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C.L.R. James


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In the West Indies, C.L.R. James is honored as one of the fathers of independence. In Britain, he is feted as a historic pioneer of the Black movement. Generally regarded as one of the major figures in Pan-Africanism, and a leader in developing a current within Marxism that was democratic, revolutionary, and internationalist, James's long life and impressive career played out in Trinidad, England, and America. For the last years of his life, he lived in south London and lectured widely on politics, Shakespeare, and other topics. He died there in 1989.

Check out his amazing conversation with EP Thompson below:

Purchasing Links

Modern Politics
Author: C.L.R. James with an introduction by Noel Ignatiev
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-311-6
Published: October 2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Page count: 176 Pages
Subjects: Political Science, History
$16.95


"Marxists envisage a total change in the basic structure of human relations. With that change our problems will not be solved overnight, but we will be able to tackle them with confidence. Such are the difficulties, contradictions, and antagonisms; and in the solution of them society moves forward and men and women feel they have a role in the development of their social surroundings. It is in this movement that we have the possibility of a good life." —C.L.R. James, from Modern Politics

This volume provides a brilliant and accessible summation of the ideas of left Marxist giant C.L.R. James. Originally delivered in 1960 as a series of lectures in his native Trinidad, these writings powerfully display his wide-ranging erudition and enduring relevance. From his analysis of revolutionary history (from the Athenian City-States through the English Revolution, Russian Revolution, and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956), to the role of literature, art, and culture in society (from Charlie Chaplin to Pablo Picasso, via Camus and Eisenstein), to an interrogation of the ideas and philosophy of such thinkers as Rousseau, Lenin, and Trotsky, this is a magnificent tour de force from a critically engaged thinker at the height of his powers. An essential introduction to a body of work as necessary and illuminating for this century as it proved for the last.

Praise:

“When one looks back over the last twenty years to those men who were most far-sighted, who first began to tease out the muddle of ideology in our times, who were at the same time Marxists with a hard theoretical basis, and close students of society, humanists with a tremendous response to and understanding of human culture, Comrade James is one of the first one thinks of.” —E.P. Thompson

“C.L.R. James is one of those rare individuals whom history proves right.” —Race Today

"C.L.R. James has arguably had a greater influence on the underlying thinking of independence movements in the West Indies and Africa than any living man.” —Sunday Times

“It remains remarkable how far ahead of his time he was on so many issues.” —New Society

“C.L.R. James has a special place in the history of Third World revolutionary movements. He combines Caribbean nationalism, Black radicalism, a once Trotskyist blend of revolutionary anti-imperialism, and the European classic tradition in an individual and potent mix. A mine of richness and variety.” —Times Educational Supplement

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State Capitalism and World Revolution
Authors: C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Grace Lee Boggs
Introduction by Paul Buhle
Preface by Martin Glaberman
Publisher: PM Press/Charles H. Kerr
ISBN: 978-1-60486-092-4
Published March 2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Page count: 160
Subjects: History/Politics
$16.95


Sixty years ago, C.L.R. James and a small circle of collaborators set forth a revolutionary critique of industrial civilization. Their vision possessed a striking originality. So insular was the political context of their theoretical breakthroughs, however, and so thoroughly did their optimistic expectations for working class activity defy trends away from class and social issues to the so-called ‘End of Ideology,’ that the documents of the signal effort never reached public view. Happily, times have changed. Readers have discovered much, even after all these years, to challenge Marxist (or any other) orthodoxy. They will never find a more succinct version of James’ general conclusions than State Capitalism and World Revolution. In this slim volume, James and his comrades successfully predict the future course of Marxism.

Written in collaboration with Raya Dunayevskaya and Grace Lee Boggs, this is another pioneering critique of Lenin and Trotsky, and reclamation of Marx, from the West Indian scholar and activist, C.L.R. James. Originally published in 1950, this edition includes the original preface from Martin Glaberman, and a new introduction from Paul Buhle.

