Debating slavery: Marx's discussion

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Mon Oct 23 11:42:08 MDT 2000

>>> austina at 10/22/00 07:15PM >>>
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?


CB: Yes, if cattle were a basic means of production.

 As is often said, when Marx and Engels said their main goal was in a word to
abolition of private property , they meant abolition of private ownership of the basic
means of production, such as the mines, mills and factories.

Slaves were a basic force/means of production in the slave mode. The abolition of
ownership in this basic means of production constituted a revolutionary change.


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