Those of us who approach and define the Indian problem from a Socialist point of view must start out by declaring the complete obsolescence of the humanitarian and philanthropic points of view which, like a prolongation of the apostolic battle of Las Casas, continued to motivate the old pro-Indian campaign. We shall try to establish the basically economic character of the problem. First, we protest against the instinctive attempt of the criollo or mestizo to reduce it to an exclusively administrative, pedagogical, ethnic, or moral problem in order to avoid at all cost recognizing its economic aspect. Therefore, it would be absurd to accuse us of being romantic or literary. By identifying it as primarily a socio-economic problem, we are taking the least romantic and literary position possible.

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This gave impetus to the sociopolitical and cultural movement of Indigenism founded several decades before. His peregrinations in Europe and his European influences were key to the development of his political and aesthetic consciousness, and a practical and unorthodox Marxism, relevant at both national and continental levels. Central to this transformation and the forging of his highly personal, Peruvian Marxist thinking and way of writing was a receptiveness to Marxist and Modernist ideas and movements rooted in European intellectual traditions.

But these writings also reveal his ability to build on and make their thinking his own. But he goes one step further by calling for a Marxist revolution in the language of popular religion, addressing national problems of underdevelopment and a broadly mestizo , semi- proletarianized and professional public, hungry for political change but also swayed by quasi-religious lexis and symbols.

Ultimately, it was intended as a political alternative to prevailing ideological positions: President Augusto B. This developed into an interplay of interests creatively consolidated through the very language shaped to communicate them. Here lies the source of his independence and originality: in his efforts to construct a conjoined politico-poetic interpretive approach through a new language and conceptual outlook, drawing on the very substance and malleability of language.

This opposed Comintern orthodoxy while advancing European Marxist thinking by expanding its theoretical focus and practical applications. He devised a form of political writing that was analytical and visionary, which informed and inspired his readers.

He attempted to shape a poeticized form of writing and thinking through which his political and artistic concerns could be creatively conjoined. For Nietzsche, myth provided a means of spiritual affirmation and regeneration in a late nineteenth-century Europe that increasingly questioned Liberal -Positivist precepts and religious certainties.

Furthermore, he seems fully aware that for these myths to be truly new, different from those at both ends of the political spectrum and capable of generating change, like a poeticized language they had to speak as much to the senses, to sentiment, as to rationality.

By drawing on and appealing to sensory imagination and cognitive reason forms of thinking, a Marxist myth expressed through a politico-poetic language would be able to raise an awareness of present-day realities, to anticipate a better future. This myth would inspire a sense of spiritual and secular possibility, of prophesy, a consciousness of what might be and of what has come about, which appealed both to imagination and to memory. Capable of rallying, with its cross-class and inter-ethnic reach and millenarian dimensions, a growing number of disaffected workers and peasants during the oncenio , the broad appeal of this myth would cement the necessary alliance between these social groups.

The crucial role he assigned to the indigenous peasantry in this revolutionary struggle is implicit throughout Siete ensayos in his attentiveness to the Indian question. Siete ensayos constitutes a systematic Marxist critique of colonial and postcolonial experience in Peru, the first of its kind in the country if not also in Latin America. It provides a broad yet detailed historical-materialist reading of a fractured nation carrying a legacy of dependent neo- colonial and capitalist rule.

The essays develop an overarching political thesis and a Peruvian Marxist position through an idiosyncratic use of language. Social revolution and agrarian reform are equated, explicitly or not, with the liberation of the indigenous peasantry from this feudalism and posed as putative solutions to the twin problems of nation and of the Indian. Dismantling the oligarchy and restoring land to the Indian community ayllu , viewed as a viable socioeconomic institution, are specifically posited as necessary for achieving national unity and sustainable development.

This would lead to an independent Peruvian nation. By reading national contemporary realities through the lens of a history of neo- colonial rule, he moves beyond a classical European Marxist analysis of capitalist development. A historical-materialist inquiry combines with a postcolonial critical outlook to produce a new Peruvian Marxist theoretical perspective that resonates with and seeks to consolidate the growing anti-oligarchic and anti-imperialist sentiments of workers and peasant activists in Peru.

