Nestor and Carlos, any comments?

Alternative alternative at
Tue Apr 9 00:29:53 MDT 2002

An additional point:

The Theory of Laziness - which is used to "explain" the underdeveloped
character of the Buenos Aires oligarchy has also several other flaws.
Actually the oligarchy - even during the 19th century - tried to produce
and did to certain extent, meat, wool and leather for exports.  People
may think these were simple processes, but they were not.

Sending meat to other countries - in the 19th century to Brazil and
other centers of slavery - until the discovery of most modern
techniques, was a complicated, cumbersome process.  So was the
preparation of leather for export until arsenic started to be used for
the process.  Wool was also somehow a difficult process.

In general, those talking about cattle raising as a layback, easy
process fail to understand several questions: during colonial times
there were not freezer ships or even ship prepared to carry such cargo;
in fact, the difficulty of doing so limited to a great degree the export
of meat to the mining centers in Alto Peru or some other, close by,
colonies. This does not include the process of refining the cattle races
to make them palatable and competitive in the world market.

This was only achieved over time, in the 19th and 20th century by
mixing, breeding and creating even autochthonous cattle races importing
from Britain and Holland, creating insemination centers and the "Cabana"
industry specialized in raising cattle for reproduction and breeding
enhancement, etc Confusing the process of colonial times with such
barriers and difficulties with the 19th century oligarchy and the
beginning of the 20th century with the modern meatpacking industries in
Argentina is a simplistic, wrong and essentially foolish view of the
development of the Latin American ruling class.

The explanation that the US ruling class succeeded when the Latin
American ruling class failed only because one was conformed by hard
working elements the other was lazy is very much the "American dream"
false ideology applied to history. "If only they tried hard enough ...."


-----Original Message-----
From: Alternative [mailto:alternative at]
Sent: Monday, April 08, 2002 10:30 PM
To: 'Louis Proyect'
Cc: 'marxism at'
Subject: RE: Nestor and Carlos, any comments?


I'm familiar with these theses and the two which the author tried to
answer, IMO only half way and in a much simplistic way.  I will send you
when time permits the draft of a chapter of a book I'm writing on Latin
America.  That particular, short chapter deals generally with the
differences in the forms and content of colonization that made the US an
imperialist country and Latin America semi colonial countries.  But, in
order to save time, I can give the gist of it on these hastily gathered
comments, mostly from memory:

1. Spain sent to the colonies the scum of the scum.  Murderers, rapists,
adventurers, criminals for the most part and also parasitic priests and
so on (of course with some exceptions like some Jesuits and Fray De las
Casas, etc.)  England sent to the colonies farmers and previously
established commercial enterprises which were given concessions.  The
puritans which established themselves in the North were not good, moral
characters - false ideology aside - but fundamentally displaced elements
of those who later will be protagonists of the 1640 Puritan revolution
(which put forward a new relationship with the property of the land,
commerce and small property in England).  In any development of the
infrastructure, particularly at those times, the human element played a
fundamental role - no as much as a difference in the religious or moral
standards (neither Puritans in the US or zealot Catholics in South
America had any hesitation in using slave labor if they could managed to
do so and both tried very hard).  Moreover, the differences between the
British Northern agricultural colonies and the Southern British slave
colonies were complementary, not antagonistic.  It is important to note
that while the Northern colonies did not use slaves, they were involved
heavily in the slave trade and defended slavery all along. It is also
important to note that both the North and the South tried unsuccessfully
to enslave indigenous people and failed, then they massacred them and
replaced them with slaves, poor farming colonists and white serfs, later
with immigrants.

2. Commerce and trade were the strengths of Britain, so were its better
utilization of the land and later the early stages of its industrial
revolution (1700s).  These elements were introduced in the British
colonies early on.  Spain was a more parasitic feudal state with 500,000
nobles and an equal number of priests and large armies, all sucking out
of the same Crown's coffers, squeezed between Britain and France (both
more politically and militarily advanced). With a much backward
infrastructure and structure than both.  Of course this is a schematic
description because uneven a combined conditions existed in Britain,
Spain and France, etc, so I'm referring only to the predominant factors.

3. Britain was under pressure in America from the North (France) and
from the South (Spain) and also France later on which forced the British
to transfer skills and technology to improve both the military defense
of its colonies and sustain her armies and campaigns.  She also used the
native colonists as troops and trained a number of them in military
techniques, etc during her 50 years war with the French in America.  Of
course, Britain learned important lessons here as not to transfer these
same skills and technology at the same pace and with the same character
in other colonies later on (India, the Caribbean, etc).  The early
independence of the US played a pivotal role in teaching the British how
to continue managing its empire for the following 150 years and beyond.

4. The British colonists disembarked and found neither gold nor silver
and they were not looking for them.  They just wanted, from the
beginning to farm and produce for the British market and they did.  They
disembarked, they advanced as the need for new lands required them to do
so, they produced early on cash crops for Britain, cotton in the south,
etc  You have intensive colonization, advancing East to West
methodically and productively.  By the time of the first gold fever,
they were, I believe, already in the Pacific.  The Spaniards found gold
and particularly silver from the beginning.  These differences and the
nature of the colonists and of the imperial masters and their needs
determined that the British colonies became productive and agricultural,
the Spanish colonies more of plunder and extraction.  The British made
the decision early on to eliminate the natives who were not about to be
enslaved - and their enslavement was made more difficult by the nature
of the agricultural production - while the Spaniards pursued the
enslavement of natives to put them to work in mines and other ventures
(which required relatively simpler forms of police control.)  While
Buenos Aires found fertile lands, easier to exploit than the lands first
found by the British in today's US, this does not explain the most
layback attitude towards agricultural production.  The decisive element
of Buenos Aires is that it became the main port to send the silver and
gold from the Alto Peru, etc. (Peru and Bolivia needed to cross the
Andes in order to reach the Atlantic which was more difficult task that
going to Buenos Aires which was a much easier road).

5. Contrary to the opinion of many historians, Latin American gold and
silver did not get integrated in the world market but ended up paying
for the crown, the armies, the cleric and the courts to sustain and
prolong a dying system.  From almost the beginning, the production of
the British colonies got integrated into the world markets, etc  The
pre-conditions for the formation of capital in the US were classic, in
Latin American atypical. The law of the uneven and combined development
and its result of crisis through a synthesis gives a theoretical
framework to study the main historical processes - both in the US and
Latin America.  It is a pity that there are so few more serious,
scholarly formed Marxist historians that could understand Marxist theory
and apply them to the study of the historical processes.



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