Roman proletarians and Southern "white trash"

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at
Mon Oct 30 12:51:44 MST 2000

> >John Ashworth analyzes the slave owners in the >South in a way akin to
> >your analysis of the "anti-bourgeois ruling class" >who "avoid,"
> >rather than "promote," accumulation at home & who >fail to modernize
> >the productive forces:

I don't know much about John Ahsworth but his observations are seriously
disturbing. So slavery in the ante-bellum South was *inhibiting*
capitalism? Modern slavery is a pre capitalist/ archaic  mode of
production?  Latin American plantation economy was a pre-capitalist
economy in hands of anti-bourgeois elites "failing to modernize
production"? This closet modernization theory  is completely ahistorical
because it assumes that Latin American underdevelopment occurred in
isolation from the rest of the world-- international division of labor.
That is the problem. In the era of free trade imperialism, the British
modernizing (liberalizing) bourgeoisie was totally benefiting from slave
owners in the South and as such slavery was _part_ of the historical
process of transition to capitalism there, as the South was gradually
integrated into world economy and its class structure underwent
"alterations". Slave economy is an example of FORCED primitive
accumulation in the colonies (Marx), *not absence of capitalism. Even
Lenin argues somewhere in State and Revolution (or What is to be Done)
that the agrarian class structure in the US was fundamentally more
capitalized than the agrarian class structure in Russia in his reply to
populist Narodniks.  To say that slavery was a pre capitalist mode of
production is to minimize the realities of modern colonialism, political
domination of indigenous people and cultural assimilation of African
Americans, American Indians, etc.  Remove  Africans from their land by
coercion, force them to work in plantations as slaves, make use of the
full potential of African labor, and call this system pre capitalist in
the age of imperialism? Give me a fucking break.  The economic interests
of the  US comprador class in the South and the British liberalizing
bourgeoisie were one and the same. Slave owners were securing free access
for British commodities  and the British was establishing political
control over indigenous population  by exporting "white settler class" to
"supervise cash crop PRODUCTION" . As Dunaway suggests in her analysis of
Southern Fur Trade in Southern Appalachia that "Seeking to minimize
contraction of their economic activities, England, France and Spain
competed for political and economic control over the Indians of the
American Southeast. The incorporation of Southern Appalachia as a
peripheral fringe of the British coastal colonies entailed three
historical transformations: (a) establishing political control over the
Cherokees and their territory; (b) securing initial Appalachian markets
for British commodities; and (c) European export of a white settler class
into Southern Appalachia to supervise the region's first ``cash-crop''
production. The Cherokee economy underwent massive alteration of its
relations of production and became restructured around export activity.
Through their instigation of intertribal warfare and their treatment of
the scattered Cherokee settlements as a unified corporate entity, the
British coerced the indigenous society toward secular and national
governance. Within fewer than 50 years, the Cherokees lost economic and
political autonomy and became dependent upon the worldwide network of

Understanding  structures of dependence and colonial exploitation in the
third world is a *key* to understanding the role of progressive
nationalisms. The relations of dependence on the core capitalist countries
have subjected third world nations to international division of labor,
which led to them to *capitalist underdevelopment by aggravating the
fundamental problems of third world people, such as poverty, income
inequalities and uneven development. From the beginning, imperialism
SUCKED the developmental potential of  third world nations through 1)
colonial expansion by settling comprodor class and forming  local
capitalist alliances  2) financial industrial dependence 3) multinational
corporations. The only way to break the structures of dependence is to get
rid of capitalism in total and the imperialist enemy classes in particular
(local and foreign). This can be done either through 1) state monopoly
capitalism in Lenin's use of the term (Peronism, Kemalism,
Nasserism)--nationalization of industry and  banking, restriction of
foreign trade, kicking the comprador class and replacing it with
nationalist bourgeois class 2) *socialism*-- central planning, total
monopoly on foreign trade and relations of production.  We, socialists, of
course, desire the second  strategy while  still believing in the
historically progressive potential of the first strategy because of
national self determination thing.

In Yugo, we need the second strategy. There is some form of capital
accumulation already taking place under Milo but the regime has
fundamentally achieved this accumulation by anti market means such as
price control of major commodities. US never liked this strategy because
it went contrary to neo-liberal model that the US wants to impose on the
rest of the world: Free Market Fethisism. The country is under US
imperialist domination being forced into IMF structural adjustment
programs and European financial aid at the moment. If the imperialist
opposition (liberalizing bourgeoisie)  takes full control, Yugo will
become a periphery of European economy, further aggravating the
socio-economic inequalities of Yugoslavian people. We need to oppose the
*closet* neo-liberal model *fetishizing the anti-socialism of Yugo economy
and the sufferings of Milo regime in order to justify imperialist
interventions in Yugo. Unlike Brenner, we marxists should not think that
*liberalizing* bourgeoisie play a historically progressive role in the
context of imperialized countries, let alone in core imperialist
countries. If we follow Brenner's model, we end up in knocking the door
of  IMF.

Jared, tell me more what is happening in Yugo at the moment.



