Book Launch: Left of Karl Marx: the Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones

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Maysie Maysie's picture
Book Launch: Left of Karl Marx: the Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones

I wrote a review of this book for the babble book lounge a while ago, and can't seem to find it in the archives. Anyways, there's a book launch for it coming up, and I'll be out of town and won't get to meet the author! Frown

It's a very cool book and I strongly recommend it. 

Quote:

Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones

join us for the launch of:

Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones
(Duke University Press)
by Carole Boyce Davies

THURS MAY 14, 7pm
toronto women's bookstore
73 harbord street
we regret our washroom is not wheelchair accessible.
all our events and courses are trans inclusive.

Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones is the latest publication by Carole Boyce Davies, in which she assesses the activism, writing and legacy of Claudia Jones (1915-64), the pioneering Afro-Caribbean radical intellectual, dedicated communist and feminist. Born in Trinidad, Claudia Jones moved to New York in 1924 and lived there for 30 years. She was active in the Communist Party from her early twenties, travelling across the USA to speak and organize. She was arrested several times and was in prison for nearly a year before being deported and given asylum in the UK in 1955, where she founded the West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News and the Caribbean Carnival. She is buried in Highgate cemetery in London to the left of Karl Marx - a location Boyce Davies finds fitting given Jones's expansion of Marxism-Leninism to incorporate gender and race into her political critique and activism.

Carole Boyce Davies was born in Trinidad and lives in the USA. She is Professor of Africana Studies, English and Comparative Literature atCornell University. She has published numerous books on black women's writing and on African diaspora studies including Out of the Kumbla: Caribbean Women and Literature(1990) and Decolonizing the Academy: African Diaspora Studies(2003) among others.

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

She sounds like a more appropriate "cemetery neighbour" than Captain Bligh who is also alongside Marx in Highgate.

lagatta

Oh, I'd love to meet her. By the way, I hope people are familiar with Lucy Parsons, a multiracial, radical (anarcho-communist) woman of an earlier generation. Her husband was one of the Haymarket martyrs, and she was a longtime radical labour organiser. http://www.lucyparsonsproject.org/

Here is a photo of Claudia - isn't she magnificent? Sadly, she died at only 49, poor and alone: http://www.nottinghilldiary.com/images/claudia-jones.jpg

It is extraordinary that she was so attuned to the importance of culture from below - god, she must have chafed with some of those old CPers. With the slogan "a people's art is the genesis of their freedom", understanding the importance of celebration as well as struggle.

Maysie Maysie's picture

The book launch has been rescheduled for this Thursday May 14, at the Toronto Women's Bookstore. 

fiidel_castro

I would love to get a copy of this book.  

Maysie Maysie's picture

Where do you live, fiidel_castro? I just saw a copy at the Toronto Women's Bookstore this afternoon. 

RosaL

Maysie wrote:

Where do you live, fiidel_castro? I just saw a copy at the Toronto Women's Bookstore this afternoon. 

 

He lives in Regina, I believe. 

Unionist

Maysie wrote:

I wrote a review of this book for the babble book lounge a while ago, and can't seem to find it in the archives.

 

 

[url=http://www.rabble.ca/books/reviews/life-claudia-jones]Could this be it - under your previous persona?[/url]

fiidel_castro

I live in Regina, yup

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

Yes that's me, Unionist!

fiidel_castro, Book & Brier Patch stocks it.

fiidel_castro

I will have to give them a visit, thanks for the info

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

One would expect a serious appraisal of the politics of Claudia Jones from an author who seeks to establish that Jones was politically "left of Karl Marx" (whatever that means).

Yet the elephant in the room - Joseph Stalin - is not even mentioned in the first 220 pages of the book (and then quickly dismissed as a minor detail). And this is a book, remember, about a woman who was a loyal Communist Party member from 1936 on, and eventually became a leading party functionary and an editor of the Daily Worker and the Weekly Review, throughout all the twists and turns and betrayals of Stalin. She even stuck with the party after the 1956 "Hungarian Revolution" that triggered a major exodus of fed-up members from the Communist Parties around the world.

Unlike her fellow Trinidadian C.L.R. James, who as early as 1932 had a clear appreciation of Stalin's betrayal of the Russian revolution, Jones never broke with the Stalinist Third Intenational, either in the USA or later in England. James also understood the revolutionary potential of black nationalism in a way that Jones and the CPUSA never did, even though there was a disproportionately high number of black members in the party.

Up until the time Jones was deported from the USA to England in 1955 and for several years thereafter, the CPUSA was totally backward on questions of feminism. Where is the evidence of Jones's titanic (losing) battles with her fellow top Party functionaries on the "woman question"? They are not to be found in the book. Did they even exist at all? The author's statement that Jones "brought an explicitly women's rights orientation to the politics of the Communist Party USA" is curious; Jones may have "brought" such an orientation, but the party never "bought" it. By 1960 most of the top feminists in the CPUSA had broken with the party, which went on to openly ridicule the so-called second wave of feminism as "petty bourgeois."

What was her position on the CPUSA's purge of lesbians in the 1950's? Did she speak out against it? The book doesn't tell us; but surely as a member of the party's National Committee she would have been in on all of the discussions.

It's a disappointing, and in many ways dishonest, book.