Connecting with an International Historical Reality: Book Review of “Jose Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology”
Written by Ramona Wadi
Friday, 15 June 2012 14:20
“We do not want American socialism to be a copy or an imitation, it should be a heroic creation. We must give life to Indo-American socialism with our own life, in our own language.” Jose Carlos Mariátegui
This anthology provides an illuminating insight into the writings and philosophy of Peruvian thinker and journalist, Jose Carlos Mariátegui. A pioneer for more contemporary thinkers such as Ernesto Che Guevara, and analyst of continuous struggles such as the Indigenous “problem,” Mariátegui sought to rethink Marxism in a manner which would provide Peru and Latin America with its own Marxist reality. Mariátegui’s non-dogmatic thought transcends history to reflect current reality.
Mariátegui’s socialist orientation was visible by age 16, despite the fact that his writing exhibited none of the Marxist thought of his later literature. However, he supported revolutionary demands of students and workers. Peruvian dictator Augusto Leguía exiled him to Europe in 1919, bringing Mariátegui into contact with Benedetto Croce, an Italian communist whose work is extensively reflected upon in the writings of Antonio Gramsci. Upon returning to Peru in 1923, Mariátegui declared himself a Marxist. He was imprisoned twice by the Leguía dictatorship, without being convicted on any crime. His support for organizational struggle and strike action was described as subversive, at a time when the Peruvian government depended on foreign economic interests.
Mariategui’s political analysis delves into revolutionary socialist thought within a Latin American reality. The reconstruction of Peru’s social and economic history allowed Peruvians to establish their local reality. However, Mariátegui is adamant that such a process cannot be achieved in isolation. The effects of colonial and capitalist oppression of Peruvians should raise awareness in the country about the international nature of capitalist oppression, which is in direct confrontation with international revolutionary socialist thought. Isolating the effects of exploitation by feudalism and capitalism in Peru would sever the connection between internal oppression and foreign forces.
The three economic systems in Peru identified by Mariátegui: the fragments of original Indigenous communities which practiced a primitive form of communism, European feudalism and modern capitalist economy thrived on land. Land dispossession impoverished Indigenous people, who also suffered massacres and dispersion during uprisings against Spanish colonial rule. The Indigenous community was forced to work in mines, surviving under servitude whilst colonizers failed to organise Peruvian economy. Capitalism further impoverished Peru, using the country’s human and natural resources to strengthen the US imperialist program. With landholding evolving from feudal to capitalist, Peru’s economy continued to dwindle as contempt for workers increased and production suited the US market demand, creating an economic dependency which could not be sustained….
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