[OPE-L:2660] Re: slaves and value

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Fri Mar 31 2000 - 17:10:45 EST

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Re Rakesh's [OPE-L:2659]:

> >If all labor time is unpaid labor time, v would equal -0- and the
> >specific social relations associated with capitalism could not exist.
> I don't think this follows in the case of slavery. The consumer goods that
> the capitalist purchased for the reproduction of slaves, along with the
> other costs of reproduction, constituted variable capital.

Variable capital is money capital which is exchanged by capital with
workers for *labor power* in *exchange for a wage*. No wage-labor, no
variable capital.

Connecting this to another thread, the "employment contract" is only
applicable where there is "free labor" which is employed by capital. And
slave labor is not "free labor" by any stretch of the imagination.

Where there is slavery, labour does not take the capital-form.
Rather, in the case of modern slavery, it is labour itself rather than
labour-power which takes the commodity-form.

> All labor time
> was unpaid, but v (and sv) was not zero.

See above.
> Sure, and that plantation slaves don't fit the model of free wage labor in
> Marx's Capital does not mean that they weren't at the center of the
> proletariat in the early stages of accumulation.

The proletariat is the class composed of those who do not own and control
the means of production and therefore have to sell their labour-power in
order to obtain the money with which they can purchase the commodities
that they need in order to live. Slaves by no stretch of the imagination
fit a definition of the proletariat specific to capitalism.

> And we are also agreed that a developed capitalism

At the point in time when capitalism became the dominant mode of
production, the rest follows (except as noted below). Wage-labour is a
necessary defining characteristic of capitalism whether it be
"developed", "developing", "underdeveloped", "not developed", or whatever.

> can only operate on the
> basis of a free market in wage labor: with continuous technical change

I think that technical change, both historically and theoretically, is
best understood as a *discontinuous* process -- hence waves and cycles of
technical change exist.

> and
> the rise and shrinkage of firms and industries to which that gives rise,
> only mobile free wage labor will suffice.
> But capitalism proceeded for some
> time without continuous technical change and relative surplus value as the
> main form of extraction.

I take it for granted here that we are only talking about the period of
time after the capitalist mode of production became the dominant mode of
production. After that was the case, then wage-labor dominated as the main
form that labor took under capitalism.

Furthermore, consider the process known as Triangular Trade of which the
re-establishment of slavery was an essential part. Slaves, after all,
produced much of the raw material such as cotton that helped to fuel the
industrial system in Britain, especially the textile industry. Yet, that
was *already* a capitalist system in which there was (dis) continuous
technical change, production of relative surplus value, and wage-labour.

In solidarity, Jerry

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