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date: 29 March 2023

Latin American Marxism and the Atlanticfree

Latin American Marxism and the Atlanticfree

  • Andrés EstefaneAndrés EstefaneCentro de Estudios de Historia Política, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez
  •  and Luis ThielemannLuis ThielemannEscuela de Historia, Universidad Finis Terrae


Marxist thought in Latin America was impacted by various transatlantic intellectual, and social influences. The changes in Latin American Marxism can be placed in a five-stage chronological framework. The first stage, from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, encompasses the arrival of European immigrants, who introduced the first references to Marxist socialism, and the local development of that repertoire among workers, journalists, and intellectuals in the urban centers of Latin America. The initial influence of the Second International and Karl Marx’s texts started to change during the second decade of the 20th century, following the debates sparked by the Russian Revolution and the emergence of communism. This context framed the beginning of the second stage, characterized by the emergence of a group of thinkers who questioned the Eurocentric tone and the mechanical assimilation of European Marxism. Taking as a point of departure the particularity of Latin American social formations, and inspired by a strong anti-imperialist discourse, these intellectuals and revolutionary leaders aimed at developing an original reading of Marxist thinking, more pertinent to the rural and indigenous character of the continental societies and the structural legacies of the colonial past. A third stage began in the 1930s, after the fall of the Spanish Republic, the ascent of fascism and Nazism in Europe, and the ideological purges that followed the Stalinization of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The increasing influence of the Comintern (the Communist International) deactivated the creative impetus of the early 20th century, though it did not prevent the emergence of intellectuals and local organizations—led by Trotskyism and Left Opposition groups—who strongly criticized Stalinism and the bureaucratization of Soviet Communism. The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 marked the beginning of a fourth stage in the history of Latin American Marxism. That event inverted the traditional direction of the transatlantic influence, since Latin America became a landmark case for Western Marxism. In the midst of a complex and productive intercontinental dialogue with Europe, Latin American Marxism developed crucial debates on such topics as the colonial legacy of the continental capitalist development, the relationship between racial hierarchies and class struggle, and over the political “routes” to building socialist orders. These dialogues and debates came to an abrupt end after the wave of coup d’états that shook the continent between the 1960s and the 1980s. The political defeats of the attempts to construct socialist systems provoked a Marxist diaspora that brought many European intellectuals back to their own continent and sent many militants and thinkers into exile in Latin America and elsewhere. Interestingly, the evaluation of the defeat was the basis for an ample renovation of the Marxist thought, which marked the beginning of the fifth and current stage, characterized by the emergence of the Latin America’s progressive governments of the 21st century and the gradual withdrawal from the old bases of historical materialism. Although this periodization recognizes the diverse transatlantic contexts that influenced Latin American Marxism, it also seeks to highlight that the production of Marxist thinking on the continent has mainly been connected with the experience of active militants and intellectuals proscribed or marginalized in academia. By extension, the development of Latin American Marxism appears to be intimately linked to the political struggle of the continental Left, which does not negate that Latin American thinkers have also produced theoretical works on Marx.


  • History of Latin America and the Oceanic World
  • Revolutions and Rebellions
  • Intellectual History

Origins of Latin American Marxism: Immigration and Circulation of Texts (Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries)

European migrant workers, mainly from France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, brought Marxism to Latin America in the final decades of the 19th century. They introduced the first references to Marxist socialism, though socialism was not a novel term on the continent. Diverse traditions of critical thought were already circulating throughout Latin America, popular liberalism and romantic socialism among them (the latter had arrived in the first half of the 19th century, following a geographic trajectory similar to that of Marxism).1 Out of that romantic-socialist atmosphere emerged such texts as O socialismo (1855) by Jose Inácio de Abreu e Lima and also the work of the intellectuals Simón Rodríguez in the Andean republics, Esteban Echeverría in the River Plate region, and Diego Vicente Tejera in Cuba and along the Atlantic coast, among others. Those in this first vanguard attempted to answer the pressing political and social problems the region faced amid the consolidation of the republican order and the pending struggles for independence. Together, they shaped continental debates but their utopian vision was absorbed by the socialism the migrants imported, since this socialism resonated with the material transformations wrought by industrialization’s effects on the working masses and the Latin American economies.

The imported European Marxism reflected the dominant current in the international labor movement at the time—namely, German social democracy. This was a reformist interpretation of the works of Karl Marx, and this was the lens through which the first “Marxists” texts to arrive in Latin America were discussed. Among these text were the Communist Manifesto (1848), the prologue to Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), and the first volume of Capital (1867). German social democracy was a Eurocentric and evolutionist interpretation of Marx that had not yet assimilated the turn that Marx and Friedrich Engels had expressed in their writings on Ireland and in their reflections on the Russian peasantry, in which they modified the understanding of both the links between “civilized” and “backward” countries and the possibilities of revolution in the latter. Therefore, in the body of ideas received in Latin America, the development of Western capitalism was still conceived of as an expression of historical progress, and its disrupting consequences in non-European countries were understood to be necessary and uncontrollable. In this scheme, the urban working classes were perceived to be the central and preponderant revolutionary subject.2

This transference was reinforced by the experiences of the socialists and the anarchist migrants who remained on the continent. Because they tended to engage in industrial and craft activities that were predominantly located in urban settings, they had few opportunities to fully realize how rooted and extended the agrarian structure and the indigenous culture were. There was therefore no immediate reason to think that peasants and the indigenous population could be part of the revolutionary scheme or that it was necessary to develop a local Marxism that was off-centered from Europe.

Therefore, two distinct groups shaped the reception and diffusion of Marx’s ideas in Latin America. One was an immigrant contingent made up of literate workers and craftsmen, who generally had organizing experience, pockets full of political literature, and connections to networks of European comrades; the other was a native contingent comprising professionals, intellectuals, and workers connected by a shared diagnosis of the “social question” and a sort of optimism regarding the analytical and political yield of the materialist conception of history.3 It must be noted that this crossing took place amid increasing social struggles, which had a strong impact on the future profile of Latin American Marxist theory. Although this theory may at first seem to have resulted from an abstract political elaboration, it was, in fact, strongly situated in the workers’ daily struggle. It was in the scenario in which the first political organizations of workers came into being, in parallel to the development of a kindred print and proletarian culture. This process showed a particular dynamism in the Latin American ports that faced the Atlantic Ocean, where the spread of Marxist ideas was more intense and diverse than in the Pacific, where they were slower to take hold.

The experience of the Paris Commune (1871) emerges as one of the catalytic events in the recognition of Marxism (and of the figure of Marx) in Latin America. This influence crystallized, in 1872, in the organization of the French section of the International Workingmen’s Association, boosted by exiled communards in Buenos Aires.4 Several authors also mention as a milestone an early translation of the Communist Manifesto that was published in a Mexican workers’ newspaper in 1870, though the best-known translation is the one by Juan Mata Rivera, in 1884, also in Mexico.5

It is important to note that this first wave of Marxism was not the only political current available to the organized working classes of the continent in forming their experience of subalternity. Jose Aricó claims that by this time, Marxism would have been little more than a frontier with respect to anarchism and bourgeois democracy, and that for Latin American socialists, Marx actually was one among many “in a vast cluster of social reformers which the deficient Spanish translations translated badly from French.”6 The anarchist tradition was the main counterpart of reformist socialism from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, both in the Southern Cone (where Errico Malatesta and Pietro Gori were actively disseminating the ideology) and in the southern half of North America (thanks to the tireless activities of the Flores Magón brothers).7

The networks forged by the first immigrants were quickly reinforced and enriched by the systematic exchange of texts and translations between Europe and Latin America. Particularly important were the Madridian interpretations of Marx’s and Engels’ works, which situated Spain as a key bridge between European and Latin American Marxism. Among the reasons for this was, of course, the linguistic affinity between Spain and Latin America, but also the fact that Spain was also a crucial point of entry to Europe from the Atlantic and one of the main exit points from Europe to South America. Similarly relevant was the direct and mediated reading of the magazine Die Neue Zeit, founded in Stuttgart, in 1883, by Karl Kautsky, which consolidated the hegemony of the German Social Democratic Party in the labor movement in light of the configuration of the Second International (1889).8 In fact, Die Neue Zeit had correspondents in Latin America, among them the German Pablo Zierold, in Mexico, and his compatriot Germán Avé-Lallemant, in Argentina. It also had well-known subscribers, such as the socialist Juan Bautista Justo, who translated several articles of the magazine for the Bonaerensean workers’ newspaper La Vanguardia.9

The last decade of the 19th century was key in the consolidation of Marxism among Latin American workers and intellectuals. In 1890, Germán Avé-Lallemant founded the Marxist newspaper El Obrero in Buenos Aires, which joined in the propaganda work the German immigrants had been doing since 1882 via the socialist club Verein Vorwärts and a weekly German-language magazine they published between 1886 and 1901.10 The first edition of the already mentioned La Vanguardia appeared in 1894, edited by Juan B. Justo. Along with updating the developments in international socialism, echoing the ongoing discussions in France and Italy, La Vanguardia paved the way for the creation of the Socialist Workers’ Party of Argentina, in 1896. This consolidated Justo’s standing as a socialist of international importance. His fame was crowned in 1898 in Madrid, with the publication of his celebrated translation of the first volume of Capital into Spanish, the first one done from the original German version.11

The intellectual influence of the immigrants, concentrated in the most dynamic centers of capitalist development on the continent, explains why in this period the debates of the European socialist parties were the main references for the Latin American working organizations. That influence was crucial for the challenge of interpreting the local formation of a modern proletariat, as well as for the task of organizing and defending workers by creating autonomous political parties, at least in terms of ideology and structure. Thus began the slow transition of Latin American Marxism from a mythology of redemption to an instrument for the interpretation and transformation of reality, stimulating the active preparation of workers in the light of the revolutionary crisis that was on the horizon.12

Toward the early 20th century, with the help of such thinkers as Juan B. Justo, there were efforts to overcome the mechanical assimilation of Marxism by putting it into dialogue with the study of the social conditions of each country, but the Eurocentrist imprint of the initial reception continued to influence the local reading of the Marxist thought. From there it must be understood the symptomatic invisibility of the Mexican Revolution (1910–1917) in the early development of Latin American Marxism.13 The agrarian and peasant character of the Mexican Revolution certainly alienated it from the “modern” (i.e., urban and industrial) interpretation that by then dominated international socialist analysis; likewise, the difficulties the development of Marxism confronted in Mexico during the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, prevented the elaboration of a local synthesis that would break the ideological blockade. That partly explains why Mexican Marxism only gained greater traction in the early 20th century, notwithstanding the vitality it had shown in the 1880s. This also helps explain the undisputed gravitation of Argentina as the main center of development for theoretical Marxism at the turn of the century.

