Summing up and vice versa, OR, things that make you go hmm..

Charles Brown cbrown at
Thu Jul 17 10:04:09 MDT 2003

From: "dms"


Good to hear from you again.  Been awhile.  Regarding the panorama of
horrors that Marx describes in primitive accumulation:

1. These all have "hothouse" impacts, but....

CB: Hey David. Yes, and , in Marx's opinion, they are the CHIEF momenta of
the primitive accumulation. So, we might say he thinks they are at least
just as important as what goes on in England in dispossessing peasants of
their land in getting capitalism started.


2....the secret to primitive accumulation, as Marx writes, is the
dispossession of the laborer, the detachment of labor from  ownership, of
labor from use so that the only value is in its existence as labor-power for

CB: Yes, that's the "secret", but the "chief momenta" are...( smile ). I
think the "secret" and "chief momenta" are co-equal first causes.


3. And so by the time we get to the US, and the US Civil War, we are not, as
MP pointed out, dealing with primitive accumulation.


CB: Yes, I agree. I didn't mean to imply that we are still in the primitive
accumulation at the time of the U.S. Civil War. My gosh, by that time we are
in the Industrial Revolution.

In fact,that's the point ( might be your point in the discussion). By that
time , actual slavery , in the sense of ownership of people as a form of
property, which was a necessary and critical part of the primitive
accumulation of capitalism, is in crisis contradiction with wage-labor.
"Unfree labor" and free labor's contradiction is ripe. The contradiction is
resolved  significantly in the U.S. by the negation of slavery. An original
necessary element of the contradictory unity of "infant" or primitive
capitalism is negated in the course of capitalism's development to
"adolescence" or "adulthood". That's dialectics.

4. I was discussing this with comrades just this AM offlist.  I think it's
important  to keep in mind, the specifics of the  history in the US--i.e.
that the Civil War is not the emergence of an "infant" capitalism, but the
march of a developed, "adolescent," capital.

If we look back at the original arguments here, the question is the origin
of the social relation that defines capital, with the initial argument --
which I support--, that the notions of extraction of gold, pearls, wealth,
slavery as the initiator actually pre-supposes that relation.  For the US,
that relation exists, and is developed throughout the 19th century, and in a
sense, gives the plantation/slave system its vitality-- until a critical
point is reached.

CB: Yes, I think I agree with what you are saying. The slave and wage-labor
social relations exist simultaneously at the beginning of capitalism, but
both are part of the original capitalism. The wealth created by the slave
laborers is treated as capital wealth in the other parts of the system in
which wage-labor relations are beginning. The wealth created by slaves _is_
primitive capital accumulation even though not created by wage-laborers.

This is the chicken-egg problem of the beginning of capitalism. Marx
discusses accumulation rather than the social relation. Marx describes it
"We have seen how money is changed into capital; how through capital
surplus-value is made, and from surplus-value more capital. But the
accumulation of capital pre-supposes surplus-value; surplus-value
pre-supposes capitalistic production; capitalistic production presupposes
the pre-existence of considerable masses of capital and of labor-power in
the hands of producers of commodities. The whole movement, therefore, seems
to turn in a vicious circle, out of which we can only get by supposing a
primitive accumulation (previous accumulation of Adam Smith) preceding
capitalistic accumulation; an accumulation not the result of the
capitalistic mode of production, but its starting point. "

The wealth created by slaves in "adolescent" capitalism is also treated as
capital, even though not created by wage-laborers.

The US Civil War does not fulfill itself even in Reconstruction by
recapitalizing Southern Agriculture-- to do that it would have had to give,
cede, deed, lease the land to the former slaves.


CB: Fat chance of that.


  It did not.  It could not.
To do that, to detach black labor from, not land, but landed oligarchy would
have, not just have required demolition of the old South, and the old cotton
production and cotton TRADE, which the Union dominated, but illuminated,
unleashed, the emancipation of LABOR as the driver of further development.
The bourgeois class in the US shrunk away from this terrifying potential--

CB: Surprise, surprise


the emancipation of labor, thus it slides backwards also from any notion and
action of equity, equality, and the rise of Jim Crow is not only the
inevitable  result of securing the landed property of the South, of tying
black labor to conditions of its previous servitude, but also of securing
all bourgeois property against all of labor.


CB: Truly

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