Mariátegui and the ‘problem of the Indian’ — a critical appreciation by Luis Vitale

Introduced and translated by Richard Fidler
Luis Vitale, a prominent Chilean revolutionary socialist and prolific Marxist historian, died in Santiago on June 27, 2010. Born in Argentina in 1927, he had moved to Chile at an early age and from the mid-1950s was an active militant in the labour movement and far-left parties, both in that country and in exile, until this century.

Vitale’s political engagement began as a member of the Revolutionary Workers Party (POR), a small party affiliated with the Fourth International. During the late 1950s and throughout the ’60s he was a leader of the Chilean trade union central, the CUT, including the period when it was headed by the legendary Clotario Blest. In 1965 Vitale helped to found the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR), drafting its statement of principles.

Forced out of the MIR when it called for a boycott of Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular in the 1969 presidential elections, Vitale joined the new Revolutionary Socialist Party (PSR), which gave critical support to the Allende government. Although he was by then working primarily as a university academic, he was active in the workers’ struggles in the militant cordones industriales as they fought to extend the revolutionary process. Following the military overthrow of the Allende government, Vitale was arrested, tortured, interned in a concentration camp for nine months, but eventually found his way to exile, first in Europe then in Venezuela, before returning to Chile in the early 1990s. In his later years, Vitale described himself as a “libertarian Marxist”.

During the 1960s, Vitale began writing what became his major work, the eight-volume Interpretación Marxista de la Historia de Chile. This was followed by a nine-volume history of Latin America and a host of books on a wide range of topics: social history, the Indigenous peoples; the “social protagonism” of the women’s movement; the environmental crisis; the labour movement; student and other social movements; popular music, etc. — a total of 67 books, 77 pamphlets, 188 learned papers and 209 articles! Many of these works are available on-line (Spanish only).

I have translated below Vitale’s appreciation and critique of the theoretical contributions on the Indigenous question of an early Latin American Marxist, the Peruvian José Carlos Mariátegui. It offers some insightful thinking on such questions as the relationship between ethnicity and class; Indigenous identity, autonomy and self-determination; and the relationship between Indigenous concepts of land and the environment. The paper reveals the vibrancy and relevance of the thought of both Mariátegui and Vitale in today’s context of increasing radicalization of the Indigenous peoples in anticapitalist struggles and political mobilization, and not only in Latin America. To his last breath Luis Vitale was a strong defender of the Mapuche peoples in Chile, and spoke out in defence of the Indigenous militants who are now on a lengthy hunger strike to protest their jailing on “terror” charges based on legislation from the Pinochet dictatorship.

My translation is made from the Spanish text. (See “Vigencia y limitaciones de Mariátegui”, under the heading Pueblos Originarios.) I have added a few notes, signed “Translator”, to those supplied by Vitale.

Despite his prodigious literary output, few of Vitale’s writings are translated into English. Three such articles, however, are available on line and I have referenced them at the conclusion of Vitale’s piece on Mariátegui. The first two, published in 1963, are strong defences of the Cuban revolution and its impact on Latin America. The third article, written in 1964, outlined Vitale’s view on the tasks facing the Chilean left in the years immediately leading up to Allende’s electoral victory.

[Richard Fidler is a Socialist Voice Contributing Editor. This article was first posted on October 5 on  his blog, Life on the Left.]

* * *

Mariátegui’s Contemporary Relevance and
His Limitations Concerning the Original Peoples

by Luis Vitale

Presentation at the International Symposium on AMAUTA And Its Period”, [1] Lima, September 3-6, 1997

To the memory of Enrique Espinoza (Samuel Glusberg), Principal popularizer of the thought of Mariátegui in Chile during the 1940s and 50s

The backbone of Mariátegui’s thinking in the final ten years of his life was the National Question or, more accurately, in the words of Tito Flores Galindo, “this dual axis formed by Marxism and the nation meant that Mariátegui’s life was both a page in Peruvian history and a page in the history of socialism…. As a matter of fact, based on his particular articulation between Marxism and nation, Mariátegui managed to develop a specific way — Peruvian, Indo-American, Andean — of interpreting Marx and, as always, precisely because it was more Peruvian it became universal.”[2]

Without saying so in so many words, Mariátegui posed a revolutionary epistemological problem for his period, and it is still relevant for anyone seeking to fundamentally transform the present capitalist system, which is more neoconservative than liberal: Latin America from Marx, or Marx from Latin America? We know the standpoint of the Latin American Eurocentric Marxists of that time, alluded to by the amauta: “Neither imitation nor copy”.

