the role of forced labor
snedeker at SPAMconcentric.net
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 lists.panix.com
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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