Re: [OPE] Further evidence RE: Marx, slavery and the South

From: paul bullock <>
Date: Fri Feb 18 2011 - 05:49:59 EST

PZ asked me what was the main argument/point i assumed in my last note:


It is that slaves were both more expensive and less flexible than wage


(Nb. Modern research shows the equivalent current cost of a slave is about
$40,000+ whilst a child can be bought from Haiti for $50-70 today. Ref


All the rest becomes secondary. Slaves were use because 'free labour'
simply wasn't available, Mr Weston's problem.

Once it was, once a real proletariat (poor white and emancipated blacks).


The rest of the debate has to be seen in this context.




From: []
On Behalf Of Paul Zarembka
Sent: 18 February 2011 02:49
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: [OPE] Further evidence RE: Marx, slavery and the South


Further evidence of a problem with Marx's argument is the following:

     "Capitalism advanced in the South [after 1865], both in industry and
agriculture, but without any special technological feature.... It was,
however, the cotton-textile industry that became the principal industrial
engine of capitalist growth. By the 1890s, New England textile mills began
to close shop and move to the South. The magnet for such movement was the
availability of a great reservoir of cheap labor-the poor whites. The rulers
of the post-Civil War South-more or less the same ones who had ruled before
the war-still controlled cotton agriculture. Vital to continuation of that
control was command over the labor of the emancipated enslaved workers. To
have staffed the textile mills with these workers would have created a
competition between farm and cotton mill; wages would surely have risen.
Thus, poor whites were employed: They were told the new jobs were
exclusively designed for them; blacks were not permitted to work in the
mills." (Meyer Weinberg, A Short History of American Capitalism, p. 145; on
in the middle of Chapter 7: )

That is, cotton production continued in the South produced by ex-slaves.

Although I don't know whether deteriorating soil was overcome or what

provides cotton production by state. The total in 1891-92 was 9 million
bales (2.3 million in Texas, the largest) compared to 5 million in 1860.

One has to wonder, given this evidence, at Marx's (materialist) argument
that confining slavery to the South (the platform of the 1860 Republican
party) would have implied its end due to economic/agronomic reasons.

Paul Z.

P.S. Thanks, Jurrian for the below and your private message.

(V23) HIDDEN HISTORY OF 9-11, Seven Stories Press, 2nd ed. softcover
====> Research in Political Economy, Emerald Group, Bingley, UK
====> P.Zarembka, ed.,
====> or

On 2/17/2011 5:57 AM, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:



I just did a quick google with the Texas State Historical Association who mentioned this.
I assume they didn't just make up the figues.


Marcel van der Linden reviews some arguments about why slavery was used in
his book Workers of the World (which I edited)


Jairus Banaji argues that the difference between wage slavery and chattel
slavery should not be exaggerated





----- Original Message -----

From: Paul Zarembka <>

To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list

Sent: Thursday, February 17, 2011 4:34 AM

Subject: Re: [OPE] Marx's explanation regarding the need for the U.S. South
to obtain new territory


On 2/16/2011 6:13 AM, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:


In 1849, a census of the cotton production of Texas reported 58,073 "bales"
(500 pounds each). In 1852, Texas was in eighth place among the top ten
cotton-producing states of the US. The 1859 census credited Texas with a
yield of 431,645 bales.

Very interesting data -- what is the source, Jurriaan?

The total output volume of cotton therefore must have increased by more than
seven times in one decade, and the amount of land under cultivation must
have increased proportionally. But how much of this expansion of production
was attributable specifically to slave labour is a moot point. Cotton
production continued to grow also after the abolition of slavery; by the
early 20th century Texas was the leading cotton producer in the US.


That is a related question that Marx states but doesn't really explain to my
satisfaction. That is, I don't understand the argument that slavery itself
was required for the crops grown in the South - which indeed seems to be
what Marx was arguing. He seemed to be saying more than that slavery was
'consistent' with the nature of agriculture production in the South.

Thanks, Paul


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