the role of forced labor

snedeker snedeker at
Sat Nov 25 11:57:14 MST 2000

Title: Re: the role of forced labor

I basically agree. there  are real limits upon the
uses of forced labor as Yoshie has pointed out. I am not saying that capitalism
could have been built solely on the backs of slaves, only that they are an
important part of the story.

  ----- Original Message -----
  marxism at
      Sent: Saturday,
  November 25, 2000 1:29 PM
  Subject: Re: the role of forced

  George Snedeker wrote:

I don't think that we
    should get hung up on the concept of waged labor. various forms of forced
    labor have existed along side of wage labor. this is still the case in the
    world economy.  Marx does not solve this problem with his discussion of
    capitalism in England. it is true that he stresses the role of wage labor.
    perhaps he was not fully aware of the role forced labor played in the
    accumulation of capital. I am not here addressing the question of the origin
    of capitalism, but rather its operation. The Jamaican slave did later become
    a wage laborer. English capitalism was never confined to England. it always
    depended upon world trade. I think we are getting back to the either or or
    reasoning which is so common.

  Wage labor has expanded as capitalism developed.  Chattel slavery,
  while expanding in the period of the mercantile system, got abolished with the
  development of industrial capitalism & the doctrine of laissez faire (see
  Eric Williams, _Capitalism and Slavery_).  Marx emphasized wage labor not
  because he was unaware of the roles played by forced labor in the development
  of capitalism, but because he thought that (1) it is the logic of M-C-M'
  rooted in "Freedom, Equality, Property, & Bentham" that distinguishes
  capitalism from other modes of production; and (2) the exploitation of free
  labor -- unlike slave labor -- under market discipline tends to compel
  capitalists to extract relative (as opposed to absolute) surplus value through
  rising productivity via technological innovation.  And (1) & (2) --
  not moral teachings of abolitionists -- were the root causes of abolition of
  chattel slavery; moreover, the rhetoric of many white abolitionists -- Eric
  Williams, David Brion Davis, etc. argue -- was colored by the developing
  ideology of laissez faire.

  It goes without saying that forced labor of various forms has remained a
  part of the capitalist mode of production.  Beyond this general
  statement, however, we need to have a closer look at concrete combinations of
  wage & forced labor; when & where wage labor expanded; when and where
  forced labor expanded; when and where wage labor contracted; when and where
  forced labor contracted; etc.
  I basically agree. slavery does set some very real limits on capital
  accumulation. slaves don't make very good consumers. they are al


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