[Marxism] Brenner, Post, Capital, Now and Later

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Thu Oct 13 07:29:49 MDT 2005


Brief comment on slavery and capital. The central question regarding
slavery, and other forms of accumulation needs a higher degree of specifity.
Did slavery exist and play a significant part in the accumulation of
capital? Absolutely. Was slavery
capital? Absolutely not. 

CB: Was slavery capital ?  Wouldn't the question have to be "were _slaves_
capital ? " ?  Or was slavery capitalism ?
The answer to the question " were slaves in the capitalist system capital ?
Is not so clearly "absolutely not " , don't you think ? Slaves , in the U.S.
South, were a kind of combined variable and constant capital, for the
slavocratic capitalists. 

Put another question. Were the slaveowners not capitalists ? Were George
Washington and Thomas Jefferson not capitalists ?

Then the next question is , did Marx, the preeminent definer of capitalism,
consider "slavery capital" ? There are some quotes on this from previous
list rounds on this question. 


Rr:Was/is slavery capable by itself of creating a capitalist society in
which the separation of the means of production from the laborer creates the
need for the expanded reproduction of a system based on the exchange those
means for expelled labor, for labor constituted as wage-labor? Absolutely

CB: On the other hand, were wage-labor/capital relations capable of by
a capitalist society in which the separation of the means of production from
the laborer, etc. etc. ? Historically and actually NOT. We have no
historical example of a pure wage-labor/capital system being able to
bootstrap itself into existence without the crutch of a simultaneous slave
and colonial system.

 Would the early capitalist system have been able to accomplish these things
if the early capitalists had not simultaneously had a slave and colonial
system ? "Absolutely" what ? Probablement pas. Slavery and colonialism were
_necessary conditions _ for the origin of wage-labor/capital relations. Of
course, slave labor/capital relations are not wage-labor/capital relations.
But that doesn't mean that the wage labor/capital relations are independent
of slave labor/capital relations.


The actual history of the development of the Southern plantation system, the
low, and slow integration of fixed capital, of technological advance, of
developed means of transportation and communication; the inability to even
mobilize production across
most of the land embraced by this system prove the distinction between
capital, between the critical social relation of capital, and slavery.

CB: Combined and uneven development is integral to capitalism from its
origin, its primitive accumulation. 

It's not like the slave labor/capital relations were widespread in Europe
before the origin of wage labor/capital relations, and the latter replaced
the former. No, the latter arose in a context dominated by feudal relations
of production. Then wage labor/capital and slave labor/capital relations
arise _together_ as new relations of production, _both_ in contrast with the
feudal status quo.


Check out the differences between railroads in the north US vs the south US
at the time of and during the civil war.Check out how critical that becomes
as the north mobilizes to move the Army of the
Potomac west to Tennessee to rescue Rosencranz.

CB: Are you saying the Southern railroads were not owned as capital ?

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