In Tribute to Cyril Lionel Robert James
(often called CLR)
January 4, 1901 May 31, 1989
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.
ESSAY AND LECTURES BY C.L.R. JAMES
1 The Slaves
11 West Indian Personalit\
15 Immigrants to Britain:
F-ormerly Colonial Peoples
35 The Artist in tile Carihbbea
39 Socialism or Barbarism
49 A New Vie\w ol West Indian Historv
C.L.R. JAMES CRITIQUE & TRIBUTE
73 What Do Men Live By? Autobiography and Intention in C.L.R. Jame's Beyond a
Crmisuelo Lopez Springfield
89 Caliban and Ceasar
97 BOOK REVIEW
Black Mosaic: Essays in Afro-American History and Historiography, by Benjamin
Quarles. reviewed by Patrick Bryan
100 Notes on Contributors
101 Books Received
103 Instructions to Authors
VOL. 35. No. 4
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
The Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M.. Professor Extra-Mural Studies (Editor)
Everton Pryce, Department of Extra-Mural Studies (Associate Editor)
G.M. Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Roy Augier, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Mona, Jamaica
Keith Hunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor. Cave Hill, Barbados
Lloyd Coke, Department of Botany, Mona
Neville McNorris, Department of Physics. Mona
All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to.
Department of Extra-Mural Studies.
University of the West Indies.
Mona. Kingston 7. Jamaica.
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which they would
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University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this University.
This issue of Caribbean Quarterly is dedicated to the memory of the late C. L. R. James.
The Caribbean has spawned some major thinkers out of the 20th century world of con-
flict, self-assertion, political struggle by subject peoples, and the quest for self-definition
and certitude. Foremost in that gallery of such creative beings is C. L. R. James. We are
all the poorer for his passing though richer for the legacy of thought and vision, grit and
stamina which this great man of letters has left behind in his copious writings on the wide
range of topics that touched on the lives not only of compatriots in his native West Indies
but also the wider world where his impact as a major intellect is certainly felt.
He was a foremost 20th century thinker grappling with the issues that have assault-
ed, shaped, and have been in turn determined by the harsh realities of a daunting period
of history on which he commented, against which he thundered, and through which he
lived with the fearlessness of a warrior and the determination of the possessed.
He was possessed of the spirit of truth and a deep commitment to social justice.
And wherever these faced the threat of vile and unprincipled men he fought with pen and
voice to restore to humankind the humanity which he felt to be its just claim.
From Minty Alley through The Black Jacobins to the classic of classics Beyond the
Boundary, C. L. R. James uncovered for the tribe in bondage the path to a particular
kind of truth that went beyond the concerns of the Caribbean which spawned him for
the worldwide universal significance he was to be for differing constituencies of persons
fighting against the obscenities of imperialism, the arrogance of class rule, the bigotry of
race, and the evil of external domination.
And while doing this, he could celebrate the invincibility of the human spirit, the
capacity of Man to be the Master of his own destiny. and the possibility of a people to
liberate themselves from the worst of bondage. He taught the Caribbean the force and
power of cricket in doing just this, revealing to the region and the world the dynamic and
deepest meanings of West Indian life through his writings on this most complex of
No one will doubt the integrity of his endemic rage against all that is unjust. Nor
will anyone doubt the courage in the stands he took against the abuse of political power
and the folly of political self-indulgence on the part of Caribbean leaders as inheritors of
transferred imperial power. No one can doubt the sincerity of his faith in the creative
potential and cultural strengths of those who form the mass of Caribbean population.
And no one can doubt the boldness of his vision.
C. L. R. James will undoubtedly continue to be a most important voice in con-
temporary Caribbean and in the foreseeable future. For he was a leading intellect with an
astute knowledge of culture, politics and society in all their variety and texture; and as
such offers the generations of today and tomorrow a clearly marked road to follow.
Caribbean Quarterly is pleased to celebrate his memory with what follow in this
"My 100th birthday?: I hope to God I could
see it, because I am positive (of) lthe uprising
which will attack every where, a lot of places
in the world. .
(Kingsway Princeton College. London. England. 1981)
C. L. R. JAMES
The Slavers scoured the coasts of Guinea. As they devastated an area they moved west-
ward and then south, decade after decade, past the Niger, down the Congo coast, past
Loango and Angola, round the Cape of Good Hope, and, by 1789, even as far as Mozam-
bique on the eastern side of Africa. Guinea remained their chief hunting ground. From
the coast they organised expeditions far into the interior. They set the simple tribesmen
fighting against each other with modern weapons over thousands of square miles. The
propagandists of the time claimed that however cruel was the slave traffic, the African
slave in America was happier than in his own African civilisation. Ours, too, is an age of
propaganda. We excel our ancestors only in system and organisation: they lied as fluently
and as brazenly. In the sixteenth century, Central Africa was a territory of peace and
happy civilisation.' Traders travelled thousands of miles from one side of the continent
to another without molestation. The tribal wars from which the European pirates claimed
to deliver the people were mere sham-Fights; it was a great battle when half-a-dozen men
were killed. It was on a peasantry in many respects superior to the serfs in large areas of
Europe, that the slave-trade fell. Tribal life was broken up and millions of detribalised
Africans were let loose upon each other. The unceasing destruction of crops led to canni-
balism; the captive women became concubines and degraded the status of the wife. Tribes
had to supply slaves or be sold as slaves themselves. Violence and ferocity became the
necessities for survival, and violence and ferocity survived.2 The stockades of grinning
skulls, the human sacrifices, the selling of their own children as slaves, these horrors were
the product of an intolerable pressure on the African peoples, which became fiercer
through the centuries as the demands of industry increased and the methods of coercion
The slaves were collected in the interior, fastened one to the other in columns,
loaded with heavy stones of 40 or 50 pounds in weight to prevent attempts to escape, and
then marched the long journey to the sea, sometimes hundreds of miles, the weakly and
sick dropping to die in the African jungle. Some were brought to the coast by canoe,
lying in the bottom of boats for days on end, their hands bound, their faces exposed to
the tropical sun and the tropical rain, their backs in the water which was never bailed out.
*Reprinted from Slaves, Free Men, Citizens, Edited and Introduced by Lambros Comitas and David
Lowenthal, Anchor Books (Anchor Press/Doubleday), Garden City, New York, 1973.
At the slave ports they were penned into "trunks" for the inspection of the buyers. Night
and day thousands of human beings were packed in these "dens of putrefaction" so that
no European could stay in them for longer than a quarter of an hour without fainting.
The Africans fainted and recovered or fainted and died, the mortality in the "trunks"
being over 20 per cent. Outside in the harbour, waiting to empty the "trunks" as they
filled, was the captain of the slave-ship, with so clear a conscience that one of them, in
the intervals of waiting to enrich British capitalism with the profits of another valuable
cargo, enriched British religion by composing the hymn "How Sweet the Name of Jesus
On the ships the slaves were packed in the hold on galleries one above the other.
Each was given only four or five feet in length and two or three feet in height, so that
they could neither lie at full length nor sit upright. Contrary to the lies that have been
spread so pertinaciously about Negro docility, the revolts at the port of embarkation and
on board were incessant, so that the slaves had to be chained, right hand to right leg, left
hand to left leg. and attached in rows to long iron bars. In this position they lived for the
voyage, coming up once a day for exercise and to allow the sailors to "clean the pails."
But when the cargo was rebellious or the weather bad, then they stayed below for weeks
at a time. The close proximity of so many naked human beings, their bruised and fester-
ing flesh, the foetid air, the prevailing dysentery, the accumulation of filth, turned these
holds into a hell. During the storms the hatches were battened down, and in the close and
loathsome darkness they were hurled from one side to another by the heaving vessel, held
in position by the chains on their bleeding flesh. No place on earth, observed one writer
of the time, concentrated so much misery as the hold of a slave-ship.
Twice a day, at nine and at four, they received their food. To the slave-traders they
were articles of trade and no more. A captain held up by calms or adverse winds was
known to have poisoned his cargo.3 Another killed some of his slaves to feed the others
with the flesh. They died not only from the regime but from grief and rage and despair.
They undertook vast hunger strikes; undid their chains and hurled themselves on the crew
in futile attempts at insurrection. What could these inland tribesmen do on the open sea,
in a complicated sailing vessel? To brighten their spirits it became the custom to have
them up on the deck once a day and force them to dance. Some took the opportunity to
jump overboard, uttering cries of triumph as they cleared the vessel and disappeared
below the surface.
Fear of their cargo bred a savage cruelty in the crew. One captain, to strike terror
into the rest, killed a slave and dividing heart, liver and entrails into 300 pieces made each
of the slaves eat one, threatening those who refused with the same torture.4 Such inci-
dents were not rare. Given the circumstances such things were (and are) inevitable. Nor
did the system spare the slavers. Every year one-fifth of all who took part in the African
All America and the West Indies took slaves. When the ship reached the harbour,
the cargo came up on deck to be bought. The purchasers examined them for defects,
looked at the teeth, pinched the skin, sometimes tasted the perspiration to see if the slave's
blood was pure and his health as good as his appearance. Some of the women affected a
curiosity, the indulgence of which, with a horse, would have caused them to be kicked
20 yards across the deck. But the slave had to stand it. Then in order to restore the
dignity which might have been lost by too intimate an examination, the purchaser spat in
the face of the slave. Having become the property of his owner, he was branded on both
side of the breast with a hot iron. His duties were explained to him by an interpreter, and
a priest instructed him in the first principles of Christianity.5
The stranger in San Domingo was awakened by the cracks of his whip, the stifled
cries, and the heavy groans of the Negroes who saw the sun rise only to curse it for its
renewal of their labours and their pains. Their work began at day-break: at eight they
stopped for a short breakfast and worked again till midday. They began again at two
o'clock and worked until evening, sometimes till ten or eleven. A Swiss traveller6 has left
a famous description of a gang of slaves at work. "They were about a hundred men and
women of different ages, all occupied in digging ditches in a cane-field, the majority of
them naked or covered with rags. The sun shone down with full force on their heads.
Sweat rolled from all parts of their bodies. Their limbs, weighed down by the heat,
fatigued with the weight of their picks and by the resistance of the clayey soil baked hard
enough to break their implements, strained themselves to overcome every obstacle. A
mournful silence reigned. Exhaustion was stamped on every face, but the hour of rest had
not yet come. The pitiless eye of the Manager patrolled the gang and several foremen
armed with long whips moved periodically between them, giving stinging blows to all
who, worn out by fatigue, were compelled to take a rest-men or women, young or old."
This was no isolated picture. The sugar plantations demanded an exacting and ceaseless
labour. The tropical earth is baked hard by the sun. Round every "carry" of land intend-
ed for cane it was necessary to dig a large ditch to ensure circulation of air. Young canes
required attention for the first three or four months and grew to maturity in 14 or 18
months. Cane could be planted and would grow at any time of the year, and the reaping
of one crop was the signal for the immediate digging of ditches and the planting of
another. Once cut they had to be rushed to the mill lest the juice became acid by fermen-
tation. The extraction of the juice and manufacture of raw sugar went on for three weeks
a month, 16 or 18 hours a day, for seven or eight months in the year.
Worked like animals, the slaves were housed like animals, in huts built around a
square planted with provisions and fruits. These huts were about 20 to 25 feet long, 12
feet wide and about 15 feet in height, divided by partitions into two or three rooms.
They were windowless and light entered only by the door. The floor was beaten earth;the
bed was of straw, hides or a rude contrivance of cords tied on posts. On these slept indis-
criminately mother, father and children. Defenceless against their masters, they struggled
with overwork and its usual complement-underfeeding. The Negro Code, Louise XIV's
attempt to ensure them humane treatment, ordered that they should be given, every
week, two pots and a half of manioc, three cassavas, two pounds of salt beef or three
pounds of salted fish-about food enough to last a healthy man for three days. Instead
their masters gave them half-a-dozen pints of coarse flour, rice, or pease, and half-a-dozen
herrings. Worn out by their labours all through the day and far into the night, many
neglected to cook and ate the food raw. The ration was so small and given to them so
irregularly that often the last half of the week found them with nothing.
Even the two hours they were given in the middle of the day, and the holidays on
Sunday and feast-days, were not for rest, but in order that they might cultivate a small
piece of land to supplement their regular rations. Hard-working slaves cultivated vege-
tables and raised chickens to sell in the towns to make a little in order to buy rum and
tobacco; and here and there a Napoleon of finance, by luck and industry, could make
enough to purchase his freedom. Their masters encouraged them in this practice of culti-
vation, for in years of scarcity the Negroes died in thousands, epidemics broke out, the
slaves fled into the woods and plantations were ruined.
The difficulty was that though one could trap them like animals, transport them in
pens, work them alongside an ass or a horse and beat both with the same stick, stable
them, and starve them they remained, despite their black skins and curly hair, quite invin-
cibly human beings; with the intelligence and resentments of human beings. To cow them
into the necessary docility and acceptance necessitated a regime of calculated brutality
and terrorism, and it is this that explains the unusual spectacle of property-owners
apparently careless for preserving their property: they had first to ensure their own safety.
For the least fault the slaves received the harshest punishment. In 1685 the Negro
Code authorised whipping, and in 1702 one colonist, a Marquis, thought any punishment
which demanded more than 100 blows of the whip was serious enough to be handed over
to the authorities. Later the number was fixed at 39, then raised to 50. But the colonists
paid no attention to these regulations and slaves were not unfrequently whipped to death.
The whip was not always an ordinary cane or woven cord, as the Code demanded. Some-
times it was replaced by the rigoise or thick thong of cow-hide, or by the lianes-local
growths of reeds, supple and pliant like whalebone. The slaves received the whip with
more certainty and regularity than they received their food. It was the incentive to work
and the guardian of discipline. But there was no ingenuity that fear or a depraved imagi-
nation could devise which was not employed to break their spirit and satisfy the lusts and
resentment of their owners and guardians-irons on the hands and feet, blocks of wood
that the slaves had to drag behind them wherever they went, the tin-plate mask designed
to prevent the slaves eating the sugar-cane, the iron collar. Whipping was interrupted in
order to pass a piece of hot wood on the buttocks of the victim; salt, pepper, citron, cin-
ders,aloes, and hot ashes were poured on the bleeding wounds. Mutilations were common,
limbs, ears, and sometimes the private parts, to deprive them of the pleasures which they
could indulge in without expense. Their masters poured burning wax on their arms and
hands and shoulders, emptied the boiling cane sugar over their heads, burned them alive,
roasted them on slow fires, filled them with gunpowder and blew them up with a match;
buried them up to the neck and smeared their heads with sugar that the flies might
devour them; fastened them near to nests of ants or wasps; made them eat their excre-
ment, drink their urine, and lick the saliva of other slaves. One colonist was known in
moments of anger to throw himself on his slaves and stick his teeth into their flesh.7
Were these tortures, so well authenticated, habitual or were they merely isolated
incidents, the extravagances of a few half-crazed colonists? Impossible as it is to substan-
tiate hundreds of cases, yet all the evidence shows that these bestial practices were normal
features of slave life. The torture of the whip, for instance, had "a thousand refine-
ments," but there were regular varieties that had special names, so common were they.
When the hands and arms were tied to four posts on the ground, the slave was said to
undergo "the four post." If the slave was tied to a ladder it was "the torture of the lad-
der"; if he was suspended by four limbs it was "the hammock," etc. The pregnant woman
was not spared her "four-post." A hole was dug in the earth to accommodate the unborn
child. The torture of the collar was especially reserved for women who were suspected of
abortion, and the collar never left their necks until they had produced a child. The blow-
ing up of a slave had its own name-"to burn a little powder in the arse of a nigger":
obviously this was no freak but a recognized practice.
After an exhaustive examination, the best that de Vaissi'ere can say is that there
were good masters and there were bad, and his impression, "but only an impression," is
that the former were more numerous than the latter.
There are and always will be some who, ashamed of the behaviour of their ances-
tors, try to prove that slavery was not so bad after all, that its evils and its cruelty were
the exaggerations of propagandists and not the habitual lot of the slaves. Men will say
(and accept) anything in order to foster national pride or soothe a troubled conscience.
Undoubtedly there were kind masters who did not indulge in these refinements of cruelty
and whose slaves merely suffered over-work, under-nourishment and the whip. But the
slaves in San Domingo could not replenish their number by reproduction. After that
dreaded journey across the ocean a woman was usually sterile for two years. The life in
San Domingo killed them off fast. The planters deliberately worked them to death rather
than wait for children to grow up. But the professional white-washers are assisted by the
writings of a few contemporary observers who described scenes of idyllic beauty. One of
these is Vaublanc, whom we shall meet again, and whose testimony we will understand
better when we know more of him. In his memoirs8 he shows us a plantation on which
there were no prisons, no dungeons, no punishments to speak of. If the slaves were naked
the climate was such as not to render this evil, and those who complained forgot the per-
fectly disgusting rags that were so often seen in France. The slaves were exempt from un-
healthy, fatiguing, dangerous work such as was performed by the workers in Europe.
They did not have to descend into the bowels of the earth nor dig deep pits; they did not
construct subterranean galleries; they did not work in the factories where French workers
breathed a deadly and infected air; they did not mount elevated roofs; they did not carry
enormous burdens. The slaves, he concluded, had light work to do and were happy to do
it. Vaublanc, in San Domingo so sympathetic to the sorrows of labour in France, had to
fly from Paris in August, 1792, to escape the wrath of the French workers.
Malouet, who was an official in the colonies and fellow-reactionary of Vaublanc
against all change in the colonies, also sought to give some ideas of the privileges of sla-
very. The first he notes is that the slave, on attaining his majority, begins to enjoy "the
pleasures of love," and his master has no interest in preventing the indulgence of his
tastes.9 To such impertinent follies can the defence of property drive even an intelligent
man, supposed in his time to be sympathetic towards the blacks.
The majority of the slaves accommodated themselves to this unceasing brutality
by a profound fatalism and a wooden stupidity before their masters. "Why do you ill-
treat your mule in that way?" asked a colonist of a carter. "But when I do not work, I
am beaten, when he does not work, I beat him-he is my Negro." One old Negro, having
lost one of his ears and condemned to lose another, begged the Governor to spare it, for
if that too was cut off he would have nowhere to put his stump of cigarette. A slave sent
by his master into his neighbour's garden to steal, is caught and brought back to the man
who had only a few minutes before despatched him on the errand. The master orders
him a punishment of 100 lashes to which the slave submits without a murmur. When
caught in error they persisted in denial with the same fatalistic stupidity. A slave is accus-
ed of stealing a pigeon. He denies it. The pigeon is discovered hidden in his shirt. "Well,
well, look at that pigeon. It take my shirt for a nest." Through the shirt of another, a
master can feel the potatoes which he denies he has stolen. They are not potatoes, he
says, they are stones. He is undressed and the potatoes fall to the ground. "Eh! master.
The devil is wicked. Put stones, and look, you find potatoes."
On holidays when not working on their private plots, or dancing, they sat for hours
in front of their huts giving no sign of life. Wives and husbands, children and parents,
were separated at the will of the master, and a father and son would meet after many
years and give no greeting or any sign of emotion. Many slaves could never be got to stir
at all unless they were whipped.10 Suicide was a common habit, and such was their
disregard for life that they often killed themselves, not for personal reasons, but in order
to spite their owner. Life was hard and death, they believed, meant not only release but
a return to Africa. Those who wished to believe and to convince the world that the
slaves were half-human brutes, fit for nothing else but slavery, could find ample evidence
for their faith, and in nothing so much as in this homicidal mania of the slaves.
Poison was their method. A mistress would poison a rival to retain the valuable
affections of her inconstant owner. A discarded mistress would poison master, wife, child-
ren and slaves. A slave robbed of his wife by one of his masters would poison him, and
this was one of the most frequent causes of poisoning."1 If a planter conceived a passion
for a young slave, her mother would poison his wife with the idea of placing her daughter
at the head of the household. The slaves would poison the younger children of a master
in order to ensure the plantation succeeding to one son. By this means they prevented
the plantation being broken up and the gang dispersed. On certain plantations the slaves
decimated their number by poison so as to keep the number of slaves-small and prevent
their masters embarking on larger schemes which would increase the work. For this
reason a slave would poison his wife, another would poison his children, and a Negro
nurse declared in court that for years she had poisoned every child that she brought into
the world. Nurses employed in hospitals poisoned sick soldiers to rid themselves of un-
pleasant work. The slaves would even poison the property of a master whom they loved.
He was going away; they poisoned cows, horses and mules, the plantation was thrown
into disorder, and the beloved master was compelled to remain. The most dreadful of all
this cold-blooded murder was, however, the jaw-sickness-a disease which attacked child-
ren only, in the first few days of their existence. Their jaws were closed to such an extent
that it was impossible to open them and to get anything down, with the result that they
died of hunger. It was not a natural disease and never attacked children delivered by
white women. The Negro midwives alone could cause it, and it is believed that they per-
formed some simple operation on the newly-born child which resulted in the jaw-sickness.
Whatever the method this disease caused the death of nearly one-third of the children
born on the plantations.
What was the intellectual level of these slaves? The planters, hating them, called
them by every opprobious name. "The Negroes," says a memoir published in 1789, "are
unjust, cruel, barbarous, half-human, treacherous, deceitful, thieves, drunkards, proud,
lazy, unclean, shameless, jealous to fury, and cowards." It was by sentiments such as
these that they strove to justify the abominable cruelties they practised. And they took
great pains that the Negro should remain the brute beast they wanted him to be. "The
safety of the whites demands that we keep the Negroes in the most profound ignorance.
I have reached the stage of believing firmly that one must treat the Negroes as one treats
beasts." Such is the opinion of the Governor of Martinique in a letter addressed to the
Minister and such was the opinion of all colonists. Except for the Jews, who spared no
energy in making Israelites of their slaves, the majority of the colonists religiously kept all
instruction, religious or otherwise, away from the slaves.
Naturally there were all types of men among them, ranging from native chieftains,
as was the father of Toussaint L'Ouverture, to men who had been slaves in their own
country. The creole Negro was more docile than the slave who had been born in Africa.
Some said he was more intelligent. Others doubted that there was much difference
though the creole slave knew the language and was more familiar with his surroundings
and his work. Yet those who took the trouble to observe them away from their masters
and in their intercourse with each other did not fail to see that remarkable liveliness of
intellect and vivacity of spirit which so distinguish their descendants in the West Indies
to-day. Father du Tertre, who knew them well, noted their secret pride and feeling of
superiority to their masters, the difference between their behaviour before their masters
and when they were by themselves. De Wimpffen, an exceptionally observant and able
traveller, was also astonished at this dual personality of the slaves. "One has to hear with
what warmth and what volubility, and at the same time with what precision of ideas and
accuracy of judgement, this creature, heavy and taciturn all day, now squatting before his
fire, tells stories, talks, gesticulates, argues, passes opinions, approves or condemns both
his master and everyone who surrounds him." It was this intelligence which refused to be
crushed, these latent possibilities, that frightened the colonists, as it frightens the whites
in Africa to-day. "No species of men has more intelligence," wrote Hilliard d'Auberteuil,
a colonist, in 1784, and had his book banned.
But one does not need education or encouragement to cherish a dream of freedom.
At their midnight celebration of Voodoo, their African cult, they danced and sang, usual-
ly this favourite song:
Eh! Eh! Bomba! Heu! Heu!
Canga bafio te!
Canga, moune' de le'!
Canga, do ki la!
"We swear to destroy the whites and all that they possess; let us die rather than fail to
keep this vow."
The colonists knew this song and tried to stamp it out, and the Voodoo cult with
which it was linked. In vain. For over two hundred years the slaves sang it at their meet-
ings, as the Jews in Babylon sang of Zion, and the Bantu today sing in secret the national
anthem of Africa.12
All the slaves, however, did not undergo this regime. There was a small privileged
caste, the foremen of the gangs, coachmen, cooks, butlers, maids, nurses, female com-
panions, and other house-servants. These repaid their kind treatment and comparatively
easy life with a strong attachment to their masters, and have thus enabled Tory historians,
regius professors and sentimentalists to represent plantation slavery as a patriarchal rela-
tion between master and slave. Permeated with the vices of their masters and mistresses,
these upper servants gave themselves airs and despised the slaves in the fields. Dressed in
cast-off silks and brocades, they gave balls in which, like trained monkeys, they danced
minuets and quadrilles, and bowed and curtseyed in the fashion of Versailles. But a few
of these used their position to cultivate themselves, to gain a little education, to learn all
they could. The leaders of a revolution are usually those who have been able to profit by
the cultural advantages of the system they are attacking, and the San Domingo revolution
was no exception to this rule.
Christophe, afterwards Emperor of Haiti, was a slave-a waiter in a public hotel at
Cap Francois, where he made use of his opportunities to gain a knowledge of men and of
the world. Toussaint L'Ouverture'3 also belonged to this small and privileged caste. His
father, son of a petty chieftain in Africa, was captured in war, sold as a slave and made
the journey in a slave-ship. He was bought by a colonist of some sensibility, who, recog-
nising that this Negro was an unusual person, allowed him a certain liberty on the planta-
tion and the use of five slaves to cultivate a plot of land. He became a Catholic, married
a woman who was both beautiful and good, and Toussaint was the eldest of his eight
children. Near to the household lived an old Negro, Pierre Baptiste, remarkable for his
integrity of character and a smattering of knowledge. The Negroes spoke a debased
French known as creole. But Pierre knew French, also a little Latin and a little geometry,
which he had learned from a missionary. Pierre Baptiste became Toussaint's godfather
and taught his godson the rudiments of French; using the services of the Catholic Church
he instructed him also in the rudiments of Latin; Toussaint learned also to draw. The
young slaves had the care of the flocks and herds, and this was Toussaint's early occupa-
tion. But his father, like many other Africans, had some knowledge of medicinal plants
and taught Toussaint what he knew. The elements of an education, his knowledge of
herbs, his unusual intelligence, singled him out, and he was made coachman to his master.
