[OPE-L:6988] Re: Re: the cost of slaves

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Sun Apr 14 2002 - 15:05:58 EDT

This will be my last message on the topic; and as I have other 
responsibilities and will be away from computer, I am requesting that 
I be temporarily unsubbed from this list. Thanks to the moderator.

Re Jerry's 6982

>Re Rakesh's [6980]:
>  >   Marx after all does not say that the slave himself has the same role
>  > in production as any other piece of fixed capital. In fact Marx says
>>  many times in other places that modern slaves did produce surplus
>  > value, not just a surplus product.
>He says that "many times in other places", does he?

the quotes were put together long ago by Grossmann and Jairus in his 
Modes of Production piece for Capital and Class. The long passage 
from TSV II which I quoted was already highlighted by Grossman. There 
are references in Capital 3 as well; moreover, as Jairus argues, 
surplus value can be produced by those who appear to be peasants.

>>  Why did Marx refer to the money invested in the purchase of slaves as
>>  CAPITAL at all if he did not think modern plantation slavery was a
>>  form of the capitalistic production of surplus value?
>Interesting question since, in the passage from V2, while he ends the
>passage referring to the South in the USA,  most of the passage (which
>_begins_  with: "In the slave system, the money capital laid out on the
>purchase of  labour-power plays the role of fixed capital in money
>form, ....", p. 554) concerns the *ancient* slave system in Athens, the
>Greek states, Rome, etc.

Well first you are evading my refutation of your point. In fact no 
where in your reply here do you even quote my several comments on 
this passage and respond to them.

Marx says that the money capital paid for slaves is amortized as 
money capital laid out for fixed capital--bit by bit. This passage 
does not say that slaves play the same role in production  as a piece 
of fixed capital. The passage simply does not support your argument 
that slaves can never produce surplus value. Moreover that Marx 
refers to the money laid out for slaves as money capital indicates 
that he thinks we are dealing with some kind of capital.

Second, Marx does in fact recognize that in what he thinks are 
exceptional cases in antiquity the aim of production was to obtain 
exchange value (and value and surplus value) in its independent 
monetary shape, i.e, in the production of gold and silver.

Third, I do not see why in ancient Athens money investments made for 
the purchase of slaves could not have been amortized bit by bit. Do 
you not think they should have been capable of such calculations. 
Marx is saying that they made such calculations; he is not saying 
that slaves like a piece of machinery cannot produce value and 
surplus value. But Marx does support my thesis not only in vol 1 but 
vol 3 as well.

Fourth, Marx does not say that production aimed primarily at surplus 
value is unique to modern capitalism. And even if Marx did think that 
he is wrong. I think it is wrong to hang the historical specificity 
of capitalism on the complete absence of value, value production, 
surplus value production in any non capitalist mode. This is 
primitivist historiography.

  Marx thinks that the organization of social production *in general* 
around the *boundless* appetite for surplus value and thus surplus 
labor is what characterizes capitalism.  Which in turn allows for the 
emergence of noveleties:  the real subsumption of labor and  specific 
laws of motion

>>  Which is exactly what Marx says directly elsewhere.  I feel confident
>>  that you know the quote in vol I to which I am referring. The
>>  surprising thing is that you do not feel compelled to speak about it.
>I don't  feel "compelled" to speak about it.  It's not all that significant
>a passage, imo, when placed in context.  It is an interesting quotation,
>though, for reasons I describe below.

The context is simple. That when these older forms (slave labor, 
corvee labor) are brought into the world market dominated by the 
capitalist mode of production, they become methods for the production 
of surplus value as production is no longer directed at the 
satisfaction of immediate local requirements. And this changes the 
character of slavery and corvee labor.

Marx is speaking quite accurately here about the production of 
surplus value having become the aim of production.

What we have here is the nature of surplus value production--the 
boundless appetite for surplus labor.

>What is most remarkable, though, is how little there is in Volume 1 that
>you can hang your hat on.  In approx. 15 pages (21 if we count "Results")
>where there are references to slavery there is only the 1 -- as we shall
>see,  ambiguous -- passage that says what you want it to say.  The passage
>in question is from Ch. 10, Section 2 and is at the end of the first

Of course there is little to hang one's hat on. It's a theory of pure 
capitalism, not an empirical account of early capitalism.

