[Marxism] Mariategui

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Sep 3 12:00:58 MDT 2009

In preparing reading material for an Introduction to Marxism mailing 
list on Yahoo, I scanned in a chapter of Jose Carlos Mariategui’s “Seven 
Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality”. One thing led to another and 
before long I had scanned in all seven essays which were then added to 
the Marxism Internet Archives:


Recently I decided to finish the job and scanned in the rest of the 
book, including an Introduction by Jorge Basadre, an author’s note, and 
a glossary.

Basadre’s introduction is very informative, as this excerpt would 
indicate despite the reference to Christopher Columbus that might raise 
some eyebrows:

 >>On March 31, Variedades, a Lima journal, interviewed Mariátegui for a 
series it was publishing. Mariátegui refused to define art or his 
concept of life “because metaphysics is not in style and the world is 
more interested in the physicist Einstein than in the metaphysicist 
Bergson"; and he stated that his ideal in life “is always to have a high 
ideal.” In his opinion, journalism, the daily episodic history of 
mankind, had been created by the capitalist civilization as a great 
material, but not moral, instrument. He confessed that six or seven 
years earlier his preferred poets had been Rubén Darío, later Mallarmé 
and Apollinaire, then Pascoli, Heine, and Aleksandr Blok, and that at 
the moment he preferred Walt Whitman. His favorite prose writers were 
Andreyev and Gorki. He considered the theater still too realist and 
analytic and hoped it would become impressionist and synthetic. “There 
exist, however, signs of evolution. The Russian genius has created the 
’grotesque’ and the musical setting. In Berlin, in ’Der Blaue Vogel,’ I 
saw ten-minute musical scenes that had more substance and emotion than 
many dramas of three hours.” Eleanora Duse, by then tired and fading, 
was the actress who had most impressed him. Among composers he preferred 
Beethoven, and his favorite painters were Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro 
Botticelli, and Piero della Francesca, together with Degas, Cezanne, and 
Matisse and the Germán expressionist Franz Marc. He judged the 
contemporary epoch to be revolutionary, but more destructive than 
creative. As the men most representative of the times, he chose Lenin, 
Einstein, and Hugo Stinnes, in that order. From the past he admired 
Christopher Columbus and from the present “the anonymous hero of 
factory, mine, and fields, the unknown soldier of the social 
revolution.” He enjoyed travel because he thought of himself as 
essentially a wanderer, inquisitive and restless. When asked which of 
his writings he liked best and was most satisfied with, he replied that 
they were still to be written. Regarding the so-called decadence of the 
Old World, he said: “Europe’s decadence is this civilization’s 
decadence. The future of New York and Buenos Aires is tied up with the 
future of London, Berlin, and Paris. The new civilization is being 
forged in Europe. America has a secondary role in this stage of human 

Mariategui’s wonderful author’s note is worth quoting in its entirety:

I bring together in this book, organized and annotated in seven essays, 
the articles that I published in Mundial and Amanta concerning some 
essential aspects of Peruvian reality. Like La escena contemporánea, 
therefore, this was not conceived of as a book. Better this way. My work 
has developed as Nietzsche would have wished, for he did not love 
authors who strained after the intentional, deliberate production of a 
book, but rather those whose thoughts formed a book spontaneously and 
without premeditation. Many projects for books occur to me as I lie 
awake, but I know beforehand that I shall carry out only those to which 
I am summoned by an imperious force. My thought and my life are one 
process. And if I hope to have some merit recognized, it is 
that—following another of Nietzsche’s precepts —I have written with my 

I intended to include in this collection an essay on the political and 
ideological evolution of Peru. But as I advance in it, I realize that I 
must develop it separately in another book. I find that the seven essays 
are already too long, so much so that they do not permit me to complete 
other work as I would like to and ought to; nevertheless, they should be 
published before my new study appears. In this way, my reading public 
will already be familiar with the materials and ideas of my political 
and ideological views.

I shall return to these topics as often as shall be indicated by the 
course of my research and arguments. Perhaps in each of these essays 
there is the outline, the plan, of an independent book. None is 
finished; they never will be as long as I live and think and have 
something to add to what I have written, lived, and thought.

All this work is but a contribution to Socialist criticism of the 
problems and history of Peru. There are many who think that I am tied to 
European culture and alien to the facts and issues of my country. Let my 
book defend me against this cheap and biased assumption. I have served 
my best apprenticeship in Europe and I believe the only salvation for 
Indo-America lies in European and Western science and thought. 
Sarmiento, who is still one of the creators of argentinidad 
[Argentine-ness], at one one time turned his eyes toward Europe. He 
found no better way to be an Argentine.

Once again I repeat that I am not an impartial, objective critic. My 
judgments are nourished by my ideals, my sentiments, my passions. I have 
an avowed and resolute ambition: to assist in the creation of Peruvian 
socialism. I am far removed from the academic techniques of the university.

This is all that I feel honestly bound to tell the reader before he 
begins my book.

Lima, 1928

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