This brought him further means of comfort and self-education. Ultimately he was made
steward of all the live-stock on the estate -a responsible post which was usually held by a
white man. If Toussaint's genius came from where genius comes, yet circumstances con-
spired to give him exceptional parents and friends and a kind master.
But the number of slaves who occupied positions with such opportunities was in-
finitely small in comparison with the hundreds of thousands who bore on their bent
backs the whole structure of San Domingo society. All of them did not submit to it.
Those whose boldness of spirit found slavery intolerable and refused to evade it by com-
mitting suicide, would fly to the woods and mountains and form bands of free men -
maroons. They fortified their fastnesses with palisades and ditches. Women followed
them. They reproduced themselves. And for a hundred years before 1789 the maroons
were a source of danger to the colony. In 1720, 1,000 slaves fled to the mountains. In
1751 there were at least 3.000 of them. Usually they formed separate bands, but periodi-
cally they found a chief who was strong enough to unite the different sections. Many of
these rebel leaders struck terror into the hearts of the colonists by their raids on the
plantations and the strength and determination of the resistance they organised against
attempts to exterminate them. The greatest of these chiefs was Mackandal.
He conceived the bold design of uniting all the Negroes and driving the whites out
of the colony. He was a Negro from Guinea who had been a slave in the district of Limbe',
later to become one of the great centres of the revolution. Mackandal was an orator, in
the opinion of a white contemporary equal in eloquence to the European orators of the
day, and different only in his superior strength and vigour. He was fearless and, though
one-handed from an accident, had a fortitude of spirit which he knew how to perserve in
the midst of the most cruel tortures. He claimed to predict the future; like Mahomet he
had revelations: he persuaded his followers that he was immortal and exercised such a
hold over them that they considered it an honour to serve him on their knees; the hand-
somest women fought for the privilege of being admitted to his bed. Not only did his
band raid and pillage plantations far and wide, but he himself ranged from plantation to
plantation to make converts. stimulate his followers, and perfect his great plan for the
destruction of while civilisation in San Domingo. An uninstructed mass, feeling its way
to revolution, usually begins by terrorism. and Mackandal aimed at delivering his people
by means of poison. For six years he built up his organisation, he and his followers poi-
soning not only whites but disobedient members of their own band. Then he arranged
that on a particular day the water of every house in the capital of the province was to be
poisoned, and the general attack made on the whites while they were in the convulsions
and anguish of death. He had lists of all members of his party in each slave gang; appoint-
ed captains, lieutenants and other officers; arranged for bands of Negroes to leave the
town and spread over the plains to massacre the whites. His temerity was the cause of his
downfall. He went one day to a plantation, got drunk and was betrayed, and being cap-
tured was burnt alive.
The Mackandal rebellion never reached fruition and it was the only hint of an
organised attempt at revolt during the hundred years preceding the French Revolution.
The slaves seemed eternally resigned, though here and there a slave was manumitted or
purchased his freedom from his owner. From their masters came no talk of future eman-
cipation. The San Domingo colonists said that slavery was necessary, and for them that
finished the argument. Legislation passed for the protection of the slaves remained on
paper in face of the dictum that a man could do as he liked with his own. "All laws,
however just and humane they may be, in favour of Negroes will always be a violation
of the rights of property if they are not sponsored by the colonists. . All laws on pro-
perty are just only if they are supported by the opinion of those who are interested in
them as proprietors." This was still white opinion at the beginning of the French Revo-
lution. Not only planters but officials made it quite clear that whatever the penalties for
the illtreatment of slaves, these could never be enforced. The slaves might understand
that they had rights, which would be fatal to the peace and well-being of the colony. That
was why a colonist never hesitated at the multilation, the torture or the murder of a slave
who had cost him thousands of francs. "The Ivory Coast is a good mother" was a colo-
nial proverb. Slaves could always be bought, and profits were always high.
1. See the works of Professor Emil Torday, one of the greatest African scholars of his time, parti-
cularly a lecture delivered at Geneva in 1931 to a Society for the Protection of Children in Africa.
3. See Pierre de Vaissicre, Saint-Domingue, 1629-1789 (Paris, 1909). This contains an admirable
4. Ibid., p. 162.
5. This was the beginning and end of his education.
6. Girod-Chantrans, Voyage d'un Suisse en differentes colonies (Neufch2tel, 1785), p. 137.
7. De Vaissicre, op. cit., pp. 153 94. The author uses chiefly official reports in the French Colo-
nial archives, and other documents of the period, giving specific references in each case.
8. Quoted extensively in de Vaissiere, op. cit., pp. 198-202.
9. Ibid., p. 196.
10. Incredible as this may sound Baron de Wimpffen gives it as the evidence of his own eyes. His
record of his visit to San Domingo in 1790 is a standard work. A good selection, with very full
notes, is published, under the title Saint-Domingue a la veille de la Revolution, Albert Savine,
ed. (Paris, 1911).
11. See Dr. Norman Leys, Kenya (London, 1926), p. 184. "Some rivalry for a native woman is
probably the explanation of most crimes of violence committed by Africans against Europeans
12. Such observations, written in 1938, were intended to use the San Domingo revolution as a fore-
cast of the future of colonial Africa.
13. As a slave he was called Toussaint Brdda.
WEST INDIAN PERSONALITY*
National characteristics exist. There is no question about that but they are very difficult
to define. You take a very famous book written by the Dutch writer UndZeinger on the
middle ages. He said that the people of the Middle Ages lived at an enormous emotional
tension. There were always weepings, protestations, great outbursts of laughter, tears,
gnashing of teeth, joy at a pitch that is very different from the way we live today. And he
says that this is characteristic of the middle ages as a whole. And reading Chaucer as I
have had to do recently, that indication by UndZeinger gave me an insight into much of
Chaucer that I had missed on previous occasions. Now that phase of development, which
as I say must have incorporated all the nations of Western Europe has gone. Nevertheless
there are certain national characteristics which persist. For instance Etiene des Champs
who has written on the middle ages, says that if you read the writings, even some of the
religious writings, of the men on Britain in the 13th century, you will find a mental
approach, empiricism, a concern with individual things, a love of nature, and a certain
spirituality which he says characterises the British people to this day. Again in France
the Fabliau stories some of them must be about 1,000 years old, are permeated with
the spirit of what we call today we still call the esprit Gaulois that is a perpetual
concern and delight in the complications which result from intimate relations between
men and women. Then there are equally violent national breaks. England was known for
many years all over Europe, as "Merrie England". Whatever the virtues of the English
people and their particular characteristics. I don't think that they themselves today would
claim to be particularly merry. So that we have this remarkable phenomenon that the
National characteristics certain of them persist and certain others disappear and
change. I am very conscious of this whenever I am speaking about the national charac-
teristics of West Indians.
That is, for the most part, I have been dealing with Europeans. I have lived in
America for many years, and the Americans, I find, are not very close to the British
in national character. I have discussed this with many people and we have come to the
conclusion, that an Englishman, despite the affinity of language and Uncle Sam and
John Bull and all of this. . an Englishman is far closer in fundamental attributes, to
Europe and the European civilization, than he is to the Americans. And from such
*Lecture delivered as part of an Open Lecture series at the University College of the West Indies
(UCWI). Mona. in the Michaelmas Term (1959-60).
little contact as I have had with Australians and with people who know them, it is clear
that there is an affinity of national temper and outlook between Australians and Ameri-
cans. We have got in the West Indies this European background. I have been speaking
about the British and the French. We have this British and French background and
tradition very strongly in us. But also we are a new people as the Americans and the
Australians are new people and have developed certain characteristics which separate
them from the Europeans to whom they are so closely related racially and like us in
the foundations of their civilization. This makes the West Indian type a very fascinating
type to study. Here I am speaking for the most part of the middle class people whom
I saw to a large degree in England and the United States. It is not a finished type, but I
think we, here in Jamaica, Trinidad, all of us, all of our Caribbean neighbours, we are
neighbours, to each other . Nevertheless there is a little more than being near neigh-
bours, we have certain characteristics which distinguish us. It was very noticeable to me
during my years abroad. It is in many ways a very attractive type. It is very graceful in
manner and style, quick of wit, extremely intellignet, and more than average intelligence.
I am astonished always at the number of men and women of remarkable ability, whom
we produce in various fields, in proportion to our small numbers. And it is being very
much noticed both in England and the United States. To what extent this is due to the
particular circumstances under which we live. I don't know. I have an idea that living on
small islands where all aspects of life are concentrated and the climate also must have
influence upon our development, it is possible that there is the mixture of races. I believe
that we will learn a lot about ourselves by studying the civic state of ancient Greece.
But the fact remains that we make this extraordinary impact upon the people as social
personalities. Furthermore the people abroad like us a great deal.
I believe that they recognize that we are a tropical development of their civilization,
but at the same time we have no native language, no native culture, no native traditions
which separate us from them, so that they like us and in that environment we flourish.
But as I say, the type is not a finished type although its outlines are already clear. Let
me say what I noticed in one particular respect, when I returned to the West Indies after
twenty-five years absence. Then the process of development strikes you very strongly
because the gap has been wide. I noticed for example in the West Indies that the West
Indian personalities, the majority of the people. . they are very easy now in their rela-
tions with white people whether native or from abroad. It wasn't so when I was here
25 26 years ago. We were extremely self conscious about it. And they also were self
conscious. But with the advancement of democracy, and the appearance of people of
colour in all spheres, and also the fact that our people are able to go abroad and compete
successfully with representatives of far richer, larger, and more advanced countries, has
resulted in great confidence in this rather important relation. So that you see the West
Indian type in changing, it is undergoing a rapid development. And yet we miss something.
I know, I have noticed it in Trinidad where I have lived for the most part these days, and
I wonder if you in Jamaica will have noticed it among yourselves, or among your neigh-
bours. It is this. We lack what I will call a back to the seat on which we are sitting. It was
very noticeable the other evening when I spoke to some students at the U.C.W.I. They
were a very attractive bunch of people. If you compare them to the English, they were
more alert and more responsive than an English body of students. I have spoken to them
many times, and they were sort of so to speak, quicker on the emotional and the intel-
lectual draw. When you speak to a body of English students about literature, you can
almost feel the confidence from which they start. . Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare, The
Victorians, Dryden and the rest of them, they know that they have taken a splendid
place in the history of the literature of the world, and they can discuss with great ease
from this background. They are safely ensconced somewhere. You speak to French
students and you will find their consciousness that France has the reputation of being
the Mother of Laws and of civilization. Americans by the way and Australians too are
very self conscious when they are in Europe before the sophistication and the reserve of
the European and his consciousness of his background. But the Americans are increasingly
conscious of the fact that they occupy a great position in the world and that they are a
nation of great wealth and power. What I found absent there and I am looking for these
things, over the years you get into the habit of doing so, our Caribbean neighbours who
were concentrated in embryo so to speak, a representative group of the University
did not have that background that the others have instinctively. We will have to work
for it. I believe it will complete the West Indian type when we have that consciousness.
I watch the young people today. They have much greater confidence than I had and
my generation had. I have said very little about the working people. They set off you
remember what began in 1938. I have seen them in England and do not think that all
their lives in England are concerned with fighting against racial prejudice. It is not so.
Many of them are making a place for themselves. They are learning. . they are being
influenced by European British civilization, but they also are influencing the British
people. I believe that they will be decisive ultimately in the way the West Indian person-
ality finally shapes itself. That however is a broad subject and would take us not only
into politics, but into speculation, and this is neither the time nor the place for that.
But there is a West Indian personality. It has many very attractive features, it is in process
of change: to the degree that we establish ourselves as a nation, it will strengthen the
weak spots, and I believe in time, the West Indian personality will be recognized and
known, accepted and also very much liked.
IMMIGRANTS TO BRITAIN:
FORMERLY COLONIAL PEOPLES*
C. L. R. JAMES
Now, we have come to the end of the three-part series of lectures. I am very much aware
that it's a three part affair. I hope you are also. It's very good to see people who came the
first time have returned. That is a very good sign. But this lecture is going to be somewhat
different. I'm going to do a certain amount of introduction but, hitherto, most of the
lectures have gone from me to you. This time, I hope, much will be coming from you to
me, otherwise we wouldn't have used as much of the space and time as we should have
done. I'm expecting much of you, but there are one or two things that I have to say
to begin with.
First of all, these three lectures. The first was 'Socialism or Barbarism'. I think we
got clear as to how far society had progressed towards barbarism, and there are one or
two things I want to add about socialism, but that can wait till later.
The next lecture dealt with 'Two English-Speaking Democracies'. In other words,
we took a universal characteristic of society and saw how that applied to two important
countries who were together in that they spoke the same language. I hope I made it very
clear that the state of affairs in the United States was very different from the state of
affairs in Great Britain.
Now, today, we come to the immigrants. By immigrants I mean the black people
from the Caribbean, black people from Africa, Asians from Pakistan and from India,
those who are here nearly three million, I believe. Now, I want to speak about the role
you have played in the past and the role you will have to play. The first thing I want you
to get out of your mind is that you are not visitors here. The other day the English
cricket team going to the Caribbean selected a Barbadian. I could have told in advance
that, if it was one of us, it would have been a Barbadian [laughter]. Well, he said that he
was a bit disturbed at first least the West Indian people should object to his playing for
England, but he thought that in the end that is what he had to do. He said, 'I live here,
I'm married, my son is being brought up here'. He said, 'Who else can I play for?' I don't
think the West Indian people are going to do him anything. I don't think so. If anything
*Reprinted from CLR JAMES'S 80th Birthday Lectures, edited by Margaret Busby and Darcus Howe,
Race Today Publications, 165 Railton Road, London SE24 OLU, 1984.
happens it will be brought up by other people but the average West Indian person is not
going to be subject to that.
Now, you belong here. You are living here, part of the English society. That means
you have to take part in it. You have to join or not join as the case may be. And what
we discussed the second time was the Labour Party. Now what I want to say is that one
can join or not join the Labour Party. There are certain places in England where if you
don't join the Labour Party you join nothing else. I remember Aneurin Bevan used to say,
'I never joined the Labour Party, I was brought up in it', and many of your young people
or your children are going to be people who have been brought up in Britain and have to
make decisions as British people. But that does not limit your situation at all. You have
to be able to understand something of the history of this country, wherever you came
from. You're living here, you must understand something about Great Britain. You have
to do that. Maybe you do it in school, maybe you do it out of school. But, at any rate,
you have to understand that part of the colonial population wasn't brought here and
others didn't grow up here. You are living in another country and you belong here. You
have to know something about the country. You have to know something about the
Labour Party and the various other parties. It is imperative that you know that if you are
going to live here and take part.
But there is something else that I want to add. You also represent those places from
which you have come. Unless the man from the Caribbean is able to talk about the Carib-
bean people and relate the kind of society that exists there with here, then he is not
undertaking the responsibility that history has placed on him. When 3 million people who
were colonials come to the metropolitan country, that's quite an event you know. That's
an historical event of immense importance. You have to know something about the
country and you have to relate something about the Caribbean where you come from.
Now the people of India have a special responsibility. India is one of the most
important countries in the world. Much of the future of the world depends on what
happens in India. If India went tomorrow the way China went a few years ago, then the
whole of the Far East and Middle East would be thrown into great upheaval and disorder.
Much is depending upon India. And those people who come from India and who are here,
and from Pakistan too, have to be able to tell the British people and other colonial people
what is going on in your countries. I'm very much concerned with that country because
of where it is placed, what happened there and what has not happened in India. In Trini-
dad where I come from, half the population is Indian, so I feel involved with them in
spite of myself. So those are two things you have to do. Number one, you have to be able
to find out something about the country you are living in now and you have to be able
to report the state of the colonial territory you come from. You are not supposed to
know all of them. You can't know all, but each one, from the country you come from,
you ought to be able to speak about it.
Now, I have one or two things to say about the fact of two or three million of you
living here in Britain. You are not at the back of British society. You occupy a peculiar
place in it and I can best explain that by taking up the position of black people in the
United States. The position of black people in Britain is not the same. Black people have
been nipped fundamentally into the structure of the United States in certain positions.
You are not that way. You only came here very recently. But, nevertheless, what happen-
ed to them indicates what can happen to you and I can state it quite simply. In every
upheaval in the United States, the black people have always been foremost. Now that
might come as a great shock to many of you, that the black people have led politically in
the struggles that are taking place. Take the Civil War and the War of Independence in
1776. George Washington, Jefferson and the rest began and they said they didn't want
any blacks in their armies. But the British were very revolutionary in regard to the racial
question. They said that for blacks to be slaves was a shame. 'If you come over to us then
we would be glad to set you free'. As many of the blacks that remained from certain
states came over to the British side. The British didn't set them free. They sold them to
the West Indies or they brought them to Britain. But the fact remains that those blacks
were ready to decide that their freedom was more important to them than the national
struggle that- the American people were talking about. So that, politically, they were not
in the back and ultimately that event was very important to those that were left behind.
The Americans realized that they had better bring the blacks into the army. First, they
needed them and, secondly, they were carrying on a great agitation and thirdly, if they
didn't take them, some of them would go on over to the other side. So in the end they
brought them into the army and they played a most important role in that 1776 War.
Now we come to the greatest event in the history of the United States the Civil
War that lasted from 1860 to 1865. Now the Civil War didn't come at once. From 1830
to 1860 they were getting ready and the blacks in the South were getting ready too, and
they were getting out of the South. One black woman, Harriet Tubman, she went in and
brought out secretly 300 blacks at a time. Now that is quite something, you know. 300
blacks. And she didn't make any nonsense. She carried a gun and some of the blacks used
to find it difficult and she would say either you go or you stay just where you are because
she couldn't afford for them to make any noise. They'd give the children a pill to keep
them quiet, which was legitimate in those circumstances. She brought out 300 at a time.
So, from 1830 to 1860, they had tried revolution in the South and they came out. And
there was a special road that they took called the Underground Railroad. So, from 1830
to 1860 that was a constant cause of irritation between the North and the South. And
they would settle on some terms and they would have an agreement. But they couldn't
keep the agreement because the blacks kept coming. Finally, the South said, "Well, we
want in the agreement that you will fight to capture the escaped slaves,' and the whites
of the North said, 'To hell with that, we don't mind you having your slaves; the Consti-
tution said you could have them, but we're not going to be any slave catchers for you.'
And that is one of the reasons why the war took place. The slave business of the South
and the unrest of the slaves kept up a constant cause of dispute and disagreement
between the North and the South. Secondly, Abraham Lincoln had said that if we lost
those blacks who were fighting for us 200,000 of them and who had served us in
various ways we would lose the war in three weeks. At a certain stage the blacks were
absolutely necessary to the winning of this war by the North, and you know what role
that has played in history either positive or negative, but it was a tremendous struggle and
the blacks were decisive.
Now, I give you my own experience. That was what they found out; that the blacks
were absolutely necessary for the North to win the South. Then there was a great move-
ment in the United States called the Populist movement about 1890. The farmers and
workers were joining together. And I went to America and I was studying the history and
I saw the blacks in the American War of Independence and I saw the blacks in the Civil
War and then comes the great movement, the populist movement, and I don't see any
blacks. So a person working with me, Raya Dunayevskaya, I told her, 'Raya, look and go
and see for me please if there are not some blacks in the populist movement.' she turned
up the same day or the next day. You know how many she brought? A million. There
was a million in the Colored Farmers' Association but the historians had not bothered
with them. And they played a tremendous role in the populist movement. So right
through history to the present time, I think I referred to it last time, in the United States,
blacks have played a tremendous role. I don't think there is much history of the twenti-
eth century that will leave out the Rev. Martin Luther King. I can't go into it but King
was one of the reasons and his activity was one of the reasons why so many blacks voted
for Carter, why Carter got in. He got in, people helped him. He got out, he did that him-
self [laughter]. So that, at the present time, the blacks complain they have no leaders.
They say, 'We have always had: We had Frederick Douglass, we had W. E. B. DuBois, we
had Paul Robeson, we had Martin Luther King, we had Malcolm X but now we have
nobody." And I told them, "Look at what has happened to Martin Luther King, what
happened to Malcolm X?" They were shot. And the Kennedy brothers who were sympa-
thetic, they were shot too. So that, today, to come forward to be a black leader you have
to be asking for it. You may not get it but you are putting yourself in line. And there's
a certain man today who I think is the most important man of all, a man named Vernon
Jordan of the Urban League. And the Urban League are the most inoffensive people. The
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People make some claims, nobody
pays much attention to them, but the Urban League doesn't even make a claim. And they
shot Vernon Jordan, which came as a great shock to me. Because I know what Jordan used
to say. Jordan used to say, 'Mr. President, you promised us this and this and this and you
haven't given us any.' That was the limit of the revolutionary activity of Vernon Jordan
and yet he was shot. That was a warning that they don't want any black people to stir up that
tremendous burst of activity. They know it's just there. I know, I've been there for ten
years. They don't want anybody to say anything. The President must not be sympathetic
and no blacks can come forward. They have to stay right there.
I spoke last time of one thing that was said by a Mr. Moynihan. He's a very talkative
Senator. Most American senators talk. I don't know if Moynihan talks well but he talks a
lot. And it seems as if some of the white youths were talking and saying, 'Well, look here,
what have you agreed? Look at the black people we have promised to do this and that
and the other and we say we are democratic; the black people are not satisfied and we
ought to do something.' And Moynihan made what was destined to be a famous reply.
He said, 'Look, we have to make up our minds but we have to treat the black people with
benign neglect.' Benign neglect, that's a great phrase, remember it, please. Benigh neglect.
Why benigh? Because they're absolutely right. They can take the Constitution and show
us that is what you say every American is, but it says we have to neglect them. We can't
do anything about it. To do something about the blacks in the United States means a
complete alteration of the United States as it is today.
Now you are not in the same situation but you have the same basic political situa-
tion in that you are a part of a society that claims to be democratic, which claims to be
this, that and the other and denies you those claims that they make. So you are in a posi-
tion where you can say this and that we are outside and we want to know why. And the
situation of black people and people from Pakistan and people from India is going to get
worse and worse every year. By 'worse' I mean most dissatisfied with the situation
because the children will have not been born abroad, they will be born here, they will go
to school here, they will not know any foreign language, they will be British in their
general outlook and they will feel it as their parents have not felt it when they are
deprived of the things that every Britisher ought to have. So we must prepare for a situa-
tin that is constantly developing, putting you more and more into a situation where you
will be in the vanguard of the revolutionary elements in this society. And don't be afriad
of it, please.
There is one more thing I want to add. You ought to speak about your country or
where you came from or where your parents came from. Don't hesitate to point out that
the politics that most of them are carrying out are much worse than the politics in
Britain. I'm not going to call any names because I know that nobody has any bombs to
throw, but, nevertheless, I'm not going to call names; but in country after country -
and I can say it confidently because I come from the Caribbean the governments are, of
the most reactionary, some of them are the most counter-revolutionary that we have
experienced. They have no sympathy at all for the ordinary black people. Some of them
in the Caribbean have been caught making arrangements with South Africa, to put part
of their territories at the disposal of South Africa so that arms and so forth can go to
South Africa from Western Europe and the United States.
Certain of the governments in the Caribbean islands are unable to say that the gov-
ernments of India are no more praiseworthy or respectable than themselves. But when you
are speaking about them please make it clear that in the world at large you are expecting
equal or even greater changes in the Third World countries, as much as you expect them
in the advanced countries: those governments have won independence, but that is all they
have got. Independence, they have a national flag, they have an anthem, they even have a
prime minister, although some of them get rid of him and put the general in. But never-
theless that is all.
They have the habit in Africa of saying they have African socialism. That is a non
sequitur: there is nothing socialist about it at all and you must be able to say that. And
you must be able to educate the British people and in particular the British worker about
the counter-revolutionary state of the countries with which you are associated because
your parents were born there or you were born there. You must make it clear and that
gives you more power to say. 'They are no good; that they have to be changed, and here
you are no good either, you have to be changed.' That, I believe, is the position you
ought to hold in regard to the work that you have to do.
Now the Labour Party, I spoke about the Labour Party last time. I don't say never
join the Labour Party. The first thing I want to make clear is to know what the Labour
Party is, and where the Labour Party has come from and where the Labour Party is going
and where it is not going. I noticed in the press today that certain people are prepared to
leave the Labour Party. Why? It is becoming too revolutionary. I mean to say. They are
now social democratic. They are a little bit shortsighted because Marx gave a wonderful
example, and I will say so, of the origin of social democracy. He says, the socialist puts
forward as little socialism as possible and the democrat puts forward as much democracy
as possible to make the socialist look better and he says that is the origin of the social
democracy. And these fellows get fed up with the Labour Party because it is too left
and they don't know enough to get another name, now they are a social democratic
party part social and part democratic but not a mixture of the two. Same as the Euro-
communist, they are part for this and part for that. There is a great deal of part-of-
this and part-of-that in the situation today. I want it to be clear that you who have come
from abroad, maybe you were trained abroad or your children were brought here, have
every right to be in the front-rank of all those who are seeking to change society. I can't
imagine the nerve of those people in the Labour Party who today are saying that the
Labour Party is too much to the left and therefore they are going to the right to form a
new party, social democracy. Who is too much to the left? Who was the last prime
minister Callaghan, or whatever his name was which left was he in? Now they have
put Michael Foot. Foot finds it difficult to move along he's always laughterl . well,
he is in a lot of trouble. But that Michael Foot is too much to the left is so much
nonsense. The next thing we shall hear is that Dennis Healey was not made the leader of
the Labour Party because he was too much to the left. That I don't think will come, I
would be quite astonished. So that is now the last word on what constitutes Labour, the
I read to you from Lenin. I am not going to do that again but I am going to give
you an unmistakable example: the Hungarian revolution. This is what the Hungarian
workers said after having been trained carefully and brought up by the Marxist Party.
