[Marxism] José Carlos Mariátegui

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 29 09:48:33 MDT 2008

(This was posted to the Introduction to Marxism mailing list today.)

While I have tried to base our readings on material available on the 
Internet, I am making an exception for a couple of chapters of José 
Carlos Mariátegui’s “Seven Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality” 
that I have scanned in from a Columbia library book that is generally 
only available in such research libraries unfortunately. Also 
unfortunately, the Marxism Internet Archives does not contain any of his 
writings on Peruvian society, nor are there articles anywhere else on 
the Internet that do so. This is a real shame since Mariátegui is 
important for a number of reasons.

To begin with, he is the quintessential 3rd world anti-imperialist 
Marxist. In distinction to Lenin’s “Imperialism-the latest stage of 
Imperialism”, his writings are focused on the problems of a “peripheral” 
society, namely Peru. It is understandable that Lenin would focus on the 
growth of finance capital in advanced countries like England, France, 
Germany and the U.S. but Mariátegui was really one of the first Marxists 
to examine imperialism’s impact on a less-developed country in any kind 
of depth.

Mariátegui is also important because he is a major influence on Latin 
American Marxism in general and on the Bolivian revolutionary movement 
specifically today. In an article titled “The `Indian Problem’ in Peru: 
 From Mariategui to Today ” by Hugo Blanco that appears on the Socialist 
Voice website, we learn:

"Unlike in Europe, the development of agriculture and cattle grazing in 
America did not lead to the emergence of slavery; instead primitive 
collectivism gave way to other forms of collectivism as privileged 
layers and privileged people arose. Some forms of slavery may have 
existed for domestic work, but agricultural production was not based on 
slavery as it was in Greece or Rome. Rather it was based on collective 
organization, called by different names in the various cultures (ayllu 
en Quechua, calpulli en Nahuatl)".

In Mariátegui’s view, the ayllu-or indigenous peasant commune-could 
provide the basis for socialist development. In other words, it was not 
necessary for Peru to pass through a capitalist stage in order to build 
socialism. This analysis was sharply opposed to the “stagist” 
conceptions of the Second International that Lenin challenged in 1917. 
While this appeared extremely “anti-Marxist”, especially to Kautsky, 
Lenin’s approach had much in common with Karl Marx’s, who late in life 
supported the idea of a revolution in Russia based on what amounted to 
Slavic ayllus. In an 1881 letter to Vera Zasulich , Marx wrote:

"Theoretically speaking, then, the Russian 'rural commune' can preserve 
itself by developing its basis, the common ownership of land, and by 
eliminating the principle of private property which it also implies; it 
can become a direct point of departure for the economic system towards 
which modern society tends; it can turn over a new leaf without 
beginning by committing suicide; it can gain possession of the fruits 
with which capitalist production has enriched mankind, without passing 
through the capitalist regime, a regime which, considered solely from 
the point of view of its possible duration hardly counts in the life of 
society. But we must descend from pure theory to the Russian reality."

Tomorrow, I am going to post chapter one of José Carlos Mariátegui’s 
“Seven Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality” that is titled 
“Outline of the Economic Evolution” but in the meantime here is an 
introduction to Mariátegui that I wrote about 12 years ago. (I would 
generally describe myself as a Mariáteguist.)

full: http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2008/07/29/jose-carlos-mariategui/

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