Latin American Marxist writers

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky gorojovsky at
Sun May 14 11:45:13 MDT 2000

En relación a Latin American Marxist writers,
el 14 May 00, a las 0:05, Chris Brady dijo:

> Firstly, Americans (USA & English Canada), even educated types, as
> probably know very well, are a monolingual crowd generally.  They
> cannot access Spanish and Portuguese texts.  That creates ignorance
> about their very existence.


Yes, this one is on you to mend. I do also believe, however, that the
American cultural environment is so complex and full of interest that
this kind of navel gazing attitude can be understood.  You have, on
the one side, the fact that EVERY fully established nation develops a
culture of its own, which arises from the concrete situations the
nation has to face, and which attempts to find the answers to the
challenges deriving therefrom.  Gramsci has written some very
instructive things on this (for example, the peculiarities of Italian
bourgeois politics of his time -and even later, I would add-, where
newspapers were substituted for political parties, etc.)

On the other hand, since there is nothing less UNIVERSALIST in the
cultural front than capitalism (since nations as such imply a
particularly close knit web of mollecular relations between the
members of a community that tends to set them apart from members of
any other community in an organic way that has never existed before),
it is only reasonable that Americans, such as any other member of a
succesful nation, turn to their own navels when it comes to
explaining the world. If Europeans are more drilled in foreign
languages it is just because they are a linguistic patchwork that
cannot be recognized in the USA. As to parochialism, Europe (and
probably Japan) is not less parochial than the USA, nor do European
thinkers believe that their own national cultures are less worthy to
become the only reasonable world culture in a minor degree than
American thinkers. Their difference lies in weakness. They can point
out the problems with Americanization of the world, but they will
hardly point out the problems with Europeanization of the world!

So that I am not too convinced that the problem should be sought at
that point of the line. At any rate, there is not much that I can do
to solve that side of the question.


But on THIS side of the wall, it is the Latin American thinkers who
tend to shun the basic task of construction of a Gramscian counter-
culture. Most of our Marxists, and it is a pity, believe that in the
same manner they can consume, say, American made cheese, they can
consume American made ideas.

Ideas, of course, are not "national" in themselves. But every Marxist
(at least, every Marxist!) should know that ideas which are not roted
in the actual stream of human life within their own people will
hardly be anything but an exotic overgrowth. This is, in my opinion,
what tends to happen with most Latin American Marxists. They take the
cathegories, the result, and not the METHOD of Marx and Engels. Thus,
they try to enforce the square pegs of Latin American historical,
social and cultural reality into the round holes that result from the
Marxist analysis of other social formations.

It is a very comfortable attitude, in fact. I have a ready-made
recipe, which I apply to the country I live in (that is, NOT TO "my
fellow countrypeople", in itself a display of rash nationalism, that
is an anti-Marxist attitude, aren't Marxists supposed to be
"internationalists"?). I do not take the pain of READING WHAT IS THAT
COMMUNITY (to which I, oh surprise, belong) IS WRITING IN FRONT OF MY
EYES. I dismiss all that, as Argentinian early Marxists did, as
"creole politics",  and substitute "scientific politics" for it.

In what follows, I will adopt Jim Blaut's idea of a Larger Europe
encompassing Western Europe and Anglo North America.  The colonial
Marxist thinks, more or less, this way: Don't we have workers? Ah,
they are a proletariat, and all the categories that apply to European
proletariat apply to them. Don't we have bourgeois? Ah, they are a
bourgeoisie tout court, and all the categories that apply to European
bourgeoisies apply to them. Don't we have landowners? Ah, but then we
must be confronting a feudal agrarian structure, which implies that
we have serfdom such as in Medieval Europe... And so on. There are
variations on this theme, but the idea remains that there is NO NEED
to learn from concrete reality.

Now, you cannot do too many important additions to Marxism, neither
theoretical nor practical, when you adopt such a point of view. Why
should others be interested in you? What do you have to say of new,
of exciting, of thought-provoking? Nothing, nothing at all because at
most those who read you find themselves mirrored in a queer looking
glass, which returns to them a distorted image of themselves.

