[OPE-L:7073] slavery

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 26 2002 - 01:27:16 EDT

>Since capital (not labour) produces value, the reformulation of your
>question would then be: can capital produced value out of non-wage labour?
>To date I have argued that this is not the case, because the pre-requisite
>for capital to produce value is that money capital be transformed into
>productive capital, and that requires a purchase on labour markets (i.e.
>exchange of money-capital for labour power). The purchase of a slave is a
>purchase of a capacity to labour, no question about that (but like purchase
>of other means of production - such as a donkey, which also has a capacity
>to labour - it is an exchange internal to the capitalist class, hence a
>distribution of existing values).


You are putting forward three  propositions:

You have argued that

1. the master/slave relation cannot ever be a capitalist relation of 
surplus value production because since the slave master does not pay 
the slave a money wage which he expends on subsistence goods it is 
meaningless to speak of a rate of exploitation (unpaid/paid labor). 
I have engaged this arguments though you have ignored my response, as 
the archive will show.

2. unlike the payment by a capitalist to wage worker, the purchase of 
slaves is internal to the capitalist class but note

a. you are yourself referring to the plantation owner and slave 
traders as capitalists!!! in this formulation  and;

b. there is no exchange of value for value at all in this 
transaction. Your above formulation is simply wrong. Slaves took the 
commodity form; but they were not commodities. You too easily equate 
slaves with donkeys and commodities--it's truly very disturbing, but 
I am pledged to the no flames policy, and I guess we are all too 
tough guy Marxists to be concerned with political correctness.

  At any rate, the plantation owner does not get a value, a commodity 
or a means of production in exchange for the money capital that he 
hands over to the slave trader, a sum presumably adequate to cover 
the traders' cost (which seem to have been quite low) + the so called 
average profit.

The slave trader is not a capitalist commodity producer; the slave 
trader does not produce commodities or surplus value--though of 
course he appropriated it.  This is not only not an exchange of value 
for value; it is not an exchange within the class of capitalist 
commodity producers. The slave trader only acted as if he were a 
capitalist, but he controlled the production of no commodities.

The value laid out here by the plantation capitalist to the slave 
trader is pulverized; it is a loss in the books of the plantation 

What this cost allows the plantation capitalist to do is command a 
proletariat in the labor short conditions of early 
capitalism--remember wage labor and European indentured labor had 
been tried by American farmer capitalists and failed, forcing a 
return to slavery which could not be allowed among Europeans given 
the explicit and tacit evolution of the relations between the classes 
and thus became slavery exclusively of what came to be conceived of 
as a single foreign race (the contemptously called Negroid race) 
whose physical distinctiveness was then fetishized because it was 
advantageous for its faciliation of recapture.

And  this captured and invidiously racialized proletariat then under 
the force of the whip  not only (i) reproduced the value of the their 
own subsistence (necessary labor) but also (ii) produced a sufficient 
sum of surplus value that even after the capital loss represented by 
his (horrifically low) purchase price had been amortized his master 
still got his so called reasonable profit.

Later indentured labor from Asia would be sent to work under formally 
unfree labor relations to Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. 
It would be another one hundred years before black, brown and yellow 
people would come in any great numbers to the North. And this time as 
more formally free workers despite bracero programs, restrictive 
visas and arbitrary repatriations.

3. well I can't make sense of this third proposition, so I'll quote you:

>"So what of the products of slave labour?  Graziani in his writing on Marx's
>theory of money made much of a distinction between the the capital-labour
>(external) exchange relation and the capital-capital (internal) exchange
>relation.  The former to do with the process described so far, of proving
>that capitalists exploit wage workers.  The latter, to do with the
>distribution of produced commodities among capitalists.  Borrowing this
>distinction I see no reason why, in principle, the products of slave labour
>would not be distributed among capitalists along with commodities produced
>by wage labour.  After all, money capital can leave the circuit of capital
>or re-enter it at any time.  Hence, the products of slave labour might
>enter or re-enter into a new circuit - a new value producing process - as
>inputs (means of production) or as workers' wage goods."

Well of course the products of plantation slaves circulated with the 
products of wage laborers; plantation output went from luxury good to 
mass consumption good, as Sidney Mintz long ago demonstrated.

Moreover, the crucial point here is that the plantation capitalist 
himself commenced the circuit of capital, making a money investment 
for the sole purpose of producing commodities in which surplus value 
would be embodied. Which brings us back to your point 1 and my 
replies to it.


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