- ISBN: 9780822328360 | 0822328364
- Cover: Hardcover
- Copyright: 4/1/2002
|The World of Plantations|
|The Banana Boys Come to Ecuador|
|The Birth of an Enclave: Labor Control and Worker Resistance|
|On the Margins of the Enclave: The Formation of State, Capital, and Community|
|Imagining New Worlds|
|The End of an Enclave|
|The Emergence of Contract Farming|
|From Workers to Peasants and Back Again: Agrarian Reform at the Core of an Enclave|
|From Struggles to Movement: The Expansion of Protest and Community Formation|
|The Reconstruction of State, Capital, and Popular Struggle|
|In Search of Workers: Contract Farming and Labor Organizing|
|Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.|
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There is widespread agreement that something dramatic has been happening to the international economy over the past two decades: rapid and radical changes in production technology ..., a major restructuring of world markets, and consequent large-scale changes in the policies of economic management at the international, national, and regional levels. At the same time there is a great deal of confusion about how to characterize these changes.
--Paul Hirst and Jonathan Zeitlin, 1991
Whatever the local peculiarities, contracting emerges with the full or partial decomposition of plantation-estate forms of production but often with the persistence, nevertheless, of the classical export commodities ... now cultivated under contract by a variety local growers. Contracting ... represents one fundamental way in which the twin processes of internationalization of agriculture and agro-industrialization are taking place on a global scale. The dispersion of contracting marks ... a watershed in the transformation of rural life and agrarian systems in the Third World.
--Michael Watts, 1994
I arrived in the small town of Tenguel for the first time in July 1994. Although it was several months past the rainy season, it was neither dry nor particularly cool and the intense sun was drying up the rain that had briefly covered the zone the previous night. In the southern coast of Ecuador, the heat, humidity, and rain are constants whose intensities vary within fairly predictable boundaries. It is, as I would come to appreciate more fully in the coming months, this constant combination of intense sun and rain that make the area one of the most productive agricultural zones in South America. Yet, what seemed much more important at the time--as I pedaled along on a borrowed bicycle--was the impact the sun and rain had on the town's dirt roads. The roads were a strange combination of dust and mud that choked conversations and made biking an especially tricky enterprise. To complicate things, large trucks packed with boxes of bananas sprayed an unpleasant mixture of mud, dust, and exhaust as they rambled through Tenguel on their way to oceangoing steamers owned by Dole and Chiquita.
Fortunately, Jacinto Lozano, a seventy-year-old man who had lived in the zone for most of his life, seemed to know just the path to take as he guided us along Tenguel's dirty streets. Obstacles aside, it felt good to be moving. Bicycling created an artificial breeze that provided temporary relief from the heat. Located on a flat, narrow, and extremely fertile coastal plain, Tenguel is about five kilometers from the Pacific Ocean and less than ten from the edge of the Andes. The wind from the ocean is, however, immediately suffocated by the sea of green trees that engulf the small town and much of Ecuador's southern coast. Despite their proximity, neither the ocean nor the mountains can be easily seen from Tenguel. Banana trees, with their huge green leaves and long stems, surround the town on all sides.
Although I had planned on visiting Tenguel during this first trip to the southern coast, it did not immediately strike me as the logical place from which to begin a social history of the region. I knew that the town had once been at the center of an immense banana hacienda owned by the United Fruit Company (since renamed Chiquita Brands). But in a country where a relatively small number of foreign-owned plantations existed for only a short period of time, Tenguel did not seem particularly representative of anything but the inability of foreign banana companies to establish production sites beyond the boundaries of Central America. As it turns out, I never did become convinced that Tenguel, or the surrounding towns and hamlets that make up this study, are particularly representative of Ecuador's southern coast. In fact, throughout much of the following, I will insist they were not. However, as Jacinto Lozano convinced me that day, it is the specificity of Tenguel's past that makes it such an interesting place from which to begin a history of the region and rethink some of the concepts, categories, and dichotomies through which scholars have understood and talked about capitalism.
Only minutes before we had begun our tour of the town, Jacinto Lozano and a small group of men had been the victims of my well-rehearsed introduction. I was a historian interested in learning about the politics and economy of their part of the world. Because my frustratingly vague introduction almost always generated confusion and/or apathy, their collective excitement was encouraging. They quickly explained Tenguel's historical importance. During the "cacao epoch," as my new friends referred to the early decades of the century when Ecuador was the largest exporter of cacao in the world, the zone of Tenguel was the largest cacao plantation in the world before a disease destroyed both the hacienda's crop and the country's economy. Later, in the 1930s, the gringos came and transformed the entire zone, reconstructing the town of Tenguel, building a number of smaller hamlets, bringing in modern machinery, developing a port, clearing cacao trees, and slowly planting the hacienda with bananas. It was during this period, as Ecuador was becoming the largest banana producer in the world, that Jacinto Lozano and the other men had come to Hacienda Tenguel. The wages, houses, and infrastructure offered by United Fruit had attracted migrants from both the coast and the southern highlands.
