[Marxism] Winston Churchill refutes the Brenner thesis

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Wed Dec 13 13:26:06 MST 2006


Rakesh Bhandari 
Hi Lajany


Didn't I just  say this? Moreover, if overseas colonies are not 
sufficient, then what else is necessary? That's why I cited the paper  that
I did--it points to the importance of overseas colonies 
enriching and empowering merchants to carry out political revolution.

"The refutation of Churchill given by www.leninology.blogspot.com is
logically flawed. Churchill statement that possession of overseas colonies
was a necessary condition for the development of British capitalism is not
the same as "the possession of colonies leads to the development of
capitalism," as www.leninology.blogspot.com seems to
imply. Thus Showing, as www.leninology.blogspot.com does, that the
possession of colonies in the case of Spain did not lead it to become the
greatest capitalist power of the time does nothing whatsoever to dent
Churchill's argument that the posession of colonies was in fact  necessary
for the develepment of British capitalism.

In otherwords, saying that A is a necessary condition for B is not
equivalent to saying that A is a sufficient condition for B."



^^^^^^^
CB: On Rakesh's colonies as necessary condition ( but not sufficient
condition) I said something similar on PEN-L a while ago. Primitive
accumulation in Europe and in the colonies were both necessary conditions,
sine qua nons, but for causes of the origin of capitalism.



>From PEN-L:
Brenner: consequently, they move too quickly from the proposition that
capitalism is bound up with, and supportive of, continuing underdevelopment
in large parts of the world, to the conclusion not only that the rise of
underdevelopment is inherent in the extension of the world division of
labour through capitalist expansion, but also that the 'development of
underdevelopment' is an indispensable
condition for capitalist development itself.   (p. 27)   *****



CB: They may be distinguished, but that distinction doesn't save Brenner's
argument, because slavery and colonialism were but for causes, necessary
conditions,  for both the origin and the development of capitalism. No
slavery and colonialism, no origin or development of capitalism.

Brenner Redux 

________________________________


*	To: <pen-l@ 
*	Subject: Brenner Redux (was Re: Russell R. Menard on Eric Williams) 
*	From: "Charles Brown" 
*	Date: Sun, 22 Oct 2000 10:35:08 -0400 

________________________________

>>> furuhashi.1 at xxxxxxx 10/21/00 

.

Robert Brenner says in "The Origin of Capitalist Development: a Critique of
Neo-Smithian Marxism," _New Left Review_ (July-August
1977):

*****   I shall argue here that the _method_ of an entire line of
writers in the Marxist tradition has led them to displace class relations
from the centre of their analyses of economic development and
underdevelopment.  It has been their intention to negate the optimistic
model of economic advance derived from Adam Smith, whereby the development
of trade and the division of labour unfailingly bring about economic
development.  Because they have failed, however, to discard the underlying
individualistic-mechanist presuppositions of this model, they have ended up
by erecting an alternative theory of capitalist development which is, in its
central aspects, the mirror image of the 'progressist' thesis they wish to
surpass.  Thus, very much like those they criticize, they conceive of
(changing) class relations as emerging more or less directly from the
(changing) requirements for the generation of surplus and development of
production, under the pressures and opportunities engendered by a growing
world market.  Only, whereas their opponents tend to see such
market-determined processes as setting off, automatically, a dynamic of
economic development, they see them as enforcing the rise of economic
backwardness.  As a result, they fail to take into account either the way in
which class structures, once established, will in fact determine the course
of economic development or underdevelopment over an entire epoch, or the way
in which these class structures themselves emerge: as the outcome of class
struggles whose results are incomprehensible in terms merely of market
forces.

(((((((((((((

CB: The fallacy in Brenner's argument seems to be that he fails to see that
slavery and colonialism are also class relations.  The world "market" is an
arena of class struggle. He seems to think the terms "trade" and "market" do
not involve class struggles and classes. This is a tremendous oversight on
his part.

"Market forces" ARE class relations and struggles. It's like Brenner doesn't
understand the basic teaching of _Capital_.  Underlying exchange-value or
market-value is labor, i.e. people working for a capitalist. Those are class
relations, whether the market is in Europe or the colonies.
Slave-slavemaster relations are class relations.

When Engels and Marx discuss the spread of "the market"  or the bourgeoisie
looking for new "markets" , they mean spreading or looking to set up
exploitative relations of production around the world. They establish class
relations all around the world in colonies , much of it in the form of
slavery.

So, when Brenner says:
"they fail to take into account
either the way in which class structures, once established, will in fact
determine the course of economic development or underdevelopment over an
entire epoch, or the way in which these class structures themselves emerge:"

Sure, but it is Brenner who fails to take into account that class structures
were established in "trade" , and those class relations of colonialism and
slavery in fact determined the course of economic development and
underdevelopment over the entire epoch , and their self-emergence. JUST AS
MUCH AS THE CLASS RELATIONS ON EUROPEAN TERRITORY.


((((((((



In
consequently, they move too quickly from the proposition that capitalism is
bound up with, and supportive of, continuing underdevelopment in large parts
of the world, to the conclusion not only that the rise of underdevelopment
is inherent in the extension of the world division of labour through
capitalist expansion, but also that the 'development of underdevelopment' is
an indispensable
condition for capitalist development itself.   (p. 27)   *****


((((((((((((

CB: It is Brenner who is in error here again, failing to see that in fact
the world division of labor including slavery/racism and colonialism have
been necessary conditions for all of capitalism throughout its existence
from slavery and colonialism as the chief momenta of the primitive
accumulation, to 20th Century imperialism/colonialism and racism.

