Mariategui

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sat Dec 25 16:58:45 MST 1999



Nestor wrote me privately raising some interesting ideas about Mariategui.
I have written at length on Mariategui in cyberspace over the past 5 years,
in relation to his native Peru, then in connection with Cuba and Nicaragua.
I have the Nicaragua at my fingertips and will post it now. When I track
down the other pieces, I will forward them. I will also be replying to
Nestor privately.

====
Another important element of Sandinista ideology was Mariategui's Marxism.
There was always a very strong affinity between the Peruvian Mariategui and
Sandino. Mariategui promoted the cause of the Nicaraguan revolution in the
pages of "Amauta", his theoretical journal. In addition, one of Sandino's
lieutenants was named Esteban Paveltich, a Peruvian who was his contact
with the nationalist APRA party in Peru, but who later joined Mariategui's
Peruvian Socialist Party. Mariategui urged Paveltich to write a book about
Sandino. Although the book was never written, Paveltich did extol Sandino
in the pages of the Costa Rican journal Repertorio Americano: Sandino, who
has much of Trotsky and something of St. Francis of Assissi, is capable of
leading the new men...to liberty and victory."

Like Mariategui, Sandino had run-ins with the Communist International. His
personal secretary was Farabundo Marti, who despite being a great Communist
leader of El Salvador, was in some ways much too eager to follow the
directives of Moscow. Sandino, ever the nationalist, resisted these
directives and fired Marti. This breach resulted in the loss of assistance
from the Comintern and the Mexican Communist Party. When Sandino declared a
truce in 1933, the Comintern accused him of capitulation and declared its
support for the counterrevolutionary government of Sacasa in Nicaragua.

Carlos Fonseca was the founder of the FSLN, or Sandinista Front for the
Liberation of Nicaragua. Fonseca always spoke about how important the ideas
of Che Guevara were to him, but there is no evidence that he was directly
influenced by the writings of Mariategui. Marc Becker, the author of the
book that I have been reporting on, speculates that this was because
Mariategui was in disrepute in Communist Party circles in the 1950s. Since
Fonseca was a student Communist then, it is likely that he observed the
party taboo against Mariategui.

Tomas Borge, a cofounder of the FSLN, did read Mariategui and acknowledged
his influence. Borge and fellow Sandinista Henry Ruiz lived in Peru for
several months when General Juan Velasco Alvarado ruled the country.
Fonseca advised Borge to look up Esteban Paveltich when he was there and to
study Mariategui's writings. Paveltich was impressed with the young
Sandinistas and organized support for the Nicaraguan revolution in Peru. In
1970, when Costa Rica imprisoned Fonseca and Humberto Ortega, Pavletich and
Roque Dalton, the Salvadoran poet and revolutionary, and Jean Paul-Sartre
organized an international campaign for their release. Paveltich remained
committed to the Sandinista cause in the 1980s and Borge often invoked the
name and ideas of Mariategui as a great influence on the Sandinista
movement, along with Sandino himself.

What Mariategui, Guevara and the Sandinistas have in common is obvious.
They belong to a great tradition of national Marxism that can be traced
back to Gramsci, and I would argue, to Lenin himself. Revolutionary parties
have to be rooted in the class struggle and traditions of the native soil.
Efforts to transplant revolutionary models or to issue directives from
international secretariats have been counterproductive, no matter the
source. Both Stalin and Trotsky embraced this model. Trotsky never thought
twice about the wisdom of telling the French Communists in 1921 what should
go on the front page of their newspaper.

The efforts to reconstruct an international socialist movement must take
the dialectical relationship between the need for nation-based Marxisms and
collaborative relationships across borders. Despite the altogether fuzzy
theoretical formulations of the Zapatistas, there is still strong evidence
that they understand this relationship correctly. They address the specific
class dynamic of Mexican society, but combine their struggle on this front
with the worldwide struggle against capitalism (which unfortunately they
tend to call "globalization".)

Once again I want to call comrades' attention to two important books. The
first is the collection of Mariategui's writings that was published last
year and is available from Humanities Press in New Jersey. The second is
"Mariategui and Latin American Marxist Theory" by Marc Becker. The book was
published in 1993 by Ohio University. I suspect that this will have to be
ordered directly from the publisher if it is still in print. If it is in
your university library, I recommend it thoroughly.

A 19 year old member of the Moscow-leaning Nicaraguan Socialist Party
discovered the writings of Sandino in 1955. His name was Carlos Fonseca
Amador. He soon broke with this party and started the FSLN, the Sandinista
Front for the Liberation of Nicaragua.

He combined the home-grown nationalist and populist thrust of Sandino's
movement with a Cuban revolution influenced brand of Marxism. To help
publicize Sandino's ideas, Fonseca started a review called "Nueva
Nicaragua". The journal, according to Tomas Borge, a comrade of Fonseca,
said the Cuban revolution was a major inspiration to them. He said, "Fidel
was for us the resurrection of Sandino."

Fonseca insisted on linking the contemporary struggle of the
Cuban-influenced Latin American guerrilla movements with Sandino's earlier
struggle against imperialism and dictatorship. Fonseca steeped himself in
Nicaraguan history and Sandino's struggle in particular, which he described
as a model for a new generation of Nicaraguans.

The Marxism of Fonseca and the other Sandinistas may not be to the liking
of Trotskyists, but it is a Marxism nonetheless. Besides the customary
texts of Marx, Engels and Lenin that inform most Marxist thought, Fonseca
drew heavily upon the example of Cuban Marxism. Guevara came as close to
providing a general guideline for this form of Marxist thought. He
proclaimed, "the revolution can be made if the historical realities are
interpreted correctly and if the forces involved are utilized correctly,
even if the theory is not known." In addition, Castro and Guevara believed
that practice and theory are intimately connected. One does not develop a
theory first and then base a practice on it. The established socialist
movement, including Trotskyism, dedicated itself to creating Marxists as a
precondition for revolutionary struggle. The Cubans reversed this by
stating that making revolution helps to create Marxists.

Castro said in a speech on July 26, 1966:

"We would have been in a real pickle if, to make a socialist revolution, we
had been obliged to spend all of our time catechizing everybody in Marxism
everybody in socialism and Marxism, and only then undertaking the
revolution...If a revolutionary happens to be one who arms himself with a
revolutionary theory but does not feel it, he has a mental relation to
revolutionary theory but not an affective one--not an emotional relation.
He doesn't have a really attitude and sees the problem of revolutionary
theory as something cold."

The Sandinistas embraced this approach and made decisive breakthroughs on
the military and political front through the decade of the 1970s. They
learned about the class dynamics of Nicaraguan society while *in struggle*.
They learned that a section of the bourgeoisie could be at least
neutralized, if not won over, to the struggle against Somoza. They learned
that the workers and campesinos would fight the hardest against
dictatorship and for social justice. Their lessons enabled them to topple
the dictatorship and create the possibilities for fundamental social change
in Nicaragua.


Louis Proyect
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