[OPE-L:7251] Re: Re: fundamentalism

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Fri May 24 2002 - 11:52:43 EDT

Michael P writes in 7244:

>Many certainly used the slave-produced food to lower variable capital, even
>though the South imported an enormous amount of food.  One of the problems
>was that theft of food -- reports of stolen hogs seem to be the most
>commonly reported problem.

yes, the US plantations received supplies of food produced elsewhere 
in the Union as well as from abroad. In Brazil the sugar provinces 
were fed with supplies from other parts of the country, though there 
were also huge self subsistent estates (fazendas) in Brazil which 
were feudal rather than capitalist enterprises and which developed to 
meet the internal needs of a world cut off by poor communication.

There was however a severe problem of malnutrion on the Caribbean 
sugar plantations as they were densely populated and intensely 
concentrated on the production of one cash crop.

source: M.L. Bush Servitude in Modern Times, ch 8 on New World 
Slavery. He relies on Schwartz and Ward for studies of Brazil and the 
Caribbean, respectively. Pomeranz also relies on Schwartz.

An aside on stolen hogs: One of my favorite articles on the origins 
of Marx's thought is Heinz Lubasz's in which he emphasizes how it 
took Marx's analysis of the wood theft laws to make a Marxist of 
Marx. Lubasz also wrote on the Aristotelian dimension of Marx's 
thoght, but haven't tracked down that piece.

>I have not been following this debate -- too close to the end of the
>semester.  I did agree with what Rakesh said here.
>To me, slaveowners were a mix of capitalist and precapitalist mentalities.

  there is an interesting criticism in Hirst and Hindess' 
Precapitalist Modes of Production of Genovese's attempt to determine 
the character of plantation slavery by the mentality of the 
slaveowners (pp.148ff).

I did  find this part of their argument persuasive as I found your 
model of primitive accumulation very helpful indeed. It is 
commonplace to read that slave owners had such a mental attachment to 
the ownership of chattel slaves that they were unwilling to 
countenance a shift to free wage labor even as it would have become 
more profitable. To many commentators, slave mastering had become an 
end itself. Others will argue that slave owners simply bought slaves 
for the purposes of conspicuous consumption, but historical analysis 
reveals that modern plantation slavery was a ruthlessly profit 
oriented system. That is, the aim of modern slaver owners was 
exploitation, not possession. And I think you agree when you write:

>No single characterization would apply, outside their profiting from of the
>abomination of slavery.

Jairus long ago ago called attention to Preobrazhensky's 
characterization of transitional forms of surplus value production. 
It seems that you maintain something of this quite reasonable 

I also think that there was a post-slavery resort to indendentured 
labor and sharecropping suggests that the free wage form of 
exploitation could not have undergirded surplus value production in 
backbreaking, tropical agriculture.

  Note that because of its whites only policy Austrialia attempted to 
man sugar plantations with free wage labor only; consequently,  the 
industry was never profitable and had to be subsidized, as Eric 
Williams long ago pointed out. So we see that in certain branches of 
capitalist production the free wage form of exploitation has proven 
incompatible with surplus value production. This stands against 
Jerry's and Nicky's shared thesis that only wage labor can produce 
surplus value. In fact free wage labor in some cases stood in the way 
of surplus value production.

Speaking of the problem of pre capitalist modes of production, there 
is a fascinating, high standard scholarly debate between Harbans 
Mukhia, Ram Sharan Sharma,  Hira Singh and others whether there was 
ever an Indian feudalism. All are profound students and very 
sympathetic critics of Marx. Mukhia seems to come close to a 
rehabilitation of Marx's view of the Asiatic mode of production (the 
Marxist Kathleen Gough did as well), but this view is subjected to 
criticism by Sharma, Singh, O'Leary and others. I wish I knew more 
about this debate; I would recommend to David Laibman as editor of 
Science and Society that an article be commissioned to introduce us 
to the material.

I have also been thumbing through Ricard Jones who despite being an 
apologist for landlords and imperialism seems to me to have certainly 
been the father of historical materialism! Like Grossmann, I would 
not look for the origins of Marx's historical materialism in The 
German Ideology or in the Hegelian legacy but in Marx's careful study 
of a English pastor who ascended to Malthus' chair!! It's hard to 
imagine Marx's historical materialism without Jones's study of 
peasant rents in terms of the form of which (labor, metayer, ryot, 
cottier) Jones sought the secret to social formations. Thus, the idea 
of the form of rent   which is so so decisive to Marx's social 
science seems to come from Jones; of course for Marx the form of rent 
reduces to the form of surplus labor appropriated by a ruling class 
from a class of direct producers. But Jones let himself remain opaque 
about the source of rent and profit!  One question becomes whether 
feudalism should be reduced to a particular form for the extraction 
of surplus labor--say serfdom or demense production. Marx of course 
critiqued Kovalesky for such an overbroad definition of feudalism 
that he found it in Mughal India.

Moreover,  Marx's idea that the secret to any social formation lay in 
the manner in which surplus labor is pumped from the direct producers 
is straight from Jones though of course Jones could not penetrate 
beneath the forms of rent to surplus labor itself. But he did refer 
to all social forms of labor and appropriation--including the free 
wage form--as antagonistic social systems which eventually pass away. 
That is, he had sense of capitalism as a historical and transient 
social system; it was left to Marx to specify the conditions under 
and mechanism by which capitalism would in fact be superceded.

All the best, Rakesh

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