Non Fiction

The Overlord: Bitter Fruit and the Corporate Oligarchy

The Cold War was well under way in the 1950’s and the two belligerents: the United States and the Soviet Union, longed to expand their respective spheres of influences- with the U.S. focusing on Latin America, while the U.S.S.R. aimed to solidify its “iron curtain” in order to retain influence over Eastern Europe.  For the American government, this meant supporting domestic companies that held monopolies in smaller Latin American countries, and especially undergirding a corporation that represented “a fable of American capitalism”.  United Fruit Company was the standard bearer for how a small capitalist venture in 1870, started by Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker,  could be transformed from a simple fruit trade into a huge trans-national corporate entity which held almost absolute political and economic power first and foremost in Guatemala (and still substantial, but less so in other Central American countries) through backdoor deals with complacent, inept and thoroughly corrupt dictators. General Jorge Ubico was the last of the old dictators before the democratic revolution that went under the name of “The Guatemalan Spring” in 1944, however, before he fell, Ubico was able to deal a fatal blow to Guatemala’s economic sovereignty by signing a ninety-nine-year agreement for an UFCO Pacific coast plantation and granting “the company the kind of concessions to which it had been accustomed: total exemption from internal taxation, duty-free importation of all necessary goods… Ubico, in fact, insisted that laborers be paid a daily wage of no more than fifty cents in order to keep other Guatemalan workers from demanding better pay”(pg. 70).

In Bitter Fruit, Schlesinger and Kinzer thoroughly hammer the point that United Fruit Company held high stakes in Guatemala. UFCO invested immense amounts of money and manpower in public relations stunts so that the American people and government would be concerned with the corporation’s Latin American interests as a nationwide issue that needed the public’s attention and the Truman (then Eisenhower) administration’s protection.  Once democratically elected Guatemalan president Arevalo announced future land reforms in order to benefit impoverished peasants, UFCO hired Edward Bernays as a spokesperson for the company.  The “PR” expert subsequently led mostly liberal American journalists on a carefully orchestrated trip to Guatemala so he could show off the company’s paternalistic, supposed benefits to locals and make a point that increasing communist subversive activity in the country was responsible for labor antagonisms, not legitimate union concerns. Schlesinger and Kinzer focused on the fact that some officials both in the U.S. State Department and the CIA had owned stock in UFCO holdings and how some even moved on to work for the company after they had left government positions. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge from Massachusetts (UFCO’s home state) instigated congressional concern for the company when the congressman “whose family owned stock in United Fruit, strode onto the Senate Floor in 1949 and denounced the [Guatemalan legislated] Labor Code for discriminating against United Fruit and forcing the corporation into a ‘serious economic breakdown’ through labor unrest”(pg. 83).  Bitter Fruit’s focus on the correlation between United Fruit’s lobbying to hold onto economic power in Guatemala and U.S. government interest in preventing the spread of Communism in its “backyard” is thematic in that by 1954 the two interests became one and the same.

Schlesinger and Kinzer were able to uncover corporate and government collaboration through mostly domestic sources with only some Guatemalan participation that was necessarily anonymous due to continuing internal strife throughout the war stricken country; even while they were writing Bitter Fruit in the late 1970’s. Howard Hunt was the CIA director of misinformation during the U.S. backed “Liberation” coup against Arbenz in 1954, and he was an important source for the authors: since propaganda played a major role in Castillo Armas successfully carrying out the coup.  In particular, Hunt was insistent on UFCO’s involvement as the catalyst for the CIA funded and organized endeavor, and Schlesinger and Kinzer’s thesis was that if UFCO had not existed, then the American government would have had less interest in toppling the democratically elected revolutionary government in Guatemala. However, the situation was aggravated by Arbenz’s tolerance of, and minimal influence from Communist party members, and Bitter Fruit implicated that the Truman administration had no interest in directly intervening in Guatemalan affairs for United Fruit. But the authors explicitly stated that once the Eisenhower administration took power (along with the advent of McCarthyism) the death knell for democracy in the Central American country grew significantly louder until “the North’s” intervention was imminent.  Overall, Bitter Fruit focused on the American perceived communistic outlook in Guatemala as the justification for the eventual coup, yet argued that this perception was started by United Fruit’s propaganda and Schlesinger and Kinzer verified their point by unveiling the American government’s involvement with UFCO representatives through sources revealed by the Freedom of Information Act.

