CLR James – A New Notion: Two Works by C.L.R. James – Every Cook Can Govern; The Invading Socialist Society
C.L.R. James was a leading figure in the independence movement in the West Indies, and the black and working-class movements in both Britain and the United States. As a major contributor to Marxist and revolutionary theory, his project was to discover, document, and elaborate the aspects of working-class activity that constitute the revolution in today’s world.
In this volume Noel Ignatiev, author ofHow the IrishBecame White,provides an extensive introduction to James’ life and thought, before presenting two critical works that together illustrate the tremendous breadth and depth of james’ world view.The Invading Socialist Society,for James the fundamental document of his political tendency, shows the power of James’ political acumen and its relevance in today’s world, with a clarity of analysis that anticipated future events to a remarkable extent.Every Cook Can Govern,is a short and eminently readable piece counterposing direct with representative democracy, and getting to the heart of how we should relate to one another.
Together these two works represent the principal themes that run through James’ life: implacable hostility toward all “condescending saviors” of the working class, and undying faith in the power of ordinary people to build a new world.
“Noel Ignative‘s brilliant introduction and C.L.R. James’ classic essay on direct democracy in ancient Athens are accessible to every reader, and well worth the price of admission. For Some readers, myself included,The Invading Socialist Societywill be more challenging. What we need to remember is that it was on the basis of this essay that memers of Facing Reality believed that they, and they alone, had predicted the Hungarian Revolution of 1956: a revolution in which workers, acting in a situation that was not an economic crisis, without a political party (vanguard or otherwise), without independent trade unions, and without a newspaper that expressed their views, rose up and almost overnight created a horizontal network of self-governing councils that was governing the country until crushed by Soviet tanks.” —Staughton Lynd, Co-Author of Wobblies & Zapatistas