CLR James Never Turned to Stalinsm

I recently encountered an individual, who is deserving of remaining unnamed, who claimed that in the later years of his life that CLR James shifted from support of Trotsky to Stalin in his with his interest in the Pan-African movement and association of WEB DeBois and Paul Robeson. This irked me somewhat because CLR James was, in my opinion, never sympathetic to Stalinism.

It is certainly true that CLR James recognised the efforts of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois (Black Power speech, 1967), but who wouldn't? He also recognised the practical logic of Kant in the same speech. That does not even imply that James had become a Stalinist any more than it means it had become a Kantian. He said you participate in liberatory sentiments if you're a revolutionary, a liberal, or even if one is conservative. In the speech he spoke of his meetings with Trotsky in the same speech, and how he developed the position that independent struggles based on identity were a contribution to socialist revolution (one can refer to his articles "Negroes! On Guard Against The New Stalinist Line!" on this matter).

Even in the last years of his life, CLR James discussed his relationship with Trotskyism with Richardson, Chrysostom, and Grimshaw (published in the Troktskyist journal, "Socialist Platform", in 1987). Here, he explicitly states how he helped prevent the African liberation movements from becoming Stalinists.

"I am very conscious that most of the African leaders of the independence movement, who were in Europe, orientated naturally towards the Marxist movement which said we are for freedom in the colonies. We never had too much power but I wrote one or two pamphlets and books in which it was very clear. Later I was often invited to come and speak on the Marxist movement in Africa. It was in a very small way influenced by the Stalinists. Normally they would have dominated it, but those leaders who had worked in London hadn't become Trotskyists - but we had so educated them that Stalinism didn't do much to them."

So there you have it. An assertion was made that CLR James had become sympathetic to Stalinism by being involved in African liberation and CLR James disagrees this assessment.

Now, I am by no means a Trotskyist, although I would have described myself as such for a year or so in my teens (and I give them credit for sharpening my political thinking and activism), and about twenty years ago I was interested in the Workers Liberty group. Certainly, I am more sympathetic to Trotsky than I am to Stalin, and I think "the historical record" (read: the capricious murder and indifferent manslaughter of tens of millions of people) of Stalinism makes it a type of "left-wing fascism". One thing I have discovered over the years, time and time again, is that Stalinists are among the most dishonest people one is likely to encounter. Truth, to them, is relative and is what is in the interest of their current political line. It is perhaps of little surprise to see that they are prepared to defame the good name of CLR James.

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