Colonial Latin America (Xxxx)

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Sun Jun 10 21:23:43 MDT 2001


Xxxx Xxxxxx <xxxxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxx.xxx>:

>Julio, let's not play with words here. shall we? You may not subscribe to
>Lenin's theory of imperialism, but do not misinterpret what I say.

The two meanings are completely different.  In the way you (and I) use the 
term (imperialism-1), it means abuse, plunder, extra-economic coercion, 
super-exploitation.  In the way Lenin uses it (imperialism-2), it means 
normal capitalist exploitation in the present phase of capitalism, i.e., 
under monopoly capitalism and the aegis of finance capital.  Not abuse, but 
use.

>Lenin
>did _not_ believe that imperialism transformed the colonies either.

Lenin deals mostly with the traits of the new phase of capitalism in the 
rich countries.  There, according to Lenin, there's a surplus of capital 
(with respect to profitability at home).  The surplus of capital is exported 
to other countries.  If poor countries offer profitable opportunities, then 
capital goes there.

When Lenin addresses the effects of the export of capital on the receiving 
countries, he says things like: "The export of capital influences and 
greatly accelerates the development of capitalism in those countries to 
which it is exported. While, therefore, the export of capital may tend to a 
certain extent to arrest development in the capital-exporting countries, it 
can only do so by expanding and deepening the further development of 
capitalism throughout the world" (Imperialism, chapter 4).

In other words, capital exports (an essential trait of imperialism-2) does 
'transform' (and GREATLY) the target countries.  It does it by GREATLY 
accelerating the development of capitalism in them.  It may slow down things 
a bit in the 'core', but that's as it EXPANDS AND DEEPENS the development of 
capitalism throughout the world.  How can THAT be read in such a way as to 
support the claims of the dependency theory?

Now, back to imperialism-1.  It is inflicted on the poor countries combined 
with 'regular' capitalist exploitation (by local or foreign capitalists).  
That is, on the one hand, value is taken by force, threat, or deceit by rich 
countries (imperialism-1) or by local exploiters.  On the other hand, value 
is also produced in a capitalist fashion -- i.e., by wageworkers and a part 
of this value is appropriated by the capitalists (surplus value).  This is 
so whether the capital involved is domestic or foreign.

Obviously, imperialism-1 impoverishes.  It's theft.  If it is significant 
(as it was in the times of colonial pillage), then it makes it harder for 
capitalist production proper to take hold.  But imperialism-1 is not 
capitalist production.  It is 'lack thereof'.

>Yes,
>imperialism promoted _some_ capitalist accumulation, but this accumulation
>was not similar to the capitalist transformation that existed in the
>British country side back to the emergence of capitalism.

The historical process of primitive accumulation of capital has been 
different in each country.  In England, it was brutal.  In the poor 
countries, it has been brutal.  So, historically, it's been very different.  
Brutal and brutal.

>Rather than
>transforming the peasants into free wage laborers, imperialists imposed
[...]
>one of these types rather than wage labor.

In the Mexican case, the Europeans brought an incipient form of wage labor 
(the obrajes).  Wage labor didn't exist in Mexico before.  The Europeans 
even brought a bit of co-operative production.  For instance, Vasco de 
Quiroga in Michoacán mixed a dash of Bartolomé de las Casas's 'towns of free 
Indians' idea with Thomas More's 'Utopia' and  successfully organized 
communal production of the Indians, by the Indians, and for the Indians 
(with a fair dose of Catholic patronage).  Under the Aztecs, labor was 
coerced.  Most of the Imperial exploitation took place by taxation in kind 
(tributes).  Those who didn't comply were treated roughly.  Indeed, because 
of the hunger for gold, silver, and exotic products in the world market, 
slavery was imposed.  And it was brutal.

In the US, slavery was also imposed.  It was brutal.  Yet, things turned out 
different.  In England, forced labor and abusive practices that violated the 
wage contract receded slowly and subsisted even in the 19th century.  
Legislation against abuses was, as Marx noticed, an attempt (guided by crass 
self-interest) by capitalists to reign on themselves.  Yet things in England 
turned out different.

Nowhere is proletarianization a smooth process.  On the one hand, it 
consists of the forceful separation between the direct producers and the 
means of production.  That's the 'easy' part.  On the other hand, it 
requires that the property-less direct producers supply their labor power in 
the market and find jobs.  Neither in England nor anywhere else, the direct 
producers have found jobs ready-made for them.  In fact, it takes 
generations.  In England, it took centuries of degradation and suffering.  
To suggest otherwise is to idealize the emergence of capitalism in England.  
(Marx devoted chapter 28 of Capital, vol. 1, to describe how the direct 
producers were expropriated forcefully in mass and -- hanging with no labor 
market ready to absorb them -- were dragged and even punished cruelly by the 
laws.)  When Marx talked about capitalism emerging bathed in blood and mud, 
he wasn't talking about colonial plunder and genocide only.  Yet things 
turned out different.

Also, in England, capitalist production emerged in a context where it had to 
cooperate and compete in turns with modes of production based on 
extra-economic coercion or independent commodity production.  By cooperating 
with them, it reinforced them temporarily.  But eventually, the very 
progress of capitalist production and accumulation made it necessary to 
fight against them, to get rid of them.  Yet things turned out different.

To understand the historical differences between the poor world and the rich 
world, we have to look somewhere else.
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