I personally don't think it's pedantry (and certainly a honest reading of Marx) that motivates people (Paul B excepted) to deny that slaves can produce surplus value even as their alienated human labor was objectified in what were commodities from the start. There are other reasons why some would like to keep an apartheid division between the putatively true, early capitalism of free wage, surplus value producing capitalism of the English countryside and the racial slave system of putatively only surplus product production. A proletariat which imagines itself to have been purely European, English or parochial from the start can concentrate on its own interests and struggle secondarily with the task of assimilating at its own pace putatively new immigrant members as castoffs from old modes of production (slavery, the colonial mode of peasant production) instead of defending the interests of the real international, multi racial working class from the start. We are seeing the consequences of this mythical European history playing itself out at present. In the UK, in France, in the Netherlands, in Denmark, in Sweden, in Italy. That is, myths as to the origins of capitalism serve the interest of narrow priviliged sections of the working class; and sanction timidity and half hearted opposition to social imperialist politics; and discourage analysis of the capitalist system in terms of a world, i.e., non national, system. Jairus, Robert Albritton and others may think that errors of formalism and empiricism are behind the refusal to understand the proletarian, value positing nature of the labor carried out by non free wage workers in the putting out system and on the modern plantations and in the old colonies--and they are certainly correct--but I think the problem also has its roots in the construction of nationalist myths of the origin of capitalism and historic scope of capitalism. That is, I think racial and national identity often compromise Marxists' own commitments (there is of course a long history of how class, caste and national populist ideology compromises the commitments of Indian Marxists). But even if one thinks dubious politics is what motivates me to debate these questions--and I am not saying that what I take to be Jerry's errors in particular are motivated by more than the overformalism which Jairus long ago critiqued (Capital and Class Autumn 1977)--it does not follow that my arguments are vitiated by the politics which have motivated them. At all points in this debate, I have tried to keep focus on the arguments about variable capital, about the meaning of value, about historical specificity as arguments about such, not politics. Rakesh France's Nonwhites See Bias in Far Rightist's Strength April 30, 2002 By SUZANNE DALEY MONTFERMEIL, France, April 26 - It is hard to miss the bitterness in Kader Tadjer's voice when he talks about the vote that qualified the far-rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen to face President Jacques Chirac in the final round of France's presidential elections. In Mr. Tadjer's mind, there is no doubt that Mr. Le Pen's success is a measure of hardening French attitudes toward people of African origin like himself, people he believes have not always been given a fair chance in France. "Whatever it looks like here," Mr. Tadjer said, staring out his office window at the graffiti-scarred high rises where he grew up, "there are nice people in these buildings. There are people who have jobs, who try to get housing elsewhere. They have always paid their rent. But no one will take them because they have the wrong names." Here on the outskirts of Paris, in this bleak housing complex improbably called Les Bosquets, or The Copses, Mr. Le Pen's success has only increased the sense of helplessness and injustice that many residents feel. Most trace their roots, if not their birthplaces, to former French colonies in Africa and the West Indies. They feel keenly that the vote for Mr. Le Pen was a vote against them. The unemployment rate in Les Bosquets is about 50 percent. The soccer field is a concrete patch with a broken-down fence. There is no movie theater or pool or skating rink or anything else that might distract youngsters from getting into trouble. Even this country's lauded mass transit system falls short: The closest commuter train to Paris is a 20-minute bus ride away. Supporters of Mr. Le Pen talk of immigrants who will not work and who rely on costly welfare benefits. In Les Bosquets, people find that image hard to bear. They are well aware of the gangs, the drug dealers and the petty delinquency endemic in their neighborhood. But they also believe that racism in France is a persistent fact of life - one that has markedly narrowed the choices for many of them. And Mr. Le Pen's name on the runoff ballot this Sunday - despite the many times he has been sanctioned for anti-immigrant remarks - is only further proof of that racism. "The attitude toward places like this," said Mr. Tadjer, a youth counselor here whose father came to France from Algeria more than 30 years ago, "is that `They are a like a zoo. The people here get a few peanuts. And a visit once in a while.' Now they are saying they want to do even less." The resentment of Mr. Le Pen's success is especially strong among immigrants - a term used very loosely here to describe even second- or third-generation French citizens. Even though people here understand, like everyone else in France, that the growing anti-immigrant sentiment is aimed at anyone from a nonwhite background, many believe that France owes them a debt: They or their parents or grandparents were brought to this country to offset labor shortages, or came after fighting for France in various wars. The country, they argue, got rich colonizing their countries of origin, and yet the French feel no obligation. Siby Sidaty came from Mali in 1968. Then, he said, all he needed to do to get a job cleaning the streets of Paris was give his name and address at City Hall. Over the years, he has worked as a security guard, as a taxi driver and most recently in a meat-packing plant that closed down. He does not have French citizenship. But at 60, he cannot imagine going back to Mali. The Le Pen vote makes him anxious about the future. "It is a real danger," he said. "Of course, it is a real danger." Although he sees a certain tolerance in French society, it does not, he says, extend to Africans. He notes that French law has been adapted to accommodate homosexual unions, but is not at all accepting of polygamy, which is sometimes practiced by Muslims. And he thinks the French should consider the conditions they have provided for the millions of Africans who have arrived here over the years. "Look around you," Mr. Sidaty said with a sigh. "Is this the fault of the immigrants? Those who would vote for Le Pen need to ask themselves that question and recognize that they brought us here and stuffed us in this place like sardines." "There are people who are disgusted by the things that happen here," he added. "They look and say, `What savages.' But would they want to live here?" Mr. Sidaty and others express the hope that the vote might be a signal to the young people in Les Bosquets that it is time to organize and vote. He knows that in the first round, many did not bother. He knows, too, that some would rather sell drugs and steal than take poorly paying jobs. Before the first round of the race, there was little talk about the growing tensions between people of color - mostly Muslims, who make up 10 to 15 percent of the population - and the rest of France's 60 million citizens. But when pressed, few people deny those tensions. A Harris poll released in March 2000 found that only 29 percent of those surveyed declared themselves "not racist." More than 6 in 10 said there were too many people of "foreign origin" in France, and they were specific about it: 63 percent said there were too many Arabs, and 38 percent said there were too many blacks. The young people in Les Bosquets say everyone here has a story about being discriminated against. Cisse Coulibaly, 19, and her sister Hawa, 18, who are both temporary clerical workers, say they know the odds are stacked against them when they apply for a job. "It's just like that," Hawa said. "There are all sorts of stories. People here have tested it. They have sent in their application and been rejected and then changed their names and, with the same rÈsumÈ, the non-African name gets a call." Still, the extent of Mr. Le Pen's success shocked them. Both regretted that they had not come home from vacationing with relatives in time to vote. But neither really believes that Mr. Le Pen can win in the second round. "This country cannot do without immigrants," Cisse said. "Who would do all the work?"
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