Forwarded from Anthony (primitive accumulation, etc.)

dmschanoes dmschanoes at
Mon Sep 15 18:13:26 MDT 2003

Short response re Anthony, Paulsen, Huato....

1. First,  Lou Paulsen has undertaken a noble task, that of defining the
terms used in the non-Brenner debate.  I am a firm believer than no good
deed goes unpunished in this life so I fully expect Lou's definitions will
open up even more areas of disagreement.  What we have here is the
fractalization of the disagreement.  Still  there absolutely is a reason, a
historical necessity to the terms Marx used, and the totality of the
critique those words represent. Precision in the expansiveness of the
undertaking is what distinguishes Marx's analysis.

2. I confess to being a bit perplexed by the motivation behind Anthony's
postings.  He states that his views have been misunderstood and/or worse,
deliberately distorted.  I would think that  Anthony would point out those
specific instances where his view have been distorted.

I have taken exception to his view that slavery is suited to the tropics,
basically because no part of the US is situated between the tropics of
Capricorn and Cancer, and in the tropical areas of Indochina, the
Philippines, capitalist expropriation of the products of the plantations and
haciendas did not rely on that slavery.  When I incorrectly attributed a
opinion to Anthony I immediately corrected my mistake and apologized for the

Anthony has proposed that the real trigger for the US Civil War was a
competition between North and South over "primitive accumulation" of
indigenous peoples wealth and territory in the West.  I think that view is
nonsense-- based on the historical evidence and the real meaning, yes the
definition, of primitive accumulation.

Likewise in the discussion of Jacksonian democracy, tariffs, and the
supposed alliance of the Northwest and the Southwest over expansion.  There
was disagreement and even, in my view, refutation of Anthony's views, but no
distortion by either ML or myself.

What Anthony offers instead of concrete, specific development of particular
issues is an attempted general overview, a statement of "where I stand," as
if we were ever questioning his moral fiber, his sincerity.

3. Lou Proyect, correctly I think, points out the vagueness, the lack of
definition in Anthony's use of the phrase "Over time commerce began to
dominate the system, as plunder became more difficult and costly, and
consequently less profitable," as the statement gives no indication of the
"historical forces at work."   Lou is being too kind.  The devil is in the
details, and if history is our subject, then no Marxist can dismiss the
details of such a momentous transition by simply stating "over time."
History has a real content, and that content is not an abstraction like
"over time," but rather  the social organization of human labor that
determines the use and applications of  plunder and/or commerce.  To
attribute the substitution of commerce for plunder based on the cost of the
latter ignores the significant transition in that process of expropriation
from "external"-- to use Brenner's distinction, compulsion, to production

4.  However, before everyone thinks the lamb and lion are about to lie down
together, that this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, I have to
disagree with Lou Proyect's assertion that Marxism gets itself into more
trouble than it is worth by insisting on definitions.  Marx was dead certain
about what he was analyzing and what the essence of that analysis was--
capital as a social relation of production where the means of production,
organized as private property, engage and exchange, labor-power existing as
wage labor, in order to aggrandize the surplus labor time and realize the
surplus value in the universe of exchange with all commodities.  The essence
of capital is a precise social relation of production between classes, and
it is that relationship, that exchange that determines the development an
contraction of the system, the cyclical and structural transformations; that
absorbs, integrates, and disrupts the products of other modes of
expropriation; and that creates its own negation, both in economic
self-conflict, and in the class driven forward toward the overthrow of both
private property and wage-labor.

