C. L. R. James: A Critical Introduction

By Aldon Lynn Nielsen | Go to book overview
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3
The Future in the Present

In the middle of the Twentieth Century a spectre is haunting Marxism, keeping it within what if already a graveyard, and when it attempts to come out in the open, ready at the slightest sign of faltering, to show it the way back.

C. L. R. James, Grace Lee, and Cornelius Castoriadis, Facing Reality


1. NOTES ON DIALECTICS

It is only appropriate that one should read Jacques Derrida Spectres of Marx with a certain sense of déjà vu, as that is precisely the first sense of the uncanny that marks Derrida's "hauntology," as it must mark any encounter with a ghost, the ghost of Marx especially; for it is that unwonted sense of reencountering that which one thought never again to face that is the defining trait of the ghostly. Whose ghost this is, though, that we meet on the battlements at century's end, is not so clear. If we return to a reading of the most spectral passage in Facing Reality, the 1958 text coauthored by C. L. R. James, Grace Lee, and Cornelius Castoriadis, we find that Marxism had long ago been seen entering a graveyard, ushered in and guarded over by its own spectral other. Derrida, too, has seen this ghost, and he has seen it in the company of Marx himself. In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, a text that C. L. R. James taught from frequently in his classes at Federal City College, Marx warns that "the revolution paralyzes its own representatives and endows only its opponents with passion and forcefulness. The 'red spectre' is continually conjured up and exorcised by the counter-revolutionaries; when it finally appears it is not with the Phrygian cap of anarchy on its head, but in the uniform of order, in red breeches" ( Surveys171). As Derrida reminds us, this red specter is summoned

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