Praise:

“When one looks back over the last twenty years to those men who were most far-sighted, who first began to tease out the muddle of ideology in our times, who were at the same time Marxists with a hard theoretical basis, and close students of society, humanists with a tremendous response to and understanding of human culture, Comrade James is one of the first one thinks of.”
—E.P. Thompson

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A History of Pan-African Revolt
Author: C.L.R. James
Introduction by: Robin D.G. Kelley
Publisher: PM Press/The Charles H. Kerr Library
ISBN: 978-1-60486-095-5
Published July 2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Page count: 160 Pages
Subjects: History/Cultural Studies

$16.95


Originally published in England in 1938 (the same year as his magnum opus The Black Jacobins), and expanded in 1969, this work remains the classic account of global Black Resistance. Robin D.G. Kelley’s substantial introduction contextualizes the work in the history and ferment of the times, and explores it’s ongoing relevance today.

A History of Pan-African Revolt is one of those rare books that continues to strike a chord of urgency, even half a century after it was first published. Time and time again, its lessons have proven to be valuable and relevant for understanding liberation movements in Africa and the diaspora. Each generation who has had the opportunity to read this small book finds new insights, new lessons, new visions for their own age…. No piece of literature can substitute for a crystal ball, and only religious fundamentalists believe that a book can provide comprehensive answers to all questions. But if nothing else, A History of Pan-African Revolt leaves us with two incontrovertible facts. First, as long as Black people are denied freedom, humanity and a decent standard of living, they will continue to revolt. Second, unless these revolts involve the ordinary masses and take place on their own terms, they have no hope of succeeding.” —From the Introduction by Robin D.G. Kelley

“I wish my readers to understand the history of Pan-African Revolt. They fought, they suffered—they are still fighting. Once we understand that, we can tackle our problems with the necessary mental equilibrium.” —C.L.R. James

Praise:

 “Kudos for reissuing C.L.R. James’s pioneering work on Black resistance. Many brilliant embryonic ideas articulated in A History Of Pan-African Revolt twenty years later became the way to study Black social movements. Robin Kelley’s introduction superbly situates James and his thought in the world of Pan-African and Marxist intellectuals.”
—Sundiata Cha-Jua, Penn State University

“A mine of ideas advancing far ahead of its time.”
—Walter Rodney

“When one looks back over the last twenty years to those men who were most far-sighted, who first began to tease out the muddle of ideology in our times, who were at the same time Marxists with a hard theoretical basis, and close students of society, humanists with a tremendous response to and understanding of human culture, Comrade James is one of the first one thinks of.”
—E.P. Thompson

“C.L.R. James has arguably had a greater influence on the underlying thinking of independence movements in the West Indies and Africa than any living man.”
Sunday Times

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A New Notion: Two Works by C.L.R. James: "Every Cook Can Govern" and "The Invading Socialist Society"
Author: C.L.R. James Edited by Noel Ignatiev
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-047-4
Published Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 160 Pages
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Subjects: Politicial Science, Marxism, History
$16.95

C.L.R. James was a leading figure in the independence movement in the West Indies, and the black and working-class movements in both Britain and the United States. As a major contributor to Marxist and revolutionary theory, his project was to discover, document, and elaborate the aspects of working-class activity that constitute the revolution in today's world. In this volume, Noel Ignatiev, author of How the Irish Became White, provides an extensive introduction to James’ life and thought, before presenting two critical works that together illustrate the tremendous breadth and depth of James’ worldview.

"The Invading Socialist Society," for James the fundamental document of his political tendency, shows clearly the power of James’ political acumen and its relevance in today’s world with a clarity of analysis that anticipated future events to a remarkable extent. "Every Cook Can Govern," is a short and eminently readable piece counterpoising direct with representative democracy, and getting to the heart of how we should relate to one another. Together these two works represent the principal themes that run through James’s life: implacable hostility toward all “condescending saviors” of the working class, and undying faith in the power of ordinary people to build a new world.

Praise:

“It would take a person with great confidence, and good judgment, to select from the substantial writings of C.L.R. James just two items to represent the 'principal themes' in James' life and thought. Fortunately, Noel Ignatiev is such a person.  With a concise, but thorough introduction, Ignatiev sets the stage and C.L.R. James does the rest. In these often confusing times one way to keep one’s head on straight and to chart a clear path to the future is to engage the analytical methods and theoretical insights of C.L.R. James. What you hold in your hands is an excellent starting point.” 

