File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 8

Date: Thu, 2 Oct 1997 00:24:45 +0100
Subject: Re: M-I: proletarians (from Jim B)

In message <>, james m blaut
<70671.2032-AT-CompuServe.COM> writes
>The Eurocentrism in your pont #1 is half drowned in jargon. 

When you say 'Eurocentrism' is that some coded way of calling me a
racist? I suppose I ought to take offence, but I don't.

>If you're talking about the historical
>development of capitalism, you're asserting  that the "exterior was
>accidental and contingent" -- meaning I suppose that non-Europe,
>historically, was "exterior" to real capitalism.
Yes. That's what I mean, at least in its origins. Am I wrong?

>Most gold was not "seized" but mined by wage workers.
Are you sure? Wage workers implies free labour. Would that include
native South Americans? I find it hard to beleive that such liberties
were extended to the indigenous population.

> Slaves were caputred,
>but (a) they produced profits for capitaliasm and 

Well, granted this is a far from clear cut issue. English linen mills
bought slave grown cotton from the Southern US States. For them the
cotton was raw material, a use value that could serve as a repository
for the value created by English weavers. For plantation owners, yes it
clearly was the case that the cotton they sold was exchanged for money.
But insofar as the labour that produced it was not free it was not the
repository of value. This contradiction was only resolved with the
forcible supressioon of the plantation system by the North.
>(b) probably half the
>people involved in the slave trade\slave plantation complex were not slaves
>but wage-workers. 
I'm intrigued if you have figures on this, but I don't think it disturbs
my point. 

>This stuff is not "external" to capitalism and it was
>production, not exchange, and it was definitely not "primitive
>As to point #2: This is nonsense: 
>"...the low growth rates in the advanced world compared with the much
>higher growth rates in some parts of the developing world." 
>-- unless these "parts" are a few small countries in East Asia plus
>long-since-developed Japan.
>More nonsense:  
>" The relatively (relative to
>population) low density of wage labourers in the underdeveloped world
>places a limitation on the capacity of capital to exploit those people."
>You've got your numbers all wrong.
>And also this:
>"Where subsistence farming is the norm, surpluses can only be plundered
>through trade, usury and so on." 
>Subsistence farming does not really exist anywhere. And most peasants are
>renters, not landowners,

I should have added 'rent' to trade and usury

> and usually work part-time for wages. Therefore
>the next passage is gobbledygook: "The disadvantage of such a system for
>the capitalist is that without direct control over the production process,
>there is no possibility of cranking up the rate of exploitation by
>improving productivity."

Comparing the difference between 1960 and 1990 illustrates the real
trends. I am looking at industrial workers here. I appreciate that
'industrial workers' is not synonymous with 'wage workers'. I am
generally sympathetic to your point that capital is a global system
today. What I think the numbers of industrial workers do illustrate is
the rate at which capital is seizing hold of the production process and
transforming it. (these following passages are recycled from an article
I wrote for Living Marxism, whose central point was to challenge the
'information society' myth).

The absolute number of people working in industry globally has increased
from 247 million to 381 million. But the changes are different according
to which part of the world you are in.

In the developing countries, the poorest parts of the world, the
increase is largest, from 88 million to 192 million. But as these
countries contain a considerable part of the world's population, this
only represents a single percentage point increase in the industrial
workforce from nine to 10 per cent of the working population. So even
though these economies have increased the number of industrial workers
in the world by more than one hundred million, that change does not
represent a dynamic process of investment. Most people there are still
either working at subsistence farming, in the army or are dependants.

In 26 dynamic industrialising economies--mostly countries in the Far
East like Korea, Singapore and Malaysia--the increased proportion of
industrial workers is much greater, growing from just 17 per cent of
their working populations to 24 per cent in the 30 years to 1990. In
absolute numbers, though, the change is not as great as in the
developing world, being an increase of 21 million (12 million to 33
million). In other words, on a narrower basis of population, these
'Tiger Economies' have made a qualitative leap out of the developing
world to something like comparability with the industrialised West.

In the advanced capitalist countries, too, there has been an absolute
increase in the numbers of industrial workers, from 159 million to 189
million. But, here, unlike the rest of the world, there has been a
relative decrease in the proportion of the workforce in industry, from
35 per cent to 33 per cent. In other words, the numbers in industry have
increased over all, but not as much as employment in the service sector.

If we look at the changing workforce in the Group of Seven advanced
capitalist economies (USA, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, UK and Canada)
the picture is clearer. In these countries the proportion of the
workforce in industry dropped from 37 per cent in 1960 to 28 per cent in
1994. In the same period the proportion working in services rose from 46
per cent to 67 per cent. For the advanced capitalist countries, then, it
is true to say that industrial production has tended to give way to

I take that to be a decadent trend in the advanced countries.

Hope this makes where I am coming from clearer.

James Heartfield

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