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(11/30/2008) World Revolution 1917-1936: The Rise & Fall Of The Communist International by C. L. R. James. London. 1937. Secker & Warburg. keywords: World Revolution Russia History. 429 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   A popular history of the rise and fall of the Communist International. First published in 1937, this was one of the few contemporary attempts to synthesize the experience of the revolutionary movement after World War I. 'This book is an introduction to and survey of the revolutionary Socialist movement since the War-the antecedents, foundation and development of the Third International-its collapse as a revolutionary force. The Bolshevik Party, and the Soviet Union which it controls, being the dominating factors in the Third International, are given extensive treatment. The ideas on which the book are based are the fundamental ideas of Marxism. Since 1923 they have been expounded chiefly by Trotsky and a small band of collaborators. Many who sneered or ignored for years are now uncomfortably aware that inside Russia there is something vaguely called 'Trotskyism,' which the Soviet authorities, despite the economic successes, discover in the very highest offices in the State and in increasingly wide circles of the population. At the same time in Western Europe, statesmen and publicists, frightened at the steady rise of the revolutionary wave, join with the Stalinist regime in Russia to condemn 'Trotskyism.' Mr. Winston Churchill, in the Evening Standard of October 16th, 1936, unleashes a fierce diatribe against the 'Trotskyists,' coupled with scarcely veiled approval of the Stalinists, i.e. of the Third International. Governments and national statesmen do pot concern themselves with jesuitical differences between interpretations of Marx and Lenin. The whole future of civilization is involved. The present crisis in world affairs, the growth of Fascism, the Spanish revolution, the inevitable revolution in France, the role of Russia yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, the constant ebb and flow of political parties and movements all over the world, these things must be seen, can only be understood at all, as part of the international revolutionary movement against Capitalism which entered a decisive stage in 1917 with the foundation of the first Workers' State and, two years later, the organisation of a revolutionary International. Ruhr invasion; the illness and death of Lenin and the quick victory of Stalin over Trotsky in 1923; Chang-Kai-Shek's northern expedition in 1926, the failure of the Shanghai Commune and the disastrous adventure of the Canton insurrection; the breakdown of the New Economic policy in 1928, the 'liquidation of the kulak,' and the capitulation without a blow of the powerful working-class movement of Germany before Hitler; the restoration of private property on the Russian countryside, the Popular Front in France, the murder of Zinoviev and Kamenev, the turning of guns by the Third International on the P.O.U.M. in Spain because it agitates for the Socialist revolution-all these major events of post-war history are one closely-connected whole. Seen in isolation they are a jumble. This book shows their inter-connection. How much the book owes to the writings of Trotsky, the text can only partially show. But even with that great debt, it could never have been written at all but for the material patiently collected and annotated in France, China, America, Germany and Russia. My task has been chiefly one of selection and co-ordination. Yet in so wide and complicated a survey, differences of opinion and emphasis are bound to arise. Therefore while the book owes so much to others as to justify the use of the term 'we,' the ultimate responsibility must remain my own.' - from the author's preface to the book.

