Toward a Counter-Genealogy of Race: On C.L.R. James

CLR James and Léon Damas at at the sec­ond Con­gress of African Peo­ple in San Diego in 1972.

The Trinida­di­an-born writer and activist C.L.R James is con­sid­ered today to be one of the prin­ci­pal fore­run­ners of a the­o­ry of the rela­tions between race and class. As a lead­ing Marx­ist the­o­rist, James always stressed the fun­da­men­tal impor­tance of the notion of class strug­gle, and close­ly fol­lowed devel­op­ments in rev­o­lu­tion­ary work­ing-class strug­gles in Europe and the Unit­ed States. This did not pre­vent him, how­ev­er, from ana­lyz­ing and tak­ing part in move­ments for decol­o­niza­tion: in 1938, he authored a famous his­to­ry of the Hait­ian Rev­o­lu­tion, The Black Jacobins; in the 1940s, he was seen as a spe­cial­ist on the “Negro Ques­tion” with­in North Amer­i­can Trot­sky­ist move­ments; he also had ties to African inde­pen­dence lead­ers – Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, and lat­er, Julius Nyerere in Tan­za­nia – and he became involved in “par­ty pol­i­tics” him­self dur­ing the time lead­ing up to Trinida­di­an  inde­pen­dence. James strove to repo­si­tion Pan-African­ist strug­gles with­in a glob­al rev­o­lu­tion­ary his­to­ry, by inter­pret­ing them in light of Marx­ist the­o­ry and his­to­ri­og­ra­phy; the lat­ter, in turn, was reshaped through the lens of the expe­ri­ence of (de)colonization. He fore­ground­ed and the­ma­tized the rela­tions between class oppres­sion and racial oppres­sion as well as the con­nec­tions between strug­gles for eman­ci­pa­tion waged by sub­al­tern groups with their own autonomous demands.

But does this nec­es­sar­i­ly mean that as a Marx­ist, James thinks race in the same way he thinks class? Does a con­cept of race exist in his writ­ings, one invest­ed with a spe­cif­ic the­o­ret­i­cal and/or polit­i­cal func­tion, beyond the atten­tion he pays to actu­al instances of racial dom­i­na­tion? Answer­ing this ques­tion not only entails con­tribut­ing to the exe­ge­sis of James’s work, which remains large­ly to be dis­cov­ered in France, but also a reex­am­i­na­tion of the prob­lem – gen­er­al­ly posed in the form of a bina­ry alter­na­tive, and which is a recur­ring issue in debates among aca­d­e­mics as well as activists and mil­i­tants – of deter­min­ing whether “race” needs to be mobi­lized in order to think the con­di­tion of racial­ized groups, the modal­i­ties of their eman­ci­pa­tion, and strate­gies of anti-racism, or if this would mean adopt­ing the same log­ic as the adver­sary and thus par­tic­i­pat­ing in an exten­sion of racism. A heuris­tic approach to this prob­lem con­sists in retrac­ing a counter-geneal­o­gy of race, that is, a his­to­ry that is not con­cerned with the gen­e­sis of mod­ern racism so much as the usages that have been made out of the notion of race against racial dom­i­na­tion and the knowl­edges that it relies on.1 It is through this per­spec­tive that we will con­sid­er James’s work.

The Absence of Race

It would be legit­i­mate to object that these counter-deploy­ments of race pre­sup­pose the for­ma­tion of the notion of racism, and remain close­ly linked to the denun­ci­a­tion and decon­struc­tion of the lat­ter. How­ev­er, it’s clear that the term “racism” is a recent inven­tion: from a dis­cur­sive point of view, racism did not exist before the 1930s, and usage of the term remained mar­gin­al until the 1950s-1960s. As Nico­las Mar­tin-Breteau has already empha­sized in regards to the case of African Amer­i­cans, from the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry and into the first half of the 20th, “racial prej­u­dice” was the more com­mon term.2 Racial prej­u­dice referred to, above all, an ensem­ble or set of opin­ions and sen­ti­ments that appeared to be spon­ta­neous and large­ly unthought or uncon­scious; where­as racism not only includes the mean­ing of racial prej­u­dice (to which it is often still reduced), but also allows for a crit­i­cal under­stand­ing of the for­ma­tion of prej­u­dice through its insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion and (pseu­do) sci­en­tifici­ty: strug­gling against racial prej­u­dices can­not there­fore have exact­ly the same sense as strug­gling against racism.

