Colonial Latin America

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jun 9 09:04:14 MDT 2001


Nestor:
>As to your direct question on the social system in 17th century Peru
>and Bolivia, I am preparing a very long answer. But allow me to begin
>by stating what I have already stated (with an addition): the fact
>that the values extracted from America were realized in the capitalist
>world market does not make the social relations in Peru or the High
>Peru identical to those in London at the same time.

I never said they were. The New World was characterized by widespread
unfree labor, which was necessary because the conquered people found it
easy to sustain themselves on familiar terrain. Spain and Portugal were
required to enact laws that made it mandatory for indigenous peoples to
provide labor services. While this was a form of "political" coercion
rather than the "economic" coercion so key to Brenner, it was not
feudalism. Basically the colonists effected a kind of primitive
accumulation in the New World that created the foundations for capitalist
development. The chief difference between what was happening in Mexico,
Peru and Bolivia and what had been happening in Elizabethan England was
that in the latter case free wage labor dominated. The reason for this is
simple. In order to deploy wage labor to urban-based manufacturing, it was
necessary to destroy feudal ties to the land. In the New World it was
necessary to establish ties to the land in order to facilitate latifundia
and mining production. But, except for this relatively inconsequential
difference, labor was transforming the Old and New World simultaneously to
create the preconditions for the industrial capitalist of the 19th century.

> It is simply not
>true that the social structure of colonial Latin America was _as
>capitalist as_ any other capitalist structure in the world, and that
>there were no remnants from the old, pre-capitalist, world, shaping
>the concrete formation in many decissive ways.

I never said there were "no" remnants in the New World. For that matter,
feudal remnants persisted in Germany into the 20th century according to
Arno Mayer in "The Persistence of the Old Regime". What I would maintain,
however, is that Incan and Aztec feudalism entirely ceased to exist.

>To begin with, and sorry to contradict one of Lou's most beloved
>ideas, the _mita_ was NEVER a wage relation. But I am preparing
>something more complex and quite longer on this essential issue.

I never said the mita was a wage relation. It was in the hands of the Incas
something equivalent to the corvee. In the hands of the Spaniards it was
something akin to chattel slavery.


Louis Proyect
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