((((((((((((

Keep in mind that, for Brenner, the _origin_ and _development_ of capitalism
are _not_ the _same_:

(((((((((

CB: They may be distinguished, but that distinction doesn't save Brenner's
argument, because slavery and colonialism were but for causes, necessary
conditions,  for both the origin and the development of capitalism. No
slavery and colonialism, no origin or development of capitalism.

((((((((((


*****   Smith's fundamental problem is not, as is often assumed, his
attribution of trade to a 'natural propensity in human nature to truck, and
barter, and exchange'.  Smith was, in fact, at pains to provide specific
historical examples of 'the original establishment of trade routes and
trading connections.  Once established, these connections of exchange set in
motion, so to speak, the model of development, via the division of labour --
so that for Smith both the origins and developmental pattern of capitalist
production are rooted in the _same process_.  But as I shall try to show,
the rise of trade is not at the _origin_ of a dynamic of development because
trade cannot determine the transformation of class relations of production.

(((((((((((((((

CB: Here is the same error. Brenner doesn't seem to realize that "trade"
involved a furious class struggle between the "traders" and their victims.
For example, some of what they were "trading" were slaves. That's not a
happy go lucky trip to the super"market", but a fierce battle between
classes.

OK he wants to say that the establishment of slave/master relations in the
colonies did not cause the establishment of wage-labor/capitalist relations
in the English countryside and the rest of Europe. To the extent that the
establishment of wage-labor/capitalist relations depended upon the
accumulation of relatively large amounts of money, and the money was
accumulated from colonial and slave  "activities", yes, there was a causal
relation between the slave/master relations and the wage-labor/capitalist
relations.


((((((((((((



Indeed, precisely because it does not do so, the historical problem of the
origins of capitalist economic development in Europe comes down to that of
the process of 'self-transformation' of class relations from serfdom to free
wage labour -- that is, of course, the class struggles by which this
transformation took place.   (p. 38)
*****

(((((((((((((

CB: Wrong. Capitalism was a world CLASS system from the beginning. The
merchant capitalists were involved in class relations with the peoples
outside of Europe. There was a class struggle inside Europe but it was not
the only  one going on at the time.

((((((((((((


What we need to explain is _what_ changed trade (which had always existed
even before capitalism) into the _capitalist_ trade with _capitalist
competition & market discipline_, which Wallerstein, etc. fail to do.

((((((((((

CB: Ok to explain that. The causal arrow goes both ways. It's reciprocal.
It's dialectical. 

But the trade that protocapitalists were involved in were 1) class struggles
2) a but for cause, necessary condition of the origin of capitalism in that
it was the chief momenta of the primitive accumulation of capital to get
captialism started , period, in Europe and all around the world. The
primitive accumulation from slavery and colonialist trade was necessary for
the initial accumulation ( especially of money) in Europe itself , and it
was the result of new class relations set up by the Europeans who went out
all around the world.

((((((((((((

What Brenner says in this article and other works is not that neither
colonies nor commerce made any decisive contribution to Britain's
_industrialization_ as Blackburn says he does (by industrialization
Blackburn must mean the "Industrial Revolution" of the textbook image, while
Brenner's industrialization is a broader concept); Brenner's thesis should
be read that the _origin_ of capitalism _cannot_ be explained simply as an
_automatic_ result of the growth of the _market or trade_, colonial or
otherwise.  It's _not_ automatic, is the key point here. _Class struggles &
their outcomes_ made _capitalist social relations_ emerge.

((((((((((((

CB: It may not be automatic do to trade slave/colonial class struggles, but
was not automatic due to the class struggles internal to Europe either.
Without the trade slave/colonial class struggles, the class struggles
internal to Europe would have been insufficient to start capitalism. 




(((((((((((((




While Brenner
unfortunately focuses on class struggles internal to each given social
formation through comparative analysis, one can _modify_ the Brenner thesis
in such a way that we can better account for the emergence of core and
periphery than Blackburn, Wallerstein, Andre Gunder Frank, etc. do.  One
needs only to see that what Thomas More, etc. (and later Marx) described
with regard to the English countryside had its dialectical twin in the
_emergence of capitalist slavery_ (which was _unlike_ ancient & feudal
slavery & serfdom); both are the results of domestic & international _class
struggles_ and set the _process of proletarianization_ in motion.  This is
my synthesis of Brenner, Michael Perelman, Jim Blaut, Eric Williams, etc.

((((((((((((

CB: Yes, agree. The international class struggles, what Brenner calls
"trade" , were just as important as the domestic class struggles in the
origin and development of capitalism inside Europe.  The domestic class
struggles were not more important than the international class struggles ,
as Brenner evidently claims.

Finally, Brenner's emphasis on class struggles as cause obviously is an
effort to claim "the Marxist" approach to this issue. But Marx himself, who
knew all about the importance of class struggle as cause, and was not a
Neo-Smithian Marxist :>),  has the opposite theory of Brenner, directly
disagrees with Brenner in the Chapter of _Capital_ vol. 1 entitled "The
Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist".  It is clear that for Marx the
slavery and colonialism of merchantilist "trade" constituted class struggles
just as much as the class struggles in Europe, and that the former were
necessary causes, "explanations", of the origin of capitalism, in providing
the main initial push to the primitive accumulation of capital, and
continued to provide surpluses for accumulation by European capitalists as
capitalism developed.










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