The Impact of the Russian Revolution, the Emergence of Communism and the Creative Stage of Latin American Marxism (1910s–1930s)

Undoubtedly, the influence of the Second International had helped to bridge the gap between European and Latin American Marxism, but it also meant the delay of crucial debates on the continent. This situation began to change in the first decades of the 20th century thanks to several attempts at developing a political reflection that was more pertinent to Latin America. From this point onward European Marxism was continuously challenged by national concerns, the indigenous question, and the predominant agrarian condition of the continent. There was also an important change in the content of this international influence after the Russian Revolution (1917), which altered the understanding of the role that colonial and non-European countries could play in the anti-imperialist and anticapitalist struggles and in the worldwide revolutionary process, as well. Likewise, the early diffusion of Leninism established a clear divide inside the socialist-affiliated movements, locating reformists on one side and revolutionaries on the other. The distinction was important in the recomposition of the political spectrum following the First World War. At the same time, immigrants kept their ties to Europe alive and continued translating Marxist texts produced in different contexts and languages into Spanish. Lastly, the consolidation of several modern capitalist centers in Latin America by the second decade of the 20th century, sparked the development of a strong and well-organized labor movement that captured Europe’s attention.

The creation of the Communist International, in 1919, which signaled a radical departure from the social democratic seal of the Second International, and the subsequent bolshevization of the global revolutionary forces, which pulled in anarchists, anarcho-unionists, and diverse existing socialist parties, opened up new horizons for Latin American Marxist organizations. Communist parties began appearing all over the region (Argentina, 1918; Mexico, 1919; Uruguay, 1920; Chile and Brazil, 1922; Cuba, 1925; Ecuador, 1926; Peru, 1928; Colombia and El Salvador, 1930), typically following visits by their founders to revolutionary Russia. There then emerged remarkable efforts in continental thinking anchored in Marxism and directed toward revolutionary political action. Early on, the Communist International encouraged identification between the Western proletariat and the non-European “oppressed countries,” recognizing the pertinence of the “revolutionary route” to liberating the latter and admitting the possibility of a transition to socialism without passing through the capitalist stage.14 In 1921 and 1923, the Communist International issued two declarations that were direct appeals to “the masses of South America.” These declarations not only urged Latin Americans to organize Communist parties but also promoted a kind of unionism that was compatible with the Red International Labor Unions (Profintern) and called for workers and peasants to unite, against both the national bourgeoisies and the United States (whose hegemony on the continent had been reinforced in the aftermath of World War I).15

The revolutionary role of non-European societies that early Leninism had promoted was however quickly reversed into the rehabilitation of workers’ leadership inside doctrinaire Marxism. Nonetheless, the recognition of that role sufficed to open up a fissure that coincided with a remarkably creative period in Latin American Marxism in the 1920s and 1930s. The revolutionaries Luis Emilio Recabarren, Julio Antonio Mella, and José Carlos Mariátegui stand out as the main figures of this period.

Leader and referent for the Chilean labor movement, Luis Emilio Recabarren played a key role in establishing the affiliation between the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Communist International in 1922. His relation with socialism had taken shape in the 1910s in connection with the Argentine, Spanish, and Belgian experiences, as well as with the Guesdist current. Recabarren articulated an evolutionist and libertarian socialism, with a strong emphasis on laborism and internationalism, which somehow distanced him from national and agrarian concerns. Although Recabarren recognized the value of the triumph of the October Revolution and promoted the affiliation of his party with the Communist International, he remained attentive to the distance between the Russian experience—which he had seen firsthand in 1922—and the real-life conditions of the Chilean working classes. Therefore, and at least until his suicide in 1924, he kept the Communist Party of Chile autonomous from the Comintern. His role as political leader was inspired by a reflexive mediation of the relationship between the local proletariat and the international labor movement instead of a mechanical assimilation of the latter’s orientations.16

Julio Antonio Mella, one of the founders of the Communist Party of Cuba, was another pivotal figure in the effort to elaborate a critical assimilation of Marxism. Mella was an early incarnation of the figure of the young-revolutionary-intellectual-turned-martyr: he was assassinated in January 1929, at the age of 26. His political convictions, centered on the links between proletarian revolution and national liberation, were the basis for an analytically well-founded anti-imperialism that led him to harsh criticism of local bourgeoisies as accomplices of foreign domination; for the same reason, he viewed with suspicion any call to forge temporary alliances with bourgeois democracies. That thinking explains his strong support for the resistance movement led by Augusto C. Sandino, to the U.S. military occupation in Nicaragua, which inspired the anti-imperialist convictions of many militants of his generation.17

Julio Antonio Mella promoted the unity among workers, peasants, students, and progressive intellectuals, and in keeping with his internationalism, he focused on the need to understand regional transformation from a locally situated analysis of its structures. For that task, Marxism was an instrument, and not a prescriptive theory. “We do certainly not want that Marxism be in Latin America imitation and copy,” he declared. “It must be [a] heroic creation. We must give life, with our own reality, in our language, to Indoamerican socialism.”18 This type of assertion epitomized the tensions between Marxist Eurocentrism and the vindication of a Latin American particularism, a central issue in the emergence of dividing lines within Latin American Marxism. Mella, in fact, fought head-to head against the “national populist” framework of intellectuals such as Peruvian Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre, an admirer of the Mexican Revolution and the founder of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, who transitioned from attempting to adapt Marxism to Latin America to negating and overcoming it. The rise of an Indoamerican particularism was one of the main drivers of Haya de la Torre’s turn away from orthodox Marxism. This ended up relegating him to the margins of Marxist thought on the continent, though he remained a relevant actor within the ideological repertoire of the Latin American left.19

Recabarren, Mella, and, later, such thinkers as Aníbal Ponce, in Argentina, and Vicente Lombardo Toledano, in Mexico, made important contributions to the foundation establishment of Latin American Marxism as a distinct tradition. But Peruvian José Carlos Mariátegui, in particular carried out that task with great sophistication. Heir to the sociopolitical critique of his countryman Manuel González Prada, Mariátegui began his engagement with Marxism and communism after a stay in Italy (1920–1923), where he was introduced to the historicism of Benedetto Croce, the Marxism of Antonio Labriola, the antifascism of Piero Gobetti, and also the works of George Sorel and Henri Bergson, symbols of the crisis of European positivism. Inspired by that intellectual setting, from which also emerged some critiques of the strong economic determinism of certain Marxist circles, Mariátegui initiated his original effort at Marxist re-elaboration. Back in Peru, he made contact with workers’ organizations, the student movement, and those in the artistic vanguard, and he also started to reflect on the “indigenous question.” His heterodox Marxism—skeptical of positivism and economic reductionism and receptive to subjectivity, voluntarism, and the revolutionary pathos—consolidated in those crossings. Although his synthesis was both praised and criticized by his contemporaries, he was able to give weight to the idea of an eminently native Marxism.20

Reflecting on the way imperialism functioned in its alliances with national bourgeoisies, Mariátegui discarded the categories colonial and semicolonial in understanding Latin American social formations. He developed an approach to the “national question” that was very different from the dominant one taken by the Communist International. In the dogmatic vision, the problem revolved around the liberation of oppressed or subjugated nations, but Mariátegui’s Peru seemed not to fit in that depiction. On the contrary, in Peru there had never been any real national project, so any movement in that direction had to be linked with the promise of a socialist revolution. It was in producing that diagnosis that Mariátegui took key steps to purge the Eurocentrist tendencies from the continental critique.21

Crucial for this elaboration was Mariátegui’s early relationship with the subaltern masses. This experience had inspired an antihegemonic vision of history that not only allowed him to perceive the processes of conformation and crisis in the popular sectors clearly, but also to trust in their capacity to forge their own autonomy. His views led to his estrangement from Haya de la Torre and the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, with whom he had coincided, partially because of the Alliance’s nationalism and recognition of the masses as the historical subjects for revolutionary transformation. But the association became impossible when Haya de la Torre denied that proletarians and peasants had the capacity “to construct themselves autonomously as political subjects,” and positioned the State as the ultimate space of articulation.22 Thereafter, Mariátegui started to develop his own national diagnosis, his harsh critique of the historical incapacity of the bourgeoisie, and his rehabilitation of the indigenous world. Those ideas, processed through the radical historicism he had assimilated in Italy, were the backbone of his main work, Siete ensayos de interpretación de la realidad peruana (Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality), published in 1928. In those pages he countered the historical marginalization of the indigenous peasantry in the Peruvian elitist national project and rescued the “agrarian communism” of the Inca society (in line with Marx and Engels’ reconsiderations of the Russian mir) as a timely immunization against liberal individualism. Mariátegui addressed the indigenous question from a class perspective that smoothed the way for its inclusion on the revolutionary horizon:

All the theses about the problem of the Indian that fail or elude recognizing it as a socio-economic problem . . . have served merely to hide or to distort the reality of the problem. The socialist critique exposes and clarifies it because it looks for its causes in the country’s economy, and not in its administrative, legal or ecclesiastical machinery, neither in the racial dualism or plurality, nor in its cultural and moral conditions. The indigenous question starts from our economy. It has its roots in the land tenure system. Any attempt to solve it with administrative or police measures, with education or road building projects, is a superficial or secondary effort as long as the feudalism of the gamonales continues to exist.23

By means of this reconsideration of the “problem of the Indian,” rooted in the weight of the Andean colonial past, Mariátegui elaborated a radical critique of both latifundism and the humanist approaches to the conflict, positioning the indigenous people as a “strategic social force for every socialist project of transformation.”24

Besieged by the critique of the Latin American Communist parties and Peruvian socialist groups—which were strongly attached to the positions of the Communist International—and disagreeing with his old comrades in the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, Mariátegui distanced himself from both uncritical receptions of Marxism and simplistic efforts at adaptation. He insisted on the importance of subjectivity, conviction, revolutionary pathos, and first and foremost of human will. The latter was crucial in deepening his opposition to dogmatic Marxism and the fatalism of mechanistic and plainly rationalist views. Those were some of the issues he addressed in Defensa del marxismo (Defense of Marxism; 1928–1929), in which he confronted the positions of European contemporaries such as Henri de Man and Max Eastman.25

This second stage in the history of Latin American Marxism drew to a close with the failed insurrections led by the Communist forces of El Salvador and Brazil, in 1932 and 1935, respectively. These were distinctive events because they preceded both the complete Stalinization of the Communist parties and the inauguration of the Popular Front era after the 7th Congress of the Communist International, in 1935. Farabundo Martí was the central figure in the first of these insurrections. He took the lead of an armed mass uprising of peasants that had a clearly socialist program and organized without support of the Communist International. The lack of coordination of the movement facilitated its neutralization at the hands of the government and the white guards of the oligarchy. The rebellion ended with a wave of executions popularly known as “La Matanza,” which took the lives of 20,000 men, women, and children in the rebellious rural zones.

In contrast to the Salvadoran experience, the insurrection in Brazil that took place three years later counted on the consent of the Communist International and was fundamentally a military uprising that lacked any discernible popular backing. Organized by the Alianza Nacional Libertadora (National Liberation Alliance) led by Luis Carlos Prestes, the uprising had relied on the support of some progressive sectors of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, based on its relatively moderate program. This support dissipated, however, once the uprising began, leaving its leaders and followers vulnerable to the acts of repression, torture, and massive imprisonments with which the government crushed the conspiracy. Programmatically speaking, this movement somehow dovetailed with and announced the political discourse of the Popular Front era, but its insurrectional character put it outside this emerging set of alliances. Nonetheless, it marked the transition to a new period in Latin American communism, characterized by the strong influence of the Third International and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.26 This coincided with the reversal of the first creative phase in the history of Latin American Marxism, which was partly compensated for by the progressive academization of Marxist concerns, though this was at the expense of its political penetration among popular sectors.

Latin American Marxism and the European Crisis: Between Stalinism and the Antifascist Exile (1930s–1950s)

The mid-1930s opened up a new phase in the history of transatlantic influences that informed Latin American Marxism. The fall of the Spanish Republic, the ascent of fascism and Nazism in Europe, and the ideological purges that followed the Stalinization of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union led to the expulsion from Europe of a large and diverse group of Marxist militants, who took their political experience with them to Latin America. Scattered in university positions, journalism, and publishing, this new group of immigrants—who were often of a different social background that the first carriers of European Marxism—contributed to the dissemination of Marxist ideas—and the assimilation of some misinterpretations as well. Important for furthering this objective was the circulation of local translations of the main works of Western Marxism. Spaniard Wenceslao Roces and the Fondo de Cultura Económica publishing house of Mexico were untiring agents of this translation policy.27

After Mariátegui’s death, in 1930, and the deactivation of the creative phase, an important current of Latin American Marxist thinking, specifically the one linked to communist circles, tended to follow the directions derived from the Soviet intervention in European politics. The first strategy was the formation of Popular Fronts, gathering together communist, socialist, and democratic-bourgeois parties. This plan, which had disparate results throughout the continent, implied a transitory reactivation of the anti-imperialist agenda in the local political programs, but the topic lost relevance when the United States and the Soviet Union became allies against Nazi Germany during World War II. The beginning of the Cold War in the late 1940s altered the situation yet again, this time to the detriment of the communist militants, who began to experience political marginalization and legal proscription on the part of their former allies. The intense anticommunist offensive sponsored by the United States was forcefully felt in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, feeding a generalized anticommunism that soaked deeply into Latin American political culture.28

The hegemony of Stalinism and the Third International—until its dissolution in 1943—met resistance in Latin America in the form of the emergence of Left Opposition and Trotskyist groups, demonstrating how the global debates within international Marxism took place at the local level. The first Trotskyist organizations began to form in the early 1930s in Brazil and Chile, following different paths. In Brazil, the original Grupo Comunista Lenine (Lenine Communist Group), which later changed denominations, albeit maintaining its programmatic line, managed to bring together socialists, unionists, and militants from the Communist Party of Brazil. In Chile, the Left Opposition arose in 1933 from a split in the local Communist Party, but in 1936, a majority of the group decided to fuse with the Socialist Party, leaving behind a fraction that the following year organized the Chilean Revolutionary Workers Party, which was active until the 1960s.29

It was in Bolivia and, to lesser extent, Argentina that Trotskyism achieved a more sustained and lasting penetration, as it established a firm hold among workers and in union circles. The reception of Trotskyism in the Andean nation was related to the dramatic consequences of the Chaco War (1932–1935) between Bolivia and Paraguay and the exile of the opponents of the war to Chile. The Bolivian Revolutionary Workers Party emerged in 1935 out of that crisis, initially under the leadership of José Aguirre and then Guillermo Lora. The party played an important role in the mobilization of miners and peasants during the 1952 Bolivian Revolution. The presence of Trotskyism, reinforced by Trotsky’s exile to Mexico (1937–1940) and the creation of the Fourth International in 1938, opened a flank that permanently questioned the bureaucratization of Soviet communism; it also opposed the policy of forming antifascist alliances promoted by the Comintern and the neutralization of the imperialist critique forced by that very strategy. Likewise, the theory of “permanent revolution” updated the debate on both the necessity of the capitalist phase as an unavoidable prelude and the role of non-European nations in the global revolution. These were critical points of dissent with respect to the official doctrines of Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party.30

The critique of Stalinism also had individual exponents, including Marxist intellectuals in academic and journalistic circles. The 1940s and 1950s was a particularly prolific period for the elaboration of studies that criticized the application of schematic categories to the understanding of Latin American socioeconomic formations, mainly with respect to the interpretation of Latin American agrarian history through the lens of European feudalism. Historians such as Caio Prado Jr. and Sergio Bagú from Brazil (though the latter wrote in Argentina and Mexico, where he had gone into exile) and Marcello Segall from Chile defended the eminently capitalist though colonial character of the continental economic structure; on the other hand, the Argentine Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno insisted on the coexistence between the capitalist patterns of functioning imposed by the colonizing forces and non-capitalist relations of production.31 In the realm of Marxist sociology, the works by Argentine Silvio Frondizi were equally relevant.

The great paradox in the local Marxist thinking during this period was that its well-known impact on the ideological and cultural spheres, which helped to create a strong bond of identification with Latin American intellectuals and artists, did not have a comparable repercussion in the reformulation of the revolutionary political horizon. The hegemony of Stalinism, on the one hand, and the increasing distancing of an important part of the Marxist intelligentsia from the workers’ daily lives, on the other, created a gap that eventually neutralized the political potential of Marxism. In the words of Jose Aricó: “Neither [do] the studies on national or continental realities from a Marxist perspective sustain the programmatic proposals of the left forces, nor do these proposals demand such studies for their construction. Marxism bifurcated into an academic science apparently neutral as any other, and into a legitimizing ideology of action programs constructed on the basis of aprioristic models.”32

The 1950s brought about important changes that radically altered that bifurcated Marxism. The death of Stalin in 1953 and the revelations that followed the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in 1956 were severe setbacks that impacted Latin American Communism, unleashing defections and re-accommodations that eventually altered the foundations of Latin American Marxist thinking. Another crucial event was the failure of the national-democratic revolution in Guatemala (1954) headed by Jacobo Arbenz, which reactivated the anti-imperialist discourse because the United States had been involved in Arbenz’s downfall. But the key episode took place in Cuba, in 1959, with the triumph of the revolution led by Fidel Castro. In the short term, the Cuban Revolution offered a geographical and more politically pertinent inspiration for Latin America than the exhausted and hackneyed echoes of the Bolshevik Revolution.

From the Cuban Revolution to the Popular Unity in Chile: Latin America as a Hub of Marxist Thinking (1959–1973)

In January 1959, with the fall of Fulgencio Batista’s regime and the triumphant entry of the barbudos (bearded ones) into Havana, the processes ushered in by the Cuban Revolution began. From that point until the fall of Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity government in Chile after the 1973 coup d’état, Latin America became the benchmark for Western Marxism, inverting therefore the direction of the previous learning journeys. These years were the heyday of the left’s greatest anti-imperialist and revolutionary action in the history of the continent. Local and naturalized Marxist thinkers faced the pressure of having to respond to the questions this political scenario imposed upon them.

Latin American Marxism in the 1960s and 1970s was engaged in a complex and productive intercontinental dialogue, with Europe mainly, but also with Asia and, to a lesser extent, with Africa.