Cyril Lionel Robert James (4 January 1901-19 May 1989) was an Afro-Trinidadian journalist, socialist theorist and writer. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, then a British Crown colony, James attended Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain before becoming a cricket journalist, and also an author of fiction. He would later work as a school teacher, teaching among others the young Eric Williams. Together with Ralph de Boissi?re, Albert Gomes and Alfred Mendes, James was a member of the anti-colonialist Beacon Group, a circle of writers associated with The Beacon magazine. In 1932, he moved to Nelson in Lancashire, England in the hope of furthering his literary career. There he worked for the Manchester Guardian and helped the cricketer Learie Constantine write his autobiography. In 1933, James moved to London. James had begun to campaign for the independence of the West Indies while in Trinidad, and his Life of Captain Cipriani and the pamphlet The Case for West-Indian Self Government were his first important published works, but now he became a leading champion of Pan-African agitation and the Chair of the International African Friends of Abyssinia, formed in 1935 in response to Fascist Italy's invasion of what is now Ethiopia. He then became a leading figure in the International African Service Bureau, led by his childhood friend George Padmore, to whom he later introduced Kwame Nkrumah. In Britain, he also became a leading Marxist theorist. He had joined the Labour Party, but in the midst of the Great Depression he became a Trotskyist. By 1934, James was a member of an entrist Trotskyist group inside the Independent Labour Party. In this period, amid his frantic political activity, James wrote a play about Toussaint L'Ouverture, which was staged in the West End in 1936 and starred Paul Robeson and Robert Adams. That same year saw the publication in London of James's only novel, Minty Alley, which he had brought with him in manuscript from Trinidad; it was the first novel to be published by a black Caribbean author in the UK. He also wrote what are perhaps his best-known works of non-fiction: World Revolution (1937), a history of the rise and fall of the Communist International, which was critically praised by Leon Trotsky, and The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938), a widely acclaimed history of the Haitian revolution, which would later be seen as a seminal text in the study of the African diaspora. In 1936, James and his Trotskyist Marxist Group left the Independent Labour Party to form an open party. In 1938, this new group took part in several mergers to form the Revolutionary Socialist League. The RSL was a highly factionalised organisation and when James was invited to tour the United States by the leadership of the Socialist Workers' Party, then the US section of the Fourth International, in order to facilitate its work among black workers, he was encouraged to leave by one such factional opponent, John Archer, in the hope of removing a rival. James moved to the USA in late 1938, and after a tour sponsored by the SWP stayed on for over twenty years. But by 1940 he had developed severe doubts about Trotsky's analysis of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state and left the SWP along with Max Shachtman, who formed the Workers' Party. Within the WP he formed the Johnson-Forest Tendency with Raya Dunayevskaya (his pseudonym being Johnson and Dunayevskaya's Forest) and Grace Lee (later Grace Lee Boggs) in order to spread their views within the new party. While within the WP the views of the J-F tendency underwent considerable development and by the end of the Second World War they had definitively rejected Trotsky's theory of Russia as a degenerated workers state, instead analysing it as being state capitalist. This political evolution was shared by other Trotskyists of their generation, most notably Tony Cliff. Unlike Cliff, they were increasingly looking towards the autonomous movements of oppressed minorities, a theoretical development already visible in James' thought in his discussions with Leon Trotsky which took place in 1939. An interest in such autonomous struggles came to take centre stage for the tendency. After 1945 the WP saw the prospects for a revolutionary upsurge as receding. The J-F Tendency, by contrast, were more enthused by prospects for mass struggles and came to the conclusion that the SWP, which they considered more proletarian than the WP, thought similarly to themselves about such prospects. Therefore, after a short few months as an independent group when they published a great deal of material for a small group, the J-F tendency joined the SWP in 1947. James would still describe himself as a Leninist, despite his rejection of Lenin's conception of the vanguard role of the revolutionary party, and argue for socialists to support the emerging black nationalist movements. By 1949, he came to reject the idea of a vanguard party. This led his tendency to leave the Trotskyist movement and rename itself the Correspondence Publishing Committee. In 1955, nearly half the membership of Committee would leave under the leadership of Raya Dunayevskaya to form a separate tendency of Marxist-humanism and found the organization, News and Letters Committees. Whether Raya Dunayevskaya's faction constituted a majority or minority seems to be a matter of dispute. Historian Kent Worcester claims that Dunayevskaya's supporters formed a majority of the pre-split Correspondence Publishing Committee but Martin Glaberman has claimed in New Politics that the faction loyal to James had a majority. The Committee split again in 1962 as Grace Lee Boggs and James Boggs, two key activists, left to pursue a more Third Worldist approach. The remaining Johnsonites, including leading member Martin Glaberman reconstituted themselves as Facing Reality, which James advised from Britain until the group dissolved, against James' advice, in 1970. James's writings were influential in the development of Autonomist Marxism as a current within Marxist thought, though he himself saw his life's work as developing the theory and practice of Leninism. In 1953, James was forced to leave the US under threat of deportation for having overstayed his visa by over ten years. In his attempt to remain in the USA, James wrote a study of Herman Melville, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In, and had copies of the privately published work sent to every member of the Senate. He wrote the book while being detained on Ellis Island. He returned back to England and then, in 1958 returned to Trinidad, where he edited The Nation newspaper for the pro-independence People's National Movement (PNM) party. He also had become involved again in the Pan-African movement, believing that the Ghana revolution showed that decolonisation was the most important inspiration for international revolutionaries. James also advocated the West Indies Federation, and it was over this that he fell out with the PNM leadership. He returned to Britain, then to the USA in 1968, where he taught at the University of the District of Columbia. Ultimately, he returned to Britain and spent his last years in Brixton, London. In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of books by James were republished or reissued by Allison and Busby, including four volumes of selected writings: The Future In the Present, Spheres of Existence, At the Rendezvous of Victory and Cricket. In 1983, a short British film featuring James in dialogue with the famous historian E. P. Thompson was made. A public library in Hackney, London is named in his honor; in 2005 a reception there to mark its 20th anniversary was attended by his widow, Selma James. C. L. R. James is widely known as a writer on cricket, especially for his autobiographical 1963 book, Beyond a Boundary. This is considered a seminal work of cricket writing, and is often named as the best single book on cricket (or even the best book on any sport) ever written. The book's key question, which is frequently quoted by modern journalists and essayists, is inspired by Rudyard Kipling and asks: What do they know of cricket who only cricket know? James uses this challenge as the basis for describing cricket in an historical and social context, the strong influence cricket had on his life, and how it meshed with his role in politics and his understanding of issues of class and race. The literary quality of the writing attracts cricketers of all political views. While editor of The Nation, he led the successful campaign in 1960 to have Frank Worrell appointed as the first black captain of the West Indies cricket team.

 

 

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