George Novack on A.G. Frank and uneven and combined development

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Nov 26 07:22:02 MST 2000

Richard quoting George Novack:
>3. Spain and Portugal created economic forms in the New World that had a
>combined character. They welded precapitalist relations to exchange
>thereby subordinating them to the demands and movements of merchant capital.
>During the colonial period, diverse forms of forced rather than free labor
>prevailed in the main areas of production such as mining, ranching and
>agricultural enterprises. The subjugated native population toiled under
>(the mita), outright slavery, peonage or debt servitude, and
sharecropping. Wage
>labor cropped up here and there but was exceptional, marginal and stunted.
>encomiendas, which were the principal source of wealth and power, were a
>not a bourgeois form of property and method of production, and the landed
>aristocrats who held them were as feudalized as their counterparts on the
>Iberian peninsula.

Thanks to Richard for scanning and posting this. I have been in discussions
recently with my old friend Nelson Blackstock who used to be the editor of
the Militant in the 1970s and who was a leading activist in the southern
civil rights movement before joining the SWP.

I wanted to get his take on Genovese's analysis of slavery as a
"precapitalist" economic institution. He referred me to Novack whose
analysis was in sync with that found above, namely that the emergence of
modern capitalism involves "welding" precapitalist relations to exchange

This is the position that I've held all along and which is consistent with
Marx's. It also helped to influence the perspective of Eric Williams'
"Capitalism and Slavery", keeping in mind that his tutor was CLR James.

What I have been battling is the insane notion that slavery and colonialism
were not part of the origins of capitalism and belonged to what Ellen
Meiksins Wood calls the sphere of "commerce", or buying cheap to sell dear.

With respect to A.G. Frank, I doubt if his legacy will be in the
theoretical arena. He will be much more respected for his impressive
empirical body of work on the plundering of Latin America as will Eduardo
Galeano. Unfortunately the Trotskyist movement, which felt content to
recirculate shibboleths such as without permanent revolution there can be
no socialism, failed to deliver the goods when it came to concrete studies
of concrete reality.

Louis Proyect
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