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New Left Review I/70, November-December 1971


New Left Review

Presentation of José Carlos Mariátegui

The admiration expressed for Mariátegui in Latin America and beyond is not matched by a real study of his writings. Since his death in 1930, many have invoked his authority though in most cases illegitimately. He has been claimed as the source of various brands of sui generis Latin American socialism, yet we know that during his life he fought bitterly against the pretensions of Haya de la Torre, apra and all who sought to claim some Latin American exemption from the laws of the class struggle. ‘The Anti-Imperialist Perspective’ which we publish here makes this very clear, and explicitly warns against that type of bourgeois nationalist demagogy which has now re-emerged in Peru with the regime of President Velasco. Velasco has, of course, also sought to appropriate the memory of Mariátegui and his complete works have recently been published in 20 volumes in Lima. From this essay, the reader will be able to judge the impudence and hypocrisy of this homage from a Government which fiercely resists any attempt by Peruvian workers, peasants, students or teachers to initiate a serious challenge to capitalism and imperialism in their country. During the period when Mariátegui was writing bourgeois nationalist governments could, as he points out in this essay, indulge in ‘revolutionary’ demagogy so long as it was only directed at the residual structures of feudalism, which were in any case a barrier to the advance of capitalist and imperialist social relations. Today it is not only feudal remnants which can be sacrificed without loss, but also certain antiquated forms of imperialism based on plantations or the extractive sector. Another Peruvian Marxist, Anibál Quijano, has recently analysed the Velasco regime in terms reminiscent of Mariátegui’s characterization of the bourgeois nationalism of his own day, in a penetrating study on Nationalism and Capitalism in Peru (Monthly Review Press, 1971). The surest indicator of the real direction of the present military nationalist demagogy in Peru is the fact that from its inception it has sought to stamp out any independent initiative of the workers or peasants, from the revolt in Ayacucho in the middle of 1969 to the shooting of strikers and deportation of revolutionary leaders in November 1971.

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