They threw out the communists and they said: 'The trade-union council praesidium
recommends that workers and employees, clerical workers embark on the introduction of
worker management in factories, workshops, mines and everywhere else. They should
elect workers councils.' Now, after being educated by the Stalinists that is what they did.
I don't think anybody will find that the working class here is not able to do that. 'Regard-
ing the functioning of the workers' councils, we will recommend that workers should be
elected by all workers of the factory,workshop or mine in question: a meeting called to
carry out the election should decide the method of election. Recommendations for
workers' council membership should be presented as a general rule by the work council
or by a worker who commands respect. Depending on the size of the enterprise, the
workers' council should generally consist of 21 to 27 members, including proportionate
representation of every group of workers. In factories employing less than 100 workers
all workers may be included in the vote of confidence. Workers' councils should elect,
should decide all questions connected with production, administration and management
of the plant.' Now, those were the backward Hungarian workers. I think a person will
have a hell of a nerve to tell me that British workers are not able to do that. They are be-
ing prevented. There are obstacles in the way, but I know them quite well. I have lived
in the north of England and being very familiar with the place that used to be called
'Little Moscow' [Nelson, Lancashire] and they are perfectly able, in fact they helped to
educate me. When I told them that I had just come from the Caribbean, I said, 'We want
independence, you know, and we hope the Labour Party will give it to us.' Those workers
said: 'You make a mistake.' They said, 'Ramsay McDonald, Henderson. Felix Snowdon,
Morrison, they never gave us anything and we put them there: why do you think they
would give you any? You are making a mistake. you will find out.' That's what I learnt
from them in 1932. 1 don't believe that workers today, 1980, don't know exactly what is
happening. So that's what you have to do, and there I think I want to stop . except
that you join your trade union. That is the natural instinctive defence and weapon of
attack of the working-class movement, the trade unions. The Labour Party is the political
arm which has been constructed from the mass of the trade-union movement, so while
you have to join the trade-union movement, you are not bound to join the Labour Party.
You may join it; the point is that you should know what you are doing and be aware
when you are in it. What I think that matters, and I have spoken about, is that at the
present time there are organizations outside of the trade-union movement, the women'
movement, shop stewards' committees, ethnically based committees, everywhere they
are coming out. It is the belief of this person, Hilary Wainwright. that really the future of
the Labour movement in Britain rests with these committees. It is no use looking to the
left of the Labour Party. The left of the Labour Party has been there for fifty years and
it has never moved at all. It moves out and then some more come into the spot, but they
do the same as the previous left. Do you know Harold Wilson was one-time leader of the
left yes, and he was leading Barbara Castle and a whole lot of people. So now it
depends on you; it is these committees, and I see that E. P. Thompson, who a lot of
people criticise (and I am not going to spend my time criticising Thompson. I have a lot
to learn from him), Thompson says that in the past, the movements that have brought
democracy to Britain, have always been libertarian movements that were outside
of the traditional movements. There was one time when the Tory party and the
Liberal party were everything and then these people formed something outside of the
regular, and people wondered, 'what are you doing why did you form that thing?' and
Mr. Lloyd-George was very clever, he started the welfare state and went to the House
of Lords and altered its composition. He did that to stop the socialists, but he didn't
stop them and today the Liberal Party consists of scraps of people and a lot of people
wishing to be Labour. But you have to do something of your own, be not afraid to form
these libertarian movements outside of the regular parties. Trade unions yes; you may
join the Labour Party to fight against what is going on but strictly speaking, your chief aim
should be the formation and support of these extra parliamentary bodies.
I think I have covered enough of the ground. What I want to hear tonight, in parti-
cular to conclude this series properly, is to hear from you. What you have to say, what
you have to ask me, on any of the past three lectures and any points which you think
that I should have touched upon or I haven't been clear upon, or anything that you wish
to say. It is good to see so many of you who were here on the previous occasions back
here again. Now it's up to you ...
Question: You haven't really said anything about what you think black people should
be doing politically, as a political force themselves in this country, not simply
in relation to their work places, trade unions or the Labour Party do you
see, for instance, the building of a black party?
CLR: No, 1 don't see the building of a black party. First of all, it is sure not to
e successful; that happens, you have to remember, because of these parties
who are in control of the situation: one of the first things they will be
concerned about is the defence of themselves . .Well. I'm not saying to form
a party but I will give you one example: the Race Today people who brought
me here I personally think that that is wonderful, that's a stage forward
[laughter and applause they produce a paper (and in the last issue I had
an article and I can tell you I said what I pleased in that article . .) I think
that is fine. That's the kind of thing I mean. And I hear that there are shop
stewards' committees . and I hear also that there are ethnic committees. I
hear a lot of the Pakistanis are carrying on a number of political struggles in
various places, Bradford and other places. That is the kind of thing I am
talking about. You needn't form a political party to go to Parliament, you
know, that is exactly what these people are making clear. There is no need to
do that. I wish you luck if you try to form a party in the United States
against the Democrats and Republicans; they both would join together to
keep you out . Don't be so concerned about Parliament, it's the people
who matter . .These independent organizations are the basis of the organisa-
tion of the future.
Question: Mr. James, could I just ask you to give us a brief run-down on Garvey and
repatriation, as far as black youth are concerned about going back to
CLR: Now. Garvey was a remarkable man. Before Garvey there was no black move-
ment anywhere. Since Garvey there has been a continuous black movement
and Nkrumah, who was the first of the African revolutionaries, was educated
abroad in the United States, went to two colleges there and he used to lecture
at a Pennsylvania university. He came here and met George Padmore and was
educated by Padmore politically but he always had first in his mind Marcus
Garvey ... All of us stand on the shoulders of Marcus Garvey. There is plenty
to say against Garvey, but nothing you can say against Garvey can ever
weaken the things, the positive things, that Garvey did. Now, you have to be
careful. He said, 'Back to Africa', but I don't believe Garvey ever meant that;
he was too intelligent a man to think that a lot of people could go to Africa
and get a piece of Africa, I don't think so. What Garvey signified was resist-
ance . He said, 'Lenin organised the workers of the world, I organise the
black people of the world'. He had the big conference in New York, with
20,000 people. Bobby Hill, who has done a lot of investigation about Garvey,
has been to London and gone to the army records and the Colonial Office
records and so forth. He is finding that many people in various parts of Africa
whom Garvey knew nothing about formed organizations and made demands
calling themselves Garveyites . Garvey never knew anything about them
That is what Garvey symbolised, and today people who are doing
historical theses may point out some of the things that Garvey did wrong.
But from no platform at all am I going to say anything against Marcus
Garvey, who is the originator of the movement which allows me to sit here
and Darcus Howe to be with Race Today. But when Garvey said 'Back to
Africa' I don't think he was too certain about that. There is no repatriation
that I can see . If you want to organise repatriation, go ahead, but I don't
think there is much in it ... The idea of repatriation turns you away from the
kind of programme that faces you in Britain here. fApplause.]
Question: In terms of the Western powers' relations with the West Indies, what advice
can you give the people in the West Indies?
CLR: Sir, I wrote and published in 1933 The Case for West Indian Self-Govern-
ment, that's a long time ago. And now they have had self-government since
1963, but in reality the old colonial regime and the colonial finance powers
still rule the Caribbean. So at present you have not only the national flag and
the national anthem, and a prime minister to go and beg for money, but you
need to get rid of that domination: and I am glad to say I have been in the
Caribbean for the last eighteen months the population is very much aware
of that. But these people who are in charge there behave to the population in
exactly the same way as the Labour leaders here behave to the mass of the
population. It's a thing that is universal, and I am saying that if you join the
Labour Party here you ought to be able to say, 'In the colonial territories we
have experience of the kind of leadership that you are giving.' So you have a
double role to play. You have been in double difficulty and you have a
double political responsibility to be in the forefront of those who are
attacking the leadership here, or seeking to form something, and to make it
clear to people here what is happening in the colonial territories. That's the
job to be done. I know the beginning and I know what took place, who stood
in the way and what has happened, and what those who have inherited are
doing instead. They killed Walter Rodney, one of the best of the young Carib-
bean people, a man of international reputation. They killed him. I'm not tell-
ing you to go and get killed but go and fight.
Question: I think one of the problems that members of ethnic minorities of all sorts as
well as black people find is that a lot of socialists don't recognize the parti-
cular problems faced by immigrants, beyond those faced by the white work-
ing class. They try and subsume these type of problems under the general
problems of the working class and they try to pretend the class struggle is
absolutely everything and that there are no particular problems, racial
problems; I think this can sometimes amount to racism on the part of mem-
bers of working-class organizations, people who call themselves socialists,
because they just fail to recognize the very deep racism in society. Now, if
black people are to be involved in British politics and social organizations -
because I agree with you absolutely, they should be how can they resolve
CLR: It's difficult for me to tell you here how they can resolve it but there are
political means. There are people in Britain, British people or people of
United Kingdom origin, who are working against such people and are ready to
oppose them in every way; and if you become part of the union and are
involved in these struggles I don't think you will find it difficult. I haven't
found it difficult in the past living in Britain to be able to put forward the
case of black people. It's true I wasn't in the union, but nevertheless you
could find people. Undoubtedly they have difficulty to fight the struggle of
black people for one reason they find it hard to fight the struggles of white
people . And to deal with Mrs. Thatcher and the rest of them, that's enough
to keep them busy . But over the last fifteen or twenty years the miners
and others have made it clear that those people can be defeated, not for ever
and ever but on a particular issue, and those people that are here should be
part of those issues and should bring forward the problems. There is going to
be a tremendous upheaval in England, you know; that's coming, there's no
doubt about it ...
Question: Young black people going through the educational system here find it very
difficult to gain a sense of belonging not only to the society through the pro-
cess of the educational system, they find it difficult to have any sense of com-
mitment to the society because of the way in which they are made to feel,
almost as nonentities in exile. Now, you are asking them to get involved in
the society, in the structure of the society?
CLR: Not in the structure. I am asking them to get in touch with the Labour move-
ment, the working-class movement or such organizations as they themselves
can form with the aim of clearing a way into the society. I think that is what
I am asking and I think there is nothing else that can be done. What else can
you say, to go back home?
Question: Well, I think we need something much more direct I am saying that at first
the sense of belonging is not even there, in the society, much less what you
are asking, to take a position within the Labour movement. We have to search
beyond that for something much more positive.
CLR: I wouldn't say not to that, that depends on what you think about what is to
be done. But, you know, we have had some very distinguished people: there
is George Lamming, for example, there is Wilson Harris these are Caribbean
people who have entered into what is taking place around and they have
added considerably to English literature. They are very much aware of what it
is to be not a part of this society. So there is a literature there that will help
to ease the way . But I think that you have to make yourself part, part of
the movement of protest. It is not necessary to be with the trade-union move-
ment although if you are at work you should be a member of the trade-
union movement but this belonging is not something that somebody gives
to you; it's something that you fight for and something that you insist upon.
It is not a negative attitude at all, it's a positive attitude right from the start
to do. He tried to form an anti-black movement, a racial movement and the
Conservatives will pass a lot of bills that have racial constituencies and so
forth but they are not doing what Enoch Powell tried to do. He tried to
mobilise a mass movement against blacks. Conservatives can't do that; they
are trying to mobilise a mass movement for the Conservatives, they have to
do that first.
Question: I have been very interested by most of what you said, but it seems to me that
you have a blind spot about the racism of the white working class . You
say that Enoch Powell didn't achieve his aims of forming a party; I'm not
sure if they were his aims. The only thing out of his programme that is left
to be implemented is repatriation. All the other elements in the programme
have already been implemented by the Labour Party or the Conservative
CLR: He said I had a blind spot in regard to the racism of the white working-class
movement. Well, sir. it would be very strange if there wasn't some racism
in the white working class because in any society the ideas that are dominant
in the ruling class will find a reflection in the elements of those who work.
That's everywhere. The only thing is. in the working class periodically there
arise elements who oppose them altogether you have to be ready to take part
in that. But while you can accuse me, I dare say, of having a blind spot in
regard to the racism of the white working class, I would say you have a much
blinder spot in regard to the progressive, revolutionary element of the British
working class to which I could refer to for a number of years. Don't forget
that there is an element among them and that is a much more powerful
element than the racism that is in them.
Didn't Mr. Heath give a three-day week and the miners told him that
wouldn't do, didn't that happen?
Chair: But more than that I think that we ought to balance this properly, you know,
because there was a strike of Asian workers, Grunwick, and these are facts
you can put whatever construction you like upon them, and substantial sec-
tions of the white working class came in support. That is a historical fact.
CLR: Excuse me, they came from Clydeside, they came from South Wales, they
came from all over the place, and it was the Tory leadership that opposed
that movement. But the working class in Britain came out for those people
and these were some women working, not a big industry. Now, I didn't speal
about that because I don't wish to sound too blinded, I didn't talk abou
that. There are many elements to the working class apart from racism, I cai
assure you. I could tell you things, but I don't want to do that, that woult
alter the perspective of this meeting.
Question: Mr. James, there is another aspect that you perhaps underestimate. Mr
Powell didn't really need to form a party when he had the willing co-opera
tion of the British police, and it's the police who have implemented a great
deal of what Mr. Powell is trying to do in terms of the black community. It's
the children who have had to bear the brunt of that and the black children
who are in the front line of the receiving end of the racism of this country.
it's the black children who are beginning to respond as they did in Bristol.
the Bristol riots last year, but I think it is wrong to talk about the black com-
munity joining trade-union movements or other unions when it's many of
the black community who are most at risk and have had difficulties are under
the age of 16, and I wonder what you could say to those people who in fact
are the future of this country.
CLR: Now I don't know what you expect me to say more than I have said: be
careful, please, that in reality you are not saying what you are against rather
than what I am for. I am for black people to seek ways and means of getting
rid of the problems that they face. You can add to that or point out where I
am wrong, but at the moment people start to tell me of the inexplicable
racism of the white working class I get, I begin to wonder what is the origin
of that. Now what is it you propose that black people should be instead
of what I am saying? Do you say anything? Be careful, you know . .The
police are not implementing what Mr. Powell was proposing . .Mr. Powell
sought to get a mass movement with a lot of people saying to get these black
people where they belong. The police are not doing that. the police are being
objectionable to certain elements of the population as they are in France,
in Germany, very much in Russia and in India, everywhere, that's what the
police are doing. Mr. Powell was not after that. He was building a theory,
he was saying, 'The black people here are fundamentally enemies to our white
civilisation and we ought to get ready and get rid of them.' The police are not
doing that. I know what the police are doing. Believe me, you can't tell me
much about the police, I know them before you were born, but they are not
doing that. The police are doing what police do everywhere when elements in
the society which are not following along in the regular line of the regular
leaders. The police will always give them trouble, as much as possible, and the
blacks constitute an element who may give a lot of trouble at a certain time
in this country . .[Applause].
Comment: I think we need to explore more fully the nature of the racism in this
country and examine the position of Mr. Powell. Mr. Powell did not fail to
arouse and make respectable the racism in this country. He failed because he
turned his attention to the Tory Party and he advised Tories to vote for
Labour in the general election and that is the moment when Mr. Powell fell.
The other thing I should like to say is that many people believe that Mr.
Powell created racism in this country: Mr. Powell did not create racism in
this country. What Mr. Powell did was to take the mantle of another gentle-
man, who throughout the 50s had been sowing the seeds . .When Winston
Churchill was saying words like 'the growing preponderance of black faces in
the United Nation holds ill for the future of European civilisation', when the
Tory party tried to set up a two-tier empire with the older Commonwealth as
they saw it as the first upper tier and all the blacks merging at the lower
tier. At that time the idea of Commonwealth was partly being scuttled out of
sight. And into the vacuum of those people's mind was planted the idea that
all the black people coming to this country were bringing tuberculosis, VD,
all the usual red herrings. I would advise anybody interested in this to look
at the newspapers from the year 1950 to about 1962, examine the words of a
man named Colonel Osborne in the House of Commons and you will see that
when he died, opportunist Enoch Powell simply harvested from the crop that
had been sown by this other man named Colonel Osborne. He is a political
Question: You spoke of the involvement of black people, that rather than remain
detached they should involve themselves in what is happening. But if these
organizations have no true understanding of the problems that we are facing,
we should create autonomous organizations and seek alliances.
CLR: Yes, I am in agreement with you about forming an autonomous organisation.
I have been saying that since last time, that what is required today is the auto
nomous organisation and I speak with a certain humility, a certain reserve
about the autonomous work that is being done by Darcus Howe and Race
Question: Comrade James, a black comrade here talked of being unwilling to take part
in the Labour movement, in the trade-union movement, and you exhorted
comrades and militants to join with the libertarian left and the people to the
left of the Labour Party who are fighting for social principles and are fighting
against racism and against fascism . I would be pleased to hear your com-
ments and criticism of the revolutionary left in this country, I mean the revo-
lutionary groups outside the Labour Party.
CLR: You mean Paul Foot and Tariq Ali and those? I used to be a member of that
and I left it. That is my comment on it because I don't believe . .Now. I
have written at great length as to exactly why I don't hink those small move-
ments are going to get anywhere in 1980; I have written books and published
pamphlets about that. First of all you have a Labour Party, then you have
another Communist Party, then these people turn up I did it and say,
'Not the Labour Party, not the Communist, but we are for 120 Trotskyists -
join us and we'll lead you to the revolution.' I did that for a number of years
and then I got tired of it ... But I don't quarrel with them, some of them are
excellent people. I have known Paul Foot for years, but if that's the way he
chooses to go he can, but I'm not going that way, and I'm saying so. I'm not
going to make any comment on that from this platform except that I don't
think he'll get any place and I don't think the future years will show that
they will get any place that is the only comment I have to make. But I
left them, which is the strongest of all comments ...
Question: How do you think the form in which black people organise themselves here
relates back to their experience as colonial people?
CLR: As colonial people they have known what it is to be oppressed by a govern-
ment and rulers whose first concern was to keep them suppressed; that they
know, and they have been able to fight against that. It's because black move-
ments of resistance were spreading all over the whole world that the colonial
powers said, 'All right, all right, be independent.' But now they have found
that to take hold of the old colonial government was to carry on the old
colonial policy . So the movement began with the Arusha Declaration of
Nyerere, that is to say, 'Let us form an African native type of government,'
and that is what is being done in Mozambique to some extent, Angola,
Guinea Bissau, Mugabe in Zimbabwe, all over Africa today . There is this
movement taking place, and we have to be aware of it and be part of it and
know what is going on, and not spend time worrying about this and that and
the other. That's what I trying to say here, that when you come here and you
begin to fight against what's taking place, you make clear also that you
haven't been given any real independence, you know, and the struggle is still
going on in the colonial countries.
Question: How do you think that the way black people actually organise themselves
here, now, in Britain, connects to the way they organised themselves in the
West Indies for example?
CLR: It's not the same, because you have a great mass of the population in the West
Indies who are likely to listen to you, but here it's not so. Here it's a small
percentage only, but if you have two or three million people you have a hell
of a lot of people who are ready to listen to these ideas and I'm sure you will
get some place, if you make it clear that you know what you are about;
but if you begin with the inevitability of white racism then you are going to
Question: Mr. James, you suggest that the immigrants in this country should get
involved in this country. What value, what benefits do you think they'll
get out of becoming part of this society and contributing to this society?
What spiritual value for their souls do you think they will get out of con-
tributing to this society?
CLR: Will you tell me what spiritual values to their souls they would get elsewhere
outside of Britain? Could you tell me that? Tell me what are the spiritual
values that are being served out that are not to be got in Britain? Tell me, so
that I know what you are thinking about.
Question: Well, I'm thinking maybe there will be more feedback or spiritual benefit if
they went back to the Caribbean and tried to make the kind of society down
there instead of fighting here for nothing.
CLR: Look, it's going to take me a little time: I hope that you will give me Five
or ten minutes. There was World War Two, in which Hitler attempted to
make Europe purely German. He was going to take the Ukraine, he was going
to take Holland and Belgium. He was going to take the north of Africa, the
north of France and he was going to take Yugoslavia. Good. Now, World War
One was different. In World War One they were thinking of dividing up
Africa. They had done that in Bismark's room in the '80s but they couldn't
divide it up any more so they fought over it. But in World War Two Hitler
came and he said. 'I'm going to make colonies in Europe itself,' so they had
to stop that. They stopped it. Then came great movements of populations,
the world is moving tremendously, and part of the movement of populations
is the movement of people from the underdeveloped countries to the more
developed countries; that is taking place in Germany, they are bringing them
in from Southern Italy. and Switzerland is 25 per cent foreign workers at the
moment. These are great movements taking place, and I'm trying to say how
are we going to meet what is taking place, how are we going to understand it?
And you tell me to go back to the Caribbean for spiritual values I've just
come from there, I haven't found any. You must have some general idea of
what is taking place and why people are here. People are here as part of a
movement that is worldwide in which people from the underdeveloped
countries are being brought into developed countries to do a certain type of
labour?; they are coming because they are invited, they are coming because
they can't help it . .But don't tell me about utterly mythical spiritual values
in the Caribbean. If you are against what I am saying, you must get some
reason for that; you can't make me think differently by referring me to spirit-
ual values in the Caribbean.
Question: If I might ask you for a prediction, what do you see possibly happening in
this country between now and your 100th birthday?
CLR: My 100th birthday? I hope to God I could see it, because I am positive that
the uprising which will attack everywhere, a lot of places in the world. From
some of the talk here today quite clearly that haven't been reading in the
newspapers about a far distant country called Poland. The Polish people have
said (it is a tremendous programme). 'We want a free trade union.' I hope you
understand that: free trade union. That upset them in Moscow, they can't
sleep at nights because of the Polish workers' free trade unions. Nobody
believes that if the Polish workers moved against the Polish leaders the Polish
rulers could stop them; everybody knows that they would be swept away and
that it depends upon the Russian army to keep the Polish workers down ..
It's happening there, and it didn't wait for the year 2000, it started in the
year 1980. That is a tremendous movement, the Polish movement: 'All we
want is a free trade union. We are not so advanced as to be against soviets or
to be against your socialist type of government; no, we are backward people:
All we want is free trade unions.' That's a masterpiece of politics. Very fool
can understand it except those whose head are tangled up with Trotskyist
nonsense but you don't seem to be aware of Ilhat. I'm very much aware of
that . I think of what the Hungarian workers did -- I have written about
that and I am waiting to see now about the Poles ... I see what's happen-
ing in Iran have you any idea that Iran now has thousands olf workers' and
peasants, councils? And I don't think that the Iran workers are so much
different from the British workers. In Britain you can see too in a few years a
lot of workers' councils; I think they are coming, at any rate I'm working
with that in mind. And I put forward that if you're against that, that's too
bad for you, that's all.
Question: I'd just like to say that I've felt very inspired and privileged to hear the talk
tonight and particularly to hear Comrade James express some optimism and
revolutionary vision in a very hard time, and I think maybe it's understand-
able that people should talk negatively about so many things because we are
all suffering from a disastrous, hopefully fairly short-term period, and it is
hard to maintain the enthusiasm and vigour that the comrade expresses .
I have one small comment and that's about the question of the nature of
organisation that we could try to create. I completely share the perspective of
building a movement out of the existing committees, ethnic organizations,
shop stewards' committees, women's organizations, etc. There is only one
thing I think needs also to be said which is perhaps justification for being in
one of these very small left-wing groups myself, and that is I have found it
very difficult to understand what's going on in the world without a lot of
talk and a lot reading and a lot of thinking and in this Comrade James's
work I have found extremely helpful; but I think it is also necessary to be in
exclusively political groups in order to add to one's education, add to one's
experience. One of the limitations of the group that I am in is that it is pre-
dominantly white, but it is only in gatherings like this that I feel I am getting
any real kind of experience of what might be happening inside the working
class, and I would like to know if Comrade James thinks there is any value in
being in exclusively political collectives of one form or another for that bene-
fit at least.
CLR: I will tell you what I think. I believe that if your mind is clear and if you
know what you are doing and what you are not doing. you can join one of
those organizations and it can be of great value. Take for instance the
Monthly Review people; I find their paper of extreme value to me. I read a
lot of things there that I wouldn't know otherwise and I subscribe and I'm
a supporter I don't agree with all that they say and I will never join their
organisation. but I subscribe. I like to see them. I don't think it's wrong once
you know what you are doing, then you are perfectly entitled to be wherever
you choose to be. but I'm speaking here generally. And by the way. I want to
add something: these small organizations will acquire importance when the
mass movement begins: it is the mass movement that is decisive for all of
them. My quarrel with them is that they think they are decisive they are
not. /Applause.] I am not saying not to be in them once you are clear about
it: once you are clear as to what you are doing and you don't spread any illu-
sions, why should you not? . At any rate I am glad that you were able to
say what you did.
Comment: It seems to me that there has been a certain amount of, well, a great deal of
confusion in this meeting about what constitutes revolutionary action or
what constitutes a revolutionary position. And whether, indeed, people who
are not highly steeped in ideology could adopt revolutionary positions. I
mean the questions. for example, about the position of black youth seems to
suggest that they were somewhat directionless, not knowing really where
their heads are or who they are or what they are and that somebody from
somewhere needs to pull something out of a hat in order to point out to
them what way they are going. Now, I am aware that a great deal of what
happens within communities where black people are and where black people
struggle on a day-to-day basis arises out of their own revolutionary conscious-
ness as working class blacks. They may not read Marx but the fact of the
matter is that as they have to deal with the police, as they have to deal with
the bosses and as they have to deal with the agents of the state who batter
their heads, like social workers and youth workers etc., they know what to
do. So I cannot see why it should be assumed that the population whom the
lady at the back suggests that is the most threatened just now, black youth,
have got absolutely no revolutionary position and have not exercised it in a
manner which has brought us to where we are today as the black population
in this country.