—John H. Bracey Jr., professor of African-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and co-editor of Strangers & Neighbors: Relations Between Blacks & Jews in the United States.

“C.L.R. James has arguably had a greater influence on the underlying thinking of independence movements in the West Indies and Africa than any living man.”
—Sunday Times

“It remains remarkable how far ahead of his time he was on so many issues.”
—New Society

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Events

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What Others are Saying

 

C.L.R. James’ Modern Politics: A Review
By Michael Lazarus
Marx and Philosophy
September 2nd, 2015

"...Modern Politics is a quality introduction to Marxism by a major theorist. Although clearly not a work of academic scholarship, James’ heavily textured approach to Marxism and its social context is refined and enjoyable. This task is seldom accomplished well but James, with the elegant turn of phrase and clarity that is so characteristic of his style, manages. What is most clear throughout these lectures is the importance of looking at the movement of history as the insatiable desire for human agency within the structures that define the possibilities of action. The conclusion: the self-activity of the working-class to make their own history is the hope of modern politics..."

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C.L.R. James’ A New Notion Reviewed in Radical Philosophy Review
By Paul Buhle
Swans Commentary
July 2nd, 2012

In the twenty-three years since the death of C.L.R. James (1901-1989), the drumbeat of new books describing and anthologizing his writings has been steady and at times almost deafening to those who listen with rapt attention. Not that the books are in any way unwelcome, or in danger of exhausting the canon (next fall actually sees the appearance of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the 1936 play performed in England but never before published, by Duke University Press). Nor that the waning of deconstruction, once the major source of new books and essays on James, is anything but welcome. But keeping up is at best a chore. As the authorized biographer of James, it is a chore that I cannot quite abandon for very long without guilt.

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C.L.R. James’ A New Notion Reviewed in Radical Philosophy Review
by Matthew Quest
Radical Philosophy Review
Volume 13, number 2 (2010) 191-195

C.L.R. James’ A New Notion, a compiled republication of two of his most engaging and neglected works, which are central to his political thought, will captivate readers concerned with current problems of world war, economic crisis, thin conceptions of democracy, and retrogression from socialist principles. While race and color are not addressed here by this notable Pan-African from Trinidad, it would be a mistake to think they do not address the empire of capital in terms of both imperial and peripheral nations’ experiences.

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pan-africanA History of Pan-African Revolt: A Review
Publishers Weekly
March 11th, 2013

This short, perceptive book—part history, part social critique—was first published in 1938 and later expanded in 1969. James (The Black Jacobins), a Marxist scholar, anti-colonialist, and noted black nationalist, explores race relations and black revolutions starting as far back as the 1789 uprising in San Domingo (now Haiti). Subversive and widely considered ahead of its time, the book offers an exacting critique of both imperialism and the Communist International. Pan-African liberation, James argues, can only be realized through bottom up nationalism, never through allegiance with Western capitalism or the international proletariat. USC History professor Robin D.G. Kelley provides a helpful introduction, which places both James and his works within a global context, illustrating the evolution and importance of his ideas. The book's central message, as Kelley puts it, is that "as long as black people are denied freedom, humanity, and a decent standard of living, they will continue to revolt [and] unless these revolts involve the ordinary masses and take place on their own terms, they have no hope of succeeding." History, as detailed by James, would back up this claim. More than an historical curiosity, James's work brims with transcendent ideas so adamant and clear they continue to read fresh today. (Mar)

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pan-africanA History of Pan-African Revolt: A Review
by Matthew Quest
Insurgent Notes
June 3rd, 2012

A small and dangerous volume, this republication of C.L.R. James’s A History of Pan-African Revolt is a concise survey of Black freedom struggles in the United States, the Caribbean, and on the African continent from 1739–1969. A product of two periods in his life and work, his first British years (1932–38) where he emerged as the author of The Black Jacobins, the classic history of the Haitian Revolution; and his second American sojourn (1969–79) where he was a mentor to Black Power activists who had been members of SNCC, the Black Panther Party, and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers; this book documents famous and obscure race and class struggles in two parts written from the vantage of 1939 and 1969 respectively.

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