5. Now we get to Brenner-- and Brenner's original papers concentrated on
exploring the actual determinants of feudal decline and the development of
the conditions that would create the dispossession of labor, its detachment
from self-subsistence production, its freeing from the land.  Brenner's
targets are the Malthusian school that has isolated the history of feudal
relations from everything and substituted in its place a purely demographic
analysis of rise and fall of populations and that affect on prices, land
utilization, and the waxing and waning of serfdom. Now the Malthusian school
never integrated "a world view" of the emergence of the international
markets, the importance of slavery, in its analyses.  And Brenner's
demoliton of the Malthusians, and demolition it is, does not rely on those
factors.  Brenner also attacks the "simple commerce" school analysis of the
decline of feudalism and the rise of capitalist relations.  Brenner's
argument contains several points, not the least of which is that a
transition based simply on commerce presupposes that the owners and
producers have in fact already developed a capitalist consciousness where
wealth appears in exchange and production has lost its direct purpose of
subsistence, and labor has lost its ability to provide for its own needs
directly-- it presupposes the mediation of wage-labor and capital.  It
presupposes wealth-seeking through exchange on the part of the lords.  It
presupposes exchange value only for labor.  Brenner's refutation of this
argument also does not rely on the world historical significance of the
discovery of the New World and plantation production.  Nor does it require
this element-- particularly since Brenner sees the emergence of capitalist
relations between owner and producer in agriculture prior to England's grand
triumph in new world commerce.  Now the shift in agricultural relations is
critical not just in that it creates a basis for the proletariat, not only
that it creates a basis for the actual ownership of private property , but
that it links economically the two, owners and producers, as opposites who
are reproduced in their class positions in the process of production.

6. Much has been made about the distinction between "free labor" and the
"extra-economic coercion" with debt peonage, slavery, indentured labor,
apartheid all being identified as extra economic coercion.  Well indeed they
are, and indeed they existed and continue to exist in capitalism to this
day, but they were not then nor now the essence of the capitalism Marx was
analyzing, nor are they the essence of current capitalism.  When Brenner
uses the term "extra-economic coercion" to describe the extraction of
product from the peasantry by the lord, the church, etc. Brenner is in fact
illuminating a critical facet of feudalism-- there is no economic link of
reproduction of the system in the relationship between lord and peasant.
The extraction of the surplus is an aggrandizement not contained in the
relation of labor and land at that time.  When capitalism establishes its
relations of production what does the laborer confront-- an economic reality
that only through the exchange of his labor time for wages can the laborer
provide for his or her own subsistence-- this is the economic compulsion
that distinguishes capitalism.  And in so doing, the laborer reproduces, and
on a growing scale, the terms of his/her class existence, the laborer
enlarges capital by his/her necessary economic connection to the terms of
labor.  This does not mean that capitalism refrains from enforcing its class
rule, its property, its terms and conditions, by the use of force; indeed,
the use of force to maintain this economic "freedom" is what capitalism and
class struggle are all about.  But it is economic connection of exchange, of
the expropriation of surplus value in the very terms of production itself
that makes capitalism capitalism

7. Now we can and we have and we will argue about the significance of the
inputs of the new world, of plantation slavery, of  hacienda production, of
indentured labor, but the fundamental source of the social relationship of
capital, the relation of classes remains the essential issue.  We argue
about the same thing today in the debate about "super-profits" and
imperialism.  I think this latter debate informs a lot of the arguments
about Brenner.  Without minimizing the wealth expropriated by various modes
from the new world, and the Spanish royalty/viceroyalties were not
capitalist expropriators, what really is the core of the impact of this
production on Britain in particular?  It is in commercial terms.  Britain
didn't grow cotton.  Britain bought cotton from India and the new world.
Britain didn't grow sugar.  Britain bought sugar from India and the new
world.  Britain didn't grow tobacco.  Britain bought tobacco.  These are
commercial inputs, immensely powerful to be sure, immensely advantageous to
a country that could avail itself of slave labor.  But they do not account
for the change in the class relations of production in Britain, for it is
the organization of labor as wage labor, that intermediation of capital, of
exchange, with the laborers' direct subsistence which forms the essence of
the capital Marx defined and analyzed, and in which Marx found the
revolutionary negation.

8. If I don't answer responses after tomorrow, it is because I've had
enough, I've got to get away from this debate over Brenner as it keeps
interfering with normal things, like reading a book about cod fishing, salt
collection,  Jack Spot the British gangster-- and so I am fleeing to Italy
for a week.  Hey, beats the shit out of
spending all my time here in Bushland.

best to all,

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