Re: Brenner, C. L. R. James, & Jos?==?ISO-8859-1?Q?é Carlos Mariátegui (was Re: Brenner R?==?ISO-8859-1?Q?edux)

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Tue Oct 24 15:28:36 MDT 2000

>>> furuhashi.1 at 10/24/00 03:21PM >>>


To determine if C. L. R. James is empirically accurate, one must
really study the _evolution_ of slavery: how the number of slaves
increased; what slaves produced, what kind of work they performed,
what the median number of slaves owned by a master was in each
historical period; the proportion of slave production out of all
production in the slave societies; etc.  For instance, "in 1638
Barbados had 2,000 indentured servants and only 200 African slaves.
By 1653 there were 20,000 slaves and only 8,000 indentured servants"
(<>).  So, the nature
of slavery in Barbados must have changed from 1638 to 1653, from the
marginal to dominant position in local production & class structure.


CB: OK , but I don't get how this particular fact impacts the question as to whether
or not slavery should be analyzed as a component part of capitalism in combination
with wage-labor.  Indentured servitude might be analyzed as a component part of
capitalism too. As I said, capitalism would be a combination with the division of
labor wage-labor/slave labor/non-slave-non-wage labor ( indentured servants, serfs,
corvee labor). Didn't a significant proportion of the surplus product of the slaves go
into the capitalist market ?


In North America, "The first Africans in America arrived as
Indentured Servants via Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.  From 1619 to
about 1640, Africans could earn their freedom working as laborers and
artisans for the European settlers.  Africans could become free
people and enjoy some of the liberties like other new settlers.  By
1640, Maryland became the first colony to institutionalize slavery.
In 1641, Massachusetts, in its written legislative Body of Liberties,
stated that "bondage was legal" servitude, at that moment changing
the conditions of the African workers -- they became chattel slaves
who could be bought and solely owned by their masters" (at
There are historians who contest this view of the beginning of
chattel slavery in North America, but it is a reputable view, which
James apparently held as well.  Besides, without paying attention to
the change in the use of slaves, the economic weight of slave
production, etc., one can't understand the changes in the nature of
slave revolts, as James argues:


CB: I am not questioning James' theory of the change in the nature of slave revolts.
I'm questioning your interpretation that

"James' analysis zeroes in on the dialectical process of social
>evolution & class struggles -- the development that would have
>escaped his attention had he thought that slavery was _always
>already_ capitalist from its very beginning in the so-called New
>World. "

that is , that James did not think that slavery was always already capitalist from its
very beginning in the New World. In the general debate here, I think the best approach
is to see the modern slave system as part of capitalism from its beginning. It was
capitalist even though it was not wage-labor. It was originated by capitalists who
were trying to accumulate capitalistically. We could add that it differed from ancient
slavery in that the slaves were bought and sold in a capitalist market.  These are the
issues , that to me, challenge Brenner's effort to claim it wasn't capitalist or
capitalism, that capitalism' origin was only or mainly in Europe or England.
Capitalism's origin is both in its domestic European roots and the European
colonialist , slave roots, simultaneously.

*****   ...African slaves were transported to Spanish and Portuguese
colonies in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central & South America,
starting very early in the 16th century.

Landowners in the American colonies originally met their need for
forced labor by enslaving a limited number of Natives, and "hiring"
many more European indentured servants.  In exchange for their
transportation across the Atlantic, the servants committed to work
for the landowner for 4 to 7 years.  A few slaves were imported from
Africa as early as 1619.  With the spread of tobacco farming in the
1670's, and the diminishing number of people willing to sign-on as
indentured servants in the 1680's, increasing numbers of slaves were
brought in from Africa.  They replaced Native American slaves, who
were found to be susceptible to diseases of European origin.
"...small numbers of white people were also enslaved by kidnapping,
or for crimes or debts."[1]  The Africans "came from many racial
stocks and many tribes, from the spirited Hausas, the gentle
Mandingos, the creative Yorubas, from the Ibos, Efiks and Krus, from
the proud Fantins, the warlike Ashantis, the shrewd Dahomeans, the
Binis and Sengalese."[2]  Eventually 600 to 650 thousand slaves
arrived in America against their will.1


CB: Marx mentions Indians enslaved and entombed in silver and gold mines. I assume he
means in South America too. When I say slavery, I don't only mean in North America or
only Africans, although African slavery became the predominant form , and U.S. slavery
was the last to go. Also, I said slavery and colonialism.  The point I am focussing on
is Brenner's confining the origin of capitalism to accumulation in and from Europe.

