[OPE-L:6912] Re: Re: value-form

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 05 2002 - 12:06:50 EST

re 6906

>Reply only to sections of Rakesh's [6902]:

why only parts Jerry?

>>   To focus on circulation is precisely to gloss over
>>  the essential nature of the capital-labor relationship, extinguishing
>>  its differentia specifica. Which is the production of surplus value
>>  and capital.
>If one wants to comprehend class relations under capitalism, one's
>focus must be on *both* the spheres of production and circulation
>since the reproduction of capital requires a unity of the processes
>of capitalist production and circulation.

The plantations formed massive markets for industrial and consumer 
goods. In fact the expansion of the market and commodity circulation 
were stimulated by nothing more than modern plantation slavery.

>>  My reading of Marx's articles and correspondence on the American
>>  Civil War do not turn up references to the Southern slave system as
>>  non-capitalist.
>Marx -- in brief -- held the position that slavery constituted a barrier to
>further development of capitalist relations in the US.

Which is not to say that slavery did not entail the production of 
surplus value.

>   It was for this
>reason -- rather than support for the humanitarian goals of the
>abolitionist movement alone -- that he supported the war  against the
>Confederacy and deemed it to be "progressive".

Yes slavery interferes with the production of relative surplus value 
via industrialization, though cotton, tobacco and sugar continued to 
be produced through formally unfree labor relations outside of the US 
in Central AMerica, Egypt, Hawaii, India.

>>  >(by which I mean that the measure of labour
>>  >by time and intensity is a 'formula' peculiar to the capital-labour
>>  >relation; also, Marx, vol.1, ch.1).  Slaves and surfs are not 'exploited'
>>  >in this sense.
>>  This is not true as a matter of fact. On what studies are you relying
>>  to reach the conclusion that intensity or squeezing out as much
>>  effort per unit of time were not root concerns of slave owners or
>>  employers of formally unfree laborers (which let's not forget
>>  includes millions of Asian indentured servants or "coolies" after
>>  slavery was abolished in the Caribbean and many former slaves
>>  attempted to become peasants)?
>As a matter of fact,  the form in which labor intensity is increased
>under capitalist and slave conditions is typically quite different. Under
>slavery,  a form of direct control over slaves is required -- typically,
>overseers are employed who threaten -- or do -- inflict physical pain
>or withhold 'privileges', etc.).

And employers today make arbitrary deductions from wages in order to 
instill discipline.  There is plenty of withholding of priviliges, 
right down to the right for urination breaks, that are used to 
discipline the working class in modern capitalism. This regulation of 
urine breaks is a form of physical torture documented by Marc Linder. 
In non agricultural production the machine can force the intensity of 

>   Under capitalist relations, there is a
>more indirect control over wage-earners by managers who threaten
>the loss of job and all that entails.  Within _all_ class societies,
>the ruling class attempts to extract work from the producing class,
>but the form that this takes varies varies depending on the specific
>characteristics of the mode of production.

Yes but from Cairnes' and Marx's accounts, the intensity of modern 
plantation slavery in general distinguished it from the slavery of 
the ancients and Aristotle, though slavery in ancient gold mines 
involved the same rapacious consumption of slave life, according to 

>>  It is fine and quite important to study a pure capitalism--a
>>  capitalism in which all products take the form of commodities and are
>>  all produced by the formally freest wage labor.
>I think it is important to recognize that "commodity" can have two
>meanings:  in a trans-historical sense it might mean a "product
>which is produced in order to be sold" (this is the mainstream
>definition) and the _specific_ meaning of commodity under
>capitalism which Marx explained. Thus, from Marx's perspective
>under capitalism it is not enough that a product have a use-value and
>an exchange-value for it to be a commodity -- rather it must also
>have the characteristic of representing value.

Modern plantation slavery was not based on trading excess commodities 
on the market or bartering them. It was based on the production of 
commodities to valorize capital, discharge debt, acquire other 
commodities and build money hoards.

