[OPE-L:6989] Re: Re: the cost of slaves

From: paul bullock (paulbullock@ebms-ltd.co.uk)
Date: Sun Apr 14 2002 - 17:38:22 EDT


thanks  for your response...but the 'interface' of earlier or non capitalist production/circulation with capitalist seesm to me to be most important... Luxemburg etc ... all the way through to current environmental concerns.

First though I guess you have now got Vol 49 of the CW, Engels letters... do look at Engels to Laura Lafargue. 6 January 92 letter 165.   .his jokes about her husband will undeline precisely what I was saying before about the use in England of the tern Nigger, Fred is hardly likely to have been trying to insult Laura's husband, especially since he thought well of him himself.

As for slavery  -  so we seem mostly  to agree here..but still with an area for discussion. (I hope you don't mind the off opel exchange but i don't want  anyone coming in at this point with fa sack of  fictitious capital   !!!)

Cotton is sold . It receives a price, it is exchanged for a world market processed price. Now if, as you question, this does not endow the cotton with value, but only price,  a couple of issues arise. Earlier commodity exchange undoubtedly  saw  values being exchanged, and this is the case where there were many types of production relations. As the commodity becomes produced by capital, the value created can be divided, surplus to the capitalist. Only capitalism creates surplus value. (Incidentally I would be very suprised if you did finf Engels refering to sv out of thr context of capitalism... whilst of course value is produced where production for exchange occurs at any time. (Want to chat about Stalin's essay on value in the USSR?)

So I think we can say 1) Cotton had a price that reflected  'simple'  value, perhaps i shpould say this is a 'simple' commodity  2) This is embodied labour in a product produced for the market 3) surplus labour is performed in this process but since variable capital is not spent by the plantation owner  the surplus labour cannot/ does not take the social form of surplus value. 4) the total value of the product is returned to the plantation owner. 5) part of this goes to pay off the fixed sum he paid for the slave.(thus Marx's reference to 'fixed capital'.)
6) the plantation owner may talk of 'accountinig profits', but here we are dealing, as Marx says in TSV 1 with terminology dominant in business, not the proper use of the term.

You will see here why I am anxious to stress 'historical materialism', to see how the simple commodity, need not be confused with a commodity in which the value is divided by a new historical mechanism - wage labour.  reflect slowley please on this and see if it allows us to clarify the issue.

Best regards


There seems to me no difficulty in all this. 

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: gerald_a_levy 
  To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu 
  Sent: Saturday, April 13, 2002 1:17 AM
  Subject: [OPE-L:6979] Re: the cost of slaves

  Re Paul B's [6978]:

  Hi Paul. I was hoping to be done for the day writing posts, but your post
  deserves a prompt (if succinct) reply.

  >  To you  only here, where is Engels say 'surplus value' was transhistorical...?  value yes.... but where sv?

  I'd have to go through his writings more to be able to answer your question, 
  but my point wasn't that he _says_ that surplus value was transhistorical: 
  my point was that he often treats the expressions surplus product and 
  surplus value interchangeably, even when discussing different modes of 
  production, and that this _is_ a transhistorical understanding of surplus value.   
  Later-day Social Democrats, most  famously Kautsky, were probably were 
  culpable than Engels for this usage.  Even Kautsky's title for Marx's review 
  of economic doctrines, _Theories  of Surplus Value_, exhibits this confusion 
  (it was also, I think, somewhat arrogant to label this work _TSV_ when the 
  concept of s was developed by Marx himself -- even though, in _some_ ways, 
  there were antecedents in the history of political economy.) 

  > p.s .   Neither you ( by sticking to imprisoned labour issue) nor rakesh...who I think goes all over the place on this matter, with a mix of strange and then perfectly acceptable ideas.....  commented on my question/ statement that ( I restate)... 

  OK. Sorry about that. I'll comment below.

  > Cotton was produced as a commodity, its price regulated by the world market, it had a price, so a value, it became a 'cost of production'  within advanced capitalist society, surplus labour was certainly performed by the slaves.... but why do we need to go further and say 'surplus value was produced? 

