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C. L. R. James on the ''Negro Question'' by Scott McLemee

By Scott McLemee

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Extra info for C. L. R. James on the ''Negro Question''

Sample text

James Institute (New York) has been very gracious in supplying me with copies of James's autobiographical notes from the 1970s. And Kent Worcester provided a photocopy of the "My Friends" pamphlet, now a collector's item. Paget Henry persuaded me to quit thinking about James's work strictly in terms of the Trotskyist political "field" and to concentrate on cultural questions as well. Of course, Paul Buhle has been saying much the same thing for some years now. He also encouraged me to practice a certain needful and overdue ruthlessness in revising my essay.

Did black workers share the same interests as the white proletariat? How should the (white) labor movement respond to African-American demands for equality? Was meaningful equality even possible under capitalism? And how should socialists relate to existing African-American organizations and institutions? James had been thinking about related matters for years. "The race question," he wrote in The Black Jacobins, "is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous.

His ulcer grew worse, and in December it perforated; he collapsed in the street outside a movie theater. He was rushed to the hospital for an operation. 35 This helped, but did not Page xxiv cure, the problem. Confined to bed for long periods, James went back to working out the implications of his concept of Soviet state-capitalism, while also reading widely in American history and literature. He found it difficult to write during his illness, but managed to dictate numerous articles and theoretical documents.

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