President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Dulles was adamant about “containing the spread of communism”.
Non Fiction

1984: An Alternative Analysis of the Classic Dystopian Novel

George Orwell developed the theme of 1984 under a shroud of dystopian totalitarianism, when the novel is really a metaphorical satire of modern class structure.  The main character, Winston Smith, is a self-projection of the author as an isolated individual facing the menacing Big Brother’s totalitarian regime (Hopkinson par. 9).  When the book is taken at face-value, readers and critics conclude that the theme of 1984 is a warning against communist totalitarianism and the looming threat of dystopian totalitarianism in the future.  However, Orwell’s intended theme symbolically points out the inequitable class divisions in modern society, and only uses the setting of a futuristic dystopia to exaggerate his belief that the modern upper-class have complete control over the lower classes.

As early as the first two sentences, George Orwell gives a dank and isolating description of a dystopian world using simple but lurid syntax and diction “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.  Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.”(Orwell 1).  The “vile wind” may foreshadow the difficulties Winston will have to escape in the future, only to accept conformity in the end by letting the metaphorical “swirl of gritty dust” (conformity) overcome him in the end “… as the novel closes, Winston is alone, except for the internalized Big Brother.  In Between he travels a boomerang’s course, from the solitude which leads to self-awareness to that which marks the loss of his identity.”(Lonoff 35). The individualist spirit that overcomes Winston is one thing that the totalitarian state of Oceania fears most and in order to suppress that spirit, it must be wiped out.

The allegory that a reader would most quickly draw upon is of the government of Oceania in 1984, and Stalin’s Soviet dictatorship in World War Two(Fromm 315).  There are many parallels between Big Brother and Stalin, “….Resemblances, also, to the years of Stalinist terror in Russia. The grilling of Winston Smith by the Oceania authorities, the alternation between physical beatings and sympathetic conversations, the final terrifying appearance of O’Brien, master of power…”(Howe 96) A dooming presence of totalitarianism is not just the clearest element of the book, but a powerful tool of control.  The salient idea of 1984 is modern class warfare, and Orwell gives frightening glimpses of the Inner Party (the upper-class) using the totalitarian government for control over the Outer Party (middle-class) and proletariat (working-class).  Big Brother’s regime cruelly exerts control paralleling that of Stalin’s control of USSR-down to the point of homologous torture techniques, but there are more obvious signs.  The identical resemblance of Stalin and Big Brother’s face is a frightening juxtaposition of a warm guardian in a cold world ” …the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black mustache and ruggedly handsome features.”(Orwell 1).  However, although Orwell draws many similar parallels between Stalin and Big Brother, there is a quintessential difference between the two, Stalin was a man who wanted control for his own power, while Big Brother is a tool of the Inner Party in order to maintain power.

There are many different tools that the Inner-Party uses besides Big Brother to keep the lower classes under control.  Newspeak, telescreens, thought police, Ministry of Love, double think, war, prostitution, alcohol, gambling, the lottery and propaganda are only some of the many tools used by the Inner party in order to keep control.  The propaganda of 1984 is an interesting aspect of the plethora of tools the Inner Party uses to maintain power.  “Vast strategic maneuver-perfect co-ordination-utter rout-half a million prisoners-complete demoralization-control of the whole of Africa-bring the war within measurable distance of its end-victory-greatest victory in human history…”(Orwell 296-297) This example of Oceanic propaganda is projected through a telescreen describing a victory that could be applied to the British in World War Two. Not surprisingly Orwell had experience writing this sort of rhetoric before “When all of London was fleeing for the country during the Blitz, Orwell ran the other direction and took a propaganda job in the city…”(Kafka par. 23) 1984 draws parallels between the western democracies of World War Two and Oceania, discrediting the banal Cold War theory that the novel is a warning of communist totalitarianism.  Orwell’s point is that the differences between capitalistic democracies and communist dictatorships are irrelevant because both are invariably a vehicle that the most powerful group uses to maintain power “He is actually talking about a development that is taking place in Western industrial countries also, only at a slower pace than it is taking place in Russia and China”(Fromm 320).  The propaganda is directly correlated with Orwell’s modern world, but Orwell’s ideas of a new language and system of thought are more frightening prophesies of futuristic ultimate suppression.

