José Carlos Mariátegui

José Carlos Mariátegui La Chira (June 14, 1894 - April 16, 1930) was a Peruvian writer, journalist, politician and Marxist philosopher.

José Carlos Mariátegui
José Carlos Mariátegui in 1929.jpg
Mariátegui in 1929
José del Carmen Eliseo Mariátegui De La Chira

14 June 1894
Died16 April 1930(1930-04-16) (aged 35)
Lima, Peru
RegionLatin American philosophy
Main interests
Politics, aesthetics
Firma de José Carlos Mariátegui.png

A prolific author despite his early death, El Amauta (from Quechua: hamawt'a, "teacher", a name by which he is also known in his country) is considered one of the greatest scholars of Latin American reality, being the synthesis of his thought the 7 essays of interpretation of the Peruvian reality (1928), a reference work for the intelligentsia of the continent.

He was the founder of the Peruvian Socialist Party in 1928 (which, after his death, would be renamed the Peruvian Communist Party), a political force that, according to its founding act, would have Marxism-Leninism as its axial tool, and of the General Confederation of Workers of Peru, in 1929.

For the sociologist and philosopher Michael Löwy, Mariátegui is "undoubtedly the most vigorous and original Marxist thinker that Latin America has ever known". Along the same lines, José Pablo Feinmann, Argentine philosopher and cultural critic, declares him the "greatest philosopher Latin American Marxist".


Childhood and youthEdit

Mariátegui was born in Moquegua in 1894. His parents were María Amalia La Chira Ballejos and Francisco Javier Mariátegui Requejo. Among his ancestors was the illustrious liberal thinker Francisco Javier Mariátegui y Tellería. He had two brothers: Guillermina and Julio César Mariátegui.

In 1899 he moved with his mother and his brothers to Huacho and in 1902, after an accident at school, he was admitted to the Maison de Santé clinic in Lima. His convalescence was long and he was left with ankylosis in his left leg that would accompany him for the rest of his life. Having been disabled for the recreations typical of his age, he has frequented reading and reflection ever since.

Then, in 1907, his father Francisco Javier Mariátegui died in the port of Callao.

In 1909, he joined the newspaper La Prensa to perform auxiliary tasks, first as a rejones (folder) and then as a linotypist's assistant. Despite not having completed his school studies, he was trained in journalism and began to work as a columnist, first in La Prensa (1914-1916) and then in the newspaper El Tiempo (1916-1919), at the same time that he collaborated in the magazines Mundo Limeño, Lulú, El Turf and Colónida. Using the pseudonym Juan Croniqueur, he ridiculed Lima's frivolity and exhibited a vast self-taught culture, which brought him closer to the avant-garde intellectual and artistic nuclei. He became friends with the writer Abraham Valdelomar with whom he formed a dilettante duo whose duels of wit were reproduced by themselves in their chronicles. Around that time (later called contemptuously by himself as his "stone age") he enthusiastically cultivated poetry but never published his announced collection of poems titled Sadness.

In 1918 his interests turned to social problems. Together with the journalist César Falcón and Félix del Valle, he founded the magazine Nuestra Época, from which he criticized militarism and traditional politics but from which only two issues came out. In 1919, and also in collaboration with Falcón, he founded the newspaper La Razón, from where he supported the university reform and the workers' struggles. This newspaper did not have a long life either and was closed by the government of President Augusto B. Leguía, officially for having expressed contempt for the members of parliament, although it was most likely due to the growing popular demands that it encouraged from its pages.

Trip to Europe and socialist trainingEdit

Together with César Falcón, they traveled to Europe thanks to a scholarship that was given to them by the Leguía government as a covert form of deportation. They passed through New York, coinciding with a strike of workers on the docks of the port, and in the Germany of the Spartacist revolution, to later reach the port of Le Havre in November and from there to Paris. On the other hand, the researcher Sylvers Malcolm He has specified that both traveled as "overseas propagandists" of the then Leguía government; that both belonged to the Foreign Relations sector and that they were paid positions and not scholarships as was believed for a time.6 Mariátegui was assigned to the Peruvian Consulate in Rome and Falcón to the Peruvian Consulate in Madrid. All this appears corroborated in a letter from Mariategui to Victoria Ferrer, dated January 24, 1920.