For Mariátegui, the national question included not only the national anti-imperialist struggle but the Indigenous problematic, an innovation that broke with the orthodoxy of those who continued to cling to Marx’s initial thinking. While Marx certainly did not manage to systematize a theory, he did contribute some criteria on the national question in the epoch of bourgeois ascendency at the time when various nation-states of Europe were being formed. In reference to Latin America, Asia and Africa there is not a single word in the Communist Manifesto and other, later writings on the national question, because it was thought that this question would be resolved when the socialist revolution triumphed in the highly industrialized countries. In Europe this applied as well in the case of the self-determination of the Polish and Irish peoples, but in other cases in Eastern Europe it did not, for they were “peoples without history”, as Hegel said. And Marx was mistaken on the Latin American national question, when he referred to the independence struggles and in particular to Bolívar and the French invasion of Mexico under Maximilian. Lenin signified a qualitative leap with his thesis on the self-determination of peoples, but he made no reference to our America, focused as he was on “the Eastern questions” discussed in the Second Congress of the Communist International (1922).[3]

While not a Marxist, José Martí had a better understanding than any Marxist of the scope of the national question, explaining that it was not limited to imperialist oppression. Together with his Guatemalan compañera, he visited the communities that were heirs to the Mayan splendor, making such original appraisals that he can be considered the precursor on the national question for Latin America. And it still remains to investigate the possible influence on Mariátegui of the thinkers of the nascent and vigorous national and anti-imperialist current headed by the Colombian José María Vargas Vila in his anti-Yankee work Ante los Bárbaros, published in 1912, and his repeated calls for Latin American Unity in opposition to the Pan-American Union. Similarly, it would be strange if Mariátegui, who was well informed, was unaware of the writings of Manuel Ugarte, who in 1910 broke with the Argentine SP of Justo with his book El Porvenir de la América Española (or Latin America), and in 1911 began an extended tour of our America. In 1927 he addressed a Manifesto to the Youth: “América Latina para los latinoamericanos”, writings compiled later in La Nación Latinoamericana (Caracas: Ed. Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1978).

In addition to the investigative works of the Peruvian comrades on the national and continental context I would like to add studies that were condensed in volume V of my Historia General de América Latina (1890-1930), where in addition to the thinkers and Yankee assaults, I analyzed the social and economic structure, especially in the evolution of the workers movement, of the middle strata and the struggles of the peasantry and Indigenous movements of those times in the praxis of Mariátegui. The amauta must have derived renewed strength from the revolutionary cycle of 1910 to 1930, expressed in the Indigenous struggles in Ecuador[4] led by Quintín Lame in 1925, which coincided with the anti-oligarchy July [1925] movement in Ecuador; the “Prestes column” in Brazil; and in Colombia the battles of the PSR led by María Cano, the victorious strikes of the oil and railway workers (1926-27) and above all the banana workers strike of 1928, commemorated by García Márquez in Cien años de Soledad. Nor could Mariátegui have been unaware of the Venezuelan general strike (1928) against the lengthy dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez, and especially the epic achievement of Sandino.

The heterodoxy of the amauta enabled him, in the subject matter we are discussing, to initiate a break with the Eurocentric conception of socialist politics and unilinear history signified by the positivist idea of “progress”. From that perspective, he once said something that is very profound: “Unanimity is always unproductive.” (Temas de Nuestra América, Lima, 1900,[5] p. 19. The word “nuestra” he may have taken from Martí, who was the first to use it to differentiate this America from the United States of North America and to reaffirm the Latin American identity.) If this heterodox Mariátegui were to listen today to his uncritical apologists, he would say (paraphrasing Marx): I am not a Mariateguista.

