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Marxism and Romanticism in the Work of Jose Carlos Mariategui

Author(s): Michael Lowy and Penelope Duggan


Source: Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 25, No. 4, Che Guevara and His Legacy (Jul.,
1998), pp. 76-88
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2634000
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Latin American Perspectives

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Marxism and Romanticism
in the Work of Jose Carlos Mariategui
by
Michael Lowy
Translated by Penelope Duggan

Jose Carlos Mariaitegui is not only the most important and most inventive
of the Latin American Marxists but a thinker whose work, in its power and
originality, is of universal significance. His heretical Marxism has deep af-
finities with that of such important Western Marxist writers as Antonio
Gramsci, Gyorgy Lukaics, and Walter Benjamin. At the heart of Mariateguist
heterodoxy-of the specificity of his Marxist philosophical and political dis-
course-we find an irreducibly romantic kernel. In a celebrated 1941 article,
V. M. Miroshevsky, the eminent Soviet specialist and adviser of the Latin
American Bureau of the Comintern, denounced Mariategui's populism and
romanticism, and for the advocates of (Stalinist) orthodoxy to accuse him of
this mortal sin was sufficient to expose his thought as definitively and irre-
futably foreign to Marxism.1 However, it is time we recognized-and the ex-
ample of Mariaitegui is an admirable illustration of this-that, far from being
contradictory, romanticism and Marxism are perfectly compatible and can be
mutually enriching.
Romanticism is a cultural movement originating at the end of the eigh-
teenth century as a protest against the development of modern capitalist civi-
lization and industrial bourgeois society, which are based on bureaucratic ra-
tionality, market reification, the quantification of social life, and the "disen-
chantment of the world" (in the famous phrase of Max Weber). Once it had
emerged with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the German Friihromantik, roman-
ticism never vanished from modern culture and remains one of the main
structures of sensibility of our epoch. Nothing is more wrong and superficial
than to reduce romanticism to a literary style. As a worldview in the fullest
sense of the term, romanticism emerges in all aspects of cultural life: the arts,
literature, religion, politics, social science, historiography, philosophy. Its

Michael L6wy is a Brazilian-born sociologist and research director at the National Center for
Scientific Research in Paris and the author of, among other things, The Marxism of Che Guevara
(New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973) and Marxism in Latin Americafrom 1909 to the Pre-
sent (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1992). Penelope Duggan is a British-born teacher of
English and women's history living in Paris.

LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES, Issue 101, Vol. 25 No. 4, July 1998 76-88
? 1998 Latin American Perspectives

76

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Lowy / MARIATEGUI 77

essential characteristic is a critique of modern bourgeois society on the basis


of social, cultural, ethic, aesthetic, or precapitalist religious values. Counter-
posing the purely quantitative values of industrial Zivilisation with the quali-
tative values of spiritual and moral Kultur or the individualist and artificial
Gesellschaft with the organic and natural Gemeinschaft, German sociology
at the end of the nineteenth century formulated this romantic nostalgia for the
past, this sometimes desperate attempt to reenchant the world.
Obviously the nebulous romantic is far from homogeneous. There is a
plethora of currents, from the conservative or reactionary ones that seek the
restoration of the privileges and hierarchies of the ancien regime to the revo-
lutionary romanticism that incorporates the gains of 1879 (liberty, equal-
ity, and fraternity) and seeks not a return to the past but a detour through
the communitarian past to the utopian future, from obscurantist and intol-
erant irrationalism to the humanist critique of instrumental and bureaucratic
rationality.
Revolutionary romanticism is a crucial but forgotten element of Marx and
Engels's thought. It comes out in their writings in many ways, of which one of
the most important is probably their conception of communism as the re-
establishment of certain features of primitive communities. As Marx wrote in
the first draft of his 1881 letter to Vera Zasulich, the revolutionary abolition of
capitalism would mean "the return [Riickkehr] of modern societies to the
'archaic' type of communal property" or, more precisely, "a revival in a supe-
rior form of an archaic social type" (L. H. Morgan)2-a renaissance that
would integrate all the technical conquests of modern European civilization.
For Marx this was not simply a historical reference; in countries such as Rus-
sia, where the rural community had succeeded in surviving (at least in part), it
could be a direct starting point for the transition to socialism.
It was in a deliberate break with these ideas of Marx, which were not alto-
gether different from those of the Russian populists, that Plekhanov formu-
lated the so-called orthodox Marxism that exalted capitalist progress and pro-
claimed the inevitable necessity of a bourgeois/democratic historical stage to
bring Russia out of its Asian and feudal backwardness. This Menshevik
dogma, in various forms, was adopted by all Mariaitegui's critics, whether
Stalinist or Apriista.
Two trends have appeared within Marxism since the end of the nineteenth
century: a positivist and evolutionist current for which socialism is none
other than the continuation and the crowning achievement of bourgeois in-
dustrial civilization-Plekhanov, Kautsky, and their disciples in the Second
and Third Internationals-and a current that could be called "romantic" to
the extent that it criticizes illusions of progress and sketches out a utopian-
revolutionary dialectic between the precapitalist past and the socialist future-

