Chapter Four--Primitive Accumulation and the Rise of Capitalism
In the Introduction to Part Two, we referred to the "nursery school tale" of primitive accumulation, which has long served
the capitalists as a legitimizing myth. In fact, capitalist apologists seldom even address the issue, if they can avoid it.
More often, they take the existing distribution of property and economic power as a given. Their most dumbed-down line of
argument, typically, simply starts with the unquestioned fact that some people just happen to own the means of production,
and that others need access to these means and advances to live on while they work. From this it follows that, if the owners
of capital are kind enough to "provide" this "factor of production" for the use of labor, they are entitled to a fair recompense
for their "service" or "abstinence."
The inadequacy of this approach should be clear from even the most cursory consideration. An apologist for state socialism
might just as easily say, to a free market advocate in a state-owned economy, that he wouldn't have a job if the state didn't
"provide" it. An apologist for the manorial economy could likewise admonish the ungrateful peasant that all his labor would
avail him nothing without the access to the land that the feudal landlord graciously "provided." The question remains: how
did those who control access to the means of production come to be in this position? As Oppenheimer pointed out in his criticism
of Marshall, no discussion of the laws governing the distribution of product can be meaningful without first considering the
"primal distribution of the agents (factors) of production...."1
To the extent that they are forced to address this question at all, capitalist apologists fall back on the above-mentioned
nursery tale, by which existing class divisions arose naturally from an "original state of equality, ...from no other cause
than the exercise of the economic virtues of industry, frugality and providence." There is, in this process, "no implication...
of any extra-economic power."2
As Marx summarized it, the legend of primitive accumulation was a sort of variation on the fable of the ant and the grasshopper:
In times long gone by there were two sorts of people: one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal élite; the
other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living.... Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated
wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty
of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that
increases constantly although they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us in the
defence of property.... In actual history it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly, force, play
the great part.3
Perhaps Engels should have titled his work Anti-Marx, instead of Anti-Dühring.
Oppenheimer also recounted this edifying fable, in language quite similar to that of Marx. Since, however, Oppenheimer
was a free market socialist like Hodgskin and Tucker, he was (unlike Marx and Engels) in no danger of subsequent embarrassment
over the implications of rejecting the bourgeois fairy tale.
Somewhere, in some far-stretching, fertile country, a number of free men, of equal status, form a union for mutual protection.
Gradually they differentiate into property classes. Those best endowed with strength, wisdom, capacity for saving, industry
and caution, slowly acquire a basic amount of real or movable property; while the stupid and less efficient, and those given
to carelessness and waste, remain without possessions. The well-to-do lend their productive property to the less well-off
in return for tribute, either ground-rent or profit, and become thereby continually richer, while the others always remain
poor.... The primitive state of free and equal fellows becomes a class State, by an inherent law of development, because in
every conceivable mass of men there are, as may readily be seen, strong and weak, clever and foolish, cautious and wasteful
This ahistorical myth survived the twentieth century, and is still alive and well--at least so long as it is not challenged
by the historically literate. It was stated by Mises in Human Action:
"The factory owners did not have the power to compel anybody to take a factory job. They could only hire people who
were ready to work for the wages offered to them. Low as these wage rates were, they were nonetheless much more than these
paupers could earn in any other field open to them."5
It can be illustrated by any number of boilerplate articles in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, debunking the "myth"
of dark satanic mills or Third World sweatshops, on the ground that laborers found them preferable to "available alternatives":
But are the “low-wage, non-union” Ecuadorian laborers better off working now for some foreign corporation?
Apparently they think so, or else they would have stayed with what they were doing previously. (Would you leave your job for
one with less pay and worse conditions?) [Barry Loberfeld. "A Race to the Bottom" (July 2001).]
