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Introduction

Pablo Neruda’s work, The United Fruit Company, is a poetic narrative that delves on issues close to the heart of human civilization and modernization as espoused by the capitalist ideal and implemented through the Industrial Revolution. The historical path, through which man has charted his course, has involved the aspect of industrialization as espoused through the notions of free market trade, capitalism and liberalization. With capitalism being rooted in the aspect of democracy, it is however critical to note that democratic space has not been established in the majority of those jurisdictional arenas, where the capitalist ideal has been espoused. Capitalism, as an aspect, thrives on the economic base of mass workers, who, by composing the industrial base labor force strive towards social betterment through their daily work and lives. Accordingly, the consequence has been the increased divisions between the “haves” and the “have-nots”, the former referring to the top elite and their associate middle-class administrators, and the latter referring to the oppressed lower class composed of the majority of global populations, and hence the labor force/ workers .

Historical injustices, chaos and wars, great pollution and an increased social division have thus permeated through this symbiotic relationship throughout history. Thus, the elite continues accumulating more wealth, while the poor lower class continues to wallow in poverty, disease (because of pollution and uninhabitable environments), and death. This situation is what necessitated great and varied literature on such social contexts with Marxist Ideologies standing out as a great influence on contemporary thinking. Based on Marxist theories and fundamentally influenced by Friedrich Hegel’s ideals, the Marxist Criticism school of thought (1930s to the present) delves deeply into the fundamental question of, whom all the above actually benefits: the elite, the middle class, or the poor majority. Such is the primary issue pertaining to capitalist ideals that are rooted in the notions of democracy and liberal thought. By concerning itself with, among others, class differences, socio-economic effects, as well as resulting complications and implications of the capitalist arena, Marxism endeavors to reveal the basis of man’s experience as being rooted in existent socio-economic arenas .

The Marxist Criticism (school of thought) thus attempts to reveal the various ways in which the existent global socio-economic system is ultimately the foundation of man’s experience. The above is informed by the question regarding whom the work/ labor as associated with the aspects of requisite effort, infrastructure, communication, and governing policies, among others, benefits. To some, especially those of Marxist ideology, it is the elite and partly the upper middle-class who compose the implementers of the elite’s strategy, schemes, and mission who benefit through their managerial roles. Further, the Marxist perspective pertains to the oppressed lower class/ labor force in their daily lives in addition to existent literature. Through the material dialect, the Marxist ideology alludes to the fact that the core driving forces of historical change have been the existent material realities as espoused by society’s economic base. This is a better guide than the complementary ideological superstructure portrayed among others through existent politics, law, religions, philosophies, and even arts arena built upon the former.

Hence, Marx asserts that stable social entities do develop arenas of social resistance. These are contradictions that are built into the existent social environment that ultimately leads to social revolution. A foundation of new society rests on the dismantled old. Marx further ascertains that such cycle always exists, as conflict will always exist between the existent social classes as best espoused through the existent literature. Accordingly, the oppressed masses will lead such revolutions. Intellectuals will provide guidance and leadership, and, upon the revolution’s success, would aid in the composition of a social arena founded on the principles of socialism. Such socialism, unlike that of the Soviet Union or Maoist China, would lead to equality resulting from eradication of class and social status, as found on the capitalist ideal.

The poetic narrative espouses critical thought pertaining to the relationship between the elite and mass populations (workers) not only in Central and Southern America, but also throughout the global arena. Pablo Neruda portrays the above scenario vividly in his poetic literature, which portrayed his loathing for the discriminative exploitation of local populations by foreign corporations to the enhancement of the latter and detriment of the former. He espoused a vision of the man who was un-alienated and who enjoyed the twin aspects of equality and justice (rights). As a communist, he would over the years, through his literature denounce Western Imperialism as espoused through such didactic poems as “The United Fruit Company”, and “Nothing but Death”. It is through such works that he gained fame and recognition, creating a rallying point for Central and Southern America’s expression of historical injustices and turbulence .

