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

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Fri Feb 18 2011 - 15:41:02 EST

Dredging my memory 30 years back, I can not remember who argued this, whether it was Genovese or somebody else perhaps Hindess and Hirst, that the soil exhaustion was overcome by the import of Chilean Guano.
From: [] On Behalf Of Paul Zarembka []
Sent: Friday, February 18, 2011 2:48 AM
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. 1
45; 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,-189<,-189>

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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Received on Fri Feb 18 15:43:57 2011

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