Newspeak is the new language that is developed by the inner-party to suppress any unorthodox thought.  “The version in use in 1984, and embodied in the Ninth and Tenth Editions of the Newspeak dictionary…”(“Principles of” 298) The perfect form of Newspeak is 11th edition, which does not allow any unorthodox thought to exist.  Nearly no one really speaks Newspeak in 1984 but by the year 2050 it is supposed to override English in the state of Oceania (“Principles of” 298). Linguistics is an important factor of the Inner Party controlling the Outer Party and the proletariat.  SImplifying words and expressions to one meaning can eliminate thoughts that are dangerous to the Party(“Principles of” 299).  This concept of complete totalitarianism is another exaggeration used by Orwell in order to convince the reader of the control of the upper-class in modern society.  This controlling of thought and words through speech is one of many examples of a state of controlled insanity.  Newspeak is the easiest way that the Inner Party can communicate their insane views upon the lower classes as they literally would not be able to question any Party rules (Ranald Par. 1).  This can distantly relate to what Orwell saw as modern linguistics (slang, vernacular) and lack of education being used to keep the lower classes in their positions in the class structure in order for the upper-class to retain power.

The theme of 1984 is a warning of totalitarianism, but the power of the state (Big Brother) is only a veil that covers the true power of the upper-class in the so-called democracies of the western world.  The Inner Party is the driving force that utilizes all of the powers at their will in order to stay in control “the essential structure of society has never altered.”(Orwell 184).  Orwell applies this theory of class warfare and stagnation  by having Winston try to join “the brotherhood”, a secret terrorist organization that is only a ploy to get Winston caught.  When Winston is tortured and re-educated in the Ministry of Love, Orwell deconstructs the human being and throws away all hope that may have been left in the novel.  Orwell exaggerates all of the metaphors in his novel to coincide with the world of 1948 that he was living in.  Orwell was a socialist himself, and he was exhibiting the powers of the upper-class that kept the elite in their positions throughout human history.  Orwell explains in this novel that the Inner Party’s objective is to destroy the human and retain power for the elite few throughout the rest of time. Orwell sums up 1984 in a bleak statement from O’Brien while he is torturing Winston “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face-forever.”(Orwell 267).

Alexander C. Kafka The Wintry Orwell Nov 30 2002 The American Prospect

Non Fiction

Another Look at Karl

Karl Marx was not necessarily the last of the philosophes, but in contrast, he could easily be seen as the death of the philosophes.  Karl Marx was avidly opposed to anything having to do with reform, instead, he advocated the revolution of the proletariat.  All of the eighteenth century philosophes were in support of reform through already established governments in order to implement their own ideas.  Karl Marx was influenced by, but directly opposed to the political reform strategies and the internal reform ideas of the French Socialists.  Marx believed that only revolution could cause true reform through destroying the social class structure.  Piecemeal reforms would not be able to transform society because the class struggles that permeated throughout history were never accidental factors, but class struggle was in itself deliberate, and the proletariat would have to become class-conscious in order to overcome their oppressive existence.

None of the philosophes brought that much complexity into their political ideals solely because they were reformist in nature according to Marx’s taste.  He was influenced by them, yet he understood that he would have to oppose all of their ideas in order for him to create what he thought was the correct intellectual agenda and ultimately achieve the revolution of the proletariat.  However, Marx conducted political writing and research in the very same ways that French philosophes such as Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau did.  He used a variety of directly opposing views as his resources, and he wrote his agendas in such an authoritative manner that would be reminiscent of Rousseau.  However, Marx’s nullification of all past political works including the philosophes and his radical, purely working class rhetoric would have been bizarrely foreign to the Enlightenment philosophers, and thus Marx only had abstract connections to them.

Marx’s theories were purely working class and revolutionary in manner.  Marx was indeed, the beginning of a new era in political writers who would write according to their own analyzations of events around them, (such as Marx’s reactions to the revolutions of 1848).  Marx utilized his own interpretations of Hegelian historical analysis in order to define and point out class struggle in the world around him.  Although Karl Marx absorbed influences and styles from the aforementioned great philosophers of the preceding century, his work can be more accurately interpreted in view of his contemporary surroundings.

Non Fiction

Marx vs. Bakunin

Marx vs. Bakunin:
The Historical Relevance of Two Opposing 19th Century Socialisms

[Paul Thomas. Karl Marx and the Anarchists. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980 (406 pp.) Brian Morris. Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1993 (159 pp.)]