Pub­lished in Lon­don in 1938, The Black Jacobins was no excep­tion. James repeat­ed­ly makes recourse to the notion of racial prej­u­dice, but nev­er that of racism: “The prej­u­dice of race is super­fi­cial­ly the most ir­rational of all prej­u­dices.”3 At times, James will sub­sti­tute the term “race feel­ing,” cor­rect­ly show­ing that race is a sur­face phe­nom­e­non, charged or loaded as it is, whose deep, ratio­nal caus­es defy or escape all expla­na­tion in terms of race. As for the “racial ques­tion,” he tends to con­sid­er it as basi­cal­ly sec­ondary: “In a slave soci­ety the mere pos­ses­sion of per­son­al free­dom is a valu­able priv­i­lege, and the laws of Greece and Rome tes­ti­fy that severe leg­is­la­tion against slaves and freed­men have noth­ing to do with the race ques­tion.”4 While nev­er dis­mis­sive of the speci­fici­ty of anti­colo­nial strug­gle, James nonethe­less affirms that the strug­gle of the slaves in Saint-Domingue was entire­ly gov­erned by the the law of class strug­gle, from which he derives the fol­low­ing claim: “The race ques­tion is sub­sidiary to the class ques­tion in pol­i­tics, and to think of impe­ri­al­ism in terms of race is dis­as­trous.”5 There is a sub­or­di­na­tion of race to class.

Near the end of 1938, James trav­els to the Unit­ed States. There, he begins to insist on the auton­o­my of black strug­gles, under­stood as the con­di­tion of pos­si­bil­i­ty for their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the social­ist rev­o­lu­tion. Oppressed among the oppressed, African Amer­i­cans were called upon to form the van­guard of the Amer­i­can rev­o­lu­tion­ary move­ment. The fact remained that their own strug­gle was still depen­dent upon the advances of the strug­gle of the work­ing mass­es as a whole, which James points out dur­ing a 1960 speech in Trinidad:

The great prob­lem of the Unit­ed States, with all due respect to the colour of the major­i­ty of my audi­ence, is not the Negro Ques­tion. (If this ques­tion of the work­ers’ inde­pen­dent polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion were solved the Negro Ques­tion would be solved. As long as this is not solved the Negro Ques­tion will nev­er be solved).6

In a let­ter writ­ten a year lat­er, he lament­ed the pre­dom­i­nance of the racial ques­tion with­in Fac­ing Real­i­ty, the rev­o­lu­tion­ary orga­ni­za­tion that he helped found sev­er­al years before: “To stress only the race angle is to sur­ren­der the… treat­ment of the ques­tion either to the lib­er­als, on the one hand, who see only the exten­sion of Rights, or the Mus­lims, on the oth­er hand, who see only the exten­sion of Race.”7

