Descolonización del pensamiento marxista (II) / Javier Biardeau

Decolonization of Marxist Thought (II)

If democratic and socialist decolonizing revolutions have any relevance for the movements and national-popular forces now emerging in Latin America, we must knock down certain myths of Eurocentric internationals, without falling into national populism. During the nineteen twenties, the Peruvian José Carlos Mariátegui dared to recover “Inca communism” as a historical-cultural premise for socialist struggles. The Peruvian historian Alberto Flores Galindo in the epilogue to his book of essays Buscando un Inca. Sueños y pesadillas, follows Mariátegui, analyzing like him how the emancipating imaginary of the Andean communities could be articulated within modern socialism.

The conjunction between the popular imaginary of emancipation and a program of intellectual and moral renovation takes place in a double sense, as part of the unity between theory and practice in “the philosophy of praxis,” in a critical theory with historical efficacy. However, today we find ourselves amidst the decline of bureaucratic socialism as configured by western modernity. Does it maybe signal the definitive collapse of the socialist idea alongside the crisis of Eurocentric modernity? It was modernity’s very own Eurocentric foundation that justified the distinction between “utopian socialism” and Federick Engels’ “scientific socialism.” In times when we’ve long ago surpassed positivism, mechanicism, determinism: what remains of so called “scientific socialism”? It was this foundation that justified the myth of ideological-cultural neutrality of “the development of productive forces” (Stalin), with the devastating consequences for the Marxist left, which assumed the “developmental fallacy” as a natural axis for emancipatory discourse.

The power of technocracy in conjunction with the dominance of capitalist economy, define the horizon of development for nations. On these bases is organized the predominance of transnationals in the system-world, in their close alliance with the capitalist States of the planet. The decolonizing agenda surges not only with the function of building alternatives from the South, but with the function of rearticulating the struggles of the counter hegemonic blocks of the North. We need to fine tune the nodes of a broad web made up of the space of the socialist intellectual collective, with no attachment to the thesis of the school of cadres-political formation.

Both these fields for the production of knowledge are strongly linked to speech/action in western modernity. We must liberate socialist critical thought from bureaucratic-despotic Marxism and, at the same time, we must decolonize it from Eurocentric modernism and its ideas of progress, development, history, science, technology and knowledge, among others.

Is Marxism a central component of the Latin American rebellion or is it simply a “foreign ideology,” as national populisms or authoritarian regimes proclaimed? Mariátegui was convincing in assuming a creative use of the critical Marxist tradition. He not only cited Marx, but also assumed the intellectual and moral effort of configuring his own thought, dilucidating central aspects of the indigenous problem, articulating the anticapitalist struggles, anti-imperialism and socialism, Confronting both the national populism of Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre as well as the Stalinism of Victorio Codovilla, Mariátegui inaugurated the Indo-Americanization of Marxism. In Venezuela, to say Marxism was to say Marxism-Leninism. Betancourt intellectually maneuvered throughout its reaches. The socialist imaginary can be paralyzed by acritical imitation of models from bureaucratic socialism, or by its cooptation by forces promoting a national populist direction, with a project of State capitalism, as a horizon for the revolutionary simulacrum. In both cases, it is the nonexistence of the socialist intellectual collective, the condition of the historical blockade, of the slowness of changes, and of its generalized disorientation. We must wager for intellectual and moral decolonization in order to build revolutionary popular-national unity.

Translator’s note: A longer version of this essay, “El imaginario de emancipación socialista y la descolonización del pensamiento marxista (II), was published in January.

{ Javier Biardeau, El Nacional, 21 February 2009 }

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