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Voices for Colonial Freedom, 1917-24

June 26, 2019

‘Liberate the Colonies’, published by LeftWord Books, New Delhi

By John Riddell

New Delhi-based publisher LeftWord Books has opened new paths for socialist historical understanding by publishing Liberate the Colonies, a collection of speeches and resolutions from the early colonial liberation movement (1917-1924).

Liberate the Colonies innovates in Communist historical publishing in three ways:

  • Contributions from more than thirty revolutionary voices from Asia and Africa are organized to tell a coherent and easily accessible story.
  • Although based on global collaboration, the collection was conceived and executed in India, far from the traditional centres of publishing on world socialism.
  • The book is open-sourced: Its full text and annotation are available worldwide through a free PDF edition.

Liberate the Colonies! Communism and Colonial Freedom, 1917-24, ed. John Riddell, Vijay Prashad, Nazeef Mollah, New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2019, 292 pp, INR 450; US$22.

From the publisher’s global book launch:

John Riddell

“I’m thrilled that LeftWord Books has found it possible to make this book immediately available to working people in every country,” says co-editor John Riddell, who provided translation and annotation for the volume. “This is a first for historical publishing on communism.”

Sudhanva Deshpande

According to Sudhanva Deshpande, LeftWord’s Managing Editor, “Liberate the Colonies! is a landmark publication in our task of re-inscribing the role of Communists in our freedom struggle. We are both delighted and honoured that John Riddell, the world’s leading expert on the Comintern, agreed to helm the project.”

The book was written on the initiative and under the direction of Vijay Prashad, author of Red Star Over the Third World and other books, chief editor of LeftWord Books, andexecutive director of the Tricontinental Institute.

Vijay Prashad

“It all started on a student picket line last summer in Toronto. I came simply to express support, and there I met John Riddell, who had come for the same purpose,” Vijay recalls.

“I seized the chance to propose a joint book. John agreed on the spot and work began right away, in partnership with the LeftWord team.

Nazeef Mollah

“No question that John Riddell has established a record that is invaluable for revolutionaries and for scholars of revolution. This volume would not have been possible without his immense knowledge, his abilities and his good humour as well as his warm collaboration with our colleague Nazeef Mollah.”

“LeftWord is honoured to offer this text to activists in freedom movements around the world.”

Liberate the Colonies can be ordered directly from LeftWord Books for US$22 or downloaded from the LeftWord site.

See also John’s video presentation to LeftWord books readers:

Meet the Editors

  • John Riddell is general editor of the Comintern Publishing Project (1983–2017), and editor of several volumes of Comintern documents.
  • Vijay Prashad is the author of several books, including Red Star over the Third World (LeftWord 2017). He is Chief Editor, LeftWord Books, and Executive Director, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
  • Nazeef Mollah is Editor, LeftWord Books. Patient and wise, Nazeef is the ideal partner in an editorial venture.

‘Liberate the Colonies’: Scope and Purpose

Purbasha Sarkar, Head of Outreach Efforts, WordPress

In the first years after the 1917 Russian revolution, a bold new cry was heard around the world, “Liberate the Colonies!” It was voiced in Moscow by Marxists combatting tsarist oppression of Asian peoples. It came from the world of Communism, which launched a great International for a global freedom struggle. It came from the colonies, where activists such as M.N. Roy, Ho Chi Minh, Tan Malaka and others worked to break the chains of empire.

Over the decades, anti-colonial freedom movements transformed the face of the world. This book portrays how this movement took shape. Pioneer revolutionists from oppressed countries, in their own words, pinpoint the movement’s weaknesses, debate its problems, and develop a global strategy and programme. Among other things, the book highlights how

  • in 1920, at a conference in Baku, women won the right to comradeship on an equal basis;
  • revolutionary leaders from Asia convinced the Moscow government to combat chauvinist abuses of Soviet power; and
  • V.I. Lenin and M.N. Roy – the old strategist of Russia and the young rebel of India – debated and reached a common framework for unity in the freedom struggle.

This precious historical record is vitally important to all those who seek a socialist future. (Source: LeftWord’s back-cover text)

Read the LeftWord announcement of Liberate the Colonies!

LeftWord Books, New Delhi

Table of Contents (condensed)

Introduction, Vijay Prashad

1: Soviet Russia Proclaims National Self-Determination (1917)

2: Manifesto of the Communist International to the Workers of the World (1919)

3: Second World Congress of the Communist International: Debate and Resolution on Anti-Colonial Revolution (1920)

4: Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East (1920)

5: Third World Congress: Resolutions from India, China and Iran (1921)

6: Third World Congress: from the Minutes (1921)

7: Blueprints for Unity: China and Dutch East Indies (1922)

8: Fourth World Congress: from the Minutes (1922)

9: Fourth World Congress: Resolution (1922)

10: For Global Black Liberation (1922)

11: Fifth Congress: Ho Chi Minh on the National and Colonial Questions (1924)

The Long March to Colonial Freedom: Reflections by John Riddell


About this Text


Vijay and John on the CUPE 3903 picket linen, Toronto, 2018

  1. Marty Boyers permalink

    Well done!! I am not quite tech-savvy enough to read a large-scale book online, but this might help me hone my skills. In any case, I’ll buy the ink and papers edition as well. Everyone involved gets much credit.

  2. geoff1954 permalink

    Quite an accomplishment! That with one click anyone can have their own copy is a wonderful gift. Sincere thanks and respect to all involved.

  3. Eric Huffman permalink

    This is great! Congratulations.

  4. Faiz Ahmed permalink

    Thank you John, for delivering these otherwise forgotten texts. It’s a true gift.

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