For James, there is no “we, Blacks” – he almost always talks about African-Amer­i­cans in the third-per­son. Instead, he appeals to fel­low Trot­sky­ists “upon the basis of the impe­tus to think­ing, study, and pen­e­tra­tion in the Negro move­ment and obser­va­tion of the Negroes in the trade union move­ment”; and it is first of all him­self to whom he refers when he men­tions “any­one who knows them, who knows their his­to­ry, is able to talk to them inti­mate­ly.”8 James seems to have nev­er real­ly devel­oped a racial con­scious­ness, some­thing that sets him apart from oth­er intel­lec­tu­als and mil­i­tants orig­i­nal­ly from the Antilles (Mar­cus Gar­vey, Frantz Fanon, Stoke­ly Carmichael, etc.). In a 1931 arti­cle pub­lished in Trinidad, he claims to have not been “tou­c­hous [over­ly sen­si­tive] on” the race ques­tion.9 Two years lat­er, he under­scores that there are racial prej­u­dices in the West Indies, but no forms of “racial antag­o­nism” – there is no divi­sion or seg­re­ga­tion between races.10 This posi­tion is reit­er­at­ed in his pam­phlet on the his­to­ry of Pan-African strug­gles, A His­to­ry of Negro Revolt, in which he states, regard­ing Trinidad: “race feel­ing is not acute at nor­mal times.”11 In an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal pas­sage from his 1963 social his­to­ry of crick­et, Beyond A Bound­ary, James recalls hav­ing been the vic­tim of racial prej­u­dice in Trinidad when, want­i­ng to serve in World War I to be able to “see the world,” he found him­self abrupt­ly turned away because of the col­or of his skin. But this expe­ri­ence was quick­ly for­got­ten, and “no scar was left.”12 The edu­ca­tion he received at the pres­ti­gious Queen’s Roy­al Col­lege in Port of Spain, the quin­tes­sen­tial school of the Empire, ren­dered him col­or­blind, blind to the race ques­tion: “in our lit­tle Eden, it nev­er trou­bled us.”13

This absence of race is also evi­dent in James’s writ­ings on West­ern lit­er­a­ture and tragedies. An admir­er of Melville, espe­cial­ly Moby Dick, to which he devot­ed a whole book, he does not men­tion the cen­tral motif of the whale’s white­ness and the mes­mer­iz­ing pow­er this exerts over the nar­ra­tor, Ish­mael. The argu­ment that “the white whale is the ide­ol­o­gy of race,” even­tu­al­ly devel­oped by Toni Mor­ri­son, still remains total­ly for­eign to James.14 His read­ing of Ben­i­to Cereno, a nov­el that depicts a slave mutiny on a Span­ish ship, is also sig­nif­i­cant. Regard­less of whether there is a con­sen­sus on the ques­tion of this work being proof of Melville’s racism, or if he rather derid­ed racist atti­tudes, crit­ics can nonethe­less agree that in this nov­el, race presents a prob­lem. James, although he affirms that Melville did not just write about slaves but the “black race” as a whole, is con­tent to con­sign this point to a sim­plis­tic analy­sis: “Cap­tain Delano is one of those white men who not only under­stands but who loves Negroes.”15 The rea­son for this is that what inter­ests James is not the race ques­tion strict­ly speak­ing, but the rela­tion of the West to (eco­nom­i­cal­ly and polit­i­cal­ly) “back­ward peo­ples” in gen­er­al.16

What here remains in absen­tia will become, in James’s inter­pre­ta­tion of Shakespeare’s Oth­el­lo, a ver­i­ta­ble refusal of race. In his cor­re­spon­dence with Con­stance Webb, his future wife through­out the 1940s, he wel­comed the fact that Paul Robe­son, the African-Amer­i­can actor, singer, and activist, was able to play the role of Oth­el­lo on Broad­way, the “Moor of Venice,” thus plac­ing the black ques­tion cen­ter stage. This did not stop James from deny­ing, twen­ty years lat­er, any import of the race ques­tion in Oth­el­lo: “I say with the fullest con­fi­dence, that you could strike out every sin­gle ref­er­ence to Othello’s black skin and the play would be essen­tial­ly the same.”17 He reit­er­ates: “there is not a word about his race”; “race has noth­ing to do with it.”18 Is there not, in James’s evo­ca­tion of our “race-rid­den con­scious­ness,” an implic­it cri­tique of the impor­tance accord­ed to the race ques­tion at the onset of the 1960s, which in his opin­ion was dis­pro­por­tion­ate or exces­sive? For him, what char­ac­ter­izes Othello’s posi­tion is much more the fact that the Moor is a stranger or for­eign­er, an out­sider in rela­tion to the “state and civ­i­liza­tion of Venice.” In the same peri­od, James would also under­stand his own rela­tion to the West, and the Caribbean more gen­er­al­ly, as an out­sider: “We were mem­bers of [the same] civ­i­liza­tion [as the British] and take part in it, but we come from out­side… we don’t real­ly belong.”19 It seems that James thought that his own des­tiny, like that of Oth­el­lo, was not depen­dent on the col­or of his skin, deter­mined by his race. In actu­al fact, James’s rela­tion to the race ques­tion will be more com­plex than pre­vi­ous analy­ses have sug­gest­ed.

