Were sugar plantations capitalist?

Carlos Eduardo Rebello crebello at SPAMantares.com.br
Tue Oct 12 00:10:52 MDT 1999

> Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 18:20:04 -0400
> From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
> Subject: Were sugar plantations capitalist?
> Robert Brenner:
> "...a few questions need to be asked (about Caribbean sugar production).
> First, how was the 'so-called primitive accumulation of capital'
> accomplished? In other words, did the actual separation of the population
> of small farmers from the land actually take place? Had these producers
> actually owned the land?"

The actual separation of small farmers from the land needed *not* to
have happened, as the purpose of colonial slave labour was exactly the
production of a monetary profit appropriated *immediiately* by the
landowners, without the mediation of rents of land. I will take the
liberty, since Louis has quoted Caio Prado already, to quote the founder
of the Brazilian Left Opposition Mario Padrosa, in a phampleth written
in 1931:

"Outline of an analysis of the economic and social situation of Brazil"
reprinted IN F.Abramo & D.Karepovs, eds, *Na Contracorrente da
História*, São Paulo,Brasiliense, 1987, pgs 66 sqq:

"The basis of the capitalist systemn is the expropriation of the popular
masses [from the means of production] ; but in the colonies, an excess
of land can be used as private property and as individual means of
production. Since a private homesteader would have always the
possibility of becoming the possessor of his own means of production, ie
to accumulate through working for himself, the presence of such
homesteaders would ultimately render capitalism impossible. That is the
contradiction that capitalism had to solve - 'the secret of its
flowering and also its gangrene' (Marx). The dependence of the worker
towards the capitalist owner of production means had to be created
artificially; [through] the seizure of all land by the [Portuguese]
state, which made it [subsequently] private property, and the
introduction of slavery for the Natives and Africans; put into a
nutshell, systematic colonization.


Since her first settlement, Brazil was nothing else but a vast
agricultural business. Her role as a private rural business preceded her
organization as a state. Here, free soil never existed, and, therefore,
neither the free homesteader, owner of his own means of production, but
only adventurers from the metropolis, Portuguese noblemen, Dutch
traders, Jesuit missionaries, all profiting eqally from their monopoly
over land  ownership. Under the juridical forms of a peculiar variety of
feudalism, all exploited the labour force, first, of the captured
Indian, and, subsequently, of the imported Black"

trans.,Carlos Rebello

More information about the Marxism mailing list