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78 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

for example, from William Morris to today's British Marxists (E. P. Thomp-
son, Raymond Williams) and from Lukaics and Bloch to Walter Benjamin and
Herbert Marcuse. Jose Carlos Mariategui belongs, in an original way and in a
Latin American context far removed from that of Britain or central Europe, to
this current. During his stay in Europe, Mariategui simultaneously assimi-
lated Marxism and certain aspects of contemporary romantic thought: Nietz-
sche, Bergson, Miguel de Unamuno, Sorel, surrealism.
Mariategui's romantic/revolutionary worldview, as he formulated it in his
1925 essay "Two Conceptions of Life," counterposed what he called "evolu-
tionist, historicist, and rationalist philosophy" and its "superstitious respect
for the idea of Progress" (1996: 349) with the aspiration to return to the spirit
of adventure, to heroic myths, romanticism, and quixotism (a term that he
borrowed from Miguel de Unamuno). In this approach he identified with
various socialist thinkers who, like Georges Sorel, exposed the illusion of
progress. Two romantic currents, both rejecting the "easy and unctuous"
positivist ideology, confronted each other in a struggle to the death: the ro-
manticism of the right, fascist, which sought to return to the Middle Ages,
and the romanticism of the left, communist, which sought to advance to
utopia (1996: 141). Awakened by the war, "the romantic energies of Western
man" found their expression in the Russian Revolution, which gave socialist
theory "a warlike and mythic spirit" (1996: 140).
In another programmatic article of the same period, "Man and Myth,"
Mariategui rejoiced in the crisis of rationalism and the collapse of the "me-
diocre positivist edifice." Faced with what Ortega y Gasset called the "disen-
chanted soul" of bourgeois civilization, he adopted as his own the "enchanted
soul" (Romain Rolland) of the creators of a new civilization. In a striking pas-
sage full of romantic exaltation that seems to prefigure liberation theology,
myth, in Sorel's sense, is Mariategui's response to the Entzauberung der Welt
(Weber) and the loss of meaning:

The bourgeois mind amuses itself with a romantic critique of the methods, the
theories, the technique of the revolutionaries. What incomprehension! The
revolutionaries' power is not in their science; it is in their faith, their passion,
their will. It is a religious, mystical, spiritual power. It is the power of myth.
Revolutionary emotion ... is a religious emotion. Religious motives have been
displaced from the heavens to earth. They are not divine but human and social.

Whereas for Weber the antithesis of the rational/bureaucratic was cha-


risma, for Mariategui it was romanticism that was the opposite of political
routine: "In normal and tranquil periods politics is an administrative and bu-
reaucratic affair. But in this period of neoromanticism, the renaissance of the

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Lowy / MARIATEGUI 79

Hero, Myth, and Action, politics ceases to be the systematic occupation of


bureaucracy and science." This cult of the Hero and of Myth (with all their
capital letters) is not without a certain ambiguity-confirmed by the fact that
the passage just cited is found in an article devoted to D'Annunzio (1982: 37).
But Mariaitegui-who clearly distanced himself from "D'Annunzian-
ism"-never lost his bearings and did not deny political frontiers within the
romantic field.3
One of the main themes of romantic protests against bourgeois civilization
is the critique of the mechanization of the world, which was powerfully ex-
pressed by John Ruskin, illuminated by a nostalgia for old-fashioned work.
An echo of this position is found in Mariategui (as it is in another socialist dis-
ciple of Ruskin, William Morris), who wrote in Seven Interpretative Essays
on Peruvian Reality (1971[1928]: 117):

Man's enslavement by the machine and the destruction of his crafts by industri-
alization have distorted the meaning and purpose of work. From John Ruskin
to Rabindranath Tagore, reformers have denounced capitalism for its brutaliz-
ing use of the machine. Work has become odious because mechanization and
especially Taylorism have degraded it by robbing it of its creativity.

