Introduction to World Revolution 1917-1936

This Introduction for the new edition of World Revolution 1917-1936 by C.L.R. James was written by Al Richardson the editor of Revolutionary History. The new edition was published by Humanities Press in 1993.

Introduction to World Revolution

C.L.R. James’ World Revolution, here presented in a new edition, was one of the few attempts made at the time to synthesise the experience of the revolutionary movement following the First World War. In judging its significance, both in its own time and for ours, it is worth bearing in mind the circumstances that gave rise to it.

The sheer weight of the apparatus of the Soviet Union and of the Comintern had established a virtual monopoly over Marxist thought by the mid 1930s. Dissident currents, whether of ‘right’ (Bukharinist or Brandlerite) or of ‘left’ coloration (Bordigist, Korschite or Trotskyist) had been successfully marginalised and reduced to small group existence by massive propaganda, gangsterism or terror.

Early in 1934 a dozen or so members of the Communist League, the first British Trotskyist organisation, at the instigation of Denzil Harber and Stewart Kirby and with Trotsky’s support, had left the parent body to set up a faction, later called the Marxist Group, inside the Independent Labour Party, which had itself parted company with the Labour Party a couple of years earlier. By this time C.L.R. James had already arrived in Britain and had made contact with members of the Labour Party in Nelson in Lancashire, but when he came down to live in Boundary Road in north west London he was recruited into the Trotskyist movement and joined the Marxist Group working in the ILP.1

In both groups the British Trotskyists were very few in number at the time he encountered them, and whilst the main body had with difficulty been able to sustain a monthly printed paper from 1933 onwards, the entrist organisation in the ILP had only been able to issue a few duplicated pamphlets, and, to put over their viewpoint, had been obliged to sell the Militant, a journal published by their American co-thinkers.

Trotskyism was not a popular standpoint during the mid 1930s in Britain. The wider Labour movement was more defensive than ever and was still recovering painfully from the split in the Labour Party at the time of the formation of the National Government in 1931. At the same time the Communist party was itself just recuperating from its reduction to the rank of a tiny sect during the “Third Period” of the Comintern, and was enjoying a period of rapid growth. The increase in the power of Nazi Germany made the USSR seem an attractive ally, even in some establishment circles, and the adoption of the policy of the Popular Front enabled the party to make a far wider appeal than it had ever done before, setting the tone for the ideological life of the left for the next decade. The Communist Party was able to infiltrate or take over existing organisations, such as the Labour Party’s student and youth groups, and to form a number of satellite bodies catering for the different interest groups in society.

The most effective of these was the Left Book Club, which came to enjoy a circulation of 57,000 and which was founded in May 1936 in partnership with the publisher Gollancz. Many of its titles were pure Soviet propaganda at its most mendacious, and of a virulently anti-Trotskyist character into the bargain, such books as Dudley Collard’s Soviet Justice and the Trial of Radek and Others, the Webbs’ Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation, and J.R. Campbell’s Soviet Policy and Its Critics.

The Club’s major programmatic book justifying the foreign policy of the Soviet Union, World Politics, 1918-1936, written by the Communist Party’s most cynical theorist, R. Palme Dutt, appeared in 1936. Unable to match anything like these resources, the British Trotskyists felt very much on the defensive, so C.L.R. James decided to use his contacts with a rival publisher to try to mount a counter-operation. As he later described it,

“There were no books in English, only pamphlets, so after a time I said ‘Why haven’t we a book in English?’, and they said that it was about time they had one. I finally picked myself up and got hold of Frederick Warburg ... I told Warburg and he thought that there was scope for the publication of books that were Marxist but not C.P. So I went away to Brighton and wrote this book in three or four months”.2

Although oral tradition in South Wales in the 1960s still pointed to a house where allegedly James worked on the book while campaigning down there for the ILP at the time of the Abyssinian War, it was largely put together, as he says, on the south coast. The local Communist Party bookshop in Brighton served as the basis for some of his material, though for many of his earlier sources he had to rely upon French and American non-Stalinist Marxists, and particularly upon the rich collection brought back by Harry Wicks from his course at the Lenin School in Moscow, whose expertise he thanks in his preface.3