A couple of speakers have tried to speak about black youth as though they
were pretty helpless victims, that they get drugged, they get beaten up. they
get thrown in jail, they get killed. I have heard about those. I have seen that
on television. I have read it is the newspaper. I have heard of incidents where
people are beaten up, victimised and so on, but as a school teacher I have
been a school teacher for the last eleven years I have seen that the black
youth, especially the West Indians and the Asians to a lesser degree, have
given a tremendous amount of trouble to the institutions which try and do
these things to them. There is a tremendous resistance. If one was at Notting
Hill, if one was at Bristol, one can see that the black youth are not helpless
victims of a racist society. They are, of course, as Comrade James pointed
out, in the way of the police because they are dissident social elements at
particular times, and it is the police's job to stake that out; that's what they
are paid for. So they go about doing that but they are probably in a sense the
front-line section of the working class who have fought the police on these
occasions. Then people look for parties and things to join. People say that
they want to sit down and formulate an anti-racist policy in a Trotskyist
group: they have an anti-racist, anti-fascist policy calling blacks and Asians
into their group, seeing that these are their friends because they are anti-
racist. That is not the way to do it at all. I have been in an Asian organisation
in the East End, people have been talking, I believe that is why I am going on
in this way, about what goes beyond the fragments. I have been in one of
those fragments without seeing it as a fragment. I saw it simply as a
movement for Asians in the East End who wanted some housing. They didn't
complain about racism, they didn't psychologist about the white working
class, they organised themselves and went on to try and get the state to give
them the housing that they wanted.
CLR: I believe you
Comment: [continued] It was success, and the propaganda around that success, that
brought in a tremendous amount of alliances, I believe that that experience
points to something for the future.
CLR: Yes, sir, thank you very much. And I am saying so and do as much of that as
you can. And there is one thing that I want to say to Marxists about my
experience. It is that some Marxists go and join a local organisation and they
go into that local organisation with their minds set on winning people to their
ideas. They don't know that by going into that local organisation they will
get some place by building that organisation. But their aim is to go in there to
win some people so that they will have instead of 25, they have 26 then
they have scored a victory. I hope it is quite clear I am against all of that.
Question: There is just one question I would like to ask. You spoke earlier about black
people actually aligning themselves in the trade-union movement with the
progressive elements. Now there is just one fear I have personally as a black
person in this country in trying to belong to a trade union, that is when the
blacks who actually join the trade unions begin to take a stand, very pro-
gressive elements within the trade unions, and I think that's what some
people here might have been trying to say, very progressive elements become
very reactionary in a sense, because black demands are not the same as the
white majority progressive demands and you will find that at times black
people find their struggle very much frustrated. What would you have to say
to people who find themselves in that sort of experience?
CLR: You have to light against them, that's all. It's unfortunate you know, but in
the working-class movement you have to struggle. You have to make up your
mind that if you're not going along with everybody but fighting for some-
things specific, it's going to be hard but it's not impossible and it can become
very valuable and very stimulating. It can be. I know that. I have been going
at it for many years. And it hasn't worried me. but you can sit down and talk
about white working-class racism. I've many examples I could give you
against that but I'm not going to do it. There is no need for me to say here
that the white working class is not racist, I'm not going to do that. We are
sitting here to seek a positive way. You will have problems. I have seen them.
I still have problems. But you have to light against them and you can be cer-
tain if you keep on fighting you win people over to you. If you are not
getting support something is wrong with you but if you keep on, as I have
found, over the years, you keep on going and things come to you. Tell me
something about that far distant country Poland? That is for me a
tremendous event and they are saying to Moscow you have your Soviets -
you keep that, and we do not want to change one boss for another. We don't
want to change anything, all we ask for is free trade union. I think that's
wonderful and I am tremendously inspired. I know in Moscow they are
quaking at these impertinent people who are for free trade union, and you
have to feel that way yourself that they are talking for you and me whey
they say we want free trade unions. That's what I think. I haven't heard much
feeling about Poland or much about Mugabe and his Marxist-Leninist party.
I haven't felt that from too many people speaking and it's all one struggle,
you know. particularly today.
Chair: We'll take the last question.
Question: This is just with reference to what Comrade James has just said and I take
it we were also talking about the other lectures, I would like to say that I
very much share your feelings about Poland and how fantastic it is but I also
share discontent. I am very discontented about the way you portray the
movement and have actually failed to respond to it. I was actually reading
an article the other day talking about the way that trade unions in Western
Europe have sent delegations to Solidarity and apparently Lech Walensa is
visiting Italy shortly. What has the British trade union movement done so
far? As I can see, it has virtually done nothing to show its solidarity for what
is happening in Poland. It's the most marvellous thing that has happened, it's
the most marvellous inspiring news that we have in a long time. I wish that
someone would tell me why the British trade-union movement hasn't done
anything and when will it do something:
CLR: Now. why they haven't done anything? They will make gestures but by and
large they will prefer the Polish workers to keep quiet and not disturb things.
That's why they have done nothing. I hope that's very clear.
Chair: OK, could we thank C. L. R. James for the tremendous contribution he has
made over the last three lectures. Nello, I believe that the general feeling of
the meeting is that you have made an enormous contribution to what we
think and what we are likely to do.
CLR: Thank you for your contributions.
Applause, applause, applause, applause applause applause
THE ARTIST IN THE CARIBBEAN*
"The Artist in the Caribbean". . This was the subject of a talk that I gave a few days
ago at the U.W.I. and it was followed by as lively and fruitful a discussion of a literary
topic as I can remember. Briefly what I had to say was this. Not so much in so many
words but in the very approach I made, I tried to make it clear that the basis of our
ideas on aesthetics and artistic development was the basis of our civilization. It was
western European. I went on to say that in my opinion the great artist was the fruit of
a long national tradition social and to some degree artistic. I tried to make it clear next
that he had an enormous influence upon the life of his time; it had always been so; but
particularly in a country like ours he was very much needed. I didn't see the evidence
of any powerful artistic tradition that could be called West Indian. . I didn't say that
it didn't exist. But what I was very emphatic about was that if the elements of it existed
it would be drawn together and made manifest to everyone, to all those who were inter-
ested and indirectly even to those who were not interested by a great artist. He summed
up the past and he opened out the way to the future. It was necessary at all times for
national units to have great artists, it was particularly necessary for us at this time. How-
ever, I ended by saying that the supreme artist whom we were looking for and whom
we could confidently expect from the high degree of talent that our writers showed,
and showed so quickly, could be developed only if he wrote for the West Indies, if his
books were printed and published for a West Indian audience, he lived in the national
environment and received the stimulus and criticism that could come only from people
who were instinctively and intimately aware of what he was writing about.
Now in the course of the talk I happened to mention that there were certain
conclusions, certain recommendations which I had to make but they were of a rather
mundane character. Continuing to so speak where we left off the other evening, I want
to emphasise the mundane. Our writers, I will mention three Naipaul of Trinidad,
George Lamming of Barbados, and Vic Reid of "The Leopard" of Jamaica are very
talented men, but they will never be able to be completely West Indian, develop the
West Indian artistic tradition of the past and create one in the future without which
there will never be a great West Indian artist, unless they live at home. unless they write
for the national audience. Now. how is this to be done. They say, and many people think
*Lecture delivered as part of an Open Lecture series at the University College of the West Indies
(UCWI), Mona, in the Michaelmas Term (1959-60).
that it is purely a question of money, there is not the financial possibility of their living
comfortably at home, with reasonable comfort, and in addition I have heard that the
mental atmosphere which some of them have found on returning home has not given
the stimulus to their writing and thinking which they should have. I don't believe that at
this present stage of West Indian development, it is purely a question of money. I believe
that we can create the conditions in which the artist will be able to live at home and do
work under the circumstances which in my view are likely to be most fruitful. We have
the University itself where we can give talks and lectures and take courses. . American
universities very often invite writers to discuss their work and other people's work, and
pay them for it. We have the radio, we have the newspapers, we have Education Depart-
ments and Departments of Culture with money at their disposal. These writers can
give courses to teachers, they can give courses to students they can travel around the
country. We are also on the eve, I think we are in the wave of a great national renais-
sance, it is so politically, it is so in our consciousness of ourselves and I believe that the
possibilities exist for creating a milieu in which the financial resources for helping our
writers to stay at home would be possible. I am very confident of this not only because
the general trend of my ideas has for a long time led me to this conclusion, I am con-
fident because I know the majority of them, at least those whom I know, want to come
back home, and work at home, and that is sufficient for me.
How this is to be done is a matter for various groups and organizations and some
individuals to get together to work out. In regard to that, I would like to say only one
thing. We must not believe that having created conditions and given the opportunity
to some of them to come home and to stay home, that the matter rests there. As I say,
we are in motion and if we give them that basis we can confidently look forward to their
own talents and abilities creating and extending further possibilities so that after the
initial step and some of them come in a year or two we may find developments, activi-
ties and possibilities which we never dreamt of when we took the first tentative steps.
Now there were other aspects of the discussion and one of them that interested me
a great deal was the question of Africa. You remember that the whole method of approach
that I made was that out civilisation, our aesthetic ideas, our development were funda-
mentally European. Yet the fact remains first of all that the majority of people in the
West Indies are people of African descent and secondly that most of our younger writers
and writers of the generation before also, have shown an extraordinary interest in Africa.
What is the basis of this interest I don't know. But I want to refer to it particularly
because there are certain elements in our civilization, in our national tradition, who are
West Indian whatever their colour may be, recognized as such, and they feel that way,
who nevertheless react very strongly against this preoccupation with Africa. I think they
are mistaken. It is a fact and the mere fact that so many of the younger writers are
concerned with it, shows that they are feeling out and trying to find some sort of con-
nection, to make some sort of resolution of the problem which our African ancestry
presents. Let me call a few names. There is George Padmore, who spent the greater part
of his life working for Africa and writing about Africa. There is Eric Williams, whose
famous book is CAPITALISM AND SLAVERY. I myself have written a great deal about
Africa, particularly in a book called THE HISTORY OF NEGRO REVOLT. But the
modern writers, Lamming has some extraordinary pages about the dream of an old
African in Barbados dreaming of the slave trade and life in Africa. I noticed in the work
of a young Martiniquan, a man called Glissan, who recently won the Prix Reynaldo in
a novel about Martinique La Lezarde he has two or three pages which practically dupli-
cate Lamming's work in this particular field. And one of the finest of all West Indian
writers, Cezaire, has also written about Africa, both in his famous poem, a statement
about "Return to my native country", and also in his analysis of what is likely to be
the future basis of West Indian nationalism. I don't see any reason why anyone should
be disturbed about this it is a natural development. I am sure these writers in doing
what they are doing are not following any political inclination. They just are searching
into our origins and the impulses that they feel around them to try to come to some
conclusion. What that conclusion will be, I don't know. I have no real idea of what
permanent form, or rather fundamental form because it will not be permanent, but
nevertheless it will be fundamental in the sense that this will be the basis of all develop-
ment I have no idea what this West Indian form will be like. All I know is, that it
must come to terms. . the West Indian personality, the West Indian national outlook,
has to come to terms with the African past. The writers are doing it; my personal belief
is that they will ultimately do it and if they don't nobody else will be able to and I believe
it is a fascinating and enormously interesting development; not only because most of us
are people of African descent but because African today occupies a position in world
affairs which makes it one of the most fascinating of continents.
Quite recently I have been watching the ideas that certain historians, historians on
a world scale, have been developing. And a year or two ago, I saw these ideas recurring
in one or two places, that the history of China and the history of Russia had to be re-
written because these countries were playing a role in the history of the world today which
made us look upon them and their past in a very different way from hitherto. The same
thing is taking place in regard to Africa so that it is not a West Indian matter any longer,
but a matter of world development and I believe that our writers have a contribution
Now I want to say a few words . I emphasise the grandeur of the supreme
artist and the work that he has to do. But nevertheless we should be conscious that every
literary group, every literary conference, every competition, every piece of independent
work whether it is in a great West Indian national conference, or whether it is a work
done in some village or in some school all this is helping to create the atmosphere
in which our really distinguished writers will be able to do their best.
The last word I would like to say is this. Do not judge the individual efforts by
some abstract standard. The mere fact that the work is being done, that it is being judged,
that it is being observed by other people is sufficient. If even we do not have a great
success, individually or personally. let us be confident that we are preparing the ground
for writers who will do wonderful work for us and carry the West Indian talent abroad
in a manner that only writers and artists can.
SOCIALISM OR BARBARISM*
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, an admirable introduction, one of the best I have ever heard.
Now I want to say first of all that I am grateful to Race Today and to Allison and Busby,
who I gather were responsible for my being able to speak to you. I hope that when I have
finished you will be equally grateful (you may not be). I want to make another reference,
to Wilson Harris, a man I admire immensely and whom I would have welcomed here, but
he isn't well, and he has written me a letter to let me know that one of the most re-
markable persons I know, not only as a writer but as a human being.
Well, it is now 7:30 and you can be certain that at 8:30 I will not be speaking
directly to you, I will be answering questions.
You will leave here and somebody will ask you: "you heard James speaking? What
did he say?" That is not an easy question. You may have great ability to understand and
to explain what I said, but perhaps more important is what I decided to say. There are
many things I could have talked about. I could have talked about the San Domingo revo-
lution, I could have talked about Poland, about this and that and the other. I had to
think very carefully and although I have to quote Marx and Lenin you could be sure,
more or less in the hour I will be speaking, there wouldn't be more than six minutes of
Marx and Engels and Lenin. But I have to say that, Marxist as I am, over the years, some
sixty years it has been (that's a long time, I assure you; you will get to know that your-
self. I hope). I have been translating the things that I have read and learnt and expounded
as history into more human relations, and while I will speak once or twice about this and
that Marxism, I want to tell you what they mean to me today that they didn't mean to
me twenty years ago.
Socialism and Barbarism: they both exist at the present time and, with all due res-
pect to the chairman, they exist everywhere, particularly in the advanced countries; they
are a duality .. I want to spend some time first of all on Barbarism as I see it. I am not
concerned particularly with the barbarism of Mrs. Thatcher or whoever; no, I am speak-
ing of something else. I have learnt that one of the greatest barbarous episodes in the his-
tory of the world is the war of 1914- 1918. We can let that slip away from us; it slipped
away from me for a long time but now I know it began there. because 1815 to 1914 was
*Reprinted from CLR JAMES'S 80th Birthday Lectures, edited by Margaret Busby and Darcus Howe,
Race Today Publications, 165 Railton Road, London SE24 OLU, 1984.
reasonably peaceful. Between 1914 and 1918 they killed 10 million people, 10 million
men. Now it is difficult for the ordinary person to visualise a million, so I'll take a little
time to try to get it home to you. You know at Wembley on cup final day there are about
100,000 people. That's a lot of people; it takes hours to get them in there and more hours
to get them out again one hundred thousand people. Imagine ten Wembleys, a whole
lot of people, amounting to one million ten Wembleys, and you begin to visualise what
it is. That is the number of people they killed in World War One. Now you have left
civilisation entirely when you kill ten million people. That is my position today, that to
me is not just history or World War One, that is the first stage of the descent into bar-
barism: to kill ten million people ...
Now it has meant a great deal to me as time has gone on. I will tell you of two epi-
sodes. I came to Britain in 1932 and I went out one evening to a party with a girl she
was about 20 or 30 years old. We were sitting there with lots of people around and a man
came up to her, a young fellow, and told her he would be glad to have dinner with her at
his flat on Thursday; she could come but he would take her home and his manner was
very offensive. What he meant by dinner was obviously not merely food so I, backward
West Indian as I am, said, "But the way that man speaks . ." She replied "That is how all
his generation speak. The men whom I would have gone to bed with, the men who would
have married me, the men with whom I would have gone to dances, they are all dead.
They have been killed in the war, so there is a whole generation of us young women of
this age. He knows that, so he speaks to me in that way, and whether I respond or don't
respond, he knows he will find somebody else." That was the result in human relations of
ten million people killed all over the whole of Europe. That brought home to me that this
was no figures in a book, or dead men or the flag I left behind me, but something that
affected people: that is, a whole human relation. She tells me, "There are a whole lot of
us, he knows, and when I say no he leaves me and he goes somewhere else. He knows we
are a certain age and that there is nobody to take us out; and there are a whole lot of
them who come around us, because they feel that we are defenceless."
There is something else that I want to refer to about the war of 1914 to 1918. It
ruined a whole country, it ruined France; the French hadn't recovered from it by 1939.
That's why they were as they were, not able to get ready in any way or to meet the
Germans. They were still suffering from what had happened to them between 1914 to
1918. They built a wall and called it the Maginot Line. Now I am not a military man but I
know that men defend forts, forts do not defend men; you can't just put up a fort and
hide . But they were so lost after what had happened and they went to pieces, the
whole nation. Maybe they have recovered by now, I don't know, but certainly after 1918
France had not. I was often in France up to 1938 and they were not the same people
whom I had read about.
So there you have two examples of what barbarism is. It is very hard for us to
understand. They teach us in school that when a man like Amin kills a lot of people,
that's a barbarian, but Mrs. Thatcher and Lord Carrington are not that at all. Although
they did their best to make the Bishop [Abel Muzorewa] sound as if he was one of the
competitors for Zimbabwe, when in reality the Bishop was not there at all, he got three
seats. I listened on the radio and read in the papers and you would believe that in
Zimbabwe there was a competition between the Patriotic Front and the Bishop, which
was a huge and monstrous lie that was being perpetrated, put on to you. That to me in a
modern world is a form of barbarism. To use your powers in charge of a country and
having the media at your disposal to perpetrate a monstrous lie about people well,
you can choose, but that is what I think.
So World War One is the first thing I wish to draw your attention to; I didn't always
think about it, you know, but I only realized over the late years that by the time you
kill ten million people you are going to kill plenty more, and the present generation is
descended from that generation and they are ready to kill. The only thing that keeps
them away is that they might get killed too, so they have a beautiful name: "a deterrent".
It's not a moral matter not to fight any more; no, something prevents us, something is in
the way of our killing and that deterrent is that we might get killed too, but still let us
prepare because we don't know what they might do. What kind of life is that, what kind
of life is that? That is the way we are.
Now I want to go into another example of barbarism: the collectivisation of agri-
culture in Russia during the Stalinist regime because Stalin was not a single person,
there was a regime, there were a lot of people who thought that he was the man who
should be there. He didn't collectivise anything, or he may have, I don't know, but I
know what he did: he destroyed the Russian peasantry . that after 1914 to 1918 you
could kill and do what you pleased. He destroyed the Russian peasantry. Now to collect-
tivise means you have to build roads, you have to build shops, you have to build schools
and you have to build places where the doctors go etcetera; you modernise the area and
you drag the peasant from that rural backwardness into something more advanced, and it
was decided that they would collectivise 20 per cent of the Russian peasantry in five
years. That was the first statement of the five-year plan: 20 per cent of the peasantry in
five years, which sounded reasonable enough. But the peasants held back their grain in
1928; they said, "The price the state is offering to us is not satisfactory and we will not
give it," whereupon it struck Stalin that there was the element of resistance to his regime,
and it is characteristic of the age of barbarism that he decided there was one thing to do:
destroy them. He smashed the peasantry altogether. When he was finished there were no
people on the land, there were no peasants; he broke up the households. He must have
killed about 20 million people and what did he do with others? He sent them off to the
northern parts to different areas. Once you begin with 1914, you know, you can end any-
where. You can end in the total destruction of a peasantry, you can end, it is possible, in
the destruction of everybody or nearly everybody.
Now all the other people the Hungarians, the East Germans, the Russians they
all collectivised too. Why do they collectivise? Collectivisation has been a disaster for
Russian agriculture but they collectivise because that is the way they destroy the
peasantry and bring it under their control. There are no limits to the result of that collec-
tivisation. I have noticed this marvellous book by Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago,
he doesn't understand why Stalin did it, he believes that Stalin was following a theory
that was given to him by Lenin. Shapiro and a lot of them preach that business, that
Lenin had worked out from Marx some theory about the mathematical movement of
people's social engineering and, following this theory, Stailin did what he did to the
Russian peasantry. Absolutely wrong. It is one of the finest books I have ever read but
Stalin knew what he was doing. The peasantry were a danger; a hundred million peasants
could provide a number of soldiers behind someone leading a counter-revolution. So he
just destroyed them and set the pattern for the collectivisation. Let me go into some
detail as to that kind of society. I have here The Gulag Archipelago and Solzhenitsyn
says: In May 1938 you can read the appeal of workers in higher education to comrade
Stalin. This is what they say in the party press: "Heightening our revolutionary visions we
will help our glorious intelligence service headed by the true Leninists, the Stalinists,
people's commissar Nikolai Yezof, to purge our higher education institutions as well
as our country of the remnants of the Trotskyite, Bukharinite and other counter-
revolutionary trash; carried by a majority of 1,000 present," and Solzhenitsyn says, "We
certainly do not conclude that the entire meeting of 1,000 persons consisted solely of
idiots, that is an idiotic thing to agree with, but merely of degenerate liars acceding to
their own arrest on the morrow". We have lived that way, they are part of the modern
world. They had preached about Yezof. Now Yezof himself was arrested shortly after-
wards and beaten up during his interrogation; and arrested with Yezof was the chief of
the financial administration of Gulag, the chief of the medical administration of Gulag,
the chief of the guard service of Gulag, and even the chief of the security operations
department of Gulag; the whole lot of them were thrown out, and in there went Beria
and as soon as Stalin went they saw after Beria. That is the kind of life that we lead. I
want you to be aware of it. That is the way we are living. And I want you to take note of
what happened to Tukhachefvsky, who was a general. When Tukhachefvsky was repressed,
not only was his immediate family broken up and imprisoned, it hardly needs to be said
that his daughter was expelled from her institute, but his two brothers and their wives,
his four sisters and their husbands were all arrested, while his nephews and nieces were
scattered about various orphanages... He was a marshal in the Russian army, a famous
soldier. His wife was shot in a camp in Kazhakistan, his mother begged for alms on the
streets of Astrakhan and died there; that is the life that is going on. The result is very
strange. You find among educated people a certain revulsion against all aspects of western
civilisation. You will find that in Kampuchea where all the heads are people educated in
Paris with long degrees, they get into power and they just tell all the educated people to
go into the forest and dig and live. This kind of life is no good and they try to go back
to primitive communism What they went back to was primitive but it wasn't communist
in any way. So that is what is going on all around us. I don't want to take up too much
detail of this but in Italy today they are balancing if anybody thinks I am wrong that is
up to you Italy may go in any direction. But I wanted to show you what is happening to
you here. In volume 3 of The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn the preface to the
English translation is, "To those readers who have found the moral strength to overcome
the darkness and suffering of the first two volumes, the third volume will disclose a space
of freedom and struggle." (Do you know about that, by the way? Not in Poland: I am
speaking about Russia).
Inside Russia, he says, the secret of the struggle is kept by the Soviet regime; "more
than anything else the communist regime fears the revelation of the fight which is
conducted against it with a spiritual force unheard of and unknown to many countries."
Do you know that there are many people who don't know that at all? And he goes into
details of that here. My business is not to deal with these details but you will find it in
Volume 3 of The Gulag Archipelago where the Russian people are fighting not only the
Poles, and I will give you an experience of mine with an organisation whose name I will
not mention not the Trotskyists. I pointed out at a meeting an international meeting
that there was a movement in Eastern Germany in 1953 when they had the marvellous
slogan: "Ivan go home". People have to make those Ivans go home. '53. '56 ... in Poland
1956, the Hungarian revolution, the greatest revolutionary movement that has ever taken
place. Then in '56 the commander of the Russian troops in Poland, had to go and ask
Khrushchev to come They took Gomulka out of jail and put him in because the Polish
workers were ready to go on a national strike. The Polish army had a lot of Polish soldiers
so they had to accommodate themselves to it. In '68 you had the movement in Czecho-
slovakia. I don't know exactly about that one but I know Russian soldiers had to go,
East German soldiers had to go, Polish soldiers had to go, all those soldiers had to go to
stop whatever was going on in '68. In '68 or '69 1 wrote an article and I said, watch that,
watch that, the next one is Moscow; so you talk about the Moscow revolt that is on the
way. You know, they didn't print it, they weren't in favour of Moscow, they were
notorious anti-Stalinist. They were for anything but to say that the next stage of the revo-
lution would be Moscow, that they could not do and there are a lot of people who feel,
"It may not be good, it is not socialism, but at any rate it is something by which I can
fight against the Americans." Not me, all of them to me are the same, the whole lot.
There is no special reason for me to defend Moscow, there is no special reason for me to
defend New York . and I tell you something. I just mention this, if need be the two of
them will join together to suppress something, you know; don't be afraid about that. We
must have our minds open as to what they will do and my opinion is history has shown us
they will do anything, anything except they are deterred by the deterrent.
Now I want to move on to talk about socialism. People are in a lot of trouble about
socialism. I was talking to a man the other day and he told me, "Well, we have to be
careful, we have to work it out and know what we are doing." I said yes; he said, "For
example, we should go to Yugoslavia." I said, "What in the name of God am I going to
Yugoslavia to find out about? What are they doing in Yugoslavia that is to teach me
about socialism that I don't know already?" Now in his famous chapter, "The historical
tendency of capitalist accumulation", Marx says something which horrifies people when
I point it out to them. The socialist basis of society is not in Yugoslavia, it is right here in
England; Marx was saying that in 1867 so in 1981 it's long past its eightieth birthday.
Now listen: "One capitalist kills many, you have the growing centralisation of capital,
at the same time you have the conscious technical application of science, the methodical
cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labour into instruments
of labour only usable in common, the economising of all means of production by their
use as the means of production of combined, socialised labour, the entanglement of all
peoples in the rest of the world market, and with this the international character of the
Now Marx goes on to say what happens to the working class during this period:
'It is always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organised by the very mechan-
ism of the process of capitalist production itself."
