Academic journal article Discourse (Detroit, MI)

Networking: José Carlos Mariátegui's Socialist Communication Strategy

Academic journal article Discourse (Detroit, MI)

Networking: José Carlos Mariátegui's Socialist Communication Strategy

Article excerpt

A few months after his return from Europe in 1923, José Carlos Mariátegui taught a course at the Universidad Popular Manuel González Prada in Lima focused on the global crisis in the aftermath of World War I.1 His audience consisted of workers-at times up to a thousand-who would gather in the halls of the Palacio de la Exposición to listen to Mariátegui and other young Peruvian intellectuals such as Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre.2 Mariátegui spoke on topics such as the Russian Revolution, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, and proletarian agitation in Europe as well as the philosophical and literary culture of the interwar years.3 In his discussions, he expressed a characteristic view of the period: all the ideologies and philosophies that had accompanied the rise of the European bourgeoisie-rationalism, historicism, positivism, and so on-had lost their legitimacy. Thus, capitalist civilization as a whole had entered into a political, economic, and cultural crisis that was setting the historical conditions for socialist revolution worldwide. Mariátegui's message about the imminence of an all-encompassing revolutionary period was coupled with fascinating sociological observations and a trove of erudite information about the period. During one of his lectures, he unexpectedly interrupted his political reflections to recall a boxing match:

Se da el caso de que el puñetazo que tumba a Firpo en el ring de Nueva York sea conocido en Lima, en esta pequeña capital sudamericana, a los dos minutos de haber sido visto por los espectadores del match. Dos minutos después de haber conmovido a los espectadores del coliseo norteamericano, ese puñetazo consternaba a las buenas personas que hacían cola a las puertas de los periódicos limeños. Recuerdo este ejemplo para dar a ustedes la sensación exacta de la intensa comunicación que existe entre las naciones del mundo occidental, debido al crecimiento y al perfeccionamiento de las comunicaciones. Las comunicaciones son el tejido nervioso de esta humanidad internacionalizada y solidaria.4

[It so happened that news of the punch that knocked out Firpo in the New York boxing ring became known here in Lima, this tiny South American capital, only two minutes after being witnessed by the spectators of the match. Two minutes after its impact on spectators in the North American coliseum, this punch created consternation among the good people lined up at the doors of Lima newspapers. I recall this example in order to give you the exact sense of the intense communication that exists among the nations of the Western world as a result of the growth and perfectioning of communications. Communications are the nerve fiber of this internationalized and solidary humanity.]

When compared with the most common perception of Mariátegui, this scene seems surprising or misplaced, for he is better known as the socialist thinker who located Marxism within the context of Latin American postcolonial societies, who defended national revolutionary struggles at a time when the Third International advocated world communism, and who championed the need to understand the role that colonialismo supérstite (persistent colonialism) played in countries with large indigenous populations, such as Peru.5 Instead of focusing on traditional Marxist notions such as class or revolution, Mariátegui's boxing reference evokes two phenomena of the global expansion of capitalist civilization: on the one hand, a sport that had become a mass spectacle at the very heart of the empire and whose protagonist in this instance was, ironically, Argentine boxer Luis Angel Firpo, the Wild Bull of the Pampas, and, on the other hand, the global circulation of information. This essay focuses primarily on the latter of these two phenomena, since the history of sport as a mass spectacle would merit an inquiry of its own. But one notices how the boxing scene referred to by Mariátegui captures an imaginary of interconnectivity that was prevalent throughout the world at the time. …

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