It was this discussion of the massive effort involved in developing a large agricultural enterprise in a relatively undeveloped frontier zone that led to the bicycle tour. Much of the infrastructure built by United Fruit in the 1940s and 1950s, from the system of railroads and network of roads to the homes and warehouses needed for housing, feeding, and otherwise maintaining thousands of workers, was still standing in one form or another. It did not take long to realize that Tenguel was unlike any other town I had seen in Latin America. To begin, there is no parque central . The town center, if one could call it that, is a full-size soccer field that is lined on each side by a series of neatly spaced wooden buildings. All are of equal size and once housed three families. Some families have since constructed cement foundations, but many of the houses are still made of the same wood that United Fruit imported some fifty years earlier. The houses, in fact all of the buildings, have survived the rain and humidity remarkably well. Additions, deteriorations, and renovations notwithstanding, the town's layout still reflects the company's obsession with order and hierarchy. The roads are neatly laid out and lined with dozens of nearly identical houses. Differences are quickly explained. The smaller, almost slave-like quarters, were for single men. The larger homes were for field bosses. Across the river one finds what used to be the administrative compound, the mansions, headquarters, and facilities used by the foreign administrators (now home to a military encampment and some of the zone's largest capitalists).
Both the tour and the history lesson piqued my interest. Although Tenguel's history differs significantly from much of the southern coast, it is nonetheless an excellent place from which to view the principal changes that have transformed Ecuadorian society during the twentieth century. The zone has played a central role in two of the country's three export booms, cacao and banana (the third being oil), and has been a center of popular political activity for most of the century. In fact, it was at Tenguel where the large-scale production and export of bananas first began in Ecuador.
Nevertheless, I still had questions about Tenguel's more recent past. Was Tenguel nothing more than a historical anomaly, an interesting but ultimately failed attempt on the part of a multinational to establish a banana enclave? Ecuador did become the largest producer of bananas in the world, but (unlike in Central America) the overwhelming majority of fruit has come from domestic producers rather than multinational enclaves. By 1965, foreign-owned plantations ceased to exist and direct production was left in the hands of Ecuadorians (Larrea 1987). My concerns led to a rather obvious question that has guided this research project to the present day. As I posed it on that July day: What happened to United Fruit?
Judging by the pained expressions on my friends' faces, the question was neither comfortable nor particularly easy to answer. It generated two basic responses. The first came in a hushed, almost apologetic, tone. The workers, I was informed, invaded the hacienda in 1962 and pushed United Fruit out of the zone. The Ecuadorian state subsequently intervened, took over the hacienda, and delivered a large portion of the property to the workers through the country's first agrarian reform project. Not only did banana production effectively begin at Tenguel, but so too did agrarian reform and a regional peasant movement for the land that would exist in varying degrees of intensity until the late 1970s. The second, almost contradictory response, was suggested by Jacinto Lozano himself: "United Fruit never left." To be sure, the company was forced out of the zone and the workers received a large section of the fertile coastal plain. Yet the workers-turned-peasants were not given the resources necessary to work their newly acquired holdings and subsequently lost their land to an emerging class of landlords. Despite their long struggle against a major multinational, the military, local capitalists, and the state's agrarian reform apparatus, they currently possess little land. Most of their sons now work on banana plantations in conditions far worse than they themselves had experienced during the time of the company. Worse yet, many of the large plantations that now control the zone--on land once owned by United Fruit and later by the workers --have contracts with multinationals such as Chiquita Brands (United Fruit), Dole (Standard Fruit), Del Monte, and Bonita Banana (Noboa). In this sense, Jacinto Lozano was right. United Fruit never left, even if both its name and its control over land, labor, and production have changed dramatically.
In a simple sense, this book tells the story of how Jacinto Lozano got from there to here. How did one system of producing and marketing bananas (large foreign-owned enclaves) give way to another (contract farming), and in what ways were the political struggles and daily practices of people like Jacinto Lozano central to this transformation? As we will see, this process of agricultural restructuring was extremely uneven, transforming a variety of interconnected spaces over nearly an entire century. It involved considerable conflict between and among factions of capital, the state, and popular groups, as well as nearly two decades of agrarian reform, a regional peasant movement, and the uneven emergence of both a semi-proletarianized class of cacao producers and a much smaller group of plantation owners and shrimp growers. The process of capitalist transformation examined below has been political at its core.
