[OPE-L:6973] Re: Re: slavery

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 12 2002 - 07:20:09 EDT

Paul B writes in 6969

>I have to say I do consider the sale of labour power as a commodity 
>to be the key to the transition to capitalistic production.

yes I agree it is a key (along with the invention of machinery) to 
the transition of the capitalistic production of relative surplus 

>   The extraction of surplus value was initially what we might today 
>call archaic, essentially an absolute process, then with machinery 
>we find the relative form  being the key way forward for raising 
>the rate of exploitation.

yes I agree.

>  However once a world market is evolving with a dynamic colonial 
>process in hand then  all sorts of ways of extorting surplus 
>products falls under the sway, influence, encouragement  etc of the 
>dominant  system.

it was exactly because modern plantation slavery was embedded in the 
world market that it came to produce primarily for the world market 
and purchase means of production from and borrow on the world market.

And under this pressure from the monetization of the means of 
production and debt loads these plantation owners lost the 
possibility for a real retreat to natural economy. That some slaves 
produced some of their own subsistence in no way meant that the 
plantation could retreat into the natural economy. I have already 
noted Blackburn's making of this point.

The commodity thus had to be the general form of the product of labor 
and sold (tendentially) at their prices of production.

As Marx underlined, this put the plantation capitalists in the 
circuit of capital (of course as landowner and capitalist the slave 
owner took both profit and rent under the single form of profit) 
unlike those peasants in the white settler colonies who could dump 
surplus product on the market at well below the average rate of 
profit as long as their bare subsistence had already been self 

>You say
>  > Plantation slavery was thus in my estimation essentially capitalistic
>>  but in the long term an inefficient method for the production of
>>  surplus value.
>Now what do you mean 'essentially'...???   because it was produced 
>for capitalist markets I suppose,

What I mean to underline is that the general product of labor of 
modern plantation labor had to take the commodity form (plantation 
output was really and essentially commodities), and investments were 
made by slave owners with the average rate of profit in mind: 
production was regulated and dominated by value.

>  I prefer to think of the system as I said before, as brought into 
>existence by capitalism because labour was not offering itself for 
>sale freely.  The vacuum, abhored by capital, was filled by slave 
> merchants etc. In the complete and formal sense, the process was 
>not fully capitalistic, yet entirely subordinate to it.  What need 
>for further specification? the products had a price, this becomes 
>part of the cost price for capitalists 'proper'. The preceeding 
>process undoubtedly saw surplus labour extorted and the total 
>product exchanged as value. I don't see the problem.
>  I said earlier
>>  >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.
>Unfortunately you read this not  as 'the social character of labour 
>power' as a commodity,  but  as the 'output of the slaves', saying
>>  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.
>I do not say what you took me to say, although then quoting me 
>again, you agree agree. Thus:
>>  >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.
>Paul B.

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