Whereas Ruskin dreamt of the artisanal work of the time of the building of ca-
thedrals, Mariaitegui celebrated Incan society, in which work "perfomed with
devotion" was the highest virtue (1971[1928]: 118).
It goes without saying that, for Mariategui, romanticism was not simply
philosophical, political, and social but also cultural and literary. These two
aspects seemed to him linked. He distinguished between the "classical or
calm periods" and the "romantic or revolutionary periods,"4 but the romantic
cultural field was for him sharply divided between the old romanticism and
the new. The old romanticism, uncompromisingly individualist, was a prod-
uct of the liberalism of the nineteenth century. One of its last representatives
in our period was Rainer Maria Rilke, whose extreme subjectivism and pure
lyricism were content with contemplation. The new romanticism was "no
longer the romanticism that feeds on the liberal revolution. It has another
driving force, another content. For this reason we call it neo-Romanticism"
(1983a: 123). This new, postliberal and collectivist romanticism was, accord-
ing to Mariaitegui, closely linked to social revolution.
In the literary chapters of the Seven Interpretative Essays the counterposi-
tion of the two forms of romanticism occupies an important place in the criti-
cism of Peruvian writers and poets. For example, writing of Cesar Vallejo,
Mariaitegui noted: "The romanticism of the nineteenth century was basically
individualistic; the romanticism of the 1900s is, in contrast, spontaneously

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80 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

and logically socialist, unanimist" (1971[1928]: 256). Other poets, such as


Alberto Hidalgo, remained prisoners of the old romanticism, overtaken by
the revolutionary epoch that "heralds a new romanticism untouched by the
individualism of that preceding it"(1971 [1928]: 250).
The most radical cultural expression of the new romanticism, for
Mariaitegui, was surrealism. He followed with the greatest interest the initia-
tives of the surrealist movement, which for him was "not simply a literary
phenomenon but a complex spiritual phenomenon. . . not an artistic fashion
but a protest of the spirit." What attracted him to the followers of Andre Bre-
ton (he published several of his texts in Amauta) was their categorical con-
demnation "en bloc" of bourgeois rationalist civilization. Surrealism was a
neoromantic movement and doctrine with subversive intent: "By its spirit and
its action it emerges as a new romanticism. By its revolutionary rejection of
capitalist thought and society it converges historically on the political level
with communism" (1983a: 42-43).5
Mariaitegui defended the surrealists against French rationalist critics such
as Emmanuel Berl: "Surrealism, accused by Berl of taking refuge in a club of
despair, in a literature of despair, has in fact shown a much better understand-
ing, a much clearer notion, of the mission of the Spirit" (198 la: 124). Finally,
commenting in one of his last articles (March 1930) on the Second Manifesto
of Surrealism, he once again highlighted the relationship between surrealism
and romanticism: "Perhaps the best passage of the manifesto is another in
which Andre Breton, with a historical understanding of romanticism a thou-
sand times clearer than that reached by scholars of romanticism and classi-
cism in their often quite banal inquiries, affirms the romantic connections of
the surrealist revolution" (1996: 185).6
For Mariaitegui these two forms of romanticism were not a grid to be ap-
plied dogmatically to every cultural field. Certain writers and currents
seemed to belong to neither. Among these "unclassifiable" figures was a
thinker whose critical sensitivity and wide-ranging vision he often cele-
brated, Miguel de Unamuno, who advocated "a return to quixotism, a return
to romanticism" (1975: 117), and whose conception of life as a constant
struggle contained "more revolutionary spirit than several tons of socialist lit-
erature" (1975: 120).7
Like many of the European revolutionaries who wanted to break out of the
suffocating straitjacket of the Second International's Marxist positivism, with
its economism, its "progressive" evolutionism, and its blind scientism-
starting with Lukacs, Gramsci, and Walter Benjamin in 1917-1920,
Mariaitegui was fascinated by Georges Sorel, the romantic socialist par excel-
lence, even in his ambiguities and episodic ideological regressions. However,
unlike these three thinkers, who gradually distanced themselves from their