During this trip, his eldest daughter, Gloria María Mariátegui Ferrer, was born from his relationship with Victoria Ferrer González.

In Europe, to say of himself, was where he did the best learning of him. He linked up with leading writers, studied languages, inquired about new intellectual and artistic concerns, and attended international conferences and meetings.

José Carlos Mariátegui together with his 4 children (1929). In Italy he married Anna Chiappe and was present during the occupation of the factories in Turin, as well as at the XVII National Congress of the Italian Socialist Party in Livorno, where the historic split took place and the Italian Communist Party (PCI) was formed. He was part of PSI study circles and took on Marxism as a method of study, when Benito Mussolini was about to take power. According to his analysis, the victory of fascism is the price that a country must pay for the contradictions of the left.

He leaves Italy and travels through Europe hoping to be able to return to Peru. He visits Paris, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Prague and Berlin. During this tour he studies the revolutionary movements that convulsed the European continent after the war.

Return to PeruEdit

On March 17, 1923, the said returned to Lima, accompanied by his wife and his firstborn. At the invitation of Haya de la Torre, who was the founder and rector, he gave lectures at the Universidad Popular González Prada on the world crisis resulting from the First World War. He was put in charge of the direction of Claridad magazine when its founder, Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre, the future leader of APRA, was expelled to Mexico as an exile. He called for the realization of the United Front of Workers. At the end of that same year he announced the publication of "Vanguardia: Revista Semanal de Renovación Ideológica", co-directed with Félix del Valle, a project that would not be carried out but would later become the magazine Amauta.

In 1924, due to his old injury, he had to have his leg amputated. But he did not stop his creative activity because of that, continuing it confined to a wheelchair. He spent a period of rest in Miraflores to move on June 1, 1925 to what would be his most symbolic residence on Washington Street, left, No. 544, today known as the José Carlos Mariátegui House Museum. In October 1925, he founded the Editorial Minerva together with his brother Julius Caesar, which published his works and those of other Peruvian authors, beginning with his first compilation book of essays: The contemporary scene, on world politics. In 1926 he founded the magazine Amauta (wise or teacher in Quechua), which united a broad generation of intellectuals around a new appreciation of national life and gave impetus to the indigenous movement in art and literature. Likewise, he collaborated assiduously in the Lima weekly magazines Variedades and Mundial.

He was imprisoned in 1927 during a trial against communists accused of conspiring against the Leguía government, but was later given house arrest. In 1928 he broke politically with Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre with whom he had collaborated between 1926 and 1928: a stage within which APRA was still only an alliance. "The discrepancies arise for reasons above all of political tactics rather than ideology." On October 7, 1928, he founded the Peruvian Socialist Party, becoming its general secretary a year later. During the same year, he founded the Marxist magazine Labor and published his monumental 7 essays on Interpretation of Peruvian Reality. In 1929 he founded the General Confederation of Workers of Peru.

Mariátegui's political project was put to the test in the Latin American Trade Union Congress in Montevideo (May 1929) and the Latin American Communist Conference (June of the same year). They were attended by the Peruvian Socialist Party with five delegates who carry Mariátegui's approach: Hugo Pesce, Julio Portocarrero, José Bracamonte (pilot of the National Merchant Marine, founder of the Federation of Crewmen of Peru), Juan Peves (peasant leader of Ica, founder of the Federation of Yanacones) and Carlos Saldías (textile leader). These approaches were questioned by the political bureau of the International in South America, generating a distance between the approaches of the Communist International and the positions of Mariátegui. Ultimately, Mariátegui "did not agree to subordinate himself to the communist hierarchy."

In February 1930, Eudocio Ravines was appointed General Secretary of the Socialist Party of Peru, replacing Mariátegui who was preparing a trip to Buenos Aires, where he could treat his illness and participate in the General Council of the Anti-Imperialist League. He also planned to give his magazine Amauta a continental spread by moving its headquarters from Lima to the capital of Argentina.