The point of the following is not simply to understand how peasants and workers such as Jacinto Lozano have experienced a series of political-economic processes, but to demonstrate that their political struggles lie at the core of the production process and its transformation. At the heart of both enclave production and contract farming--their emergence, maintenance, and transformation--has been the continuous formation of, and struggle between, a number of quite differentiated actors, including capital, the state, peasants, workers, lawyers, communists, and others. Marxists have been arguing that class struggle is at the core of the production process and capitalist transformation for quite some time. What the following does--through the historical and ethnographic analysis of a particular area--is place politically engaged human actors at the center of this assertion by examining a particular process of agrarian restructuring that unfolded during the course of the twentieth century.
There has recently emerged in scholarship, political discourse, journalism, and popular imagination a general consensus that the contemporary period represents a "radical break" from earlier historical moments (Smith 1991). Above all, this break (generally understood as beginning at some point in the early 1970s) has been characterized by increased fragmentation and movement on a global scale, whether seen as a cultural rupture from modernism to postmodernism, a political shift from class-based movements to identity politics, or an economic transformation from Fordism to something called post-Fordism. There is little agreement over the nature, extent, and meaning of these changes, let alone the terms with which to classify them, but there is nonetheless a broadly held belief that there is something decidedly "new" about the period in which we live.
It is not surprising, given agrarian studies' traditional concern with capitalist transformation, that the radical break metaphor quickly entered into debates on agricultural restructuring. In fact, when Jacinto Lozano remarked that "United Fruit had not left" but had merely changed the way in which it controlled the zone's land, labor, and markets, he was implicitly referring to a global transformation that has recently caught the attention of a growing number of scholars (Carney and Watts 1990; Clapp 1988; Little and Watts 1994; Korovkin 1992; Grossman 1998; Collins 1993; Watts 1994). The growing importance of contract farming is, according to Little and Watts, "a crucial means by which agriculture is being industrialized and restructured" in the late twentieth century (1994: 6). Similarly, as Lawrence Grossman notes, contract farming is "one of the most significant and powerful means by which peasants have been integrated into national and international commodity markets and agro-industrial complexes" during the post-World War II period (1998: 1). The "world of plantations," in which a large and often foreign capital engaged in the direct production of classical export commodities such as sugar, cotton, and bananas, has been "crumbling and reconfiguring itself in important and novel ways" (Watts 1994: 24). In "the same way that industrial enterprises, driven by competition and global market volatility, disperse risks and costs by subcontracting," multinationals involved in agribusiness have avoided the risks of direct production by contracting with domestic planters (Goodman and Watts 1994: 34). We have, it seems, a "new times" for agriculture (ibid.).
At this point, the purpose is not to enter into any specific debates regarding the "newness" of the contemporary period, the particular locations where such changes are most conspicuous, or even the significance of certain phenomena whose existence I am most concerned with here (i.e. contract farming, alternative forms of peasant organization, etc.). Instead, I would simply like to make a number of broader arguments about how capitalism, and particularly its latest manifestations, should (and should not) be studied. To begin, it must be noted that despite the wealth of terminology, including a wide array of terms for characterizing both "the past" (Fordism, monopoly capitalism, etc.) and "the present" (post-Fordism, flexible accumulation, etc.), few studies have traced capitalism's most recent transformation in any detail. This is not to suggest that a range of "new" phenomena, from social movements, sweatshops, and the decline of labor unions to the dismantling of particular industries and the reconfiguring of urban space have not caught the ethnographic eye of anthropologists and others. However, although much of this literature, and particularly that on contract farming, has pointed to a number of interesting problems and questions, and forced researchers to situate local forms of agriculture, industry, identity, and culture within broader political economies, surprisingly few studies have combined historical, comparative, and ethnographic analysis.