Starting from the historical recognition of the contemporary native peoples and their role, Mariátegui was able to pose in a novel way an alternative society to capitalism, Indo-American Socialism, appropriate to the specific features of Latin America unforeseen by the theoreticians of Marxism: “While socialism has born in Europe, like capitalism, it is not specifically or particularly European…. Indo-America, in this world order, can and must have individuality and style.” Hence his eagerness to find the socialist roots in the “communism” of the ancestral Indigenous communities and his novel conception of the Myth as a social force in history, although he fell into an idealization of the Inca empire which clearly was based on a state with obvious social inequalities and governed by a military and priestly bureaucratic caste. The important thing, for Mariátegui, was that the Inca period constituted for the oppressed people a social myth after the Spanish invasion, raised with the best forces of history by the rebellion of Túpac Amaru, which curiously is not analyzed closely by the amauta.

Mariátegui could also rethink a new type of socialism, based on the specific features of the Latin American revolution because he knew how to analyze his dependent and basically agrarian country in which the Indigenous people and peasants constituted, together with the proletariat, the motor force of the revolution — or, in the present sociological terminology, the “new social subjects”, as Flores Galindo says.[6]

His intellectual legacy led him to incorporate in his philosophy of history concepts from ideologues as disparate as Bergson, Nietzsche and Sorel. Some say that Mariátegui did not read the latter until his travels in Europe. Our doubts were dispelled by Guillermo Rouillón and Alberto Flores Galindo, who have demonstrated the contrary. Mariátegui incorporated from Sorel such contributions as his dimension of the social myth, the criticism of the idea of progress, but more than that the antisystemic force of revolutionary syndicalism, even though this exposed him to accusations of anarchism. The orthodox, especially those of the Stalinist International of the 1930s, tried to characterize or pigeon-hole Mariátegui as a Sorellian, or as having amalgamated the ideas of Marx with those of Sorel, apparently unaware that the latter was, in the years immediately prior to the First World War, one of the first, along with Rosa Luxemburg, to be an unyielding critic of the trade union bureaucracy and the reformism of parliamentarist social democracy — questioning the verticalist conception of the party and fundamentally promoting revolutionary syndicalism as distinct from pure libertarianism or abstract anarchism. In this sense, we are of the opinion that Sorel pursued to their ultimate consequences certain considerations by Marx that the renowned Marxists of his time never dared to pursue “to the very end”. Still to be investigated is whether Sorel, on some key points, was more Marxist than many of the epigones. And it is precisely because he enriched historical materialism with the contributions of Sorel and other iconoclastic thinkers that Mariátegui was the most illustrious and heretical Marxist in Latin America.

However, this process of uninterrupted creativity in Mariátegui, suddenly cut short when he was 36, had some limitations that we will take the liberty of discussing before this select audience of Peruvians, more informed than I of the thinking of the amauta.

Interest in Mariátegui’s ideas resurfaced with the frustration that arose as a result of the crisis of so-called socialism and of what to the majority of the leftist spectrum was almost sacrosanct. The centennial of Mariátegui’s birth coincided with the culminating moment of the crisis, stirring the need to search for a new alternative. Even some left-wing Europeans — usually indifferent to or negative about thinkers outside their continent — were at pains to discuss Mariátegui and issues as remote from their anthropological and ethnocentric reality as the situation of the original peoples [pueblos originales] of our America. Having turned their backs to them over a long period, they now turned to apologetics and uncritical applause. Some Argentine communists went so far as to say, in April 1994, that “just as we rejected Gramsci, we also rejected Mariátegui”, without any self-critical acknowledgement that their old leader, Victorio Codovilla, was the architect of this intellectual interment.

Mariátegui’s limitations on the Indigenous question

I want to propose to comrades, especially Peruvian comrades, that we discuss some of Mariátegui’s limitations on this subject in the hope that this will facilitate us in at least two respects: one, to try to understand in his real dimension one of the most relevant thinkers of the 20th century, not only in Latin America but in the world; two, to contribute to the formulation of a strategic program of the original peoples of today’s world.

