When Carl Marx and Fredrick Engels were writing on the proletariat they were dealing with people who had left the country side to work in cities. The workers spent too much time in the city to move back to the country side and try to etch out a living off the land, if they could get any. Once in a factory, they seemed welded to their machines, 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
However there have been Native American Indian tribes in the Amazon, who never left their land. They live as if they are part of it and they live WITH nature. Large numbers of these people, still survive, preserving their culture. They never left their land for factories or any other slave labor that is so common to most people in
Latin America today. They have often paid a high price for such resistance to the international corporate culture. Hundreds of thousands of these people have been killed off. Many have been run off their land by greedy loggers and others who strip the Amazon Jungle for its resources.
Many of these Indians have been forcibly assimilated and dispersed in recent years. Some have been forced into slave labor such as working for the rubber companies.
A recent article; “The Lost Tribes of the Amazon,” By Joshua Hammer for Smithsonian Magazine and reprinted in Yahoo! News, takes a hard look at the recent and present conditions of these traditional tribes.
The article explains some of this by giving some history of these tribes mistreatment;
“Then, around 1900, came the rubber boom. Based in the
, a Peruvian company, Casa Arana, controlled much of what is now the Colombian Amazon region. Company representatives operating along the port of Iquitos Putumayo press-ganged tens of thousands of Indians to gather rubber, or caucho, and flogged, starved and murdered those who resisted. Before the trade died out completely in the 1930s, the Uitoto tribe’s population fell from 40,000 to 10,000; the Andoke Indians dropped from 10,000 to 300. Other groups simply ceased to exist.”
This kind of treatment is not surprising since brutality and enslavement have been standard practice of the Latin American ruling class since the times of Spanish rule.
The articles said that, in the last few decades, governments around the Amazon have set aside land and refuges for those Indians who remain. The article also said it they are not without problems;
“The reality, however, has fallen short of the promises. Conservation groups have criticized
for winking at “ecotourism” companies that take visitors to gape at isolated Indians. Last year, timber companies working illegally inside Peru drove a group of isolated Mashco-Piro Indians from their forest sanctuary. Manú National Park
A dozen tourists sat on benches, while three elderly Indian women in traditional costume put on a desultory dance. “You have to sell yourself, make an exhibition of yourself. It’s not good,” (Franco, Danie)l Matapi—(an activist from
’s Matapi and Yukuna tribes), muttered. Ticuna vendors beckoned us to tables covered with necklaces and other trinkets. In the 1960s, Colombia began luring the Ticuna from the jungle with schools and health clinics thrown up along the Amazon. But the population proved too large to sustain its subsistence agriculture-based economy. Colombia
For far too many Amazon Indians, however, assimilation has brought only poverty, alcoholism, unemployment or utter dependence on tourism.”
This is not really surprising. The countries of
Latin America have capitalist-feudalist economies which rely on rigidly controlled intensive labor. The Native American Indians have subsistence economies that are totally self sufficient. Latin America has been run by oligarchies that rely on slave and wage slave labor for their economies for the last few centuries. The Indians are completely outside the mainstream economy and they neither rely on nor contribute to it. This goes against the nature of any capitalist-feudalist government.
This is not that different from the colonial era in
Africa where Native Africans were enslaved by Europeans, forced to shed their cultures and forced to abandon subsistence farming. They had to learn to work for profit. Africans were often punished for not keeping up the work pace Europeans expected. Some were tortured. Some had their hands cut off for not working hard or fast enough.
So the idea of corporate leaders tolerating people who are not enslaved to the ruling classes is hard for some of them to swallow.
So far some of these Indians have survived and saved their cultures. With enough pressure, many give up and assimilate into the mainstream. Once they leave their knowledge about jungle life, their languages and any medical secrets they know are lost permanently.
This is the situation that early Marxists did not have to deal with. But Mao Zedong and other anti-imperialist leaders did. Modern Maoists, such as the Communist Party of India Maoist, work with tribal groups and defends their rights. - សតិវ អតុ