> *****   The South was being outpaced by the West in manufacturing,
> though both sections were far behind the Northeast.  On the
> assumption that wage labor was concentrated in the Northeast, we can
> conclude, once again, that the slave economy was increasingly
> diverging from a free labor economy, as free labor came to mean wage
> labor.
> The data on industrialization demonstrates that a gap was opening up
> between the sections.  This conclusion indeed is shared by all
> scholars, even those most firmly committed to the view that the South
> had a successful capitalist economy.
> Correlations, however, are not causes and we need to establish the
> reasons for the slower pace of southern industrialization and
> urbanization.  According to the neo-classicists, the reason is
> simple: the South's comparative advantage lay in agriculture and thus
> it was entirely rational for southerners to concentrate on farming
> rather than commerce or industry.  Unfortunately this view now lacks
> empirical foundation.  According to the most definitive work on
> southern manufacturing, rates of return in manufacturing in the South
> were extremely good.  "The average for all southern manufacturing,"
> according to historians Fred Bateman and Thomas Weiss, "was 28
> percent in 1860 and 25 percent in 1850."  And prospects did not vary
> greatly from subregion to subregion.  Moreover, these rates of return
> "were not simply high, they were substantially above the returns
> earned from slavery and slave-based farming."  Why did southerners
> not engage in manufacturing to a greater degree?  There can be only
> one answer (though it is one which Bateman and Weiss will not
> accept): they were not profit-maximizers in the way that
> neo-classical economics postulates.  This is no small matter; it
> suggests a catastrophic weakness in the entire neo-classical approach
> to the southern economy.  For it reinforces the possibility that a
> slave-based economy cannot industrialize....
> Let us now see if the Marxist approach fares better.  Is there reason
> to believe that the pursuit of self-interest was mediated or
> structured by the exigencies of the master-slave relation?  Indeed
> there is.  For manufacturing posed special problems for the masters,
> problems that had no real equivalent on the plantation or in an
> agrarian society generally and which were also less severe (or absent
> altogether) in a wage labor economy.  An overwhelming amount of
> evidence can be cited in support of this proposition.  Before we
> examine this evidence, however, we should note the root cause of the
> master's difficulties.  As we shall see, the problems stemmed from
> the fact that so many slaves did not wish to be slaves, did not wish
> to see the fruits of their labor appropriated by another and
> therefore attempted, in various ways, to resist this exploitation.
> In so far as the evidence demonstrates that slave resistance (in its
> many forms) constrained southern economic development, it compels us
> to acknowledge the vital importance of class interests.  _In
> inhibiting the development of industry (and of cities) in the South,
> the slaveholder was simultaneously advancing a class interest_.
> As we shall see, _the southern failure to industrialize or to
> urbanize cannot be explained without reference to this class
> interest_.  Of course such an interest was, to a considerable extent,
> an economic one, since the slaves were themselves the source of the
> economic well-being of the masters.  But it was not an economic
> interest of the kind which modern neo-classical economics envisages:
> it was not a profit-maximizing impulse.  For the slaveholders'
> pursuit of wealth and prosperity was subject to a complex series of
> mediations.  _Here the relations between the contending classes
> assume the utmost importance.  The desire to maintain their slaves
> and thus their class position constrained the slaveholders' response
> to commercial opportunities, allowing and encouraging certain
> activities at the expense of others.  And the need to take account of
> the non-slaveholding whites, whose loyalty was essential to the
> maintenance of their regime, in turn constrained the defense of
> slavery, again encouraging certain activities rather than others_.
> The problem with the neo-classical approach is not its assumptions
> that slaveholders were acquisitive or self-interested but its refusal
> to accept the existence of these filters, as it were, through which
> self-interest was perceived or interpreted and then pursued.
> (emphasis mine, footnotes omitted, John Ashworth, _Slavery,
> Capitalism, and Politics in the Antebellum South_, Vol. 1: Commerce
> and Compromise, 1820-1850, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995, pp. 90-93)
> *****
> What Nestor analyzes in general (encompassing slavery, serfdom,
> latifundium ownership, etc.) and what Ashworth discusses with regard
> to the antebellum South, is still of utmost importance in our late
> capitalist world.  To simply describe any social formation
> incorporated in the world economy as purely "capitalist" -- though
> true in the sense that it promotes accumulation at the core -- means
> to miss much of the concrete workings of the actual "economic and
> social relations" outside the core.  The peripheral ruling class's
> desire to maintain their class power makes them pursue activities
> that go against economic development and social modernization, by
> depending on & perpetuating unfree labor, even after unfree labor
> ceases to make "economic sense" (understood as profit-maximization in
> the sense of neo-classical economics), and by buying the loyalty of
> the strata between the ruling class and the most oppressed (in the
> case of the antebellum South, non-slave-owning whites).  We cannot
> afford to paper over the differences among the modes of surplus
> extraction by describing any social relation under capitalism purely
> & simply as "capitalist."  Those who wish to minimize the difference
> between slavery (and other modes of coerced labor) and wage labor by
> regarding both as "fully capitalist" may ironically end up
> diminishing the value of progressive nationalism (not to mention
> socialism) on the periphery, despite their good intention to morally
> indict capitalism.
> Yoshie


Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

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