No one can deny Karl Marx’s impact on Socialism, while Mikhail Bakunin’s collectivist anarchist theories and their historical relevance to our contemporary, heavily globalized capitalist society has been often ignored in present times.  Bakunin’s insistence on a horizontal, egalitarian revolution openly conflicted with Marx’s authoritarian, self described revolution under the direction of the dictatorship of the proletariat.  From 1864 until it’s collapse in 1872 (pg. 250 Karl Marx and the Anarchists) Marx and later Bakunin were both members of an institution commonly referred to as The First International (due to the existence of subsequent International Workingmen’s Associations after the original one). The two men fiercely battled each other on idealogical lines, ultimately fostering the institution’s demise because of their intrinsically opposing views on what they thought was the right way for a socialist society to develop.
Both men sincerely, and relentlessly argued through letters, pamphlets, and conferences their respective beliefs, however, Marx held the upper hand propaganda-wise and overshadowed Bakunin’s anarchism in England and Germany. The two formerly mentioned countries were the most industrially-developed European nations in which Marx held strong ties with both personally and theoretically (because of this Marx thought England and Germany were in the best situations for a revolution of the proletariat to occur).  Meanwhile, Bakunin was well liked in Latin countries such as Spain and Italy where anarchism was already prevalent, and he also held influence during his lifetime in his homeland Russia along with her Slavic sister-countries because of peasant populism (a kind of anarchistic collectivism).  Bakunin was popular with people from Latin countries, such as Spain and Italy, and the Slavs since their spontaneous love for rebellion and romanticism attracted them to his collective form of anarchism (pg. 337 Karl Marx and the Anarchists).  The contrast between the two men’s nationalities not only facilitated their schism but defined the very nature of their differences by dividing socialism into two camps within the later years of the First International: Marx’s German authoritarianism and Bakunin’s Slavic libertarian anarchism.
In order to clearly understand the differences between the two men and their ideologies it would be necessary to analyze industrialization and it’s effect on the working class and poor in the countries they influenced. Karl Marx’s theory relied heavily upon technological and material development in order for the workers to become class conscious and take power from their oppressors.  Industrialization during the 19th century had allowed a new working class to emerge whom Marx referred to as the proletariat.  The urban proletariat would then become class conscious and develop a class struggle pushing towards socialism.  It would be impossible then, for the peasant rabble that Bakunin spoke of to complete such a historical feat. Ironically enough, half a century later, Russia, a country under-industrialized, succeeded in a Marxist revolution with peasants. After the German Empire was created in 1871, Marx’s fatherland had the most politically powerful socialist party, and Marx’s longtime residence Great Britain was home to the most advanced trade unions.  It made sense therefore, historically, that Marx depended upon centralized, one-party political organization for the proletariat to expand influence; where as Bakunin’s anarchism rejected any developments in governmental representation as retrograde to the cause of economic equality and equality in general that social revolution was supposed to bring about.
The theoretical contrast between the two thinkers was defined then by the difference that Marx sought economic equality first, and freedom and political equality later.  Bakunin argued in turn that tangible, universal freedom was necessary initially for economic equality to exist and remain and that the ever spontaneous power of human will would be the key to a successful social revolution, not proletarian political centralization bringing economic equality first and foremost like Marx had insisted.  This facet of Marx’s ideology was perhaps the most endearing piece of Marxism that the Bolsheviks later expanded upon with Lenin’s concept of vanguard revolutionaries.  Bakunin warned against the kind of socialist despotism throughout his writings that the Bolsheviks later brought about in his native Russia. In 1871 Marx made a remark of Bakunin, saying “this ass cannot even understand that any class movement, as such, is necessarily and always has been, a political movement” (pg. 347 Karl Marx and the Anarchists) showing his utter disdain for the anarchist opposition to any kind of political power that continued the old social order through centralized institutions.
Although Marxist ideology demanded that the working classes be organized under a political party, and Bakunin argued differently, both men realized the need for mobilization of the working classes internationally.  This was the purpose of the International, to unite all workers in the name of class struggle in order to resist the capitalist plutocracies that oppressed them.  This was why it was ironic that the International would collapse due to an unavoidable schism based on two polar opposite socialist doctrines divided by national boundaries.  It was even more congruous then that the International would fall apart because Bakunin had precipitated its expansion into Spain, Italy, Switzerland and the Slavic countries causing the institution to expand well beyond England, France, and Germany (pg. 58 Bakunin The Philosophy of Freedom).
