CLR James

Staying human in the belly of the beast

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Grace Lee Boggs, who died last month, was an important figure on the US left. Working with CLR James and others she helped to rescue revolutionary socialism from the dead weight of Stalinism, as well as becoming a notable activist in the Civil Rights movement, writes Christian Høgsbjerg.

That the passing of Grace Lee Boggs, a remarkable Chinese American author, activist and humanist philosopher should merit a statement of condolence from President Barack Obama was quite fitting. Grace had been an inspiring and courageous organiser for the Civil Rights and Black Power movement in the US and had worked alongside Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks.

In 2008 she championed Obama for “providing the authentic, visionary leadership we need in this period”, even comparing him to Martin Luther King, and so it was only right that Obama returned the compliment.

CLR James in Imperial Britain

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When Cyril Lionel Robert (CLR) James died in May 1989, he was a seemingly marginal and inconsequential figure. His death in a tiny flat in Brixton, south London, appeared symbolic.

Supposedly "socialist" regimes were collapsing all across Eastern Europe. As James was taking his final breath, protests were erupting in Tiananmen Square against the tyranny of Chinese "communism".

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