Thus, the poem, “When the trumpet sounded, it was all prepared on the earth, the Jehovah parceled out the earth to Coca Cola, Inc., Anaconda, Ford Motors, and other entities: The Fruit Company, Inc. reserved for itself the most succulent, the central coast of my own land, the delicate waist of America. It rechristened its territories as the Banana Republics and over the sleeping dead, over the restless heroes who brought about the greatness, the liberty and the flags it established the comic opera: abolished the independencies, presented crowns of Caesar, unsheathed envy, and attracted the dictatorship of the flies… Among the bloodthirsty flies the Fruit Company lands its ships, taking off the coffee and the fruit; the treasure of our submerged territories flow as though on plates into the ships. Meanwhile Indians are falling into the sugared chasms of the harbors, wrapped for burials in the mist of the dawn: a body rolls a thing that has no name, a fallen cipher, a cluster of the dead fruit thrown down on the dump” .

The above portrays an apportionment of land (the greatest of resources) to the big corporations such as the aforementioned, which are representative of elite’s wealth, while locking out the vast majority of global populations. Unfortunately, such land containing mineral wealth/ resources or fertility for good crop production is mostly at the sight of elite’s acquisition schemes and strategies. Prime land, thus being in the hands of a few elite’s representatives, leaves the vast majority of people depending on other alternative land, which is often infertile, polluted, and crowed. Accordingly, the American owned Fruit Company, Inc. reserved for itself the best of lands in America’s delicate waist, being representative of the historically chaotic Central America. It used its economy of scale advantages in addition to political backing from the US to acquire huge chunks of land, influencing both inter- and extra-state socio-economic and political arenas through a monopoly of market arenas. This was the influence of the company. The arrival of the corporation based in Boston (Massachusetts, USA) into the Central and Southern America hemisphere was occasioned by the need to fill in supply shortfalls in the fruits’ produce industry that mainly supplied the US and Europe .

Though owning its own lands (by crook or legitimately), it also outsourced from various farmers through draconian economic measures, which often were favorable to the company. Through control, the elite represented by Keith, Preston, and Baker, who owned vast tracts of land in addition to controlling transport infrastructure symbolized by the corporation, was able to influence the socio-economic and political arenas of this geographical zone. Through economy of scale advantages, the corporation was able to develop the infrastructure and industrial complexes and factories towards mass production and export of fruits in addition to other crops, hence the christening of such legal jurisdictions as banana republics. Through collision with dictators (mostly military generals) and the existent elite, the corporation, among others, was able to monopolize such economies at the detriment of the local masses who, despite being very productive (in estates/ plantations and factories), continued to live in abject poverty.

As Marcelo Bucheli (2004) alludes, “The impressive production and distribution network of this newly created company (by the aforementioned three elite), included plantations, hospitals, roads, railways, telegraph lines housing facilities, and ports (in the producing countries). The others include a steamship fleet the Great White Fleet (which eventually became the largest privately owned fleet in the world), and a distribution network in the United States” . Thus, the company was symbolically the quintessential representative of the West’s (represented by the USA) imperialism in Latin America. By controlling existent local governments, through corruption and bribery, sponsorship of coup de tats, economic sabotage and manipulation, in addition to outright blackmail and threats, the company was able to control local economies through the harsh exploitation of locals (plantation workers). This ultimately led to existence of the great literature available based primarily on both the labor and political conflicts that the company (representing Western Imperialism) generated and existent socio-economic dynamics between local labor (plantation workforce/ local planters) and foreign capital in its arenas of influence (Bucheli 2004).

Such scenarios are often claimed to be explainable through the dependency theory, where the local elites existent in an underdeveloped state permit foreign capital’s (investment) exploitation of their country’s labor force. Through specific developments, such as infrastructure and communication, among others, such foreign capital, through composite corporations/ multinationals, was hence able to achieve vertical integration into the socio-economic and political arenas. Through exploitative contract agreements, such multinationals were able to gain much profit, while majority of losses would revert to the local farmers, hence leaving such locals with little option other than to continue such a partnership. By being the sole capable financial institution in the region, it utilized effectively three effective enforcement systems/ mechanisms including contract timing, loan (financial assistance) provision conditions, and third-party enforcement. These three proved to be effective means of control, and, hence, enhanced the corporation’s economic arena monopoly. Foreign jurisdictions were unfortunately also effectively utilized through the latter third-party enforcement, where the corporation would claim breach of contract, thus necessitating the seizure of existent produce outside of its marketing arena .