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Lowy / MARIATEGUI 81

initial "Sorelism," Mariategui remained stubbornly faithful to his first feel-


ings. As Robert Paris convincingly shows, it would be useless to explain this
encounter in terms of "influence." Is not all "influence" also a "choice?"
(1978: 156). If Mariategui chose Sorel it was because he needed the French
thinker-as a merciless critic of the illusion of progress and an advocate of
the heroic and voluntarist interpretation of the revolutionary myth-to com-
bat the determinist and positivist reduction of historical materialism.
In reality it was more than a choice. To a certain extent Mariategui "in-
vented" the Sorel he needed, creating a historical personage that was (some-
times) quite distant from the real historical referent. This is the case when he
makes Sorel a determining influence in the spiritual development of
Lenin-a purely imaginary link that certainly has no basis in Lenin's rare ref-
erences to Sorel (see, e.g., 1981a: 43; see also Paris, 1978: 159-161). As we
know, the Bolshevik leader considered the author of Reflexions sur la vio-
lence primarily a "notorious muddler" (Lenin, 1962[1908]: 292). Less arbi-
trary but also surprising is the repeated assertion that it was Sorel who, "op-
posed to the evolutionist and parliamentarian degeneration of socialism,"
represented at the beginning of the century a "return to the dynamic and revo-
lutionary conception of Marx" (198 la: 20-2 1). By making Sorel the missing
link between Marx and Lenin, Mariaitegui consciously broke with the ortho-
dox conception of Marxism and its history (see Fernaindez Diaz, 1994).
What Sorel contributed to the romantic revitalization of Marxism envis-
aged by Mariaitegui was the "mystical" element-a term that in his writings
takes on a meaning quite close to what we find in the counterposition made by
Charles Peguy (a writer of whose existence Mariaitegui seems to have been
unaware) of the "mystical" and "political"-a revolutionary and secularized
form of religious feeling. In the 1925 "Man and Myth," Mariategui saluted
Sorel as the one who was capable of recognizing the "religious, mystical,
metaphysical character of socialism" in quoting a passage from Reflexions
sur la violence referring to "an analogy between religion and revolutionary
socialism" (1996: 145). This theme is developed in a key passage in En de-
fensa del Marxismo (a series of articles in Amauta first published in book for-
mat in Santiago de Chile in 1934 [1981(1934): 21]):

Through Sorel, Marxism assimilates the substantial elements and gains of the
philosophical currents since Marx. Going beyond the rationalist and positivist
bases of the socialism of his period, Sorel finds in Bergson and the pragmatists
ideas that reinvigorate socialist thought by reestablishing the revolutionary
mission from which it had gradually been distanced by the intellectual and
spiritual bourgeoisification of its parties and parliamentary representatives.
These latter, on the philosophical plane, content themselves with the easiest
historicism and the most timid evolutionism. The theory of revolutionary

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82 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

myths, which applies to the socialist movement the experience of religious


movements, establishes the basis for a philosophy of the revolution.

It goes without saying that what Mariaitegui was trying to do was not to
make socialism a church or a religious sect but to bring out the spiritual and
ethical dimension of the revolutionary struggle: the faith ("mystical"), the
solidarity, the moral indignation, the total commitment ("heroic"), including
risk and danger to one's own life. Socialism, according to Mariategui, lay at
the heart of an attempt at the reenchantment of the world through revolution-
ary action.
Despite his admiration for Sorel, this was only a theoretical reference for
Mariaitegui. From the point of view of political practice it was Bolshevism
that brought "romantic energy" to the proletariat's struggle (1996: 140).
Sorelism and Bolshevism seemed to him linked by their revolutionary re-
formism, their rejection of parliamentary reformism, and their romantic vol-
untarism. As an example of the counterposition of the authentic Marxism of
the Bolsheviks and the positivist determinism of social democracy,
Mariategui wrote in "En defensa del Marxismo" (1996: 153-154):

In his TheAgony of Christianity, Unamuno praises a phrase attributed to Lenin


that he once pronounced in contradicting someone who observed that his ef-
forts went against reality: "much the worse for reality!" Marxism, where it has
shown itself to be revolutionary-that is, where it has been Marxist-has never
obeyed a passive and rigid determinism.

