A reading list for Anthony

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Sat Nov 25 15:30:47 MST 2000




Frankly, I don't know if Caribbean plantations would turn a Caribbean slave into wage
laborer or not. If we assume those plantations were not capitalist, I would say yes. To
be able to test this claim, however,  we need to look at the process of class formation
in the periphery more historically rather than applying class categories abstractly.
First of all, during the period from 1600 to 1750, the basic form of labor in which
labor force was organized in Caribbean was slavery (or "indentured servants"-temporrary
slaves) rather than wage labor. Did slavery accumulate capital? Yes. Accumulation
largely came through coercion--by literally forcing people to work in plantations-- or,
by the early 18th century, through the rise of autonomous slaves (Jamaica) who were
selling and buying their own products in the market place, and thus contributing to the
accumulation of some capital (Mintz, 1964)

Second, the bourgeoisie located in the peripheral regions were primarily the classical
type of "merchants" and "planters". In the 17th century, however, in the peripheries of
South Europe and Hispanic America, manufacture slowly gained a role as Hispanic America
was forced to reorient itself toward regional markets (particularly in cereal
*production* and "pasturage"). With the long economic contraction of 1600 to 1750, it
became evident that the signifigance of merchant class declined as compared with the
rising importance of "productive entepreneurs"--"planters"--(owing to the percentage of
total capital concentrated in their hands, W, p.167). So the system was not technically
"mercantile capitalism"; it was a "plant production economy". Merchants and planters
did
not belong to the same class. Indeed, the elimination of long distance trade due the
economic  contraction hurt the merchant groups in their bargaining power visa  vis
local
producers--land owning cash crop planters-- as plantations grew in scale. *Nascent*
capitalism was *emerging* in Hispanic America. This was not only due to  the fact that
the "exploitation of labor" in Caribbean  "contributed to the accumulation of capital
in
England" ( through colonial trade)  but also because the internal conflicts among the
bourgeois class (merchants versus planters) effected the ways surplus labor was
distributed among them and transferred from periphery to the core. How so?

In the beginnings, planters had small land holdings and limited capital. Capital
accumulation only started in a small region into which the planters immigrated.
However,
capital accumulation grew faster as planters gained "investment capital" from merchants
(local merchants and international British brokers)  in European port cities such as
London and Dieppe (W, p.168). As planters were supplied with money and instruments of
production ("indentured labor"--- "temporary slavery"), process of concentration in
plantations began. Caribbean entrepreneurs preferred indentured labor to slavery
because
of the initial labor cost--Whereas African labor cost 20-25 pounds for passage,
indentured labor cost 5-10 pounds.

Mind you that these developments were taking place at a hey day of  laissez faire
capitalism that was making use of  instead of undermining slavery. So laissez ideologs
were against slavery or found it unproductive is a pipe bourgeois slogan. This leaves
the "preference" for slavery itself unexplained, therefore cultural or irrational.
After
all, isn't liberalism responsible for imperialism? how can they be antagonistic? Sure
that liberalism is far more progressive than feudalism or slavery (thanks to humanist
imperialism!), but not progressive in real sense at all.

Who were the temporary slaves that the bourgeois producers found economically optimal
in
Caribbean?. Generally, they were " quite young, most often adolescents, children of
wage
laborers or poorer middle strata" (W., p.172). In the late 17th century, African slaves
massively replaced indentured servants, and some Indians were also used as first slaves
in the mines of Chile. At a first glance, it is not hard to see that the claims of
liberal historiography and its revisionist Marxian variants about the inability of
hunting gathering Indians to adjust themselves to "disciplined labor"  obscure the
realities of imperialism here!!. The same story tells us that Indians died out because
they were not disciplined enough to work in mines. They were undisciplined creatures
whom the capitalists found hard to exploit. Indians hindered accumulation. This goes
well with Genovese's paternalism absurdity.  "However, where redistributive mode of
production had existed, the Indian population stratified by class  and lower strata
were
already producing a surplus that was appropriated hierarchically. They could there be
pressed  with relative success into continuing this in a modified form on behalf of
European expropriators, especially of their previous overloads cooperated hence the
repartimiento, the mitia and the eventual evolution of debt peonage, especially in New
Spain, Guatemala and Peru"

Furthermore, the British developed a "commission system" that helped increase the power
of local planters visa a vis merchants. With this system,  unlike the previous system
where merchants dominated the Caribbean through trade, the merchants now became the
"agent" of "planter". Small island based merchants were *eliminated*  by the British
and
were replaced with large English plantations. By weakening mercantile trade, the
British
had in mind the elimination of clandestine trade between the Caribbean Islands. The
same
process of creating a forced market  also took place in Ireland and British North
America  with the implementation of Molesses Act of 1732.  By establishing a direct
relationship between planters in Caribbean and merchants in England, the commission
system "eliminated the peripheral local middleman (merchant)" and made it much easier
for the British to gain maximum profit from sugar plantations. The universal commission
system of British imperialism paid two critical roles in the formation of capitalism in
the periphery 1) it provided credit for the large Caribbean planter entrepreneur to
export slaves from elsewhere and run his enterprise in colloboration with the British
2) it weakened the power of *local* merchants to the benefit local plantation economy-
the comprodor class!


Xxxx





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Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222


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