A preoccupation with Indian political culture, past and present, provided the impetus for this journal and his Peruvian Marxist position. The peasant land invasions in the southern sierra during the early s, with their appeal to the provincial mestizo middle classes, eager to contest oligarchic-capitalist monopolies in local areas, only signaled for him their capacity for challenging and reversing entrenched forms of subordination and dependence at regional and national levels.

Significantly, however, his choice of words in this essay highlights another important insight on his part: the potentially energizing power of language, particularly in articulating this myth. But self-asserted passion and spontaneity in the Prologue are soon disavowed by the structured nature of the language and thoughts inscribed on subsequent pages, pointing to an overriding aim not to follow the impulses of sentiment alone, but those of an emotion, a creative imagination, enhanced by the analytical properties of reason.

This introduces a strain of idealism into an otherwise somewhat doctrinaire piece of writing. But his reading also diverges from a classical Marxist critique in his casting of the Indian peasantry as a protagonist in a narrative of revolution and national reconstruction. This Marxist orientation is expressed through lexical repetition and juxtaposition. Overall, this lexis projects a didactic, pessimistic and at times depersonalized tone, in tune with a more doctrinaire line of argument, one that distances writer and reader from each other and from the creative process of interpretation.

Through its figurative language, combining spiritual, metaphysical, political and material values and concerns, and analytical and creative reflection, this approach strives to shape an inventive critical imagination.

Significantly, the spatio-temporal framework evoked by this lexis is one in which the lines between external and internal, past and future categories have collapsed. Personal and social realities are thus connected, while a sense of reciprocity and the future is also conveyed. The interplay of individual and communal emotion, and intuitional and rational thinking, inferred by the juxtaposition of all these signifiers, points to the possibility of an enhanced form of enlightenment.

This might imply the emergence of a heightened form of awareness and understanding. As will be seen, this is particularly the case when its abstract lexis is mobilized for conjuring an Indo-Marxist myth of social revolution in the important first footnote.

The spatio-temporal parameters of this myth encompass local sierra and national sierra and coast , pre- colonial past and present-future spheres. This widened sense of space and time is evoked through lexis, politico-poetic, or politico-religious, tenses present and perfect and tone utopian idealism , particularly in relation to the Indian community and a revolutionary struggle.

Through this mythic construct, a Marxist revolutionary struggle is rendered as an unfolding collective project and process of nation-building. This is because the language used to express a sense of transcendence and proximity also conveys an idealized, partisan representation of the Indian community and its role in revolution and nation-formation.

The complex realities of migration and cultural mestizaje —the many semi- proletarianized Indians and mestizos involved in mining, commercial agriculture and trade, in and in-between highland communities and coastal cities—appear to be disregarded by this mythic construct, which imparts a reductive, class-based and deterministic reading of revolution and historical development, and the part played by the indigenous peasantry in these processes.

Political exigencies, due to mounting state repression and polarization, as much within as outside the left-wing opposition—evidenced in his year-long stand-off with Haya de la Torre and the founding of his Socialist Party, both in —clearly had a hand in hardening his ideological position.

Limited knowledge, personal and social scientific, of the Indian people may also account for a reliance on cultural and class-based stereotypes of them. The indigenous community itself seems largely to have been written out of this narrative of its self-liberation, by having its voice suppressed and being passed over as a possible readership.

While he asserts this, however, his own mythologizing, his naturalizing of the indigenous community may only have perpetuated what he criticized. But he also realized the crucial importance of melding this political-philosophical analysis to a language, a form of representation, which could appeal to the broadest political community.

His critique and writing sought to embrace the middle-class intelligentsia, Creoles, mestizos , the proletariat and, most importantly, the under-represented Peruvian Indians. He hoped that they would all be engaged in a unified project of Marxist revolution.

This he strove to achieve through a European-inspired Socialist thinking, embedded within the potentially fertile ground of indigenous, Andean mythical notions of community, generation and rebirth.

