Forwarded from Nestor (Huato)

Sat Jul 5 06:03:39 MDT 2003

>Afro American slaves in the South were not proletarians, of course. They
were slaves; they did not own their own work force and could not rent it to a
capitalist in exchange for money. But the particularity of this kind of slavery,
as compared to Ancient slavery, was that it was embedded deep not into the
South but in the Lancashire textile mills, in the general circuit for the
realization of capital the world over. It did not "conflict" with British capitalism.
It _came to_ conflict, eventually, with American capitalism, and thus you had
a civil war ("You see, you see, says Huato here, he is conceding my point!").

But this civil war (please read Marx) was in the end a war between a
national-popular front led by the American bourgeoisie and the British
bourgeoisie, not between American slave owners and British capitalism. Much
to the contrary, British bourgeois were FOR American slave owners, and American
bourgeois turned against them ONLY WHEN IT PROVED UNTENABLE to develop a
self-centered capitalist economy in USA while keeping the propertied classes of
the South free from attacks on their long seated property rights. It is seldom
remembered that the Southern slave owners were expropriated of a good deal of
their capital, in the same way that the French aristocrats were expropriated in
1789 and onwards.<


You hit the nail on the head.

The slave master or slave oligarchy means the planter class. The Civil War
was a struggle for political power between antagonistic wings of the ruling
class, the bourgeoisie. The aim of the new financial industrial oligarchy of the
North was to reduce the South to a reserve of industry. Agricultural production
becomes the slave of industry in the logic of history. The aim of the
Southern elite was to transform the entire county, and eventually the hemisphere into
a slave empire. Neither group intended to abolish slavery because cotton was
indispensable and there were no productive forces to take the place of the
slave as capital.

The issue was not bourgeois property or bourgeois property rights. Bourgeois
property means that production - the distribution of labor-power, follows the
logic of a circuit based on what is profitable to the individual owner as a
class. This in turn shapes the reproduction process in the concrete.

The antagonism within and between the different wings of the bourgeoisie did
not and could not arise on the basis of property relations but the different
forms of bourgeois property. Different forms of property express itself as a
different body of politics and political striving. This is not and was not an
abstract question. The North needed critical appropriations of funds to develop
the industrial infrastructure, but Congress dominated by the Southern planters
refused to pass bills to improve the harbors or build the railroads the North
wanted to created a truly "national market" for its class.

There were other contradictions brewing in the North between the developing
industrial working class and the industrial bourgeoisie and the struggle of the
banks to dominate industry as well as the competition between the workers.
Abe Lincoln suggested a compromise with the slave masters to gradually abolish
slavery, ending it in 1940. Remember this date.

Within the South as a Region slavery created real contradictions that were
antagonistic. The Virginians is a good example. West Virginia didn't separate
from Virginia because of opposition to slavery; they were in opposition to the
slave power. Since the slave power refuse to pay taxes, the upland poor whites
paid all the taxes for the improvement of the roads and harbor system in the
South that benefited only the big plantations. By the time of the Civil War,
there was a West Virginia, West North Carolina, West South Carolina, and North
Georgia. In other words, there was a hill country politically oppressed by and
in economic competition with the big planters.

The opposition to slavery by hill folk and the people of the upper part of
the South was not on the basis of human rights, but a struggle to break the
political back of the planter class or slave oligarchy. The day the Civil War
broke out, the state of Mississippi hang five whites for planning a slave
insurrection. There were always pockets of country folk militantly opposed to slavery
and would not allow slavery in their territory, like Tennessee. These
contradiction were not moral questions but rather a question of the Southern elite
owning all the best land in the South, making appropriation on behalf of
themselves, soil destruction by capitalist slavery and a militarized social structure
that degraded everyone. Real questions became moral issues.

Harry Haywood's 1948 "Negro Liberation" mentions the intense struggle within
the Southern elite itself. I believe there is a footnote and reference to a
Southern gentleman who published a book that became the blueprint of a section
of the planters to build steel mills and the industrial framework that would
allow the South to emerge as a distinct national formation. This led to
Birmingham Alabama becoming the steel center of the South and Harry called this
gentleman the "Karl Marx" of the slave oligarchy. I did read the actual book perhaps
twenty or twenty-five years ago.

Comrades forget there was a whole stratum of slaves outside the "house Negro"
and "field Negro" thesis. That is a skilled worker slave - smiths and
builders. Then Illinois had slavery and many of these slaves worked in factories. .
. Yes, factories. Define a group - stratum, of slaves sent to work in
factories by the master and the master is compensated - paid, by the factory owner.