Paul Robe­son as Oth­el­lo

Think­ing Race Oth­er­wise

In the pref­ace to Beyond a Bound­ary, James writes: “To estab­lish his own iden­ti­ty, Cal­iban, after three cen­turies, must him­self pio­neer into regions that Cae­sar nev­er knew.”20 Cal­iban is the “abject and mal­formed” sav­age of Shakespeare’s Tem­pest, a piece which hard­ly seemed to inter­est James in his reflec­tions on Shake­speare­an dra­ma, as opposed to Ham­let, King Lear, or, appro­pri­ate­ly, Julius Cae­sar. But the Pros­pero-Cal­iban rela­tion would soon become an arche­type for colo­nial-racial rela­tions, as seen in Aimé Césaire’s 1969 adap­ta­tion of Shakespeare’s The Tem­pest “for a black the­ater,” where he trans­formed Cal­iban into a black slave rebelling against his white mas­ter.21 If James remained unaware of this (re)interpretation of the The Tem­pest along racial lines, it is sig­nif­i­cant that he not only men­tions Caliban’s name, but that he does so from an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal per­spec­tive: James is Cal­iban, he is some­one who has to tread a dif­fer­ent path than Cae­sar, the Euro­pean, the white man.

This encour­ages us to take a clos­er look at James’s col­or­blind­ness. If the “race ques­tion” in Trinidad bare­ly both­ered the young James, it was para­dox­i­cal­ly because “it was there,” vis­i­ble to all. In the Caribbean con­text, race is not oper­a­tive in terms of bina­ry divi­sions, which would then be the source of racial antag­o­nism, but rather as a prin­ci­ple of social orga­ni­za­tion and the most dif­fuse assign­ing of places, more flu­id and less vio­lent in appear­ance at least. Race there­fore acts as a norm; and this nor­mal­iza­tion trans­forms its hyper­vis­i­bil­i­ty into invis­i­bil­i­ty, ren­der­ing it imper­cep­ti­ble and unthink­able. There is def­i­nite­ly a con­cep­tion of race, then, but one which escapes the pre­dom­i­nant schema of racial dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.

James did not ignore, how­ev­er, that the log­ic of racial sep­a­ra­tion was indeed at work else­where. Dur­ing his first stay in the Unit­ed States, he expe­ri­enced seg­re­ga­tion far more intense­ly than his polit­i­cal writ­ings on the “Negro ques­tion” would let on. In a 1939 let­ter to Webb, he con­veys his first encoun­ters in the South in these terms:

There are taxis for white and taxis for black… Peo­ple have been warn­ing me and I have said, “Oh, I’ll man­age,” per­haps with too much con­fi­dence… I shall get through of course… but the feel­ing of uncer­tain­ty shows me how ter­ri­bly the minds and char­ac­ters of Negroes must be affect­ed… When I see you some­time, I shall tell you some things about Negroes, things which I have expe­ri­enced in my own per­son, and I will give you some idea about what goes on in a Negro’s mind.22

In African-Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture, too, James dis­cov­ers what racial oppres­sion is sub­jec­tive­ly, in the first per­son, for black Amer­i­cans. James argues that Richard Wright, through the char­ac­ter of Big­ger Thomas in Native Son, man­aged to cap­ture the lived expe­ri­ence of black peo­ple in the Unit­ed States: “The great major­i­ty of them feel as Big­ger feels, think as Big­ger thinks, and hate as Big­ger hates.”23 Wright shows that the con­scious­ness of African-Amer­i­cans is nec­es­sar­i­ly a racial con­scious­ness: “In a pro­found sense Big­ger Thomas is a ‘typ­i­cal’ Negro. His hatred of whites, his sense of his wrongs and his forcibly lim­it­ed life, his pas­sion­ate desire to strike at his ene­mies, all this is racial.”24

