[P2P-F] Fwd: [Networkedlabour] + A Classical Utopian Marxist Text on Communication, Labour and Internationalism

Michel Bauwens michel at p2pfoundation.net
Tue Dec 17 12:44:45 CET 2013

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From: Chapullers OrsanS <orsan1234 at gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 12:41 PM
Subject: [Networkedlabour] + A Classical Utopian Marxist Text on
Communication, Labour and Internationalism
To: "networkedlabour at lists.contrast.org" <networkedlabour at lists.contrast.org

via Peter Waterman

"Internationalism and Nationalism"
José Carlos Mariátegui

[José Carlos Mariátegui (1894–1930) was a journalist, editor, poet,
popular educator, political and social analyst, party and union
organiser, who laid the foundations of the modern Peruvian labour and
socialist movement. He identified with the Russian Revolution and
Communism but resisted the imposition in Latin America of certain
Comintern policies, and developed original ideas on the revolutionary
role of the peasantry and indigenous peoples. He was exiled in Europe
in the turbulent period following World War I and the Russian
Revolution, and combined a fervent nationalism with a just as fervent
internationalism. He put his internationalist convictions into
practice in his union newspaper, Labor, that appeared for one year in
1928–29. One-third of its coverage was devoted to international
developments, largely to labour issues. This article is a classical
internationalist statement from a socialist in a peripheral capitalist
country. It was originally presented as a lecture, on November 2,
1923, in the office of the Student Federation, Lima, Peru. The text is
taken from Mariátegui (1973a). The English text was originally
published as Mariátegui (1986). The translation was by Peter Waterman
and Carlos Betancourt. It was scanned and marginally corrected August

In various of my lectures I have explained how the life of humanity
has been brought together, connected, internationalised. More exactly,
the life of humanity in the West. There have been established links
and ties, new to human history, between all nations incorporated into
European civilisation, Western civilisation.

Internationalism exists as an ideal because it is the new reality, the
nascent reality. It is not an arbitrary ideal, it is not the absurd
ideal of a few dreamers or utopians. It is the sort of ideal that
Hegel and Marx define as a new and superior historical stage, which,
organically enclosed within the present, struggles to realise itself
and which, until it is realised, whilst it is being realised, appears
as an ideal before an aging and decadent reality. A great human ideal,
a great human aspiration, does not spring or emerge from the
imagination of a more or less brilliant person. It springs from life.
It emerges from historical reality. It is the present historical
reality.Humanity does not pursue nonsensical or unrealisable mirages:
humanity follows those ideals whose realisation appears near, appears
ripe, appears possible. As it is with humanity, so it is with the
individual. The individual does not enthuse over impossibilities. He
enthuses only over something relatively possible, relatively
achievable, A humble villager, except for a madman, never dreams of
the love of a princess, nor of a distant and unknown
multi-millionairess, he dreams instead of the love of a village girl
with whom he can talk, who is within reach. It can occur to a child
who is chasing a butterfly that he will never catch it: but for him to
run after it it is essential that he believes or feels that it is
within his reach. If the butterfly flies too far, if its flight is too
rapid, the child will give up its impossible chase. With respect to an
ideal it is the same for humanity. A capricious ideal, an impossible
utopia, however beautiful it may be, will not move crowds in the
least. Crowds are moved and impassioned by a theory which offers a
near goal, a probable goal; by that doctrine which reveals nothing
other than a new reality in formation, a new reality en route. Let us
consider, for example, how socialist ideas appear and what it is that
impassions crowds. Kautsky, when he was still a revolutionary
socialist, taught, in accordance with history, that the desire to
realise socialism was born of the creation of big industry. When small
industry prevails, the ideal of the dispossessed is not the
socialisation of property but the acquisition of a little personal
property. Small industry always generates the desire to preserve
private ownership of the means of production, and not the desire to
socialise property, to institute socialism. This desire sprung up
where big industry developed, where return to small industry would
have been a step backward, would have been socially and economically
retrogressive. The development of heavy industry, the emergence of big
factories, destroys small industry, ruins the small artisan; but it at
the same time creates the material possibility for the realisation of
socialism and creates, above all, the will to bring this to
realisation. The factory unites a great mass of workers; five hundred,
a thousand, two thousand workers; and generates in this mass not the
desire for individual and solitary work, but desire for the collective
and associated exploitation of this means of wealth. Consider how a
factory worker understands and feels about the union idea, the
collectivist idea; and consider, in contrast, how difficult it is for
the isolated worker of the little workshop to comprehend the same
idea. Class consciousness germinates easily amongst the great masses
of the factories and giant companies; it germinates with difficulty
amongst the dispersed masses of the workshops and small industry. The
large industrial estate [latifundio – PW] and agricultural estate lead
the worker first to the organisation of his class interests and then
to the desire to expropriate the estate and to its collective
exploitation. Socialism, trade unionism, did not thus spring from some
work of genius. They sprang from the new social reality, the new
economic reality. And the same is true of internationalism.

