Volume 26, Issue 1/2, 2020
The Red and the Black
C.L.R. James and the Historical Idea of World Revolution
This paper seeks to situate the idea and intellectual narrative of “world revolution” in its modern historical context, tracing it back to the age of democratic revolution in the late eighteenth century, and then developed by great revolutionary thinkers like Marx and Engels. It examines the possible limitations of Marx and Engels’s vision of world revolution with respect to the Third World as a result of their European intellectual formation in the tradition of the Enlightenment, and examines the charge of “Eurocentrism” advanced by post-colonialist theorists among others against classical Marxism. It then explores the inspiration of the Russian Revolution for those fighting racism and imperialism, and how black radicals brought their revolutionary narratives of black liberation into communist narratives for the first time in its aftermath. The essay then discusses C.L.R. James’s pioneering 1937 history of the Comintern, World Revolution, among other things a theoretical intervention into the debates raging among socialist black radicals during the 1930s, and critically examines the charge of “Eurocentrism” often levelled at World Revolution.