(fwd from Rakesh Bhandari) reply to DMS on slavery

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Wed Jul 16 12:12:58 MDT 2003

Again a short reply

In reply to DMS

>I posted the census information separately based on your questions
>in a forwarded posting of a week ago.  I didn't
>consider that a direct reply because you had asked so
>many more and more complex questions.
>First, I have not read Gavin Wright, Post, Cohen,
>etc.  What I know, I know from studying the history of rail-
>roads, census data, studies and reports gleaned from the
>Library of Congress, the Smithsonian,etc.

If you say so.

>Started reading a piece by Wallerstein in MR but stopped as
>he started to refer to a "Kondratieff B wave," or some
>such nonsense.

Can't dismiss out of hand that there are cycles of different
amplitudes superimposed upon one and another. Will have to read Chris
Freeman and Francisco Louca's work.

>My point was that the plantation slave economy did not employ
>resources at anywhere near the rate of the free soil economy.

Don't get the point.

>It "sequestered" resources and it wanted to "sequester" any
>territories entering the Union.

The South was uniquely expansive?

>Nor did it avail itself of machinery in its production.  This
>is common also to the Caribbean colonies.  Eric Williams in
>Capitalism and Slavery, From Columbus to Castro, and History
>of the People of Trinidad and Tobago refers to colonial and
>parliamentary reports on this matter, and cites two post-
>emancipation studies on this well known plantation syndrom.
>A similar syndrome marks the plantation-hacienda agriculture
>of the Philippines.

Let's put aside Fogel's empirical investigation of the extent to
which there wasa Southern lag in industrialization and the reasons
for it (Charles Post seems to have written a criticism of Fogel--has
anyone read it?), though I don't think it's a good idea for Marxists
to opine on North American slavery without having read Fogel,
Engerman, Genovese, Kolchin, and Bowman (like George Frederickson, I
am especially impressed by Shearer Davis Bowman's Masters and Lords:
Mid Nineteenth Century Planters and Prussian Lords).

At any rate, you seem to have agreed that slave gang labor was itself
a technology for the organization of capitalist production, which may
have had great influence on Frederick Winslow Taylor if Keith
Aufhauser, Sydney Mintz and Robert Fogel are to be believed.

You have yet to prove however that slave plantations made
capitalistically irrational labor-intensive choices of technique in
the harvesting of cotton because of slave form of exploitation or of
property rights in persons. The choice of technique may have been
maximally profitable. And certainly seems to have been.

In fact slave gang labor was more capitalistically efficient than the
small family farms which formed after the Civil War. But free people
would not subject themselves to gang labor which had in part forced
the resort to slavery in the first place.

>I think the North won because the plantation-slave economy,
>unable to maintain itself, to sustain its own economic needs
>to reproduce its social organization, could not win.

>For something that decrepit it sure put up quite a fight.

>Nor am I arguing that the issue is solving peak farm labor
>problems because I haven't studied that. Although in urban areas,
>the application of machinery to manufacture is part and
>parcel of a growing labor force, labor in surplus, rather than
>in shortage.

Well the family farm which you seem to want to put at the center of
American  capitalist dynamics as Wood  places agrarian capitalism
(sic) at the center of English capitalist development may well have
been overcapitalized and capitalistically inefficient due to the
shortage of labor at peak points.

>I am arguing that the South, that plantation/slave economy was
>not capable of sustaining its own reproduction; plantation/
>slave economies have been shown resistant to adopting mechan-
>ization (again look at the Philippines, look at the South prior
>to WWII);

these are two different claims, and you have yet to provide a clear
explanation for said resistance.

>I am arguing that the South looked to prevent the
>inevitable, the expansion of the North economically and
>politically thus destroying the South's special control of
>the national government.

The South did not want to put up with higher prices for Northern
manufactures. The Northern industrialists could count on small family
farmers putting up less effective political resistance to its
tariffs. In order for the Southern planters to be defeated as a
political force, they had to be defeated as an economic force. Which
raised grave difficulties because the planters were quite an economic
force. Cotton was King.

>  And it's important to keep in
>mind that the South initiated this war, the South seceded to
>protect its core property, after it lost control of the govt.

>I am not arguing here that capitalism's development precludes
>the absorption, the integration of various archaic modes.  I am
>arguing for that to occur, there must be in existence that
>fundamental social relation of wage-labor and capital to make
>the other modes "intelligible."

What do you by intelligibility--that your fundamental social relation
is a Kantian a priori category in the understanding of capitalist
dynamics? Don't get the point.

  The exploitative relation between proletarian labor and capital is
that of the production of the surplus in the form of value, i.e.,
commodities which have to be exchanged for money. That is how the
surplus is appropriated, not in the form of labor rent, rent in kind
or money rent. However, Brenner is surely right that in order for
capitalist compulsions to operate on producers, most of the inputs
have to be monetized, for only then will the producer have to sell on
the market in order to recover and valorize the capital which has
been invested (this is why Wood argues that capitalism only begins
when tenants have to pay for the basic input, land). But most of the
inputs can be monetized even without labor taking the free wage form
(and Wood recognizes this). Even the subsistence goods of slaves may
have to be bought on the market as certainly seems to have been the
case with New World plantations (with exceptions such as the
Brazilian fazenda).

In short, there is no reason why the form of capitalist exploitation
need be in all cases and everywhere that of free wage labor, though
in order to operate as a mode of production, labor cannot in general
be pinned down, and has to be free to move easily in and out of
rising and declining firms and industries.

Yet, it's a mistake to dismiss as archaic (or as a feudal relic) the
resort to extra-economic coercion which in fact pervades capitalist
exploitation at all times, e.g., in the threat of repatriation for
uppity trabajores sin papeles or workers on restrictive visas or in
the illegalization of sympathy strikes.

As Michael Perelman has shown us, capitalism did not originate in and
cannot ultimately depend on simple economic compulsion.

Capitalism did not simply arise out of commercialization, but out of
commercialization and force which each strengthened the other. (And
perhaps some geographical good luck played a role as well, e.g.,
Pomeranz's coal deposits.)

  Force remains ever present, and it emerges all the time from the
background. Note Marx's reference to emigration restrictions during
the Cotton Famine.


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