[OPE-L:2710] Re: RE: slaves and value

From: Patrick L. Mason (pmason@garnet.acns.fsu.edu)
Date: Tue Apr 04 2000 - 13:13:08 EDT

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My comments on labor and land shortages weren't related to the US Civil
War. Rather, they were related to the period between 1776-1809. The remarks
on Virginia were related specifically to the the 17th century.

At 05:51 PM 4/4/00 +0100, you wrote:
>One or two posts in this thread have raised, directly or otherwise, the
>question of the social basis of the Civil War.
>On one side it has been asked "if southern slavery was such a poor method of
>exploitation, why did the northern capitalists have to fight a war to
>extirpate it?" to which has been posed the counter-question "if slavery was
>such a good method of exploitation, why didn't the Northern capitalists
>adopt it themselves?"
>I don't doubt that questions like these are relevant at some level of
>analysis, but prompted by Patrick M.'s #2695:
>> It was precisely the development of wage labor for white (European)
>> workers
>> that contributed to enslavement of Africans and the genocide against
>> native
>> people in North and South America. Thomas Jefferson was acutely aware of
>> this. From the perspective new world European capital there was a "labor
>> shortage" and a "land shortage."
>> These resources were intimately connected to the development of a
>> capitalist market for labor power and the prevailence of so much "free"
>> land in the Americas. Wages in North America were very high because the
>> abundance of allowed for non-capitalist agriculture, that is, subsistence
>> farming (along hunting and fishing) as a mechanism of earning a living for
>> so many Europeans who would otherwise had to work as wage laborers. The
>> same person in European who would have been a landless urban dweller or a
>> serf could engage in subsistance agriculture in America. So, money wages
>> in
>> the colonies were higher than money wages in European.
>the following point -- -- seems worth considering.
>The *immediate* cause of the war was whether slavery could be extended to
>new territories of the U.S.: since, as has been pointed out, the normal
>capitalist part of the U.S. economy faced labour shortages, it hardly seems
>likely that Northern capital was concerned at the prospect of having its
>field of action constrained (by having the Southern system take root in the
>Isn't it arguable that the reason for the Northern population's tenacity in
>the war (and for the support for the North in the West) was the desire of
>existing and would-be subsistence farmers (and of wage workers) to keep the
>frontier open, in a way that it clearly wouldn't have been had slavery
>become widespread there?
>In other words, there was an anti-capitalist (in a sense) aspect to popular
>support for the War in the North.
>Viewed from this angle, the Civil War would be an expression of the relative
>*weakness* of Northern capital (vis-a-vis workers and farmers) at least as
>much as of its putative strength vis-a-vis the South.

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