A discussion of the first point is timely because the resurrection of Mariátegui’s thought, after being buried for decades, has promoted a tendency to idealization. And strictly speaking, he, like any thinker, is limited to and conditioned by his epoch and, in the last analysis, his discourse reflects the period in which he lived. One of the factors conditioning Mariátegui’s thought was that in his day Marxism was beginning to be codified. Gramsci was one of the few who dared to break through the ideological fence by his defiance of anything that would impose geographical limits on his thinking.

Class reductionism and the concept of the vanguard

Mariátegui was unable — and it was virtually impossible in the theoretical context of the left — to escape class reductionism and the concept of “vanguard”, that is, the introduction from outside, by way of the Party intelligentsia, of revolutionary consciousness or ideas to the proletariat and other oppressed sectors, a conception that Lenin inherited from Kautsky. In this sense, Mariátegui is more orthodox than those who believe and are attached to the resolutions of the first four congresses of the Communist International — political categories that were at the base of his limitations when he addressed the topic of the original peoples.

His class reductionism permeates his writings, above all in his reply to Luis Alberto Sánchez: “The program we put forward is the program of labour. It is the program of the working classes, without distinction as to coast or mountain, Indian or mestizo.” Nevertheless he agreed: “If in the debate — this is theoretical — we have differentiated the problem of the Indian it is because in practice they are also differentiated.”[7] Anticipating the analysts of the ethnic-class relationship, he noted: “The class factor is complicated by the race factor in a form that a revolutionary policy cannot fail to take into account. The Quechua Indian sees his oppressor in the ‘misti’, in the white.”[8]

The ethnic-class relationship was deepened as the Indigenous, in substantial numbers, were forced to proletarianize or become small shopkeepers and landowners. Yet Mariátegui argued that the revolutionary process had to be hegemonized by the proletariat, as did the Marxists of his time, on the assumption that “the problem of the Indian has to have a social solution. Those who produce it must be the Indians themselves.”[9] The greater the number of workers of Quechua origin, the closer the relationship of ethnicity and class: “In Peru the masses — the working class — are four-fifths Indigenous. Our socialism would not be Peruvian, nor would it continue to be socialism, if it did not solidarize firstly with the Indigenous demands.”[10]

Self-determination and nationality

It should be noted that, notwithstanding this originality for his time, Mariátegui was saying that socialism had to solidarize with the Indigenous demands without saying explicitly that the original peoples could autonomously, without delegation to the party, themselves govern their process toward socialism. Therefore, his program lacks a strategic objective for the Indigenous communities, other than the problem of the land, respect for their language and culture, but not basically recognition that they are one (or more) people-nation, a nationality with the right to self-determination; a people-nation, like the Quechua, Aymara or Mapuche who cohabit in various “nation”-states: Peru and Bolivia (Quechuas), Chile, Argentina, Bolivia (Aymaras), Chile and Argentina (Mapuches). Mariátegui was unable to visualize this, but we can no longer continue to overlook his omissions as they concern the original peoples and, above all, in order to rescue some of the remains of this “orthodox” left that continues to try to impose its ideological terrorism on whoever dares to place on an equal footing (albeit not with such force, perhaps) the proletariat and the original peoples, peasants, other wage-earners in the middle classes, the women’s movements, ecologists, poor inhabitants in the urban peripheral zones, students, youth in general, liberation-theology Christians, pensioners, the elderly, homosexuals, lesbians and other social movements.

Mariátegui failed to clarify that the original peoples had to be autonomous in order to adopt their own politics and their own communitarian type of society inherited from the past and prior to the Spanish colonization and obviously prior to the Peruvian state and society. Because, strictly speaking, the original peoples are not Peruvians or Bolivians or Chileans or Mexicans, etc. although Mariátegui did not say this. That is, concretely, the Quechuas are not Peruvians, they pre-exist the Peruvian state. Behind this omission of Mariátegui was not only his conception of the nation-state but also his desire to formulate a national-political project led by the proletariat (represented by the single party), which, as we know, never respected Indigenous autonomy, with the exception of the Sandinistas after their self-criticism in 1982 in regard to the errors committed initially with the Miskitos.

