[OPE-L:6964] slavery

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 11 2002 - 01:02:27 EDT

For some reason I did not receive Paul B's message; here is my reply:

Paul B wrote

>It is one of those common steps backward in social progress in the period
>before a relative surplus population can actually be established.
>Now the puzzle that seems to be worrying everyone is  if a product is
>produced under conditions which are not fully capitalistic,

I consider production essentially capitalistic if it is undertaken in 
the circuit of capital, i.e, money investments are only made in 
constant and variable capital for the production not of use values 
for immediate consumption but of commodities  the latent value and 
surplus value of which has to be realized in money.

I do not define the free wage labor or wage labor form (at least as 
Jerry and Nicky have defined wage labor; Jairus has a broader 
definition) as part of the essence of capital as such though indeed 
fully developed capitalism depends on it; in other words,  the 
generalization of this form is the cause and effect of capitalist 
development on the basis of relative surplus value. The boundless 
search for surplus value however is the essence, if there is a 
singular essence, of capitalist production.

Plantation slavery was thus in my estimation essentially capitalistic 
but in the long term an inefficient method for the production of 
surplus value.

Raw materials pilfered from pre capitalist formations may not have 
been capitalistically produced as commodities; however the commodity 
output of plantations--indigo, sugar, tobacco, cotton, etc--was 
capitalistically produced.

Slave labor was also part of the social labor of early bourgeois society.

>  or not at all
>so, but these products are purchased by capitalism, can we say that these
>products are, or have become, 'commodities'...'commodities' meaning the
>fully matured commodity  made with free labour and in which surplus value
>resides. The same sort of problem arises when we talk of the earliest raw
>materials purchased from feudal states in the 18th century...they exchange
>for money... so is the labour that has provided these materials somehow
>'become'  abstract social labour? For fun I can call this the problem of
>retrospective legislation, or  'surplus value by annointment'.

No these materials need not have produced only because they would 
allow a so called reasonable return on capital. They could have been 
dumped on the market well below their prices of production as Marx 
suggested some of the surplus output of peasants in the white settler 
colonies was.

On the other hand, plantation owners tended to make only those 
investments that allowed for the prospect of a reasonable return on 
capital and thus the valorization of capital.

>The point is that once a 'real' capitalist, the developed sort, buys any
>item, exchanges it for money, then it certainly is, from then on, a
>commodity with a price, but at that stage the social character of the labour
>power that has been involved is only accidentally and hesitatingly coming
>into existence as a commodity.

My goodness, the output of slaves did not accidentally take the 
commodity form; the whole point of command of slave labor and the 
massive concommitant in the modern plantation was the production of 
commodities whose sale would allow for the valorization of capital as 
Marx himself underlined.

>In the case of US slavery labour power was
>not a commodity.

Yes but the general form of the product of labor was the commodity.

>  Society was not bourgeoise.

James Oakes in the Ruling Race provides good evidence of how deeply 
commercial values were embedded in the antebellum US South.


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