reply to DMS on Post
dmschanoes at earthlink.net
Mon Sep 8 11:19:14 MDT 2003
Yes, Louis we all know about uneven and combined develop-
ment on the regional, international, as well as
historical levels. And we all know how plantation
production involving slavery, or indentured labor, provided
raw materials, bulk commdities, semi-processed products to
the more or most advanced areas of that uneven and combined
Uneven and combined development does not only mean that the
backward forms feed the advanced, but also those "archaic"
relations get sustained by the network of exchange. The dominant
mode, capitalism as described by Marx with the means of
production organized as private property and labor organized as
wage-labor, absorbs and sustains those relations exactly because
of the limitation of property. But it cannot sustain them
forever. At a certain, critical point, let's say the 1850s,
let's say post WWII with the mechanization of Southern agri-
culture, let's say post OPEC 1 with regard to Philippines
sugar production, the demands of that advanced capitalism
come into conflict, disturb, destabilize, the tranquility of
the "old forms" of expropriation. This destabilization is
itself a product of the conflict between wage-labor
and capital as manifested in overproduction and the falling
rate of profit.
The above is an outline of how I explain the "persistence" of
"unfree" modes of expropriation. But that's a whole other
debate, and I'm sure it's already besides the point.
Regarding Post, his article begins by pointing to the pivotal
role of slavery. He then goes on to examine the contradictions
in the system of production itself. That sounds like a
Marxist approach to me, one worthy of examination and analysis
on its own terms, particularly since the surrounding issues
are the causes and meaning of the US Civil War.
Regarding Brenner, besides his writings on the current economic
\situation, I've read The Brenner Debate. I don't regard the criticism of Brenner's position that he ignores the impact
and import of the colonial system and slave production very relevant, since he is writing, in the main, about a period of time prior to those developments.
In the book itself, his critics recognize the historical
specificity. Still, I don't recall any "Bois Debate" because
Bois "ignored" the importance of the slave trade in his
analysis of the crisis of feudalism in Normandy.
Nor do I recall denunciations of Hilton for concluding his
remarks on the important factors involving feudalism and agrarian capitalims by writing: "Most important of these were
the changes in the character of small-scale commodity
production, especially in agriculture... far more
important, one suspects, than the spectacular accumulations of
money capital by merchants, banks, and colonizers which
tend to occupy the front of the stage."
I suspect the real issue is the firestorm Brenner touched off
in his NLR article about neo-Smithian Marxists, an article
which I have not read.
Anyway, the point is that Post's topic merits criticism,
consideration, analysis on its own merits, on its validity
in analyzing the real contradictions of plantation slavery
and economic development.
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