For many decades, for approximately one century, European civilisation
has given evidence of the tendency to create an international
organisation of Western nations. This tendency does not have only
proletarian forms, it also has bourgeois forms. Well then. None of
these forms have been arbitrary, nor have they been produced by
chance, on the contrary there has always been an instinctive
recognition of a new, latent, state of affairs. The reign of the
bourgeoisie, the reign of individualism, liberates economic interests
from all bonds. Capitalism, under the reign of the bourgeoisie, does
not produce for the national market, it produces for the international
market. Its necessity to daily increase production forces it to the
conquest of new markets. Its product, its merchandise, recognise no
frontiers; it struggles to surpass and subjugate political
restrictions. Conflict and competition between industrialists is
international. In addition to markets, industrialists struggle over
raw materials. The industry of a country is supplied with the coal,
petrol, minerals, of diverse and distant countries. In consequence of
this international web of economic interests, the big European and
United States banks become completely international and cosmopolitan
entities. These banks invest capital in Australia, in India, in China,
in the Transvaal. The circulation of capital, through the banks, is an
international circulation. The English rentier who deposits his money
in a London bank is perhaps ignorant about where his capital is being
invested, from whence comes his return, his dividend. He does not
know, for example, if his bank is going to commit his capital to the
purchase of shares in the Peruvian Corporation: in this case the
English rentier becomes, without knowing it, co-proprietor of the
Peruvian railways. The strike of the Central Railways can affect, can
diminish, his dividends. The English rentier does not know this.
Similarly the railwayman and the Peruvian engine-driver are ignorant
of the existence of the English rentier, in whose wallet a part of
their work is going to end up. This example, this case, serves to
explain the economic linkages, the economic solidarity, of the
international life of our epoch. And it serves as an explanation of
the origin of bourgeois internationalism and the origin of proletarian
internationalism, which is at the same time a common and opposed
origin. The owner of a textile mill in Britain is interested in paying
his workers less wages than the proprietor of a textile mill in the
United States, so that his merchandise can be sold more cheaply, more
advantageously and abundantly. And this causes the North American
textile worker to interest himself in the non-reduction of wages of
the British textile worker. A fall of wages in the British textile
industry is a threat to the worker of Vitarte, to the worker of Santa
Catalina. In virtue of these facts, the workers have declared their
solidarity and their fraternity over frontiers and despite
nationalities. The workers have seen that when they fight a battle it
is not only against the capitalist class of their own country but
against the international capitalist class. When the European workers
fought for the conquest of the eight-hour day, they fought not only
for the European proletariat but for the world proletariat. For you,
workers of Peru, it was easier to obtain the eight-hour law because
the eight-hour law was already in existence in Europe. Peruvian
capitalism ceded your demand because it knew that European capitalism
had also ceded this. And, in the same way, of course, the battles
presently being carried out by European workers are not without
significance for your fate. Each of the workers who is falling at this
moment in the streets of Berlin or on the barricades of Hamburg falls
not only for the cause of the German proletariat. He falls for your
cause also, comrades of Peru.