A crucial element of the connection to Asia, for example, was the reception of the ideas of Chinese communism. Even though there were direct interchanges between Latin America and the leaders of Chinese Revolution throughout the Pacific, anchored in such countries as Mexico, Bolivia, and Peru, the French reading of Maoism and the impact of the Chinese case on Europe was key in this process.33 Collectives emerged in Chile (1966) and Argentina (1968) under the label of the Revolutionary Communist Party (PCR), which gave a voice and political visibility to the Chinese challenge to pro-Soviet Communism. An important group of intellectuals emerged around these parties, among them Beatriz Sarlo, Carlos Altamirano, and Sergio Grez Toso.34

By these years, several events expanded the dialogue to the Atlantic. On the one hand, there was the intellectual and pedagogic role of Marta Harnecker; on the other hand, there were the publications of the Argentinian journal Pasado y Presente (Past and Present) and the Cuban Pensamiento Crítico (Critical Thinking).

Harnecker, who had been a Catholic militant in her youth, had embraced Marxism after traveling to Cuba and joining Louis Althusser’s research group in Paris, in 1962. Upon returning to Chile, in 1968, she became a member of the Socialist Party and from that platform developed a sustained program of disseminating Marxist theory and socialist political texts. Hernecker’s particular Marxist training—continental, structuralist, and communist—gave rise to a book that is still in print, Los conceptos elementales del materialismo histórico (1969).35 Conceived of as a handbook, it formally synthesizes the role she assigned to theory in the revolutionary political struggle. As Harnecker said fifteen years after the publication of the first edition, “We are fully conscious of our responsibility. An important part of the Latin American youth got into Marxism through this work and we do not know how many will do so in the future.”36

The publication of Pasado y Presente, in 1963, marked one of the first retrievals of the writings of the Italian Antonio Gramsci in Latin America. José Aricó, a member of the journal’s editorial staff, declared, “We found in Italian Marxism, and in Gramsci in particular, a point of support, a solid ground from which to venture—without contradicting either our socialist ideals or the confidence in the critical capacity of Marxism—into the most dissimilar theoretical constructions.”37 The Pasado y Presente staff, which included Juan Carlos Portantiero and Aricó among its main figures, was influenced by Italian migrants, such Rodolfo Mondolfo, and also by Héctor Pablo Agosti, one of the first translators of Gramsci in Latin America. For Portantiero, the translatability of Gramsci into the Argentine reality, and by extension into the continent, was the main reason for using the Sardinian thinker’s writings to rethink the Marxist strategy.38 The members of Pasado y Presente were expelled from the Communist Party of Argentina after the publication of the first issue of the journal, and it was closed down in 1965, though it began publishing again in 1973.

The most important Latin American journal of these years was Pensamiento Crítico, based in Havana. Published monthly under the direction of Fernando Martínez Heredia, Pensamiento Crítico sharply chronicled the emergence of an alternative Left during the agitations of the sixties, trying to connect the global developments in that political thinking to the questions and demands of the paradigmatic revolutionary Cuba. Pensamiento Crítico became a hub for Marxist and revolutionary intellectuals from all over the Western world. It published European intellectuals of such standing as Lucio Colleti, Perry Anderson, Michael Löwy, Harry Magdof, Lucio Magri, Nicos Poulantzas, Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre, and Paul M. Sweezy, among others. Despite its short life (1967–1971), Pensamiento Crítico published a total of fifty-three issues and became a crucial hub of development for Marxist thinking at both a regional and a global level.39

At this stage, the term “Latin American Marxism” was more tied to the geographic and political scenario this theoretical elaboration served than it was to the continent of origin of its theoreticians. In this particular exchange, Marxism focused on seminal topics for the Latin American Left—that is, the pervasiveness of the colonial condition in the local capitalist development, the intricate relationship between racial hierarchies and class struggle, and the debates on the violent or peaceful—democratic or Jacobin—character of the political routes to building socialist systems in the continent.

For Latin American Marxism, the specific conditions of the continent—as Mariátegui and his contemporaries had emphasized—were determined by the weight of the colonial past. In the sixties, the problem of colonialism returned to center stage when the Cuban Revolution defined itself as “anti-imperialist” and also because of the stepped up intervention of the United States throughout the continent. When Latin American revolutionaries thought about the class composition of the social base in an eventual socialist revolution, or when they reflected about the economic form the revolution would have to adopt after it had seized power, it was unavoidable that the colonial condition had to be taken into account. Thus, toward the 1960s Latin America’s capitalist development started to be conceived as dependent on the advanced capitalism of the Northern Hemisphere. This elaboration was not strange to Marxism. During the same years, Western Europe was also experiencing the recovery and positioning of the concept of “socioeconomic formation” (by Althusser, first, and then by Perry Anderson for historiography) as a way to identify the dominant and subordinate forms of production in a given society. Defining the socioeconomic formation of the regions in which these debates were emerging became thus a priority for many intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic.

Since dependentista Marxism questioned the idea of economic development as stages of progression, it rejected the representation of Latin American economies as backward relative to the advanced capitalist nations. On the contrary, it depicted a hierarchical relationship in which the interests of Latin American economies were subordinate to the interests of the latter; therefore, the poverty and precariousness of Latin America was the consequence of the Northern Hemisphere’s historical wealth. Among the leading exponents of the dependentista thinking were Enzo Faletto, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Osvaldo Sunkel, Theotonio Dos Santos, Ruy Mauro Marini, and Vania Bambirra, along with the Europeans André Gunder Frank and Immanuel Wallerstein.40

The capitalist penetration of the dominant Northern Hemisphere, the incapacity of local bourgeoisies to play a leading role, the overexploitation of the workforce, and the global pressures to re-primarize the Latin American economy made questions of coloniality persistently present for these Marxist researchers. Marini defined this permanence as follows:

Forged in the heat of the commercial expansion the nascent capitalism promoted in the 16th century, Latin America developed closely aligned to the dynamics of international capital. As a colonial producer of precious metals and exotic fabrics, Latin America contributed at first to increase the flow of goods and to the expansion of the money supply, which, while allowing the development of commercial and banking capital in Europe, sustained the European manufacturing system and paved the way for the creation of a large industry. The Industrial Revolution, which will give birth to such industry, correspond to the political independence in Latin America; conquered in the early 19th century, that movement will give rise to a set of countries, founded on the basis of the demographic and administrative web woven in the Colonial era, that will begin to gravitate around England. The flows of merchandise, and later of capitals, have in England their junction: ignoring each other, the new countries will deal directly with the English metropolis and, in function of its requirements, they will enter to produce and to export primary goods in exchange of consumer manufactures and debts when exports surpasses the imports.41

The particular racial physiognomy of the continent was another of the central subjects of Latin American Marxism. The specific question it tried to answer had to do with a class struggle whose historical form was defined by racial criteria, which for centuries the Spanish metropolitan state had applied to classify the population of colonial Latin America. The Afro-descendant revolts in the United States from the 1950s on, as well as the visibility the ongoing Cuban Revolution gave to the Caribbean population, put racial differences back at the forefront of Latin American Marxists’ agenda. Among the first intellectuals to deal with the racial problem was the Martinique Communist Aimé Césaire, who would develop the concept of “blackness” emphasizing the Afro-descendant and colonial particularity of the Caribbean.42 Although Césaire wrote in French and his political life was linked to Europe more than to the American continent, he was a strong influence on Frantz Fanon, also from Martinique, whose works were translated into Spanish in Cuba during the 1960s, with notable repercussions. The central subjects of Fanon’s Marxist thinking were the psychopathologies of coloniality and the “blackness” of the Caribbean Afro-descendants, and the influence of the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre (who wrote the prologue to The Wretched of the Earth) is clear.43 In Black Skin, White Masks, another major work, Fanon used the tools of psychoanalysis, well known among the white upper and middle classes of the continent, to understand how coloniality and racism worked at the time. He argued that more than a political prejudice against skin color, racism was a cultural and social subordination that required the cooperation of the dominated.44 After taking part in the liberation wars of Algeria, Fanon became ill with leukemia, and he died in the United States, in 1961, at the age of thrity-five. He became one of the central figures in the Marxist tradition, particularly after the 1980s, when postcolonial theorists took up his legacy.

The racial problem was also addressed in the Andean countries, resuming the path that Mariátegui had opened. The popular movements in the Andean world, as well as the revolution led by the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement in Bolivia from 1952 on, demonstrated the growing role of the subaltern classes. This ascent of the popular movement opened for Latin American Marxism the problem of the social bases of the revolution, given that its indigenous composition and its agrarian character blurred the classic socialist strategies elaborated for urban, industrialized, and racially homogeneous societies. Bolivian Fausto Reinaga was a key figure in this changing scenario. A member of a high-ranking indigenous family, Reinaga was sent to Oruro at a young age for education and, in time, led the community of the Colquechaca district. There he joined the Communist Party of Bolivia, becoming one of the main theorists of communist Marxism in Latin America. After traveling through Europe and being arrested in Uruguay upon his return, Reinaga experienced a political and theoretical change that led him to embrace indigenismo (pro-indigenous positions) and to abandon Marxism after deciding that it was alien to the Andean culture. The problem of the indigenous peculiarity of the Bolivian subaltern classes not only turned Reinaga into a critic of Marxism; it also led him to develop a specific way of thinking, resuming the agenda of earlier Andean Marxists, such as Haya de la Torre. Reinaga named his reflections the “Amáutico thinking” and his political project “the Indian revolution.”45

The most intensive discussion during the 1960s revolved around the “routes” to constructing socialist systems in the region. Considering internal dissent, there were two main factions: the defenders of the armed route and those that promoted the electoral-institutional way. This discussion was in turn strongly determined by the debate between Marxist economists and sociologists on the nature of the economy of the continent. Supporters of the armed route based their arguments on the incapacity of national bourgeoisies to sustain a process of democratic revolution as a prelude to socialist construction. They suggested that an armed seizure of power had the virtue of taking advantage of the historical weakness of Latin American states instead of simply waiting in vain for the (improbable) modernizing action of the local bourgeoisies. Those who advocated the institutional route followed a more structuralist reading of the economic backwardness of the continent. For them, it was an unavoidable requirement in any socialist endeavor that the people had to take power in alliance with the national bourgeoisies—whose interests were considered contradictory to those of the advanced capitalist countries. They believed that this alliance would fortify the state and help to strengthen the basis of the economy before the transition to socialism.