  We don't!

  (NB: When you write that it was a commodity, I agree *if* you
  mean by that that it was a product which was produced with the
  intention of being sold, i.e. a product which has both a use-value
  and an exchange-value. But when you write that it had "a price,
  so a value" you make a jump that I'm not prepared to make. I
  will most certainly agree, though, that cotton on the market  was a 
  commodity just like most other commodities, the money commodity
  and labour power excluded since they  are/were unique commodities.)

  > Since as you say a wage was not paid, but only bare subsistence offered in the form of products or access to petty cultivation...value, a cash outlay directly to the labourer, was not reproduced, nor thus surplus value created. The other social forms 

  (Ummm.  Not sure which other social forms you mean.)

  > were definitely attendant because as we both agree US slavery was a creature of capitalism...... but this is where I am trying to see how the historical development of, limits to etc of the full set of social relations expressed in mature capitalism comes about, forcing out anachronistic forms as in this case.

  I have no problem with the above. I agree that what appear to be --
  or what actually are -- anachronistic forms deserve special attention.
  Obviously, capitalism didn't drop from the sky fully formed (i.e. it
  is a product of history) and there are many 'anachronistic' features
  of contemporary and past capitalist social formations that deserve 
  historical (and other forms of empirical) examination. 

  > Does this approach manage to satisfy you?

  I'm happy. Are you happy?

  >  Clearly I can't have anything to do with the wild list of ideas in your list below!


  In solidarity, Jerry

    > i) the claim has been made that the money advanced for
    > the purchase of slaves represents constant capital (Rakesh
    > claimed in 6956 that, although he disagrees with this position
    > he doesn't think that it's an unreasonable position [more on this
    > below] given how *he* thinks Fred and TSS define c);
    > ii) the claim has been made by Rakesh in 6948  that the money
    > advanced for the purchase of slaves represents faux frais of
    > slave production. Yet, as I explained in 6955,  faux frais are
    > understood to represent "incidental" expenses related to
    > production and there is nothing "incidental" about money
    > advanced by slaveowners for the purchase of slaves.
    > iii) the claim was made by Rakesh in  6948  that the costs
    > associated with the daily reproduction of slaves represents
    > variable capital. Paul C goes further in 6960 and claims that
    > the money spent for the purchase of slaves represents v. Then,
    > in 6972 Rakesh claims that this is a "good argument" (even
    > though he has already classified this expenditure as faux frais
    > rather than v).
    > Of course, if one claims iii) then slaves can be productive of
    > surplus value. The case is a bit less clear with respect to faux
    > frais but I think that -- understood properly -- the agents on whom
    > faux frais are expended don't themselves produce value or surplus
    > value but rather help to establish the 'setting' under which s can be
    > created.   In any event, despite Rakesh's gymnastics in 6956,
    > it _should_ be clear that expenditures in the form of constant
    > capital do not result in the self-expansion of value.
    > What hasn't been mentioned explicitly  yet is another position
    > -- one advanced by Marx -- years after he wrote what
    > became the _Theories of Surplus Value_:  namely, that "in the
    > slave system, the money laid out on the purchase of labour-power
    > plays the role of fixed capital in the money form, and is only
    > gradually replaced as the active life of the slave comes to an
    > end" (_Capital_, Volume 2, Penguin ed., p. 554 -- full paragraph
    > extends to p. 55).
    > Yet, Marx is *very* clear  (and we should be as well) that  fixed capital,
    > in contrast to a portion of capital  which takes the form of *fluid*
    > (or circulating) capital, does *not* have characteristic of  resulting in
    > the
    > self-expansion  of value.   Moreover, Marx (and we) should be clear
    > that that part of the productive capital which is spent on fixed capital
    > is for *means of production* ("of which the fixed capital consists").
    > Nonetheless, I think that the perspective that the money allocated for
    > slaves takes the form of fixed capital is fundamentally confused since
    > slaves *clearly*  are not "means of production" (and thereby come to be
    > represented as "dead labor").  

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