The book finally came out in early 19374 to a less than enthusiastic reception. In the press dominated by them the Communist Party refused even to allow advertisements for it5 and, where in the nature of the case they were obliged to recognise its existence, such as in Gollancz’s Left Book Club, they attacked it with great hostility.6 No less hostile was the reaction of the British colonial authorities, who forbade the export of copies to India.7 This did not prevent it from being smuggled in and exercising some influence. G Selvarajatnan, later leader of the great strike in the Madras textile mills was converted to Trotskyism upon reading it, and Leslie Goonewardene’s Rise and Fall of the Comintern published ten years afterwards in Bombay was largely based on it.8

It has continued to suffer from neglect, being the least disseminated and commented upon of all James’ full length works, and the residue of Stalinist hostility towards it remains, even in New Left circles who are otherwise inclined to idolise its author. For James’ biographer, Paul Buhl, it is “James’ least original major work”, its “dogmatic weakness” being that it makes Stalinism “the deus ex machina for the failure of world revolution”.9

Such criticisms are based upon the view that World Revolution is largely a summary of the world view of Trotsky and the movement that followed him, Buhl for example seeing only in James’ treatment of the German crisis any differences with Trotsky.10 As a matter of fact, the book is far more original than it is given credit for, and neither James nor Trotsky regarded themselves as being in agreement over the basic argument contained in it. As James himself recalled,

“When I began to attack the Trotskyist position, some people in the United States said, ‘when we read your book World Revolution we said that it won’t be long before James is attacking the Trotskyist movement’. In this book it was pointed out to me in a particular paragraph. I agreed with the interpretation. I was told, ‘James, when some of us read that quotation, we said that ultimately James will go’”.11

These doubts were also shared by Trotsky himself. Whilst calling World Revolution “a very good book”, he criticised it for “a lack of dialectical approach”, considering that James’ theory of the development of Soviet politics wanted “to begin with the degeneration complete”. Whilst James’ chapter on the German events of 1923 is entitled Stalin Kills the German Revolution, Trotsky argued to the contrary that “the German revolution had more influence on Stalin than Stalin on the German Revolution. In 1923 the whole party was in a fever over the coming revolution”. Whilst considering the incredible policy of the German Communist Party during the accession of Hitler to power ten years later, James asks himself “Why did Stalin persist in this policy? How could the Soviet bureaucracy possibly conceive that any useful purpose could be served by letting Hitler into Power?”. Trotsky on the other hand argued that in fact “Stalin hoped that the German Communist Party would win a victory, and to think that he had a ‘plan’ to allow Fascism to come to power is absurd”.12 This suggestion, that the blunders of the Comintern and the KPD during 1930-3 were part of a deliberate plan was to occasion considerable embarrassment to the British Trotskyists, for it was immediately seized upon by their Communist opponents to discredit the book.13 Trotsky thus considered that the weakness of James’ book consisted in its not allowing for the development of Soviet politics, of allowing no movement within them, and of telescoping effect and intention, a sort of historical post hoc propter hoc argument.

The reason for this difference becomes apparent when we examine the secondary sources used by James in the construction of the book, and the major models that influenced his thought world at the time. We can dismiss straight away the suggestion made in Paul Buhl’s book, that he was indebted in any way to the “proletarian science” developed in the British Communist Party.14 These were precisely the people against whom he was polemicising. His main historical models were the classical historians, and the great modern historians of the classical world, such as Grote, whose works remained upon his bookshelf up to his death. They also included the classic Marxist histories, particularly The Eighteenth Brumaire which James regarded as “an indispensable book for the student of any period of History” (p.32n.1 below), and Trotsky’s My Life and the History of the Russian Revolution. We know that at the same time he was reading the works of the great French radical historians about the revolution of 1789 as preliminary research for his own future book, Black Jacobins (cf. pp.22-5 below). He must also have been acquainted with the historical labours of FA Ridley, for whom he maintained an affection to the end of his life, since they were both being published by Secker and Warburg at about the same time.

