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October 1982

Vote Against the Bomb

This leaflet was prepared by the CND chapter in Peckham, London, for the by-election held on 28 October 1982. The by-election was won by the CND's favoured candidate, Labour's Harriet Harman, who was elected to the House of Commons for the first time

October 9, 2020

Interview with Michael Yaffe

Michael Yaffe is a former US diplomat. He served as a member of the US delegation to ACRS. 

January 1980

'Muttersprache Kurdisch' ('Mother Tongue Kurdish')

In the early 1960s, Kurds from Turkey began migrating to postwar Western European countries. Many went to West Germany. Some were students, many of whom self-identified as Kurds, while the great majority was so-called Gastarbeiter (guest workers), most of who then identified as Turks. They formed part of a broader movement dating to 1955, when the West German government signed the first bilateral labor migration treaty, with Italy.

Gastarbeiter were supposed to eventually return to their home country. Most did not. Moreover, some self-organized. First was the Italian Unione Emigrati in Germania, in 1964, and in 1966 there were 60 Turkish workers associations counting 20,000 members, as shown in “Wir sind alle Fremdarbeiter!” Gewerkschaften, migrantische Kämpfe und soziale Bewegungen in Westdeutschland 1960-1980 (2020) by Simon Goeke—who also details the complex relationship between foreign workers and the powerful German labor unions, including the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB). The DGB’s core concern was to protect the rights of German workers and improve their professional and financial positioning. Whenever it believed that a specific foreign workers’ issue or demand seriously undermined this so-called Inländerprimat, it took an oppositional stance.

At the same time, by the 1960s the DGB understood that most Ausländer (foreigners) would not leave, indeed were a considerable part of the work force, and could hurt unions if they were not integrated in some way—which unions started to do. These steps, however, were insufficient to many Gastarbeiter. Hence, their self-organized social, professional, and municipal-political demands expanded from the late 1960s. They did so despite and against the 1965 Ausländergesetz (Aliens Act), which limited foreigners’ political activity. In some cases, foreign workers worked (and lived) together with German and foreign students, influencing each other. This influence was distinct in the case of Kurdish Turkish laborers.

By the 1970s, their political and cultural identity became more squarely Kurdish. Kurdish students in West Germany and elsewhere played a role in this process; so did developments in Turkey, including the foundation of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in 1978. The PKK is one of the most powerful Kurdish organizations that has sought to address and right the issue of the Kurds lacking a state of their own—the issue for modern Kurds, as discussed by David McDowall’s A History of the Modern Kurds (2004). In this process, countries other than Turkey, including Western European countries like Sweden and West Germany, became key transnational diaspora arenas for the Kurdish struggle for statehood. And as Omar Sheikhmous’ Crystallization of a New Diaspora: Migration and Political Culture among the Kurds in Europe (2000) shows, they saw struggles for greater cultural and political rights in Europe, too. The latter questions mattered greatly to Kurdish organizations in West Germany, of which there were about 30 by 1979. One was the Föderation der Arbeitervereine Kurdistans in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the Federation of the Workers Associations of Kurdistan in the Federal Republic of Germany (KOMKAR). Founded in Frankfurt am Main in 1979, it sought to coordinate and unite Kurdish organizations. Although it had limited success and although the PKK sometimes violently fought it, it played a role in making Kurds more visible, linking them to (also German) leftists, and improving their cultural and professional situation.

The text printed here, an English translation from the German original, is an excerpt from an article in its organ, KOMKAR Publikation.

November 13, 1974

United Nations General Assembly Official Records, 29th Session : 2282nd Plenary Meeting, Agenda Item 108, 'Question of Palestine (continued)'

As other documents in this collection on Moroccan nationalists in 1947 and 1950 have exemplified, the United Nations was an important arena in decolonization struggles for Arabs, as it was for Asians and Africans as e.g. Alanna O’Malley’s The Diplomacy of Decolonisation: America, Britain, and the United Nations during the Congo crisis, 1960-1964 (2018) has shown. In this regard, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was founded in 1964 and taken over by the Fatah movement in 1969, was no exception.

To be sure, Palestinian organizations including Fatah and the PLO decried key UN actions. One was the UN Palestine partition plan of 1947; another was UN Security Council resolution 242 of November 1967. Calling upon Israel to withdraw “from territories occupied” during the Six-Day War in June and calling for the “acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace,” it did not mention Palestine or the Palestinians. Even so, the PLO sought to get access to the UN and UN recognition. A crucial landmark on this road was the address to the UN in New York in November 1974 by Yassir Arafat (1929-2004), a Fatah co-founder in 1959 and from 1969 PLO chairman.

