Each basket requires painstaking labor. He dries the bast and fiber in specific ways. He finds quality plants and insects to create the richly-colored days. He then weaves stunning pictures into the basket.

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Each basket requires painstaking labor. He dries the bast and fiber in specific ways. He finds quality plants and insects to create the richly-colored days. He then weaves stunning pictures into the basket. Traveling through remote parts of Mexico, he encounters the Indian selling his baskets and purchases a few of them to take back with him. Winthrop knows that the Indian sells one basket at the village for half of a peso, and so he thinks that for a bulk order the Indian would sell even lower.

He negotiates a steal-of-a-deal with the store—certain that the Indian would be more than willing to participate in the exchange. What a fine businessman he is, indeed. And not only is he maximizing his profits, he is even helping the Indian escape his unfortunate existence selling baskets door-to-door in the village! Winthrop returns a second time to the Mexican village to present the Indian with his business scheme: he would like to buy ten thousand baskets from the Indian.

The Indian takes a night to think over the offer, and then responds with his price: ten thousand baskets will cost fifteen pesos each—over fifteen times what Mr. Winthrop had paid for one. How could that be, thinks the goodly astonished businessman? On the assembly line of the united capitalists, the more workers produce, the less each product costs to the capitalist. Not only this, but workers must be continually made to work more intensely and more rapidly so that as much profit as possible can be squeezed out of their working hours.

Faster, faster, faster! More, more, more! Just let them suffer, and when they are spent, when they have produced their wealth for capital, hire another! But, alas, the Indian has made his own calculations, and has reached a very different conclusion.

He patiently explains that if he were to weave ten thousand baskets, he would have no time to tend to his crops and to his land, and he would have to go to the village to purchase and acquire all of his needs. This would cost money, and this money would have to come from the amount that each basket would be sold to Mr. The Indian possesses a small piece of property on which to produce what he needs, and beyond that, he can make a small income from the sale of his baskets.

He sees that Mr. The grand business scheme is good only for the capitalists! Winthrop grows agitated, and continues to try to convince the Indian of his grand business plan. He fervently counts and calculates the numbers that will make him rich—and by the logic of capital, happy. Like all good capitalists, Mr. Winthrop does not meet the Indian for his human self. Beyond that, beyond the numbers and figures that he has woven in his head, the Indian is nothing.

The promise of money is the only promise he is good for—but not the promise of friendship or honesty. Such a cultured man is this Mr. If I were to make them in great numbers there would no longer be my soul in each, or my songs. Each would look like the other with no difference whatever and such a thing would slowly eat up my heart. Though he works hard to produce what he needs and he earns little income, his life has a spirit that he would not easily give up.

Indeed, even if he were to be paid 15 pesos for each basket, the sheer act of creating thousands of baskets would alter the meaning of the baskets for the Indian. In place of individually expressed art works, they would become uniform commodities. The workers are, after all, only for capital, defined solely by the cold terms of employment, and such conditions permit no practical or theoretical consideration to individuality. Devoid as it is of all human consideration and empty of spirit, capital travels to all ends of the earth to extract labor for profit.

In the end of their encounter, the Indian in the story escapes an unpleasant outcome, though it appears that neither the Indian nor Mr. Winthrop experience a change. The Indian simply says goodbye and returns to his simple but demanding labor, while Mr. Winthrop presumably returns to New York to search out new ventures, never having learned what the Indian really weaves into his baskets.

Dreams, throbs, and poems left unsung—what do these share? The pain of not being realized. A dream is by definition a fantasy or a hope, an unsung poem is one that no one hears, and the throbs of a heart ache for some missing object.

The Indian and Mr. Winthrop are, after all, not meant to be realistic, well-rounded characters—rather they are intended to be figures from which something can be learned for our own world. And if they leave much to be desired, then that desire is ours also.

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Traven Assembly Line

Short Story: Assembly Line by B. Traven B. No one is sure who the actual author was. Winthrop of New York was on vacation in the Republic of Mexico. Therefore, he considered it his duty as a good American citizen to do his part in correcting this oversight. In search for opportunities to indulge in his new avocation, he left the beaten track and ventured into regions not especially mentioned, and hence not recommended, by travel agents to foreign tourists. So it happened that one day he found himself in a little, quaint Indian village somewhere in the State of Oaxaca.


Assembly Line - B. Traven

Rosen, both of the Radical Teacher collective which groups the literary genres of poetry, drama, fiction and non-fiction under such themes as Money and Work, War and Peace, and Varieties of Protest, making it considerably easier to teach literature from a progressive left prospective. Not having taught this course in well over fifteen years, I am curious if or how the political understanding of my students may or may not have changed over the past decade and a half. I have one particular memory of my earlier experience teaching this course and using the first edition of this anthology it is now in the fourth edition. I was teaching B. The New Yorker immediately recognizes the beauty of and the possibilities for making a tremendous profit from such a craft and asks the peasant if he would be willing to make large numbers of the basket which he eventually decides to do for a small profit, although nothing compared to the vastly larger profit the businessman will make reselling the baskets at some crafts fair in New York. I was shocked and kept going over the percentage of profit something like percent and the difference in business sophistication between the two parties. In exasperation, I asked the class what their majors were.


B. Traven: Realist and Prophet

About B. That, under the name of B. II About B. Traven we do not know: who he had been before he became Ret Marut, early in the century. And this is precisely what Traven always wanted us to do. It is, in fact, fairly easy to get to know Traven, both for his ideas and for his temperament. But at least most of his novels and short stories are now available in the United States, and we can get acquainted with him.

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