The question of identity

Failing to recognize clearly that the Quechua and other original peoples are a nationality or a people-nation within the Peruvian state, Mariátegui became lost in a search for the Peruvian identity, going so far as to say that the Spanish conquest “frustrated the only Peruvianism that existed.”[11]

Wrong. The Quechua obviously did not express “Peruvianism” prior to the conquest nor do they now, although they are required to possess identity documents. In any case, Mariátegui lamented that the Quechua were kept at the margin: “[T]he elements of the nationality being developed were unable even to blend or unite. The dense Indigenous layer is kept almost totally outside of the process of formation of that Peruvianism that our self-styled nationalists are in the habit of exciting or inflating.”[12]

Mariátegui failed to pose clearly the right of self-determination of the original peoples because he was unable — perhaps owing to the ideological pressure of those who feared a supposed separatism of the original peoples — to appreciate that the Quechua had for centuries constituted a nationality. With this confused ideological “substratum” it was impossible to address clearly the problem of identity.

Above all, it must be observed, without reservation, that the original peoples, in their majority, have an identity that the Peruvians and other non-Indigenous inhabitants of Latin America, whether mestizos or whites, have failed to grasp. Not even the Blacks and Mulattos have the degree of identity of the original peoples.

Mariátegui realized the difficulties involved in achieving national identity and unity: “In Peru, the problem of unity is much deeper because the task here is not to overcome a plurality of local or regional traditions but to contend with a duality of races, languages and sentiments originating in the Spanish invasion and conquest of Indigenous Peru by a foreign race that has not subsequently fused with the Indigenous race, nor eliminated it or absorbed it.”[13] Nevertheless, Mariátegui continued to insist in many of his writings on the need for national unity with the Quechua and to form with them the Peruvian identity: “The Indian is at the foundation of our nationality in formation.”[14]

The formation of our identity as Latin American mestizos or whites is a process in permanent development. There is no sense that we are seeking in the Indigenous past an identity that we never had, although it is possible to encounter certain roots. The identity is made in historical continuity, in membership in a region, in linguistic idioms, in day-to-day life, in culture, in belonging to a social class. It began to be forged with the revolution for Independence and the rejection of European and North American aggression. Identity will be created in the anti-imperialist and anticapitalist struggle, as it is likewise reaffirmed in the movements challenging cultural dependency. In any case, that is no single identity. Let us forge a Latin American identity, and as a nation, that at the same time coexists with the Indigenous, Black and class and gender identity, and the identity of territory, whether of a province, a common region, or a city — identities that are never closed or finished in this process with its advances and retreats.

Land and Territory

Mariátegui makes no differentiation between land and territory, like the Latin American left to this day, and continues to insist that the Indigenous problem is solved with the grant of land or the recovery of part of those lands belonging to them before the Spanish and Portuguese invasion.

For the original peoples, territory is an essential category, and it means much more than the demand for land. In today’s terms, territory is the environment, that is, the intimate relationship between human and natural global society. Territory is the habitat of the original people-nation who continue to fight for its reconquest. It is the area in which daily life and communication in a common language are carried on. It is where we work and produce collectively, harmoniously integrating ourselves with nature without damaging it irreversibly.

For mestizo or white peasants land means individual ownership, whereas, for the original peoples it is collective possession (not ownership). Territory is the physical space of the original people-nation and therefore contains identity and culture, which is not only intellectual activity but also songs, dances, specific foods, games, sports and forms of sexuality. In this sense, the cosmovision of the original peoples can help to overcome the dualism between society and nature, the dichotomous criterion of the ideologists of so-called “western civilization”, as if human beings were outside of the environment — the ambiente, and not the medio ambiente popularized by the ecologists, because if the environment encompasses the whole of nature and society it cannot be medio.[15]

In any event, we speak only of “geographical environment” or “natural environment”. Which led — imagine that! — Marx, in one of his many strokes of genius, to say: “One can look at history from two sides and divide it into the history of nature and the history of humanity. The two sides are, however, inseparable; the history of nature and the history of men are dependent on each other so long as men exist…. My relation to my environment is my consciousness.”[16] And he added: “Society is therefore the perfected unity in essence of man with nature, the true resurrection of nature, the realized naturalism of man and the realized humanism of nature.”[17] In other words, the know-it-all European marxologists were not paying attention, because ecology could “alter” the axis of the class struggle. We have made this digression because, as we said earlier, we not only want to discuss Mariátegui but to contribute to the original peoples.

