Walter Rodney and the Question of Power

Image courtesy Verso.

By CLR James | Verso Books

Walter Rodney, the great Marxist historian and activist, was killed on June 13th 1980 by a bomb in his native Guyana. In this essay by CLR James, originally published by Race Today in 1983, discusses Rodney’s work in relation to the revolutionary seizure of power.


Walter Rodney was murdered by the Burnham regime on 13 October, 1980. He was trapped, in the course of his revolutionary activities, by a member of Guyana’s army, into handling a device which exploded and killed him.

This was a highly charged political event for three main reasons: Walter was an internationally respected and admired Marxist historian active in the revolutionary movement in Guyana and the Caribbean; he was viewed by the people of Guyana, the Caribbean and the black world as the alternative to the bankrupt, political leaders in the region; and find finally, the Caribbean itself had been simmering since 1968 with revolutionary upheavals and social revolt.

Much if not all of the responses sought to explain Walter’s assassination in the following terms: “Burnham, the evil demagogue murdered Walter, the good revolutionary”. While this moral approach did little harm, it failed to analyse the event in political terms, with a view to clarifying the way forward for the Caribbean revolutionary movement which suffered a mortal blow on Walter’s death.

Read the rest of James’s essay at Verso.