Now it is perfectly clear, I hope, that the working class does not need a communist
party, a socialist party, an SWP or all the other initials to lead them. They are disciplined,
united, organised by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself.
That is socialism. There is the development of the mechanical means of production.
We have them all around us. And at the same time we have a working class growing
in numbers and disciplined, united, organised by the very mechanism of the process of
the capitalist production. That Marx says cannot continue. There comes a stage when that
I shall end by pointing out to you that the working class, the great mass of the
population, formed one party under the title of Solidarity. Solidarity is merely the
development of a movement which began in the Commune, went on to the Soviet and
now has reached the stage where the whole country has mobilised itself to put an end to
government by the few. That is the movement towards socialism: the mobilisation of the
great mass of the population. They may be defeated by the Russian army but the great
mass of a population organised for struggle is the final stage before the achievement of
socialism. They may even be defeated, but ultimately the victory is certain.
Question: I would like to try to clarify exactly what your thoughts are on the role of
the party. It would seem to me from Lenin's writings, and the experience of
old Russia in particular, that although working class organizations may spring
up because of the economic struggles you would still require the existence
of a Communist Party as such .
CLR: When the Hungarian workers formed councils in every department of produc-
tion they said, 'We don't want any parties here: into this factory comes the
Catholic party, there comes the Socialist party, there comes the Communist
party, and in the work of the factory they are fighting for different political
positions. We don't want that: we want you to be elected by the work you
do in the plant.' And that to me was very good; they did wonderfully well.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't form a party . But there is a kind of
theory which says, 'No revolution can succeed without a party,' point one.
Point two: 'We are the party, we know; we know the past, we understand the
future and anybody else who comes along and claims to be a party we are
their mortal enemy because the revolution cannot proceed without us.' I
know those people, I have been against them continuously; that's the kind of
party for many years I was in Trotskyist, and used to go around telling
people, 'You have to leave the Communist Party and join the Trotskyist Party
and then we will make the revolution.' I know that stupidity well. I was
guilty of it ..
Question: It seems to me that on both sides, East and West, at the moment and what
is called the Third World there is a vast movement against war, against nuclear
weapons, against the great powers it's against totalitarian structures and
party and so on ...
CLR: Now it is very good that you have put your point forward: it enables me to
deal with what is wrong with nuclear weapons. What is wrong with nuclear
weapons? Nuclear weapons are a bit of machinery; there is nothing wrong
with nuclear weapons as such, it is the persons who are in control of this
society and use them. So to be against nuclear weapons may be a good
sentiment, but those who control them that is what you have to be against.
To be against nuclear weapons and to be for this and for that and for the
other is not good enough. There are people who deal with these things and
you have to deal with those people.
Question: What I am saying is that both in Western Europe and Eastern Europe and all
over the world there are people who reject these men who control these
CLR: I agree with you that by and large there is great hostility to the kind of life
that is imposed upon people . I believe we have reached a stage where
people are not going to take it much longer .
Question: I'd like to ask what do you propose for small countries, for example the West
Indies, small economically dependent countries who are trying to fight
certain powers .. .? As I understand it, for example, Grenada is trying to fight
CLR: Yes, that is a notable example, one in ten thousand. I have been to Grenada, I
have seen them at work. I think they are doing splendidly and that is the kind
of thing that ought to be. But may I tell you, my friend, most of the other
governments in the Caribbean are not too sympathetic to Maurice Bishop,
Question: That is what I would like to ask you what do you propose for such a
country that is trying to fight against so much external pressure, so much
more powerful neighbours, economically, militarily, etcetera?
CLR: I have been to Grenada and I can tell you what I saw there. I saw one set of
people preparing defence; there were about fifty of them, twenty-five were
women each of whom had her gun. I thought that was wonderful ..
Question: But can they retain their independence even when they get aid from other
CLR: He is doing his best. Now I am going to the USA at the end of this month to
speak at a Grenada/USA association which is getting ready and doing things
to help defend Grenada. If one is serious about that one finds a way. I can't
tell you from here, but if you really mean it you will find out there are ways
of assisting Grenada ..
Question: With all the things that are happening in Jamaica and with Seaga now in
control, what do you see?
CLR: Now when Manley won the election in 1976 he got 56 seats ... Seaga had 45
per cent of the population and Manley had 55. Now it is reversed, Manley has
only 9 and Seaga has 50-something. But Manley has 45 per cent of the votes
cast, so a substantial part of the people of Jamaica are still supporting
Manley. You can be misled by the election results. Number two is the
question of policy. The only thing Seaga has is 'I depend upon the United
States,' and, boy, if that is all you depend upon . [laughter]. They will
help him out but he will have to pay for that; so Manley has a solid part of
the people still with him and Seaga has got to show what he has, and he has
shown nothing at all except that the United States will lend him money and
they wouldn't lend Manley the money. Manley says, 'I can't take it on the
conditions that they give it to me,' but he still has 45 per cent of the popu-
lation. So I can't tell you what you have, but I know Seaga hasn't settled
anything. Neither does he claim to settle ..
Question: Do you think Manley is a better person for Jamaica?
CLR: I personally believe that the politics of Mr. Manley in the Caribbean today
have this at least: he says something. None of the others even say anything.
Manley says, 'This is the situation, it's a bad situation and we ought to go
along this road and I am not going further along that road.' This is what he is
doing. I know the weaknesses of Manley's position, I'm sure I don't know
them as well as he does, but he has very positive elements to what he is doing
and I say between them all I am for Manley. I don't say that Manley has a
solution. I believe that there is no solution to the Caribbean situation but a
federation of the whole Caribbean, beginning with Cuba and ending with all
three Guyanas, otherwise what is to happen? Will anybody tell me what
Barbados is going to do? St. Vincent? There is a little scrap of dirt called
Barbuda, they are now independent. I don't believe a factory could go up
there; it would sink the country. What is all this independence? It's a lot of
words. No, no, I am for independence but I don't believe independence .
Question: While we are on this question of unity talk, is there a point in the strengthen-
ing of the non-aligned movement as a whole force between the super powers?
CLR: What is the non-aligned movement, please, tell me, please?
Question: The only explanation is mainly puppets, as far as I can see .. I am asking
a point in the popularisation of the concepts of non-alignment and the impli-
cation of the grand resolutions that they pass, anti-imperialist, anti-racist.
CLR: Yes, they need a new financial system, that is all that they pass. But these
fellows aren't doing anything, you know, they are not doing anything because
they are more afraid of their populations than they are of thie imperialists.
The imperialists will manage with them, but the populations if they start
anything can be very unpleasant.
So they are there balancing in between, but I believe the period of balancing
is about to come to an end. I believe your Labour Party in the United
Kingdom is in a lot of trouble to maintain that balance. You can't balance
forever; you fall down on one side or the other. From what I hear they are
not doing so well on the balancing.
Question: Would you say that the situation in Poland is because of Russian interven-
CLR: I can't tell you at one minute to nine about Russia when we are ending at
nine, but I suggest you keep your eye on Poland and see why Poland is doing
what it is doing. Is Poland revolting against American imperialism? Is it that
the Polish people are against the United Kingdom? Are the Polish people
against French imperialism? Are they against Chinese? What are the Poles
objecting to? They are objecting to the fact that the Russians are once more
sitting on their backs, and when you know that, you know some politics;
and if you don't know that, you don't know it. I don't wish to be rude but
I wish to be strong. The Poles are telling us what is the Russian situation.
Poland has constantly been divided not that the Poles love to be divided
but the geographical world situation there: any country that wants to
dominate Europe has to get control of Poland, so the history of Poland is
being divided and the Poles don't like it. ..
I have spent some time on the Russian question. I have no use politically for
them and I want everybody to know that. I want to tell you one thing that
in 1914 Lenin believed in the Second International; When he heard that they
all had voted the finances for the war he said, 'That's not true, that's capital-
ist propaganda.' He believed in them but when he discovered that they had,
he said, 'The Second International is dead and the policy should be to turn
the Imperialist war into civil war.' You are all waiting. Something must start
in Russia before you say you are for that, but Lenin didn't wait for
something to start; he said it is there. I know it is there so I say in advance, I
know it is there, and turn it into a civil war. You say so about Russia I
say . Russia, it is there. I know it is there but you are scared, but pardon
me, of course when I say you who are asking the question, not you person-
A NEW VIEW OF WEST INDIAN HISTORY*
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have heated arguments with many of my political friends and
associates and the arguments usually revolve around this. I will say. "We can do such a
thing here", but my friends tell me almost without exception: "That can't be done here
because the people are not up to it." Now over the last year or two I have been testing
that out and I have been making some of my talks as tough as they can possibly be, and
this is going to be a tough one, and up to now I have not found anybody who is not up
to it. Any serious view of history is always tough and a new view of history, especially
of something as evanescent as West Indian history, is likely to be difficult, but we will
fight it out together.
I am paying great attention this evening to the work of our writers, because when
one goes to a country like Italy or France there are the castles, there are the buildings,
there are the streets, the squares, the churches, the cathedrals. One goes into the museums
and into the galleries and there one sees the paintings and the sculpture. One hears the
speech. I used to go to a certain place and edible stuff was sold there, and I was told that
this had been going on since the year A.D. 800; over 2,000 years ago. People had been
coming in from outside and selling goods there. One does not meet all these things
in the West Indies to the same degree. The result is that on our writers and on the work
they are doing today, there is concentrated an enormous amount of West Indian history;
far more than on the wirters in Britain, or the writers in France, or the writers in the
United States. I intend to concentrate on them this evening and to draw some conclusions
as to the historical method, that is to say a method or approach. I understand there is
no Faculty of Philosophy at this university. This is the first and perhaps the last time
that I will criticise the university in public, but you ought to have one. I don't see how
you can study history or literature or anything, really, without at the back of it some
concept of the philosophical direction of what you are studying, and I am chiefly con-
cerned with the philosophical view of West Indian history. I am going to try to give you
one, and at any rate, one thing with the philosophical view is that if it is clear you can
always say. "I don't agree with that." There must be a philosophical view of any serious
topic and I intend to try, through the writers, to get some sort of philosophical approach
to the problem of West Indian history. I don't know any West Indian history books. I
know a lot of books that write about history. I know of many books which make state-
ments of fact for the most part, I know a lot of books that have accumulated material,
but a historical treatment of the history of the West Indies I know of no book which
deals with this matter.
*Lecture delivered at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, on June 3, 1965.
I will tell you what I am going to do, so that you will be quite clear. I am jumping
about rather rapidly. I will begin with a brief view of certain contemporary writers, some
people whom I have discovered here in the last few months. I begin with them because
they are new West Indian writers and represents a new phase in West Indian history. Some
of them are very spiteful and malicious, but the people who write positively are some
very fine writers indeed, and the fine thing about them is that George Lamming, whom
I shall come to later, Wilson Harris, Hearne, Vidia Naipaul, myself and others are Western
educated. We are trained from a literary point of view in the Western style and the
Western tradition and method, and we bring that information to bear upon the West
Indian scene. I don't think there is anything wrong in that, it had produced some very
fine work. These writers I am going to introduce you to are of an entirely different
type. They are native, as native as the coconut tree or the plantain, absolutely sprung
from the soil. One of them I have had the pleasure of meeting for three or four hours,
and he was a young man innocent of literary theory. He had read some books but he did
not remember all that he had read, but he is very characteristic of the modern type of
Now, after I have done that I will move forward towards Wilson Harris and the
philosophers, Heidegger and Jaspers absolutely the most highly developed phase of
modern thought. Wilson Harris cannot be understood and they cannot be properly
understood, unless their work is taken together. And then I shall take up George Lamming
and Jean-Paul Sartre. The two go together. Immediately after that I shall take up a
French writer St. John Perse who is a Nobel Prizewinner, and one of the great poets of
France, but he was brought up in Guadeloupe and he has never escaped the results.
Every bit of his work over sixty years is loaded with the West Indian influence. He said
so plainly himself, but even when he does not say it is very clear. Then for a few brief
minutes I will take up the poet in "Cahier d'un Retour au pays Natal" the man who
invented Negritude, Aime Cesaire; and then I will take up what I can or what you will
allow me to, but before I am finished I shall read you some from "The Black Jacobins"
which is very West Indian, and you should be able to recognize that as West Indian.
I am afraid you don't.
The first person I am going to take is a boy called Earl Lovelace. He is a youngman
of about 30. A prize of 55,000 was offered to any West Indian writer who would write
novels that the critics approved of. There were 30 novels and four of them were sent
to J.B. Priestly and he selected this one. I will read you one or two extracts from it,
because that is what is happening today, and I will be glad to know that you recognize
and you feel what I am talking about, because there is no other way in literature. It is
how you feel about it. It is very unfair to a novelist to read an extract, but I think these
are good enough.
Before he was married Walter remembers how at the
end of the forthnight when he got his, salary he
would go with the other fellows from the office
down at Jacky's and punch tunes in the juke box, and
he would fry chicken and drink rum or beer and talk,
talk, talk. Talk about women, talk about politics,
talk about the job, about the work. Talk in liquor
twisted voices. And sometimes afterwards they would
go down by Sicardo's night club or out on the street.
Monday morning you came to work and the fellows
said, "That is a good time we had last night eh?"
What was a good time you would think? How the
hell was that a good time. You sat there half drunk
between cigarette smoke and you ate fried chicken
and you crack the bone and sometimes the marrow
run down the side of your mouth and fell on the
front of your shirt and you had to wipe it off and
listen to obscene jokes; or sometimes a woman with
a big backside passed before the door and somebody
pointed at her and everybody looked and then
gave their opinion of what they would like to do
with her, and where and when? And then at the
night club you drink rum and dance with a whore
with bulging breasts and a short tight-fitting silken
dress, and perhaps you would go to her room some-
where on some alley street, or you would remain
there and talk yourself to boredom and drink the
rum and watch the aimless curl of cigarette smoke
in the dimly-lit room.
That was a hell of a good time! Yes Sir, that was a
good time. What is a good time?
That is the sort of feeling. You notice there is nothing literary about it. It is as if some
bright boy at the corner was speaking. That is exactly what he is. He is a literary person
who talked at the corner, I don't know if he went and visited these places, but at any
rate that is what they talked about and he said: "Well, that was a good time they would
say". And then comes, "That was a hell of a good time." He questions it: "What is a
good time?" . and in a very natural homebred simple manner. There is a lot more
that I could read about this, but I don't. I have not the time. A little later he speaks in
his own voice, and the natural voice of the West Indian is heard who is not educated
abroad but who had been brought up in a decent home and has learnt the language and
has fine instincts. He says:
Failure like a jagged-edged knife twist teeth into his
chest. Frustration chases anger down the streets of
his mind. It is only left for him to weep, weep for
the times and for the people of Webber Street; weep
for himself and his dream. Weep, for one aging man
has words and no deeds, and another is stiffened by
pride and galled by previous failures; and young
women are prostitutes before their breasts are fully
formed; and the young men are angry and violent
angry at street corners, ready to stick a knife in
God's ribs. And a mother prays and a son knows
that he must hope. And in this city, in this island
the gods are falling and there is nothing for the
young people to look up to, nothing for anyone
to look up to. The leading citizens are wrapped in
their selfcentredness and life is the extension of the
individual's personality, a sort of emotional mastur-
bation; and love is something that you can crease
and slip into your wallet, and pride is something that
on Sunday morning you wash with a garden hose
and shine, having polished. It is not only unemploy-
ment and shanty towns and over-crowded houses,
not so much crimes of violence and sex, it is that
there is nothing decent and valuable to hold on to.
Out of the land has come asphalt and oil, from the
bosom of the peasant the bongo and the limbo have
come and the wealth of song, from the tesses the
calypso and the steel band; but out of the others,
the leading citizens, the good and the rich and the
educated folk what has come?
Now that is a drastic indictment. It does not matter whether it is completely true
or not, it is that somebody is saying it who is, allow me, one of us, and he has not read
it in books. It is a natural response to a certain situation and this young man is a natural
There is another one, a man called Michael Anthony. He wrote a book called "The
Games Were Coming". It was a good enough book, good enough, but there was one
episode in it that was very striking, and I should have known from that episode how he
would write later. But I didn't. There is a young woman who is engaged to one of the
cyclists in the games, and he is so concerned with the cycling and training and being up to
riding pitch and so forth that he would not sleep with her and she is fed up with him; but
she is in love with him. She works at the store of an East Indian, a man of about 50, and
quite naturally in the simplest straightforward manner. Michael Anthony shows that she
slips into an affair with this Indian man old enough to be her father. I don't know what
that means to you, but I tell you what it means to me. In Trinidad you will hear very
often, and you will hear it in British Guiana too, that Indians with small businesses
invite to work with them attractive creole girls and soon have them in a situation where
they are compelled to give way to their demands and desires.
Now Michael Anthony says exactly the opposite, and if you lived in Trinidad you
would know that this girl slipped into an affair with this man who was old enough to be
her father because she wanted to. He definitely says so. The girls are not always forced
into such situations, you know. Sometimes they go because they like it, and that was
quite something to say in the Trinidad atmosphere. As I said, I should have seen at
once what kind of person he was, but I did not. He has written another book called
THE YEAR IN SAN FERNANDO. It is the story of a child of twelve who spends a
year of his life in San Fernando, and what happens to him and the grown-ups he meets.
I will give you only one episode to tell the kind of personality he is. He used to go to
the Roman Catholic school, then he went to San Fernando and he worked as a moulder
at the oil company. He worked with his hands. Then he went to England and he has
worked in the railways, and I believe he has worked on the busses, but he has written
these two novels. This novel, THE YEAR IN SAN FERNANDO is a superb piece of
work. I will let you see how homebred, how natural and simple it is. I know the people
who are being written about and I know the men who are writing it.
The boy of twelve is in the house and Mrs. Chandles and her nephew Edwin are
having a terrific row.
I stopped thinking of Edwin to listen again. Mrs.
Chandles was talking about the money she had spent
on their education. This was not new to me. She had
always boasted about this, about the upper-class
education she had given her children. Both boys
had gone to the big college. (This is a boy of 12
speaking). I had seen the college myself on the hill
and I had gazed upon it with awe. I had also seen
Mr. Chandles' coat with the college things on, and
now I thought of our own poverty and of my mother
sending me here because she could hardly feed us
all, yet no such row could take place in Ma's house;
and we were not refined or anything and we had
not been to the big college.
That is most genuinely the attitude of a West Indian person who had not been to the big
college, and he had not been able to wear jackets with the design. and he heard this
woman constantly speaking of the education that she had given to those children of
hers; and here was the kind of row going on. I don't know what is your experience of
the West Indies, but I know what is mine. Those sentiments exist among a substantial
section of the population who don't get up on the platform to make speeches and who
are not sent by the Government on commissions abroad, and do not become ministers.
But the simple ordinary lower middle class people whose sentiments are straightforward
and clean and clear form a substantial element in the population. I have known them for
years, I have come back and met them, and the future of the West Indies depends to a
large degree on them. That these two writers should spring from out of them and write
in the finished way that they do, expressing these sentiments, is to me a hopeful sign
in what seems rather a gloomy future.
There are other writers of the day so let me get them out of the way. There is a
Mr. Austin Clarke from Barbados. He writes a book called THE SURVIVORS OF THE
CROSSING. I mention him purely because he is a most offensive person as a writer
and his offensivene;s is not individual to him, and if it were, I would not bother, but
there is a strain of cruelty, a strain of contempt that runs in educated people for the mass
of the population. They are usually angry with them because they have not recognized
their distinguished abilities and the many things they are willing to contribute to the
West Indian society, if only these stupid people would recognize them for what they
are, and his book is redolent of it. As a matter of fact, to use plain language, it stinks
of it. It is a horrible book altogether. I will read one passage from it to show you what
he thinks of the ordinary people of the West Indies.
This is a woman named Stella and she has at last got herself in a situation where
she is living with a man who has a little more money than usual. It is very objectionable,
but nevertheless it is a bitter medicine we have to take.
"No," Stella said, "But I gained sense, and you know Clemmie darling, pussy is
a funny thing. Is the onliest weapon a woman have. You give your man some when he
want some and be-Christ it turn his head right behind his back."
I have never heard any West Indian, either directly or indirectly speak in this way.
This comes from Mr. Clarke's own dirty mind.
Take Biscombe for example.
He telling the Marrish and the Parish that I nice
that I sweet. Sure! I know to set his plate, and I
know how he like' it. But I using my weapon. You
don't see my two children going to High School?
You don't see them sitting down beside o' the man-
ager' children and Rev'runt McKinley' children on
a mornings? How the hell you think they get there?
By trotting up and down behind Rufus? A man who
can't even give me two shilling to buy mensing pads
when the month come:? No, child! It is this! This!
This thing what God put up twixtt my crutch!' And
she touched the apex of her legs, and patted it until
Clementina could hear her hands hitting against her
Now that is a piece of nastiness that is peculiarly Mr. Clarke's, and a certain type
of them. I know them. They are not all like these two, you know, when they are educated;
especially when they are educated abroad and they come back and do not find the recep-
tion that they think they ought to have they are nasty as ever. There is a cruel streak
of barbarism running in the educated West Indian which reaches a clear pitch of expres-
sion in this book. Remember the name THE SURVIVORS OF THE CROSSING -
so when you go into the bookshops and see this book you will know not to buy it.
Then there is a Mr. Alvin Bennett. You may know him. GOD THE STONE-
BREAKER. Mr. Bennett it seems is a Jamaican who went to England sometime 40
or 50 years of age, and now he had found time and energy to write this book. It is not
a good book. Let us leave it at that, but the book is worthwhile reading because he is
a member of an old generation who is trying to get on terms with the present generation.
There is a rape in this book in which some coloured boy rapes an English girl, the daugh-
ter of someone, and it is a terrible mess. It is very painful to read. This man is not malicious;
he is merely stupid and dull. He wanted to write a novel and he got some ideas together
and he put the race question and he put this and that and he called the book GOD
THE STONEBREAKER. He has put some pretty tough stones for God to break!
I would like to go on to Jaspers and Heidegger and Wilson Harris. What is happening
to Wilson Harris in the West Indies is a scandal. I came here the other day and I men-
tioned the name Wilson Harris and I was asked: "Who is Wilson Harris"? This is outside
the University. It was inside. Some other people said, "Yes, I have heard of him, but I
find him very difficult." Others said, "I have tried to read him and I can't." Others
can't find his books. That is an absolute shame for a university. I must say, "Give it
to Trinidad, it was bad enough although it did not have the university that you have."
British Guiana was worse. They not only did not know, but they did not want to know.
To deal with Wilson Harris we have to tackle some serius philosophical questions.
We have to tackle the work of Heidegger whose "Being and Time" is of the same quality
in the 20th century as Begel's "Philosophy of Mind" was in the 19th and the "Critique
of Pure Reason", by Kant was in the 18th. That is the stamp of writing. If Heidegger
has one rival it is Jaspers. Both of them are today about 80. They are still alive and
flourishing. They are two of the greatest philosophers of this century. Now philosophy
is a very difficult business. Strictly speaking philosophy is as technical as medicine or
marine engineering or electricity or something like that. It is a difficult, technical business
that you have to spend a lot of time on. But fortunately, philosophers when they write
not only write about philosophy but they write about the world in which they are.
I have a great deal of interest and excitement and often instruction reading the philo-
sophers, although I do not have the technical capacity to understand them as a student
of philosophy would. Now I am going to give you my view of Heidegger.
Heidegger says that the life we live is the life lived by the "they", by "they" he
means all of us, you and you and the philosopher himself. He says we live a life of every-
days. We eat the same food, we read the same books, we read more or less the same
newspapers, we have the same amusements, we listen to the same politicians more or
less. That is the life of every days, the average life. It can't be helped. That is the way
we live and that is the way we have to live. Most people live that way and that is an
inauthentic existence. Our decisions don't amount to individual decisions on anything;
it is more or less that we strike an average neither too much of this nor too much of
that; and we get on as everybody else is getting on. Then there comes in the life of every
person and every unit something that is called the "dasein" and "dasein" is a German
word meaning "being there". At certain times in our lives we are there, in the world
as it is, and we face the reality of our existence, and life becomes somewhat different.
We may also slip back into the life of the they, we may never find it, but we usually
get an opportunity. Some individual, some person usually gets a vision of the world,
the "dasein" the being there, and straightway existence becomes authentic. We have to
come to conclusions, we have to make decisions ourselves, and we live an authentic
existence. There are two things that he marks out as signs of the authentic existence,
and they are temporality and historicity. Some people translate it as historicality. I
like historicality. It is a long word and it is more imposing in sound. Historicality and
temporality. . Time and history. He says the sense of history is something that you
have to be aware of. It is not what all those historians write in the history books, and
Heidegger's contempt for the sociologists, the historians, the economists and the rest
of them is almost equal to mine, and that would have to be very great.
I read with immense satisfaction, Heidegger saying, "What is this sociology?"
He said that a lot of facts were found out, written down in a book and some sort of
compendium of information was formed. The economists have been doing that for
years. The economist quotes a lot of facts and he puts tables and charts; what is there
to that? At the end of it nothing is known. Ricardo was not an economist of that kind.
Adam Smith was not. I am particularly happy to see Heidegger slaughter Ernest Cas-
sirer. He and Susan K. Langer, who is an American who does his work are full of the
doctrine that men is a myth making animal. I read their books from start to finish and
I said, "This is very funny to me, and I get nowhere with this kind of doctrine." Mr.
Heidegger in one short paragraph of his book disposed of Mr. Cassirer and Miss Susan
Langer and terms their work nonsense.
