World Revolution, 1917–1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International

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    CLR James

    Publisher: Duke University Press

    Year: 2017

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 544 pages

    ISBN: 9780822363248

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Originally published in 1937, C. L. R. James's World Revolution is a pioneering Marxist analysis of the history of revolutions during the interwar period and of the fundamental conflict between Trotsky and Stalin. James, who was a leading Trotskyist activist in Britain, outlines Russia's transition from Communist revolution to a Stalinist totalitarian state bureaucracy. He also provides an account of the ideological contestations within the Communist International while examining its influence on the development of the Soviet Union and its changing role in revolutions in Spain, China, Germany, and Central Europe. Published to commemorate the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this definitive edition of World Revolution features a new introduction by Christian Høgsbjerg and includes rare archival material, selected contemporary reviews, and extracts from James's 1939 interview with Trotsky.

About the Author

C. L. R. James (1901–1989), a Trinidadian historian, political activist, and writer, is the author of The Black Jacobins, an influential study of the Haitian Revolution. He is also the author of The Life of Captain Cipriani, Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History, and Beyond a Boundary, all also published by Duke University Press.

Christian Høgsbjerg (Editor, Introduction) is a historian and works for Leeds University Centre for African Studies. He is the author of C. L. R. James in Imperial Britain and the coeditor of The Black Jacobins Reader, both also published by Duke University Press.

What People Are Saying

"World Revolution is a key part of the revolutionary Marxist tradition and well worth reading today." Tony Phillips, Socialist Review

"The timing of the re-publication of World Revolution, to mark the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolutions, might make the reader think that the work is only of historical interest. It is not. It is worth reading today because of the contemporary resonances. . . . If you are interested in the development of Marxist philosophy, in response to the horrors of the Stalinist counter-revolution, I recommend that you read World Revolution." Chris Gilligan, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

"This edited version of James’s account of the internal tremors of the Bolshevik regime and its conflated relation to international communism is valuable from the standpoint that it also includes opinions on how the book was received and interpreted after its publication. Therefore, one of the main strengths of this edition is not just James’s analysis, but the reviews of World Revolution that turn it into a complete guide that depicts his conversion and dedication to Trotskyism. . . . A classic survey that should be read by scholars, students, or individuals with a general interest in the development of the Soviet Union, Marxism, Trotskyism, and international communism between the wars." Fredrik Petersson, Revolutionary Russia

"Vital. . . for those interested in reclaiming something from the revolutionary traditions of the twentieth century." Lisa K. Kirschenbaum, Journal of World History

"This incisive and wide-ranging work by the Trinidadian Marxist, C. L. R. James, was one of the first analyses of the rise of Stalin’s tyranny and the subordination of the needs of the international Communist movement to the needs of the Soviet state. Christian Høgsbjerg provides a marvelous introduction to James’s life and to the political context in which he wrote this remarkable work." S. A. Smith, author of Revolution and the People in Russia and China: A Comparative History

“Published in 1937, close to the ‘Midnight in the Century’ when Hitler and Stalin dominated global politics, C. L. R. James’s World Revolution affirms the actuality of Marxism even as it confronts the degeneration of the Russian Revolution of October 1917. In telling the story of the advance and retreat of the great revolutionary wave at the end of the First World War, James displays his qualities as a theorist, historian, and writer. This new edition includes an invaluable introduction by Christian Høgsbjerg that sets World Revolution in its place in the politics of the British left in the 1930s and in James’s own rich intellectual development.” Alex Callinicos, author of The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx

Table of Contents

Abbreviations  xi
Editor's Note  xiii
Introduction / Christian Høgsbjerg  1
World Revolution, 1917-1936
Preface  63
Introductory  65
1. Marxism  75
2. The Forerunners of the Third International  89
3. The War and the Russian Revolution  114
4. The Failure of the World Revolution and the Foundation of the International  135
5. Lenin and Socialism  155
6. Stalin and Socialism  174
7. Stalin Kills the 1923 Revolution  192
8. The Kulak and the British General Council  222
9. Stalin Rules the Chinese Revolution  243
10. The Platform and the Five-Year Plan  276
11. Industry and the Plan  294
12. "After Hitler, Our Turn"  306
13. The Great Retreat  349
14. The Revolution Abandoned  361
15. A Fourth International the Only Hope  387
Appendix on Sidney and Beatrice Webb's Soviet Communism  401
Notes  407
Reviews of World Revolution
Selected Reviews of the Original British Edition
"The Rise and Fall of the Communist International: James's New Book Reviewed by Fenner Brockway in New Leader  425
Reply from C. L. R. James  429
"Du Côté de Chez Trotsky," in New Statesman, by Raymond Postgate  430
"Lunacy or Logic? Two Views of One Book," in Controversy  432
"Communist" by J. R. Campbell  432
"Trotskyist" by Harry Wicks  434
"The Retreat of Moscow," in The Plebs, by Rowland Hill 455
"World Revolution," in International Affairs, by E. H. Carr  458
"Communism in Theory and Practice," in The Advertiser (Adelaide)  460
"The Third International," in Sydney Morning Herald  461
Selected Reviews of the Original American Edition
"No Place for Communists," in the Saturday Review, by Eugene Lyons  463
"History of the CI," in New International by Joseph Carter [Joseph Friedman]  465
"World Revolution," in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, by Harry N. Howard  469
Appendix A. C. L. R. James, Introduction to Red Spanish Notebook: The First Six Months of the Revolution and Civil War by Mary Low and Juan Breá [1937]  471
Appendix B. C. L. R. James, "Report on Activities in the Provinces" [1938]  473
Appendix C. Extracts from the Discussions between C. L. R. James and Leon Trotsky in Coyoacán, Mexico [April 1939]  490
Index  507

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