Forwarded from Carlos Rebello (origins of capitalism)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Aug 1 09:38:34 MDT 2003

Dear Louis: I've been watching this debate as it developed recently, and
since I've recently re-read Brenner's "Agrarian Class Structure and
Economic development" in book form to foward it to a student, I think I
could offer a few hints.

Brenner's thesis, as it appears to me, is that the development of
agrarian capitalism, as in England, needed the eviction of feudal
property and the closing of the commons in order for capitalist
accumulation -and the existence of a national wage-labor market - to
proceed; when, as in pre-modern France, feudal property is allowed to
survive, it means a hindrance in the development of capitalist
property-consolidation, rising of physical productivity, and the
development of wage-labor.

So far, so good. But such an historical development has nothing to do
with development of capitalist agriculture in the Third World or in the
Americas in general, where the main problem was to prevent the
establishment of peasant property _from the very start_, by keeping huge
consolidated demesnes of previously "vacant" (in fact, inhabited by
Ameridians) land for production of commodities for the European
capitalist market, by preventing such land-expenses from being quartered
into small peasant units for subsistence agriculture.

The form historically found to do that was - in Brazil as well in the
American South - was to tie the manpower to a single directing
management center, by means of the re-invention of _chain-gang slave
labor_ which in Europe had disappeared well before the demise of the
Roman Empire, when chain-gangs had been replaced by generalized tenancy
(colonate). The resumption of this most archaic form of
labor-management, tied as it was to _commodity-production_ responded to
_specifically capitalist needs_ and has nothing to do with historical
_backwardness_ strictu sensu. In Spanish speaking Latin America,
depending on place, we have the same process (as in the Caribbean, the
Peruvian coastal line) or then, in Mexico and upland Peru, a form of
servitude including centralized management of the Amerindian "serfs" in
the interest of capitalist production (peonaje, etc.).

That it was capitalist in character, is somethin acknowledged by marx
when he states that, had the Confederacy won the ACW, then

"the Union would thus not in fact be dissolved, but rather reorganized,
a reorganization on the basis of slavery[...] In the Northern states,
where Negro slavery is [...] inoperable, the whole working-class would
be resuced to the level of helotry" (Die Press, 7 november 1861)

Which means that Marx already accepeted implicitly the notion of
"combined and uneven development".

Regards_Carlos Rebello


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