We can only be surprised by the curious analogy between this formulation


and that which is found in an article by Lukaics published in Hungarian in
1919 that Mariategui certainly did not know: "Lenin and Trotsky at Brest-
Litovsk cared very little about so-called 'facts.' If the 'facts' go against the
revolutionary process, the Bolsheviks answer, with Fichte, 'so much the
worse for the facts!"' (1982 [1919]: 27; on this parallel see Paris, 1981: 147).
Although Bolshevism undoubtedly has a large dose of voluntarism, the
"quixotic" Lenin of Mariategui (or the Fichtean Lenin of the young Lukaics)
is largely imaginary.
It is particularly because of his analysis and proposals on the question of
Peru that Mariategui has been dismissed as a romantic by the ideological cen-
sors. On the one hand, he did not accept the Comintern's thesis that a "demo-
cratic bourgeois and antifeudal" transformation-that is to say, a form of
capitalist progress-was a necessary stage in resolving the problems of the
popular masses, particularly the peasants, in Peru. On the contrary, he consid-
ered socialist revolution the only alternative to imperialist and landowner

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Lowy / MARIATEGUI 83

domination, mainly because he believed that this socialist solution could take
as its starting point the communitarian traditions of the Andean peasants, the
vestiges of "Inca communism." Miroshevsky considered this to be the posi-
tion of the Russian populists (1978 [1941]: 65-70).
Charles Peguy, the eminent socialist "mystic" and romantic, wrote: "A
revolution is an appeal from a less perfect tradition to a more perfect tradition,
an appeal from a less deep tradition to a deeper tradition, a deepening of tradi-
tion, a going beyond, a search for deeper sources, in the literal sense a re-
source" (1959: 1377). This remark applies word for word to Mariategui:
against the conservative traditionalism of the oligarchy, the retrograde ro-
manticism of the elite, and nostalgia for the colonial period he called on an
older and deeper tradition, that of the indigenous pre-Columbian civiliza-
tions. "The Incan past has entered our history as a demand not of the tradi-
tionalists but of the revolutionaries. In this sense it is a defeat of colonial-
ism.... The revolution is claiming our oldest tradition" (1983b: 168).
Mariategui called this tradition "Inca communism' but this expression is
open to question (see Paris, 1966). We should recall, however, that a Marxist
as little suspect of "populism" and "romantic nationalism" as Rosa Luxem-
burg also identified the socioeconomic regime of the Incas as "communist."
In her Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, published in Ger-
many in 1925 (a work that it is unlikely that Mariategui knew), she described
the Inca empire as composed of two social communist formations, one of
which was an agrarian society exploited by the other. Celebrating the
"communist-democratic institutions" of the Peruvian marca (1975[1925]:
658), she rejoiced in the "fantastic tenacity of the Indian people and the co-
operative [markgenossenschaftlichen] institutions," which had survived "up
to the nineteenth century" (1975[1925]: 673). Mariategui said the same ex-
cept for believing that these communities persisted up to the twentieth.
His analysis was based on the 1926 work of the Peruvian historian Cesar
Ugarte, for whom the foundations of the Incan economy were the ayllu, a set
of families linked by blood ties that held the land collectively, and the marca,
a federation of ayllus that held water, pasture land, and woods collectively.
Mariategui introduced a distinction between the ayllu, created by the anony-
mous masses over the millennia, and the unitary economic system founded
by the Incan emperors. Insisting on the economic efficiency of this collectiv-
ist agriculture and the material well-being of the population, he concluded in
his Seven Interpretative Essays: "Inca communism, which cannot be denied
or disparaged for having developed under the autocratic regime of the Incas,
is therefore designated as agrarian communism" (1971[1928]: 35). Rejecting
the linear and Eurocentric conception of history imposed by the conquerors,