But it is the literature of the French and American non-Stalinist and non-Trotskyist left that supplies the key to understanding the distinctive features of World Revolution in that it shares the common assumption that the degeneration of the Russian Revolution began much earlier and proceeded at a more rapid rate that Trotsky would allow. One reference shows that James was acquainted with the literature of the Que Faire15 group, and we may note that Souvarine’s book, which he often cites, supported the Kronstadt insurrection against Soviet power as early as 1921.16 We know from other indications that at this time James was already acquainted with the “State Capitalist” theories about the USSR held by the French Union Communiste group led by Henri Chazé,17 as well as being in touch with some of BJ Field’s supporters in Canada, and conversant with the material of Weisbord, Oehler, and Erwin Ackernecht.18 James was particularly open to theories of the sort dismissed at the time by Trotskyists as “ultra left”, for after a long and sterile experience with entry activity within the ILP he had come to reject the tactic of entry altogether, refused to join the group that was pursuing such a course in the Labour Party, and had entered into a dispute with the Trotskyist International Secretariat on this basis.19 After a fragile unity was forced upon the British groups in 1938 he was sent to the USA, partly to give a free run to his longstanding opponent Denzil Harber, and partly to “straighten him out”.20 The distinctive position of World Revolution thus lies in the fact that its author was already in the process of rejecting Trotskyism, and his ideas were about to evolve towards the position he assumed during the Cannon-Shachtman conflict of 1939-40, and later in his State Capitalism and World Revolution of 1950, a political stance described by Robin Blackburn as “Anarcho-Bolshevism” (whatever that means).21 During the period that James was writing this book, there was, in fact, in both the United States and France, an entire left-wing thought world of groups who vied with each other to place the degeneration of Bolshevism and Marxism as early in time as possible (Oehlerites, Stammites, Eiffelites, Marlenites, etc, in the USA and in France, Cahiers Spartacus, Que Faire and the Union Communiste). It was a natural result of the disillusion produced among the left at the time by the rise of both Stalinism and Nazism, a pessimistic feeling that there was something deeply wrong with Marxism as they had inherited it. Although World Revolution is still quite close to the more recognisably ‘Trotskyist’ approach to these questions, it shows significant influences from this spectrum of ideas, and in effect stands at the beginning of C.L.R. James’ own gradual evolution in this direction.

A proper assessment of the value of the book can only be made in the light of historical experience, both of that which took place at the time and of later developments, for this is the only valid test of any social theory. Like any other book it is by no means infallible and our increased understanding of some of these past events inevitably shows shortcomings. In spite of the views of some modern commentators22 the subsequent history of the German USPD shows that Rosa Luxemburg was not “mistaken” in arguing that the Spartakists should remain inside it.23 James’ description of the foundation of the Comintern (p.112-3) can no longer be accepted as it stands. Whilst admitting that “the delegates were dissatisfied”, and that it was formed “due primarily to Lenin”, he comes to the strange conclusion that, at the time, “Lenin had almost been betrayed against his better judgement into a weak and vacillating position”. In the light of evidence that has since emerged it now seems clear that the dramatic appearance and speech of Gruber (Steinhardt) had been arranged in order to stampede the delegates into reaching the required decision.24 James’ endorsement of the Comintern’s verdict upon Paul Levi, because the latter condemned the 1921 “March Action” as a putsch, does that revolutionary less than justice.25 James’ view that Stalin was responsible for holding back the German Communist Party no longer receives uncritical support from historians of the Comintern,26 and there is some evidence that Trotsky himself came to have doubts about fixing the blame for any national errors on Brandler for the failure of October 1923 (p.187).27 Another of the myths of vulgar Trotskyism repeated here is that it was the Troika who were responsible for sending the Chinese Communist Party into the Guomindang, that “had Lenin been sitting as Chairman such an entry would never have taken place”28, and that Trotsky had voted against it from the very first (pp.236-7, 248).29 Count Stenbock-Fermoy, (p.331) a great-nephew of Prince Kropotkin, wrote to Trotsky to deny that he had joined the working-class movement to promote revanchist ideas.30 James’ description of Nin, Maurin and Andrade as “prominent leaders of the Spanish Revolution” (p.308) would in retrospect appear over optimistic.31 His acceptance of the production figures of the first Five Year Plan (p.292) appears as naive in hindsight, while time has dealt rather harshly with his remark that “if ever the Soviet Union goes down, that is to say back to capitalism, collective ownership has demonstrated how much capitalism retards the possibility of production”. Here however he was in good company, for not merely most socialists thought this but even a conservative such as Harold Macmillan, as late as 1961, feared the dynamism of the Soviet economy.

