[Marxism] Post gets pasted

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu May 30 08:38:17 MDT 2013

Science and Society, April 2013
The American Path of Bourgeois Development Revisited
by Daniel Gaido

(From the Haymarket author's page: "Gaido is a researcher at the 
National Research Council (Conicet) in Argentina. He is the author of 
The Formative Period of American Capitalism and is currently working on 
a book on the history of German social democracy."


"The American Road to Capitalism" is an attempt to apply to the United 
Sates Robert Brenner’s model of the transition from feudalism to 
capitalism in England. According to Brenner, English landlords gave 
birth to capitalism in the countryside by turning their peasants into 
tenants in the early 16th century. Since in the United States there was 
no class of feudal landlords to act as prime movers of an “agrarian” 
capitalist development, Post makes the merchant-turned-land speculator 
the demiurge of American capitalism, asserting, against all historical 
evidence, that this class was able to “impose a social monopoly on land” 
shortly after the American revolution. The rest of Post’s theses on the 
American revolution, Southern plantation slavery, the Civil War and 
reconstruction are just elaborations of this fundamentally mistaken 

What the historical record shows is that the two American bourgeois 
revolutions — a notion that Brenner, Post and their fellow “political 
Marxists” reject — actually facilitated access to the land at nominal 
prices for white settlers. This widespread landownership amounted to a 
form of land nationalization that created favorable conditions for 
capitalist development through the abolition of ground rent, which 
constitutes a precapitalist barrier to the development of the productive
forces under capitalism. This, and the absence of an absolutist state 
bureaucracy, in turn fostered the generalization of commodity production 
in the countryside, creating a wide home market for the development of 
industry in the North, which eventually dominated the Union in the 
aftermath of the Civil War. That is what Lenin showed in his analysis of 
the American path of bourgeois development,” which remains the 
foundation of any materialist approach to American history. Due to the 
weakness of Marxism in the United States, progress in this field has 
consisted mostly in setting the “American path of bourgeois development” 
in its peculiar settler colonialist — i.e., white supremacist — context, 
but the peculiarities of American capitalist development, their impact 
on class struggles and, through them, the ways in which those 
peculiarities shaped American political history largely remain to be 

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