Capitalism as slavery and colonialism

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Wed Oct 25 11:50:38 MDT 2000

Charles Brown wrote:

> CB: What is the disagreement that is being discussed at length ?

Charles, that is the question Louis refuses (apparently on principle) to answer. Until
he does answer it, I can only assume that his anti-capitalism is based on mere
personal feeling rather than on an understanding of capitalism.

We are not arguing over the importance of slavery.

We are not arguing over the importance of imperialism.

We are not arguing over the absolute centrality in contemporary political struggle of
the struggle against U.S. imperialism and (within the u.s.) of the struggle against

We are not above all arguing over the importance of slave-grown cotton  And this leads
me to a consideration of one of the most bizarre posts that has ever been directed to

Louis Proyect wrote:

> Carrol:
> [clip]
> You really should make the effort to delve into the literature for the
> [clip] I would start with Robin Blackburn's 2 volume book on
> slavery and the British Empire.
> ===
> Robin Blackburn, "The Making of New World Slavery":
> [clip-
> There are many interesting graphs in Blackburn's chapter, but for brevity's
> sake, I will only cite one which deals with British import of cotton,
> essential to the textile industry.

And then he proceeds to cite some statistics on British import of cotton from around
the world, which establish the fact that slave-grown cotton was crucial to British
capitalism. I have been at a loss as to how to reply to this, for if Lou thinks he is
saying anything here which I have not known for decades, and which is not, in fact,
rather central to my understanding of the modern world, then he has not read anything
I've posted on any list in the last four years. Of course u.s. slavery was a crucial
part of the capitalist conquest of the
world in the 19th century. Also Springfield is the capital of Illinois. One cubic foot
of feathers weighs less than one cubic foot of lead. And the world is round. All these
facts, as well as Blackburn's book, are equally relevant to the actual issues here.

I have never been able to understand why in reference to this cluster of issues (and
it is a cluster of rather disparate issues, not a single issue) Lou is so unwilling to
pay any attention at all to what other participants in the conversation are saying,
but instead insists on proving over and over and over again what we all agree on.

My provisional hypothesis is this. My approach to this cluster is essentially
political; Lou's approach is essentially scholastic. And some how he believes that the
scholastic issue if propounded at sufficient length will somehow miraculously
transmute into a political analysis.

And so, Charles, it is perceptive of you to ask, "What is the disagreement that is
being discussed at length?" It would be useful if this were clarified before another
100 screens of irrelevant factual material is posted. (The question needs to be
modified: "...disagreementS that ARE.")

And as Michael Hoover recently mentioned in another connection -- the posts are too
long. I agree with Michael that three or four screens is about maximum for an e-list
post that has anything to say. I  read longer posts only if they are crucial enough to
be worth printing out. I certainly won't labor to read 10k on screen.


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