The dasein means that you are involved, and the temporality and historicity are
to be seen in this way. An event can be seen properly historically in regard to what is
expected to happen and in regard to what has happened in the past. Therefore the present
history of an event is always a sort of compromise, an equipoise between the past and
the future that you expect. There is nothing that is historically true, one has to take
what has happened and what is likely to happen before the historical event can assume
Heidegger thinks the same of time. He says that time does not consist of a series
of minutes, but with their significance before we know what happened and when and
what temporal conclusions are to be drawn from an event. Finally he thinks that the
end of all historicity and temporality is the fact that we will die. That becomes very
important in our lives at certain moments. It is the one thing that nobody can do for
us. We have to die for ourselves. The result is that when we became concerned about
the dasein and really feel ourselves a part of the world every calculation of ours is con-
cerned with the fact that we are going to be dead, that we have lived a certain life and
that we have at last ventured and made an authentic contact with the world as it is.
Heidegger's book was written in 1926. The title is BEING AND TIME, and Jaspers'
work began to be published in 1931. Jaspers is the man of the extreme situation. Before
Hitler came into power, before the war, before the Gestapo began to make life impos-
sible for everybody, Jaspers said that we only began to know what life was like when
we were in extreme situations. We lived according to people around us what Heidegger
called the inauthentic existence of the they; but it was in extreme situations that we
found out what were the realities of life and of our characters and of our relations with
people. He wrote that book in 1931.
In 1933 Hitler took the whole of Germany and a great deal of Europe, as Stalin
had been doing in Russia, and made them realize the extreme situation. For many years
the Gestapo had caused people to face the extreme situation. Jean-Paul Sartre insists
that Jaspers' philosophy and work is the philosophy of the extreme situation because
it was only when people were faced with the extreme situation, like the Gestapo, that
the realities of their lives in France were understood. There the Gestapo took its victims
into a cellar, cross-examined and tortured them, and made these victims decide whether
they would speak or not, and no one was ever going to know. You had then to decide
on the realities of the situation knowing that each victim was his only judge and the
only witness. Then Sartre said, "We were never so happy as under the German occupa-
tion because then we knew what was right and what was wrong." Each person knew
what he had or had not to do. There was no problem then. It was after the war and after
the Germans had left that France was in trouble and is still in trouble up to today. So
that is Heidegger and that is Jaspers. Now where does Wilson Harris comes in?
I recommend to you his first book "The Palace of the Peacock". In "The Palace
of the Peacock" Harris is an extremely bold man. "The Palace of the Peacock" is the
story of some men who are making a journey along one of the rivers, with the rapids
and whirlpools etc. in British Guiana. Before many paragraphs the reader finds out that
the people who are taking part in this are dead. Harris describes about eight or ten people
and they are dead people. They are not only dead, but he describes the moment of death
that strikes them as they were making this journey down. This one was stabbed, this one
slipped over into the whirlpool, this one quarrelled with another etc. etc. But at the same
time what Harris does is to tell you what are the lives that are lived by these people -
their family lives before they came to take this terrific journey in the interior of
British Guiana. If you bear this in mind you will see that Harris is very much aware of
what Heidegger is aware of and what Jaspers is aware of. There is the normal everyday
life the inauthentic life of the they that they live in Georgetown and the other settled
areas of British Guiana. That is the contrast in his book all the time. But then they go
into the interior where they are dealing with forests, wild animals, hunger, people who
shoot and all sorts of primitive authentic experiences. Harris' books are concerned with
people who are in the extreme situation and who find the dasein in those situations.
That is the meaning of these six or eight people who take the journey. They are seeking
the Palace of the Peacock, which is the world of the future. All of them are seeking
it, and it is in the moment of death that you find out what they stand for, and what they
really think, and there is a sketch of their lives, the lives of the everyday inauthentic -
and in this tremendous journey, in this peculiar part of the world with all these dangers
and troubles (hunger, starvation, poisoning, fighting with one another all extreme
situations) there they live an authentic existence and find out what the reality of life is.
In book after book Harris does that. That is the contrast which must be borne in mind,
and natives of the West Indies should be able to understand his books much better than
There is another thing I would like to say about Mr. Harris' work. Jean-Paul Sartre
is one of the most remarkable writers Europe has ever known. He is the most distinguished
writer of the 20th century the post-war 20th century. You have to imagine that Kant
and Spinoze and Descartes could write novels and plays, tremendous novels and plays
as good as any being written, and at the same time would write their books, discuss a
method and critique of pure reason and Hegelian logic ans still write novels and plays.
And that is what Jean-Paul Sartre does. What is most peculiar is that the novels and plays
are not an amusement, but are exemplifications in fiction of the dramatic arts, of the
philosophy that he is writing in his serious philosophical works. That is the first time that
that has happened in Europe. But our good friend from British Guiana has gone one
better. Harris writes his fiction and his philosophy and his dramatic episodes all in one
book. Pages after pages from Harris are written as if they came straight from Heidegger
or from Sartre or any of these other philosophers, and then he moves straight into the
description of the inauthentic existence in Georgetown, or he puts someone in an ex-
treme situation in the forest and amidst the whirlpools and that begins to make him think
of the life he is living in . Georgetown while he is in that extreme situation, and the
contrast between what life was in that inauthentic environment and what it is in that
extreme situation is marked. These philosophers have "nothing on Harris", absolutely
nothing. There is no philosophical point that he does not take, and Wilson Harris intro-
duces doctrines which they have not introduced. The fact that he is doing this is strange.
He was not educated abroad. He did not study this philosophy. He happened to live in a
peculiar part of the world. He happened to be a natural writer and a man serious about
writing, and was for 15 years a land surveyor in the interior of British Guiana. He had
these experiences. He would go to Georgetown, which I suppose is just like Port-of-Spain,
the inauthentic life, . and then he would go into the interior, and the contrast between
the two ways of life must have had a tremendous impact on him. The five books he has
written up to now deal with the same theme. If one is familiar with the works of Heidegger
and Jaspers then one will understand Wilson Harris much better.
The next writer I shall deal with is Mr. George Lamming who is of a different type
from Harris, and the man who reminds me of Lamming is Jean-Paul Sartre. This is one of
Sartre's books, BEING AND NOTHINGNESS, a heavy philosophical work. I don't mean
it is boring, but it is packed close, page after page. It is astonishing to know that this man
is one of the cleaverest and funniest dramatists that you can find. I am going to read
a passage from BEING AND NOTHINGNESS Page 421.
He says the master, the feudal lord, the bourgeois,
the capitalist all appear not only as powerful people
who command, but in addition, and above all as
"thirds" (That is a philosophical expression that he
has) that is as those who are outside the oppressed
community and for whom this community exists.
You see he is very much concerned philosophically with the relation between the person
and the other. He says,
but in every community there is the relation
between you and the other and there is the third -
those for whose benefit the society exists. It is
therefore for them and in their freedom that the
reality of the oppressed class is going to exist.
It is in the reality with the third section of society and their conception of society that
the oppressed classes find out what they are. "It is to them and through them that there
is revealed the identity of my condition. It is for them that I exist in a situation organized
with others. This means that I discover the "us" in which I am integrated and the class
outside in the third."
Hegel is also very strong on this and Sartre is there referring to Hegel's conception
in the famous similie in the psychology of the Master and the Slave, where Hegel said that
it is the fact of the Master and his mastership exercising authority over the slave. He
said that this in turn made the slave conscious of what his master thought of him and
and how he must think about himself. This is a very famous comparison and Sartre refers
to it often, and he is touching on it there.
And now Mr. George Lamming. I have chosen OF AGE AND INNOCENCE, and
if I had to decide on the finest novel since the war that would not be far down in my
list. I would like to go through an episode there with you which shows how closely
related Lamming is to Sartre. I know he reads a lot of Sartre. In OF AGE AND INNO-
CENCE there is a girl called Penelope who is married to an Englishman and they both
go out to a West Indian island called San Cristobal, an island discovered by George
Lamming. She has a friend called Marcia who is married to a West Indian, and this West
Indian boy behaves very badly towards Marcia. Marcia goes to Penelope and she tells
Penelope all that this boy has caused her to suffer, the humiliations, the lack of com-
munication that he is guilty of in regard to her, and Penelope quiets Marcia and is kind
to her and Marcia drops off, and Marcia drops off, and Penelope suddenly discovers that
she has homosexual feelings in regard to Marcia. When she understands that the girl
is horrified. She says "Good heavens, what has happened to me?" Marcia does not know,
and Lamming spends two or three pages showing how this thing has happened to Pene-
lope almost unknown to herself, and she would like to talk to her husband about it
and tell him, but she says she can't do it. She says she can't do it because once she does
then she will never be the same to him or anybody else whom she speaks to, because
she will be Penelope, the same girl, but in spite of this unfortunate habit of hers. She
says she would be Penelope inspite of, she would not be the old Penelope, and she goes
around for some days deeply disturbed by this that has happened to her and the recogni-
tion of the fact that her character, her outlook on life is shaped completely by the
persons who live around her.
Now Penelope when coming there has had an episode a very sharp episode,
on board a'plane with a man called Shepherd. Shepherd pulled a revolver and he threat-
ened to shoot all of them; and he seemed determined to shoot Penelope in particular
on the 'plane, but they quietened him down and he left. Now Shephard has become a
great leader of the Nationalist Movement in San Cristobal. He is a black man with a
bald head and Penelope goes one day to swim and she finds that she is being drowned,
and somebody from an island in the bay comes to her rescue, saves her life and she
sees that the person is Shephard who behaved so crazily on board the plane. Shephard
is going to this island in the river and he is reading, so he saves Penelope and he goes
up on the shore and sits down and they start to talk.
Shephard then becomes very communicative and admitted that he behaved very
badly to her on the 'plane, and wanted then to explain why. She is very sympathetic,
for after all he has just saved her life, and he begins:
I knew a woman in England, she was a friend of
mine, who looked exactly like you. And she deceived
me. So, when I saw you, everything that I had ex-
perienced with her came back to me.
He then tells her why he is there leading the Nationalist Movement. He said that he had
no personality of his own. Millions of people like Penelope regarded him as a certain
type of person. A black man was a certain type of person and he had to live according
to those standards that had been set for him. He said that a chair was something that lived
the life of a chair because the poeple who had made it and put it there had decided that
that was the way a chair should be. That was the situation in which he found himself.
He lived according to the standards and outlook of people who set standards and outlooks
for him which he had nothing to do with Now he had accepted those standards, but
when he chose to break away from them he would do what the chair could not do. He
would break out of them and go back and fight them and get rid of them that way. Then
in the midst of it he used a phrase that struck Penelope and sent the tears rolling down
her cheeks: He said:
I am going to be a person in spite of what they think
And that was Penelope's problem. She felt that although that had happened to her she
was still Penelope, but if she had told people she would only have been Penelope in
spite of that. And here some days afterwards Shephard is telling her that his problem
as a black man suffering from the oppression and the humiliations that white people
imposed on him is that he had to be Shephard in spite of the indignities they had im-
posed on him. The two things were tied together and Lamming here, as in many other
parts of his writing, was saying that such and such a person was a political person, this
man was a social person. Another took on these political and social activities. But the
origin of such a person rested in certain fundamental human responses and it was his
business to trace in every case the basic human responses that had expressed themselves
in this political way. And Lamming is not very far from Sartre.
Sarte says that most people are living in an attitude that he calls bad faith, and the
examples he gives are very amusing. He says in the big book on philosophy a young man
meets a young woman and he asks her to let him take her out. Well the young woman
says yes and she goes with him. He says she knows what his aim is but she has to pre-
tend that it is not that, but if she thought he had no such aim she would not like the party
so much. But to know that he is thinking that way and she has to deal with it, and his
asking when he may begin the first approaches . That is all in Jean-Paul Sartre's
book BEING AND NOTHINGNESS. I suppose that is being.
Then the young man will tell the young lady how attractive she is looking that
evening. She acknowledges the compliment and the fellow thinks he may go a little
further. He then puts his hand on hers and she begins to talk about abstract, intellectual
artistic matters and pretends that he has not put his hand on hers. Sartre calls that living
in bad faith. He feels that the large majority of people live like that, and he goes into
great detail to show it.
Shephard is a great revolutionary leader. He is a fine man, a powerful fellow, but
under these extraordinary circumstances Shephard shows what was the motive that sent
him in this direction. And Lamming is constantly drawing conclusions and making
analyses. And very fine they are. He is no superficial psychoanalyst. He deals with histo-
rical and objective facts, but he wants to find out the feeling that exists in people that
leads them in certain directions, and he sometimes finds out some strange feelings in
some strange places.
Here I will stop a little bit and discuss some poetry.
You know the complaint that is made about Lamming in every one of his books;
he seems to respect only the mass of the population. He seems to think that all salvation
for the West Indies or for any country lies in them. That criticism is made of him because
all through his writing it is very clear that that is the way he thinks. I would like to
draw something quite sharply to your attention; the way Jean-Paul Sartre thinks. He has
recently started an autobiography called WORDS, and these are the last pages.
I see clearly, I am free from illusions. I know my
real tasks, and I must surely deserve a civic prize.
For about ten years I have been a man who is waking
up, cured nf a. lon,? bitter-sweet madness, who cannot
get away from it, who cannot recall his own ways
without laughing and who no longer has any idea
what to do with his life.
Now, after speaking to people about communism and the necessity of working for the
proletariat he admits that for ten years he has made of himself an awful fool and he
can't think of what he had been doing without laughing and wondering what he should
do with the rest of his life. Sartre is the ablest writer of this generation and now he tells
us in 1964 that for the last ten years he has not known what he was doing and he cannot
look at the past of his life without laughing; what he has been doing is too absurd.
He is not the only one. There is Mr. T.S. Eliot. We can abuse him properly because
he is dead. I am going to read two passages from his poem: FOUR QUARTERS. There is
not the faintest trace in Wilson Harris of the quality possessed in all the modern writers
who really matter. These modern European writers are sick to the soul. How Sartre could
have the nerve after all he has been writing and the number of people who have gone to
goal for him and whom he has led in demonstrations and whom he has encouraged to
believe in this to say that he is now a man who for the last ten years can only look
back at the past and wonder at the nonsense he has been guilty of. . At least he should
have kept his mouth shut. He should have said nothing. Here is T.S. Eliot:
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing, wait
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for the
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness
Whisper of running streams and winter lighting,
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter and the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there.
To arrive where you are,to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
I have already stated in BEYOND A BOUNDARY that T.S. Eliot is a poet I always
read. First of all he is a fine poet and secondly he states most clearly and exactly whatever
I do not believe; I can find it there.
Now undoubtedly he feels that way. Undoubtedly many people feel that way,
but you don't find that in the West Indian writer. We have not yet reached the stage
where we are sick of existence and doubtful of the future. There is a feeling that there
is some prospective. We have not suffered enough. We have not been in it long enough
to have the sickness of the soul which so many of these European intellectuals have.
Jean-Paul Sartre said that for the past years he did not know what he was doing.
Here is another poem:
So here am I, in the middle way, having had twenty
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
with shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is
By strength and submission, has already been dis-
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one
To emulate but there is no competition -
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now under
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our
This is one of his finest poems. It is a poem I read quite often just to know how
I do not think. So there are the two of them; Jean-Paul Sartre, T.S. Eliot two of the
biggest names in the 20th century and remarkably fine writers. Sartre in particular is
an astonishing person with a tremendous variety and absolute capacity. I want to make
it clear that the present generation of West Indian writers have none of that in them.
They write differently.
Orlando Patterson in his book "The Children of Sisyphus" puts at the beginning
a quotation from Camus:
I said that the world was absurd but I was too hasty.
This world in itself is not reasonable, that is all that
can be said ....
The characters, however, in that book are nasty, mean, stupid, filthy and all sorts of
things, but they are not absurd. When a prostitute says that she will do all she can to give
her daughter an education, that is not an absurdity. And despite the belief of this 24
year old writer that life is an absurdity, Patterson cannot help making these people on the
lowest levels of existence show the essential human virtues, the things that make man
human and remove him from the state of the animal. He describes people whose lives
are on lower levels that the animals', but these profoundly human instincts are there.
I don't know if he put them there purposely, I would not be surprised if they were
there instinctively, but he has in mind Camus' philosophy.
That is one of the first things we must get clear about these writers. They are not
like T.S. Eliot or Jean-Paul Sartre who think that life is a miserable busniess, and there is
no point in it. Sartre says that there is no point in it at all and Eliot says that the only
point in it is through struggle, and to know that in struggle lies the significance of it. The
rest we know nothing about. That may suit him. It does not suit me and I don't think
it suits the average West Indian. We have a lot to find out. We have a lot of sorrow to pass
through and maybe at the end of 15 or 20 years we will know what it is to have an
absolutely hopeless view of the world. But we have not got it today. We have a lot of
things that are quite wrong but that we have not got.
Now I am going to go very quickly through two books and then I am going to
read some extracts from my own book "The Black Jacobins." I would like to spend
two or three minutes talking about Aime Cesaire. He lives in Martinique; went to school
there, and when he was 19 he went to France. There he joined the Communist Party
and he was taken by a friend to spend a vacation in southern Europe, some part of
Yugoslavia. It was there he wrote the poem "Cahier d'u Retour au pays Natal" The
Statement of a Return to the Country where I was Born." It is the finest poem ever
written about Africa, and for many centuries men have been writing about Africa. There
he makes the famous statement about "Negritude". It is a most drastic denunciation of
Western civilization. He says hurrah for those who never invented anything, for those who
never explored anything, for those who never mastered anything. He says the African
is as he is and hurrah for that, because look at those who have invented and explored;
look at them. He says, listen to the white world, its horrible exhaustion from its immense
labours, its rebellions joints cracking under the pitiless stars.
Its blue steel rigidities cutting through the mysteries
of the flesh
Listen to their vain-glorious conquests trumpeting
Listen to the grandiose alibis of their pitiful flounder-
He says look at the African. He never discovered
Look at the Whites bombing one another and sending
He says the African lives close to nature and he is part of nature which these people
and their western civilization have lost altogether. I believe and I have stated that this
is not something which could have been written by any African at all. It is particularly
a West Indian problem. Cesaire was looking for something to believe in and he could
find nothing West Indian so he turned to Africa. He reminds me of Marcus Garvey who
spoke magnificently about Africa but he had never been there and did not know any
African language. Cesaire writes this splendid poem about Africa but he had never been
there at any time. His negritude was in praise of the native civilization of Africa. It was
a tremendous rejection of Western civilization.
Now T.S. Eliot rejects it also in a peculiar way. Jean-Paul Sartre rejects it com-
pletely and finally rejects himself, but Cesaire thinks there is something in the world
that Africa has got, and that we West Indians have it because we came from Africa.
Listen to this part of his poem.
For it is not true that the work of man is finished
That man has nothing more to do in the world but be
a parasite in the world
That all we now need is to keep in step with the
But the work of man is only just beginning
And it remains to man to conquer all the violence
entrenched in the recesses of his passion.
And no race possesses the monopoly of beauty,
of intelligence, of force.
There is a place for all at the rendezvous of victory.
I have translated that and I beg Mr. Cesaire's pardon. You can't translate poetry from
one language into another. You have to be masters of both and you have to be a fine
poet in both languages. That is very hard. But I go on to say in some prose which I think
is respectable, here is the centre of Cesaire's poem. By neglecting it, Africans and the
sympathetic of other races utter loud hurrahs that drown out common-sense and reason.
Cesaire is not saying that everybody should live as the African does. The work of man is
not finished, therefore the future of the African is not to continue not discovering any-
thing. The monopoly of beauty, of intelligence of force is possessed by no race, certainly
not by those who possess negritude. Cesaire never said that the African was wonderful
and superior and the future of civilization rested with the Negro. He never said that.
Negritude is what one race brings to the common rendezvous where all will strive for the
new world of the poet's vision.
The vision of the poet is not economics or politics, it is poetics, "sui generis" true
unto itself and needing no other truth, but it would be the most vulgar racism not to
see here a poetic incarnation of Mark's famous sentence: "The real history of humanity
will begin." And Cesaire is saying that the African has something to contribute. There
are certain fundamental aspects of human life which he still has which the West has
lost, and he will bring it to the rendezvous of victory. That is the meaning of Negritude.
I am going to leave out, for the time being, the Frenchman who was brought up
in Guadeloupe, and I am going to read you an extract from one West Indian writer, a
man whom we are not accustomed to think of as being a West Indian writer. After this,
however, you will always think of him in that way. You will never think of him as other-
I would like to read you a letter written by Toussaint L'Ouverture. It is a letter
that he wrote six years after he had been a slave. He had become Consul of Haiti, of
San Domingo, and he was doubtful whether the people who were ruling France would
not restore slavery under the influence of the French slave owners who were again in
political power. He writes this letter to them telling them that he hopes they would not
do any such thing, that the people of San Domingo after they had been free for three
or four years would never allow slavery to come back again. The letter is a great master-
piece and very West Indian. He says:
The impolitic and incendiary discourse of Voblas
(who was a slave owner) has not affected the Blacks
nearly so much as their certainty of the projects
which the proprietors of San Domingo are planning.
Insidious declarations should not have any effect
in the eyes of wise legislators who have decreed
liberty for the nation. But the attempts on liberty
which the colonies propose are all the more to be
feared because it is with the veil of patriotism that
they cover their detestable plans. We know that they
seek to impose some of them on you by spacious
promises in order to see renewed in this colony
its former scenes of horror. Already perfidious
emissaries have stepped in among us to ferment
the descriptive level prepared by the hands of liberti-
cides; but they will not succeed.
I swear it by all that liberty holds most sacred that
my attachment to France, my knowledge of the
Blacks make it my duty not to leave you ignorant
either of the crimes which they meditate or the
yoke that we renew to bury ourselves under the
ruins of a country revived by liberty, rather than
suffer the return of slavery.
Nobody in the West Indies today writes that way. Nobody does. Nobody can. I will
tell you why afterwards.
It is for you Citizens, Directors, to turn from over
our heads the storm which the eternal enemies of
our liberty are preparing in the shades of silence.
It is for you to enlighten the Legislature. It is for
you to prevent the enemies of the present system
from spreading themselves on our unfortunate shore
to sully it with new crimes. Do not allow our brothers,
our friends to be sacrificed to men who wish to reign
over the ruins of the human species. But no, your
wisdom will enable you to avoid the dangerous
snares which our common enemies hold out for you.
I send you with this letter a Declaration which will
acquaint you with the unity that exists between the
proprietors of San Domingo who are in France,
those in the United States and those who serve
under the English banner. You will see there a reso-
lution unequivocal and carefully constructed for
the restoration of slavery. You will see there that
the determination to succeed has led them to en-
velop themselves in the mantle of liberty in order to
strike it more deadly blows. You will see that they
are counting heavily on my complacency in lending
myself to their perfidious views by fear for my
children. It is not astonishing that these men who
sacrifice their country to their interests are unable
to conceive how many sacrifices a true love of country
can support in a better farther than they, since I
unhesitatingly base the happiness of my children
and that of my country which they and they alone
wish to destroy. I shall never hesitate between the
safety of San Domingo and my personal happiness.
But I have nothing to fear. It is to the solicitude
of the French Government that I have confided my
children. I would tremble with horror if it was into
the hands of the colonists that I had sent them as
hostages. But even if it were so, let them know
that in punishing them for the fidelity of their
father they would only add one degree more to
their barbarism without any hope of ever making
me fail in my duty.
I say you could not find such writing anywhere in the West Indies today. Toussaint had
been a slave up to 1791; he was writing this in 1797. How did that happen?
They cannot see how this odious conduct on their
part can become the signal of new disasters and
irreparable misfortunes, and that, far from making
them regain what in their eyes (liberty for all) has
made them lose, they expose themselves to a total
ruin and the colony to its inevitable destruction.
Do they think that men who have been able to
enjoy the blessing of liberty will calmly see it snatched
away? They supported their chains only so long as
they did not know any condition of life more happy
than that of slavery, but today when they have left
it, if they had a thousand lives they would sacrifice
them all rather than be forced into slavery again.
But no, the same hands which have broken our
chains will not enslave us anew. France will not
revoke her principles. She will not withdrew from
us the greatest of her benefits. She will protect us
against all our enemies. She will not permit us a
blind morality to be perverted, those principles which
do her most honour to be destroyed, her most
beautiful achievement to be degraded and her decree
to be revoked. But if to re-establish slavery in San
Domingo this was done, then I declare to you it
would be to attempt the impossible. We have known
how to brave dangers to obtain our liberty. We shall
know how to brave death to maintain it.
That is the kind of letter they should receive from a colonial leader. That is the
one that Toussaint wrote. And then he goes on. You know France had sent him a sword
and various presents because he was now head of State and so forth. Ane he finished
up with two paragraphs, which are two of the finest paragraphs I know.
This, Citizens, Directors is the morale of the people
of San Domingo these are the principles that they
transmit to you by name.
My own you know. It is sufficient to renew my hand
in yours, the oath that I have made to cease to live
before gratitude dies in my heart, before I cease to
be faithful to France and to my duty, before the
god of Liberty is profaned and sullied by the liberti-
cides, before they can snatch from my hands that
sword, those arms which France confided to me for
the defence of its rights and those of humanity, for
the triumph of liberty and equality.
I go on to say that the Blacks were taking their part in the destruction of European
feudalism and Liberty and Equality; the slogans of the revolution, meant far more to
them than to any Frenchman. That was why in the hour of danger Toussaint, unin-
structed as he was, could find the language and accent of Diderot, Rosseau and Mirabeau,
Robespierre and Danton . and in one respect he excelled them all. For even these
masters of the spoken and written word, owing to the class complications of their
society too often had to pause, to hesitate, to qualify. Toussaint could defend the free-
dom of the Blacks without reservation, and this gave the his Declaration a strength and
a single mindedness rare in the great documents of the time. The French bourgeois could
not understand it. Rivers of blood were to flow before they understood that elevated
as was his tone, Toussaint had written neither bombast nor rhetoric but the simple and
sober truth. That was what that magnificent letter was. It was the simple and sober
Now how did Toussaint come to write like that? He wrote like that because he was
a West Indian. And he wrote like that because he was a West Indian slave. You see he had
nothing else in his head. When West Indians became a people and started to take part
in the world they read the documents of Rosseau, Robespierre, Danton and Mira,
the French Assembly. That was all they knew; so when they started to write they wrote
in the same temper and in the same style. All over the place they wrote like that. I will
impose on you another letter. This one is not very long.
