Julio Antonio Mella

Ceri Richards, Clair de Lune, 1967


Commentary on the book organized by Luiz Bernardo Pericás

Julio Antonio Mella was a political figure of great importance for the Latin American communist movement. One of the precursors of Marxism in the subcontinent, Mella was born in Cuba and actively worked alongside workers, peasants and students in the struggle for an emancipatory education, against the repressive government of Gerardo Machado and against US imperialism. Despite his great importance, both in theoretical and practical terms – Julio Antonio Mella was not only a great political agitator, but wrote several pioneering texts using Marxism as a tool for the conjunctural and historical analysis of Cuba –, the militant was little studied outside his country of origin, being relegated to a secondary role in research on Latin American Marxism.

In Brazil, either because of the non-acceptance of the centrality of the character in the history of the Latin American communist movement, or because of the lack of knowledge of his thought, anthologies with the texts of Julio Antonio Mella had never been published, nor even translations of his biographies (mostly , written in Spanish). It is based on these books on Cuban life (among many others) that Luiz Bernardo Pericás, historian, professor at the University of São Paulo and researcher of Marxism in Latin America, writes the preface to this collection.

It is worth noting that this is the first time that Julio Antonio Mella's texts have been translated and edited in a work exclusively by him in Brazil. The introduction traces the political trajectory of Julio Antonio Mella, from his youth militancy to his activity in the moment before his death, enabling the reader who is unfamiliar with the character to understand and place the Marxist's articles in their context of engagement and political dispute, facilitating and enriching reading.

Like many of the pioneering Latin American Marxists, who were responsible for creating and structuring the respective communist parties in the region and their associated organizations, Julio Antonio Mella was a man of action, even if he did not reject theory in any way. Committed to practical and bureaucratic activities, however, the Cuban did not write any major theoretical work, which reduces his production, to a large extent, to scattered excerpts – albeit interconnected by the logical and ideological sense of his thought. The Machete, Aurora, New light, Youth, Fight of Classes, Web thickness Mater are some of the publications in which Julio Antonio collaborated and from which Pericás draws most of the writings that make up the book.

The selected texts also elucidate some ideological bases of Julio Antonio Mella. Unlike most of the militants of the Communist Parties linked to the Communist International, Mella did not have in her theoretical and ideological framework only ideas coming from the Soviet Union and its leaders, such as Lenin and Trotsky. These are undoubtedly recognized as structuring thinkers of his thought, but others, from different places and political backgrounds, also appear in this list, such as José Martí and Carlos Baliño.

The first is known by many as the last “liberator” of the Americas, whose nationalism and appreciation of Cuban culture and potential (and Latin America in general) stood up to the nascent US imperialism over Latin America, endorsed by the Monroe Doctrine . Such ideas echoed in the formulations of Julio Antonio Mella, also engendering Cuban nationalism in his thinking, in which the culture and traditions of the people are valued, which he called “revolutionary nationalism”. Baliño, in turn, considered one of the pioneers of Latin American Marxism, had a direct influence on Mella's life as he was probably – according to the organizer himself – the first Cuban to merge the theory of Martí and Marx on the island, helping, in part, in Julio Antonio's adherence to Marxism (PERICÁS [org], 2022, p. 41-42).

The thought of the young Julio Antonio Mella, unlike many other communists of his time, was not tributary to the ideas of Joseph Stalin (Ibidem, p. 30-31). The latter, who became the greatest figure of world socialism after the definitive seizure of power in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and in the Comintern in 1928, would probably not approve of the figure of the Cuban Martian and Marxist. Julio Antonio Mella was too heterodox in his ideas and in his political actions, without giving any indication that he would submit his activity, without question, to the scrutiny of the world party of revolution.

By translating, organizing and making available the thinker's writings, Luiz Bernardo Pericás encourages Marxists and – why not? – even the Bolivarians who still dream of a Latin America independent of US and European imperialism broadening their ideological horizons, breaking the barrier of dogmatism, and reviving the struggle for a communist and Latin American society for all those who live here.

*Renan Somogyi Rodrigues da Silva is a master's student in social history at USP.


Luiz Bernardo Pericás (org.). Julio Antonio Mella: selected texts. Marília, Anticapital Fights, 2022, 218 pages.

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