[Marxism] RE: David Roediger on slavery

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Fri Nov 25 12:21:19 MST 2005

The concept that slavery was outside of capitalism is just too farcical 
on its face to be treated seriously. Of course, once stated by a 
professor of note it may have to be replied to.

However, this was not the main criticism of Genovese during the 1960s. 
I recall Genovese as being criticized for his implicit assertions that 
African-Americans couldn't have had it too badly under slavery in light 
of what they accomplished—you know, building those houses, mastering 
and inventing new tools, becoming craftspeople, etc.

There is a rather long line of this sort of thought, including Marx at 
a very early stage but who later rejected it, that asserts that 
economically lesser-developed societies must be pulled into "higher" 
stages by slavery, despotism, autocracy, and finally representative 
democracy (a important theme of John Stuart Mill). It even has an echo 
in some of Jack Barnes's writings on the impact of free trade in 
underdeveloped societies.*

Here is an allusion to this side of Genovese by Andre Gunder Frank:

These early general ideas on dependent underdevelopment in the world as 
a whole then were my guides to more specific analyses. "The Development 
of Underdevelopment in Chile" was written there in 1964 at the 
invitation of Hugo Zemmelman for a special pre-election issue of the 
Socialist Party magazine Aurauco, of which he was editor. The issue was 
then devoted to a collection of Salvador Allende's speeches instead, 
and my essay remained unpublished for several more years. It had also 
been solicited by Jim O'Conner for Studies on the Left, but its 
publication there was then vetoed by his co-editors, especially Eugene 
Genovese. He regarded the essay as far too radical then. Later as 
colleagues in Canada, he also regarded me personally as far too 
radical, vide his comments on me in his book In Red and Black, not to 
mention an even more uncomradely article in our university newspaper 
(see Genovese 1968).

Brian Shannon
*Barnes's musings on this may explain why there was such confusion in 
The Militant regarding what attitude to take towards NAFTA. Finally, 
the much abused Doug Jenness had to write a piece on it. Unfortunately, 
a couple of weeks later he forgot himself and wrote something implying 
that NAFTA wasn't so bad. Then he had to explain himself again.

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