Forwarded from Anthony

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri May 25 20:40:30 MDT 2001

>As expressed in the article Lou quotes from, Wood’s understanding of
>primitive accumulation is that its central aspect is the creation of wage
>labor - and a class of wage laborers - not simply the accumulation of
>wealth in the form of gold, silver or even land.
>Wood is consistent with Marx on this point.
>But Lou ignores it.

The problem is that Marx never really studied Latin America in any kind of
depth. No, let me take that back. He hardly knew that the place existed. In
an article for the Encylopedia Brittanica, Marx characterized Bolivar as a
combination of a hidalgo and a bandit. Engels cheered the USA in the war
with Mexico, since it would drag a backward country kicking and screaming
into modernity.

The problem we are dealing with here is the nature of coerced labor which
marked Latin America through the 20th century. There is very little in Marx
that deals with this problem. He goes back and forth, but seems torn. Take
chattel slavery, for example. On one hand, this does not fit with the model
of Great Britain's wage labor, but southern slavery is not the same as that
of Roman days. In part 2 of "Theories of Surplus Value", he writes "The
fact that we now not only call the plantation owners in America
capitalists, but that they *are* capitalists, is based on their existence
as anomalies within a world market based on free labor."

At any rate, I plan to get into this at great length when I post my final
reply to Brenner/Wood.

>Her point about Spain - the one Lou misses - is that despite the
>accumulation of enourmous wealth by Spain through her empire - the central
>aspect of primitive accumulation THE CREATION OF A WORKING CLASS MADE UP OF
>PROPERTYLESS WAGE LABORERS was stunted for centuries in Spain. And Spanish
>imperial wealth was employed in feudal methods of accumulation - or
>attempts at feudal methods of accumulation - such as wars to gain tribute
>paying possessions.

I believe we have different definitions of feudalism. I rely on Marc
Bloch's 2-volume "Feudal Society", which basically describes a 'natural
economy' devoted to the creation of use-values organized around a manor.
Peasants would turn over a percentage of their crop and perform labor
services on the estate in exchange for protection by the lord's soldiers.

Although the Spaniards created institutions in the New World that went by
the same name as those in the Old World, they were totally different. The
encomienda and the repartamento that followed it facilitated the creation
of commodites for sale on the world market through the super-exploitation
of Indian labor. Nothing like this ever existed in Europe. And without it,
Europe would have remained a backwater swamp.

>Is the only explanation that, now that Lou has hundreds of people on his
>mailing list, his star status has gone to his head, and he has lost his
>self-critical abilities?
>Or did Lou get up on the wrong side of the bed?

Actually, I am happier than I have ever been.

Louis Proyect
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