It is because of this, it is because of this demonstration of a
historical fact, that for more than a half century, since Marx and
Engels founded the First International, the working classes of the
world have tended to create organisations of international solidarity
which link their actions and unify their ideal. But the opposed camp,
capitalist politics, is not insensitive to the same effect of modern
economic life. Bourgeois liberalism, the economic liberalism which
allowed the capitalist interests to expand, connect and associate
despite states and frontiers, was forced to include free exchange in
its programme. Free exchange, the free-trade theory, corresponds to a
profound and concrete need of a period of capitalist production. What
is free exchange? Free exchange, free trade, means the free exchange
of goods across all frontiers and all countries. There exist between
nations not only political frontiers, geographical frontiers. There
also exist economic frontiers. These are the customs. The customs
which, on entry into a country, burden them with duties. Free trade
seeks to demolish these economic frontiers, to abolish the customs, to
clear the way for the free passage of goods to all countries. And in
the peak period of free-trade theory the bourgeoisie was, in sum,
especially internationalist. What was the origin of its
free-trade-ism, what was the origin of its internationalism? It was
economic necessity, the commercial necessity for industry to expand
freely throughout the world. The capitalism of some economically
highly-developed countries met, in economic frontiers, an obstacle to
its expansion and wished to demolish them. And this free-trade
capitalism, which does not of course embrace the whole capitalist
world but only part of it, was also pacifist. It preached peace and
preached disarmament because it saw war as a disturbance to and
disruption of production. Free trade was an offensive of British
capitalism, the most advanced in the world, the best prepared for
competition with capitalist rivals. In reality, capitalism could not
fail to be internationalist because capitalism is by nature and
necessity imperialist. Capitalism created a new class of historical
conflicts and military conflicts. Conflicts not between nations, not
between races, not between opposed nationalities, but conflicts
between blocs, between conglomerates of economic and industrial
interests. This conflict between conflicting capitalisms, British and
German, led the world to the last great war. And, as I have had
occasion to explain, bourgeois society has come out of this profoundly
undermined and weakened. Precisely because of the contrast between the
nationalist passions of the peoples, which antagonise and separate
them, and the necessity for collaboration, solidarity and reciprocal
amnesty between them, the sole means for common reconstruction. The
capitalist crisis, in one of its principle aspects, is to be found
just in this: the contradiction between the politics of capitalist
society and the economics of capitalist society. In present-day
society politics and economics have ceased to coincide, have ceased to
agree. The politics of present-day society are nationalist; its
economics are internationalist. The bourgeois state is constructed on
a national base; the bourgeois economy must rest on an international
base. The bourgeois state has educated man in the cult of nationalism,
it has infected him with ill will and suspicion and even with hatred
of other nationalities; the bourgeois economy needs, on the other
hand, agreements and understandings between distinct and even opposed
nationalities. The traditionally nationalist teaching of the bourgeois
state, excited and stimulated during the wartime period, has created,
above all in the middle class, an intensely nationalistic attitude.
And it is now this attitude which prevents European nationalities from
cooperating and coordinating a common programme for the reconstruction
of the capitalist economy. This contradiction between the political
structure of the capitalist system and its economic structure is the
most profound, most eloquent, symptom of the decadence and dissolution
of this social order. It is, furthermore, the revelation, the
confirmation rather, that the old political organisation of society
cannot continue because within its mould, within its rigidly
nationalist form, there could not develop the new international
economic and productive tendencies, the characteristic of which is
their internationalism. The social order is declining and expiring
because it cannot allow for the international economic and productive
forces. These economic and productive forces require international
organisation that allows their development, their circulation and
growth. Such international organisation cannot be capitalist because
the capitalist state, without renouncing its structure, without
renouncing its origin, cannot but be a nationalist state.

But this incapacity of individualist and capitalist society to
transform itself in accordance with international economic necessities
does not prevent the appearance within it of the first signs of an
international organisation of humanity. Within the nationalist and
chauvinist bourgeois system which separates and opposes peoples, there
is woven a dense network of international solidarity that is preparing
the future of humanity. The bourgeoisie itself can [not - PW] abstain
from forging with its hands international organisations and
institutions that reduce the rigidity of its nationalist theory and
practice. We have thus seen the League of Nations appear. The League
of Nations, as I have said in a lecture about it [Mariátegui 1973b–
PW], is fundamentally the homage of bourgeois ideology to
internationalist ideology. The League of Nations is an illusion
because no human power can prevent the reproduction within it of the
conflicts, enmities and imbalances inherent in a capitalist and
nationalist organisation of society. Supposing that the League of
Nations managed to include all the nations of the world, it would
still be unable to be effectively pacifist or to regulate conflicts
and contrasts between nations efficiently, because humanity, reflected
and synthesised in its assembly, would be simply the same nationalist
humanity as before. The League of Nations brings together the
delegates of peoples; but it would not bring together the peoples
themselves. It would not eliminate the bases of difference between
them. The same divisions, the same rivalries that bring together or
antagonise nations in geography and in history, would bring them
together or oppose them within the League of Nations. The alliances,
the compromises, the ententes, which bring peoples together in opposed
and enemy blocs, would continue. The League of Nations, finally, would
be a class international, an international of states; but not an
international of peoples. The League of Nations would be an
internationalism only in name, in appearance. It would be a League of
Nations if it brought together within itself all governments, all
states. And in the present case, in which it brings together only a
part of the governments and a part of the states, the League of
Nations is still much less than this. It is a court without authority,
without legitimacy and without power, at the edge of which nations
contract and litigate, negotiate and attack each other.

