[OPE-L:6953] Re: Re: slavery and the multiple worlds hypothesis

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 10 2002 - 00:07:09 EDT

in response to Jerry's 6950

>  Thus, non-produced objects come
>to be treated in the market and by classes *as if*  they were

Jerry, are you saying that the commodity output of the plantations 
(sugar, tobacco, cotton, etc) was made up of NON PRODUCED objects?

>For example, those who understand value as a *specific* social
>relationship will not be happy with the idea that it can be usefully
>applied towards the understanding of all class societies.  These is,
>though, another issue: where value is the organizing principle of
>society,  objects which are *not commodities*  come to be treated
>*as if* they were commodities.

Jerry, what is the specific relationship which Marxian theory denotes by value?
I know Nicky is not too interested in what Marx has to say about 
this, but perhaps you are?

After all, it was implicitly on the basis of the concept of value 
that Marx distinguished modern plantation slavery as capitalist 
production from  contempareneous peasant production in the white 
settler colonies. It was the latter, not the former, that posed an 
immediate threat to the expansion of capitalism. Marx seems to use 
value in the VFT (Geert) terms of ideal precommensuration as well.

"Two different aspects must be distinguished here.

First, There are the colonies proper, such as in the US, Australia, 
etc.Here the mass of the farming colonists, although they bring with 
them a larger or smaller amount of capital from the motherland, are 
not *capitalists*, nor do they carry on capitalist production. They 
are are more or less peasants who work themselves and whose main 
object, in the first place, is to produce *their own livlihood, their 
means of subsistence. Their main product does not become a 
*commodity*, and is not intended for trade. They sell or exchange the 
excess of their product over their own consumption for imported mgf 
commodities, etc. The other, smaller section of the colonists who 
settler near the sea, navigable rivers, etc. form trading towns. 
There is no question of capitalist here either. Even if capitalist 
production gradually comes into being, so that the sale of his 
products and the profit he makes from this sale become decisive for 
the farmer who himself works and owns his land: so long, as 
comparedwith capital and labour, land still exists in elemental 
abundance providing a practically unlimited field of action, the 
first type of colonisation will continue as well and production will 
therefore *never* be regualted according to the needs of the 
market--at a given market value. Everything the colonists of the 
first type produce *over and above* their immediate consumption, they 
will throw on the market and sell at any price that will bring in 
more than their wages. They are, and continue for a lon gtime to be, 
competitors of the farmers who are already producing more or less 
capitalistically, and thus keep the market price of the agricultural 
product *below* its value...

"In the second type of colonies--plantations--where commercial 
speculations figure from the start [is this akin to ideal 
precommensuration in VFT terms?--rb] and production is intended for 
the world market, the capitalist mode of production exists, although 
only in a formal sense, sicne the slavery of Negroes precludes free 
wage labour,which is the basis of capitalist production. But the 
business in which slaves are used is conducted by *capitalists*. The 
method of production, which they introduce has not arised out of 
slavery but is grafted on to it. In this case the same person is 
capitaist and landowner. And the *elemental* [profusion] existence of 
the land confronting capital and albour does not offer any resistance 
to capital investment, hence none to the competition between 
capitals. Neither does a class of farmers as distinct from landlords 
develop here. So long as these conditions endure, nothing will stand 
in the way of cost price [by which we understand price of 
production--rb] regulating market value."

TSV, part II Moscow, pp. 301-3

>  Similarly, products produced outside of the capital/
>wage-labour relation  -- including those produced by slaves in
>capitalist social formations -- come to be treated *as if* they
>are commodities (yet, the latter is only possible if we define
>commodities and value in trans-historical ways).

Yes this would follow if by definition you will not include as 
commodities the product of formally unfree and enslaved labor. The 
question is what supports this definition.

But of course they were treated as if they were commodities because 
alas those products were commodities!

>   We should not
>confuse the fact that objects can be treated *as if* they are
>commodities with the belief that they therefore *are* commodities.

Good advice if we are dealing with land or honor! But the products of 
slave labor were in fact reproducible commodities which were not in 

At any rate, I do understand value as a historically specific class 
relationship on at least three grounds:

1. when the associated producers can only relate to each other through
things, the organization of social labor is carried out by the exchange
value of things, i.e., the value of a commodity as represented in a
body of another. For example, planters responded to increasing prices 
for cotton by ramping up production, as Fogel shows.

2. when social relations are such material relations between things, labor
has first and foremost the function of producing commodities
commodities as values so that may be  be transformed into the universal
equivalent which incarnates the social bond. The economy is
fundamentaly  monetized. This was in fact the case with plantations.

We find that social relations take the form of material relations 
between things when production is organized privately for the 
purposes of private profit-making; so the third feature is...

3. value production is marked by a calculated and calculating search 
for the greatest possible surplus value (it is not hemmed in by the 
immediate circle of the needs of the ruling class--as Blackburn 
shows, debt ridden plantation owners who had huge  capital 
investments in their plantations and relied on the market for
the reproduction of their enterprises performed under this compulsion,
which is also why Marx understood them to be capitalists.)

Modern plantation slavery was in fact value-dominated ("commerical 
speculations figure from the start"), and it was capitalist 
production especially in contrast  to the peasant production in the 
white settler colonies; the general
form of the product of labor was not meant for immediate production but
for the purpose of being alienated on the market as a value and as a 
container of surplus value.

Moreover, slavery is not a monolithic institution; its purpose was not
always the valorization of capital, though that was clearly the driving
force of modern plantation slavery.

I am quite concerned with what you call historical specifity. I've read
Korsch carefully too.


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