Much more problematic remains James’ view that the leaders of the Soviet Union were, as already noted above, carrying through a conscious policy in encouraging the suicidal behaviour of the German Communist Party in 1930-3. James links the deliberate policy of undermining Social Democracy to the fact that its foreign policy orientation was favourable to the “western” powers (p.337), whereas, as is well known, traditionally it is the more right wing elements in German society who have favoured an alliance with Russia. This is the view still supported by some historians - admittedly a minority, today.32

On the other hand when we consider the knowledge available at the time, the basic thesis supported by the book stands up surprisingly well. Its opponents of the day, Dutt, Strachey and the Webbs, could not be reprinted today without courting immediate ridicule. Scarcely half a dozen of the huge output of the Left Book Club during the same period is worth the shelf space in any Socialist library, and generally they pile up in the dustier sections of second hand bookshops where they remain unsold. James’ careful handling of his documentation stands him in good stead. At one point he notes, “the writer has used an (sic) Mss translation. Many of the most important articles by Lenin, written after 1918, have to be tracked down in obscure publications or translated afresh. The present Soviet regime does not publish them, or, when it does so, truncates them” (p.132n.1). Since the revelations of Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” at the 20th Party Congress of the Soviet Union in 1956 we are much better informed about these documents.33 Yet a comparison of James’ account of Lenin’s last conflict with Stalin and any modern treatment of the same subject, such as those of Moshe Lewin or Marcel Liebman34 would not modify the picture presented by James (pp.134-140) in any substantial way. He perceptively defines Trotskyism as a creation of Stalinism (p.151), and marshals his facts carefully to establish the existence of the massive famine caused by forced collectivisation (p.303), denied by virtually the entire range of left wing thought at the time.

Even some of his short-term predictions are found to be surprisingly accurate. “The long cold vistas of Siberia opened before Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky” he notes in 1929 (p.296), and, a year before the Trial of the Twenty-One, he asks “what insurance company would risk a penny on Bukharin’s life?” (p.199) Only a month after the appearance of World Revolution the events of the first week of May 1937 in Barcelona bore out his contention that “the day is near when the Stalinists will join reactionary governments in shooting revolutionary workers. They cannot avoid it” (p.389). The first section of the introduction to the book bears the subtitle The Coming War,35 and he prophesies that Trotsky “may be murdered in Mexico” (p.407). Many of the main events that come later in the wartime and post-war periods are sketched out quite adequately, such as that “the victory of Fascism in Germany would mean inevitably war against the Soviet Union” (p.320) and that “British capitalism, may despite all its efforts, be drawn into a war against Germany side by side with the Soviet Union” (p.408). The end of the Comintern is accurately foreseen as

“Stalin may even liquidate it altogether to assure the bourgeoisie that he will leave them alone, if only they will leave him and his bureaucracy in peace. But he dare not do this while Trotsky guides the Fourth International” (p.403).

