"A Factory for Europe"

Carlos Eduardo Rebello crebello at SPAMantares.com.br
Tue Oct 12 13:21:51 MDT 1999

> Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 22:59:47 +0000
> From: Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky <nestor at sisurb.filo.uba.ar>
> Subject: Re: "A factory for Europe"
> El 11 Oct 99 a las 15:41, Louis Proyect nos dice(n):
> > Caio Prado, "The Colonial Background of Modern Brazil" (U.
> > of Cal. 1967):
> >
> > "The actual situation that existed under the colonial
> > regime corresponded effectively to the legal situation;
> > this is easy to understand. The population at the end of
> > Brazil's colonial history was still made up of that same
> > heterogeneous aggregate: On the one hand, there was a
> > small minority of white, or quasi-white, colonists; they
> > were true promoters, in collusion with the mother country,
> > of colonization and owners of the land and all its wealth.
> > On the other hand, there was the great mass of the
> > population, slaves, or little better than slaves, who were
> > simply the working machines with no other role in the
> > system. Thus, by the very nature of such a structure,
> > Brazil could not have been other than what it had been
> > hitherto--a factory for Europe, a mere supplier of
> > tropical products for her trade."
> Yes, but Caio Prado also took into account the fact that
> the  "great mass of the population" were not free labor who
> had to rent their work power on a daily basis, but "the
> working machines" themselves (this is one of the secrets of
> slavery: that direct producers become "things that speak").
> Thus he went further ahead from this excellent description
> and explained that, in his own view, at the level of
> production this "factory" should be understood as a
> "plantation mode of production".  I am quoting by heart,
> and may be probably missing the details. But this feature
> of Prado's book, which I read years ago, struck me
> strongly.
> Could Carlos add something on this issue?
> Nestor.
Perhaps. We have here a conundrum: capitalism -and a kind of pioneer
factory systemn - without wage-labour (even desguised as somekind of
serfdom). At the same time, all the systematical organization of
production aims at private commodity production for the world market. It
must be said, BTW, that the typical slave plantation in Brazil was so
much centered on commodity production that almost all land avaliable was
ear-marked for cane-growing, and therefore almost all staples had to be
imported from the outside and paid in cash. Therfore the widespread
malnutrition even amid the landowning class, attested by Freyre in his
*the Masters and the Slaves", as the consumption of fresh vegetables was
pratically nil (except for fruit), meat was consumed almost all salted
or smoked (that would in the XVIIIth create an important market for the
River Plate cattle-raising landowners), dependence on salted codfish
from as a staple was high, etc. We nust, therefore, either concentrate
on the forms of labour (slavery) to say that there was no capitalism, or
on the social form of the general social product (commodities) and than
admit that what existed was definitely capitalism. I think there is no
need, however, to approach world-systems theory, as the Althusserian
concept of Socio-Economic Formation (comprising various modes of
production) will perhaps do.

Carlos Rebello

More information about the Marxism mailing list