This review-essay examines two recent works of scholarship on the life and work of the late Trinidadian intellectual and activist C.L.R. James (1901–89). While recognising the respective merits of Frank Rosengarten's Urbane Revolutionary; C.L.R. James and the Struggle for a New Society (2008) and Brett St Louis's Rethinking Race, Politics, and Poetics: C.L.R. James' Critique of Modernity (2007) the essay argues that a critical weakness of both works is their problematic discussion of James's Marxism. This review will aim not simply to defend the central importance of Marxism for James, but will also suggest that, as much as anything, it is precisely this that gives so much of his work a rare urgency and critical relevance in the twenty-first century.