Forwarded from Anthony (farmers)
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Sep 12 07:15:45 MDT 2003
I would like to respond to all of the points made in
this interesting thread, but have time for only a few
1. The quote from Marx that Lou project has used
citing the 'opposition to the formation of capital by
the yeomanry of North America' is probably being
Marx was NOT talking about capital in the sense that
Lou and others use the word on this list to describe
any money invested to earn a profit through the
production of goods for sale (thus allowing slavery to
be termed capitalist). By Capial Marx meant the
employment of wage labor (variable capital) by
capitalists with cash.
In this sense the small farmers of the west were
clearly opposed to the formation of a working class in
many ways and on many levels.
In the first place the existence of cheap, or free
land, along the western frontier did allow many white
workers to A)bargain successfully for higher wages,
with threat that they would simply leave if their
employer did not agree, and B) many did leave for the
This condition existed from the begining of the
colonies until the treaty that ended the 7 year war,
was temporarily reduced until the victory of the
American revolution, and then continued until 1844.
2. The small farmers of the West were conscious of
their social and economic interests and acted upon
them. They were fierce Jacksonian Democrats until the
rise of the Republican Party. In practice this meant
that their political platform had two important
planks: kill or expel all Indians from North America,
so that they could continue to steal land, and B)
opposition to protective tariffs for US produced
indsutry. Both planks fo their platform united them
with the Southern slave owners. Their opposition to
tariffs, and their desire for cheap industrial imports
from England placed them in temporary oppossition to
the would-be US capitalists of the North Eastern
3. Scarcity of labor is a relative thing. Youi could
write books on the subject.
However, in North America there was a scarcity of
labor in many senses of the expression, but
especially in the sense of workers willing to work for
In the first place population density before the
Europeans arrived was not high, compared to 16th
century England. In the second place the arrival of
the Europeans led to epidemics with very high
mortalitiy rates among Native Americans. The potential
to hire the native population for wages, putting aside
Native American attitudes to working for wages for the
moment, was very, very, low.
Enslaving the native population of course was tried,
but it failed for two reasons: at the first
opportunity the Native American slaves slipped over
the hill and was gone; and a very large percentage of
them just refused to work, despite whippings and other
Hence indentured servitude and slavery - importing
forced labor from Europe and Africa became the first
method of finding workers to produce commodities.
Free wage workers were rare - and those who agreed to
do it, did it temporarily.
The growing cities on the east coast relied on an
apprenticeship system, where apprentices became
journeymen, and many journeymen became masters. They
could become masters because the economy was growing
so fast - and the population was growing so fast, that
demand grew faster than supply. The new master moved
to a new town a hundred miles to the west or so, and
set up his new shop.
The first true factories employed unmaried women from
farms. They were induced to work in this factories
witht he idea of earning a dowry, lived in dormitories
supervised by Bible toting spinster bitches from hell,
and were the begining of the modern wage working class
of the USA.
Probably the largest number of wage workers were free
blacks, especially in New York City.
Their opportunites to steal land along with the white
settlers were limited by the white frontiersmen's
racism. So, the second element of the first wage
proletariat was made up of freedmen.
But, given Puritan standards on sex, and slaveowners
opposition to freeing their slaves, neither of these
elements of the proletariat were growing anywhere
nearly as rapidly as the country and the economy.
In other words, there was no real, massive,
proletariat in the USA until the potato famine in
Ireland sent millions of starving irishmen to the USA.
Oh, I did not ask Lou a question about sources on this
subject, as several people have stated. I said he was
way off the mark on his statement about small farmers
in the USA in one of his early posts.
All the best, Anthony
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