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José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology reviewed in Z Magazine

José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology

Edited and translated by Harry E. Vanden & Marc Becker

Monthly Review, 2011, 480 pp.

Review by Seth Sandronsky in Z Magazine February 2012

I first heard the term “Indo-American” in a forum on California’s higher education crisis. Then I read the same term in a new anthology by José Carlos Mariátegui of Peru (1890– 1934) for English-language readers. He uses it to refer to Peruvians especially and Latin Americans generally throughout José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology.

He was an unabashed Marxist in theory and practice. A socio-historical approach clarified the concrete realities of his place and time: post-World War I and the Russian Revolution amid poverty and inequality. In hindsight, we know this systemic social problem birthed a financial panic and global Great Depression.

Editors and translators Harry E. Vanden and Marc Becker divide Mariátegui’s writing into nine sections, including one at the end that has his writing on women, feminism and politics. He links their emancipation to human liberation in no uncertain terms.

Mariátegui analyzes the history of “primitive accumulation” of land and labor in Latin America and other regions of the so-called Third World. In this way, Mariátegui fleshes out the causes and effects of this European ruling class-driven exploitation, especially imperial Spain’s brutality against the original people of Peru. Mariátegui’s Peru was but one of the regions that regimes such as the Spanish Crown milked like a cow. The Caribbean was another. He writes of what that violent process of foreign intervention meant for Haiti and its people.

As Mariátegui explains without cant, Peru’s coastal areas and highlands bore unique impacts of the European invasion. Mal-development was the rule of the day. He fleshes out the unique ways that this colonialist enterprise pummeled Peru for the benefit of a tiny minority. As Conrad did in fiction, Mariátegui wrestles in nonfiction with class, gender and race conflict among and between Europeans and native peoples.

“Despite the lack of credit afforded the materialist conception of history, it is not possible to ignore the fact that economic relations are the main agent of communication and articulation among peoples,” Mariátegui writes. Then and now, capitalist globalization revolutionizes how people live and work, establishing a common culture. He contextualizes that tendency a century ago….

Read the entire review in Z Magazine

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