Photo: José Carlos Mariátegui La Chira, founder and first General Secretary of what would become the Communist Party of Peru.
By Mike Talavera
On October 7, 1928, at the height of intense struggle against the social-fascist American Revolutionary Popular Alliance (APRA), José Carlos Mariátegui led the Marxists-Leninists in founding the Peruvian Socialist Party, which would later be renamed the Communist Party of Peru (PCP). This 91st anniversary marks one of the Peruvian and international proletariat’s most important dates in history.
To celebrate this anniversary is to celebrate the fierce struggle against revisionism and social-fascism that continues today in Peru under the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Gonzalo Thought, led by the PCP. To honor this important date in the history of the proletariat is to defend it.
Like so many other children of the proletariat, Mariátegui’s legacy has been relentlessly attacked by revisionists who extend those attacks to the PCP. The false portrayals of the constitution as a mere collection of ideals and Mariátegui as nothing more than a scholarly gentleman is a blatant attempt to cheat the masses, the inheritors of this legacy.
The Party’s 1928 constitution represented the synthesis of years of ideological struggle Mariátegui waged against rightists and social-fascists upon returning to Peru from Europe in 1923, first through the magazine Claridad and later through his own publication Amauta, which he founded in 1926.
A month before the Party adopted its constitution, Mariátegui penned the editorial “Aniversario y balance” (in English, “Anniversary and Balance”) as Amauta entered its third year. The magazine, in his words, was as an exercise in “ideological definition.” Here, we see that Mariátegui was not writing and theorizing to hear himself talk, as some would like to think, but that he was intentionally conducting and synthesizing two-line struggle in an effort to lay the foundation for the Party.
“In the struggle between two systems, between two ideas, we cannot think of ourselves as spectators nor invent a third term,” Mariátegui writes. “Originality at all costs is a literary and anarchic concern. In our flag we inscribe this single, simple and great word: Socialism. (With this motto we affirm our absolute independence from the idea of a nationalist, petty bourgeois and demagogic party.)”
The last parenthetical is in reference to the anti-communist and national chauvinist Raúl Haya de la Torre and his so-called “anti-imperialist” APRA, originally founded in 1924 as a united front organization, it had since turned into a political party by 1928. Mariátegui clearly saw the threat posed by APRA and de la Torre.
In the 1929 essay “Punto de vista anti-imperialista” (“Anti-Imperialist Perspective”), Mariátegui elaborated on the danger of de la Torre’s populist anti-imperialism and why it was necessary to establish the Communist Party under the Marxism of the time, Marxism-Leninism, to lead the fight against imperialism as well as all other struggles. Without positioning the proletariat as the leading force of the revolution and the peasantry as the main force, the interests of the petit-bourgeois are by default put first, Mariátegui asserts, where “reactionary tendencies cannot fail to thrive.”
“The socialist revolution will find its most bloody and dangerous enemy (dangerous because of their confusionism and demagogy) in those petty bourgeois placed in power by the voices of order,” Mariátegui writes, comparing APRA to the Chinese Kuomintang, the nationalist party that repeatedly betrayed and bitterly fought against the Communist Party of China led by Chairman Mao Zedong. “In conclusion, we are anti-imperialists because we are Marxists, because we are revolutionaries, because we oppose capitalism with socialism as an antagonistic system, called to succeed it, because in the fight against foreign imperialisms we fulfill our duties of solidarity with the revolutionary masses of Europe.”
Mariátegui understood 20th-century Peru as a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country, its incipient capitalism beset by the weight of imperialism, mainly US imperialism. It is this class analysis that would later be expanded on by Chairman Gonzalo and the Reconstituted Communist Party of Peru, developing Chairman Mao’s thesis of bureaucratic capitalism.
In his 1968 lecture on Mariátegui, Chairman Gonzalo, among his many praises, highlighted Mariátegui’s leadership not only in forming the Party, but also in the drafting of its program and the creation of the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers.
“Any constitution, no matter what it is, has two consecutive parts,” Chairman Gonzalo said, “two elements which together form any organization or institution. First, the ideological part, that is, the dynamics of thought, the formation of a programme, the constitution of its points of agreement, the importance of a statute, etc., and a second part, the constitution of the organization apparatus strictly speaking.”
It is this principle of theory put into action, of analysis transformed to synthesis, which the founding and reconstitution of the PCP symbolizes. Mariátegui must be commemorated for his thought, one rooted in Marxism used to combat the rightists and revisionists of his day and set the platform for future Communists in Peru and the world.
The Party Mariátegui founded nearly a century earlier, now reconstituted under the ideological banner of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Gonzalo Thought, goes on leading the People’s War in Peru from the mountains of Vizcatán.
“The foundation of the Communist Party, let’s repeat it, is the culmination of Mariátegui’s theoretical and practical struggle and his direct participation in the class struggle, it was his greatest contribution and service to the proletariat, whose combativity of more than 30 years in our contemporary history allowed and sustained the appearance and development of the PCP,” the Central Committee of the PCP wrote in October, 1975. “The Party is forged in the midst of the class struggle of the masses and advances in the midst of the internal struggle between two lines, hence its history cannot be understood outside the red line that Mariátegui imprinted and its prolonged and winding struggle against the non-proletarian line that has always been raised, openly or covertly, against the thought of Mariátegui.”