You post pertinent data following:


Slavery was an attractive proposition to landowners.  In 1638, "the
price tag for an African male was around $27.00 while the salary of a
European laborer was about 70 cents per day."[3]  A slave had less
value at the time than 40 days of labor by a European....


Yoshie F: To repeat, one must analyze & explain the _evolution_ of class
structures & struggles, in a dialectical relation to the _transition_
from one mode of production to another, as well as to change &
development _within_ capitalism (the growth of the world market,
changes in demands, industrial revolution, etc.).


CB: Agree


We need theory that has _explanatory_ powers; a theory that explains
little is un-revolutionary.  We especially need theory that can
_account for when & how revolts & revolutions take place_.


CB:  Yes.  But a theory that analyzes slavery as a component part of capitalism helps
that, doesn't it ?

At 12:02 PM -0400 10/24/00, Charles Brown wrote:
>Here's the better dialectical-holistic conception. Captialism, from
>its beginning, its primitive accumulation ( accumulation is the law
>and prophets of capitalism), is a combined system of opposites, a
>unity of wage-labor and slavery/colonialism. This is a central
>division of labor in the original capitalism.  Thus, the slavery
>that pops up with the rise of capitalism IS capitalism, a necessary
>part of it.
>It doesn't matter that the slaves are not wage-laborers. The
>super-exploitation which is slavery and colonialism gives the
>capitalists a significant proportion of their jumpstart
>accumulation.  It is like the winner of a monopoly game.  Certain
>capitalists won out in the competition as to who would be the first
>capitalists, in part, because of the use-values copped from initial
>colonialism and slavery.  These use-values, though not got from
>wage-laborers, nonetheless , had exchange-value once brought into
>the arena where the original competition among founding capitalists
>took place.  So, even though slaves were not wage-laborers, they
>produced surplus-products which functioned as surplus-value in this
>original competition to see who would be the original capitalists.
>And slaves' surplus products served as surplus-value for capitalists
>in the world capitalist market throughout the existence of
>capitalist slavery.

With your view (which is similar to Andy's), I don't think you can
explain the causes & nature of the Civil War, Black Reconstruction,
and counter-revolution against it very well.


CB: I thought my theory was built around explaining the Civil War ( end of slavery in
the U.S.) .  The component parts of capitalism, wage-labor and slavery, are a unity
and struggle of opposites. Eventually, in this struggle, one component, the wage-labor
component negates the slavery component. At this point the balance of hegemony, if we
want to say it that way, tips against slavery, as the industrial capitalists interests
unite with the interests of the slave class.

Black Reconstruction is the momentum of this new alliance continuing , the overcoming
in the sublation.

The counter-revolution is the preservation of slavery in the sublation.


>the slavery that pops up with the rise of capitalism IS capitalism

Capitalist slavery in the sense that modern slavery was _shaped_ by
the ether of the rising mode of production, which eventually
_changed_ the nature of slavery in such a way that much of slave
labor fully became a part of _social labor_ as James argues,
especially on large plantations.  All social institutions underwent
the same or similar change: consider changes in the "family" & its
social functions.


CB: Unlike the feudal residues that capitalism struggled with in its beginning, the
slavery that was established was not a leftover from the mode of production
immediately preceding capitalism. In other words, the slavery that pops up here is not
leftover from Roman slavery.  The capitalists "artificially" grafted it onto their new
rising mode. It wasn't just there. It had to be recreated from memories of Rome and
Greece. This is another sense in which it was capitalist slavery. It was reoriginated
to fit in with capitalism, so it was definitely shaped by the ether and the ethos of
the rising mode of production. It wasn't just there before capitalism and shaped by
the new mode. It was brought back, suddenly, in its entirety by the new mode makers.
It didn't grow out of feudalism, by class struggles like wage-labor relations.

But I agree it developed and changed. That is not what I was getting at , except in
the sense that it was always a part of capitalism. The wage-labor relations of
production of capitalism developed in the course of history of capitalism too. For
example, Marx notes the development from manufacture to industry.  It was this change
in the U.S. North that was a factor leading to the Civil War.


Our theory must have causal explanatory powers with regard to
historical changes.  Without understanding historical changes, we
can't practice effective Marxist politics.


CB: Ditto. However , my theory is one of historical change. It is a partial
explanation of the development of capitalism as a whole and of its components
,wage-labor and slavery, in terms of a contradiction between those two component

As far as practice today, what are the unique contradictions in capitalism today ?
They are the key to our changing the world.

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