José Carlos Mariátegui


History of the World Crisis



Translated by: Juan R. Fajardo, 2016.
Source of the text: Translated from Historia de la crisis mundial, in Obras Completas, volume 8,
Editorial Note: These texts are available in print as part of:  José Carlos Mariátegui, History of the World Crisis and Other Writings, Marxists Internet Archive Publications (2017); ISBN 978-0-692-88676-2.




Translator's Preface


History of the World Crisis, consists of a series of lectures delivered by Mariátegui upon his return to Peru after a four-year sojourn in Europe. As young, critical journalists, Mariátegui and his friend, César Falcón, had become a thorn in the side of Peru’s autocratic president, Augusto B. Leguía. In October 1919 the Leguía government offered both of them positions as European correspondents for the El Tiempo newspaper. It was, in effect, a veiled exile, but for two young radicals of modest means it also represented an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In Europe, Mariátegui worked and studied for extended periods in France and Italy, where he came into contact with socialist and radical intellectuals, such as the Clarté group, and was present at the founding of the Italian Communist Party in 1921. Those experiences cemented Mariátegui’s Marxist orientation.

Shortly after his return to Peru, Mariátegui was approached to deliver a course of lectures on European events and the post-World War crisis, at the “González Prada” People’s University.

In the first decades of the 20th century, a movement for reform of the universities swept the American continent, finding echoes in nearly every Spanish-speaking nation. One of the products of the movement was the establishment of “people’s universities” - night schools for workers where intellectuals, politicians, university students, and academics volunteered to teach classes and deliver lectures. In Peru, the best-known of these efforts was the short-lived “González Prada” People’s University, established by the Peruvian Student Federation in January 1921. 

In his lectures at the People's University – seventeen in all, delivered between June 1923 and January 1924 – Mariátegui covers the effects of the Treaty of Versailles, the crisis of democratic institutions, the paralysis of the League of Nations, and the weakness of the Second International and the rise of Bolshevism, and the Russian, German, Hungarian, and Mexican revolutions. Throughout, he stresses the economic foundations of the crisis.

Although he emphasized that the crisis he described was, at heart, a crisis of Western civilization, Mariátegui stressed that, as an international system, capitalism had intertwined the economies of all nations. The crisis was thus also a world crisis, and Mariátegui did not neglect to examine its effects on the nations of Asia and Latin America.  Throughout his presentations, Mariátegui stressed that capitalism had so internationalized human experience, that Peruvian workers ought to regard the victories and losses of the German, Russian, or Hungarian proletariat as their own, and that the revolution must, perforce, be an international socialist revolution.

The stenographic record of the lectures, Mariátegui’s own notes, and, in some instances, press accounts of them, were later compiled into a volume and published posthumously, in 1959, as Historia de la crisis mundial (History of the World Crisis).





Lecture 1: The World Crisis and the Peruvian Proletariat
Lecture 2: War Literature
Lecture 3: The Failure of the Second International
Lecture 4: Italy's Intervention in the War
Lecture 5: The Russian Revolution
Lecture 6: The German Revolution
Lecture 7: The Hungarian Revolution
Lecture 8: The Current Political Situation in Germany
Lecture 9: The Versailles Peace and the League of Nations
Lecture 10: Proletarian Agitation in Europe in 1919 and 1920
Lecture 11: The Economic Problems of Peace
Lecture 12: The Crisis of Democracy
Lecture 13: Revolutionary and Socialist Agitation of the Eastern World
Lecture 14: The Institutions of the Russian Regime
Lecture 15: Internationalism and Nationalism
Lecture 16: The Mexican Revolution
Lecture 17: Eulogy of Lenin