[Marxism] De jure discrimination and the capitalist system

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Oct 9 12:43:51 MDT 2007

Last Sunday MRZine editor Yoshie Furuhashi posted an article titled 
“Freedom, Equality, Property, and Bentham” on her Critical Montages blog 
that has led to a heated debate on Doug Henwood’s LBO-Talk mailing list. 
Basically Furuhashi argues that the abolition of de jure discrimination 
brings the spirit of capitalism closer to the pure spirit of “Freedom, 
Equality, Property, and Bentham” that Karl Marx referred to in Chapter 
six of Volume One of Capital:

"This sphere that we are deserting, within whose boundaries the sale and 
purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate 
rights of man. There alone rule Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. 
Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, say of 
labour-power, are constrained only by their own free will."

While the abolition of Jim Crow laws might have removed barriers to the 
commodification of labor, Marxists don’t view this is some kind of 
capitalist plot. It is in the interest of workers to remove all 
legal/political barriers to their full right to sell their labor power, 
even if this brings them closer to some kind of 19th century liberal 
economic ideal. After all, Jeremy Bentham advocated the elimination of 
slavery for his own reasons. On the other hand, radical abolitionists in 
Great Britain saw emancipation from slavery as related to the general 
emancipation of the working class. We must not recoil from emancipation 
because Jeremy Bentham favored it, should we?


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