Friday, April 23, 2010
Cleffi, Rico. "Your Own James: . . . James Left a Rich Body of Thought; A Marxist Polymath Who Rejected Leninism." THE INDYPENDENT February 19, 2010
James, C. L. R. You Don't Play with Revolution: the Montreal Lectures of C. L. R. James. Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2009. Martin Glaberman, a longtime associate of C.L.R. James, once observed that the staggering scope of James’ writing often meant, “Everyone produces his/her own James. People have, over the years, taken from him what they found useful, and imputed to him what they found necessary. James as cultural critic, James as master of the classics, James as expert on cricket, James as historian, James as major figure in the pan-African movement….” A cursory glance at You Don’t Play with Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of C.L.R. James, mostly a collection of talks delivered to a group of West Indian students living in Montreal from 1966 to 1967, shows the breadth of James’ interests (the book is supplemented with interviews with James and letters from, to and about the scholar). Among the topics discussed are Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire as it relates to the Caribbean; the Haitian Revolution, Shakespeare’s King Lear, the making of the Caribbean people, and Lenin’s views on labor unions. James, a Marxist journalist, essayist and social theorist, is perhaps best known for his 1938 masterwork on the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins. He made it his life’s work to examine the movement of historical forces from below and the response of those in power to these efforts. Lectures “The Making of the Caribbean People” and “The Haitian Revolution and the Making of the Modern World,” both included in You Don’t Play with Revolution, revisit this theme, which, given the current tragedy in Haiti, is as important as ever. James ties together the ways slaves organized themselves in order to run the West Indian plantations, the amazing defeat of the British army at the hands of the Haitians in 1791, the Haitian revolution and its importance to the French Revolution. He extends the analysis to emphasize the role of the creative resistance of American slaves in inspiring the abolitionist movement. . . . Read the whole review here: http://www.indypendent.org/2010/02/18/your-own-james/.