Marxism for Our Times: C. L. R. James on Revolutionary Organization
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Rarely as in the collection here can one encounter an essayist, novelist, historian, and political leader like the late C. L. R. James in the working throes of forming and then fomenting personal political theory. In Marxism for Our Times, editor Martin Glaberman has gathered the writings and theoretical discussions of this noted Caribbean writer. These pamphlets, mimeographs, letters, and lectures by James were nearly inaccessible until now.
Within these works, James works to situate himself within the classical Marxist tradition while rejecting the Vanguard Party as unsuitable for our times. The writings in this collection begin in the 1940s, when Marxists were wrestling with acts that many deemed betrayals of the revolution, Stalin's pact with Hitler and the war in Europe. They end in the late sixties just before the dissolution of Facing Reality, the final form of the American Marxist organization founded on James's principles.
For many years James, born in Trinidad and Tobago, was leader of the Trotskyists in the United States. He continued his work even after his exile from America. Of great value to scholars of Marxism are the papers in which James examines Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky and applies their theories to the class conflicts he was witnessing at mid-century and to changes he foresaw in the future. James argues for the rejection of historical principles and theories and urges Marxists to adapt themselves to changes occurring in capitalism and the working class.
Glaberman worked alongside James but sometimes disagreed with him in the movement James founded. They were close associates for 45 years. With Marxism for Our Times Glaberman not only has preserved and made available the political theories of a noted writer but he also has created a window on a turbulent period of optimism and failure, a failure Glaberman calls, "rich in meanings and lessons for anyone interested in a democratic, revolutionary Marxism."
What you have to note is, first of all, some obvious things. Children, why are the Negro children right in the front of this and taking part as they are? Children did not take part in revolutionary movement before, that is part of 1963. With television and radio the children now are a part of the family, nothing of a social nature takes
the gaining of what is called profit, the transference of profit into means of power of the ruling class and the transference of that profit into further means of production, etc., etc. He says the whole process flows from the fact that the workers' labor power is a commodity. Now I would like to hear your response to that when the time comes. It took me years to understand the first passage I quoted to you and other passages in which he
development of the Leveller Party, when I read that brilliant journalist, Ovington, I think was his name, and John Lilburne, and Thomas Walywny and these others. I am amazed to find that these men are so much Englishmen and what they did so illuminates what is taking place in Britain today and the condition and the mental attitude of the British masses of the people today. I am astonished that the average Marxist revolutionary living in Britain seems to live quite cheerfully without
being defensive about James's letters and nonmembers being more critical. There was general acceptance of the need to work on certain pamphlets—on Leninism, on China, on Cuba, on Negroes and the Civil War, on automation, etc. A committee was formed to approach William Gorman to lecture on the Civil War and there was an attempt to begin the necessary work on the Russian factory committees. Most of the assignments bore only partial fruit. The work on factory committees and
2. The previous organization, known as Correspondence Publishing Committee, was decimated by a split led by Grace and James Boggs and Lyman and Freddy Paine. Earlier, in 1955, there was a major split led by Raya Dunayevskaya. 3. Raya Dunayevskaya, Marxism and Freedom, New York: Bookman Associates, 1958. 4. C. L. R. James, Grace C. Lee and Cornelius Castoriadis, Facing Reality, Detroit: Bewick Editions, 1974.