Forwarded from Anthony (slavery)

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Sun Oct 22 17:16:58 MDT 2000

On Sun, 22 Oct 2000 17:42:30 -0400 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> writes:
> Hi Lou:
> Regarding slavery
> One important point that should be made very emphatically in the
> discussion
> on this list about slavery is
> Slavery is a completely different mode of production than
> capitalism.
> Capitalism is, put simply the exploitation of WAGE LABOR.
> The fact that slavery can exist within a world economy dominated by
> capitalism is another matter.

As I recall, Andy Austin on this list a long time ago argued that
social formations are constited by a hierarchy of modes of production
with one of them as the dominant one.  Thus capitalism as a mode
of production was already flourishing in Europe towards the
end of the Middle Ages but it was not yet the dominant mode
of production in European social formations.  Feudalism was
still the dominat mode of production but capitalism gradually began
to make headway within the interstices of feudal society.  I'd suggest
that the same might be said for slavery.  It was as (people like Genovese
contended) a non-capitalist mode of production but in the modern
era slavery was clearly subordinate to capitalism and indeed in the
early days of capitalism, slavery was a major source of primitive
accumulation.  I think that this might account for the contradictory
aspects of Southern slavery.  On the one hand, Southern plantations
relied upon non-free labor (in contradistinction to capitalist
which rely upon free labor), with a general ethos of paternalism.
Bbut on the other hand, planters had to function as capitalists within
markets and so had the principles of profit-and-loss, of competition
forced upon them by the market.  The result of which is that Southern
slavery tended to combine the worst aspects of both slavery and of
capitalism as modes of production.

> The fact that slavery was vital to the development of capitalism
> should
> not be confused with the idea that slavery is part of capitalism.
> It's like
> saying a mizture of seeds, soil, fertilizer and water is the same
> thing as
> an apple tree.
> The civil war was revolutionary: it destroyed that mode of
> produciton in
> the United States of America and replaced it with two different
> modes of
> production: tenant farming, and capitalism.
> Private propety in human beings - slaves - was abolished. The most
> important property of the slave owners was taken away from them
> irrevocably.
> The slaveowners were destroyed as a class.

Quite right, I would say.  Despite the fact that slavery had been
to the development of capitalism during its period of primitive
it eventually proved to be an impediment to the further development
of the forces of production.  In the US, the slavocracy backed economic
policies that were inimical to the development of industry.  Thus while
Northern industrialists were campaigning for high protective tariffs
to foster industrialization, the Southern planters fought for low
The planters backed policies that were consitent with their own interests
but which impeded industrialization.  Thus over time clashes between
these two strata or fractions became inevitable, leading eventually to
civil war.  As I have already pointed out, Caroll Cox, amongs others has
pointed out that Latin American countries experienced similar
in the 19th century but whereas in the US the slavocracy was eventually
smashed, the outcomes of most of the Latin American civil wars were
quite different.  There, landed oligarchs generally prevailed.  And we
see the consequences today.  Following the Civil War, the US experienced
a very rapid industrialization, with the US becoming a major world power
by the beginiing of the 20th century.  The Latin American nations on the
other hand continued to experience economic underdevelopment and
they have remained to this day subordiante to the great imperialist
powers (Spain & Britain, and later the US).  If things there had turned
different, it is possible that a country like Argentinia for instance
might well
have become a major world power in the 20th century.  This of course
did not happen.

> Most of them were allowed to maintain their poperty in land - also
> something which should not be confused with capital. Land - at least
> according to Marx, Engles, Kautsky et al. IS NOT CAPITAL.
> They were thus transformed into members of a different social class.
> The slaves were also transformed into a new class, or rather into
> members
> of several existing classes.
> Anthony
> Louis Proyect
> Marxism mailing list:

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