B. Traven’s Jungle Novels

convened with the Indigenous Peoples Reading Group

“My personal history would not be disappointing to readers, but it is my own affair which I want to keep to myself. I am in fact in no way more important than is the typesetter for my books, the man who works the mill; no more important than the man who binds my books and the woman who wraps them and the scrubwoman who cleans up the office.” —B. Traven

The writer with the pen name B. Traven appeared on the German literary scene in 1925, when the Berlin daily Vorwärts, the organ of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, published the first short story signed with this pseudonym on 28 February. Soon, it published Traven’s first novel, Die Baumwollpflücker (The Cotton Pickers), of which the first book edition was Der Wobbly, then the common name for members of the Industrial Workers of the World. Traven introduced for the first time the figure of Gerald Gales (in Traven’s other works his name is Gale, or Gerard Gales), an American sailor who looks for a job in different occupations in Mexico, often consorting with suspicious characters and witnessing capitalistic exploitation, nevertheless not losing his will to fight and striving to draw joy from life. Mexico was a good place for a European revolutionary refugee to re-make himself. The Mexican Revolution, ten years of armed conflict between 1920 and 1920, had ended the thirty-year dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. The man to be known as the writer B. Traven, abandoned his past and immersed himself in Mexican culture, and by 1935 was receiving favorable reviews in The New York Times. He wrote The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Death Ship, and the six volume series we will read this term.

The Jungle Novels are a group of six novels published in the years 1930–1939 and set just before and during the Mexican Revolution from 1910-20. Traven’s purpose in the Jungle Novels is to describe the conditions of a people who are ripe for change, and to trace the beginnings of how consciousness changes and sometimes leads to revolt.

The Jungle Novels are:

The Carreta (1930) The hero of The Carreta is an ox-cart driver. More sophisticated than most of his companions who work in debt-slavery in the great mahogany plantations,
Government (1931) Depicts the political corruption that infected even the smallest villages in Mexico, the novel tells the story of Don Gabriel, a minor government functionary who has a virtual license to steal from every village where he is secretary―except there is nothing to steal.
March to the Montería (a.k.a. March To Caobaland) (1933) March to the Montería is the third of B. Traven’s six Jungle Novels, set in the great mahogany plantations (monterías) of Mexico in the years before the revolution. Celso works two years on a coffee finca, but when he returns home he must hand over his money to ladinos who claim his father has a debt to them.
Trozas (1936) Trozas (the word means logs) captures the origins of the rebellious spirit that slowly spread through the labor camps and haciendas, culminating in the bloody revolt that ended Porfirio Díaz’s rule.
The Rebellion of the Hanged (1936) This fifth Jungle Novel culminates in a revolt by the long-oppressed workers against the owners and overseers of the camps, and in a treacherous march through the jungles at the height of the rainy season—a human feat of epic proportions.
A General from the Jungle (1940) Juan Mendez leads an ill-equipped and hungry band against the government forces. With brilliance and cunning, Mendez brutally attacks the federally protected fincas. The sixth and last of The Jungle Novels is filled with marvelously drawn characters, yet the true hero is the army itself―illiterate, uneducated, and poor, but resourceful and dangerous.

THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES READING GROUP which has grown from the enthusiastic call for the need of greater understanding of the long history of the peoples of North America and other continents of the world who were of those continents before and remain after the European colonists came to settle and bring this capitalist relations to every corner of the globe. Our group began following a stirring presentation by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz September of 2014 where she introduced An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

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Day 2, Session 4—Southern Insurgency: Mass Movements Throughout the Global South

A presentation and discussion with Manny Ness and Lisa Maya Knauer
Manny Ness provides an expert perspective of three key countries where workers are fighting the spread of unchecked industrial capitalism: China, India, and South Africa. He considers the broader historical forces in play, such as the effects of imperialism, the decline of the international union movement, class struggle, and the growing reserve of available labor. Lisa Maya Knauer will look at other responses to neoliberal capitalism focusing on the Americas: resistance to anti-extractivist projects, refugee/migrant flows to the U.S., and organizing efforts by Central American workers in the U.S.

