[Marxism] RE: Brenner thesis

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Thu Oct 13 19:44:56 MDT 2005


Shane asked about Australian aspects.

Australia was established as a prison colony and the plan was to eventually
settle convicts who’d served their terms on small plots of land – a
peasantry. What happened in practice is that market relations emerged out
of the state-run prison system.

Wage labour developed because the convicts ran a continual go-slow unless
they were given some time to work for wages apart from their prison labour.
Also because (and this is the parallel process) the officers running the
show privatised the land into their own hands, and then needed labour. 

There are tantalising resemblances to the transition from feudalism to
capitalism, and also to the transition in the USSR/ Eastern Europe in the
1980s and 1990s, but of course every historical conjuncture is original.

The following touches on this issue:
http://www.anu.edu.au/polsci/marx/interventions/unions.htm

Here’s one para from that text:

“Under Phillip and the officer cabale which followed him, convicts’
"government"  hours were limited so they could work extra hours for wages.
Having seized large tracts of land, the officers had an incentive to allow
this since "the settlers’ fields, granted for nothing, were crying out for
labour, and there was no labourer but the convict." They might have
preferred not to pay, but the convicts were showing such determined
sluggishness in performing unpaid labour that the officers had little
choice. Governor Hunter’s attempted to reverse these concessions were
largely ignored, and by 1798 he had fallen back on attempts to peg wages.”

That’s mainly from the labour point of view. But I will also send Shane
(and anyone else who’s interested) some further material off-list which
looks at the whole thing from the point of view of capital.





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