In James’s work, there is actu­al­ly the sketch of a more exten­sive the­o­ry of racism beyond the sin­gle prob­lem of racial prej­u­dice. The polit­i­cal con­struc­tion of mod­ern Europe, as he affirms in dis­cussing the gen­e­sis of total­i­tar­i­an­ism, is found­ed on the for­ma­tion of nation­al states that each pos­sessed a “racial doc­trine.” From this per­spec­tive, Hit­lerism is noth­ing oth­er than the ulti­mate byprod­uct of the “the­o­ry of the supe­ri­or­i­ty of the nation­al race.” On the oth­er hand, the Com­mu­nist regime in Rus­sia after the degen­er­a­tion of the 1917 Rev­o­lu­tion man­i­fests at the eco­nom­ic lev­el what Nazism express­es on the polit­i­cal lev­el: the dom­i­na­tion of the “supe­ri­or race.” If this form of racism remains intra-Euro­pean, in the Black Jacobins, James out­lines a cri­tique of the “racial the­o­ries” pop­u­lat­ing the his­to­ri­og­ra­phy of the Hait­ian Rev­o­lu­tion. He specif­i­cal­ly attacks the Amer­i­can his­to­ri­an Lothrop Stod­dard, whose The French Rev­o­lu­tion in San Domin­go artic­u­lates “his vendet­ta against the Negro race” by claim­ing that “the white race destroyed itself in San Domin­go through its deter­mi­na­tion to pre­serve its racial puri­ty.”25 Stoddard’s book pro­vides a “typ­i­cal exam­ple of the cloud of lies which obscure the true his­to­ry of impe­ri­al­ism in colo­nial coun­tries.”26 The writ­ing of his­to­ry was also the ter­rain where the strug­gle against racial oppres­sion had to be waged: “The only place where Negroes did not revolt is in the pages of cap­i­tal­ist his­to­ri­ans.”27

The prob­lem of race also re-emerges at the very cen­ter of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process in Haiti, in its final phase. After the arrest of Tou­s­saint Lou­ver­ture and his impris­on­ment in France, Jean-Jacques Dessalines inher­it­ed the task of bring­ing the rev­o­lu­tion to its com­ple­tion by lead­ing the war of inde­pen­dence: “The colony was dev­as­tat­ed, and blacks and whites were mur­der­ing each oth­er with a grow­ing feroc­i­ty, in what was called a race war.”28 But James in no way endors­es this race war dis­course, reaf­firm­ing that this extreme racial­iza­tion of the con­flict remains sub­or­di­nate to the class strug­gle, as its “ori­gin was not in their differ­ent colours but in the greed of the French bour­geoisie.”29 Events would not have gone dif­fer­ent­ly in France: whether the “monar­chists [had] been white, the bour­geoisie brown, and the mass­es of France black, the French Rev­o­lu­tion would have gone down in his­to­ry as a race war.”30 James still does not deny any role of the racial fac­tor in the war of inde­pen­dence: “It was a war not so much of armies as of the peo­ple. It was now a war with the racial divi­sions empha­siz­ing the class strug­gle – blacks and Mulat­toes against whites.”31 In Saint-Domingue, race played what could be called an inten­si­fy­ing role – even an overde­ter­min­ing role – in class con­flicts. This was already specif­i­cal­ly under­stood by French rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies like Léger-Félic­ité Son­thonax, when he called for an end to “the aris­to­crats of the skin” rul­ing over the ter­ri­to­ry.32

