[OPE-L:3033] slavery

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Sun May 07 2000 - 12:35:27 EDT

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Chai on wrote in 3020:

>Dear Fellows [sic],
>Please consult Marx's own statements on slavery commodity rpoduction his
>Capital Volume 2, I found two paragraphs on p. 116 & p. p. 189 in Pelican
>edition. In them, Marx explains some cases where capitalist commodity
>productions meet slavery commodity productions. You shold pay a special
>attention to their previous paragraphs.

Why just pay special attention to that passage. Why not Vol 1: "But in
proportion as the export of cotteom became of vital interest to those
states, the overworking of the Negro, and sometimes the consumption of his
life in seven years of labour, became a factor in a calculated and
calculating system. It was no longer a question of obtaining from him a
certain quantity of useful products, but rather of the production of
SURPLUS VALUE itself." p. 345 Penguin.

Moreover, let's start with the passage on p. 554-5 of Capital 2 instead.

1. Marx does not say that slaves were constant capital, only that their
costs were calculated as if they were a form of fixed capital.

2. Marx shows that it took time for modern plantation slavery to free
itself from natural economy (an internal commodity market for slaves had to
develop at which point it became profitable to work slaves to death), while
ancient slavery retained features of natural economy.

3. Note you have simply ignored the previous discussion that on the input
side the links to natural economy were broken by these modern plantations,
which located near the coast, were integrated into the world market by
means of which the subsistence need of slaves were met. Unlike unfree
populations in Old World peripheries, the everyday needs of black slaves
created a need for imports, e.g., mfg imports (above all cheap cotton cloth
for slaves to wear) took up to 500f sugar export proceeds in the British
Caribbean. And since for a long time plantation owners purchased very few
women lsaves (and manumitted more them than they did men), many slaves also
lacked families, who helped suply the subsistence needs of compulsory cash
crop workers in Old World Settings. Marx was more correct than he realized
that modern plantation slavery broke the ties to natural economy in a more
decisive way than ancient slavery.

>After reading, I confirm that it is simply wrong to assume the slave
>owners extract surplus value from the slave labors. Owing to the poverty
>of philosophy, people on the ope-l have mistaken monetized surplus
>products for surplus values. Surplus value is premised on a clear
>distinction between labor and labor-power, which is not identifiable in
>slavery commodity production.

This is not Marx's point in the passage which you asked us to consult.

I think you mean to emphasize this sentence from p. 189.

 "Whether the commodities are the product of production based on slavery,
the product of peasants (Chinese, Indian ryots), of a commodity (Dutch East
Indies, of state production (such as existed in earlier epochs of Russian
history, based on serfdom) or of half-savage hunting peoples, etc. as
commodites and money they confront the money and commodities which enter
into the latter's own circuit and in that of the surplus value borne by the
commodities capital, in sofar as the latter is spent as revenue, i.e., in
both branches of the ciruclation of commodity capital."

1. Marx here is referring to the distinction between formal and real
subsumption. The examples he gives are of the former.

2. Marx himself emphasizes that even modern slavery retained a patriarchal
form until it was integrated on the both the input and output side into the
world market (as noted above, there was a break from natural economy as
modern plantation slavery developed). At that point, it was not only
surplus products that were monetized; rather the production of surplus
value became the sole aim of production, resulting in the deathly work
regiments to which modern plantation slaves were subject. Through its
integration into the world market slavery had emergent properties. See
quote from Capital Vol I in my last post. Marx makes the same point in the

3. As that integration deepened, money spent on plantation products was not
lost as revenue or expenditure as the plantations generated demand for mfg
products, esp. cheap cotton cotton cloth. So those payments for plantation
output reentered the circuit of industrial capital. See above.

Yours, Rakesh

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