Forwarded from Anthony (response to Andrew Austin)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Oct 22 20:42:36 MDT 2000

>I do not. I define "capitalism" as the exploitation of "wage labor". As did
>Marx, Engels and the most famous of their followers.

Anthony, part of the problem is that Marx and Engels focused almost
exclusively on England in developing an understanding of the typical
transition from feudalism to capitalism. Not only does this partially
explain Robert Brenner's fixation on Great Britain (I should mention that
Robert Brenner is a 53 year old professor from UCLA who is not well known
outside of the left academy), it also explains why Marx felt the need to
explain to Zasulich and other Russian socialists that the pattern followed
in Great Britain was neither universal nor intended to be some kind of
model. Just because there was universal free wage labor early on in Great
Britain, we should not assume that capitalism is predicated on following
such a blueprint.

Not only did the creation of American capitalism involve bonded labor,
Japan's economic development as a major capitalist power beginning from the
late 19th century entailed heavy use of serfdom in the countryside in order
to capitalize industrial growth.

In "The Meiji Landlord: Good or Bad" (Journal of Asian Studies, May '59),
R.P. Dore writes about the Iwanami Symposium on the Development of Japanese
Capitalism held in 1932, where Marxist scholars for the first time tried to
mark the starting point of a sustained effort to date the transformation of
Japan from a feudal to a capitalist society. Especially problematic was the
role of class relations in the countryside, which never went through the
radical restructuring of Brenner's 16th century England.

Referring to Hirano Yoshitarö's "The Structure of Japanese Capitalism" Dore

"Hirano's work contains a good deal of original research concerning the
economic facts of the agrarian structure of the early Meiji, and the
creation of a highly dependent class of tenant farmers. The landlords of
Hirano, for example, preserved the semi-feudal social relations of the
countryside which provided the necessary groundbase for the peculiarly
distorted form of capitalism which developed in Japan. The high rents,
maintained by semi-feudal extra-economic pressures, not only helped to
preserve this semi-feudal base intact (by making capitalist agriculture
unprofitable) they also contributed to the rapid process of primitive
capital accumulation which accounted for the speed of industrial
development. Thus the landlords were to blame for the two major special
characteristics of Japanese capitalist development--its rapidity and its
distorted nature."

Louis Proyect
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