People line up in China and Indonesia and Malaysia when American multinationals open a factory. And that is because even
though the wages are low by American standards, the jobs created by those American firms are often some of the best jobs in
those economies. [Russell Roberts. "The Pursuit of Happiness: Does Trade Exploit the Poorest of the Poor?" (September
What the Industrial Revolution made possible, then, was for these people, who had nothing else to offer to the market,
to be able to sell their labor to capitalists in exchange for wages. That is why they were able to survive at all.... As Mises
argues, the very fact that people took factory jobs in the first place indicates that these jobs, however distasteful to us,
represented the best opportunity they had. [Thomas E. Woods, Jr. "A Myth Shattered: Mises, Hayek, and the Industrial Revolution"
In nineteenth-century America, anti-sweatshop activism was focused on domestic manufacturing facilities that employed poor
immigrant men, women, and children. Although conditions were horrendous, they provided a means for many of the country's least-skilled
people to earn livings. Typically, those who worked there did so because it was their best opportunity, given the choices
It is true that the wages earned by workers in developing nations are outrageously low compared to American wages, and
their working conditions go counter to sensibilities in the rich, industrialized West. However, I have seen how the foreign-based
opportunities are normally better than the local alternatives in case after case, from Central America to Southeast Asia.
[Stephan Spath, "The Virtues of Sweatshops" (March 2002)]
The fairy tale was retold recently by Radley Balko, who referred to Third World sweatshops as "the best of a series
of bad employment options available" to laborers there.6 Within a couple of days, this piece was recirculated
over the "free market" [sic] blogosphere, along with numerous comments to the effect that "sweatshops are far superior
to third-world workers' next best options...," or to similar effect.7
This school of libertarianism has inscribed on its banner the reactionary watchword: "Them pore ole bosses need all the
help they can get." For every imaginable policy issue, the good guys and bad guys can be predicted with ease, by simply inverting
the slogan of Animal Farm: "Two legs good, four legs baaaad." In every case, the good guys, the sacrificial victims of the
Progressive State, are the rich and powerful. The bad guys are the consumer and the worker, acting to enrich themselves from
the public treasury. As one of the most egregious examples of this tendency, consider Ayn Rand's characterization of big business
as an "oppressed minority," and of the Military-Industrial Complex as a "myth or worse."
The ideal "free market" society of such people, it seems, is simply actually existing capitalism, minus the regulatory
and welfare state: a hyper-thyroidal version of nineteenth century robber baron capitalism, perhaps; or better yet, a society
"reformed" by the likes of Pinochet, the Dionysius to whom Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys played Aristotle.
Vulgar libertarian apologists for capitalism use the term "free market" in an equivocal sense: they seem to have trouble
remembering, from one moment to the next, whether they’re defending actually existing capitalism or free market principles.
So we get the standard boilerplate article in The Freeman arguing that the rich can’t get rich at the expense
of the poor, because "that’s not how the free market works"--implicitly assuming that this is a free market.
When prodded, they’ll grudgingly admit that the present system is not a free market, and that it includes a lot of state
intervention on behalf of the rich. But as soon as they think they can get away with it, they go right back to defending the
wealth of existing corporations on the basis of "free market principles."
The capitalist myth of primitive accumulation cannot stand up either to logic or to the evidence of history; by the two
together, it has been smashed beyond recovery. Oppenheimer demonstrated the impossibility of such primitive accumulation by
peaceful means. Exploitation could not have arisen in a free society, by the working of the marketplace alone.
The proof is as follows: All teachers of natural law, etc., have unanimously declared that the differentiation into income-receiving
classes and propertyless classes can only take place when all fertile lands have been occupied. For so long as man has ample
opportunity to take up unoccupied land, "no one," says Turgot, "would think of entering the service of another"; we may add,
"at least for wages, which are not apt to be higher than the earnings of an independent peasant working an unmortgaged and
sufficiently large property"; while mortgaging is not possible so long as land is yet free for the working or taking, as free
as air and water....
The philosophers of natural law, then, assumed that complete occupancy of the ground must have occurred quite early, because
of the natural increase of an originally small population. They were under the impression that at their time, in the eighteenth
century, it had taken place many centuries previous, and they naively deduced the existent class aggroupment from the assumed
conditions of that long-past point of time.8
But on examination, Oppenheimer pointed out, the land could not have been occupied by natural and economic means. Even
in the twentieth century, and even in the Old World, the population was not sufficient to bring all arable land into cultivation.9
If, therefore, purely economic causes are ever to bring about a differentiation into classes by the growth of a propertyless
laboring class, the time has not yet arrived; and the critical point at which ownership of land will cause a natural scarcity
is thrust into the dim future--if indeed it can ever arrive.10
The land had, indeed, been "occupied"--but not through the economic means of individual appropriation by cultivation. It
had been politically occupied by a ruling class, acting through the state.
