Throughout his study of the Haitian Revolution James skillfully demonstrated for the first time that it was not simply an inspiring struggle on a tiny island on the periphery of the world system, but was inextricably intertwined with the Great French Revolution throughout, pushing the revolutionary process forward in the metropole itself and investing notions of human rights with new meanings and universal significance.
In writing about the Haitian Revolution, James rewrote the history of the French Revolution. One only has to look at some of the chapter titles of The Black Jacobins, such as “Parliament and Property” would the new ‘Parliament’ established by the French Revolution regard enslaved black people in French colonies as more than “property” in light of the 1789 “Declaration of the Rights of Man”?
James’s main intended audience for The Black Jacobins in 1938 then not only those fighting for colonial liberation in Africa and the Caribbean in the 1930s but also those fighting for socialist revolution in Europe. James clearly hoped that the inspiration of the Haitian Revolution would inspire those Africans and people of African descent who read The Black Jacobins to seize the opportunity that would be presented by the looming inter-imperialist conflict to organize independently and strike out for freedom.
In The Black Jacobins James painted a vivid panorama of the Haitian Revolution, stressing that it was not simply the greatest event in the history of the West Indies, but took its place alongside the English Civil War, the American War of Independence and the French Revolution as one of the great world-historical revolutions in its own right, a revolution which had forever transformed the world and laid the foundation for the continuing struggle for universal human rights. In many ways, the Haitian Revolution went further in its commitment to universal emancipation than any of these other revolutions; it was, as Paul Foot once noted: “Perhaps the most glorious victory of the oppressed over their oppressors in all history.”
Assuming today, in spite of the contemporary biological, financial, political and ideological emergency, despite everything it appears to be foolish to discuss world upheaval, it is seemingly simply because, as James once put it, “Western civilization has forgotten or learnt to distrust the revolutionary temper, the revolutionary spirit, the revolutionary personality built on the grand heroic scale”. However, human advancement would be at an end, obliterated not by the nuclear bomb blasts from without, but rather by the coagulating from inside.
During the 1930s, amidst a huge financial emergency, James saw the hardening from inside as autocracy, and one does not need to look far to see the arrival of that danger today crosswise over South America, Africa and Europe. Nor, given the militarism of the United States combined with the proceeding with risk of the multiplication of atomic weapons, would we be able to disregard the likelihood of development being devastated by bomb blasts from without.
Be that as it may, in the event that one just took a gander at the development of savageness on the planet then one would doubtlessly fall into inactivity and gloom. James would rather certainly direct us toward the gigantic activations of the worldwide enemy of globalization and antiwar developments lately, and indications of a developing restoration of the class battle itself following quite a while of thrashing, as images of expectation and verification that the progressive soul consumes still. Those social developments and class battles in tum could have a couple of more prominent motivations for the twenty-first century than C.L.R. James, a progressive identity based on the terrific brave scale amid the world-notable history of the 1930s.