[OPE-L:2658] Re: slaves and value

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Fri Mar 31 2000 - 10:54:54 EST

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Re Rakesh's [OPE-L:2654]:
> Jerry, all labor time may be unpaid.

Not when the capitalist mode of production prevails.

If all labor time is unpaid labor time, v would equal -0- and the
specific social relations associated with capitalism could not exist.

> But some of it was nonetheless
> necessary labor, the rest surplus labor. Under slave relations even
> necessary labor appears as unpaid surplus labor. With the generalization of
> the wage form, surplus labor appears as but necessary labor.

The question at hand does not concern surplus labor time or the surplus
product, but *surplus value*.

> I don't know if you and Chai-on

I don't speak for Chai-on and vice versa.

> are claiming that slaves, like machines, do
> not in fact perform any surplus labor or that the surplus labor of slaves
> is not surplus value, yet the commodity product they produced was realized
> on the market as a value that on the basis of the surplus labor performed
> by slaves allowed the expansion of capital that the calculating enslaver
> had invested in means of production, consumer goods and land.

>From a historical perspective, slavery certainly had a role in the
expansion of capitalism just as robbery and plunder had a role in the
original accumulation of capital. However, the fact that slaves were
engaged in the production of goods which were sold on the market does not
by itself mean that they were productive of surplus value rather than
being productive of some proportion of the surplus product.
> Plantation slavery was not a mode of production that immediately preceded
> capitalism as was feudalism. It was rescued from history and given new
> content in order to allow capitalists to overcome the population problem
> that haunted early capitalism.

Plantation slavery was a remnant of a pre-capitalist mode of production
superimposed on the capitalist mode of production. And, yes, the
institution of modern slavery was connected to the historical process of
creating the working class and dealing with shortages of wage-labor to
meet the requirements of capitalist expansion. It had other functions as
well, e.g. goods produced by slaves helped to lower the value of
labour-power when there were goods like sugar that entered into the
consumption of the working class.

Do you agree with Alfredo's conclusion in [2641] that there is "no reason
in principle why capitalism should be seen as being incompatible with
generalized slave labor"? If so, then we have a major disagreement about
what, if anything, makes the capitalist mode of production distinct from
other class societies.

In solidarity, Jerry

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