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Sun Mar 31, 2013, 12:48 PM

Slavery and Capitalism

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/30/king-cottons-long-shadow/
http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/03/slavery-and-capitalism
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It can’t be stated often enough that slavery was inexorably tied with the rise of capitalism in the United States. Historian Walter Johnson:

Without slavery, however, the survey maps of the General Land Office would have remained a sort of science-fiction plan for a society that could never happen. Between 1820 and 1860 more than a million enslaved people were transported from the upper to the lower South, the vast majority by the venture-capitalist slave traders the slaves called “soul drivers.” The first wave cleared the region for cultivation. “Forests were literally dragged out by the roots,” the former slave John Parker remembered in “His Promised Land.” Those who followed planted the fields in cotton, which they then protected, picked, packed and shipped — from “sunup to sundown” every day for the rest of their lives.

Eighty-five percent of the cotton Southern slaves picked was shipped to Britain. The mills that have come to symbolize the Industrial Revolution and the slave-tilled fields of the South were mutually dependent. Every year, British merchant banks advanced millions of pounds to American planters in anticipation of the sale of the cotton crop. Planters then traded credit in pounds for the goods they needed to get through the year, many of them produced in the North. “From the rattle with which the nurse tickles the ear of the child born in the South, to the shroud that covers the cold form of the dead, everything comes to us from the North,” said one Southerner.

As slaveholders supplied themselves (and, much more meanly, their slaves) with Northern goods, the credit originally advanced against cotton made its way north, into the hands of New York and New England merchants who used it to purchase British goods. Thus were Indian land, African-American labor, Atlantic finance and British industry synthesized into racial domination, profit and economic development on a national and a global scale.

When the cotton crop came in short and sales failed to meet advanced payments, planters found themselves indebted to merchants and bankers. Slaves were sold to make up the difference. The mobility and salability of slaves meant they functioned as the primary form of collateral in the credit-and-cotton economy of the 19th century.

It is not simply that the labor of enslaved people underwrote 19th-century capitalism. Enslaved people were the capital: four million people worth at least $3 billion in 1860, which was more than all the capital invested in railroads and factories in the United States combined. Seen in this light, the conventional distinction between slavery and capitalism fades into meaninglessness.
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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 11 replies Author Time Post
Reply Slavery and Capitalism (Original post)
Teamster Jeff Mar 2013 OP
PDJane Mar 2013 #1
BainsBane Apr 2013 #2
PDJane Apr 2013 #3
BainsBane Apr 2013 #4
PDJane Apr 2013 #5
BainsBane Apr 2013 #6
PDJane Apr 2013 #7
BainsBane Apr 2013 #8
PDJane Apr 2013 #9
cbrer Apr 2013 #10
bemildred Apr 2013 #11

Response to Teamster Jeff (Original post)

Sun Mar 31, 2013, 12:50 PM

1. Yes, of course.

And the rise of capitalism is the reason for slavery all over the globe.

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Response to PDJane (Reply #1)

Tue Apr 2, 2013, 02:40 AM

2. slavery predates capitalism

and some Marxist historians, like Eric Williams and Fernado Novais, argue that while slavery was a crucial step in the development of capitalism because of the accumulation of capital it provided to finance manufacturers, it came to be seen as impediment to free markets. See Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery.

Marx also described slavery as a pre-capitalist labor system.

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Response to BainsBane (Reply #2)

Tue Apr 2, 2013, 01:36 PM

3. Capitalism has been around since before they called it capitalism....and slavery is ideal.

Slavery is, after all, the use of labour for the very least that can be paid for that labour.

Whether or not it is an 'impediment to capitalism,' it is the capitalist ideal taken to extreme. It hardly matters what the timeline is or what you call it; it allows the oligarchy to amass wealth.

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Response to PDJane (Reply #3)

Tue Apr 2, 2013, 02:00 PM

4. No, slavery is owning another human being

It doesn't relate to how much one is paid. In fact, urban slaves in Brazil, for example, earned wages. They hired themselves out to perform certain tasks, and paid their masters a fee. What made them slaves is they were legally owned by another person.

Slavery still exists in alarming numbers. What makes someone a slave is not what they are paid but the fact they someone else owns them, controls where they go and what they do.

For Adam Smith, the difference between slavery and free-wage labor mattered a great deal, as it did for abolitionist, slaves, and employers. On an economic level, capitalism is more efficient because the employer hires the laborer at will, employs him or her only so long as he needs the services, and fires the worker when he is no longer needed. A slave owner purchased another human being--which was a substantial amount of money--and paid to keep that slave fed during seasons where little to no work was required. Crops like sugar require labor at the planting and the harvest, but very little work in between.

From the perspective of a slave, the difference was not having their partners and children sold off at the master's whim. It meant a legal right to personhood. In meant an ability to run away if someone was beating or raping them.

You seem to have no understanding of the horrors of the institution of slavery. It was far more than economic exploitation. It was the complete denial of the individual's right to self, or personhood.

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Response to BainsBane (Reply #4)

Tue Apr 2, 2013, 02:11 PM

5. Oh, I understand it. Trust me.

I also understand that a human being can be owned even if they are paid wages. I also understand that prison labour is slavery, and that the government of the US profits from such labour to an extent that I would not care to defend.

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Response to PDJane (Reply #5)

Tue Apr 2, 2013, 02:17 PM

6. In Marxist analysis, prison labor is a form of forced labor

and slavery is also a form of forced labor, the most extreme form. Under coercive labor they is a kind of coercion comes from a source other than the market place (the law, physical assault, imprisonment, etc . .) whereas under so-called free wage labor, the coercion is economic: we work because we must do so to eat.

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Response to BainsBane (Reply #6)

Tue Apr 2, 2013, 02:26 PM

7. Which is all very academic, and I understand the academic viewpoint.

However, when the concept hits real life, there are far too many instances of 'coerced labour', and slavery is a very fine and blunt name for it.

In fact, when it comes down to it, the 'volunteer army' is a mostly coerced force; they are there because there are very few choices that will get schooling, health care and three squares for the recruit and his family. Thus, the US government comment above.

The academics are fine for blunting the horror of the situation; I would prefer not to do so.

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Response to PDJane (Reply #7)

Tue Apr 2, 2013, 02:34 PM

8. That element of choice

is a world of difference. If you don't think so, look at some of the reports on human trafficking and modern day slavery.

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Response to BainsBane (Reply #8)

Tue Apr 2, 2013, 02:39 PM

9. I have. Choice is mostly illusory.

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Response to Teamster Jeff (Original post)

Tue Apr 2, 2013, 04:55 PM

10. Fuck! I never made that connection.

 

Well that just about seals any further discussion as to the legitimacy of the capitalists and their institutions.

Is this the means for having brought the greatest amount of wealth ever known in history to the United States?

Is this the epic example of sociopathy in the world as well?

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Response to Teamster Jeff (Original post)

Tue Apr 2, 2013, 08:08 PM

11. Slavery, drugs, and a mountain of Indian gold and silver.

And two whole new continents to exploit.

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