[OPE-L:2684] Re: Re: slaves and value

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Mon Apr 03 2000 - 00:47:45 EDT

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Sounds like value production to me." "Sounds like", perhaps,
>but is it? What we should be asking is whether labour employed by
>capital in the production of products which have a use-value and an
>exchange-value is a necessary and sufficient condition for the
>production of surplus *value*.

Jerry, you are making things too easy for yourself by quoting me so unfavorably.

 Of course that the output must assume the commodity form is a necessary
condition for value production. Where have I said that it was also
sufficient? You just quoted me as saying that the m of prod were
monetized--that is, as I would have it, there was a monetary investment in
constant and variable capital on which a reasonable return was expected.
That is, take note of Marx's reference to calculating and calculated
behavior--which even Blackburn is compelled to highlight.

 Even if there are no other commodites on the market that compete with
plantation commodity output, the plantation owner is motivated by virtue of
his capital investment to attempt to get at least a reasonable return. It's
not as if slaves first met his needs, leaving him free to market the
additional surplus product if he so pleased.

And that means the entire enterprise (in many if not most cases as time
went on) was set up for commodity production (see Grossmann); it's not as
if a little bit of the surplus product was just occassionally thrown out
into the market once subsistence needs were met as if plantation owners
were independent peasant proprietors for whom value was an after thought.

It seems to me that the commodity output of modern plantations (though not
always and not entirely) could be said to assume wholly the form of
commodity since not only was the *entire* output meant to be and actually
transformed into exchange value (as the market would allow ), many of (and
more and more as time went on) ingredients necessary for its production
entered it as commodities as well--imposing upon the enslavers that
calculating and calculated behavior.

 Not surprisingly modern plantation slavery was,as Marx himself emphasized,
the pivot to the development of generalized commodity production which
however it did come to fetter for specific reasons I have myself suggested
(I don't think Cairnes' arguments on which Marx partially relies are fully

Now you argue that the reproduction costs of slaves (including the
commodities purchased off the market for their reproduction) could not have
been variable capital because only wages paid to free wage laborers can be
variable capital. But you seem to build this condition into your definition
of variable capital on the basis (so far) of no real argument. We are
agreed (I suppose) that wages paid out are not always variable capital,
however. So free market exchange itself cannot be the criterion. You did
note my argument as to historic inadequacy of this criterion in a previous
post, right?

 And what about indentured labor whose role in the history of the Caribbean
and elsewhere was pivotal in the 19th century in particular? Was that free
wage labor? Well not really. Yet was that labor capital-producing,
What about child labor in Bangladeshi garment factories? Can children ever
be said to have freely sold their labor power? But is not the labor they
perform abstract, value producing labor? Ask Jay Mazur.

You also seem to be implicitly relying on Chai-on's claim that slaves
cannot be the source of surplus value because slave owners put them in
their books as fixed capital...as if there ever would be variable capital
by this standard.

And we should be asking whether what
>Patrick in [2635] indicated as (at least part of) his "major point" --
>namely, that "human labor is human labor" -- is valid for this issue or
>whether the *form* that labor takes has relevance to the question of the
>production of value and surplus value.

No, I have defended modern plantation slave labor as abstract, value
producing labor.

Yours, Rakesh

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