ChRisTian høgsbJeRg
In 2005, early in my research for a doctoral thesis on C. L. R. James’s life
and work in 1930s Britain, I went to inspect the Jock Haston Papers at the
Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull, in the north of England.
Like James, Haston had been a Trotskyist in Britain during the 1930s, and
listed among the Haston Papers was a file entitled simply “Toussaint Lou-
verture.”1 Daring to hope to discover perhaps a programme from the original
1936 production of James’s play about the Haitian Revolution, a rare enough
and valuable find in itself, I decided to save examining this file until the end.
After several hours spent wondering at some of the forgotten struggles and
squabbles revealed among the minutiae of internal documents relating to
the tiny early British Trotskyist movement, I finally rewarded myself by turn-
ing to the intriguing folder. Opening it up, I found to my amazement a yel-
lowing mass of thin oilskin paper headed “Toussaint Louverture: The story
of the only successful slave revolt in history.” All that was missing from what
I recognised immediately as the long- lost original playscript was its author’s
name on the front—C. L. R. James.
At that moment, the extraordinary providence of the find dawned on
me in a way that must have eluded those historians of British Trotskyism
who over the years had gone through the Haston Papers. It is not clear how
James’s play about the Haitian Revolution ended up with Jock Haston (1912–
86). Haston had broken from the Communist Party in 1934, and he had set
up a discussion group sympathetic to Trotskyism. Around 1935–36, Haston’s
group met for discussions with the three British Trotskyist groups then in
existence, including James’s Marxist Group, then part of the Independent
Labour Party (iLP). It is possible that, during these discussions, James gave
a copy of Toussaint Louverture to Haston, who may well have seen the play
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