Two emblematic processes illustrated both positions: the Cuban Revolution (1959) and the Popular Unity government led by Salvador Allende in Chile (1970–1973). While several political currents of the so-called New Left defended the armed route, the Communist parties and their allies sustained the institutional or gradualist tactic. Lenin’s thinking gained a renewed importance in this debate, both in its Jacobin aspects and in its discussion of what to do with the state in case of the triumph of any of the “routes.” Indeed, Lenin’s works were quoted as a starting point for reflecting on the problem of power in its variegated expressions: voting, the popular masses, the armed path, and the institutional frame. The debate on the alternate paths also elevated iconic figures. On the gradualist side were Salvador Allende of Chile and Rodney Arismendi of the Communist Party of Uruguay; on the side of the armed route, and with a relatively greater visibility, were Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Régis Debray.

The experience on the other side of the Atlantic was important in this strategic discussion. The development of the Communist Party of Italy, with its mass and popular national politics, was an important referent and point of support for the gradualist position; at the same time, the political stagnation of the European communist parties immersed in Western parliamentary institutions and the critique of the new European Marxism of the 1960s served as factual and theoretical bases for the armed strategies in Latin American countries. Yet despite these differences, the debate over the routes was not really a debate. Gradualists never ceased to defend the right of the subaltern classes on the continent to pursue violence, and the defenders of the armed route were bolstered by the failures of the democratic attempts. Thus, while Allende qualified his government as a prelude to a “transition toward socialism” and gave refuge to the survivors of the Che guerrilla movement in Bolivia, Arismendi said that Latin America was in “a revolutionary situation of a general type.” Although he recognized the divisions within the ranks, he insisted in 1969:

This is not about settling the rightness of one category or another. It seems more important to us to notice that our continent moves—in the midst of hard and bloody fights—toward ever higher phases of its revolutionary feat and that, in such conditions, the role of the vanguard of the parties, the unity of the working and anti-imperialist forces, and international solidarity can define the course of events.46

Ernesto “Che” Guevara, meanwhile, would insist until his death, in 1967, on the importance of military training for the members of the vanguard, but of a kind that would go beyond a straightforward understanding of the military to emphasize the subjective transformation the Marxist vanguard had to undergo by experiencing guerrilla fighting. In his writings on the Cuban Revolution and guerrilla warfare, Che Guevara developed the archetype of the revolutionary soldier, a combatant who had become the “new man”—an ideal type in moral and intellectual terms—and who knew the indispensable modern techniques to promote the material development of a country under socialism. “To build Communism,” Guevara asserted, “along with the material base, it is necessary to create the new man.”47 After Guevaras’s death, Régis Debray further developed the Marxist guerrilla theory. An ex-member of the Socialist Party of France and a follower of Louis Althusser, Debray elaborated the theory of the “guerrilla foco” as the catalyst for socialist revolution in Latin America. Debray’s theory derived from his personal experience accompanying Guevara in his last experiment in Bolivia, as well as from the reflections the triumph the Cuban Revolution had sparked. Later, Debray was in Chile when it was being ruled by the Popular Unity government and was a critic of the Chilean “New Left,” writing continuously in the journal Punto Final. His critical interview with Allende became a notorious reflection of the debate between the two “routes.” Indeed, their dialogue clarifies both the political differences between the strategies and the way they understood each other:

  • Debray:
    You know how in the overall picture of Latin America your image is being used as a counterbalance to those of Fidel and Che. What do you think of those who say that what just happened in Chile gives the lie to the thesis of the people’s war, to the validity of armed struggle, shall we say, elsewhere?
  • Allende:
    I said it just before our victory. The revolutionary struggle may be found in the guerrilla foco or in urban insurrection; it may be the people’s war and it may be an insurgence through the polling booths; it depends on the content it is given. In some countries, there is no alternative to the armed struggle: where there are no parties, no trade unions, where there is dictatorship, who is going to believe in the possibility of an electoral victory? There, elections offer no hope. And those people, these revolutionaries, have to reach their objective.
  • Debray:
    Personally, I have seen and felt your victory as an encouragement to continue the struggle, come what may.
  • Allende:
    Of course, that’s the right interpretation to put on it.48

But the discussion in the tumultuous Latin America of the sixties was not only about the routes. The debate on the subjective and technical construction of socialism acquired extreme importance in the Chile of the Popular Unity. Under Allende’s government a myriad of international Marxist figures visited or moved to the country, and they saw in the Popular Unity project the opportunity to test Marxist theories and to contribute their knowledge to the new society. Brazilian exiles Ruy Mauro Marini and Theotonio Dos Santos and Argentines, such as Juan Carlos “Lito” Marín, were among them. Europe also contributed, with a contingent of intellectuals and technicians who came to assist the Popular Unity government and fortify the Marxist debates within the continent. Michèle and Armand Mattelart, the theologian and economist Franz Hinkelammert, and Marxist-oriented researchers, such as the sociologist Alain Touraine, were among the most important of these.

But the debates that had taken place from the 1950s on experienced a turn after the wave of coup d’états that shook the continent between the 1960s and the 1980s. The tragic political defeats of the attempts to construct socialist systems provoked a Marxist diaspora that sent those intellectuals back to Europe and sent many native militants and thinkers into exile in other parts of Latin America. Interestingly, the analysis of the defeat was the basis for an ample renovation of the Marxist thought both in and for the continent.

Renovations and Bankruptcies on the Two Shores: Exile Dialogues (1970–2006)

The journeys of exile of Latin American Marxist intellectuals, most of them from the Southern Cone, began in Brazil, in 1964, with the coup d’état against the government of João Goulart. Many of those exiles arrived in Chile to work for international organizations and for the government of the Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Montalva (1964–1970). In 1971 in Bolivia, Colonel Hugo Banzer overthrew the de facto government of General Juan José Torres and initiated a dictatorship that lasted until 1978. In June 1973, a coup in Uruguay caused a new exodus, mainly to Argentina, Chile, and the Northern Hemisphere. A few months later, the government of Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity was overthrown. Almost three years later, in March 1976, Argentina crowned the closing down of democratic regimes in South America with a military coup against the government of María Estela Martínez. From then on, all the Southern Cone remained under the control of military dictatorships that were closely linked to the local propertied classes and the government of the United States, which persecuted Marxists and revolutionary groups. Marxist intellectuals experienced successive processes of relocation that ended up creating new intellectual circuits, especially in the north of Latin America and the Caribbean. At the same time, the European intelligentsia began to debate the “renovation” of its political premises, showing a growing affinity with Eurocommunism and the new liberal tilt of social democracy. Latin American exiles also engaged in and informed these debates.

The analysis that followed the left’s defeat in Latin America took the form of a general overhaul of the theoretical precepts of Marxism. The debate among the Latin American Marxists in exile was part of a greater shift in contemporary social sciences, the “subjective turn,” which moved away from structuralism and began emphasizing the expression and political weight of individual and collective subjectivities. The influence of Alain Touraine and the work of Ernesto Laclau were of cardinal importance in this shift. Argentine and self-exiled to England, Laclau took a radical turn in his 1975 critique of the Poulantzas-Milliband debate, when he began to deny the possibility that the economic system was “determinant in the last instance,” which meant to abandon a fundamental principle of the Marxism in use back then.49

Latin American Marxism in exile thus became part of the turn in European social sciences. The meaning that “social subjects” (a concept that replaced social classes) conceded to politics started to be the center of its analysis. Class struggle as an engine of history was abandoned and interpreted as myth, and the very notion that there was a historical process experienced by all humanity was put in doubt. This disarmament of Marxist theory sparked a theoretical divorce of politics (the space of subjectivity) and the social (the space of the economy). The former was understood as autonomous from the latter, an autonomy that no longer was considered relative (as it had been in the ideas of Lenin and Gramsci and in the Marxism of the European revolutionary period in general), but total. This turn, of course, did not occur in a social void, but was strongly determined by the estrangement of socialist and communist parties from their working bases, process that took place in the last decades of the 20th century. In Europe, it was the economic boom that sustained the distancing of the Marxist parties from the workers; in Latin America, this distancing was the consequence of dictatorial rule and the processes of neoliberal deindustrialization.

