'A Thorn in the Side of Great Britain’: C.L.R. James and the Caribbean Labour Rebellions of the 1930s

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This essay examines C. L. R. James's relationship to the heroic and inspiring arc of labour rebellions that swept the colonial British Caribbean during the 1930s. The essay begins by discussing James's 1932 work putting the case for West Indian self-government, The Life of Captain Cipriani, and its generally positive reception in the Caribbean. We then turn to the “outbreak of democracy” represented by the Trinidad general strike in 1937 and James's attempt to rally solidarity with this and subsequent rebellions elsewhere while in the imperial metropole itself as a leading member of the International African Service Bureau. Finally, this essay stresses how the Caribbean labour rebellions themselves, with their demonstration of the “modernity” of the mass of working people in the West Indies and apparent vindication of the Marxist theory of permanent revolution, played their part in the shaping of James's majestic The Black Jacobins.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-42
JournalSmall Axe
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011



  • C.L.R. James
  • British Empire
  • Colonialism
  • Pan-Africanism
  • Caribbean
  • labour

Cite this