Friday, January 04, 2019

C.L.R. James, the “cricketing Marxist” and “urbane revolutionary” (4 January 1901 – 31 May 1989)

Today is the birthday of C.L.R. James (4 January 1901 – 31 May 1989), the remarkable Marxist humanist and Afro-Trinidadian socialist, historian, journalist, and essayist. 

Here are two of my posts from the archives on James: From “Cricketing in Compton” to the “Cricketing Marxist,” and The Marxist Spirituality of C.L.R. James. The following works help illuminate the life and writings of C.L.R. James, the “cricketing Marxist” and “urbane revolutionary:”
  • Buhle, Paul. C.L.R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary. London: Verso, 1988.
  • Buhle, Paul, ed. C.L.R. James: His Life and Work. London: Allison & Busby, 1986.
  • Høgsbjerg, Christian and Charles Forsdick, eds. The Black Jacobins Reader. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.
  • Renton, Dave. C.L.R. James: Cricket’s Philosopher King. London: Haus, 2007.
  • Robinson, Cedric J. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. London: Zed Books, 1983.
  • Rosengarten, Frank. Urbane Revolutionary: C.L.R. James and the Struggle for a New Society. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2008.
  • Worcester, Kent. C.L.R. James: A Political Biography. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1996.
One might also read two other books that are not about James or Black Marxism as such: first, Tommie Shelby’s We Who are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005) which makes a compelling argument for aiming to “achieve a robust form of black solidarity without a commitment to black identity,” a view I think has much in common with James’ Marxist humanism. And then Michael C. Dawson’s Blacks In and Out of the Left (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), which is a brief history of black radicalism in the United States toward outlining the elements of a progressive black radicalism for our own time and place. In the words of Shelby, “in the spirit of hope and possibility, it calls for utopian yet pragmatic political thinking that regards independent black political organizing not as a balkanizing force or distraction from the ‘universal’ fight for a democratic society, but as an indispensable element of any viable Left-wing politics.” 

Most of the major works (books only) of C.L.R. James (for a comprehensive list, see the bibliography for ‘published primary sources’ in the Høgsbjerg and Forsdick volume above):
  • James, C.L.R. Minty Alley [a novel]. London: Secker and Warburg, 1936.
  • James, C.L.R. World Revolution, 1917-1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International. London: Secker & Warburg, 1937/ New York: Prism Key Press, 2011.
  • James, C.L.R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. New York: Random House/Vintage Books, 2nd, 1963/1989 (1938).
  • James, C.L.R. A History of the Pan-African Revolt. Oakland, CA: PM Press, in conjunction with Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co. (Chicago), 2012 (1938).
  • James, C.L.R. (Noel Ignatiev, ed.) A New Notion: Two Works by C.L.R. James (The Invading Socialist Society and ‘Every Cook Can Govern’). Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010 (1947 and 1956, respectively).
  • James, C.L.R. Beyond a Boundary. London: Stanley Paul & Co., 1963/Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 50th anniversary edition, 2013.
  • James, C.L.R. The Future in the Present. London: Allison & Busby, 1977.
  • James, C.L.R. Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution. London: Allison & Busby, 1977.
  • James, C.L.R. Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In. Detroit, MI: Beswick, 2nd, 1978/London: Allison & Busby, 1985.
  • James, C.L.R. Notes on Dialectics: Hegel, Marx, Lenin. London: Allison & Busby, 1980.
  • James, C.L.R. Spheres of Existence. London: Allison & Busby, 1980.
  • James, C.L.R. At the Rendezvous of Victory. London: Allison & Busby, 1984.
  • James, C.L.R. (in collaboration with Raya Dunayevskaya and Grace Lee) State Capitalism and World Revolution. Chicago, IL: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co., 1986.
  • James, C.L.R. (Anna Grimshaw and Keith Hart, eds.) American Civilization. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1993.


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