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84 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

he asserted that "the colonial conquest disrupted and disorganized the Inca
agrarian economy without replacing it with an economy of higher yields"
(1971[1928]: 36).8
Romantic idealization of the past? Perhaps. In any case, Mariategui made
a categorical distinction between the agrarian and despotic communism of
the pre-Columbian civilizations and the communism of our epoch. In a long
footnote that is in fact one of the highlights of the book (1971[1928]: 74-75),
he contributes the following clarification, which has lost nothing of its topi-
cality 70 years later:

Modem communism is different from Inca communism.... The two commu-


nisms are products of different human experiences. They belong to different
historical epochs. They were evolved by dissimilar civilizations. The Inca civi-
lization was agrarian; the civilization of Marx and Sorel is industrial.... Al-
though autocracy and communism are now incompatible, they were not so in
primitive societies. Today, a new order cannot abjure any of the moral gains of
modem society. Contemporary socialism-other historical periods have had
other kinds of socialism under different names-is the antithesis of liberalism;
but it is born from its womb and is nourished on its experiences. It does not dis-
dain the intellectual achievements of liberalism, only its limitations.

It was for this reason that Mariategui criticized and rejected "romantic" (in
the reactionary sense of the word) attempts to return to the Incan empire. His
concrete dialectic between the present, the past, and the future made it possi-
ble for him to avoid both the evolutionist dogma of progress and the naive and
backward-looking illusions of a certain indigenism.
Like most romantic revolutionaries, Mariategui integrated into his social-
ist utopia the human gains of the Enlightenment and of the French Revolution
and the most positive aspects of scientific and technical progress. Opposing
the dreams of restoration of the Tawantinsuyo (Incan empire), he wrote in the
program of the Peruvian Socialist party that he created in 1928 (1996: 92):

Socialism finds the elements of a socialist solution to the agrarian question


both in the subsistence of the communities and the large-scale agricultural en-
terprises.... But this, just like the stimulus that it extends to the free resurgence
of the indigenous people and the creative manifestation of their native power
and spirit, in no way signifies a romantic and anti-historical tendency toward
the reconstruction or resurrection of Incan socialism, which corresponded to
historical conditions which have been completely superseded, and of which
only those habits of cooperation and socialism among the indigenous peasants
remain a factor that can be used in the context of a fully scientific productive
technique.

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Lowy / MARIATEGUI 85

Mariaitegui insisted on the extraordinary vitality of these traditions despite


the "individualist" pressures of the various regimes from the colonial period
to the Republic: he found in the villages a "robust and stubborn" practice of
cooperation and solidarity that was "the empirical expression of a communist
spirit. When expropriation and redistribution seem about to liquidate the 'com-
munity,' indigenous socialism always finds a way to reject, resist, or evade
this incursion" (1971 [1928]: 58). These traditions of mutual help and collec-
tive production testified to the presence in these communities "of what Sorel
calls 'spiritual elements of work'" (1971[1928]: 283).
Mariaitegui's most audacious and heretical proposal was the one that drew
from his historical analysis of "Incan communism" and his anthropological
observations on the survival of collective practices a political strategy that
made the indigenous communities the starting point for a particular socialist
path. This was the innovative strategy that he presented in the theses sent to
the Latin American Conference of Communist Parties in Buenos Aires in
June 1929 under the curious title "The Problem of Races in Latin America."
To make his heterodoxy more acceptable, he first referred to the official
documents of the Comintern (1981b: 68): "The Sixth Congress of the Com-
munist International has again recognized the possibility for peoples of a ru-
dimentary economy to begin directly the organization of a collective econ-
omy without suffering the long evolution through which other peoples have
passed." Then he advanced his romantic/revolutionary strategy based on the
role of indigenous community traditions:

We believe that of the "backward" populations there is none so much as the


indigenous population of Incan origin that presents such favorable conditions
for primitive agrarian communism, existing in concrete structures and with a
deep collectivist spirit, to become, under the hegemony of the proletarian
class, one of the solidest bases of the collectivist society advocated by Marx-
ist communism.

Expressed in the concrete terms of the agrarian reform in Peru, this strategy
means the expropriation of the latifundia for the benefit of the indigenous
communities (1981b: 81-82):

The "communities," which have demonstrated truly astonishing capacities of


resistance and persistence under the harshest oppression, represent a natural
factor of socialization of the land. The native has deep-rooted habits of coop-
eration.... The "community" can become a cooperative with a minimum of ef-
fort. The assignment of latifundia lands to the "communities" is, in the sierra,
the solution that the agrarian problem requires.