Last days and DeathEdit

At the end of March 1930, Mariátegui was admitted to an emergency hospital accompanied by his friends, among whom Diego San Román Zeballos (creator of the magazine El Poeta Hereje) stood out. He died on April 16, almost on the eve of his long-awaited trip to Buenos Aires. On May 20, the leadership of the Peruvian Socialist Party, with Eudocio Ravines as general secretary and Jean Braham Fuentes Cruz as general president, changed the name of the Socialist Party of Peru to the Peruvian Communist Party.

Mariátegui died on 16 April 1930, in Lima of complications from his earlier affliction.

He was buried in the Presbítero Maestro Cemetery with a massive funeral procession and in 1955, commemorating the 25th anniversary of his death, he was transferred to a new mausoleum in the same cemetery (a granite mound by the Spanish sculptor Eduardo Gastelu Macho). .


Vision of PeruEdit

The Conquest not only split the history of Peru, but also split the economy. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, there was an indigenous communal economy that was quite solid. Material well-being existed thanks to the collectivist organization of Inca society. This organization had enervated the individual impulse and at the same time had developed the habit of obedience to social duty.

The Conquest established a feudal economy. They did not seek to develop a solid economy but only the exploitation of natural resources. In other words, the Spaniards were not formed as a colonizing force (like the English in the United States), but rather constituted themselves as a small court, a bureaucracy. This system ended up determining the republican economy.

The economic policy of the Spanish Crown prevented the emergence of a bourgeoisie in the colonies. These saw independence necessary to ensure their development. Independence is then decided by the needs of capitalist development, in that sense, England played a fundamental role in supporting the nascent American nations.

For Mariátegui, the gamonal inevitably invalidates any law or ordinance protecting the indigenous or peasant. Against the authority of the landowner sustained by environment and habit, the written law is powerless. The mayor or the municipal president, council or city council, the judge, the corregidor, the inspector, the commissioner, the collector, the police and the army are enfeudados to the great property. «The law cannot prevail against the gamonales. The official who persists in imposing it would be abandoned and sacrificed by the central power, near which the influences of gamonalism are always omnipotent, acting directly or through parliament, both ways with the same efficiency.

It is important to clarify the solidarity and commitment to which the regional gamonalismo and the central regime have gradually reached: "for all the defects, for all the vices of the central regime, the gamonalismo is responsible and supportive." The gamonal is a piece in the structure of the centralized administration: he is the local head of one of the political parties with national influence and is the fundamental link in the chain of one of the many clients of the political system. The central power rewards the gamonal by allowing him to enjoy innumerable contracts and alcabalas and currently, by leaving in his hands the royalties produced by the exploitation of natural resources by multinationals and innumerable contracts to complement them. Under these conditions, any decentralization ends with the essential result of an increase in the power of gamonalism.

Guano and saltpeter played a fundamental role in the development of the Peruvian economy. These products quickly increased the wealth of the State, since industrial Europe needed these resources to maintain its agricultural productivity, products that Peru had a monopoly on. This wealth was squandered by the Peruvian State. But it allowed the appearance of commercial and banking capital. A capitalist class began to be constituted, whose origin was found in the old Peruvian aristocracy. These products also allowed the consolidation of the power of the coast, since until then, mining had shaped the Peruvian economy an Andean character. In short, guano and saltpeter allowed the transformation of the Peruvian economy from a feudal system to a capitalist system.

The new nations sought to develop trade. Latin America sold its natural resources and bought manufactured products from Europe, generating a system that mainly benefited the European nations. This system allowed development only to the Atlantic countries, since the distances were enormous for the countries that were on the Pacific coast, as in the case of Peru. Peru, on the other hand, began to trade with Asia, but did not achieve the same development as the Atlantic countries.

In addition, with the War of the Pacific, Peru lost guano and saltpeter. But this war also meant the paralysis of all national production and trade, as well as the loss of foreign credit. Power temporarily fell into the hands of the military, but the Lima bourgeoisie soon regained its function. The Grace Contract was proposed as a measure to get out of the crisis. This contract consolidated the British predominance in Peru, by granting the railways in concession for a period of 66 years.