Arafat did not speak at the Security Council, which was and is dominated by its five veto-carrying permanent members Britain, China, France, the United States, and the USSR/Russia. Rather, he addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where from the 1960s Third World states were in the majority; his speech was the first time that the UNGA allowed a non-state representative to attend its plenary session. The UNGA invited the PLO after having decided, in September, to begin separate hearings on Palestine (rather than making Palestine part of general Middle Eastern hearings), and after the PLO was internationally recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, a landmark accomplishment for the organization. The UNGA president who introduced Arafat, Abdelaziz Bouteflika (1937-2021), was the Foreign Minister of Algeria, which since its independence in 1962 had supported the Palestinian cause organizationally, militarily, and politically. Arafat spoke in Arabic; the below text is the official UN English translation. Arafat did not write the text all by himself; several PLO officials and Palestinians close to the PLO, including Edward Said, assisted, as Timothy Brennan has noted in Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said (2021). Later in November 1974, the UNGA inter alia decided to give the PLO observer status and affirmed Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

July 2, 1957

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy in the Senate, Washington, D.C., July 2, 1957

On July 2, 1957, US senator John F. Kennedy made his perhaps best-known senatorial speech—on Algeria.

Home to about 8 million Muslims, 1.2 million European settlers, and 130,000 Jews, it was from October 1954 embroiled in what France dubbed “events”—domestic events, to be precise. Virtually all settlers and most metropolitan French saw Algeria as an indivisible part of France. Algeria had been integrated into metropolitan administrative structures in 1847, towards the end of a structurally if not intentionally genocidal pacification campaign; Algeria’s population dropped by half between 1830, when France invaded, and the early 1870s. Eighty years and many political turns later (see e.g. Messali Hadj’s 1927 speech in this collection), in 1954, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launched a war for independence. Kennedy did not quite see eye to eye with the FLN.

As Kennedy's speech shows, he did not want France entirely out of North Africa. However, he had criticized French action already in early 1950s Indochina. And in 1957 he met with Abdelkader Chanderli (1915-1993), an unaccredited representative of the FLN at the United Nations in New York and in Washington, DC, and a linchpin of the FLN’s successful international offensive described in Matthew Connelly’s A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (2002). Thus, Kennedy supported the FLN’s demand for independence, which explains its very positive reaction to his speech.

And thus, unlike the 1952-1960 Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) that officially backed the views of NATO ally France and kept delivering arms, the Democratic senator diagnosed a “war” by “Western imperialism” that, together with if different from “Soviet imperialism,” is “the great enemy of … the most powerful single force in the world today: ... man's eternal desire to be free and independent.” (In fact, Kennedy’s speech on the Algerian example of Western imperialism was the first of two, the second concerning the Polish example of Sovietimperialism. On another, domestic note, to support African Algeria’s independence was an attempt to woe civil-rights-movement-era African Americans without enraging white voters.) To be sure, Kennedy saw France as an ally, too. But France’s war was tainting Washington too much, which helped Moscow. In Kennedy’s eyes, to support the US Cold War against the Soviet Union meant granting Algeria independence. The official French line was the exact opposite: only continued French presence in Algeria could keep Moscow and its Egyptian puppet, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, from controlling the Mediterranean and encroaching on Africa.

June 13, 1938

Jawaharlal Nehru, 'A Letter from the Mediterranean'

In June 1938 Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), a Indian National Congress (INC) leader, one of the earliest INC members calling for full independence in 1927, and the main responsible for INC’s foreign relations, took a ship to Europe. This trip was not a first for India’s inaugural prime minister (1947-1964) to be. Already in 1905 he had left India to enroll at the elite British boarding school of Harrow, going on to study at Cambridge and work as a lawyer in London before returning home in 1912. And the last time he had sailed was in 1935, staying until 1936 as the INC representative in meetings with fellow Asian and increasingly also African anti-imperialists in Britain and Europe. Sure, by then the League against Imperialism (LAI), whose Comintern-organized foundational conference Nehru had attended in 1927, was defunct. (For the LAI see the 1927 document on Messali Hadj in this collection.) Even so, Nehru continued to see his secularist Indian nation-statist goals within an international leftist-anti-imperialist and now anti-fascist framework and web, as Michele Louro’s Comrades against Imperialism: Nehru, India, and Interwar Internationalism (2020) argues.

Hence, when on the ship en route to Europe in 1938 he received an invitation from Egypt’s leading nationalist wafd party and agreed to meet their leaders. Having been in contact with Egyptian nationalists before, a story told in Noor Khan’s Egyptian-Indian Nationalist Collaboration and the British Empire (2011), and having detailed their anti-imperialism in Glimpses of World History (1934), he saw the wafd as INC’s appropriately leading anti-imperialist counterpart in Egypt. Sure, in confidential INC memoranda, he criticized the wafd’sinsufficient attention to the masses, especially the peasants, which cost them an election in early 1938, he thought; indeed, the wafdistswere liberal nationalists whereas Nehru was a leftist nationalist. Nonetheless, sitting down with the wafd and exchanging views about world politics and anti-imperialist strategies was called for, in his and the wafd’s view,at a time when fascism was rising and Britain continued to rule India and be very present in Egypt. Reproduced in the massive compilation Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, this text is a letter by Nehru, the first to the INC while he was on the ship en route to London.