We should never forget the economic logic that compels society to leap to
another political basis. The South was never solidly behind the Slave oligarchy,
although this is the contention of the bourgeois chauvinists that paint the
Southern whites as one reactionary mass. Today a historically similar political
alignment is in the first stages or rather the beginning of the first stage of
formation. The issue of American slavery is ultra political and has shaped
the policy fight of the communist and socialist since 1865 and is the singular
issue that has doomed every political organization in American history.

The abolition of slavery was a real social revolution without a corresponding
economic revolution in the South. That is, the instruments of production of
the agricultural South did not advance; but the North imposed a revolution in
social relations upon the South with the freeing of the slaves. This
contradiction shaped American politics and society for the next stage of our history.

The emancipation was revolutionary. It liquidated property worth some four
billion dollars in the form of the slaves. The next stage of the social
revolution would have been to break up the plantations and parcel them out to the
freemen and the landless poor whites or what is called the path of Jeffersonian
democracy. This would have finished the planters as a class and such wide spread
ownership of productive property would have democratized the South. This was
not in the interest of the politically dominant sector of the Northern

The increasing demand for cotton and tobacco coupled with the absence of an
economic revolution was the condition for the political alliance of the
planters with the Northern industrialist who as the result of the Civil War fell
under the political domination of Wall Street or financial-industrial capital.
American financial imperialism arose on the basis of converting the former
plantation area of the South into a colony of Wall Street in a curve of development
in front of European imperialism. On this basis financial capital began
consolidating its victory over industrial capital.

This specific alliance, in turn, made slavery in a new form the inevitable
historical consequence and this would shape the evolution of our working class
during the next stage of history.

The economics of slavery as capitalist production is absurd but had
previously inhibited the planter class from destroying their human capital in the form
of the slave (roughly 4 billion dollars at the time of the Civil War). This
mechanism - protecting their human capital, was destroyed with the freeing of
the slave. The Southern elite was reconfigured as a handmaiden of Wall Street
financial-industrial capital.

The terror and violence of the counterattack by the planters against the
blacks was the condition for condemning more whites than black to the
sharecropping system (roughly 6 million whites and about 5 million blacks). What unfolded
was a period of history for blacks and whites in the South, worse than
slavery. The counterattack evolved into a counterrevolution that stepped on the stage
of world history as the world's first fascist political revolution and the
hangman of democracy.

Between the years 1870 and 1940, the tools, the sharecropping slavery, the
poverty of the South changed very little. The invention of the cotton picker in
1940 - Lincoln's written target date, and later the development of weed
killing chemicals and general mechanization of agriculture became the economic
revolution for the social and political revolution of 1864 to stand upon.  The
social revolution then moved to completion and American society was compelled to
leap to a new political basis. The death of the sharecropping slavery was
followed by and inaugurated the massive freedom movement and the outlawing of the
segregation and discrimination throughout American society.

In perhaps 1947 or 1948 an old issue of Life magazine - look it up for
yourself, outlined the economic conditions of the South and describe how very little
changed between 1870 and 1940, with one exception: the whites had social
privileges and the right to form the lynch mob. This absurdity contains more logic
than meets the eye. The old slave master - the planter class, would have
jailed and hung half the white population of the South for forming a lynch mob and
destroying its human capital.

One absurdity always breeds another and the plantation system of the South
was an absurdity in history that has no precedence. The concept of "proletarians
in chains" is an absurdity, but there has been no better way to describe what
took place as economic logic of American history for the past one-hundred and
thirty-eight years.

It has only been in the last decade that the "progressive movement," "left"
and Marxist have come to grips with the formulation above that were written
more than thirty years ago. Buying a human being to purchase his labor power is
indeed absurd and for almost 200 years has been called "the peculiar
institution" in our country. Perhaps the next generation of Marxist will describe this
absurdity with more insight.

Then again, if one measures the trajectory of the penal system and rates of
incarceration in our country, what are we going to call the proletarians behind
bars laboring for the profit system in twenty years? "Penal proletarians" or
"proletarians behind bars?"  Well, the historic proletarians in chains are
being reconfigured as "proletarians behind bars."  Yes, this is absurd but it is
taking place in front of us.

To speak of the initial formation of a communist class seems to go against
the grain but it is also taking place in front of our eyes.

One absurdity always breeds another. There is no laboratory purity in real

Melvin P.

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