[OPE-L:2634] Re: slaves and value

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Wed Mar 29 2000 - 16:58:53 EST

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While Marx thought that plantation owners/enslaving capitalists in
America were in fact capitalists (just as merchant capitalists were
capitalists), he also considered the existence of these capitalists
to be "anomalies within a world market based on free labour"
(_Grundrisse_, Penguin ed., p. 513). I don't think he thought it
necessary to explain all such "anomalies": thus, near the end of the
chapter on "The Trinity Formula" in Volume 3 (p. 970, Penguin edition), he
writes: "the actual movement of competition lies outside our plan, and
we are only out to present the internal organization of the capitalist
mode of production, its ideal average, as it were".

Admittedly, this does not answer this part of Alfredo's question in
[2598] so I will offer a possible answer.

Did (do) slaves create surplus value when they are engaged in commodity
production for (enslaving) capitalists? I would say that there is no
question that they can create a *surplus product* which can take the form
of commodities which can then become transformed into money capital for
these capitalists. The question that Alfredo asked, though, concerned
whether slaves produce *surplus value* rather than a *surplus product*. If
we hold fast to the distinction that value/surplus value is necessarily
connected under a system of generalized commodity production to *paid
labor time/unpaid labor time* then the labor time of slaves do not create
surplus value since *all* labor time is unpaid labor time for slaves.

This is indeed an "anomaly" , but I would suggest that the most consistent
understanding is that slaves -- even when the capitalist mode of
production dominates -- create a portion of the surplus product which does
not correspond to the surplus value produced. This would imply that the
monetary worth of the surplus product exceeds surplus value. Yet, this
result seems to me to be entirely consistent with a perspective on Marx's
part that the capitalist mode of production continued to co-exist uneasily
with the remnants of pre-capitalist modes of production. Indeed, one might
say that this is part of the actual, historical subsumption of those
remnants under capitalism.

In solidarity, Jerry

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