Cotton and Scarcity

Charles Jannuzi b_rieux at
Wed Jan 15 19:56:39 MST 2003

Subject: Re: Cotton and Scarcity

David Schanoes in part wrote:
> The death knell to the slave- plantation system

of cotton production in the
> US was social and not natural.  More precisely,

ever increasing inputs of
> "capital", land and slave-labor, were required
to maintain production, much
> less increase it.  The  relations of that
production did not allow, could
> not afford to support those increasing inputs
in infrastructure, land, or
> labor.

Louis Proyect in part replied:

>This looks at the whole question from the
>"straightjacket of production"
>perspective that not only does not do justice to

>Marx's ideas about
>agriculture, it would disarm socialism in the
>face of the environmental
>crisis of the modern epoch.

>Unfortunately, industrial techniques applied to
>agriculture do not work.
>Let me repeat that. Industrial techniques
>applied to agriculture do not

This is good discussion indeed, so I have to add
to it because it has got me to thinking.

I think even the capitalists of the Civil War era
recognized slavery and the plantation system as
bad, bad even in Marxist terms--bad in terms of
means of production (though not of the industrial
technological type) and bad in terms of the
(social) relations of production.

The South's system defending itself in a war was
certainly no match for the North. The South had
to rely to quite an extent on hiring poor rural
whites to fight their war for them, and even the
North was able to hire a lot of them to their
side (West Virginia, Tenessee, all the border
states). And the South couldn't match the
industrial output required for what evolved into
total war, at least on a limited scale.

In his correspondence to Engels at mid-century,
Marx says that Ireland and the Irish require four
things. One of those he called 'an agrarian
revolution'. By this I'm sure he meant a
revolution both in terms of production and in
terms of social relations (revolutions entirely
predicated upon Irish independence of course).

Some of the questions of that era was: since the
British government hardly cared anymore for
Welsh, Scots, or English rural poor, why, when
the potato famine hit, was the Irish most
severely affected? Why couldn't the Irish fend
for themselves. Why did Ireland require
unprecedented social legislation and food aid?
Marx is trying to answer those questions with
actual solutions.

I may be wrong, but I think the term 'cotton
famine' actually got called 'famine' because
people like Engels, JS Mills and Marx noted that
it was the recently emigrated, displaced Irish in
England's cotton textile producing districts that
were hardest hit.

Finally, a very interesting paper that relates to
this discussion but goes in a different
direction, from a surprising perspective is:

More on this later though.

Charles Jannuzi

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