The Aricó, Portantiero, and the “Argentine Gramscians” group, linked until 1973 by the Pasado y Presente journal, stand out among the cases of renovation that were influenced by the diaspora experience. It was during the exiles of Jose Aricó and Juan Carlos Portantiero in Mexico that the theoretical and political renovation of the group started, expressed later in its support of the presidency of the centrist Raúl Alfonsín, in 1983, the first democratic government in Argentina after the military dictatorship. Aricó’s abandonment of Marxism was clear toward the end of his life. In 1991, the year of his death, he severely criticized the Communist tradition inaugurated in 1917, asserting that the fall of the “real socialisms” in the West struck at the entire progressive tradition of Latin America:

In the particular historical and cultural conditions of the Latin American civilization, accepting this lesson involves a complex task of construction of a political thinking able to gather the living elements of the three big veins with which the ideological plot of our societies was formed: the liberal democrat, the national popular and the socialist traditions. All of them are rooted in the constitutive mulch of a counter-reform culture. The central problem of our societies—today more urgent than ever—continues being how to protect their peoples from regression and authoritarianism while advancing in the fight against hunger and for social justice.50

In general, Marxists who did not take part in these debates tended to replicate the political decentering, moving away from controversial subjects, like the economy or contingency, and confining themselves to academic and more abstract theoretical concerns. Those intellectuals who were involved set in motion attempts to renovate in which the “subjective turn” expressed itself in an empathic appraisal of the social movements, praising their autonomy with respect to political parties and viewing them as a tool of confrontation with capitalism. Among the latter, the former minister of mines and petroleum during the governments of the Bolivian Revolutionary Nationalist Movement, René Zavaleta Mercado, deserves special attention. Zavaleta Mercado manifested the well-known transition from nationalist convictions to a kind of Marxist thinking that was increasingly attentive to the Latin American reality. In this, he was influenced by Gramsci and the New Left, as were many others who had tried to assess the problems of the continent by means of a theory constructed in and for the European reality. Zavaleta Mercado developed the idea that Latin American societies were “bricolage social formations,” that is to say, social class structures composed by groups that do not respond to the same mode of production, carry their own particular histories, and relate to each other intersubjectively. In this type of formation, valid both for the Bolivian society and the so-called “backward” ones, socialism could advance hegemony building on this diversity.51

Despite the efforts of Zavaleta Mercado and others, after the electoral defeat of Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista Front (FSLN) government in Nicaragua in 1990, the crisis of the socialist block, and the so-called fall of the real socialisms in Central and Eastern Europe, Marxism had been wounded. In Latin America, it entered in a new period of revisionism, which seemed more like a desperate attempt to find a way out of the crisis. Probably, the reflection of Subcomandante Marcos, leader of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), an insurrectional movement active since 1994 in the southeast of Mexico, is the most original endeavor born from Marxism at the end of the century. Marcos and the Zapatistas proposed a fusion of indigenism and socialism which at the beginning refused to appear as an electoral alternative in traditional representative politics. Although the Zapatista discourse contained some traces of Marxism, this tradition was neither mentioned nor considered as a theoretical matrix, and its absence denoted an estrangement of historical materialism as a theoretical base. Thus, Marxism, as a paradigm of analysis and strategic project, ended up abandoned.52

The arrival of President Hugo Chávez in the government of Venezuela in 1999 inaugurated the so-called era of progressive governments on the Latin American continent. Chávez’s election was followed by the triumph of the left-wing Peronist Néstor Kirchner in Argentina, in 2003; Evo Morales of the Movement to Socialism in Bolivia, in 2006; and the progressive Rafael Correa in Ecuador, in 2007. With these governments and the hegemony of local progressivism in the first decade of the 21st century, a new theoretical push that revived Marxist ideas began. But more than an in-depth analysis of capitalism and its possible revolutionary overthrow by communism, this brief return to Marxist theory did not go much further than some formal allusions to and genealogical reconstructions of the sources of Marxism. These gestures were constrained and neutralized by a new leftist theorizing, now more centered in the Latin American specificity and strongly attached both to Social Democratic postulates and the developmentalism of the 20th century.53

Among the authors who could identify themselves with the Marxism of the Latin America’s progressive governments, and who theorized on their strategy (and by extension on their governments, their parties, and the movements supporting them) is Álvaro García Linera, vice-president of Bolivia from 2006 and disciple of René Zavaleta Mercado. García Linera has reflected and written on the possibilities of socialism in a predominantly indigenous country, in heterogenous societies, and under extreme conditions of dependency and economic subordination.54 A few months before Evo Morales became president of Bolivia, Ernesto Laclau published his most important political work, La razón populista (On Populist Reason), which also exerted influence on the continent despite being constructed from premises of the European matrix.55 Laclau proposed populism as strategy for a democratic socialism in which politics is no longer anchored in the economy (as in Marxism) and turns into a determining field of the social totality. Laclau’s book has become a theoretical foundation for interpreting Latin America’s progressive governments of the 21st century and for the new European lefts, especially Spain’s Podemos party.

A main consequence of the economic and political crisis that affected the continent in the last decade of the 20th century was the abandonment of the developmentalist dream. Latin American Marxism was obliged to abandon a theory based on the centrality of the labor movement, because this movement virtually disappeared under the repression of the Southern Cone dictatorships and the dismantlement of the industrial force. Only in places like Uruguay, Argentina, or Bolivia would labor movements of certain relevance develop from then on, but these were nothing compared to the ascent of indigenous or urban-poor social movements. In that frame, the foundations of Latin American Marxism have remained so scattered as to have almost disappeared. The intellectuals supporting the discourse of the progressive governments of the early 21st century, as well as its critics, have sustained visions that mix aspects of classic social democracy, a new-style indigenism influenced by subaltern studies, and the progressivism of the Northern Hemisphere. But they remain relatively far from the old bases of historical materialism.

Discussion of the Literature

Authors who have traced the trajectory of Latin American Marxism, its origins, seminal debates, and efforts to differentiate itself from the European tradition offer valuable insights into the turning points in the development of the current. José Aricó’s Marx y América Latina (1980) remains one of the most original attempts to reinterpret the reception of socialism in Latin America. On the concept of Latin American Marxism and Aricó’s remarkable influence, see Horacio Crespo’s prologue to the 2010 Argentine edition of the same book. Carlos Franco’s Del marxismo eurocéntrico al marxismo latinoamericano (1981) is one of the first examples of the impact of Arico’s reflections.

Philosopher Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez was another key interpreter of Marxism from a Latin American perspective. See his De Marx al marxismo en América Latina (1999) and his overview of Latin American Marxism published in Philosophical Forum 20 (1988). On Sánchez Vázquez, see Néstor Kohan’s “El marxismo crítico de Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez” (2002) and Stefan Gandler’s Critical Marxism in Mexico: Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez and Bolívar Echeverría (2014), which also, as the title suggests, deals with Bolívar Echeverría, another key continental reader of Marx. Also of interest are Pablo González Casanova’s “Los primeros marxistas de América Latina” (1981), Néstor Kohan’s Marx en su (tercer) mundo: Hacia un socialismo no colonizado (1998), Pablo Guadarrama’s Despojados de todo fetiche: La autenticidad del pensamiento marxista en América Latina (1999), and Jaime Massardo’s Investigaciones sobre la historia del marxismo en América Latina (2001), which includes valuable insights into the reception of Antonio Gramsci, which are further developed in his Gramsci en Chile: Apuntes para el estudio crítico de una experiencia de difusión cultural (2012).

Dictionary and encyclopedia entries are useful starting points for exploring Latin American Marxism. They offer basic frameworks and reading lists that may be of help. See, among others, the ones by José Aricó, “Marxismo latinoamericano” (2007), Renzo Llorente, “Marxism” (2010), and Ofelia Schutte, “Marxist Thought in Latin America” (1998).

On the early reception of Marx and Marxist ideas in Latin America, a good case study is Horacio Tarcus’s Marx en la Argentina: Sus primeros lectores obreros, intelectuales y científicos (2007), which offers a deep analysis of the foreign and local networks that made that encounter possible. It may be read in conjunction with El socialismo romántico en el Río de la Plata (1837–1852) (2016), by the same author, a sort of prequel to the importation of European Marxism in late 19th century. Also of interest is the 1883 chronicle “Tributes to Karl Marx, Who Has Died” by Cuban writer José Martí. According to Raúl Fornet-Betancourt, Martí’s description of the commemorative event held in New York on the occasion of Marx’s death constitutes a milestone in the philosophical reception of Marxism in Latin America (see also Fornet-Betancourt’s Transformación del marxismo: Historia del marxismo en América Latina, 2001). Regarding the encounters and (mis)encounters between Martí and Marx, see Bruno Bosteels’s “Marx and Latin America Revisited” (2010), and for a wider approach, covering the second half of the 20th century and other authors and diverse literary genres, his Marx and Freud in Latin America: Politics, Psychoanalysis, and Religion in Times of Terror (2012).

There is a vast literature on the “creative stage” of Latin American Marxism (1910s–1930s), and a good way to approach it is to start with the studies that focus on the main thinkers of the period. See, for example, the classic biography of Julio Antonio Mella by Erasmo Dumpierrre (1965); see also Adys Cupull and Froilán González’s Julio Antonio Mella y México (2008). On Luis Emilio Recabarren, Jaime Massardo’s La formación del imaginario politico de Luis Emilio Recabarren (2008), based on his 1994 doctoral thesis, is one of the best approaches to the life and thinking of the Chilean revolutionary leader. It is also worth considering Eduardo Devés and Ximena Cruzat’s compilation Luis Emilio Recabarren: Escritos de prensa, 1898–1924 (2015). Needless to say, José Carlos Mariátegui captures the attention of most of the researchers interested in this period and the literature on his legacy is varied and extensive. A good introduction to his life and political concerns can be found in Anibal Quijano’s prologues to the 2007 Venezuelan edition of Mariátegui’s Siete ensayos de interpretación de la realidad peruana as well as in the article “Mariátegui, primer marxista de América” (1979) by Antonio Melis. Equally interesting is José Aricó’s prologue to the compilation Mariátegui y los orígenes del marxismo latinoamericano (1978).

The understanding of the influence of the Communist International on Latin America has benefited from the recent studies by Lazar Jeifets and Víctor Jeifets. See, in particular, their América Latina en la Internacional Comunista, 1919–1943: Diccionario Biográfico (2015) and “La Comintern y la formación de militantes comunistas Latinoamericanos” (2016). These works may be read in parallel to Olga Ulianova and Alfredo Riquelme’s project, Chile en los archivos soviéticos 1922–1991, aimed at collecting and publishing the vast documentation available abroad referring to Chilean Communism and the Comintern; the first two volumes (published in 2005 and 2009) cover the period 1922–1935, and two more are forthcoming. From a different angle, S. Sándor John offers a detailed study on the strong influence of Trotskysm among Bolivian workers in his Bolivia’s Radical Tradition: Permanent Revolution in the Andes (2009). Caio Prado Jr.’s História econômica do Brasil (1945); Sergio Bagú’s Economía de la sociedad colonial: Ensayo de historia comparada de América Latina (1949); and Marcelo Segall’s Desarrollo del capitalismo en Chile: Cinco ensayos dialécticos (1953), among others, not only represent the contemporary academic critique of Stalinism, but also delineate the intellectual efforts to fight and overcome the application of schematic Marxist categories to the understanding of Latin America.

