Mehdi Ben Barka. Initially planned by the Comintern and its French branch in order to get out of their isolation, the project finally led to the myth of a Bolshevik conspiracy organized from Moscow.


  1. ^ John D. Hargreaves, "The Comintern and Anti-Colonialism: New Research Opportunities", African Affairs, 92, 367 (1993): 255–61.
  2. ^ Vijay Prashad, "The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World", page 21
  3. ^ French: " L'exploltation impérialiste a pour résultat l'extinction graduelle de races africaines. Leur culture va se perdre (...). Pour nous, la lutte contre l'impérialisme est identique à la lutte contre le capitalisme."