Marx posited that revolution would have to take place on its own timetable in relation to the greater historical scheme of things so that a country must become industrialized before the proletariat could successfully revolt against their masters.  This meant that workers who lived in countries like Italy and Spain where feudalism had not been overtaken by capitalism yet were left ignored in the snail pace cycle of Hegelian historical process.  Even though Bakunin was also influenced by Hegel, he saw no use in arbitrary theory to dictate the extended suffering of the working class.  In fact, social revolution was still considered by Bakunin to be a Hegelian negation, yet Bakunin did not see Marxist revolution as a universal social one, but as a political revolution that ended in a dictatorship that was no worse than that of Europe’s bourgeois predecessors (pg. 140 Bakunin The Philosophy of Freedom).  Bakunin was right then in his prediction that Marxist ideology would ultimately lead to a more despotic dictatorship than previous bourgeois states, paving the way for Bolshevism and the rise of the extraordinarily despotic and oppressive Joseph Stalin.
Thus, it was true that Bakunin’s theory of social revolution was loosely akin to Bolshevism because Bakunin desired to unite the peasants and proletariat together to form a truly social revolution as opposed to a political revolution that the proletariat would bring about on their own- “Only a wide-sweeping revolution embracing both the city workers and peasants would be sufficiently strong to overthrow and break the organized power of the state, backed as it is by all the resources of the possessing classes.  But an all-embracing, that is, a social revolution, is a simultaneous revolution of the people of the cities and of the peasantry” (pg. 142 Bakunin The Philosophy of Freedom).  Yet Bakunin as an anarchist had no interest in bringing about a worker’s state, even though he advocated the use of secret societies to help organize people and propagate social revolution.  Bakunin accepted that the suffering of the masses socio-economically was not enough, but that the people must have an ideal expounded by secret societies and the like which advocated freedom and equality brought about by collectivist anarchism (pg. 147 Bakunin The Philosophy of Freedom).
The most important and contrasting difference between Bakunin and Marx was government as an institution in and of itself.  Bakunin denied that government could fairly represent the people’s interests and so only the people could organize and control society through collectives united under federalism “A truly popular organization begins from below, from the association, from the commune.  Thus starting out with the organization of the lowest nucleus and proceeding upward, federalism becomes a political institution of socialism, the free and spontaneous organization of popular life” (pg. 111 Bakunin The Philosophy of Freedom).  Federalism allowed individual collectives and communes to have autonomy, which Bakunin thought guaranteed liberty.  Without that autonomy “…a confederation would simply be a disguised centralization” (pg. 112 Bakunin The Philosophy of Freedom) according to Bakunin, and the people would have no political rights otherwise.  In contrast, Marx praised centralization as key to giving the proletariat the power it needed to consolidate the revolution and bring about economic equality before any so called withering of the state could occur.
The First International was never intended to be ruled by a single socialist dogma, and thus its demise revealed Marx as a reactionary and Bakunin as not only an advocate of anarchism, but also capable of transmuting anarchism from doctrine into a movement in itself within and without the International (pg. 352 Karl Marx and the Anarchists).  And although Marx was the dominant influence cited by revolutionaries throughout the twentieth century, Marx was wrong to assert that socialist revolution was solely the business of the proletariat.  Indeed, revolutions in Russia, China and elsewhere were supposed to be based on the tenants of Marxism, however, all of these revolutions involved the rural peasant class as the major catalyst for revolution, not the urban proletariat (pg. 128 Bakunin The Philosophy of Freedom).  Bakunin therefore was even more relevant in the twentieth century than advocates of Marxism would suggest.  And although this relevance has its importance, it does not fully answer questions regarding a 21st century social revolution.
Mikhail Bakunin’s significance was that he placed human liberty before political centralization and power because he believed that any kind of government would bring about tyranny, whether it was controlled by the working class or not.  This stopped being theory and became a reality with the oppression of Communist dictatorships throughout the twentieth century. Capitalism has in fact solidified the grip of democratic plutocracies with the advent of neoliberalism and its effect on the global economy.  Globalization and capitalism have, in the late twentieth and early twenty first century, allowed for ruling classes to retain power and attain wealth to the point where stratification has become dangerously unrestrained.  Bakunin’s focal argument for horizontal revolution has become more historically relevant today because globally unifying forces such as the internet have allowed mass instant communication that would make an egalitarian social revolution more tangible now.  If the fall of the Soviet Union in twentieth century verified that top down revolution as deemed necessary by Marx would ultimately lead to despotism and failure, then the rise of globalized society by way of the internet has demonstrated that Bakunin’s horizontal revolution has yet to be proven wrong.  As seen through the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, the kind of mass communication between the latest generation of oppressed Arabs should allow for a deeper analyzation of Bakunin’s theories that increase in historical relevance to this day.