Such thinking was articulated in an invigorated language that appealed to a myth of restitution, through a political but also a poetic rhetoric.

This became the mainspring for a revolutionary spirit and a force for change. The interplay of political and aesthetic conceptions, and analytical and imaginative thinking is evident in his politico-poetic approach. This signals an attempt to consolidate a new political consciousness, necessary for wholesale change—a revolution in sensibility as well as in society and politics. In fact, their idealization writes them out of this process.

This dispels the need for historical-materialist analysis and strategy. Growing party-political preoccupations and exigencies from early —repression and tensions with Apra and the Comintern—may account for this reductive mythical reading of revolution and national reconstruction, pre-establishing its purpose and complexion. After all, this over-rhetorical evocation speaks persuasively of an attempt to inspire more than the party faithful. Nevertheless, while seemingly compromised for partisan ends, the language invoking this myth may also, by drawing attention to itself and its limitations, paradoxically affirm its unrealized creative potential.

While he may have been unaware of the ambiguities and contradictions of his own evolving discourse, these become a creative source of tension and agency for his readers, endorsing its interpretive, revolutionary value, however more in theory than in outcome.

This insight and these efforts, however fledgling and fragmentary, ultimately confirm the fundamental value of his writerly language. A hybrid form of expression, which, rooted in ambiguity, both lexical and political, elicits diverse readings and new narratives of a Peruvian nation in flux and re-formation during and after his lifetime. Notes 1 This movement generally comprised non-Indian, educated, urban and mainly provincial mestizos and Creoles who, celebrating pre-Columbian indigenous-Inca culture, bemoaned the deprivation suffered by the Indian community in contemporary times due to a legacy of colonial rule.

Purporting to represent this people, and redeem them from their impoverishment, indigenismo also sought to protect, if not further, the sociopolitical interests of those Indigenist intellectuals within its ranks. His originality and the value of his contribution to Western Marxism lie elsewhere: in his shaping of an applied Marxist position and in conciliating Marxist theory and praxis, even if this led him to prioritize the latter over the former. See Flores Galindo and Luna Vegas for details.

See Flores Galindo for more on his polemic with the latter in See Wise , Flores Galindo , and Beigel , ; for details. See Lauer for details on the debate. See Kristal , for details. During the oncenio , civilista Liberal Creole Republican mythical narratives of nation coexisted with Hispanist dreams of Monarchy and a Spanish Motherland, their common goal being to further only the interests of a Creole minority.

Sorel was addressing a different set of French sociopolitical circumstances. See Schutte , for details. Somewhat akin to Gramsci , in Italy, he sought to bring the peasant masses into national political life through a worker-peasant pact, thus encouraging national unity.

See Flores Galindo , For a discussion of the essay as it appears in Siete ensayos from , see my monograph Moore While critics e. Testimonial narratives e. See Lauer for details. Baines, John M. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

Beigel, Fernanda. Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Cornejo Polar, Antonio. Escribir en el aire. Ensayo sobre la heterogeneidad socio-cultural en las literaturas andinas.

Lima: Editorial Horizonte. Coronado, Jorge. The Andes Imagined. Indigenismo, Society, and Modernity. Berkeley and Lima: Latinoamericana Editores. Lima: Empresa Editora Amauta. Flores Galindo, Alberto.

Obras completas III I. Gramsci, Antonio. The Antonio Gramsci Reader.


El problema del indio

It is a work that has been reissued dozens of times, in addition to being translated into Russian , French , English , Italian , Portuguese and Hungarian. In the prologue, he advises that he is not an impartial and objective critic, but that his judgments are informed by his ideals, sentiments, and passions. The essays cover diverse subjects: the economic evolution, the problem of the Indian, the problem of the land, the public instruction, the religious factor, regionalism vs. Additionally, the author thought to include an essay on the political and ideological evolution of Peru, but as the number of its pages seemed excessive, he planned to develop this subject in a separate book. He was also aware of his limitations, as he makes it clear that none of his essays were finished and that he would return to those topics.


Seven Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality

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