José Carlos Mariátegui is considered to be the father of Latin American communism for his pioneering role in applying Marxism to the region’s local conditions. His paramount contribution to revolutionary theory directly influenced Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Augusto Sandino and early communist circles in Peru, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Chile, among others. His contribution to the development of revolutionary theory and practice in Latin America is often overlooked.
Here’s a timeline that demonstrates just how influential he was.
1928 | Mariátegui creates the Peruvian Communist Party, splitting with the country’s social democrats who believe in working with the “progressive” bourgeoisie.
Source: Archivo José Carlos Mariátegui
1928 – 1930 | Thanks to the reach of his revolutionary magazine, Amauta, early Cuban Marxists, specifically Juan Marinello, adopt Mariátegui’s original Marxist theory and use it for their analysis of the Cuban situation. Later, these early Cuban Marxists influence the development of Cuban socialism after the 1959 revolution, insisting that Cuba should not copy European socialism, but develop its own.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
1929 | Mariátegui and Sandino, a Nicaraguan revolutionary, begin corresponding. Shortly after, thanks to Mariátegui’s influence, Sandino declares that “Latin American workers suffer a double exploitation, that of national capitalism as well as foreign,” evidently deepening the revolutionary’s understanding of global capitalism. He also begins to use the term “Indo-Hispanic” to describe the people, a term very similar to Mariátegui’s “Indo-America,” which includes often-marginalized Indigenous nations.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
1929 – 1930 | Mariátegui influences early Colombians through his personal friendship with the founder of the communist party there, Fidedigno Cuellar. He also plays a role in the theoretical formation of Indigenous and mestizo communists through exiled personal friends Carlos del Barza and Bernardo Retjam. They also manage to instruct Isauro Yosa, an Indigenous guerrilla fighter. Yosa goes on to mentor Manuel Marulanda, the founder of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, as he went from being a liberal guerrilla fighter to a communist one.
1952 | Two young Argentine doctors arrive in Peru as part of their trip around Latin America. They stay at Dr. Hugo Pesce‘s leper colony in the Amazon. Here, Pesce, a “disciple” of Mariátegui, introduces Che to Marxism and Mariátegui’s work. Che later says that without Pesce’s influence, he would have never channeled his adventurous nature toward revolutionary action.
1959 | After the victorious revolution in Cuba, Che requests that the national press, now in the hands of the revolutionaries, begin printing Mariátegui’s “Seven Essays,” his most important and influential book. The book is not just studied by revolutionary Cuban intellectuals, but it is also distributed across the region as essential reading for society’s transformation.
Source: Colección América Nuestra Editorial Universitaria S.A.
1967 | A young middle class Colombian joins the National University in Bogotá and one of his first projects is to read “Seven Essays,” recently republished in Cuba, and investigate the author of the book. Guillermo Sáenz is profoundly affected by the book and begins to investigate communism in Latin America in general. After graduating and becoming a lecturer at the same university, he abandons his post and joins the FARC. In 2008, after Marulanda’s death, Guillermo (known by his nom de guerre, Alfonso Cano) becomes Commander of the FARC.
1960s – 1990s | Another professor, Abimael Guzmán, is deeply influenced by Mariátegui and other Marxist writings. In the mid 1970s, Guzmán leaves his post as an academic and begins to organize revolutionaries and peasants. Guzmán — also known by his nom de guerre, Chairman Gonzalo, and his party, the Communist Party of Peru — begin an armed struggle against the capitalist state in 1980. The party’s newspaper was named “The Shining Path” after one of Mariátegui’s famous quotes: “Marxism-Leninism will open the shining path to revolution.” Hence, why they are known as The Shining Path today. Although Chairman Gonzalo is now in prison for his role in armed struggle, the Communist Party of Peru is still active.
Source: Communist Party of Peru