State Capitalism and World Revolution, first published in 1950, is perhaps the definitive polemic of the Johnson-Forest Tendency (JFT). The JFT’s lead theorists were C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevsakaya, and Grace Lee (later Grace Lee Boggs). The essay provides a demolition of Stalinism and Trotskyism. It lays down an analysis of “state capitalism” based on a sharp reading of Capital, and also Lenin, which centers class struggle in production and locates the proletariat as the source of capitalist crisis. Paul Buhle (1986) has noted that the piece was “the last of James’ texts to be set in the classic Marxist-Leninist strategic framework” (p. xx).
There are at least 5 English-language editions of State Capitalism and World Revolution:
- 1950: The essay originally appeared in the September, 1950 Discussion Bulletin of the Socialist Workers Party (a scan is available here) and was credited to “Johnson-Forest.”
- 1956: Published by “a Marxist Group” with a preface by James, Castoriadis, Brendel et al (see below) in England. There was no new authorship claim in the second edition, and the collectively-signed preface, likely written by James, references authorship of State Capitalism with “The writers of the document” and that “They bring all phenomena into one integrated and growing body of theory, shedding new lights as new events unfold.”
- 1969: Published by Facing Reality Publishing Committee with authorship credited to James.
- 1986: Published by Charles H. Kerr with authorship credited to C.L.R. James. “[w]ritten in collaboration with Raya Dunayevskaya & Grace Lee.”
- 2013: Published by The Charles H. Kerr Library and PM Press, with authorship credited the same as the 1986 edition.
Authorship of State Capitalism is a bit contested. Martin Glaberman’s preface to the 1969 edition attributes the document to James in a context of collective activity.
However, Frank Rosengarten, in his important biography Urbane Revolutionary, credits the document to all three thinkers: “Two chapters of State Capitalism and World Revolution, jointly written by James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Grace Boggs and published in 1950…” (p. 57). Rosengarten goes on to mention Lee and Dunayevskaya’s involvement in “discussions of the work-in-progress that eventually bore the name State Capitalism and World Revolution, but which first entitled Marxism and State Capitalism” (p. 61). And then Rosengarten challenges Glaberman’s claim on authorship (pardon our highlights/notes):
In a speech in 1985, Dunayevskaya stated the the work was written “under [James’] direction” (Dunayevskaya, 2013, p. 2). It seems to us that the collectively attributed authorship is likely the most accurate, so we are attributing it that way.
While the first edition of State Capitalism and World Revolution was published in the SWP’s Discussion Bulletin, based in New York City, the second edition was published in England. The publication was credited to “A Marxist Group” based in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. James had been in England for more than three years at this point, after he had been expelled from the United States. In his introduction to the 1969 edition, Glaberman notes: “When the second edition of State Capitalism and World Revolution was at the printer, the Hungarian Revolution exploded.”
The preface to the 1956 second edition, which was republished in the 1969 and 1986 editions (posted online here), is signed by six men: Johnson (C.L.R. James), Alan Christianson, Chaulieu (Cornelius Castoriadis), Cajo Brendel, Maassen (Theo Massen), and IP Hughes. In his 2006 essay, “Beyond the Boundary of Leninism? C.L.R. James and 1956”, James scholar Christian Høgsbjerg explores this eclectic grouping:
The second edition of State Capitalism and World Revolution is rare. OCLC locates one holding, in the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan, but it’s also held in the C.L.R. James Papers at Columbia. At the time of writing there is one copy found in the trade at the indomitable Bibliomania in Oakland.