[OPE-L:7037] slavery

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon Apr 22 2002 - 05:40:48 EDT

Rakesh asked that the following be forwarded to the 
list./In solidarity, Jerry

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Rakesh Bhandari" <rakeshb@stanford.edu>
Sent: Monday, April 22, 2002 5:31 AM
Subject: slavery

<snip, JL>
> Just a few points.
> 1. Jerry and/or Paul has suggested (I believe) that Engels excised 
> surplus value from his summary of Marx's account of the changes in 
> the system of corvee labor because Marx meant to imply that only 
> surplus labor was performed, not that surplus value was in fact 
> produced. In other words, both Jerry and Paul B claim that Engels 
> recognized that corvee labor was not a capitalistic form of the 
> production of surplus value but rather  a system for the extraction 
> of surplus labor alone.
> Yet  reading of Marx's vol 1 comment and chapter on merchant capital 
> in vol 3 will reveal that Marx  freely substitutes surplus labor and 
> surplus value in certain specific contexts (as Preobrazhensky pointed 
> out long ago):  corvee labor entangled in the capitalist world 
> market, modern plantation slavery and exceptional instances of 
> ancient slavery, the putting out system under the domination of 
> merchant capital.
> At any rate,  in this case Engels himself agreed that corvee labor 
> has become a transitional form of surplus value production. In fact 
> Engels refers to corvee labor having become a capitalist form of 
> production.
> "the capitalistic period announced itself in the country districts as 
> the period of agricultural industry on a large scale, based on the 
> corvee labor of serfs"
> Engels, Die Mark, 1882 quoted in GA Cohen, KM's Theory of History, p. 187
> There is thus evidence against Jerry's and Paul B's pure speculation 
> that Engels disagreed with Marx's clear view that surplus value had 
> been produced in the system of modern plantation slavery,  in the 
> system of corvee labor at a certain point in its development, in the 
> putting out system.
> It is also important that neither Jerry nor Paul B has been able to 
> produce a single quote in which Marx argues that only wage laborers 
> (as they have defined wage labor) can produce surplus value.
> They can quibble all they like about whether Marx mis-spoke in 
> referring to the surplus value produced in the system of plantation 
> slavery, in the putting out system, in corvee labor.
> Jerry can claim that Marx should not have referred to modern 
> plantations in the American colonies as capitalist enterprises (TSV 
> II). Jerry and Paul B can say that Marx should not have said again in 
> the Capital vol 3 chapter on merchant capital that slavery can be 
> transformed from a patriarchal system into a system for the 
> production of surplus value (almost the exact language in vol 1) and 
> that Marx blundered in referring to surplus value produced in the 
> putting out system.
> But Marx said what he meant, and neither has yet been able to find a 
> single quote in which Marx explains why it is that only wage labor 
> (defined in circulationist terms as the exchange of a money wage for 
> labor power) can produce surplus value.
> Marx says otherwise too many times for this to be a plausible 
> interpretation of Marx. In short they will not be able to find a 
> positive elaboration in Marx of their thesis--only wage labor (again 
> as they have defined it) can produce surplus value
> Jerry has made the claim that Marx could not have been referring to 
> the surplus value produced through the sytem of corvee labor because 
> commodities were not produced by these serfs for landlords. But 
> obviously Marx and Engels thought otherwise;
> they clearly thought that corvee labor had become a transitional form 
> of *surplus value* and/or capitalistic production. In fact this is 
> why Marx thought that the surplus labor which the landlords attempted 
> to extract from the serfs had been increased so horrifically.
> Jerry actually said that this section in vol 1 is about surplus 
> labor, not surplus value!
>   But in fact the section is about how as production for export in the 
> capitalist world market becomes the principal interest there are such 
> compulsions for surplus value production that a new voracious and 
> boundless appetite for surplus labor is created.
> It is clear that this section is not about surplus labor alone  but 
> absolute surplus value as that after is the theme of this part of 
> Capital. How can this be denied that this is the main point of the 
> section?
> Marx and Engels could be wrong about entangled in the world market 
> the lords had become and whether the production of commodities had in 
> fact become their principal interest--and Perry Anderson does present 
> evidence that suggests that they may have misread the situation in 
> terms of corvee labor though in the case of  modern plantation 
> slavery, as Blackburn's monumental history demonstrates.
> But the point here is that neither Marx nor Engels thought that only 
