C.L.R. James, the mass strike of 1919 in colonial Trinidad and 'The Case for West Indian Self-Government'

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


In colonial Trinidad in 1919 rising industrial turmoil culminated in a rolling mass strike that would shake this outpost of the British Empire to its foundations. Though often located as an important part of Trinidadian or at best Caribbean labour history – a precursor in many ways to the powerful wave of labour rebellions that swept the Anglophone colonial Caribbean in the 1930s – this essay will argue that the strike has to also be located through the prism of colonial, transnational and global labour history. In the strike’s aftermath, the social democratic Trinidad Workingmen’s Association grew into a mass organisation led by the charismatic Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani. This essay will explore how the emergence of this mass nationalist working-class movement attracted the attention of the young writer and teacher C.L.R. James, who would become a leading anti-colonialist thinker, writing a biography of Cipriani, later abridged and published as The Case for West Indian Self-Government (1933). Yet the strike of 1919 itself was strangely silenced in this text, and the chapter will examine how it was only with James's turn to Marxism in the 1930s that he came to appreciate its full historical significance and importance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Global Challenge of Peace
Subtitle of host publication1919 as a Contested Threshold to a New World Order
EditorsMatt Perry
Place of PublicationLiverpool
PublisherLiverpool University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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