Nation state

Mariátegui failed to disentangle the ideological theorizations behind the concept of the nation state. I am not saying that he talked about the nation state as such, but that his arguments were based on no other conception of the state than the one used by the left of his day. Mariátegui wanted to break with Eurocentrism, but he did not manage to break with the Eurocentric conception of the state.

At no time did he make the necessary distinction between “nation”-state and nationalities. Today we have a deeper understanding of this differentiation, for it is obvious that within a given state there can exist various oppressed nationalities, as in the case of the Spanish state with its Basque, Catalan, Galician, and Andalusian nationalities, each with their own identity, language and ancestral customs. Something similar is happening with the Corsicans in the French state, the Serbs, Bosnians and Muslims in the former Yugoslavia and in other countries of Eastern Europe, especially in the former USSR with the Chechens, Ukrainians and other nationalities — problems unresolved by the so-called “actually existing socialism”. Not to mention the armed conflicts of the Tamil ethnic group in Ceylon [sic] or the Kurds in Iran and, above all, the ethnic wars in the heart of Africa.

Not accidentally, the ideologists of the ruling class coined the term nation-state to justify their subjugation of the pre-existing nationalities with the formation of the state, misnamed nation, as they did in the case of the Sicilians and other nationalities in the so-called “unification” of Italy in the mid-19th century. The concept of nation-state arose in modern Europe in accordance with a specific mode of production with a strong industrial and agricultural foundation and an expanding internal market, where the agrarian question was closely linked to the national question. As Pierre Vilar argues, until the early 19th century the state, as a political form, was confused with nationalism as a political ideology.[18]

Otherwise, the nation state — arising out of armed struggle and extolled by most of the left, especially when it is in power — is not a supreme value or an absolute principle, as Hegel thought. Rather, it is a product of history, the appearance and extinguishment of which is commensurate with the existence and end of social classes. So far, no society in transition to socialism has taken steps toward the gradual disappearance of the state, notwithstanding theoretical considerations presented by Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky and Che Guevara, with their thoughts on value theory, the consolidation of socialist consciousness, and women and the new man.

By adhering uncritically to the concept of the nation state, Mariátegui was ideologically blocked from recognizing the Quechua as a people-nation within the Peruvian state. In any case it was virtually impossible in Mariátegui’s time for some theoretician to envisage the multinational, multi-ethnic or pluri-ethnic state or a plurality of nationalities as the Sandinistas or, more recently, the social movements in Colombia, have managed to do. Not even the Zapatistas have raised this concept although they are clear about their identity; they do not use the concept of people-nation although they conduct themselves as such. Is it possibly a new disinformation subterfuge of Subcomandante Marcos aimed at avoiding negative reactions in the Mexican people to the potential separatism of the inhabitants of Chiapas?

While he clearly did not anticipate all the nuances of the national question,[19] Mariátegui was the first Latin American Marxist to incorporate the problematic, although he was more focused on the agrarian question. And he ended with an expression of historic significance: “The Indigenous community still retains sufficient vitality to be converted gradually into the cell of the modern socialist state…. Socialist doctrine can give a modern, constructive meaning to the Indigenous cause.”[20]

In light of the failures of the so-called “socialism”, a socialism without the inverted commas will have to reflect as to whether the future alternative society to liberal neoconservatism should integrate in our Latin American project many of the contributions of Mariátegui and the new social movements. It is not a question of amalgamating Mariátegui’s contributions — which go far beyond the Indigenous question — with those of the social movements, but of integrating them in a theory of revolutionary social change, which leads us to formulate one key thought: If today the revolutionary conception created a century and a half ago (1998 will be the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto) has proven insufficient, does this not suggest the need for a “refoundation” of the theory of the radical transformation of the present capitalist society to incorporate the contributions of Mariátegui, Che Guevara and the new and old social movements in order to take account of the specificity of Indo-American socialism?