Now, if we Latin American Marxists want to be respected some day, we
should take the road of self-knowledge that has been set before us by
history. The Peruvian Mariategui was one of those who attempted that
road. In Argentina, I can speak of Rodolfo Puiggros, of Jorge
Abelardo Ramos, of Jorge Enea Spilimbergo.  In Uruguay, Vivián Trías
or Carlos Machado...

I was recently stunned by a recent posting by Mark Jones where he
told everyone that he thought that I came close to genius from time
to time. I think he is absolutely wrong. What happens is that yours
truly, just as Julio FB and many others, tries to bring Marxism down
and deep into earth in Argentina. When we show our harvest, it proves
to be original and tasty. That's all. The merit is still on the
method, which is absolutely at genius level, that Marx and Engels lay
down 150 years ago. There is a passage on the _Anti Dühring_ where
Engels states that whoever wanted to understand the political economy
of Tierra del Fuego with the categories that can explain the
political economy of Germany is doomed to failure. And to boredom,
and to obscurity, I should add.

To put it in a single sentence: While Latin American Marxists keep
aping their First World counterparts, the latter are largely
justified in not taking them into account. One of the problems with
Latin American Marxism is that most of our self-appointed Marxists
are far from being "ours".  We need to create our own version of
Marxism, then -probably once in power- we shall be able to be taken
seriously by those outside Latin America. I would not blame the
"norteños" only, not at all. It is our own responsibility, first and

So that, although I agree with Chris in that  "there are many
excellent texts written by Latin American leftists that are simply
never translated into English for reasons that would seem obvious to
those of us who have an introduction to Gramsci (who pays for
translation? Publication? Shipping? Etc.)." , and I can only add "Of
course. Publishing is a political task.", I must say that these
"interesting texts"  are, more times than I would like, interesting
in the way the Delta Jazz Band in Buenos Aires may sound interesting
to some New Orleans citizen, or a Japanese tango orchestra to me.

This kind of interest is not the kind of interest that generates
strong readerships for any politician or writer. The "paint your
hamlet and be universal" by Tolstoi (who, by the way, wrote in a
milieu of Francophile and thus mentally rootless _intelligentsia_)
holds absolutely true.

Then, we have the very adequate observation that

> Most nortes who have the wherewithal to visit Argentina or Chile
> are not likely to connect with the masses either physically or
> politically. Similarly, those who make it up here from the Cone are
> not from the hoi poloi  ["Hoi poloi", well that's a piece of
> genteel classicism! Wow!, NG] nor would they care if they dropped a
> flying plop! on the masses. The news organizations are on record as
> cutting back on their foreign desks.  How do nortes get the story?
> So what do they get?

As usual, they get exactly what they want to get. I am not cynical
here, I am just calling your attention to the fact that, for the time
being, there are not too many reasons why most of what in Latin
America passes for Marxism (particularly in the academic variants)
should be learnt by anyone outside the midget circles where these
self-appointed defenders of orthodoxy thrive.

Passing on to a  different but related matter, Chris then comments

> As for los nuevos conquistadors, Spanish capital has made
> and increasing interventions in Chile, too, as you are probably
> already aware, especially in utilities and communications but also
> finance. Chile is like a distant magic mirror to Spain, with their
> complementary fascist dictators and Opus Deists. I am sure many of
> Chilean elites regard themselves proudly as junior partners in a
> international tradition in Christendom.

On this, I would just make some comment in the sense that...

Maybe. I would not be _that_ sure. For what I know of them, the
Chilean elites take pride in being considered the "Englishmen of
South America" (Uruguayans are -were- considered the "South American
Swiss", and Argentinians -correct me if I am wrong- the "South
American Germans" or, more near to truth, "South American Italians";
Brazilians vied for the post of "South American Americans").

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at

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