In the case of contracting, macro-historical discussions tend to locate its emergence in broader, largely economic, changes. Contract farming, or the transformation of agriculture more generally, seems to emanate from the logic of capitalist expansion in which class conflict plays little role. All the important struggles and actions take place within or between major corporations and a handful of national governments (Glover and Kusterer 1990; Kim and Curry 1993; Bonanno 1994; McMichael 1991, 1994). Moreover, as a number of scholars have noted, this literature has tended to draw uncritically from debates on industrial restructuring, often imposing a Fordist/post-Fordist dichotomy onto agriculture (Goodman and Watts 1994; Grossman 1998). In such a scenario, "Fordist" agriculture is represented by large agro-industrial plantations which, at some point in the 1970s, are replaced by a "post-Fordist" and more flexible system of production based on contract farming. As Goodman and Watts (1994) and Grossman (1998) point out, this Fordist/post-Fordist periodization breaks down when applied to agriculture. Simply put, most of what has been taken as evidence for the emergence of post-Fordism--in particular, contract farming--was already present in the (so-called) Fordist period. However, in all the commotion over labels (i.e. is it or is it not Fordist/post-Fordist?), the basic question of how and through what processes certain changes have occurred becomes lost. If the Fordist/post-Fordist periodization is too simplistic, and debates on industrial restructuring do not explain recent changes in the organization of agriculture, how should such changes be understood?
Unfortunately, ethnographic studies have been of little help in addressing this question. Most have focused on the impact that contracting has had on local groups, whether it be in terms of the household (Carney 1988; Collins 1993), income differentiation (Korovkin 1992), or control over the production process (Clapp 1988; Grossman 1998). These ethnographies do help us understand how a particular group, generally peasants, have responded to contracting, either by undermining the terms of the contract or subverting the method of production (Jackson and Cheater 1994; Grossman 1998). The historical emergence of contract farming, however, is either used as a contextual point of departure, taken for granted, or explained by "changes in the world economy." There is an admirable attempt to reinsert agency, but it is a form of agency in which subordinate groups simply respond to broader structural forces. In the end, we learn little about the role that popular struggle plays in processes of global capitalist transformation, and even less about how such changes shape the range of identities and struggles that are open to, cut off from, and manipulated by various groups.
Although scholars, and particularly anthropologists and historians, have become increasingly adept at situating the "local" in relation to the "global," we have been less successful in showing how the local has shaped the global. How do people's actions propel global transformations? Although this conceptual void can be traced back to an earlier (1960s/70s) literature on the world-system and dependency, it has become particularly conspicuous in a contemporary period where global capitalism is seen as an unstoppable force. In such a scenario, the global becomes structure and the local agency. One of the central goals of this project is to place politics at the heart of "economic" processes and seemingly abstract categories such as capital, the state, and class struggle. More simply, I show how the local struggles of Ecuadorian peasants and plantation workers, in combination with similar struggles in other banana-producing regions, decisively shaped broader processes of production, marketing, and accumulation within the global banana industry. Shifts within this global industry were not simply the product of an all-powerful transnational capital or the changing needs of the "world-system." Rather, such changes, and the choices and constraints faced by multinational corporations, were conditioned by local struggles over land and labor in places like Tenguel. By placing these struggles at the heart of global transformations, we are not only left with a more meaningful understanding of agency--one in which people are central to broader processes of transformation--but are forced to reveal the political and social content of capitalism (something that is all too often seen only in its economic manifestations; see Wood 1995).
This is not to suggest that multinational corporations have not imposed contracting on an industry-wide level. They have. This is precisely why the banana industry is such an interesting case. Despite the fact that a handful of corporations have maintained a stranglehold over the production and marketing of bananas, the global restructuring of the industry--indeed, the decision by multinationals to pull out of direct production--was ultimately rooted in class conflict. The "world of plantations," its uneven formation, reproduction, and transformation, was constituted through the (often local) struggle between differentiated factions of capital, the state, and popular groups (among others). The sad irony is that peasant-workers' success in undermining one system of production (i.e. the foreign-owned plantation) helped generate a subsequent system (i.e. contract farming) that has undermined their own capacity to effectively organize (at least in the short run).
All of this is not to suggest that nothing is "new" about capitalism in the late twentieth century. To the contrary, one of the reasons why the southern coast of Ecuador is an interesting place from which to examine "late capitalism" is because so many of the changes that have caught the imagination of scholars, journalists, politicians, and others can be seen there in such sharp relief. The region's dominant industry has been restructured along the lines predicted by economists and geographers. The large foreign-owned plantations are gone and contract farming has become the dominant method of producing bananas. Similarly, the state's presence in the zone has gone through a series of transformations that can be seen throughout much of rural Latin America. A period of intense state investment, most frequently under the guise of agrarian reform or "development," has been followed by a neoliberal period characterized by the withdrawal of state resources and an almost religious turn to the market. And finally, the peasant movements that shook the region in the 1960s and 1970s have disappeared, giving way to distinct forms of popular political organization (what some have called "new peasant movements").
Excerpted from IN THE SHADOWS OF STATE AND CAPITAL by Steve Striffler. Copyright © 2002 by DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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