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86 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

This position, criticized as "petty bourgeois," was basically the same as


that outlined by Marx in his letter to Vera Zasulich (certainly unknown to
Mariategui). In both cases we find the profound intuition-of romantic in-
spiration-that modern socialism, particularly in agrarian societies, should
be rooted in popular traditions; in the collective popular and peasant mem-
ory; in the social and cultural remnants of precapitalist communitarian life;
and in the practice of mutual aid, solidarity, and collective property of the ru-
ral Gemeinschaft.
As Alberto Flores Galindo (1982: 50) has noted, the essential feature of
Mariategui's Marxism-in contrast to that of the Kremlin orthodoxy-is the
rejection of an ideology of progress and the one-sided and Eurocentric image
of universal history. Mariategui has been accused by his critics of "European-
izing" tendencies and of "nationalist romanticism." In reality his thought was
an attempt to move dialectically beyond this type of dualist thinking, caught
between the universal and the particular. In a key text, "Aniversario y bal-
ance," published in his review Amauta in 1928, this attempt was formulated
in a few paragraphs that summarize in striking fashion his political philoso-
phy and seem to constitute his message to future generations in Peru and
Latin America. His starting point is the universal character of socialism
(1996: 89):

Socialism is certainly not an Indo-American theory.... And socialism, al-


though born in Europe as was capitalism, is neither specifically nor particularly
European. It is a worldwide movement from which none of the countries that
move in the orbit of Western civilization can escape. This civilization moves to-
ward universality with a force and with means that no other civilization has
ever possessed.

But he insists at the same time on the specificity of socialism in Latin


America, rooted in its own past:

Socialism is ultimately in the American tradition. Incan civilization was the


most advanced primitive communist organization that history has known....
We certainly do not wish socialism in America to be a copy and imitation. It
must be a heroic creation. We must give life to an Indo-American socialism re-
flecting our own reality and in our own language. Here is a mission worthy of a
new generation.

The generation that placed its stamp on Latin American communism af-
ter the death of Mariategui chose instead to imitate and copy. Will
Mariategui's romantic call to "heroic creation" at last be heard at the dawn of
the twenty-first century?

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Lbwy / MARIATEGUI 87

NOTES

1. Miroshevsky describes Mariategui's theses on the Inca agrarian communism as "national-


ist romanticism" (1978[1941]: 66).
2. Marx adds in the same passage: "So we must not let ourselves be alarmed at the word
'archaic' " (1989: 350). For a more detailed discussion of the concept of romanticism and its re-
lationship to Marxism, see Lowy and Sayre (1993).
3. Mariategui's position may be summed up by the paradox at the beginning of this article:
"D'Annunzio is not a fascist, but fascism is D'Annunzian" (1982: 32).
4. See Mariategui's letter to the surrealist poet Xavier Abril, May 6, 1927 (1984a: 275).
5. The parallel with the article of Walter Benjamin on surrealism (1977[1929]) is striking.
See also the November 1926 article "Arte, revoluci6n y decadencia," which again counterposes
the classical epochs, in which politics was limited to the administration or parliament, with the
romantic epochs, in which politics was at the forefront, "as Louis Aragon, Andr6 Breton, and
their comrades of the 'surrealist revolution,' the greatest spirits of the French vanguard, march-
ing toward communism, have shown by their actions" (1996: 171).
6. Mariategui had a correspondence with two Peruvian surrealist poets, Xavier Abril and
Cesar Moro, whose poems he published inAmauta. Apparently he also wanted to write to Andr6
Breton, because he asked Abril for Breton's address in Paris. See letter from X. Abril to J. C.
Mariategui, October 8, 1928 (1984: 452).
7. See also the article "Don Miguel de Unamuno y el Directorio," in which he recognizes that
it is impossible to classify the Spanish thinker: "Unamuno is no orthodox revolutionary, among
other things because he is not orthodox in anything" (1975: 124).
8. The book by Cesar Antonio Ugarte cited by Mariategui is Bosquejo de la historia
econdmica del Peru (1926).

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88 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

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