Some people in French San Domingo where they have
declared for freedom have been invited by some
Negroes in Spanish San Domingo to come over
and fight for the Spanish king, because Negroes
believe in kingship and not in the republic.
So these gentlemen had no schools. Even secondary education was not free. They had
been slaves. But this is the letter that these youngmen wrote to the men from Spanish
Some republicans have offered to surrender, if there
were among us men low enough to resume their
chains we abandon them to you with a good heart.
The liberty that the Republicans offer us you say is
false. We are Republicans and in consequence free
by natural right.
They did not learn that in San Domingo, they had read this in some document by Rousseau
or Robespierre or one of them.
We are Republicans and in consequence free by
natural right. It can only be a king whose very name
expresses what is most vile and low who dares to
arrogate the right of reducing to slavery men made
like themselves whom nature had made free.
Where did they learn that? They had been reading Rousseau, Voltaire and the others and
that was all they knew. So, when they settled down to write they wrote in the same tone
and it was very real to them. Liberty; equality and fraternity to a man who had been a
slave was a very lively concept. So this letter continues.....
The king of Spain has furnished you abundantly
with arms and ammunition use them to tighten
your chains. As for us we have no need for more
than stones and sticks to make you dance. You have
received commissions and you have guarantees -
guard your liveries and your parchments. One day
they will serve you as the fastidious titles of our
former aristocrats served them. If the king of the
French who drags his misery from court to court
has need of slaves to assist him in his magnificence,
let him go seek it among other kings who count
as many slaves as they have circuits. You conclude,
vile slaves as you are, by offering us the protection
of the king, your master. Learn and say to chat
Spanish Marquis that Republicans cannot treat with
a king. Let him come, and you with him, we are ready
to receive you as Republicans should.
Now three years before they were slaves. They could not read. A few of them had learnt.
I have seen, many a time, where this lieutenant or captain dictates his report, and there
you see the pencil mark where his secretary signs his name and he then traces over the
pencil in ink in order to sign his name. He could not write. But some of those letters
would astonish you and they used naturally, and with very great sincerity, the language
of the people they were reading; Rousseau, Voltaire, Robespierre, Danton. That is what
I mean when I say that Toussaint was a West Indian. All these West Indians used the
language and they accumulated wisdom of the European peoples and particularly of
two masters of the western language Britain and the United States. So when they
begin to write they have an immense accumulation of material at their disposal, the
language and all sorts of techniques. And in addition to that they are West Indian. They
have to describe the life of the West Indian and the West Indian only knows one world.
At the back of the minds of all these writers there is one word always. It has been with
us for 300 years.
If they brought you as a slave from Africa, brought you over thousands of miles
of sea and then put you in a foreign country where all around you people were free,
what would be in your head all the time Freedom. A slave who was brought up in
a country which had a long tradition of slavery would not think of freedom in that
way. For him it would be in the nature of things. And after some centuries there would
be a revolt or something, but this slavery would be part of his experience of life. Once
you had brought someone over these thousands of miles and stuck him here and he
looked all around and there were no other slaves but he, then be might fight or he might
not fight; but he would have in the back of his mind that paradise heaven and happi-
ness would be to get out of his bondage and be as other people were. All West Indian
writers have this quality in common, however educated or uneducated they are; at the
back of their minds the experience of centuries is the idea of freedom. The conception
driving them on, every single one, is the conception of freedom, and any historian who in
writing the history of the West Indies and does not know that, and is not aware of that,
is certain to write bad history.
WHAT DO MEN LIVE BY?
AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND INTENTION IN C.L.R. JAMES'S
BEYOND A BOUNDARY
CONSUELO LOPEZ SPRINGFIELD
"Thackeray, not Marx, bears the heaviest responsibility
C.L.R. James, Beyond a Boundary
"I hope to write of the game and its players as
Hazlitt wrote of fives and Cavanagh".
Neville Cardus, Autobiography
I. The Boundaries of Place and Time
Since autobiography first emerged as a popular literary genre, it has continued to evolve
and, as James Olney reminds us "to reflect societal conceptions of the self and of the
individual's relationship with the outside world."' Although C.L.R. James's Beyond a
Boundary is not autobiography in the traditional sense, it is more than a cricket memoir
by a major West Indian writer. It is a complex narrative, rich in personal insight, seasoned
with cricket history, cultural mythography, and Marxist polemics. In answer to the peren-
nial question what do men live by? James, theorist, historian, Pan-Africianist, and pam-
phleteer, spins an intriguing, idiosyncratic tale of West Indian cultural emergence within
the context of a national sport. He employs cricket as a metaphor for a nascent West
Indian community from which, as an expatriate and "British intellectual, "he is estrang-
ed. The centre of interest is the self and its relationship to the surrounding world; as auto-
biographer, sentimentally tied to both Thackeray and Hazlitt, James self-consciously
reshapes the past into a pattern of stages where he mediates a battle between the "old
world" of tradition and the "new" one of revolt.
Described as "a personal record of a journey through cricket country,"2 Beyond a
Boundary is a carefully crafted account of the author's past as seen through the veil of
exile. It is a journey into a childhood marked by Victorian sensibility, an errant view of
early adulthood spent at the heels of cricketers and at the shrine of ancient learning, a
journey that led to the seat of empire where sports and politics became integral pawns on
the playing fields of a class war. Published in 1963, it relates how West Indian cricket
"came to maturity within a system that was the result of centuries of development in
another land, was transplanted as a hot-house flower is transplanted and bore some
Most critics of Beyond a Boundary, socio-political in their analyses, have failed to
interpret, nonetheless, the significance of the title.4 The socio-logical perspective ignores
the romantic view of self and society which James inherited form Hazlitt. And while his
relationship to literary figures is left unexplored, so is his role as narrator-protagonist in
the unfolding of personal history. Gregory Rigsby's view that James's "own experience
and his own self-analysis [gave] direction and character to his critical thought, far more
than anything he learnt from Thackeray or Rousseau or Kant or Hegel or Karl Marx
himself" deserves immediate critical attention as the "boundary" of the title is not ex-
clusively that of race and class but also, and more importantly, of place and time.5 The
estranged author, attempting to integrate himself into an island community at once geo-
graphically and intellectually remote, destroys, in the process of recreation, the boun-
daries that separate the British intellectual from the West Indian cricketer. To do so, he
has had to explore and to reinterpret his intellectual mentors in light of his personal
experiences in a bi-cultural world. This is nowhere more evident than in the preface,
where James writes:
To establish his own identity, Caliban, after three
centuries, must himself pioneer into regions Caesar
The process of reconstructing his past, moreover, releases James from the pressing
burden of his past, a burden which he, nevertheless, denies. "That is exactly what I do
not think about these memories," he argues emphatically. "They do not liberate me in
any sense except that once you have written down something your mind is ready to go
further." Annoyed with interpretations of personal "history" as "catharsis," he con-
tinues, "I consider liberation from them a grievous loss, irreparable." After much irascible
and furious belittling of T.S. Elliot's "use of memory," He adds, "I do not deny that there
are memories, and West Indian ones, that I may wish to be liberated from." Although
James rejects Eliot's "anguish and anxiety" in returning to the past, he admits that in
the conscious omission of events, he creates an account of a life that conceals embarrass-
ment and discomfort. "There were such [memories] and precisely because of the self-
imposed limits of this book it would be a mistake not to remind occasionally of the
spaces and depths it does not touch," he confesses, "but there are no retrospective
agonies around the yellow sticks and the green grass and the shining sun, the heaving toil
and passion which in the end did so little harm to anyone."6
Completed in 1962 while on holiday in Spain, Beyond a Boundary liberates James
from the painful memories of his recent expulsion from Eric Williams' People's National
Movement (P.N.M.) in September of 1961 on an absurd charge of embezzling party
funds.7 Ironically, James, who put the case for West Indian self-government before the
colonial power for so many years and who edited the party's press after returning to
Trinidad in 1959, had been forced to leave the country in 1962, a few days before
Trinidad's independence. Although he continued to publish from a distance in the Trind-
dad-Tobago press, he remained very much the expatriate author, known more to intel-
lectuals than to the general population whose revolutionary fire he had hoped to spark
through extensive public speaking and published works. To prove his legitimacy and to
voice "Rousseau's General Will,"8 he framed essays on English cricket, some of which
had appeared in The Nation, "part of a whole wolume which sees cricket and popular
games in terms of a philosophy of art which abolishes the division between the fine arts
and the games loved by the populace,"9 with personal narrative reflecting on his relation-
ship with the community at large. Conversely, the camaraderie of cricket contrasts meta-
phorically with the political gangsterism of Williams' regime.10
In writing his memoirs, James recasts the past into a symbolic communal realm
where, in a climactic moment, as editor of the P.N.M's official organ, he champions
national and racial pride in the arena of inter-regional cricket. An intensely personal
book, it interlinks the distant past, heavy with nostalgic reminiscence, with recent events.
From a point of exile, he returns easily to his beginning, to his roots, to the Caribbean
"archipelago like a broken root, divided among tribes."'1
The Trinidad of 1901, the year of his birth was, in many ways, quite different from
the independent oil-rich nation that has since developed off the Venezuelan coast. Al-
though racial riots were unheard of in James's childhood days, society attested to the rigi-
dities of class and of race. The educational system of West Indian colonial society, pro-
moting Edmund Burke's vision of empire as the manifestation of Divine Providence,
fortified imperial control. Inhabitants of Britian's "outpost of progress," seeing them-
selves through the eyes of the colonizer, assumed an identity based on inferiority and
neglect. Unaware of their own history, West Indians succumbed to the shallow analysis
of the outsider. They inherited the vision held by the slave master of a displaced race
trained by primitive African cultures and an obscure past; and they accepted, passively,
the derision of such British writers as James Anthony Froude. "Society there has no
saint in the West Indies since Las Casas, no hero unless philonegro enthusiasm can make
one out of Toussaint. There are no people there in the true sense of the word, with a
character and purpose of their own."12 It is against this process of depersonalizationn"
that C.L.R. James rebels. With the zeal of a missionary, he set out to re-educate his
people and to instill self and racial pride. In a society where achievement was commonly
denied to displaced Asians and the descendants of slaves, their accomplishment in
cricket, told with the true passion of an enraptured fan in Beyond a Boundary, represent
the virtues of a democratic society no less noble than that of ancient Greece. In popular
West Indian cricket, James finds not only a point of departure for analyzing the emer-
gence of "the new" order but also for the ordering of self.
II. The Journey Into Childhood
In these cricket memoirs, James reconstructs his early internal conflict between
intellectual confinement and the freedom and camaraderie of the cricket field. "Two
people lived in me," the narrator speaks, "one the rebel against all family and school
discipline and order; the other a Puritan who would have cut off a finger sooner than do
anything contrary to the ethics of the game."13 He had descended from a family of
middle-class artisans and teachers where respectability was "not an ideal" but an
"armour."14 His mother, Bessie, convent-bred, tall, elegant, and refined, was an indis-
criminate reader of books. His father, undistinguished in his teaching career, appears
briefly in the memoirs, and largely as a disappointment to James, whose enthusiasm for
sport and scholarship knew few bounds.1'5 The family portraiture renders James's grand-
father, Josh, almost heroic qualities; as a railroad engineer, he worked easily and authorita-
tively in a white-dominated society. In his ability to overcome the boundaries of race and
class, his grandfather appears both as a mirror image of James and as an example of the
West Indian's capacity to employ the tools of inherited civilization to establish strong
foundations for social progress. James tells us that Josh, who came from Barbados and
"used to claim that he was the first coloured man to become an engineer driver on the
Trinidad Government Railway seventy years before," shared his obsession with cricket.16
Unlike the portrayal of his natural father, Josh is given focus; his personality and pro-
ductivity, we are told, earned him the respect of both superiors and peers.
James's recollection of events associated with Josh's social standing reveal a strong
authorial presence; as he consciously orders reality to uphold his socio-political views, he
also exerts complete control over his narrative, confounding the reader's attempt to probe
deeply into the psychological recesses of his mind. Carefully, James selects incidents from
Josh's past to dramatize his "message" of racial pride. He enters into Josh's consciousness
"on a Sunday afternoon near the end of the century" and reflects on the thoughts of
others.17 In portraying his grand-father's problem-solving talents in the realm of an
imaged past to represent an ideal, the observer becomes the acquiescent narrator fabrica-
ting dialogue in order to entice the reader into his social perspective and portrayal of
character. It is not enough for James to return to life as he has lived it; as storyteller, he
moves outside the realm of experience. At an unconscious level, this pattern is paradoxi-
cally, deceptive and revealing; for when James, unconvincingly, has Josh reveal to him a
clear awareness of racial politics by saying, "they were white men with all their M.I.C.E.
and R.I.C.E. and all their big degrees, it was their business to fix it," followed by, "I had
to fix it for them," one is reminded of James's own self protrait as an intellectual instruc-
ting his former masters in the history of European civilization.18 Surely, that is what
James had in mind when, as narrator looking back on that moment when he had his "bag
already packed with The Case for West Indian Self-Government", he recognized "then,"
that Josh was "not only my physical but also my spiritual father."'9Unlike his grand-
father, James is an intellectual still alienated in Minty Alley, affirming ties with the
broader population through engagement in politics and sports.20
Before James allowed cricket to dominate his life and destroy his chances of win-
ning a university scholarship to study in the metropolitan center of the British empire,
he had turned to ancient Greece, where politics and sports were intricately woven and to
the stable realm of nineteeth century England, for security and wonder. The young James
of Beyond a Boundary dwelt upon Hazlitt and Thackeray and roamed the ruins of an
ancient past. In an "Eden untroubled by race and nationalism,"21 he "took the world for
granted" and believed "that if," he could have left school and ventured "into the society
of Ancient Greece," he would have been "more at home" than he ever "had been since."22
Indeed, the fantasy held meaning for him throughout his lifetime and formed the fabric
of his democratic ideas. In those early years before the age of eighteen, "in the intervals
of those busy days and nights," James writes, "I pondered and read and looked about
me." To "sport and politics in Ancient Greece" he turned and to "sport and politics in
nineteenth-century Britain."23 To be "like the Greeks," he educated himself in the back-
ground and methods of the most popular sport played by plebe and patrician alike in the
British empire: cricket.
II. The Zeitgeist of Cricket
In early manhood, as proficient cricketer, James joined the Maple Cricket Club. In
terms of his profession, teaching, and his colour, black, he would certainly have been
excluded from joining it were it not for his growing popularity as a sports writer, literary
man about town, and occasional social critic. In stratus. Maple lay in a "grey" area of racial
and economic rank; it was far less socially prestigious than both Queen's Park, a talented
club that was formed entirely of wealthy white and mulatto players, and the Shamrock,
affluent and almost exclusively white. Yet, below James's Maple, it was with Shannon
that his fellow black teachers, the law clerks and other members of the black "lower
class" (whose family backgrounds closely mirrored James's) played marvelous cricket.
The all black "plebian" Stingo Club, with its powerful and graceful players, remained at
bottom, having "no social status."24
The decision to join the upwardly mobile Maple team was an uneasy one. Social con-
siderations were strong. He admitted that to retain his "reputation and status as a culti-
vated man," he had joined a team that was noted for "our insolent rejection" of black
men.25 "I became one of those dark men," he confesses, "whose surest sign of... having
arrived is the fact that he keeps company with people lighter in complexion than him-
self."26 James not only became a member of the Maple committee but he also assumed
the vice-captaincy of the club during times when the "colour exclusiveness of the Maple
Club mattered a great deal." His decision to join, we told, created his "first serious per-
Although James describes his aim in writing Beyond a Boundary as "my personal
Calvary" spurred by political passion, the need to justify his decision held equal weight.
"From the moment I had to decide which club I would join, the contrast between the
ideal and the real fascinated me and tore at my insides," he confesses, "I propose now to
place on record some of the characters and as much as I can reproduce (I remember
everything) of the social conflict."28 In this personal testament of his legitimacy, James
asserts his integrity as a team player in a new national culture. He argues, convincingly,
that his actions could only be judged in terms of the prevalent social mores of his age.
"There is a zeitgeist of cricket," he explains, "a particular generation of cricketers thinks
in a certain way and only a change is society, not legislation, will change the prevailing
James, like most West Indians, interprets reality in socio-political rather than in
racial terms. Secure in his racial identity, he insists that race promotes neither personal
torment nor tragedy. In stark opposition to Roger Ronsenblatt's view of race in black
autobiography as an inescapable "variation of fate, the condition that prescribes and pre-
determines a life" and restricts success,30 James asserts that the racialism" of his past
was a "natural response to local social conditions," which "did very little harm" and even
"sharpened up the game."31 In all of his major writings, his message is that black people
have always attained dignity and distinction through struggle. As defiance and revolu-
tionary action are the highest expression of the desire for human liberty, there can be no
room, he argues, for victimization or for predetermined failure. "Racialism" he dismisses
with the words "au revoir."32
James claims that the Shannon players never expressed "ill-will for his "not joining
them;" and together, especially on Sundays, they would play in exciting "scratch mat-
ches." He became friends with Learie Constantine,the great Shannon player who rose to
professional stardom in England; and it was at Constantine's invitation that James later
set off for Britain to pursue his literary goals. However, during his cricket years in Trini-
dad, he never felt a deep need to socialize with cricketers beyond the scope of the game.
"Only in England did I learn to break through the inherited restraints of my environ-
ment," he writes; "and by that time it was too late."33
In the mold of autobiographies written by politicians, Beyond a Boundary begins
with material about childhood and youth; and as the narrator-protagonist enters into
mature political activity, he becomes an astute observer of his role in a larger, increasingly
consistent, pattern.34 Engaged in the political discourse of emerging nationalism, James
aims, ultimately, at persuasion. From a state of exile, and after years of troubled vic-
tories, he successfully overcomes time and place to reaffirm an intensely personal cause.
Roy Pascal points out that this is common among autobiographies written by authors
who, having reached a "stable" goal, may "depict the past as leading too inevitably to its
outsome."35 James assumes a particular posture of naivete, nevertheless, that serves to
veil his essential purpose. "As I look back, all sorts of incidents, episodes and characters
stand out with a vividness that does not surprise me: they were too intensely lived," he
narrates. "What is surprising is the altered emphasis which they now assume."36
James's narrative is set within three stages: childhood where attention focuses on
learning; adulthood, where James joins Maple and grows in popularity, and later maturity
where he campaigns, as publisher of the P.N.M's weekly newspaper, The Nation, for the
captaincy of Frank Worrell, a black Barbadian cricketer. Writing from the perspective of
the British intellectual abroad, James joins hands symbolically with the players of his
youth, especially with the great cricketers of the lower status clubs. "Then," he writes,
"cricket was entertainment; its physical and moral value concerned me not at all."" In
retrospect, he argues that "cricket had plunged me into politics long before I was aware
Although recollections of past experiences in colonial society are temporarily sus-
pended in the middle section of the memoirs as James analyzes cricket history, he returns
faithfully, in his final chapters, to beloved West Indian cricketers not only to recapture a
later event of intense personal significance but also to demonstrate the importance of his
own individual actions as a major player in modern West Indian history. The key point
of his narrative, where past and present directly fuse, is when Worrell, one of the finest
all-rounders in the history of the game and a leading figure in Barbadian cricket during
the 1940s, becomes, in James's later years, the first black captian of the West Indian
international team to Australia as a result of James's diligent and persistent political
efforts. His relentless campaign, in his middle years, to install Worrell in the captaincy, we
are told, marked a new and vital chapter in the social history of the West Indies. The
sequential pattern that gives form and structure to the narrative culminates when athlete
and intellectual, joined in victory, from a symbiosis.
In restructuring and retelling his life, James also reinterprets historical truth. This
is endemic to the autobiographical genre which, by its very nature, is an alteration of
details "truer than the first" reading of experience "because it adds to experience itself
consciousness of it."39 James is intensely aware of the role of memory in the transforma-
tion of experience. "Hegel says somewhere that the old man repeats the prayers he re-
peated as a child," he writes, "but now with the experience of a lifetime." Reflection
allows him to present "some of the experiences of a lifetime which have placed Mathew
Bondsman and Arthur Jones within a frame to reference that stretches east and west into
the receding distance, back into the past and forward into the future."
The act of writing his memoirs, James admits, gives a focus and shape to past
experiences. "It is only within very recent years that Mathew Bondsman and the cutting
of Arthur Jones ceased to be merely isolated memories and fell into place as starting
points of a connected pattern," he writes. Quickly, he continues, "they only appear as
starting points; they were, in reality, the end, the last stones put into place, of a pyramid
whose base constantly widened, until it embraced those espects of social relations, poli-
tics and art laid when the veil of the temple has been rent in twain as ours has been."40
Carefully recollected as illuminating points within a pattern, these stages lead to
the conscious resolution of his inner strife. In a nostalgic haze, the recent forced exile
from Trinidad politics is extinguished; in its place, a vision of community unified through
cricket offers kind solace to the defeated warrior. In that memory of personal triumph
when Worrell, as captain of the West Indian cricket team addresses an enthusiastic crowd
as the closing celebration of the last Test between Australia and the West Indies in 1961,
James invokes the democratic spirit of ancient Greece. "My greatest moment was the
speech-making," James tells us, when "Frank Worrell, speaking last, was crowned with
the olive."41 The crowning serves as a metaphor where the ideals of youth, the struggle
for personal identity, and the joy of self and social achievement interweave in an intricate
fabric of conscious recollection. James's intention to take part "in the present (particular-
ly a grand and glorious and victorious campaign to make a black man, Frank Worrell,
captain of the West Indies team to Australia)" reaches fruition.42
Nevertheless, when seen in the context of inter-island rivalry among cricket clubs,
James's self-indulgent depiction of his own personal importance in the selection of
Worrell raises the issue of verification and truth in the rendering of self-history.43 From
Party Politics in the West Indies, one can see that James used the campaign as a persuasive
tool in a long series of appeals to Williams to continue his editorship of The Nation. And
although James's campaign did generate enthusiasm for The Nation and for Worrell's
selection over the captaincy of the current captain, Gerry Alexander, the reaction of
cricket correspondents abroad was far from laudatory. The Barbados Advocate, noting
that the choice of Worrell was not only popular but that he also had been offered the cap-
taincy of the West Indian tour in 1953 and the tour to South Africa in 1959, lambasted
"the disgraceful campaign which has been waged by certain West Indian nationalists and
critics against Alexander at a time when he needed the moral support and backing of
every lover of the game."44
IV. The Old World and the New
Through his narrative, James penetrates into the relationship between two of his
powerful mentors: William Thackeray and William Hazlitt. When James describes the
first stage of his life as a middle-calss black intellectual immersed in British scholarship,
he tells us that he eagerly embraced Thackeray's ethical views. Vanity Fair, he writes,
"became my Homer and my bible." An "obsession" for a voracious reader of fourteen,
it proved to be a life-long companion. "It was not to me an ordinary book," he claims in
Beyond a Boundary, "it was a refuge into which I withdrew." At school, he would tell
a wide circle of schoolmates, "open it anywhere, read a few words" and then, he would
finish the passage, if not in the exact words at least close enough." Years later, he would
boast, "I can still do it, though not as consistently and accurately as before."45
Refined, eclectic, and socially responsible, James uses his critical intelligence to
improve society and to enrich popular culture in ways Marxists refer to as praxis. In the
same way that his essays, histories, pamphlets and speeches are vehicles for persuasion,
James utilizes his memoirs to achieve a clearly personal goal. "I speculated and planned
and schemed for the future," he said of writing his memoirs, "among other plans, how to
lay racialism flat and keep stamping on it whenever it raises its head, and at the same time
not to lose a sense of proportion not at all easy."46
James's assertion of Thackeray's overwhelming importance in the development of
his "character," however, is probably more a matter of magnification than of truth. As
Georges Gusdorf tells us, the autobiographer "is not engaged in an objective or disinte-
rested pursuit but in a work of personal justification."47
Undoubtedly, faithful readings of Vanity Fair left a strong impression on James's
creative imagination and helped to shape his vision of the past; but the "code" is unmis-
takably portrayed as a barrier in his works, an obstacle that blocks the forward movement
of history. In his epic history, The Black Jacobins, it is Toussaint's unwillingness to reject
the established "code" that inevitably leads to betrayal and death; and it is the barbaric
Dessalines who finally delivers the final blow to imperial domination. In fact, when James
goes against the "coded" in his campaign to install Frank Worrell, he succeeds not only in
shattering remnants of colonial racism but also in overcoming the malaise associated with
his membership in the exclusionary Maple Club. James hardly denies violating the "code";
he accepts it as a necessary means to an end. "I put my scruples aside," he writes, "and I
think that for the first time and I hope the last time in reporting cricket, I was not fair."
For over fifty weeks, he fought the appointment of a white cricketer to the captaincy; in
promoting Worrell, moreover, he used his political press to make it a powerful national
campaign. As his success firmly struck a blow against discrimination in sports, he felt
justified in allowing anger, which is unacceptable and reprehensible within the "code,"
into cricket. Thus, in the subsequent "universal jubilation" that followed Worrell's
appointment, he finally, (and these are his words) "kissed" the cricket code "good-
Although Thackeray's ethics helped to form James's character, he was influenced
to a far greater extent by a "William" of another, previous pre-industrial era. To James,
Hazlitt was a true democratic "intellectual to his finger-tips," who bravely faced "mar-
tyrdom for his opinions."49 If any British intellectual were his creative mentor, it cer-
tainly would be William Hazlitt. Throughout his long, productive life, James, like Hazlitt
before him, maintains his convictions, even when unpopular, and makes them compre-
hensible, even palpable, to diverse audiences. His rhetorical success lies in his talent for
re-dressing well-known conceptions and ideas in contemporary radical dress. Moreover
(and this is very much in the spirit of Hazlitt), his major role is to mediate between the
old and the new.