James also sug­gests that said race war – the con­clu­sion of the Hait­ian Rev­o­lu­tion – could have been avoid­ed if only the race ques­tion had not been pre­vi­ous­ly obscured. Although impe­ri­al­ism defies an expla­na­tion com­plete­ly in terms of race, James still declares that “to neglect the racial fac­tor as mere­ly inci­den­tal [is] an error only less grave than to make it funda­mental.”33 Tou­s­saint Lou­ver­ture com­mit­ted this pre­cise error, which pre­cip­i­tat­ed his down­fall: he dis­missed the pro­found fears held by the black mass­es regard­ing the “old slave-own­ing whites,” and then allowed oth­ers to sus­pect that he was “tak­ing the side of the whites against the blacks.”34 In James’s view, this was an error “in method” and not “in prin­ci­ple.” In his rel­e­ga­tion of the prob­lem of race to a sec­ondary con­cern, Tou­s­saint was cor­rect in terms of polit­i­cal the­o­ry, but fun­da­men­tal­ly wrong from the view­point of rev­o­lu­tion­ary strat­e­gy. As James would lat­er affirm in regards to the con­di­tions of Marxism’s expor­ta­tion to the Unit­ed States, even though its “prin­ci­ples and doc­trines… have a uni­ver­sal appli­ca­tion,” which is all the more true in this case, their actu­al­iza­tion in dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal and geo­graph­ic con­texts than those in which they arise always entails a process of “trans­la­tion.”35 All things being equal, Toussaint’s error was to have not com­plet­ed the trans­la­tion of the ideas and ideals of the French Rev­o­lu­tion into the con­text of colo­nial­ism and slav­ery. If he had, he could have giv­en the race ques­tion its prop­er, albeit rel­a­tive, place in the upris­ing of the Saint-Domingue slaves – unless, and this is a line of inquiry that would go beyond what James argues and can only remain open, Tou­s­saint actu­al­ly encoun­tered the inher­ent lim­its of the trans­lata­bil­i­ty of the doc­trines and prin­ci­ples inher­it­ed from the Enlight­en­ment, at the bor­ders of their poten­tial for uni­ver­sal­iza­tion.

The analy­sis of James’s thought elab­o­rat­ed here is only a pre­lim­i­nary to what we have called a counter-geneal­o­gy of race. It also demon­strates that trac­ing this geneal­o­gy could assist us in over­com­ing the apo­r­ias that stall con­tem­po­rary debates around race – by mov­ing beyond their con­fine­ment to a bina­ry log­ic of either the uncon­di­tion­al affir­ma­tion or absolute rejec­tion of the notion of race, and thus beyond the oppo­si­tion between the idea of the auton­o­my of racial ques­tions and that of their sub­or­di­na­tion to oth­er fac­tors, above all class. This task requires sus­pend­ing any pre-giv­en con­cep­tion of race in order to shed light on the het­ero­ge­neous, and some­times con­tra­dic­to­ry, his­tor­i­cal instances of a counter-con­cept of race with­in strug­gles against racial oppres­sion. Writ­ing such a his­to­ry could be essen­tial for us today, as we decide whether or not anti-racism requires a con­cept of race.

This essay orig­i­nal­ly appeared in Vacarme.

-Trans­lat­ed by Patrick King


  1. A sim­i­lar approach that also takes James as its point of depar­ture can be found in Josh Myers, “A Valid­i­ty of its Own: C.L.R. James and Black Inde­pen­dence, The Black Schol­ar (August 2015). 

  2. Nico­las Mar­tin-Breteau, “Corps poli­tiques: Sport et com­bats civiques des Africains-Améri­cains à Wash­ing­ton, D.C., et Bal­ti­more (v. 1890-v. 1970),” doc­tor­al the­sis, under the direc­tion of François Weil, École des Hautes Études en Sci­ences Sociales (Novem­ber 2013), 440-450, 571-585. 

  3. C.L.R. James , The Black Jacobins: Tou­s­saint L’Ouverture and the San Domin­go Rev­o­lu­tion (New York” Vin­tage Books, 1989), 120. 

  4. Ibid., 38. 

  5. Ibid., 283. 

  6. C.L.R. James, Mod­ern Pol­i­tics (Oak­land: PM Press, 2013), 45, cit­ed in Tony Mar­tin, “C.L.R. James and the Race/Class Ques­tion,” Race, 14.2 (1972) 183-193, 188. 