Mariátegui, since his return from Europe, ascribes himself to Marxism, in the Leninist version of the Third International, finding remarkable similarities with the thought of Antonio Gramsci, especially with regard to the importance of the cultural superstructure not as a mere «reflection» , but from the assessment of its revolutionary potentialities to generate counter-hegemony. Fruit of this notion will be his theoretical magazine Amauta and the revolutionary organ Labor, which will be closed by the Leguía regime. A tireless critic of the reformism of the Second International and of social democracy, Mariátegui is considered the first Marxist in Latin America, by emphasizing the role of the indigenous masses as the authentic «proletariat» of the continent and proclaiming the need for a socialist revolution, influenced by the radical syndicalism of Georges Sorel.


For his part, he showed how fascism was not an "exception" in Italy or a "cataclysm", but an international phenomenon "possible within the logic of History", of the development of monopolies in imperialism and its need to defeat the struggle of the proletariat. Mariátegui saw fascism as a response by big capital to a profound social crisis, as an expression that the ruling class no longer feels sufficiently defended by its democratic institutions, for which it blames all the ills of the country before the masses, to the parliamentary system. And he bets on the revolutionary struggle, he unleashes the cult of violence and against the new order of the fascist state, conceived as a vertical authoritarian structure of corporations. Mariátegui glimpsed how the triumph of fascism was inevitably destined to exasperate the European and world crisis.


In different ways, organizations like Shining Path, and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, and the Peruvian Communist Party all look towards Mariátegui and his writings.

Mariátegui's ideas have recently seen a major revival due to the rise of leftist governments all over South America, in particular in Bolivia, where in 2005 Evo Morales became that country's first-ever indigenous president since the Conquest 500 years earlier (second in Latin America following Mexico's Benito Juárez). The rise of popular indigenous movements in Ecuador and Peru have also sparked a renewed interest in Mariátegui's writings concerning the role of indigenous peoples in a Latin American revolution. The ruling party in Peru from 2011 to 2016, the Peruvian Nationalist Party, claims Mariátegui as one of its ideological founders.[1]


During his lifetime, Mariátegui published only two books (The Contemporary Scene and the Seven Interpretation Essays on Peruvian Reality), leaving two more unfinished and unpublished (The Morning Soul and Defense of Marxism published in 1950 and 1955, respectively, although much of them had already been published in the press). All these works, added to the abundant journalistic production compiled from him (among articles, conferences, essays and a short novel), have been edited by his heirs (his wife and his children), until reaching 20 volumes. . It should be noted, however, that among these volumes there are two biographies of the author (one by María Wiesse and the other by Armando Bazán), a summary of the content of the Amauta magazine, produced by Alberto Tauro del Pino, and a poetic anthology of various authors inspired in the life and work of Mariátegui. If we talk about the "complete works" properly speaking, these only really add up to 16 volumes. Substantial work that was produced in a period of 7 years (1923-1930).

  • The Heroic and Creative Meaning of Socialism José Carlos Mariátegui. Selected Essays. – Edited and Translated by Michael Pearlman. 1996 Humanities Press, New Jersey
  • Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality by José Carlos Mariátegui. University of Texas Press. 1997. ISBN 978-0292701151

Further readingEdit

  • Chang-Rodríguez, Eugenio. Poética e ideología en José Mariátegui. 1983.
  • De Castro, Juan E. Bread and Beauty: The Cultural Politics of José Carlos Mariátegui. Brill, 2020.
  • Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. "Indigenous Resistance in the Americas and the Legacy of Mariátegui". Monthly Review vol. 61(4)2009.
  • Krauze, Enrique. "José Carlos Mariátegui: Indigenous Marxism" in Redeemers: Ideas and Power in Latin America. Translated by Hank Heifetz and Natasha Wimmer. New York: HarperCollins 2011.
  • Vanden, Harry E. National Marxism in Latin America: José Carlos Mariátegui's Thought and Politics. 1986.
  • Gonzalez, Mike. "In the Red Corner: The Marxism of José Carlos Mariátegui." Estados Unidos, Haymarket Books.2019


  1. ^ "Bases Ideológicas". Partido Nacionalista Peruano. Retrieved 10 September 2018.

External linksEdit