The key to James's relationship to intellectual tradition and to his literary role can
be found in his appreciation of Hazlitt. Well into his eightieth year, he would often re-
read Hazlitt's brilliant essays on the great issues of his day with a delight that would
easily astonish many. Not surprisingly, they had much in common. Not only did Hazlitt
write eloquently of social change and of democratic revolution with a passion unsur-
passed by James, but he also illuminated aspects of human frailty and achievement.50
In the performing arts, moreover, Hazlitt saw the connections that James would later
develop in elaborate form in Beyond a Boundary. "If only," James writes, "Hazlitt had
reported cricket matches!"51
The aesthetic boundaries between popular sports and art are loosely torn open in
"The Indian Jugglers," an essay that details the brilliant fives-playing of John Cavanagh.
Unlike the visual arts, Hazlitt writes, "the displays of power or trails of skill, which are
confined to the momentary, individual effort and construct no permanent image or
trophy of themselves without them" fail to constitute "greatness." Yet, to this he adds,
"I must make an exception for Ms. Siddons."52 James takes Hazlitt one step further in
shattering the barriers between art and the dramatic spectacle of athletic events when he
turns to Hazlitt's lingering vision of Mrs. Siddons' performance.
In a speech on Learie Constantine, James focuses attention on Hazlitt's review of
Mrs. Siddons' portrayal of Lady Macbeth. James adroitly transfers Hazlitt's enraptured
homage of Siddons' performance to embrace athletic acumen. "We cannot do better than
place overselves in the shadow of that luminary of English life and English prose," James
instructs his audience. "With usual directness Hazlitt tackles the question of the use of
the term 'great' in relation to physical performers." Since it would be "sacrilegious to
paraphrase" Hazlitt's "passages and persons," James quoted the early romantic at length,
ending with a startling image of recollection. "The impression is stamped there for ever,"
James quotes Hazlitt, "and any after-experiments and critical inquiries only serve to frit-
ter away and tamper with the sacredness of the early recollection."53 In Beyond a Boun-
dary, James repeats Hazlitt's words as he asks aloud, "doesn't your memory enshrine a
striking figure with an enhancing haze" to which he hesitatingly answers, "perhaps"
followed by, "but I don't think so."54
Returning to Hazlitt's original position on the permanency of art, James emphasizes
the role of memory in the reconstruction of form:
Whereas in the fine arts the image of tactile values
and movement, however, effective, however, magni-
ficent, is permanent, fixed, in cricket the spectator
sees the image constantly re-created, and whether he
is a cultivated spectator or not, has standards which
he carries with him always. He can re-create them at
Indeed, James's popular aesthetics is a response to Hazlitt's views of "great" art, extended
to embrace the form and imagery of cricket.
Hazlitt, the social critic and popularizer of the French revolution, moreover, held
dramatic sway over James's democratic ideals. A great "early romantic," he captured the
essential struggle between tradition and revolt, between the eighteenth century demand
for order and the upheaval of nineteenth century democratic revolution. In like manner,
James recounts the explosive social changes that have taken place in this century and
frames them within the intellectual tradition of previous generations. Indeed, that is the
root and substance of his memoirs and of his larger works: tradition provides that exis-
tential point of departure from which identity can evolve. James describes this as a pro-
cess of development, albeit in artistic terms, in Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways, his
sociological study of the works of Herman Melville. "The author begins," he points out,
"by seeing the elements of his character in the world around him," the creative "process"
begins. Subsequently, the author "goes into the recesses of consciousness to flesh out his
characters." The setting for "character," he concludes, is that important conflict when
"the old age is crumbling and another beginning."56
It is precisely this dialectical tension between the old and the new which spurs the
creative process; and Hazlitt's genius, we are told in Beyond a Boundary, springs from it.
"Hazlitt's strength and comprehensiveness were the final culmination," James writes, "of
one age fertilized by the new."57 In a lecture, "The Old World and the New," delivered
to a group of West Indians on his seventieth birthday, James described himself in striking-
ly similar terms:
We are now in the throes of giving birth to a new
world and I am glad to say that we, my friends and I,
the people that I have known, have taken part in this
birth that is going on, and that you are going to be
the culmination of it; I am quite sure.58
Black Jacobins, owes allegiance more to Hazlitt than to Thackeray as it recaptures
the politics and passions of a revolutionary, defiant people. Yet, James never explores the
mentor role of Hazlitt upon his creative imagination or on his vision of historical change.
Neither does he appear to identify openly with Hazlitt's role in mediating between the
old world and the new. One could argue that James chose to overlook Hazlitt's legacy in
his memoirs as it would impede a formal structure based on conflict. To champion Haz-
litt would have reduced the internal tension between Victorian propriety and romantic
rebellion and lessen the impact of his expressed "gratitude" for the rebellion of that
"little boy" whose "unshakeable defiance of the whole around him, and his determination
to stick to his own ideas" saved James from "winning a scholarship, becoming an Honour-
able Member of the Legislative Council, and ruining" his "whole life."59 But was it
James's rebellion against the "code" that led him not to local prominence but to revolu-
tionary activity in England? Could it have been equally a matter of circumstances, of
restraints of place and of status? In an essay on the Trinidad of the 1930s, James des-
cribes the limitations of race in colonial society in distinctly different personal terms.
Albert Gomes told me the other day: "you know the
difference between all of you and me? You all went
away; I stayed." I didn't tell him what I could have
told him: "you stayed not only because your parents
had money but because your skin was white; there
was a chance for you, but for us there wasn't -
except to be a civil servant and hand papers, take them
from men downstairs and hand them to the man
upstairs . I came to Europe because Learie Con-
stantine told me, "you come. I'll see you go on all
right. I'll see that nothing happens to you "60
V.S. Naipaul, a fellow Trinidadian whose journey to self-knowledge also began in
his native land and led him to the seat of empire, sees himself as naked in a Conradian
world of darkness; and he searches consistently for order. To be British, for Naipaul, was
a way of becoming, of "finding a center" in a chaotic world. In his review of Beyond a
Boundary, he wonders what new code will be "developed in a society so clearly British-
made" and concludes that "cricket is no longer a substitute for nationalism."61 James,
who never viewed himself as a man of the "Third World," however, acknowledges that his
formation, essentially British, is a point not of arrival but of departure; and in a letter to
Queen's Park Club, during his campaign to install Frank Worrell, he writes, "here, as
elsewhere, I am primarily concerned with the building of a truly national community
incorporating all of the past that is still viable."
In transforming cricket, the "exclusive English sport," into an expression of West
Indian culture, James not only achieves his intention in writing Beyond a Boundary, but
he also fulfills the challenge put forward decades earlier by the great cricket writer,
Neville Cardus, who had helped him secure his first job as a cricket correspondent in
England with the Manchester Guardian in 1933. "If I had the leisure, I would try to look
into the various developments of cricket's techniques, its changes of style, and see them
in terms of alterations in the national psychology from decade to decade," Cardus had
written in his cricket memoirs.62 It was Cardus, the cricketer, who indicated, three
decades earlier, the creative process which James would employ in re-interpreting his past
through recollections of cricket. "When a man looks back over years of acquaintance
with the game, he does not see so many rounded events which happened in time and
space," Cardus asserted; "history is transformed by recollection into essential characteris-
tics and scenes, which together build up his idea of cricket."63 In his reconstruction of
life through narrative, the metaphor of cricket serves as a metaphor of self.
While writers of cricket memoirs ordinarily celebrate the styles, strategies, and per-
sonalities of cricketers in a series of lively vignettes, Beyond a Boundary is highly ambi-
tious; it analyzes the relationship between the fine arts and sports, illuminates the trans-
formation of culture, upholds West Indians' pride before racial bigotry in sports, and, on
a seemingly subconscious level, asserts James's importance in Trinidadian political circles.
"Before this book is ended, I hope to reinforce or convince many of its readers (not
excluding Sir Leonard)," James writes, "though my weapons this time will be majestic
and, I hope, imposing: the history of modern Britain and scientific method."64 It was a
direct challenge to the colonist mentality of the British M.C.C. captain, Sir Leonard
Hutton, who lamented the "decreasing activity of white people" in West Indian cricket.
In the cricket memoirs, Hutton had written, "after my last tour in the West Indies I can
only think that those islands are not an ideal place to send immature English cricketers
[who] lack the ability to cope with the atmosphere created by crowds more noisy and
excitable than those on any other ground where I have played."65
James's cricketers are creative artists; and their brilliant adaptation of an inherited
English sport signifies both the past and the future of West Indian nationalism. In a dis-
cussion of T.S. Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent," prepared while James
reorganized previously written manuscripts on cricket into what resulted in a self-con-
scious study of identity and society in Beyond a Boundary, he explained the essay's
relevance to the development of a national consciousness. "We of the West Indies must
know already the difficulty and yet the necessity of integrating our creative work into
this powerful European tradition which we can absorb only second hand," he writes;
"but what is true of the creative artist is true of the nation as a whole." In Beyond a
Boundary, the integration of past with present, self and community is achieved; the
future, born in the violent process of transformation, remains yet a creative challenge.
With unbridled confidence, James assuredly would add:
No book can create or establish a nation. But it can
help. I am happy to know that this one will.66
1. Taken from James Olney's description of his 1988 NEH Summer Seminar, "The Forms of
Autobiography." The author would like to thank Professor Olney and the NEH for the oppor-
tunity to participate in this seminar.
2. Beyond a Boundary (Kingston: Sangster's Book Stores, Ltd., 1963), p. 248. All references are
to this edition.
3. Ibid., p. 50
4. Sylvia Wynter discusses the "autosociographical system" in Beyond a Boundary in "In Quest
of Mathew Bondsman: Some Cultural Notes on the Jamesian Journey" in Urgent Tasks, 12
(Summer, 1981), pp. 54-69. Robert Lipsyte comes closer to understanding James's rendering
of the cricket metaphor in his introduction to the U.S. edition of Beyond a Boundary. "It
seemed a classic ploy of the conquerors: games .. could be imposed upon the colonies to tame
them," he writes, "to hear them into psychic boundaries where they would learn the values
and ethics of the game." Lipsyte overemphasizes the exploitation within West Indian cricket.
He was influenced, perhaps, by the experiences of black athletes in the U.S. (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1983), xiii.
5. "The Gospel According to St. James," Urgent Tasks, 12 (Summer, 1981), p. 113.
7. In 1960, Williams' party broke into direct opposition with the West Indian Federation (of
which James served as Secretary) and eventually, with James, Williams' ex-mentor at Queen's
Royal College. The dispute arose at a time of intense nationalist fever when Williams, Trinidad's
major political figure and public spokesman, challenged the United States to return their
Chaguaramas base to the West Indies for use as a capital site. Mainly comprised of middle-class
blacks more conservative than James, the party feared his influence over their chosen "mes-
siah" who gingerly upheld socialist virtues while he flirted with capitalist investors. Although
James helped to build up the party among the grass roots, the position that Wiliams eventually
assumed in the Chaguaramas dispute resulted not only in their estrangement but also in James's
expulsion from the party's inner circle. After acquiring considerable constitutional reform as a
result of the P.N.M. threat to succeed, Williams accepted a compromise enabling the U.S. to
withdraw from Chaguaramas in 1977. James advocated a more radical stand. With his expul-
sion from the party, James's collection of lectures, Modern Politics, simultaneously had been
8. Party Politics in the West Indies (San Juan, Trinidad: Vedic Enterprise Ltd., 1962), p. 119.
9. James yearned for understanding and acceptance within P.N.M. ranks. His Party Politics in the
West Indies explains to the public and to the party his efforts to create a truly nationalist
movement without challenging Eric Williams. "I have been with the Party now nearly 18
months," he writes, "my personal situation is not understood, not even known." Among his
list of achievements is his manuscript on cricket. See pp. 68-69.
10. Party Politics in the West Indies was written at the same time that James prepared Beyond a
Boundary for publication. A collection of letters, programmes, and platforms, it also places
James's humiliating experiences before the P.N.M. membership. He reveals the anguish that
accompanied his expulsion and the unkindly treatment of his ex-student and later, political
leader, Eric Williams in ways that would move even the least tender heart. He explains, for
instance, his appeal for a gracious exit. "I am known everywhere . as a great lover of creole
food," he writes. "I had a long standing date with Wilfred Attale, the Chairman of the Board,
for a particular creole inner. I thought we should make something of it. Have a farewell party,
photographs, etc. and report it in The Nation. This apparently insignificant touch would create
just the atmosphere needed . There was nothing very special about all this. You do it all the
time. On this basis the inevitable anxieties would be assuaged." He offered to write steadily for
The Nation and "give all the help I could." In response to his appeal, Williams replied, "there is
nothing to discuss." James, admittedly, was deeply hurt. "My first response was a human one,
and the day I recognize that my instinctive response to any political situation is not a human
one, then I know that my time for retiring has come .. It is the human responses that have to
be worked out in politics." He continues, "apart from an association of thirty years, in the last
period I had spent some fifteen hours a week either with Dr. Williams at his summons or work-
ing at matters exclusively concerned with him. I had not only worked for a party. I had placed
myself at his disposal, adapted myself to his needs. He does not yet sufficiently understand the
inner mechanisms of political life to appreciate what that means." Party Politics in the West
Indies, pp. 108-109.
11. Derek Walcott, Another Life (London: Jonathan Cape, 1973), p. 54.
12. Quoted in V.S. Naipaul, The Middle Passage (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1962), p. 7.
13. Beyond a Boundary, p. 37.
14. Ibid., p. 118.
15. In "The Old World and the New," a lecture delivered on January 4, 1971, James spoke differ-
ently of his father. He was described as "a remarkable man," head of the Teacher's Training
School at Tranquility who played the organ at church. One must wonder why he appears to
disappoint the narrator of Beyond a Boundary. See At the Rendezvous of Victory (London:
Allison and Busby, 1984), p. 203.
16. Beyond a Boundary, p. 22.
17. Ibid., p. 23.
19. Ibid., p. 25.
20. James brought with him to London a copy of Minty Alley, a semi-autobiographical novel set
in the yards of Port-of-Spain. It was publsihed in 1936.
21. Beyond a Boundary, p. 40.
22. Ibid., p. 152.
24. Ibid., p. 55.
25. Ibid.,, p. 62-63.
26. Ibid., p. 59.
27. Ibid., p. 59.
28. Ibid., p. 72.
29. Ibid., p. 45.
30. "Black Autobiography," in James Olney, ed., Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical
(Princeton University Press, 1980), p. 170.
31. Beyond a Boundary, pp. 64-65.
32. Ibid., p. 66.
33. Ibid., p. 86.
34. Roy Pascal, Design and Truth in Autobiography (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1960),
35. Ibid., p. 72.
36. Beyond a Boundary, p. 69.
37. Ibid., p. 70.
39. Georges Gusdorf, "Conditions and Limits of Autobiography," in Autobiography: Essays
Theoretical and Critical, p. 38.
40. Beyond a Boundary, p. 17. Note that Edmund Husser writes of the past in a similar manner.
"The present itself is a continuity, and one constantly expanding, a continuity of pasts. "Phe-
nomenology of Internal Time Consciousness (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964),
41. Ibid., p. 251.
42. Ibid., p. 66.
43. It has been widely noted that John D. Goddard, the captain of the Barbadian national team,
effectively secured the captaincy for Worrell, his friend and fellow player, by convincing the
West Indian Board of Selectors to appoint him.
44. The Barbados Sunday Advocate, March 20, 1960, p. 12.
45. Beyond a Boundary, p. 28.
46. Ibid., p. 66.
47. In James Olney, ed., Autobiography: Essays Critical and Theoretical, p. 39.
48. Beyond a Boundary, p. 233.
49. Ibid., p. 158.
50. One afternoon in 1981, James spoke to this author of Hazlitt's uncontrollable desire for a
"common' woman of no known intellectual or social distinctions in 1823. Excitedly, he asked
how it were possible for a man of brilliance, who knew so much about human character, to
reveal to others his obsession for the daughter of an inn-keeper. James's quiery was not limited
to historical rendering; he wanted to understand Hazlitt's inappropriate behaviour. James's
Puritanism is strikingly evident as he expected Hazlitt to have behaved with more discretion in
his personal affairs; his ambivalence toward class and a tendency to accept "male chauvinism" is
also apparent. See Hazlitt's "Liber Amoris."
51. "Learie Constantine," Spheres of Existence (Westport, Ct.: Lawrence Hill and Co., 1980), p.
52. Hazlitt: Selected Essays, George Sampson, ed. (Cambridge: University Press, 1950). p. 135.
54. Beyond a Boundary, p. 102.
55. Beyond a Boundary, p. 200.
56. (Detroit: Bewick/ed, 1979), pps. 138-140.
57. Beyond a Boundary, p. 158.
58. The text of the speech given by James on January 4, 1971 at Ladbroke Grove, an area with a
high black population is in At the Rendezvous of Victory, p. 202.
59. Beyond a Boundary, p. 33.
60. "Discovering Literature in Trinidad: The 1930s" in Spheres of Existence (Westport, Conn.:
Lawrence Hill & Co., 1980), p. 239.
61. "Cricket," The Overcrowded Barracoon (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Inc., 1976), p. 23.
62. Cricket (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1930), p. 152.
64. Beyond a Boundary, p. 248.
65. Just My Story (London: Hutchinson & Col. Ltd., 1956), pp. 58-67.
66. Party Politics In the West Indies, p. 4.
CALIBAN AND CEASAR*
"To establish his own identity, Caliban, after three
centuries, must pioneer into regions Ceasar never
(Preface to Beyond a Boundary)
For me the two most important features of C.L.R. James' life are that he was a West
Indian, a fully grown product of the West Indies intellectually before he left here at age
thirty-one, and that he became a marxist and brought to bear on marxist thought and
action the peculiar attributes of West Indian personality and method that he had deve-
loped in the West Indies. As a result of this combination, he has produced a body of ideas
which will leave the world a different place.
It is also an imperative for my own understanding of him to realise that all he has
produced in cricket, in literature, in literary criticism, in historical writing and in his
political work is intricately bound up not to be separated from those two prongs the
indigenous, the native, West Indian intellectual and the international marxist. It is also
essential in my view, not to avoid the theme of marxist analysis, which is the back-
drop to all of his work since the mid-thirties. It is even more important not to avoid this
consideration particularly in light of the barbarism that raised its head in Grenada under
the guise of marxism. This seems to me to be essential in considering James' contribu-
tion to modern political reality and in distilling what is the significance of his life.
The West Indian Intellectual
Let me begin with that. I ask you to think of him as he left the Caribbean at the age of
thirty-one, as not only a full grown man, but an entirely self-trained intellectual. He had
taken full advantage of the opportunities that a widely used and modern language gave him
to be in touch with current thoughts, historical writing, literary and musical criticism. He
subscribed to and read a wide range of sporting journals that came from abroad. He
*Speech delivered at a tribute to C.L.R. James organised by the Institute of Jamaica in collaboration
with the Friends of C.L.R. James, at the auditorium of the Jamaica School of Music on June 29, 1989,
regularly bought the weekly newspaper of Marcus Garvey and kept in touch with the
great debate between W.E. Dubois and Booker T. Washington. He kept abreast of the
political developments in Europe. Much of this is described in Beyond a Boundary. He
relentlessly developed and practiced his techniques in writing about cricket, about literary
criticism, about Caribbean development and personalities.
Yet he did all this within a somewhat unorthodox setting. He never attempted to go
beyond what is the equivalent of Olevels, the academic horse racing sport of the day.
There was no doubt in his mind at the time that he could have excelled in these accus-
tomed races. He had already done this at a somewhat tender age. Even in Jamaica of
seventy years later, we still know the importance of this path which lay open to him to
conquer, the Alevel, the university, the professional training and of how so much is
subordinated to make sure that it is trod. Yet he took his decision while he was still
in school, and against the insistence of family and friends. It must have required audacity
and personal confidence to insist on not following something that was so easily within his
grasp and seemed so absolutely essential for making the escape from the restrictions of his
But it must be something more than individual personality that led him instead to
pursue a path of intellectual development that was rooted very concretely in the activities
of the community around him. As he trained himself for instance through the study of
foreign journals in cricket, he kept his eyes at all times on the development and practice
of cricket in Trinidad; he studied and wrote about it and, what is important, played it. It
is this combination of theory and activity which keeps emerging in his later life. The same
is true of him and literature while in Trinidad. He studied what was taking place in the
world of literature and literary criticism, and practiced the art of both criticism and
creative writing. He was involved in the activity of establishing the journal "The Beacon".
He was a moving figure in the discussion group that surrounded the publication.
He also maintained the link between intellectual work and physical energy, the
brain and the body. In later years he was to say that his colleague Paul Robeson, had
become for him the personification and resolution of this duality.
However, before he leaves the Caribbean, there is one paradox that remains for me,
particularly in light of the man he becomes in later years. He pursued the study of history
and worked at his historical writings, yet up to the time that he left the West Indies,
the closest he appears to have come to involvement in political activity was the writing
of the biography of captain Arthur Ciprianni.
What he had developed by the time he sets out from the Caribbean was clearly
identifiable method, a historical method that remains with him throughout. And I hasten
to say that he developed it not just because of his personal capacities, but because, as was
always to be the case afterwards, he had also attracted around him a body of people who
in the end always contributed greatly to his growth. Indeed it becomes a feature of his
method of work in later years.
This method, if it can be summarised into a few words, I would say involves a
certain thoroughness of approach to whatever the matter at hand, a mastery of the
essentials of the subject, and in presenting it in a way that ordinary people can under-
stand and be stimulated to pursue the matter. He was, and remained always the Intellec-
tual In The Community. In later years as he reflected on his life, he placed great im-
portance on the fact that his social personality had been formed in a household and
family that was dominated by teachers a type who even in the memory of some of us
were a focus of authority, knowledge and form but who were always deeply involved in
the activity of the community.
In a nutshell then, that is the man that sets out for England in 1932. A man who
not only has avoided the traditional path, but without more than the Senior Cambridge
Certificate, ends up teaching at his alma mater, later at a teacher's college and even while
in Trinidad tries his hand at forming his own school. He comes to the conclusion that
Caribbean society as it is, cannot give him full range to the possibilities that he feels
He goes to England to be a writer and a literary figure. He already has in mind to
write the history of the Haitian revolution, and in his luggage the manuscript for his
novel "Minty Alley". His friend Constantine, of whom it can be said did not "only
cricket know" invites him to the Lancashire town of Nelson to shelter him from the
shortage of funds that he had experienced in London after arrival, and through this act of
generosity, puts James in touch with a school that will be of great importance for him. In
the community of Nelson he is exposed to Lancashire workers who teach him a great deal
about the British working class movement, and help him to place in context an area that
is becoming of great interest to him.
With the same comprehensiveness of approach that I mentioned earlier, he is
pursuing an examination of the history of the Russian Revolution. In a relatively short
time he not only has joined the Trotskyist movement, significantly rejecting very easily,
and early the stalinist party. It is that same independence of thought that was nurtured
and developed in the West Indies that guided him away from what was the overwhelming
tendency of the 30s amongst the growing left-wing in Britain, that is, to turn to the
And because of the unusual preparation of his West Indian training, he very soon
becomes a leading personality in the British and European Trotskyist movement. He
writes, he founds and edits political journals. He becomes a leading ideologue. He writes
a history of the communist international entitled "World Revolution" and side by side
with this he founds the International African Friends of Abbysinnia aggitating for the
sovereignty of Ethiopia, and with George Padmore and others expands it into the Inter-
national African Service Bureau for the aggitation of African independence. Black
Jacobins and A History of Negro Revolt are also written.
By the time he leaves England in 1938 for the United States, he has once again pre-
pared himself comprehensively to enter into a new and important, perhaps the most
important phase of his life. He certainly demonstrates that in his meeting with Trotsky in
Coyoacan in Mexico, shortly after his arrival on the American continent. His background
in politics, history and the Caribbean and African independence movements has prepared
him to make, in my view, one of the most penetrating political analysis of his life. He
identifies the struggle of the African-Americans as having an independent validity of its
own which should not be subordinated to any political party, including the Trotskyist,
and that the black struggle contained within it the elements for setting in motion the
reorganization of American society. Looked at closely, and studying the exchanges in the
verbatim notes of his discussion with Trotsky, one can see the embryo of James working
towards the position that he later takes in the United States (again as a result of close
collaboration with others), and that is, that the vanguard party had become the obstacle
to the emancipation of the working class and society in general, and that the task of the
revolutionary is to recognize and point out the new forms of political action and social
organization that have been and are emerging as the vehicles for this movement.
It is a profound development, difficult to encompass in a few sentences, but preg-
nant with significance in the contemporary Caribbean, and the contemporary world.
He brings back to the centre of marxist theory the need to identify and recognize
the importance of the independent activity of ordinary people as the motive force in his-
tory, production, politics and all forms of cultural development. He had of course already
broken publicly with Trotskyism in 1950.
The important point of his life I think, is the way that to each new stage that he
entered he seemed to come so well prepared for it. Years before the Hungarian Revolu-
tion of 1956, he wrote with confidence of the expectation of the kind of upheaval that
took place there. His book Facing Reality which is partly a review of that revolt, recog.
nises the Hungarian workers councils and the rejection of the stalinist bureaucracy, as if
in anticipation of the revolts in France and Czechoslovakia, and more recently Poland,
much as in 1938, the Black Jacobins speaks with confidence of the coming African inde-
It is not possible for me to go into many significant aspects of his work and acti-
vities, but I suggest that as you listen and reflect on his life his own phrase taken from the
preface to Beyond a Boundary will help illuminate much and it is this:
"To establish his own identity, Caliban, after three centuries, must himself pioneer
into regions Ceasar never knew."