>>  But real capitalism is not, has not been and never will be Marx's
>>  pure capitalism the theoretical nature of which is most interestingly
>>  discussed by Robert Albritton and other Unoists.
>>  I think the mistake made here by both you and Jerry is the mistaking
>>  of Marx's model of reality for the reality of the model.
>>  The consequence of such overformalist Marxism is the cutting out of
>>  huge swaths of capitalist history in the periphery and millions of
>>  the human victims of capitalism in the past and even the present
>>  (though vagrancy laws were used to provide capital with a formally
>>  unfree European labor force in early capitalism as well).
>>  This overformalism thus feeds the racism and Eurocentrism of Marxism.
>One doesn't fight racism by ignoring the real divisions among producers
>and the working class.  Indeed, a pre-requisite for building unity and
>solidarity internationally is recognizing and over-coming in practice those
>divisions.  Whether slaves produce surplus value is a matter of irrelevance

I don't think a clear understanding that black slaves were part of 
the international working class would have neglible impact on how 
white and blacks understand themselves. The whole slavery reparations 
movement--or at least the bases for it--would have to be rethought, I 

>in terms of whether other workers support their emancipation. Similarly,
>whether unpaid domestic workers in households in nuclear families
>produce surplus value is not an essential question from the standpoint
>of whether the working class supports feminist demands.

for one, commodities are not produced through this kind of domestic 
labor; second, intensity in order to ensure amortization and 
valorization are not such that lives are consumed in less than ten 
years by domestic labor.

>   Similarly, whether
>the "deproletarianized" (Brass) in the "petty commodity sector" (Drakakis-
>Smith and many others)  produce surplus value is not essential in terms of
>how an effective international solidarity movement with these sisters and
>brothers can be built.

Disagree. Strategy depends on the estimation of the size and position 
of the proletariat in a given social formation.  Questions about anti 
feudal or bourgeois democratic lines vs. socialist proletariat lines 
have depended on exactly such questions. Very practical concerns are 
what motivated what is called the mode of production debate in 
India--see the Utsa Patnaik volume.

>   To identify the specific conditions under which
>value is created under capitalism is therefore neither "overformalist" nor
>does it -- in any way -- feed into the "racism and Eurocentrism of

I disagree. If one creates no place in working class history for the 
descendants and coolies in Marxist histories of the working class and 
allows no recognition of how past humiliations which continue to 
haunt them arose out of surplus value production, then you turn them 
away from class politics and Marxism and you allow a false sense of 
difference and superiority to creep into the heads of white 
proletarians (after all, "we were never suited for slavery").

>   Indeed, it has historically been those Marxists who have
>insisted that "class" is the only question that have been the ones who have
>fed racism.

That new virulent forms of racism arose out of racial slavery which 
in turn arose out of the early capitalist production of absolute 
surplus value does not reduce race to class, but it does undercut the 
dehistoricization and naturalization of novel and virulent forms of 

>  Thus,  Black workers were told in the US by the CPUSA
>that they should not demonstrate during WW2 not only because it would
>"disrupt the war effort" but also because it would "divide the working

Rather the working class should extend special support to the 
weakest, most despised and least powerful parts of it--those parts 
who continue to suffer the historical consequnces of their special 
form of exploitation and unique integration into the working class. 
There can be recognition of difference-in-identity. There can be the 
achievement of identity in difference.

>  Similarly,  feminists have been told by other Marxists that they
>shouldn't press feminist demands for the same reason -- i.e. that it
>would allegedly divide the working class. Real class unity, however, is
>only possible when these demands are recognized and championed by
>the entire class.   This is the case irrespective of the position that one
>takes in terms of who produces surplus value.

Our sense of history matters for what kind of unity we will have in 
the present, I believe. A better sense of history could reduce anti 
immigration sentiment, I believe.


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