In the summer of 2016 a delegation of The Black Archives travelled to the United States to de research on the story of Hermina and Otto Huiswoud. Otto, the only black co-founder of the Communist Party of the United States, became the chair of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUCNW). The ITUCNW published the paper The Negro Worker from 1928, after George Padmore left the party, Huiswoud became the main editor. In the issue of June 1934 Anton de Kom published the article “Starvation, misery and terror in Dutch Guyana” in the paper. On the last day of our journey in the US we found a copy of several issues of The Negro Worker on a microfilm. Today, 22 February 2018, would have been the birthday of Anton de Kom. To make the hidden history of his words and toughts visible again we are happy to republish them via The Black Archives:
Anton met vrienden uit zijn diensttijd in 1922. Foto: Familiearchief
“Starvation, misery and terror in Dutch Guyana”
By: Anton de Kom
Source: The Negro Worker, June 1934
What has Dutch Imperialism achieved in Dutch Guiana in the centuries of so called culture and civilization? The answer: The mass of natives of Dutch Guiana in the towns and on the plantations; the Asiatic workers who come to the colony as contract labourers from British India and Indonesia, are subjected to the most miserable condition of hunger and starvation. The immigrant workers come under a contract of what is nothing but five years slave-labour. And the compensation? They are paid the princely wage of F. 1.80 for male and F. 120 for female workers per week (F. stands for guilders and has a par value of 2 ½ to the dollar. Ed.) That is for those fortunate enough to have a job.
The effects of the crisis has been the throwing out of thousands of coloured workers into the streets to starve. Arrested as vagrants and for petty crimes as a result of starvation, they are forced as prisoners to build roads and keep the streets in repair. In this way does the colonial ruling class ret public works done free of charge and keep the starving workers out of employment. There you are, another phase of the modern slavery to which the working class is subjected.
Thousands of unemployed, tramp the streets from early morning until late at night, vainly in search of work that is not to be found. Poverty and misery reigns everywhere. Hundreds of families, fathers and mothers with their children are out everywhere seeking in vain for a morsel of bread. It is hardly possible to describe the terrible state of absolute poverty and want. Disease and death as a result of undernourishement particularly among children, are taking a heavy toll among the working population. The mortality rate among infants has jumped tremendously. Out of every thousand deaths seventy tuberculosis. More than two thousand new victims yearly from framboesia tropica. And malaria is steadily on the increase. The housing conditions of the native toilers in Dutch Guiana is in a roost deplorable state. They are not houses, but decayed wooden hovels. In very many cases one room must serve as shelter for a family of seven persons. The roofs are generally of zinc. By day the temperature is that of a hot oven. At night it cold and damp. Such are the conditions under which the native toilers out of whose labour is extracted huge super-profits by the Dutch Imperialists, compelled to live.
The children born prior to 1838 were slave. And today? Now they are «free». They are no longer slaves, for slavery is no they are «free». They are no longer slaves, for slavery is no Guiana is «frees. Free, without clothing. Free, but in rags. Just a «nigger».
We remember the 16 million florins, Holland gave the white slave barons as indemnity for the emancipated slaves. These millions were given to the Bakras (whites) as a reward for the inhuman deeds they committed against the Negro slaves - our forefathers. But to the slaves and today to the «free» Negroes not a penny. Their only reward today is unemployment, misery and starvation.
Only through organization and struggle can the workers of Dutch Guiana succeed in bettering their living conditions and effectively fight against the exploitation and slavery imposed upon them by the Dutch colonial rulers.
Only through solidarity and joint struggle between the workers of the capitalist countries and the colonial toilers can an effective blow be dealt to the common enemy-Imperialism. Workers, organize and fight against exploitation, unemployment and starvation! Close ranks in struggle for the emancipation of the colonial toilers! Demand the independence of Dutch Guiana!
The above described condition of hunger and poverty in Dutch Guiana gave rise to great unemployed demonstrations and strikes about a year ago. The reply of the colonial parasites to this mass protest against unemployment was the killing and wounding of a number of defenceless workers. Capitalist terror then came into full swing, making illegal workers organizations, prohibiting meetings and making press criticism of the Imperialist robbers a crime. The writer of this article, a native of Dutch Guiana, who took a leading part in the struggles and demonstrations of the workers was arrested, deported to Holland and forbidden to return to the colony. — Ed.
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