Looking beyond the end of the Second World War James notes wisely that “the last war brought the partial freedom of Ireland, a loosening of the chains of Egypt and an upheaval in India which has seriously crippled the merciless exploitation of centuries. How long could Britain’s grip on India survive another war?” (p.10) For a brief moment the veil of the future is even drawn aside for China, Korea and Indo-China: “in China and the Far East, where Britain has so much at stake, capitalism is more unstable than anywhere else in the world” (ibid.).

Finally James’ analysis of the Soviet Union bears an amazing freshness in view of the events of the last three years. Speaking of the Soviet economy, he comments, “the whole system would stand or fall by the increased productivity of labour ... if Lenin returned today, he would not waste a minute on Stalin’s propaganda, but would calculate the income and expenditure per head of population and from it grasp at once the social and political character of the regime” (p.122). Examining the presuppositions behind Lenin’s theory of imperialism, he goes on to say:

“If capitalism proved to be still progressive, then the Soviet Union was premature and would undoubtedly fail. It was simple Marxism that the new Society could not exist for any length of time unless the old had reached its limits. But the conflict was not a conflict of entities already fixed. Capitalism in decay might still be powerful enough to overthrow the first Socialist State, whence it would gain a longer lease of life” (pp.119-120).

We can only await the confirmation (or otherwise) of the grim prophecy that flows from this: “If the Soviet Union goes down, then Socialism receives a blow which will cripple it for a generation” (pp.418-19).

Thus it emerges that a book dismissed for its “dogmatic weakness”, despite being written fifty-five years ago, still has lessons to teach us today if we read it in a fresh and critical spirit, and we warmly recommend a careful study of it as we place it in the hands of a public that, we are sure, will give it a better reception than when it first appeared.

Al Richardson



1. C.L.R. James and British Trotskyism: An Interview, London, 1987, p.1. An amusing picture of James’ influence upon middle class opinion in the ILP at this time is to be found in Ethel Mannin, Comrade, O Comrade, ch.x, pp.133-5.

2. C.L.R. James and British Trotskyism, p.1. Among the non-Stalinist books that James was able to influence Warburg to publish at this time were, in addition to his own, his translation of Boris Souvarine’s Stalin (1939), Mary Low and Juan Brea’s Red Spanish Notebook, recently republished unfortunately without James’ original preface, Harold Isaacs’ Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution (1938) and Albert Weisbord’s Conquest of Power (1938). Warburg of course, far more than Gollancz, was open to texts which came from the general left or ILP milieu and among his list at this period were Brockway’s Workers Front and both Next Year’s War and the Papacy and Fascism by F.A. Ridley, as well as the first edition of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, which Gollancz had rejected as being too critical of the Communist Party’s line

3. Below, p.xii; cf. Harry Wicks, 1905-1989: A Memorial, London 1989, pp.3, 8, & 14. For examples of the sort of material provided, cf. below, p.132n.1 and 179n.1.

4. It is advertised in Fight, Vol.i, no.5 for April 1937.

5. Martin Secker and Warburg, “Letter to the Editor”, 30th April 1937, in Fight, Vol.i, no.7, June 1937.

6. R.F. Andrews (Andrew Rothstein), “Leninism Trotskified” in Left News, June 1937, pp.291-8. Gollancz’s own opinion was that “a Trotskyist book falls as obviously outside the scope of the Club’s publications as does a Nazi or Fascist book” (New Leader, vol.xxi, new series no.178, 11th June, 1937).

7. George Padmore, letter to Tribune, 10th September, 1937, p.13.

8. K. Tilak, Rise and Fall of the Comintern, Spark Syndicate, Bombay, December 1947.

9. Paul Buhl C.L.R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary, London 1988, pp.51-2. Contrast with this James comment on p.159, below: “There is a tendency among Trotskyists to exaggerate the economic and social influences at work in the Trotsky-Stalin struggle in 1923”. Other examples of Buhl’s anti-Trotskyist bias need not detain us here (“A paroxysm of rage at Stalin”, “overly subjective, obsessed with details at the expense of the larger picture”, “with minor possible exceptions such as Trotskyists in Ceylon, only the activity of James himself forcefully joined anti-imperialism with Trotskyism”, etc). They have been commented upon by Charles van Gelderen in C.L.R., Socialist Outlook, April 1989.