As a matter of fact, ...for centuries past, in all parts of the world, we have had a class State, with possessing classes
on top and a propertyless laboring class at the bottom, even when population was much less dense than it is to-day. Now it
is true that the class State can arise only where all fertile acreage has been occupied completely; and since I have
shown that even at the present time, all the ground is not occupied economically, this must mean that it has been occupied
politically. Since land could not have acquired "natural scarcity," the scarcity must have been "legal." This means that the
land has been preempted by a ruling class against its subject class, and settlement prevented.11
Establishing this does not, by any means, depend simply on such deductive arguments. The political preemption of the land
is a fact of history. The basic facts, largely beyond serious controversy, are accessible in a large body of secondary works
by such radical historians as J.L. and Barbara Hammond, E. G. Hobsbawm, and E. P. Thompson.
Capitalism, arising as a new class society directly from the old class society of the Middle Ages, was founded on an act
of robbery as massive as the earlier feudal conquest of the land. It has been sustained to the present by continual state
intervention to protect its system of privilege, without which its survival is unimaginable. The current structure of capital
ownership and organization of production in our so-called "market" economy, reflects coercive state intervention prior to
and extraneous to the market. From the outset of the industrial revolution, what is nostalgically called "laissez-faire" was
in fact a system of continuing state intervention to subsidize accumulation, guarantee privilege, and maintain work discipline.
Accordingly, the single biggest subsidy to modern corporate capitalism is the subsidy of history, by which capital was
originally accumulated in a few hands, and labor was deprived of access to the means of production and forced to sell itself
on the buyer's terms. The current system of concentrated capital ownership and large-scale corporate organization is the direct
beneficiary of that original structure of power and property ownership, which has perpetuated itself over the centuries.
A. The Expropriation of Land in the Old World
The term "capitalism" is commonly used, especially on the libertarian right, simply to refer to an economic system based
primarily on markets and private property. There is no harm in this; many intellectually honest libertarians (e.g. the Nockians
and the Rothbardian Left) distinguish clearly between their "free market capitalism" (much of which is amenable to the free
market socialism of Benjamin Tucker), and the "actually existing capitalism" of today's corporate economy. But that is not
the meaning of capitalism as the classical socialists used the word. As we have already seen, Thomas Hodgskin used the term
"capitalism" to refer, not to a free market, but to a statist system of class rule in which owners of capital were privileged
in a manner analogous to the status of landlords under feudalism. For Marx, free markets and private property were not sufficient
conditions of capitalism. For example, an economic system in which artisans and peasants owned their means of production and
exchanged their labor-products in a free market would not be "capitalism." Capitalism was a system in which markets and private
property not only existed, but in which workers did not own the means of production and were forced instead to sell their
labor for wages.
For capitalism as we know it to come about, it was essential first of all for labor to be separated from property. Marxians
and other radical economists commonly refer to the process as "primitive accumulation"12:
In themselves money and commodities are no more capital than are the means of production and of subsistence. They want
transforming into capital. But this transformation itself can only take place under certain circumstances that centre in this,
viz., that two very different kinds of commodity possessors must come face to face and into contact; on the one hand, the
owners of money, means of production, means of subsistence...; on the other hand, free labourers, the sellers of their own
labour power, and therefore the sellers of labour.... The capitalist system presupposes the complete separation of the labourers
from all property in the means by which they can realise their labour.... The process, therefore, that clears the way for
the capitalist system, can be none other than the process which takes away from the labourer the possession of his own means
of production.... The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing
the producer from the means of production....13
This process did not come about naturally. "...Nature does not produce on the one side owners of money or commodities,
and on the other men possessing nothing but their own labour power.... It is clearly the result of a past historical development,
the product of many economic revolutions, of the extinction of a whole series of older forms of social production."14
The means by which it did come about was described by Marx, in perhaps the most eloquent passage in his entire body of work:
....[T]hese new freedmen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production,
and of all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements. And the history of this, their expropriation,
is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.15
That was brought about by expropriating the land, "to which the [peasantry] has the same feudal rights as the
lord himself, and by the usurpation of the common lands."16 Although some form of forcible robbery took place
in every country in Europe, we focus on Britain as the case most relevant to the origins of industrial capitalism.