Modernism, emanated in the 3rd phase of the 20th century, entailed the drive towards the provision of alternative literature as opposed to existent Western inclined literature. Through international influence, especially from the French parnassism, decadentism, and symbolism, modernism was able to grow. The influence of Spanish tradition was also critical, and was termed as both legitimate and good. Other contributions came from various European sources, modern and classic, as well as oriental cultural inspirations. Modernism, above all, is distinctly American, resulting from its universal and comprehensive projection. Thus, modernist poetry entailed criticism, which ensured its continuous dynamism symbolic of the historical events and occurrences prevailing in the Central and Southern American hemispheres. Later stage change resulted in the era when Latin American poetry portrayed the characteristic of a will towards overcoming existent excesses of modernism’s artistic consciousness. This subsequently resulted in the conversion of the poetic voice into simpler, more tactile heartfelt (deep) expression that found willing audiences both within and outside of the Latin American region.

Thus, through the curbing of modernist ideals and resultant literature, poets such as Pablo Neruda and Federico do Onis, among others, redefined modernism into the resulting postmodernism that lost in brilliance that was gained in poetic depth. Pablo Neruda, as aforementioned, contributed immensely to Latin America’s literature, and thus enhanced the people’s struggle for their freedom and sovereignty. Through his various works, Neruda was able to show that poetry could interact with existent political processes through his utility of everyday language, easily understandable by the uneducated and often impoverished masses. Thus, he was able to actively undertake specific attempts towards the engagement of existent political issues as espoused through fascism, class domination, and imperialism. Through his various poetic narratives, he was able to champion for various causes, still pertinent to contemporary society through his giving voice to the faint perspectives and voices that would have otherwise faded into oblivion .

The art of past eras differs from its contemporary self, hence the need for the improvement of human treatment and understanding in a modern context through the development of new techniques. Marxism, as applied then, has undergone various changes due to the changing times and social contexts, as espoused by contemporary literary thoughts and ideals. The reproduction of authentic art is hence of concern and should at all times strive towards containing the elements of space and time aimed towards espousing the changing dynamics of global social contexts. As Walter Benjamin (1968) portends, art is able to portray the various changes, as espoused within existent global social contexts through its artistic expression of the different experiences, events, and contexts, through which man has charted his course. Thus, art entails a more deeply personalized expression of the change options in the general society’s values and norms, as expressed throughout history .

As he alludes, the manner, through which human perception (sense) is structured, in addition to the means (medium), through which it is later accomplished, is ultimately determined not only by the existent environment (nature) surrounding man, but also by the existent historical circumstances (social contexts) as well. Aimed/ targeted at large audiences through mass exhibitions, such literary works and poetic narratives portray a sense of belonging, understanding, care, compassion and strive towards social betterment. Accordingly, through enlightenment of masses, this arena portrays the existent social contexts aimed towards betterment of the human population. Capitalism, rooted in the exploitation of the proletariat (working class) by the bourgeoisie (elite), as portrayed in the Marxist school of thought, is thus best expressed through art forms and literature as best espoused through the various works of the aforementioned Pablo Neruda, among others .

In conclusion, the importance of art, as exemplified in existent literary works, among others, cannot be ignored. It is through such literature that future generations are educated of their past, the good, and the bad aimed towards enabling a better social cohesion and understanding among the existing global populations. History is full of different events, occurrences, and experiences, which continue to significantly impact the modern day socio-economic and political (state) affairs, negatively or positively affecting existent global populations, and hence shaping the future. As Karl Marx puts it, it is through the guide of intellectuals (symbolic representatives of art) that the future masses shall be able to unshackle themselves from their bondage and slavery, because of the capitalist and free market ideals, and, hence, through revolution defeat the bourgeoisie (elite), thus establishing a classless state based on social equity.

Bibliography

  1. Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. London: Fontana, 1936.
  2. Bleiker, Roland. "Pablo Neruda and the Struggle for Political Memory." Third World Quarterly, Vol. 20(6), 1129-1142, 1999.
  3. Bucheli, Marcelo. "College Enforcing Business Contracts in South America: The United Fruit Company and Colombian Banana Planters in the Twentieth Century." The Business History Revie, Vol. 78(2), 181-212, 2004.
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