10. op. cit., Note 9 above, p.52.

11. op. cit., Note 1 above, p.9.

12. L.D. Trotsky “On the History of the Left Opposition”, April 1939 in Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1938-39, New York, 1974, pp.260-66. cf. C.L.R. James below, pp.164-201, 335.

13. JR Campbell, in Controversy, vol.i, no.8, May 1937, p.36.

14. Buhl, op. cit., Note 9 above, pp.45-47. Here, as is evident from his preface, he has been misled by his English informants, principally Robin Blackburn of New Left Review. Even less relevant are references (p.58) to Christopher Hill, who in spite of his expressed admiration for Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution today (Sunday Times, 18 August, 1985), was busy, at the time indicated, writing a book about Lenin and the Russian Revolution which effectively censored Trotsky out of it.

15. The Que Faire group was formed in France in 1934 from ex-Stalinists and ex-Trotskyists, such as Kurt Landau, and set out to trace back the degeneration of the Russian Revolution from its earliest stages. The group finally united with Social Democracy in 1939.

16. Souvarine talks about the “Kronstadt commune” and “the legitimate character of the rebels’ claims” on pp.276 and 279 of Stalin. Trotsky described Souvarine’s theory as a “search for an independent line running directly from Marx to himself, bypassing Lenin and Bolshevism” (letter to Victor Serge, 29th April, 1936, in Writings of Leon Trotsky: A Supplement, 1934-40, New York, 1979, p.659), and Souvarine himself as the archetype of a “gangrenous sceptic”. James himself notes Souvarine’s “anarchist bias against the dictatorship of the proletariat” (below p.140n.2; cf. also p.309).

17. Description of a meeting with C.L.R. James on 10th October, 1937 by Ernie Rogers, “Letter to Jimmy Allen” in The Trotskyist Movement and the Leninist League, London, 1986, p.7.

18. Op. cit., Note 17 above; Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson Against the Stream, London, 1986, pp.256, 287.

19. Op. cit., Note 17 above: “there would have to be a struggle in the International League; efforts would have to be made to alter the line of the I(nternational) S(ecretariat). I told him that this had already been attempted and had been met with Stalinist methods; suppression, hooliganism. He (James) interjected and said that there was nothing we could say against the I.S. with which he could not agree. He knew all about them ... He asked Frost (Max Basch), a member of the EC, to provide him with the documents published by Oehler on the question, also the internal bulletin published by the Sec. on the French turn”.

20. Sam Bornstein and Al Richardson War and the International, London, 1986, p.24.

21. Robin Blackburn, C.L.R. James (Obituary), in The Independent, 2nd June, 1989. Cf. the remark made by James about Trotsky’s rejection of democratic centralism in 1903 on p.49 below: “He has since admitted that he was wrong; too generously, for the question is not so simple”. In view of Trotsky’s stated opinion about this conflict, the whole discussion that follows this comment (p.49-53) shows how far James was, already by 1937, at variance with Trotsky.

22. Chris Harman, The Lost Revolution: Germany 1918 to 1923, London, 1982, pp.19-20, 88, 95.

23. Cf. Rob Sewell, Germany: From Revolution to Counter-Revolution, London 1988, pp.33-4; Mike Jones, The Decline, Disorientation and Decomposition of a Leadership: The German Communist Party; From Revolutionary Marxism to Centrism, in Revolutionary History, Vol.ii, no.3, p.2. Cf. below, p.95.