>The Penguin edition ends the paragraph with: "It is no longer a question of
>obtaining from him a certain quantity of useful products, but rather the
>production  of surplus-value itself. The same is true of the corvee, in the
>Danubian Principalities for instance" (345).
>Interestingly, the Moore and Aveling translation Is:  "it is now a question
>of production of surplus-labour itself" (Kerr ed., p.  260).  When I
>looked-up the  original passage in German (1981 Ullstein Buch Nr. 35091),
>the Fowkes  translation would seem to be more accurate since it reads
>"Mehrwerts" rather  than "Merharbeit" (201).  Perhaps Moore & Aveling
>were trying to  translate what they thought  Marx meant rather than a
>literal translation?   This is poor practice indeed  for translators, but it
>is easy to understand why they might have thought that was what he

I am glad that you have indicated here that you would not have 
mis-translated the text given what you think Marx should have said.

And you'll note that Marx refers to the surplus value produced by 
slaves in other places as well.

>Let us recall that the subject of both the sub-section and the paragraph is
>surplus labor rather than surplus value.  Let us also recall  his statement,
>when comparing the  developed plantation system in the South,  that he
>wrote that "the same is true of the corvee".   The way I  understand the
>sentence *in context*  is that  production developed from the production
>of "useful products" alone to the  production of  commodities (here
>understood to mean, presumably in this  context,  products which are
>produced in order to be sold and thereby have both a use-value and an
>exchange-value) where the slaves performed  surplus-labor-time.

The point is that when slavery or corvee are embedded in the world 
capitalist market, there emerges a new boundless thirst for surplus 
labor because it is value itself that becomes the aim of production 
rather than the satisfication of  immediate needs. Moreover, 
howevever true this was of the corvee system, it was more true of 
modern plantation slaves.

Marx says what he means to say here.

>Let us then consider the corvee system in which "the same is true". To
>begin with,  the ruling class in the corvee system were landlords.  There
>were other similarities to feudalism, e.g.  there were rents in kind. The
>corvee is described not as "surplus-value itself" the next page (Penguin, p.
>346) but as "tribute".

read on Marx uses value categories explicitly. refers to the rate of 
surplus value, I believe. p. 348, I believe--did you miss it?

>  My reading of the surplus-labor-time performed
>(see p. 347) was that it was not primarily engaged in commodity production.
>And, unlike cotton, these products I  don't believe were sold on world

good. after all I am more interested in proving that slave 
plantations were capitalist enterprises than the corvee system was 
value production.

>  Clearly, there wasn't abstract labor but the expenditure of labor
>time on concrete activities specified by the code.

How do you define abstract labor? And I don't get this at all. All 
abstract labor is spent on concrete activities. Abstract and concrete 
are two aspects of value positing labor, not two different kinds of 
labor. Again for my purposes the labor that produced cotton as a 
commodity for the world market.  had its abstract aspect. It was 
abstract in Postone's specific sense for example.

>   In context, thus, the
>only way that this passage could *mean* surplus-value is for us to accept
>the proposition -- which I think Marx rejects elsewhere (but, as I suggested
>previously, there is some inconsistency on his part) -- is to interpret the
>meaning as "surplus-labor itself" -- which is, after all, the subject
>(rather than surplus value) of this sub-section.

I don't follow this argument; nor do you explain why Marx refers to 
the rate of surplus value for corvee labor on p. 348

>It is true that elsewhere, in the drafts for what became Volume 3, that
>Marx seems to widen his comprehension of the conditions under which
>surplus-value is created and who thereby produces surplus value.

"Seems"? He was quite clear.

>  You
>might recall that Gil picked-up on many  of those passages.  Now you,
>ironically, are following in Gil's footsteps.

Oh guilt by association. I must say that I wonder at your evasions 
and your debating tactics, Jerry. I have written a clear response to 
Gil's chapter 5 critique.

>   Yet, in context, I think this
>refers not to the production of surplus-value but to the (re) *distribution*
>of  surplus value among capitalists and other classes (e.g. landlords).

Marx does *not* think the production of surplus value or the aim of 
production as the production of value is unique to a fully developed 
capitalism. Nor does Marx say that *only* those who have exchanged 
labor power for a wage in the realm of circulation can produce value.


>This,  I think, is why Marx did not discuss the question further in Volume
>1 in terms of whether or not  modern slaves produce surplus value (even
>though he discussed slavery, including plantation slavery,  itself in many
>other places in VI): i.e. it is a topic which can only be  fully understood
>later at a less abstract level of abstraction where there is an examination
>of the  re-distribution of surplus value internationally and where the world
>market is grasped.

Right so we are back to your theses that slaveowners were able to 
redistribute value produced elsewhere to themselves and that slaves 
themselves produced no value.

Of course I disagree. And I will leave it to others to read through 
the posts and judge our arguments.


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