Forwarded from Anthony (reply to Les)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jul 11 12:29:27 MDT 2003

Just a short note in reply to Les and others on the relation of slavery
to tropical and semitropical climates, (The answer is in the middle of
the post)and a little bit about primitve accumulation of capital.

Chattel slavery as practiced from around the 15th century until the end
of the 19th century, became a major social-economic factor in response
to two factors: the formation of a world 'mass' market for some
agricultural commodities - particularly sugar, but also rice, tobacco,
indigo, etc. - and a 'shortage of labor' (defined not not as the absence
of people, but as the absence of people willing to work for low wages on
sugar plantations - the details of those particular labor shortages are
worth discussin and have to do witht he European conquests of Africa and
the Americas, and to a lesser extent of Asia.)

Those mass market crops were tropical.

But chattel slavery did not spread in a massive way to temperate climate
crops - like wheat, barley, apples, pears, wine, etc. Even though those
were also mass market crops and could be grown on very large expanses of
land. The closest thing to chattel slavery that did in fact develop in
colder climates appeared in Eastern Europe in the second coming of
serfdom - especially East Prussia and in Russia. But serfs there were
tied to the land (unlike chatel slaves who could be bought and sold
seperately from land), and were not easily bought and sold seperate
fromt he land they were tied to. The enserfment of Eastern European
peasants, was in response to the same two pressures that brought about
the rise of tropical chattel slavery: mass amrket crops (in the
prussiana nd Russsian cases, wheat - and a labor shortage.)

Chattel slavery did make important inroads into non-tropical climates in
Europe and the United States, but never became the dominant social
relation in agriculture, or industry, although it may have been in
household domestic se4rvitiude.

The main rieason it did not become a more important social relation in
colder areas was the fact that the slave owner had to maintain the slave
all year round, even during the winter when agricutural work,
construction work, most fishing, and many other activities completely
stopped or were severely curtailed. The slave owner still ahd to feed,
clothe, and keep alive his valuable property.

This could be a major expense.

It was simply cheaper to hire wage workers for short periods of time -
e.g. the harvest, or for planting, - and then lay them off. No expenses
to be paid during the off season.

That's the answer, Les.

On a related note. While it's nice to see that people read the things
posted on this list, and take the time to reply to them, I don't have
the time to answer all the points made in regard to my earlier post. I
wish I did. Just one small note in regard to primitive accumulation of

I have a very different view about this subject than either side of the
Brenner Thesis debate that happened a while ago ont his list. Some of my
views were posted at that time. I agree with Marx about the two key
aspects of primmitve accumulation: expropriation of wealth by European
countries and by the Rueopean bourgeoisie in general (within, but mostly
outside of Europe) and the formation of capitlaist social relations of
production, e.g. the displacement by wage labor of otehr social
relations of production 9and the formation of modern working classes.).
However, I think a third key aspect of primitive accumulation was the
formation of mass classes of petty agricultural capitalists - especially
in France and the United States, through the expropriation of land - of
part of the French aristocracy, and of the entire native American
population of the United States. This third aspect of primitive
accumulation is the key to understanding how and why US imperialism
differed from others, and also the how and why of all settler states
including Israel.

All the best, Anthony


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