24. Referring to Angelica Balabanoff, Impressions of Lenin, Ann Arbour, 1968, pp.69-70, Walter Kendall comes to the conclusion that “the whole affair is so dramatic as to suggest stage management” (The Revolutionary Movement in Britain, 1900-1921, London, 1969, p.226). The case is established beyond all reasonable doubt in his as yet unpublished MSS, World Revolution: The Russian Revolution and the Communist International, 1898-1935, to which I am greatly indebted.

25. “Mere condemnation of thousands of proletarians who risk their lives against the bourgeoisie has never been tolerated by Marxists”, p.169 below. Cf. Mike Jones, op. cit., Note 23 above pp.5-7.

26. Pierre Broué, The Communist International and the German Crisis of 1923, address to the AGM of Revolutionary History, 20th May, 1989 (as yet unpublished); cf. LD Trotsky, op. cit., Note 12 above, p.260.

27. Cf Mike Jones, op. cit., Note 23, pp.8-9; He refers to Jacob Walcher’s Notes on Discussions with Trotsky, 17th-20th August 1933, published in the Oeuvres, vol.ii. This text recently came to light in the SAP archives in Sweden and only became known after the publication of the Pathfinder English edition of the works of Trotsky’s last exile. It is hoped to put an English translation into general circulation in the near future. For Trotsky’s later return to his original opinion, cf. On the History of the Left Opposition, April 1939, in Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1938-39, New York, 1974, p.261.

28. On the strategy as a whole cf. Michael Cox’s verdict: “The general strategy developed by the Comintern by 1923 and 1924 was unambiguously bourgeois democratic. I can find no suggestion of any serious attempt to pose or even discuss the possibility of proletarian dictatorship, as a solution to the tasks of the anti-imperialist struggle in the colonies. That is, a well developed stages conception of the colonial revolution preceded Stalinism”, See The National and Colonial Question - The First Five Years on the Comintern, 1919-22, in Searchlight South Africa, no.4, February 1990, p.38.

29. Trotsky himself put various dates upon his support for the withdrawal of the Chinese Communists from the Guomindang. In a letter written in December 1930 he claimed that he had done so “from the very beginning, that is, from 1923” (Letter to Max Shachtman, 10th December 1930 in Leon Trotsky on China, New York 1976, p.490), but in My Life written a year earlier he says that it was “since 1925” (Penguin edition, Harmondsworth, 1975, p.552). “As a matter of fact” notes Paolo Casciola, “despite these assertions, no documents preceding the spring of 1927 are available in which Trotsky called for a withdrawal of the Chinese Communist Party from the Kuomintang” Trotsky and the Struggles of the Colonial Peoples, Centro Pietro Tresso, Foligno, 1990, pp.11-12.

30. Cahiers Leon Trotsky, no.36, Dec 1968, pp.51-3.

31. Cf. The Spanish Civil War: The View from the Left, Socialist Platform, 1992, for rather damning counter evidence.

32. Thomas Wiengartner, Stalin und der Aufstieg Hitlers, Berlin 1970, cf. the references given in A. Westoby, Communism since World War II, Brighton 1981, p.410n.28, especially Robert Black, Fascism in Germany, London, 1975, vol.ii, pp.749-55, 858-60.

33. Mostly to be found in vol.xxxiii of the 1966 English edition of Lenin’s Collected Works, along with the material in L. Fotieva’s Pages from Lenin’s Life, Moscow, 1960.

34. Moshe Lewin, Lenin’s Last Struggle, London, 1969; Marcel Liebman, Leninism under Lenin, London 1975, pp.417-25.

35. Obviously many of these forecasts derive from the common stock of analyses James had at his disposal in the Trotskyist movement. We should remind ourselves that Trotsky himself, two years before the Second World War broke out, prophesied its outbreak to within a month (Daniel Guérin, Trotsky and the Second World War part.ii, in Revolutionary History, vol.iii, no.4, p.13), and that other writers acquainted with Trotskyist ideas such as F.A. Ridley, had sketched out the main lines of the coming conflict in such books as Next Years’s War, which Secker and Warburg had published a year before James’ book appeared.

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