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In this opening section C. L. R. James surveys the world situation in 1937 and looks at the looming interimperialist war. He notes the betrayal of internationalism and socialism when the Second International supported the Great War of 1914-18, and he notes how the Third (Communist) International looks set to follow suit and support a new war. James argues that only Marxism can explain both world politics and the “new civilisation” represented by the Soviet Union, and it predicts a new process of world revolution unfolding in case of another war.

In chapter 1, C. L. R. James discusses the origins of “scientific socialism” in the works of Marx and Engels writing in the aftermath of the French Revolution and then the revolutions of 1848 across Europe. He stresses how working-class internationalism for Marx and Engels was not some moral imperative, but flowed from the international nature of capitalism as it developed. James also shows how the strategy and tactics of “permanent revolution” originated with Marx and Engels generalizing out of the experience of workers during 1848.

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