[OPE-L:7235] Re: RE: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: fundamentalism

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Wed May 22 2002 - 03:38:25 EDT

Nicky wrote in 7227

>Hi Riccardo,
>Thank you for the following comment on the nature of 'flames', which I
>interpreted in the exactly the same manner as you did:
>>  (ii) may be it is a problem of language and culture, but translated
>>in Italian, a parenthetical like "even Nicky who seems to be Jerry's
>>good friend etc.", implying that an argument by Nicky in favour of
>>Jerry should be due to the fact that she must be "a good friend" of
>>him, would be judged as a flame.

Nicky and Riccardo,

I don't see how pointing to my putative bad behavior in any way 
answers the question of whether the moderator has offended. That I 
may have flamed someone  does not mean that someone else  hasn't also 
flamed someone. Sharing the blame with someone does not obviate his 
own blameworthiness.

At any rate, I meant to say that disagreement between Jerry and Nicky 
over x (moderation) cannot be plausibly attributed to their not being 
good friends while disagreement between Jerry and me over x  could be 
understood to have been motivated by  strong (if not nasty) 
disagreements over y (the capitalist character of plantation 
slavery).  In other words, I was attempting to free myself of a 
charge of hidden motives, not to flame my good friend Nicky.

[By the way, one of the interesting things about that previous debate 
over y was the non intervention by Michael P who after all argues 
that in some cases where  capitalists can  extra economically coerce 
proletarians to engage in commodity production even after they have 
already produced much of their own subsistence,  capitalists can 
enjoy a higher rate of surplus value than if it had to make money 
payments which are in themselves sufficient for the reproduction of 
labor power--in other words, Michael argues that the self production 
of subsistence may not only not make the production of value 
impossible,  it may in certain cases work to raise the rate of 
surplus value by decreasing the money that capitalists have to pay 
for the reproduction of labor power (the Cuban historian Fraginales 
and Robin Blackburn both made the same point).

Of course  plantation capitalists still had to spend  sums of money 
for the reproduction of slave power (on cotton clothes, shoes, 
housing and church materials, fish, etc).  The value of that expended 
money was of course less than the new value which slaves objectified 
in what were commodities from the start: there was less labor time in 
the former than the latter.  Which is why Marx thought it was 
meaningful to speak of the rate of exploitation of modern slaves  and 
compare that rate to free wage workers.

Of course a plantation capitalist must have reached the conclusion 
that the commodities (sugar, cotton, tobacco, indigo, etc.) which 
could have been produced in that time  slaves were allowed to produce 
their own subsistence would have yielded less  money value than the 
money it would have required to have purchased on the market those 
subsistence goods that slaves themselves produced. Of course if those 
subsistence goods were not even available on the market, then the 
capitalist had no choice than to have slaves produce their own 
subsistence.  And in a calculating and calculated system it often 
made  sense to allow slaves to produce much of their own food 
subsistence even if that meant condemning them to a bland, uniform 
diet while higher quality food stuffs could be bought on the market.

  Capitalists also figured that  those slaves who could be used to 
produce food for immediate consumption were too infirm to  engage in 
say the backbreaking work of sugar production. So for plantation 
capitalists  the decision to use some slaves to produce food may have 
entailed little opportunity cost in  the form of foregone 
commodities. It did however allow them to reduce (but not eliminate!) 
variable capital (the money that they had to lay out for the 
reproduction of slave labor power) and thus raise the rate of 
exploitation. While condemning slaves to a miserable diet.

Capitalism did not approach the pure form in these historical 
instances which their "impurity" should not make them any less 
historically relevant to Marxists (has anyone read Hamza Alavi's 
Capitalism and Colonialism?). And what was the pure case in the 15 to 
early 18th centuries anyway? Servants in husbandry in the English 
countryside seem to have produced much of their own food needs as 
well.  And which example better approximated the cooperative, large 
scale, intense, gang like nature of the labor process that is usually 
a mark of real subsumption?  At any rate, let it be noted that 
Michael P's historical research and theoretical model are very much 
in my favor: slaves (not all slaves, Nicky, though this would include 
those Scottish mining slaves of Adam Smith's time) can  produce 
surplus value despite being slaves and even if they produce their own 
food subsistence.

Or in other words: despite owning slaves slave owners can at times 
primarily appropriate surplus labor not through the command of a 
product in kind or a product meant for immediate consumption or 
direct labor services but through the production of those 
capitalistic Commodities which are tendentially realized at prices of 
production. Not only that: modern plantation slavery was such a 
system that commodities had to be tendentially realized at prices of 
production if plantations were to remain viable enterprises. Marx 
thus compared slave plantations as capitalist enterprises to settler 
colony peasantries which were under no pressure to realize prices of 
production for those commodities that they dumped on the market after 
their consumption requirements had been met.

Maybe Michael P will say a word about his excavation of the history 
of primitive accumulation and hiw own views as to whether extra 
economic coercion has been incompatible with capitalist exploitation? 
In referencing Grossmann, Eric Williams, William Darity, Fraginales, 
Blackburn, Dobb, Sweezy, Brenner, Wood, Albritton and others, I have 
tried to underline that my interest here is not an idiosyncratic one.]


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