> wage labor could produce surplus value.
> There has not yet been produced one piece of evidence that shows that 
> Marx thought that only wage labor can produce surplus value, though 
> it is not in dispute that
> a. Marx believed that a developed capitalism depends on free wage labor.
> b. that plantation slavery and corvee labor may have regressed from 
> surplus value production back to natural economy or patriarchal 
> economy if they had not been entangled in a world market dominated by 
> capitalist production on the basis of free wage labor.
> 2. Jerry has claimed that if slaves produced some of their own 
> subsistence that they could not have produced value. But Marx clearly 
> makes the crucial point in the TSV II quote which I took the time to 
> type out, though neither Jerry nor Paul B then parsed it and 
> responded to it carefully.
>   Peasants who have already produced their subsistence can dispose of 
> the surplus product at prices which are below prices of production 
> (or cost price as Marx refers to it in TSV); in this sense value does 
> not regulate their production.  However slaves were forced to produce 
> sufficient commodity output that the plantation owners could receive 
> at least the average rate of profit on their massive investments in 
> the plantations. That slaves produced some of their own subsistence 
> did not free them of the burden of having to labor long and hard 
> enough to produce a commodity output which would ensure the receipt 
> of prices of production for plantation capitalists.  This is in fact 
> why plantation owners in this calculating and calculated system held 
> the time that slaves had to tend directly for their own subsistence 
> to a carefully regulated minimum.
> 3. Nicky has questioned whether modern plantation slaves really 
> produced commodities. Again Marx himself emphasized that unlike 
> feudal serfs or colonial settler peasants, modern plantation slaves 
> produced commodities.
> "In these colonies, and especially in those which produced only 
> merchandise such as tobacco, cotton, sugar, etc and not the usual 
> foodstuffs.. right from the start the colonists did not seek 
> subsistence but set up a business...They did not act like the 
> Germans, who settled in Germany, in order to make their home their, 
> but like people, who driven by motives of *bourgeois production*, 
> wanted to produce *commodities*, and their point of view was, form 
> the outset, determined not by the product by the sale of the product."
> TSV, vol 2, p. 239 all emphases Marx's.
> Of course Nicky, unlike Jerry and Paul B, does not claim to be 
> interpreting Marx on this question but of course Marx was correct 
> that modern plantation slavery was essentially commodity production.
> 4. Jerry has argued that I make it impossible to differentiate  how 
> the intensification of labor is accomplished in slavery from how it 
> is accomplished in wage labor capitalism. Does Jerry think that 
> employers  had no rights to corporal punishment in capitalist 
> factories in the 18th and 19th century?! At any rate, even if 
> physical coercion is outlawed in modern capitalism, why does this 
> mean that surplus value cannot be produced by slaves?
> 5. Paul B says that he is not happy with the thesis that US slaves 
> produced surplus value.  I do not see why Paul B has to be happy 
> about this.  Of course Marx's idea was that it was the very unhappy 
> lot of enslaved Africans to have had to have produced surplus value, 
> for this is what transformed a patriarchal slave institution into a 
> vicious consumer of human life.
> 6. Both Jerry and Paul B repeat their point that slaves could not 
> have produced surplus value because there was no variable capital 
> invested by modern plantation owners, but do note that they repeat 
> the point without ever having once commented on my speaking to their 
> point. In short, they have yet to explain why variable capital--which 
> is the capital invested in the securing and reproducing of 
> capitalistically productive labor--*must* take the form of a wage in 
> exchange for labor power for labor to then produce surplus value in 
> the abode of production.
> 7. Jerry underlines that Marx never referred to the purchase price of 
> slaves as variable capital or faux fraix. Yes but he does refer to 
> the surplus value produced by some slaves. He does refer to modern 
> plantations as capitalist enterprises.   So what is the problem? Does 
> Jerry think there is any evidence on his side that Marx believed that 
> no slave could ever produce surplus value? The only piece of evidence 
> he has suggested is Marx's referring to the amortization of the 
> purchase price of slaves as akin to the amortization of the money 
> capital used to purchase a piece of fixed capital. But no where does 
> Marx say that slaves play the same role in production as a piece of 
> fixed capital. No Marx says that slaves can and have produced surplus 
> value!
> Rakesh

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