Response

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 16 15:30:11 MDT 2003


Julio Huato wrote:

>"Excellent quote.  According to Marx, in America's slave plantations, even
>though they were plugged to the world market, capitalist production existed
>only *formally*.  By implication, the social *content* of production was
>still noncapitalist.  Note that Marx says that free wage labor "is the
>basis of capitalist production."  Note that in my comments to South African
>mining, I said the property used to exploit slave labor is capital.  Hence
>Marx's next sentence, "the business in which slaves are used is conducted
>by capitalists."  Yes, it is their capital that exploits slave labor, but
>that means it is capital that is not valorizing itself the way typical
>capital valorizes itself -- i.e., through the exploitation of free wage
>laborers.
>
>"It is capital in its antediluvian form, because the content of the process
>by which it expands is not surplus value *production*.

Melvin P. replied:

>Here is the problem. The category you invent called "the social content of
>production" is an ideological formulation. There is no dispute over the
>word "content" or "production" or for that matter "social." The social
>content of production means it labor content or value or the law of value.
>At worse it refers to the form of the laboring process and its energy
>underpinning. Cotton had value because it was a product of labor and this
>labor was purchased. This is why "New World" slavery is not called "old
>world slavery."

I'll explain myself.  I stick to a strict interpretation of the term
"capitalist production."  By that, I mean the production of surplus value in
the context of M-C{LP,MP}...P...C'-M'.  I think this is what Marx means.
This is absolutely predominant in our times, in the sense that most value
(and output) currently produced in the world is produced this way.  In this
case, production is not only production of value (i.e., commodity
production) but also the direct and immediate production of surplus value.
In this setting, the surplus labor exploited turns out a surplus product
that is directly and immediately surplus value.  It presupposes the
generalization of commodity production and exchange, i.e., existence of a
market of sufficient size, including a market for free wage labor power.

When Marx says that slave plantations are capitalist production "only
formally," this clearly implies that there are other concrete instances
where capitalist production exists -- not "only formally" -- but *actually*.
  The "form" here, IMO, is the fact that, even though the mode of
exploitation is not capitalist, the production is plugged to a market, which
is dominated by capitalist production proper.  Therefore, the surplus
product is directly a commodity but it is not surplus value directly.  The
surplus product (which has the form of a commodity) acquires its surplus
value form in the sphere of circulation.  I was trying to emphasize that
difference between surplus product that is immediately surplus value
(capitalist production) and surplus product that is NOT directly and
immediately surplus value.

We must have a way to make a conceptual distinction between (1) slave
production that turns out a surplus product that is not immediately a
commodity, because it is produced directly for the consumption of slaves or
slaveowners without the mediation of exchange (like in the ancient world),
(2) slave production that turns out a surplus product that is immediately a
commodity, because it is produced for a market not dominated by capitalist
production proper (like in times of the Roman empire or middle ages), (3)
like slave production but this time plugged to a market dominated by
capitalist production (e.g., slave production plugged to the world market in
the 16th century and later), and (4) capitalist production proper (free wage
labor exploitation), where the surplus product is immediately and directly a
commodity and surplus value.

>Capitalist production existing "formally" means a bourgeois property
>relation, where in products acquire a commodity form but are produced by
>slave labor.  [clip]

I don't dispute this.

>This category you invent called "typical capital" mean "typical" has to be
>defined on the basis of the main characteristic of an era. "Typical" to
>what period of history?  Slavery was an important engine of industrial
>development and most certainly "typical" according to Marx description of
>the entire process leading to the domination of bourgeois property on
>earth. Why is slavery not "typical" to capital formation and reproduction?
>Slavery is not the dominant form of laboring in the world today, nor was it
>so during the Civil War era. But it was most certainly "typical."

Typical and dominant in England (or even Western Europe) in the 19th
century.  As you implied in a previous posting, the exploitation of slaves
in the new world presupposed large-scale capitalist production proper.  That
type of production -- not only formally capitalist, but actually so -- is
what I mean by "typical" here.

>You also invent the category called "surplus value 'production'" and put
>production in quotes. I understand this to mean, "surplus value production
>but not really production."

No, Melvin.  It's not "surplus value 'production'" but "surplus value
*production*".  It's not quotation marks, but asterisks.  It is meant to
emphasize a term or word.  People use those asterisks on e-mails all the
time.  That's what I was trying to do.  Not quotes, emphasis.

>What Marx wrote is reasonably clear.

I agree.

Julio Huato

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