Volume 26, Issue 1/2, 2020
Peril and Possibility
C.L.R. James, World Revolution, and International History
In a 2012 review article, Anthony P. Maingot made a case for each generation rewriting history according to its own needs and preoccupations. Everyone, he suggested, has their own C.L.R. James. Everyone, perhaps, except students of international relations (IR) and international history, where references to James’s copious and critical body of work are less common. In the spirit of finding one’s own James, this article employs The Black Jacobins and James’s other magnum opus, World Revolution,1917–1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International, to think historically about two interrelated processes of the twentieth century: the rise of the state, and the relationship between nationalisms and internationalisms. Along with encounters with revolutionary Marxism and pan-Africanism, James bore witness to the challenges of the state, and the tensions between nationalism and internationalism that were so central to understanding the twentieth century.