To grasp the enormity and wickedness of the process, one must understand that the nobility's rights in land under the manorial
economy were entirely a feudal legal fiction deriving from conquest. The peasants who cultivated the land of England in 1650
were descendants of those who had occupied it since time immemorial. By any normally accepted standard of morality, it was
their property in every sense of the word. The armies of William the Conqueror, by no right other than force, had compelled
these peasant proprietors to pay rent on their own land.
J. L. and Barbara Hammond treated the sixteenth century village and open field system as a survival of the free peasant
society of Anglo-Saxon times, with landlordism superimposed on it. The landlord class saw surviving peasant rights as a hindrance
to progress and efficient farming; a revolution in their own power was a way of breaking peasant resistance. Hence the agricultural
community was "taken to pieces ... and reconstructed in the manner in which a dictator reconstructs a free government."17
The first mass expropriation, amounting to about a fifth of the arable land of England, was the Tudor seizure of monastic
land and subsequent distribution of it among noble favorites. This was a blow against the laboring classes in two ways: first,
because many of the Church's tenants were evicted during the subsequent enclosure process; and second, because income from
that land had been the major source of poor relief.
The suppression of the monasteries, etc., hurled their inmates into the proletariat. The estates of the church were to
a large extent given away to rapacious royal favourites, or sold at a nominal price to speculating farmers and citizens, who
drove out, en masse, the hereditary subtenants and threw their holdings into one.18
The king's men who gobbled up the former property of the monasteries had few qualms about how they treated their new tenants.
According to R. H. Tawney,
Rack-renting, evictions, and the conversions of arable to pasture were the natural result, for surveyors wrote up values
at each transfer, and, unless the last purchaser squeezed his tenants, the transaction would not pay.
Why, after all, should a landlord be more squeamish than the Crown? "Do ye not know," said the grantee of one of the Sussex
manors of the monastery of Sion, in answer to some peasants who protested at the seizure of their commons, "that the King's
grace hath put down all the houses of monks, friars and nuns? Therefore now is the time come that we gentlemen will pull down
the houses of such poor knaves as ye be."
Among the victims, as illustrative cases, were the inhabitants of the village enclosed by the Herbert family to make the
park at Washerne; and the tenants of Whitby, whose annual rents were raised from £29 to £64.19
The expropriation of the Church destroyed the funding system for the main source of charitable support for the poor and
incapacitated. The Tudor state filled the void with its Poor Laws. The effect was as if, in the modern world, the state had
expropriated the major property and securities of the charitable foundations, and given them to Fortune 500 corporation; and
then created a welfare system at taxpayer expense with incomparably more draconian controls on the poor.20
Still another form of expropriation was the enclosure of commons--in which, again, the peasants communally had as absolute
a right of property as any defended by today's "property rights" advocates. Enclosures occurred in two large waves: the first,
becoming a mighty surge under the Tudors and slowing to a trickle under the Stuarts, was enclosure of land for sheep pasturage.
The second, which we will consider below, was the enclosure of open fields for large-scale capitalist farming.
