World Revolution by C.L.R. James

Out now in time for the centenary of the Russian Revolution as part of the C.L.R. James Archives series with Duke University Press…


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

by C.L.R. James 

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


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

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

Reviews of the new edition

”The republishing of this key work by one of the 20th century’s most important Marxist thinkers is very welcome … James provided the first ever history and systematic analysis of the Communist International and a searing indictment of the crimes of Stalinism … World Revolution is a key part of the revolutionary Marxist tradition and well worth reading today.”
Tony Phillips, Socialist Review, 429 (November 2017).

”World Revolution, 1917-1936, originally published in 1937, was a landmark publication for the international Trotskyist movement. This edition, with extensive supplementary material, was published in 2017, to mark the centenary of the October Revolution in Russia. The timing is fitting. The book was originally written as a fierce critique of the Stalinisation of the Third (or, Communist) International, which had been established by the Bolsheviks in 1919, as a forum that brought together revolutionary movements from all over the world. After Stalin came to power, in the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the Third International became increasingly subordinated to the foreign policy concerns USSR. Christian Høgsbjerg’s substantial introduction, (57 pages, including notes and images), does a great job of placing the book in its historical context. Høgsbjerg has also gathered together more than a dozen reviews of the book, written shortly after its publication. This edition also includes some additional work of C. L. R. James from the period 1937-1939, with explanatory notes and references provided…The timing of the re-publication … might make the reader think that the work is only of historical interest. It is not. It is worth reading today because of the contemporary resonances. History does not repeat itself; every period has its own specificity. Nevertheless, there are recurring themes and there are different conjunctures that can be fruitfully compared. The 1930s that followed the Great Depression and witnessed the rise of fascism has some obvious parallels today…
Chris Gilligan, Marx and Philosophy Review of Books (May 2018)

What is the purpose of making a re-issue of James’s World Revolution? This edition includes a comprehensive and well-authored introduction by Christian Høgsbjerg, one of the leading experts on James’s life as an individual, left-wing intellectual and activist. Moreover, it contains numerous appendices in the form of reviews published after the release of James’s book, as well as correspondence and other material… [World Revolution] is a classic survey that should be read by scholars, students, or individuals with a general interest in the development of the Soviet Union, Marxism, Trotskyism, and international communism between the wars.
Fredrik Petersson in Revolutionary Russia (2018).

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


The American 1937 edition published by Pioneer Publishers.

Praise for the original 1937 edition of World Revolution:

“a very good book” – Leon Trotsky, 1939

 “[a] very able book”- George Orwell, 1937

“decidedly useful … in his analysis of the course of the Russian revolution and of the point at which it took the wrong turning, Mr. James displays commendable independence of judgment and desire to arrive at the truth” – E.H. Carr, 1937

The new introduction is available to read online here:

Click to access 978-0-8223-6324-8_601.pdf

You can also get a 30% discount on the paperback edition if you go to: and enter coupon code E17CLRJ during checkout

Book Launches:

Friday 13 October 2017 – Institute for Black Atlantic Research, University of Central Lancashire, Preston – as part of The Red and the Black: The Russian Revolution and the Black Atlantic conference.

Friday 10 November 2017 – Historical Materialism conference, SOAS, London – you can listen to this here.

Monday 13 November – London Socialist Historians Group seminar, 5.30pm, Institute for Historical Research – see here