(fwd from Rakesh) reply to DMS on Post

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Fri Sep 5 21:35:54 MDT 2003

dms, I shall provide my replies if we can agree that these are the
most important outstanding issues.

1. whether plantation slavery was itself capitalist
2. causes of the American Civil War
3. whether industrial capitalism continued to depend on naked slavery

First dispute. Since you and Post see capitalist enterpise as
necessarily marked by the compulsive capitalization of surplus value
such that the value composition of capital tends to increase and
since you seem to think that such can only obtain on the basis of
free wage labor or labor as only a variable cost in the parlance of
managerial economics, you argue that plantation slavery was not
capitalist. You also tend to downplay what used to be called the
importance of the articulation between US Southern slavery and
American capitalism proper (Inikori, Bailey, Blackburn  and others
are focused on the articulation, not the capitalist character of
plantation slavery itself as I am).

Second. You agree with Post that since Midwestern family style farms
provided a more dynamic market for industrial goods, Northern
industrialists joined the fight for free soil, free labor agains the
encroachment of Southern plantations which were stagnant as sources
of demand and increasingly unimportant with the emergence of Egypt
and Turkey as sources of supply and goods. In short, the Civil War
was from the perspective of the North the fight to increase market
demand--a rather economistic interpretation, I must say! (At this
point, I have to ask: if the South was so stagnant and undesired a
market and becoming a marginal and ever less profitable supplier of
cotton, why didn't the North simply allow the Confederacy to secede
on the condition that its military only carry out annexations to the
ever deeper south--Cuba, Puerto Rico, Yucatan, Nicaragua, etc; after
all, if the plantations were going broke as a result of slavery's
structural disincentives to technical progress, then the Confederacy
should have been let go and expected to be too weak to pose a
formidable military threat to Yankee capitalism in its westward

Third, you argue that American industrial capital did not continue to
depend on naked slavery within or without the US  after the Civil
War. You suggest that indentured labor (along with the other kinds
outlined by Alec Gordon) cannot be counted as a form of naked slavery
(though  Hugh Tinker in his study by this called called so-called
indentured labor "a new form of slavery"); nor do  you count as
defacto slavery the labor of prisoners in the US or mineworkers in
South Africa at the turn of the last century.

Yours, Rakesh

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