Forwarded from Anthony (Brenner)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Nov 6 06:40:48 MST 2000

Hi Lou:

In reply to Lou, Phil Ferguson, and Nestor on Imperialism

Clearly the emergence of capitalism was a global phenomenon, not limited to
one country.

I think that part of the problem with the discussion about its emergence on
this list is that people don't always mean the same thing when they use the
word capitalism.

I think it would be good to talk about "the capitalist mode of production"
- (which I define as essentially the  employment of wage labor as opposed
to slave labor, indentured labor, etc.) and the "captialist system", which
I define as the dominance of the "capitalist mode of production" within a
state or an international set of relations between states.

I think Brenner, whom I know about only through the discussion on this list
(a problem I will remedy when I visit the USA and its libraries), may be
really talking about the emergence of the capitalist mode of production. I
certainly think that that mode of production began to emerge in Italian
city-states and in the low countries before it emerged in British
agriculture - but I would like to read Brenner nevertheless.

I think the capitalist systm began to emerge with the Dutch Revolution -
under the guise of a religous and national liberation struggle, and the
British Revolution - and the guise of a religous and Parliamentary struggle.

Certainly trade and commerce where more important in transferring loot from
Spain to Northern Europe. But, I would not classify trade and commerce in
themselves as imperialist - although their growth is closely related to the
emergence of imperialism - and you might say leads to imperialism.

Piracy on the other hand, when directed by the state, I think is the
begining of imperialism. Jamaica is an interesting case in point. It's
trade was one of the keys to transferring Spanish loot to England - but
England stole Jamaica from Spain in 1655. And the trade was illegal. Those
who carried out that trade might fly British colors in the morning, and
pirate colors later in the afternoon.

As to how progressive the pirates were - well I always admired Francis
Drake. I think the rise of capitalism was progressive in the strictly
limited sense that it brought about an historic increase in the productive
forces of humanity.

However, if the indegenous peoples of America had thrown the Europeans into
the Atlantic, I think that that development might well have occurred anyway.

I do not think that the superiority of European technology and social
organization was the reason they didn't either.

I think the deadliness of European microbes did the trick, in Mexico as
well as in Massachussets.

The reason the British couldn't really depopulate all of Ireland - despite
their efforts - was because the Irish already had thousands of years
experience with the same microbes. And that goes for Asia and Africa too.


Louis Proyect
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