Mariátegui, the bourgeois decline and the revolutionary faith

José Carlos Mariátegui foi fundador do Partido Comunista do Peru
José Carlos Mariátegui foi fundador do Partido Comunista do Peru

Mariátegui, the bourgeois decline and the revolutionary faith

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We are crossing an era of decline. It is not a question, however, of a decline with mystical origins and purely spiritual as the religions claim to be, but a decline that comes up from the rotteness of the bourgeois society.

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The great Karl Marx affirmed that the ideology that prevails at any epoch is the ideology of the ruling class of that time. According to Mariátegui, in The Man and the Myth, when the ruling class is still revolutionary and turns the wheel of history, its ideology fills the men and women with energy of heroic feelings. When that class consolidates its domination and becomes reactionary, all its ideas take the human spirit to backwardness and decadence.

In history there are some more examples. The Christianism of the revolutionary slaves in Rome was one of them and it was founded in the equality of all men before the creation and contempt to the Emperor’s wealth, expressed in the dictum “One must give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”. The Christianism of the reactionay feudal lords conversely was distinct, based on the terror to the peasants and the predestination of the civilian labour. The same idea, depending on the time, may have a progressive or reactionary character, as Engels has pointed out on his brilliant Anti-Dühring. The same occurs witht the bourgeois civilization that, during the Enlightment Revolutions, used to be progressive and enthusiastic with the myth of the consign “Freedom, Equality and Fraternity” and, now, as points out José Carlos Mariátegui, it lacks the absence of faith and hope and becomes reactionary.

Mariátegui researched with mastery this process on his essay The morning soul (A alma matinal). The founder of the Communist Party of Peru was surgical when affirmed that rationalism has only served to discredit the reason. The bourgeoisie promised to humankind an era supported by reason and progress but what it did was to found another society based on the exploitation of man by man. The appearance of imperialism and its consequent evils, at the beginning of  the 20th century, coldly tore all the enlightened ideals of democracy and freedom. It could have not, amidst the storms of the imperialist war and the deep economic, moral and political crisis, go on blossoming a whimsical and accomodated intelectuality such as the Parisians’ of the Belle Époque analysed by Mariátegui.

“When the atmosphere of Europe, approaching the war, was too much full of electricity, the nerves of that sensual, hyper-aesthetics, elegant generation suffered a rare discomfort and a strange nostalgia”. Mariátegui, in this excerpt, demonstrates how the emergence of the interimperialist First World War caused a double effect among the romantic European intellectuality. On the one hand, the fear to lose la dolce vita, and, moreover, the anxiety to attend a show as if the war could be a theater play. “But the war could not be so mean”, its ammunitions are not fire blanks and the blood spilled is real. The petty bourgeoisie, used to the gracefulness of the calm nights of the European Bohemian life, could not stand the harsh costs imposed by the tanks, planes and machine guns. To the 1914 imperialist war the Russian proletariat responded with the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and, to this revolution, the great European bourgeoisie responded with Nazi-fascism and two aggression wars.

Amidst this hurricane of historic events, Mariátegui emphasises the occurrence of two different life concepts: one pre-warlike, consequently pre-imperialist, linked to the times of relatively peaceful development of capitalism and to the enlighted myths; another post-warlike, from the capitalist age, marked by the nerves on the edge, linked to the flames of the imperialist war, the revolution and the armed counter-revolution.

The bourgeoisie, awaken in fits of its civilization dreams and deprived of the Jacobin myths by the contradiction of its system, went into its more acute ideological crisis. “The crisis of the bourgeois civilization seems evident since the moment in which this civilization realised its lack of a myth”, synthesizes Mariátegui. It is in this background that the nihilistic anti-philosophy and its varied  expressions in culture start to gain room amidst the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia.

From Rouseau’s rational and civilization investigations to Nietzsche’s individualist cholera; from a vibrant literature as Victor Hugo’s; Albert Camus’ apathy and absurd; the neoclassicism objectivity and clarity to the abstract expressionism confusion, such was the decomposition process of the bourgeois civilization. Its material failure decreed its spiritual failure. From an optimistic class moved by the faith in the forging of a new world to a reactionary and outdated class. Thus, the era of the bourgeois myths was ended.

The more the bourgeoisie tries to present its decadence as the humankind decadence in general and intends to drag on all of them to its grave, there is a class that is indestructible, that belongs to the future. Mariátegui demonstrates how the Bolsheviks and the World Proletarian Revolution age have fulfilled men spiritually, something that the bourgeoisie tried to do with fascism but did not succeed.  The difference is that the proletarian ideology is the new one, whose class is destined to forge a new world as the bourgeoisie did formerly and that is why it fulfills men. It is a class that, for not possessing the property and being international, and by precisely existing at the moment in which there is a large productive, technical and scientific progress, will create a society in which there will not be exploitation of a man by another man. Its myths will only disappear when enforced.

The proletariat is the last hope of the contemporaneous civilization, it is the youth who inhabits amidst the bourgeois old things. It is a class intended to triumph – using Chairman Gonzalo’s words, the greatest alive communist – and it is because these are the history rules. The human being is a matter and while being so it is thirsty of infinite and eternity. The bourgeois society established limits to the infinite and the eternal, smoked the horizon and the perspectives of the contemporaneus man who suffers of a “exasperated and sometimes important will to believe”, citing Mariátegui. The revolutionary proletariat is responsible for solving this contradiction. The proletarian and revolutionary youth must detain alive the faith of the revolutionary flames, understanding that a stage is fulfilled not only in the human history but the in existence itself: to overcome the old bourgeois order and proceed the human development, the highest form of the matter until the present days.

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