The literature on the Cuban Revolution and its continental impact is vast. The recent book by Rafael Rojas, Traductores de la utopía: La Revolución Cubana y la nueva izquierda de Nueva York (2016), helps to expand the understanding of the influence of this key event beyond Latin America. On Marxist intellectuals and the debates on revolutionary Marxism, a recent and good reference is Militantes, intelectuales y revolucionarios: Ensayos sobre Marxismo e izquierda en América Latina (2013), a compilation directed by Carlos Aguirre. With respect to Latin American armed leftist organizations during the 1960s and their debates until the 1990s, see Historia oral e historia política: Izquierda y lucha armada en América Latina, 1960–1990 (2012), edited by Pablo Pozzi and Claudio Pérez. In the same vein, see the series of articles from the journal Lucha armada en la Argentina—particularly the contributions by Horacio Tarcus and Pablo Pozzi—Historia reciente y violencia política: Lucha armada en la Argentina (La Revista), edited by Gloria Elgueta and Claudia Marchant in 2013).

Primary Sources

Several anthologies offer glimpses of the most representative works by the major Marxist Latin American thinkers; they also gather collective and institutional texts (party resolutions, documents, and manifestos) that delineate the main positions in the continental debates. Although any selection invisibilizes minor or alternative currents, the introductions by the compilers usually compensate these omissions. See, in particular, Luis Aguilar’s Marxism in Latin America (1978 revised edition) and Michael Löwy’s Marxism in Latin America from 1909 to the Present: An Anthology (1980); both anthologies cover from the 1890s until the late 1970s, and a 2007 Chilean edition of Löwy’s includes texts from 1990s onward. More restrictive in chronological terms, but equally interesting because of its emphasis on cultural and social issues is the compilation by Mercedes Santos Moray, Marxistas de América: Julio Antonio Mella, José Carlos Mariátegui, Aníbal Ponce, Juan Marinello (1985), centered on the first generations of Latin American Marxists.

In any case, it is always useful to check out the works by the thinkers cited in this article, which because of their specificity are often left out of compilations. For instance, for insights into the debates between communists and guevaristas in the 1960s and 1970s, see Arismendi’s address at the Plenary Session of the International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties, in Moscow (1969), as well as the speech Ernesto “Che” Guevara delivered at the Second Economic Seminar of Afro Asian Solidarity, in Algiers (1965), published in Che Guevara presente: Una antología mínima (2004), and Régis Debray’s two interviews with Salvador Allende, transcribed in The Chilean Revolution: Conversations with Allende (1971). The same applies to the debates on dependency theory, which may be examined from reviewing Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto’s, Dependencia y desarrollo en América Latina (1969), André Gunder Frank’s Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America (1967); Ruy Mauro Marini’s Dialéctica de la dependencia (1973); Osvaldo Sunkel and Pedro Paz’s El subdesarrollo latinoamericano y la teoría del desarrollo (1970), and Immanuel Wallerstein’s The Capitalist World-Economy: Essays (1979).

Several documents and full versions of the major texts in the history of Latin American Marxism are available (both in English and Spanish) in the Marxist Internet Archive, and similar websites. Researchers may also be interested in the Instituto de Pensamiento Socialista Karl Marx and the archives of the Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Cultura de Izquierdas at the Universidad Nacional de San Martín, both based in Argentina and devoted to the study, research, and dissemination of Marxist ideas. Interesting sources may also be found in the Latin American Collection at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. A recent and invaluable contribution to the diffusion of Marxist and critical works is the electronic project Tiempos equívocos, la teoría crítica desde la periferia (Misconceptions: Critical Theory from the Periphery), which can be followed on Facebook and on its website.

Relevant debates and theoretical developments took place in journals appearing in the different stages of the history of Latin American Marxism. In the beginning, of importance were Vorwärts, El Obrero, and La Vanguardia, all edited in Buenos Aires in the 1880s and 1890s by the socialist club Verein Vorwärts, Germán Avé-Lallemant, and Juan Bautista Justo, respectively. Another key starting point is Amauta: Revista mensual de doctrina, literatura, arte y polémica (1926–1930), founded in Lima by José Carlos Mariátegui. In the second half of 20th century stands out Pasado y Presente (1963–1963 and 1973), the journal of the Argentine Gramscians published in Córdoba; the group also edited Cuadernos de Pasado y Presente, a book series of great relevance for the renovation of Marxist thinking and in which José Aricó played an important role. Among the main titles of this series were Mariátegui y los orígenes del Marxismo Latinoamericano (1978) and Materiales para la historia de América Latina (1979), a compilation of the dispersed writings by Marx and Engels on Latin America. During those same years Pensamiento Crítico appeared in revolutionary Cuba appeared, a monthly journal directed by Fernando Martínez Heredia that published a total of fifty-three issues between 1967 and 1971.

The articles “Marx en la América Hispana” by Francisco T. Sobrino and “Marx en Brasil” by Armando Boito and Luis Eduardo Motta, published in Marcello Musto, ed., De regreso a Marx: Nuevas lecturas y vigencia en el mundo actual (2015), include an overview of journals edited in recent decades (of academic and nonacademic filiation, some discontinued) focused on Marxist thinking, the trajectory of the continental lefts and the history of Latin American socialisms. Foremost among them are El rodaballo, Herramienta, Cuadernos del sur, Periferias, El nuevo topo, Cuadernos marxistas, Socialismo o barbarie, Tesis 11, Ideas de izquierda, Lucha armada en la Argentina, and Los libros (Argentina); Revista Izquierdas, Cuadernos del CEREN, Cuadernos del CESO, and Actuel Marx Intervenciones (Chile); Temas (Cuba); Espacios (Ecuador); Sociedad y política (Peru); and Dialéctica, Cuadernos Políticos, Historia y Sociedad, El Machete, El Buscón, Bajo el volcán, and Memoria (Mexico).

Further Reading

  • Aguilar, Luis E., comp. Marxism in Latin America. Rev. ed. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978.
  • Aguirre, Carlos, ed. Militantes, intelectuales y revolucionarios: Ensayos sobre marxismo e izquierda en América Latina. Raleigh, NC: Editorial A Contracorriente, 2013.
  • Aricó, José. Marx y América Latina. Lima: CEDEP, 1980.
  • Arismendi, Rodney. Lenin, la revolución y América Latina. Mexico City: Grijalbo, 1974.
  • Echeverría, Bolívar. El discurso crítico de Marx. Mexico City: Era, 1986.
  • Fornet-Betancourt, Raúl. Transformación del marxismo: Historia del marxismo en América Latina. Mexico City: Plaza y Valdés Editores, 2001.
  • Franco, Carlos. Del marxismo eurocéntrico al marxismo latinoamericano. Lima: CEDEP, 1981.
  • Gandler, Stefan. Critical Marxism in Mexico: Adolfo Sánchez Vazquez and Bolívar Echeverría. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.
  • García Linera, Álvaro. De demonios escondidos y momentos de revolución: Marx y la revolución social en las extremidades del cuerpo capitalista. La Paz: Ofensiva Roja, 1991.
  • Guadarrama, Pablo. Despojados de todo fetiche: La autenticidad del pensamiento Marxista en América Latina. Bogotá: Universidad INCCA de Colombia, 1999.
  • Sándor, John, S. Bolivia’s Radical Tradition: Permanent Revolution in the Andes. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2009.
  • Kohan, Néstor. Nuestro Marx. Madrid: Oveja Roja, 2013.
  • Llorente, Renzo. “Marxism.” In A Companion to Latin American Philosophy, edited by Susana Nuccetelli, Ofelia Schutte, and Otávio Bueno, 170–184. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
  • Löwy, Michael. Marxism in Latin America from 1909 to the Present: An Anthology. Amherst, MA: Humanity Books, 1999.
  • Mariátegui, José Carlos. Defensa del Marxismo: Polémica revolucionaria. Lima: Empresa Editora Amauta, 1959.
  • Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Materiales para la historia de América Latina. Mexico City: Pasado y Presente, 1979.
  • Massardo, Jaime. Investigaciones sobre la historia del marxismo en América Latina. Santiago: Bravo y Allende Editores, 2001.
  • Melis, Antonio. “Mariátegui, primer marxista de América,” Latinoamerica 95 (1979): 1–34.
  • Musto, Marcello, ed. De regreso a Marx: Nuevas lecturas y vigencia en el mundo actual. Buenos Aires: Editorial Octubre, 2015.
  • Ramos, Jorge Abelardo. El marxismo en los países coloniales. Cochabamba: Editorial Universitaria Universidad Mayor de San Simón, 1970.
  • Reinaga, Fausto. El pensamiento amáutico. La Paz: Ediciones Partido Indio de Bolivia, 1978.
  • Sánchez Vázquez, Adolfo. “Marxism in Latin America,” Philosophical Forum 20 (1988): 114–128.
  • Santos Moray, Mercedes, ed. Marxistas de América: Julio Antonio Mella, José Carlos Mariátegui, Aníbal Ponce, Juan Marinello. Havana: Editorial Arte y Literatura, 1985.
  • Tarcus, Horacio. Marx en la Argentina: Sus primeros lectores obreros, intelectuales y científicos. Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2007.
  • Zavaleta Mercado, René. El poder dual en América Latina. Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1974.