The overall scale of the expropriations was quite massive. The number of tenants dispossessed after the dissolution of
the monasteries was 50,000. The area enclosed from 1455-1605 was "some half-million acres." The number dispossessed from enclosed
lands between 1455 and 1637 was 30-40,000. "This may well have represented a figure of over 10 per cent. of all middling
and small landholders and between 10 and 20 per cent. of those employed at wages...; in which case the labour reserves thereby
created would have been of comparable dimensions to that which existed in all but the worst months of the economic crisis
of the 1930's." Although "the absolute number of persons affected in each case may seem small by modern standards,
the result was large in proportion to the demand for hired labour at the time."21 And those peasants not subject
to enclosure were victimized by rack-renting and arbitrary fines, which often resulted in their being driven off the land
by inability to pay.22
The expropriation of Royalist land during the Interregnum followed a similar pattern to that of the monasteries under Henry
VIII. Purchasers of confiscated lands, Christopher Hill wrote, "were anxious to secure quick returns. Those of their tenants
who could not produce written evidence of their titles were liable to eviction."23 Tenants of sequestered estates
complained that the new purchasers "wrest from the poor Tenants all former Immunities and Freedoms they formerly enjoyed...."24
Another major theft of peasant land was the "reform" of land law by the seventeenth century Restoration Parliament. (The
legislation can be assigned more than one date, since like all legislation passed during the Interregnum, it had to be confirmed
under Charles II). The landlords' rights in feudal legal theory were transformed into absolute rights of private property;
the tenants were deprived of all their customary rights in the land they tilled, and transformed into tenants at-will in the
After the restoration of the Stuarts, the landed proprietors carried, by legal means, an act of usurpation, effected everywhere
on the Continent without any legal formality. They abolished the feudal tenure of land, i.e., they got rid of all its obligations
to the State, "indemnified" the State by taxes on the peasantry and the rest of the people, vindicated for themselves the
rights of modern private property in estates to which they had only a feudal title, and, finally, passed those laws of settlement
which, mutatis mutandis, had the same effects on the English agricultural labourer, as the edict of the Tartar
Boris Godunof on the Russian peasantry.25
(The effects of the laws of settlement, as a form of social control, will be dealt with below.)
As Christopher Hill put it, "feudal tenures were abolished upwards only, not downwards." At the same time that landlords
were guaranteed against all uncertainty and caprice from above, the peasants were placed at the absolute mercy of the landlords.
The Act of 1660 insisted that it should not be understood to alter or change any tenure by copyhold. Copyholders
obtained no absolute property rights in their holdings, remaining in abject dependence on their landlords, liable to arbitrary
death duties which could be used as a means of evicting the recalcitrant. The effect was completed by an act of 1677 which
ensured that the property of small freeholders should be no less insecure than that of copyholders, unless supported by written
legal title. So most obstacles to enclosures were removed: the agricultural boom of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
redounded to the benefit of big landowners and capitalist farmers, not of peasant proprietors.... The century after the failure
of the radicals to win legal security of tenure for the small men is the century in which many small landowners were forced
to sell out in consequence of rack-renting, heavy fines, taxation and lack of resources to compete with capitalist farmers.26
At the same time, all the feudal dues previously paid by the aristocracy as a condition of their ownership, were replaced
with taxes on the population at large.
And so the abolition of the military tenures in England by the Long Parliament, ratified after the accession of Charles
II, though simply an appropriation of public revenues by the feudal land holders, who thus got rid of the consideration on
which they held the common property of the nation, and saddled it on the people at large, in the taxation of all consumers,
has long been characterized, and is still held up in the law books, as a triumph of the spirit of freedom. Yet here is the
source of the immense debt and heavy taxation of England.27
After the "Glorious Revolution," by which the people of England had been freed from the papist tyranny of James II into
the tender ministrations of the Whig Oligarchy, yet another reform was introduced. In a foreshadowing of the misnamed "privatization"
of our own day, most of the crown land, rightfully the property of the laboring people of England, was parceled out to the
They inaugurated the new era by practicing on a colossal scale thefts of state lands, thefts that had been hitherto managed
more modestly. These estates were given away, sold at a ridiculous figure, or even annexed to private estates by direct seizure....
The Crown lands thus fraudulently appropriated, together with the robbery of the Church estates... form the basis of the today
princely domains of the English oligarchy.28
In addition to its land "reforms," the Whig parliament under William and Mary introduced the Game Laws as a means of restricting
independent subsistence by the laboring classes. Hunting, for the rural population, had traditionally been a supplementary
source of food. The 1692 law, in its preamble, specifically referred to the "great mischief" by which "inferior
tradesmen, apprentices, and other dissolute persons [!] neglect their trades and employments" in favor of hunting
Even after the expropriations of the Tudor and Stuart periods, the dispossession of the peasantry was still incomplete.