But, nonetheless, the appearance, the existence of the idea of the
League of Nations, the attempt to realise it, is a recognition, is a
declaration of the evident truth of the internationalism of
contemporary life, of the international necessities of the life of our
times. In this century everything tends to link, everything tends to
connect, peoples and individuals. In other times the setting for a
civilisation was limited, small; in our epoch it is almost the whole
world. The British coloniser who settles in a primitive corner of
Africa brings to this corner the telephone, the wireless telegraph,
the automobile. In this corner there resounds the echo of Poincaré's
latest harangue, Lloyd George's latest speech. The progress of
communications has to an in- credible extent mutually bound the
activity and history of nations. It is thus that the punch that felled
Firpo in a New York ring was known of in Lima, in this little South
American capital, within two minutes of having been seen by the
spectators of the match. Two minutes after having excited the
spectators in the North American stadium, the punch was agitating the
good people at the doors of the Lima newspapers. I recall this example
in order to give you the precise sensation of the intense
communication that exists between the nations of the Western world,
due to the birth and improvement of communications. Communications are
the nervous system of this internationalism and human solidarity. One
of the characteristics of our epoch is the rapidity, the velocity,
with which ideas spread, with which currents of thought and culture
are transmitted. A new idea that blossoms in Britain is not a British
idea except for the time that it takes for it to be printed. Once
launched into space by the press, this idea, if it expresses some
universal truth, can also be instantaneously transformed into an
internationalist idea. How long would Einstein have waited in another
period in order to become popular internationally? In these times the
theory of relativity, regardless of its complexity and technicality,
has circled the earth in a few years. All these facts are so many more
signs of the internationalism and solidarity of contemporary life.

One notes in all intellectual, artistic, philanthropic, moral, etc.,
activities, the tendency to create international organisations of
communication and coordination. In Switzerland can be found the seats
of more than 80 international associations. There is an international
of teachers, an international of journalists, a feminist
international, a student international. Even chess players, if I am
not mistaken, have international offices or something similar. Music
teachers have held an international congress in Paris in which they
discussed the value of keeping the foxtrot in fashion or reviving the
pavana. There has thus been laid the basis for an international of
dancers. Still further. Amongst the internationalist tendencies,
amongst the internationalist movements, there is taking shape one more
curious and paradoxical than any other. I am referring to the fascist
international. Fascist movements are, as you know, rabidly chauvinist,
violently patriotic. It happens, nonetheless, that they stimulate and
ally with each other. The Italian fascists, it is said, are aiding the
Hungarian fascists. Mussolini was at one time invited by the German
fascists to Munich. The fascist government in Italy has responded to
the rise of a pro-fascist government in Spain with explicit sympathy
and enthusiasm. Even nationalism, then, cannot do without a certain
internationalist appearance.

Mariátegui, José Carlos. 1973a. ‘15ª Conferencia: Internacionalismo y
nacionalismo’, Historia de la crisis mundial (Conferencias años 1923 y
1924). [Ediciones populares de las obras completas de José Carlos
Mariátegui. Toma 8]. Lima: Amauta. Pp. 156-65.

Mariátegui, José Carlos. 1973b. ‘9ª Conferencia: La paz de Versalles y
la Socieded de las Naciones’, Historia de la crisis mundial (
Conferencias años 1923 y 1924). [Ediciones populares de las obras
completas de José Carlos Mariátegui. Toma 8]. Lima: Amauta. Pp.

Mariátegui, José Carlos. 1986. ‘Internationalism and Nationalism’,
Newsletter of International Labour Studies (The Hague), Nos.
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