  7. J.R. John­son [C.L.R. James], Marx­ism and the Intel­lec­tu­als (Detroit: Fac­ing Real­i­ty, 1962), 14, cit­ed in Mar­tin, op. cit., 191. 

  8. J. Mey­er [C.L.R. James], “The Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Answer to the Negro Ques­tion in the U.S.,” Fourth Inter­na­tion­al, 9.8 (Decem­ber 1948), 242-251. 

  9. C.L.R. James, “The Intel­li­gence of the Negro,” in Tou­s­saint Lou­ver­ture: The Sto­ry of the Only Suc­cess­ful Slave Revolt in His­to­ry (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2013), 198. 

  10. C.L.R. James, “A Cen­tu­ry of Free­dom,” in ibid., 203. 

  11. C.L.R. James, A His­to­ry of Pan-African Revolt (Chica­go: Charles H. Kerr, 1995), 106. 

  12. C.L.R. James, Beyond a Bound­ary, (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1993), 31. 

  13. Ibid., 30. 

  14. Toni Mor­ri­son, Unspeak­able Things Unspo­ken: The Afro-Amer­i­can Pres­ence in Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture, cit­ed in Samuel Otter, Melville’s Antin­o­mies (Berke­ley: Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 1999), 298. 

  15. C.L.R. James, Mariners, Rene­gades, and Cast­aways: The Sto­ry of Her­man Melville and the World We Live In (New York: Schock­en, 1985), 118. 

  16. Ibid., 119. 

  17. C.L.R. James, “‘Oth­el­lo’ and ‘The Mer­chant of Venice,’” in Spheres of Exis­tence: Select­ed Writ­ings (Lon­don: Alli­son & Bus­by, 1980), 141-150, 141. 

  18. Ibid., 142. 

  19. C.L.R. James, “Dis­cov­er­ing Lit­er­a­ture in Trinidad,” in op. cit. (1980), 237-244, 244. 

  20. James, op. cit. (1993), xxi. 

  21. Aimé Césaire, Une tem­pête (Paris : Le Seuil, 1997 [1969]). 

  22. C.L.R. James, Spe­cial Deliv­ery: The Let­ters of C.L.R. James to Con­stance Webb, ed. Anna Grimshaw (Cam­bridge: Black­well, 1996), 45. 

  23. J.R. John­son [C.L.R. James], “On Native Son by Richard Wright,” in C.L.R. James on the “Negro Ques­tion,ed. Scott McLemee (Jack­son: Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­sis­sip­pi Press, 1996), 55-58. 

  24. J.R. John­son [C.L.R. James], “Native Son and Rev­o­lu­tion: A Review of Native Son by Richard Wright,” in C.L.R. James and Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Marx­ism: Select­ed Writ­ings of C.L.R. James, 1939-1949, ed. Scott McLemee and Paul Le Blanc (Atlantic High­lands, NJ: Human­i­ties Press, 1994), 88-92, 89. 

  25. James, op. cit. (1989), 388. 

  26. Ibid., 259 n.16. 

  27. J.R. John­son [C.L.R. James], “The Rev­o­lu­tion and the Negro,” in C.L.R. James and Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Marx­ism, op. cit., 77-87, 77. 

  28. James, op. cit. (1989), 355. 

  29. Ibid. 

  30. Ibid., 128. 

  31. Ibid., 359. 

  32. Ibid., 120. 

  33. Ibid., 283. 

  34. Ibid., 284.  

  35. C.L.R. James, “The Amer­i­can­iza­tion of Bol­she­vism,” appen­dix to Amer­i­can Civ­i­liza­tion (Lon­don: Black­well, 1993), 283-292. 

Author of the article

holds a doctorate in political philosophy (Université de Paris Diderot and Università degli Studia di Bologna) and is a researcher at Les Afriques dans le Monde (CNRS, Sciences Po Bordeaux). He was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of Frantz Fanon: De l'anticolonialisme à la critique postcoloniale (2011) and L'Amérique de John Locke: Expansion coloniale de la philosophie européenne (2014).