Elevate Difference

You Don't Play With Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of C.L.R. James

This accessible and engaging collection presents eight never-before-published lectures by the celebrated Marxist cultural critic and anti-colonial scholar, C.L.R. James, who played an important part in the international socialist movement. James’ collection demonstrates his expertise in various fields, from Caribbean history and the Haitian Revolution, to Leninist political philosophy to Shakespeare. He has defined and popularized the autonomist Marxist tradition in the United States and Canada. You Don't Play With Revolution is a collection based on a series of lectures delivered by James during his stay in Montreal in 1967 and 1968 when he was invited to contribute to the practical work of people devoted to revolutionary change in Canada and the Caribbean. Thus, James’ work not only embodied his vision of the creative power of ordinary people who shape history, but the ways they do so and document their struggles. James strongly believed that without the involvement of the mass population politics is destined to fail.

This collection is significant because it provides essential, and previously lacking, information about James’ work with Canadian students and West Indian intellectuals in the late 1960s. It also includes a series of letters James exchanged with the West Indian university students who made these lectures possible, in addition to two seminal interviews with James during his stay in Canada. Those interested in social movements and, more specifically, James’ work, will find this collection to be a great contribution to existing scholarship.

James’ work is relevant to revolutionary politics today, while opening the window into the particular cultural moment in which James’ work took place. I recommend it to both the novice and the expert who wants to learn more about James and his stunning insights. As Austin summarily puts it, “James not only remind us that ‘another world is possible’ is real, but also help us to chart a course toward creating this new world in present.”

Written by: Olivera Simic, June 7th 2010