Lisa Maya Knauer is a founding member of the MEP and its predecessor, the Brecht Forum. She has taught a variety of classes on feminism and Marxism, and gender and capitalism. She is currently working with indigenous resistance movements in Guatemala, and with immigrant women workers in the U.S. In her day job, she is the chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. (you don’t need to include the academic affiliation if you don’t want)

Immanuel Ness is a political economist and professor of Political Science at City University of New York. He edits Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society and is the author of numerous works including Guest Workers and Resistance to U.S. Corporate Despotism. He has worked and organized in the food, maintenance, and publishing industries.

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Resistance and Solidarity Across the US-Mexican Border: 1946-2016

A presentation by Gerardo Renique
This presentation will cover the history and political implications of the making of the waves of US-Mexican international policy for contemporary struggles for labor, immigrant and civil rights across at the US-Mexican border region. We will look at the cross-border urban areas that depend on the same water, air and other natural resources, such as the broad expanse of San Diego to Tijuana metropolitan region. Significant consideration will be given to the tensions and contradictions generated by the uneven interdependence of capitalist development in the borderlands; the long history of solidarity, struggle and resistance against racial and capitalist oppression waged by Native Americans, Mexican Americans and the multinational working class in the region; and, the potential of these developments for the political challenges posed by transnational capitalism and globalization in Mexico and the United States.

Gerardo Renique teaches history at the City College of the City University of New York is a frequent contributor to Socialism and Democracy and NACLA: Report on the Americas. His research looks at the political traditions of popular movements in Latin America; race, national identity and state formation in Mexico. He co-directed with Tami Gold the video-documentary Frozen Happiness. Elections, Repression and Hope in Oaxaca, Mexico; and co-authored with G. Katsiaficas “A New Stage of Insurgencies: Latin American Popular Movements, the Gwangju Uprising, and the Occupy Movement” in Socialism and Democracy.

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Resistance and Solidarity Across the US-Mexican Border

Gerardo Renique will cover the history and political implications of the making of the US-Mexican international for contemporary struggles for labor, immigrant and civil rights across the US-Mexican border. Significant consideration will be given to the tensions and contradictions generated by the uneven interdependence of capitalist development in the borderlands; the long history of solidarity, struggle and resistance against racial and capitalist oppression waged by Native Americans, Mexican Americans and the multinational working class in the region; and, the potential of these developments for the political challenges posed by transnational capitalism and globalization in Mexico and the United States.
Gerardo Renique teaches history at the City College of the City University of New York is a frequent contributor to Socialism and Democracy and NACLA: Report on the Americas. His research looks at the political traditions of popular movements in Latin America; race, national identity and state formation in Mexico. He co-directed with Tami Gold the video-documentary Frozen Happiness. Elections, Repression and Hope in Oaxaca, Mexico; and co-authored with G. Katsiaficas “A New Stage of Insurgencies: Latin American Popular Movements, the Gwangju Uprising, and the Occupy Movement” in Socialism and Democracy.

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Tlatelolco in 1968, Guerrero Today: The State and Mass Murder in Mexico

On September 26, 43 students at a rural teachers’ college in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, disappeared after a confrontation with police who opened fire on them. The students were trying to raise money to participate in protests of discriminatory hiring practices in the Mexican education system. This was not an isolated incident but the latest in a long series of repressive actions by the Mexican state against its own citizens.

These panels bring together activists and scholars on both sides of the border to explore the historical roots of the current crisis, its implications both inside and outside of Mexico, and how to organize meaningful solidarity.

  • 4 PM to 6 PM : The 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre and its Aftermath:Neoliberalism, Narcopolitics and Social Protest

    With panelists George Caffentzis, Silvia Federici & Gerardo Renique

  • 6 to 7:30 PM : Video Presentations

  • 7:30 to 10 PM : The Crisis in Guerrero:Implications for Political Organizing in Mexico and Beyond

    With panelists Magarito Enriquez, Juan Carlos Ruiz, Cinthya Santos & Christy Thornton and special eyewitness reports from Mexico

Panels moderated by Lisa Maya Knauer
Event co-sponsored NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America)

Suggested donation: $10 / $15 / $20
No one turned away for inability to pay. Funds to organizing efforts in Guerrero.

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