A significant amount of land still remained in peasant hands under customary forms of ownership, and continued to provide
a margin of independence for some. After the Tudor expropriations, many vagabonds migrated into "such open-field villages
as would allow them to squat precariously on the edge of common or waste." One seventeenth century pamphleteer noted that
"in all or most towns where the fields lie open and are used in common there is a new brood of upstart intruders as inmates,
and the inhabitants of lawful cottages erected contrary to law...." He referred to the common complaint of employers,
that they were "loyterers who will not usually be got to work unless they may have such excessive wages as they themselves
desire."30 Hence, the final expropriation of even these last remaining peasant lands was vital to the full
development of capitalism.
The second wave of enclosures, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was therefore closely connected with the process
of industrialization. Not counting enclosures before 1700, the Hammonds estimated total enclosures in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries at between a sixth and a fifth of the arable land in England.31 E. J. Hobsbawm and George Rudé, less
conservatively, estimated enclosures between 1750 and 1850 alone as transforming "something like one quarter of the cultivated
acreage from open field, common land, meadow or waste into private fields...."32 Dobb estimated it as high
as a quarter or half of land in the fourteen counties most affected.33 Of 4000 Private Acts of Enclosure from the
early eighteenth century through 1845, two-thirds involved "open fields belonging to cottagers," and the other third involved
common woodland and heath.34
The Tudor and Stuart enclosures had been carried out by private landlords, on their own initiative, often by stealth. From
the eighteenth century on, however, they were carried out by law, through parliamentary "acts of enclosure": "in other
words, decrees by which the landlords grant themselves the people's land as private property... " Marx cited these acts
as evidence that the commons, far from being the "private property of the great landlords who have taken the place of the
feudal lords," had actually required "a parliamentary coup d’etat... for its transformation into
The ruling classes saw the peasants' customary right to the land as a source of economic independence from capitalist and
landlord, and thus a threat to be destroyed. Mandeville, in Fable of the Bees, wrote of the need to keep laborers both
poor and stupid, in order to force them to work:
It would be easier, where property is well secured, to live without money than without poor; for who would do the work?
....As they ought to be kept from starving, so they should receive nothing worth saving. If here and there one of the lowest
class by uncommon industry, and pinching his belly, lifts himself above the condition he was brought up in, nobody ought to
hinder him; ...but it is the interest of all rich nations, that the greatest part of the poor should almost never be idle,
and yet continually spend what they get.... Those that get their living by their daily labour... have nothing to stir them
up to be serviceable but their wants which it is prudence to relieve, but folly to cure.... To make the society happy and
people easier under the meanest circumstances, it is requisite that great numbers of them should be ignorant as well as poor....36
A 1739 pamphlet, quoted by Christopher Hill, warned that the only way to enforce industry and temperance was "to lay
them under the necessity of labouring all the time they can spare from rest and sleep, in order to procure the common necessities
These prescriptions for keeping the working classes productive were echoed in a 1770 tract, "Essay on Trade and Commerce":
That mankind in general, are naturally inclined to ease and indolence, we fatally experience to be true, from the conduct
of our manufacturing populace, who do not labour, upon an average, above four days in a week, unless provisions happen to
be very dear.... I hope I have said enough to make it appear that the moderate labour of six days in a week is no slavery....