If Mariátegui dared to enrich Marxism with the contributions of Sorel and the Indigenous praxis, we too should dare to incorporate in historical materialism — not as an addition or complement but as an integral part — anti-patriarchal and antisystemic feminism, subversive environmentalism, liberation theology, class-struggle syndicalism, counter-cultural workers and the strategic ideas of the original peoples oriented toward the multi-ethnic or plurinational state.

Mariátegui’s statement in 1925 is more relevant now than ever before: “And from the crisis of this skepticism and this nihilism is born the necessary compassion, strength, decisiveness of a faith and a myth that moves men to live dangerously.”[21] … “The new generation burns with the desire to go beyond skeptical philosophy. The materials of a new mysticism are being prepared in the contemporary chaos.”[22]

This is our outstanding debt to the amauta.

+ + + + + +

See also three articles by Luis Vitale, published in English:

[1] Amauta, a Quechua word meaning “elder” or “person of great wisdom”, was the name of Mariátegui’s newspaper. It is used here by Vitale to refer respectfully to Mariátegui himself. – Translator

[2] A. Flores G.: La agonía de Mariátegui, Int. de Apoyo Agrario, 3rd ed. (Lima, 1989), pp. 22-23.

[3] Sic, actually in 1920. – Translator

[4] An apparent slip. Quintín Lame fought in Colombia, not Ecuador. – Translator

[5] Sic – An obvious typo. Probably should be 1924. See Vol. 12 of the Obra completa of Mariátegui. – Translator

[6] Ibid., p. 191.

[7] Alberto Sanchez: Ideología y Politica (Lima, 1969), p. 233.

[8] Ibid., El problema de las Razas, p. 32.

[9] J.C. Mariátegui, Peruanicemos al Perú (Lima, 1970), p. 33.

[10] J.C. Mariátegui, “Intermezzo Polémico”, published in the magazine Mundial, No. 350, February 25, 1927.

[11] J.C. Mariátegui, “Realismo y futurismo”, in Peruanicemos al Perú, op. cit. p. 26.

[12] Temas de Nuestra América, op. cit., p. 24.

[13] J.C. Mariátegui, Siete Ensayos, p. 261.

[14] “Realismo y Centralismo”, in Siete Ensayos, p. 206.

[15] Vitale makes an important point here. Contemporary Spanish uses both the noun ambiente and the phrase medio ambiente to refer to “the environment”. But the latter term, by attaching ambiente to medio (which means, depending on context, average, half, resources, etc.) refers to something less than the totality of the environment as it is understood by Indigenous peoples. Medio ambiente, literally, can be taken to mean something like “the surrounding environment”, not the whole thing, and thus not necessarily incorporating humanity. – Translator

[16] K. Marx, The German Ideology.

[17] K. Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.

[18] P. Vilar, Iniciación al vocabulario del análisis histórico, (Barcelona: Grijalbo, 1982), p. 171.

[19] To be clear, I use “national question” as it is currently used in political sociology and in the left. But in my opinion it is one of the many concepts of Eurocentric origin that the Marxist classics were unable to escape, adhering as they — and the vast majority of our Latin American theoreticians — did to the nation-state category.

Strictly speaking, it is a serious error to attempt to apply the nation-state concept to Latin America, long populated by millions of Indigenous people, since we have various nationalities among the original peoples. Furthermore, the nation-state in each country was precisely the one that seized their lands and overwhelmed their languages and cultures, except in the case of the Guarani. (See Aníbal Quijano, Raza, “etnia” y “nación” en Mariátegui: cuestiones abiertas (Lima: Amauta, 1993), and by the same author, “Colonialidad del poder y democracia en América Latina”, Revista Debate, March-May 1994. There is much to ponder in both essays, as in others by Aníbal.

It is urgent, therefore, to undertake a critical analysis of the conceptualization and traditional sociological, historical, political and cultural terminology, as the feminists are doing in respect to the male chauvinist semantic of the social sciences.

[20] J.C. Mariátegui, Obras, Vol. 2, p. 312 and Obras, Vol. 1, p. 213.

[21] J.C. Mariátegui, “Dos concepciones de la vida”, 9-01-1925, in Obras Politicas, selected and annotated by Rubén Jiménez (Mexico City: Era, 1979), p. 398.

[22] Ibid. p. 398.