  • 1. Horacio Tarcus, “Romanticismo y Socialismo: Las fuentes del socialismo Latinoamericano en el siglo XIX.” Paper presented at the conference “Fuentes de la crítica contemporánea: Romanticismo y Socialismo”, organized by the Sociology in the Frontier Program of the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), June 3, 2015. Available at; and Tarcus, El socialismo romántico en el Río de la Plata (1837–1852) (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2016).

  • 2. Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez, “Marxism in Latin America,” Philosophical Forum 20 (1988), 114–118.

  • 3. Horacio Tarcus, Marx en la Argentina: Sus primeros lectores obreros, intelectuales y científicos (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2007), 21–22.

  • 4. Tarcus, Marx en la Argentina, 73–84.

  • 5. José Aricó refers to this early Mexican translation in his entry “Marxismo Latinoamericano” in the Diccionario de política, ed. Norberto Bobbio, Nicola Matteucci, and Gianfranco Pasquino (Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2007), 945. See also Néstor Kohan, Marx en su (tercer) mundo: Hacia un socialismo no colonizado (Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos, 1998), 17.

  • 6. Aricó, “Marxismo Latinoamericano,” 944. Translation by the authors.

  • 7. José C. Moya, “El anarquismo argentino y el liderazgo español,” in Marcela García Sebastián (dir.), Patriotas entre naciones: Elites emigrantes españolas en Argentina (Madrid: Editorial Complutense, 2010), 365; and Sánchez Vázquez, “Marxism in Latin America.” For the trajectory of anarchism in Chile, see Sergio Grez, Los anarquistas y el movimiento obrero: La alborada de “la Idea” en Chile, 1893–1915 (Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2007).

  • 8. Jaime Massardo, “La larga ruta de Engels hacia América Latina,” in Jaime Massardo, Investigaciones sobre la historia del marxismo en América Latina (Santiago: Bravo y Allende Editores, 2001), 17–25.

  • 9. Aricó, “Marxismo Latinoamericano,” 945. Massardo analyzes the role of Spain as mediating space, “La larga ruta de Engels hacia América Latina,” 19–25.

  • 10. Tarcus, Marx en la Argentina, 129–233.

  • 11. Tarcus, Marx en la Argentina, 363–374.

  • 12. Aricó, “Marxismo Latinoamericano,” 944–946.

  • 13. Massardo, “La larga ruta de Engels hacia América Latina,”17.

  • 14. Sanchez Vázquez, “Marxism in Latin America,” 118.

  • 15. These texts were “Sobre la revolución en América: Llamamiento a la clase obrera de las dos Américas” (1921) and “A los obreros y campesinos de América del Sur” (1923), in Michael Löwy, El marxismo en América Latina: Antología, desde 1909 hasta nuestros días, rev. ed. (Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2007), 15, 81–91.

  • 16. Jaime Massardo, La formación del imaginario politico de Luis Emilio Recabarren (Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2008), 85–135, 179–279.

  • 17. Löwy, El marxismo en América Latina, 16–17.

  • 18. Cited by Sanchez Vázquez, “Marxism in Latin America,” 120–121.

  • 19. Pablo Guadarrama, Despojados de todo fetiche: La autenticidad del pensamiento marxista en América Latina (Bogotá: Universidad INCCA de Colombia, 1999), 5–6; and Löwy, El marxismo en América Latina, 10.

  • 20. Antonio Melis, “Mariátegui, primer marxista de América,” Latinoamerica 95 (1979): 5–17.

  • 21. Jaime Massardo, “El marxismo de José Carlos Mariátegui,” in Massardo, Investigaciones sobre la historia del marxismo, 75–83.

  • 22. Aricó, “Marxismo Latinoamericano,” 952; emphasis is ours.

  • 23. José Carlos Mariátegui, Siete ensayos de interpretación de la realidad peruana (Lima: Minerva, 1928). Translation by the authors, based on the third Spanish edition of the Biblioteca Ayacucho, published in 2007, page 26. Gamonales is the local term for landowners (quotation marks in the Spanish original).

  • 24. Aricó, “Marxismo Latinoamericano,” 953; and Melis, “Mariátegui, primer marxista de América,” 22–26.

  • 25. José Carlos Mariátegui, Defensa del marxismo: polémica revolucionaria (Lima: Empresa Editora Amauta, 1959).

  • 26. Löwy, El marxismo en América Latina, 22–27, 127–145.

  • 27. Aricó, “Marxismo Latinoamericano,” 953–954.

  • 28. A clarifying study on anticommunism, centered on the case of Chile, is Marcelo Casals, La creación de la amenaza roja: Del surgimiento del anticomunismo en Chile a la “campaña del terror” de 1964 (Santiago: LOM Ediciones, 2016).

  • 29. Löwy, El marxismo en América Latina, 36–37.

  • 30. S. Sándor John, Bolivia’s Radical Tradition: Permanent Revolution in the Andes (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2009).

  • 31. Caio Prado Jr., História econômica do Brasil (São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1945); Sergio Bagú, Economía de la sociedad colonial: Ensayo de historia comparada de América Latina (Buenos Aires: El Ateneo, 1949); Marcelo Segall, Desarrollo del capitalismo en Chile: Cinco ensayos dialécticos (Santiago: Editorial del Pacífico, 1953); and Nahuel Moreno, “Cuatro tesis sobre la colonización portuguesa y española,” Estrategia 1 (1957): 81–91.

  • 32. Aricó, “Marxismo Latinoamericano,” 954.

  • 33. On the circulation of Maoist ideas throughout the Pacific nations, see Matthew Rothwell, Transpacific Revolutionaries: The Chinese Revolution in Latin America (New York: Routledge, 2012).

  • 34. Damián Lo Chávez, “Comunismo rupturista en Chile (1960–1970)” (BA thesis, Universidad de Chile, 2012); and Pablo Pozzi and Alejandro Schneider, Los setentistas, izquierda y clase obrera (Buenos Aires: EUDEBA, 2000).

  • 35. Marta Harnecker, Los conceptos elementales del materialismo histórico (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1969).

  • 36. Marta Harnecker, “Prólogo a la última edición”, Los conceptos elementales del materialismo histórico, 51st rev. ed. (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1985), 9.

  • 37. José Aricó, La cola del diablo: Itinerario de Gramsci en América Latina (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI Editores, 2005), 91.

  • 38. Juan Carlos Portantiero, “Política y clases sociales en la Argentina actual,” Pasado y Presente 1 (1963): 18–23.

  • 39. Fernando Martínez Heredia, La crítica en tiempo de revolución: Antología de textos de “Pensamiento Crítico” (Santiago, Cuba: Oriente, 2010).

  • 40. Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto, Dependencia y desarrollo en América Latina (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1969); André Gunder Frank, Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1967); Ruy Mauro Marini, Dialéctica de la dependencia (Mexico City: Era, 1973); Osvaldo Sunkel and Pedro Paz, El subdesarrollo latinoamericano y la teoría del desarrollo (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1970); Immanuel Wallerstein, The Capitalist World-Economy: Essays (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

  • 41. Marini, Dialéctica de la dependencia, 110. Translation by the authors, based on the 2015 edition published by CLACSO and Siglo XXI Editores in Buenos Aires.

  • 42. Aimé Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1955); and Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme, suivi du discours sur la négritude (Paris: Présence Africaine, 2004).

  • 43. Frantz Fanon, Les damnés de la terre (Paris: Maspero, 1961). The English translation was published in New York in 1963 by Grove Press.

  • 44. Frantz Fanon, Peau noire, masques blancs (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1952). English translations were published in New York and London in 1967 by Grove and Pluto Press, respectively.

  • 45. Fausto Reinaga, La revolución india (La Paz: Ediciones Partido Indio de Bolivia, 1969); and Reinaga, El pensamiento amáutico (La Paz: Ediciones Partido Indio de Bolivia, 1978).

  • 46. Rodney Arismendi, “Discurso en la sesión plenaria de la Conferencia Internacional de los Partidos Comunistas y Obreros,” Moscow, 1969. Translation by the authors, based on the transcription available in the Marxist Internet Archive, Spanish section,

  • 47. Ernesto Guevara, “El socialismo y el hombre nuevo en Cuba,” in José Aricó, ed., El socialismo y el hombre nuevo (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1998), 13–17. This chapter was first published in the Uruguayan journal Marcha in 1965.

  • 48. Régis Debray, The Chilean Revolution: Conversations with Allende (New York: Vintage, 1971), 127.

  • 49. Ernesto Laclau, “La especificidad de lo político: El debate Poulantzas-Miliband,” in Ernesto Laclau, Política e ideología en la teoría marxista: Capitalismo, fascismo, populismo (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1978).

  • 50. José Aricó, “1917 y América Latina,” Nueva Sociedad 111 (1991): 21–22.

  • 51. These issues were mainly addressed in René Zavaleta’s later works, such as El poder dual en América Latina (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1974), Las masas en noviembre (La Paz: Librería Editorial “Juventud,” 1983), and Lo nacional-popular en Bolivia (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1986).

  • 52. The Zapatista positions have not been compiled in a work or compendium that operates as theoretical foundation. Instead, they appeared from 1994 onward in several public declarations signed by Marcos and other EZLN subcommanders. On Subcomandante Marcos, the EZLN, and its theoretical and political evolution, see Marco’s biography at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs website.

  • 53. Regarding the critique of certain Marxisms in Latin American progressivism, see the articles and debates in the Mexican journal Memoria, particularly volumes 255 to 259. Available at

  • 54. Probably the most important work by García Linera, which had also served as foundation for the politics of Morales’s government, is La potencia plebeya: Acción colectiva e identidades indígenas, obreras y populares en Bolivia (Buenos Aires: CLACSO-Prometeo, 2008).

  • 55. Ernesto Laclau, La razón populista (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2005). The English translation, On Populist Reason, was published in the same year by Verso in London and New York.