February 1927

Statement of the Delegation of the "Etoile Nord Africaine" ("North African Star") by Hadj-Ahmed Messali

The presenter of this address, Ahmed Ben Messali Hadj (1898-1974), is known as the “father” of Algerian nationalism, one of whose foremost biographies is Benjamin Stora’s Messali Hadj, 1898-1974 (2012). Having served in the French army in 1918-1921, Messali Hadj for economic reasons moved to Paris. There, he met his French wife, the leftist Emilie Busquant. In 1925, he was recruited to the French Communist Party’s (PCF) colonial commission. In June 1926, he co-founded, and became Secretary General of, the Etoile Nord Africaine (ENA), which at first demanded political and legal equality for France’s Muslim North Africans. As this text shows, demands shifted by February 1927. That month, ENA functionaries including Messali Hadj travelled to Bruxelles. Together with leftists and delegates from three dozen colonized countries, they participated in the founding conference of the League against Imperialism (LAI), which was initiated by the Moscow-headquartered Comintern and organized by the PCF and the German communist Willi Münzenberg; the experience in Bruxelles of one non-Arab delegation, India, has been analyzed in Michele Louro’s Comrades against Imperialism: Nehru, India, and Interwar Internationalism (2020).

It was in Bruxelles that Messali Hadj held the below address, speaking ex catedra as his notes had disappeared. The LAI was soon paralyzed by discord between communists and activists for whom allying with communists was a means to an anticolonial end; in 1936, it dissolved. Even so, it was the first truly international attempt to combat imperialism, as shown by the edited volume The League against Imperialism: Lives and Afterlives (2020). As for the ENA, it in 1928 cut its ties with the PCF, being too independent-minded and -organized and vexed that the PCF, following the Comintern line, was moving away from ENA’s ideas about self-determination. In 1929, the French government outlawed ENA. In the 1930s Messali Hadj became closer inter alia to Shakib Arslan, translated excerpts of whose work Why Muslims Lagged Behind and Others Progressed is included in this collection. Even so, in 1936 to early 1937 a rebranded ENA shortly joined the leftist French Front Populaire, but then again was closed down. Messali Hadj reacted by establishing the clandestine Parti du Peuple Algérien (PPA), which—a shift—demanded absolute Algerian autonomy within the French Republic.

Condemned by the Vichy government to hard labor in 1941, Messali Hadj returned to Algeria in 1945. He continued to play a leading political role, founding in 1946 a PPA successor, the Mouvement pour la triomphe des libertés démocratiques. But from 1954, his star declined. By 1957, the Front de Libération Nationale, the new organization that in November 1954 started the War of Independence, ravaged the Mouvement National Algérien that Messali Hadj had founded that month, too. Politically neutralized, he stayed in France. He was allowed to return to Algeria only after his death, in 1974, for burial in his hometown of Tlemcen.

May 18, 1925

J.V. Stalin, 'The Political Tasks of the University of the Peoples of the Far East: Speech Delivered at a Meeting of Students of the Communist University of the Toilers of the East, May 18, 1925'

After World War I, several communist movements tried to replicate the Bolsheviks’ take-over of Russia in European countries, most importantly and most often in Germany. All failed. As a result, the Soviet leadership and communists worldwide from around 1920 focused more energies on colonized countries, especially in Asia. As most of these seemed to lack the economic and sociopolitical conditions necessary for a communist revolution, the aim was to weaken if not overthrow European imperial rule, serving the interests of both the USSR and the local petit bourgeoisie, peasants, and few industrial workers. The perhaps greatest price was China. Moreover, India was seen to be (exceptionally) ripe for direct communist action.

Communists and some anti-colonial nationalists were also active in and across the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, often sharing resources while being networked with the Communist International. Abbreviated as the Comintern (also the Third International), the latter was thekey international communist organization: founded in 1919 in Moscow, headquartered there, and employing through its dissolution in 1943 thousands of professional cadres from around the world, principally from Europe and Asia, as Brigitte Studer’s Reisende der Weltrevolution: Eine Globalgeschichte der Kommunistischen Internationale (2020) shows. Also in the Soviet Union, the year 1920 saw the landmark Congress of the Peoples of the East, in Baku. And in 1921, the Communist University for Laborers of the East (Kommunistichyeskii univyersityet trudyaschikhsya Vostoka, KUTV) opened its doors in Moscow. It became the first full-fledged Soviet training center for Soviet Muslims and for foreign communist cadres, principally from Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, and it impacted Soviet views of the East, as Lana Ravandi-Fadai and Masha Kirasirova have shown in “Red Mecca” (2015) and “The ‘East’ as a Category of Bolshevik Ideology and Comintern Administration” (2017), respectively. The text here is the English translation, published in 1954 in the collection J. V. Stalin: Works: Volume 7, of a Russian text published in 1925 in the principal Soviet newspaper, Pravda, rendering a speech that the 1924-1953 Chairman of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) held to KUTV’s students in 1925.

June 29, 2020

Interview and Discussion with Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Discussion with Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Defense Secretary and Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, about the 1990s and the new relationship that formed after the Cold War.

May 17, 1944

Professor Oscar Lange’s Report on his Meeting with Stalin, Submitted to President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Stettinius

Prof. Oscar Lange sends a briefing to the President and Secretary of State about his meeting with Stalin where they discussed Polish Politics.