But our populace have adopted a notion, that as Englishmen they enjoy a birthright privilege of being more free and independent
than in any country in Europe. Now this idea, as far as it may affect the bravery of our troops, may be of some use; but the
less the manufacturing poor have of it, certainly the better for themselves and for the State. The labouring people should
never think themselves independent of their superiors.... It is extremely dangerous to encourage mobs in a commercial state
like ours, where, perhaps, seven parts out of eight of the whole, are people with little or no property. The cure will not
be perfect, till our manufacturing poor are contented to labour six days for the same sum which they now earn in four days.38
Enclosure eliminated "a dangerous centre of indiscipline" and compelled workers to sell their labor on the masters'
terms. Arthur Young, a Lincolnshire gentleman, described the commons as "a breeding-ground for 'barbarians,' 'nursing up
a mischievous race of people'." "[E]very one but an idiot knows," he wrote, "that the lower classes must be
kept poor, or they will never be industrious." The Board of Agriculture report of Shropshire, in 1794, echoed this
complaint: "the use of common land by labourers operates upon the mind as a sort of independence."39 The
Commercial and Agricultural Magazine warned in 1800 that leaving the laborer "possessed of more land than his family
can cultivate in the evenings" meant that "the farmer can no longer depend on him for constant work."40
Sir Richard Price commented on the conversion of self-sufficient proprietors into "a body of men who earn their subsistence
by working for others." As a result there would, "perhaps, be more labour, because there will be more compulsion
The Rev. J. Townsend, worthy man of God, likewise wrote (in "A Dissertation on the Poor Laws, By a Well-Wisher to Mankind")
of the benefit of poverty in compelling the poor to labor.
Legal constraint to labour is attended with too much trouble, violence, and noise, creates ill will etc., whereas hunger
is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure, but, as the most natural motive to industry and labour, it calls forth
the most powerful exertions....
It seems to be a law of nature that the poor should be to a certain degree improvident, that there
may be always some to fulfill the most servile, the most sordid, and the most ignoble offices in the community. The stock
of human happiness is thereby much increased. The more delicate ones are thereby freed from drudgery, and can pursue higher
callings etc. undisturbed.42
The only humans whose drudgery matters, obviously, are the "more delicate ones" whose "human happiness" is increased by
the opportunity to pursue their "higher callings," without the disturbance of having to support themselves by their own labor.
The good Reverend was, indeed, a well-wisher of mankind--except, perhaps, for the 95% of it toiling below his threshold of
The Gloucestershire Survey (1807) remarked that among "the greatest of evils to agriculture would be to place
the labourer in a state of independence." For as another observer from the same period observed, "Farmers, like manufacturers,
require constant labourers--men who have no other means of support than their daily labour, men whom they can depend on."43
The Board of Agriculture reports, cited by Christopher Hill, contained enthusiastic praise for the disciplinary effect
of enclosures. Enclosure of commons forced laborers "to work every day in the year." Children "[would] be put out
to labour early." Most importantly, thanks to the suppression of economic independence, the "subordination of the lower
ranks of society... would be thereby considerably secured."44
Of course, suppression of the means of independent subsistence did not take only the form of land-theft. At times, spinning
and weaving in individual cottages was actually prohibited by law, as an interference with the supply of agricultural labor.45
As Kirkpatrick Sale elaborated on the same theme:
By the late eighteenth century there were two kinds of machines capable of sophisticated textile production in England.
One was a cottage-based, one-person machine built around the spinning jenny, perfected as early as the 1760s; the other was
a factory-based, steam-driven machine based on the Watts engine and the Arkwright frame, introduced in the 1770s. The choice
of which was to survive and proliferate was made not upon the merits of the machines themselves nor upon any technological
grounds at all but upon the wishes of the dominant political and economic sectors of English society at the time. The cottage-centered
machines, ingenious though they were, did not permit textile merchants the same kind of control over the workforce nor the
same regularity of production as did the factory-based machines. Gradually, therefore, they were eliminated, their manufacturers
squeezed by being denied raw materials and financing, their operators suppressed by laws that, on various pretexts, made home-production
Apparently, the recipe for a "free market," as the average vulgar libertarian uses the term, is as follows: 1) first steal
the land of the producing classes, by state fiat, and turn them into wage-laborers; 2) then, by state terror, prevent them
from moving about in search of higher wages or organizing to increase their bargaining strength; 3) finally, convince them
that their subsistence wages reflect the marginal productivity of labor in a "free market."
