Debating slavery: Marx's discussion

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Mon Oct 23 17:36:43 MDT 2000

On Mon, 23 Oct 2000 11:14:33 -0400 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> writes:
> CB: In general, specific revolutions in specific countries,  in the
> sense
> of "an era of revolutions" , are not the entire transformation of
> the mode
> of production, because the mode of production is an international
> form. The
> transfromation of THE mode of production takes place in the form of
> many
> individual revolutions, sharp events in terms of time,  in
> individual
> countries, each of which by themselves does not meet the entire
> "definition" of transformation from one mode to another.
> LP: An interesting post, Charles. As you know, I find the concept of
> a
> bourgeois-democratic revolution poorly theorized within Marxism.
> Although I
> don't have the time nor the scholarly training to do the subject
> justice, I
> would argue that the modern capitalist state in places like Western
> Europe
> preserves the putatively rival classes of the bourgeois democratic
> revolution in the main two bourgeois parties. The landed gentry
> found the
> Conservative Party amenable to their class interests, while the
> industrial
> bourgeoisie spoke through the Liberal Party. Ever since 1789 these
> two
> parties have traded places in the executive branch, always making
> sure that
> their separate class interests were tended to. Sometimes rivalries
> between
> the two fractions of the ruling class become quite heated,
> especially when
> the subordinate classes throw in their lot with one or the other
> party
> (generally the Liberals). This can lead to extremely violent
> conflicts such
> as "La Violencia" in Colombia, which finally led to a truce between
> the two
> bourgeois parties based on a power-sharing agreement. All in all,
> the
> two-party system in most of Latin America represents a rapprochement
> between "precapitalist" elites and their urban rivals.

However, there are some significant differences between western Europe
and Latin America in this regard.  In France, the landed aristocracy
a devastating defeat which was hardly the case in Latin America.  The
conflicts between Liberals and Conservatives in Latin America during
the 19th century represented clashes much like the clash in the US
between Northern industrial capital and the Southern slavocracy except
that in Latin America the outcomes were the opposite of what occured
in the US.  If in the US Civil War, the slavocracy had been victorious, I
think that the US would have been condemned to remain an
economic colony of Great Britain, which is why the British had been
so eager to intervene in the war on the Confederate side.  The US,
I suspect would have have then developed along lines not
unlike the "semifeudalism" characteristic of much of Latin America.
Presumably too, under such circumstances US Marxists would
now be spending much of their time debating whether or not
it would be worth their while to allie themselves with the
liberalizing bourgeoisie.

> The
> theoretical
> problem for Marxism has been how to move these societies past
> "semifeudalism" into the modern era. For the CP's this has involved
> alignment with the liberalizing bourgeoisie which has proven
> ineffective
> for obvious reasons. Although the Trotskyists reject this kind of
> class
> alliance, they lack the ability to transform their theoretical
> insights
> into practical action. The explanation for this is simple. Their
> "vanguard"
> stance puts them outside the mass movement, which they lecture from
> the
> sidelines.
> Louis Proyect
> Marxism mailing list:

Juno now offers FREE Internet Access!
Try it today - there's no risk!  For your FREE software, visit:

More information about the Marxism mailing list