Debating slavery: Marx's discussion

Austin, Andrew austina at
Mon Oct 23 07:55:07 MDT 2000


The slave-labor system was not a subsistence-based economic system but was
part of the world capitalist economy. Slave-labor existed side-by-side with
wage-labor. Elimination of a form of property in a capitalist economy does
not constitute a social revolution. Private property remained central to the
South after emancipation. Your point about an amendment to the constitution
concerning wage-labor is irrelevant because wage-laborers are not property;
on this aspect of the character of slave-labor you are mixing apples and

Andrew Austin
Green Bay, WI

-----Original Message-----
From: Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky [mailto:Gorojovsky at]
Sent: Monday, October 23, 2000 6:27 AM
To: marxism at
Subject: RE: Debating slavery: Marx's discussion

En relación a RE: Debating slavery: Marx's discussion,
el 22 Oct 00, a las 18:15, Austin, Andrew dijo:

> Charles wrote that emancipation represented "abolition of one of the
> main private property forms in the U.S. system, private property in
> human beings. This is what gives it, in Marxist terms, a revolutionary
> character. It was a fundamental change in the property relations."
> Slaves were generally conceived as chattel. Chattel is simply a
> moveable form of property. Other examples of chattel are draught
> animals and cattle. After the US civil war slave-owners were
> dispossessed of some of their chattel. Suppose that an amendment to
> the US Constitution forbid the private ownership of cattle, would this
> constitute a social revolution?

Now, Andy, wait a minute. You have changed the terms of the debate.
You turn to a legal definition ("chattel") and lose sight of the
peculiarities of this kind of ownership. Probably the adequate
question would have been "Suppose that an amendment to the US
Constitution forbid the private payment of wages, would this
constitute a social revolution?"  Slaves were not chattel in general,
they were the only form of chattel that could add value to the
remaining properties of the slaveowner.

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at

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