Anti-Colonialism and the Imperial Dynamic in the Anglophone Communist Movements in South Africa, Australia and Britain

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter will compare how anti-colonial politics were embraced by the communist parties in Britain, Australia, and South Africa during the interwar period. Inspired by the October Revolution and the anti-colonial rhetoric of the Communist International (Comintern), communist parties worldwide believed that the proletarian revolution in the global West was tied to the anti-colonial struggle. As Britain was the largest imperial power at the time, communist parties within the British Empire/Commonwealth were seen as vitally
important in promoting socialist revolution and engaging in anticolonial work. The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), at the centre of the imperial metropole, was charged with special responsibilities by the Comintern to disseminate anti-colonial propaganda and provide assistance to anti-colonial activists throughout the Commonwealth. Communist parties in the settler colonies, such as South Africa and Australia, were also obliged by Moscow to participate in anti-colonial activities, which was sometimes resisted by these parties at the periphery. This chapter will explore how this internationalist network, based on the pre-existing colonial network of the British Empire, competed with the Moscow-based Comintern’s relationship with the CPGB, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), and the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). It will examine how directives fowed from the party in Britain to the CPSA and the CPA, and how this correlated with the directives issued through the Comintern from the Soviet Union. The chapter will argue that communists in Sydney or Johannesburg had different priorities as communist parties in the periphery, compared with those emanating from London or Moscow.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLeft Transnationalism
Subtitle of host publicationthe Communist International and the national, colonial, and racial questions
EditorsOleksa Drachewych, Ian McKay
Place of PublicationMontreal
PublisherMcGill-Queen’s University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780773559936, 9780773559943
ISBN (Print)9780773558731, 9780773558724
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

Publication series

NameRethinking Canada in the World


  • Communist International
  • Imperialism
  • Race relations
  • Communism
  • Transnationalism


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