Marx mocked the bourgeois apologists (in the person of F. M. Eden), usually such zealots for the rights of property, for
their blithe acceptance of the past robbery of the working population:
The stoical peace of mind with which the political economist regards the most shameless violation of the "sacred rights
of property" and the grossest acts of violence to persons, as soon as they are necessary to lay the foundations of the capitalist
mode of production, is shown by Sir F. M. Eden.... The whole series of thefts, outrages, and popular misery, that accompanied
the forcible expropriation of the people, from the last third of the fifteenth to the end of the eighteenth century, lead
him merely to the comfortable conclusion, "The due proportion between arable land and pasture had to be established...."47
As always, the passive voice is the last refuge of weasels.
Marx was not the only mocker of the bourgeois nursery tale of primitive accumulation. Albert Jay Nock, that patron saint
of the Old Right, also had some sharp words on the subject--not only for the purported apologists of pseudo-"laissez-faire,"
but for the advocates of state action:
The horrors of England's industrial life in the last century furnished a standing brief for addicts of positive intervention.
Child-labour and woman-labour in the mills and mines; Coketown and Mr. Bounderby; starvation wages; killing hours; vile and
hazardous conditions of labour; coffin ships officered by ruffians--all these are glibly charged off by reformers and publicists
to a regime of rugged individualism, unrestrained competition, and laissez-faire. This is an absurdity on its
face, for no such regime ever existed in England. They were due to the State's primary intervention whereby the population
of England was expropriated from the land; due to the State's removal of the land from competition with industry for labour.
Nor did the factory system and the "industrial revolution" have the least thing to do with creating these hordes of miserable
beings. When the factory system came in, those hordes were already there, expropriated, and they went into the mills for whatever
Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Plugson of Undershot would give them because they had no choice but to beg, steal or starve. Their misery
and degradation did not lie at the door of individualism; they lay nowhere but at the door of the State.... Our zealots of
positive intervention would do well to read the history of the Enclosures Acts and the work of the Hammonds, and see what
they can make of them."48
Before we close this section, we should consider the claim of some apologists that these acts of expropriation somehow
increased "efficiency." Like that of Edens above, such apologies these days often issue from the same figures who are the
most scandalized at any threat to the absolute right of private property. Leaving aside the moral illegitimacy of such consequentialist
justifications of robbery, it's hard to avoid being amused at the parallelism with Marx and Engels, who, in a distorted version
of the Whig theory of history, saw class exploitation and robbery as the necessary means of creating the "productive forces,"
on the way to the final state of abundance.
As Thomas Fuller scornfully pointed out, an increase in the overall wealth of that mythical being "society" resulting from
such robbery did not necessarily translate into an increased quality of life for those robbed. Tell the fenmen, he said,
of the great benefit to the public, because where a pike or duck fed formerly, now a bullock or sheep fatted; they will
be ready to return that if they be taken in taking that bullock or sheep, the rich owner indicteth them for felons; whereas
that pike or duck were their own goods, only for their pains of catching them.49
And even the increased efficiency of production is by no means self-evident. According to Michael Perelman, in cereal farming
the spade industry of eighteenth century peasants in Western Europe produced a twenty- to thirty-fold increase on seed-corn,
compared to only six-fold by plow cultivation. As for vegetable horticulture, the market gardens of that time compare favorably
in output even to the mechanized agriculture of the contemporary United States. One Paris gardener produced 44 tons of vegetables
per acre; by way of comparison, in 1979 America, the average output per acre was 15 tons of onions or 8.6 tons of tomatoes
(the two most productive crops in terms of weight per unit of area).50
Such intensive forms of cultivation were indeed less efficient, if considered in terms of output per man-hour rather than
of output per acre. But labor was a commodity in abundant supply; this "superfluous" labor was "freed," by expropriation,
from a life of adequate subsistence, in order that it might be allowed to starve without hindrance. As Perelman said, the
small-scale cultivation suppressed by the state was "a viable alternative to wage labor."51 But that was
precisely the point. The real "efficiency" aimed at was efficiency in fleecing the producing classes. As we will see later
in this chapter, the ruling classes have consistently been willing to adopt less efficient forms of production, in material
terms, for the sake of rendering the control of the production process more feasible.
B. Political Preemption of Land in Settler Societies
In the New World as well as the Old, too much comfort or independence on the part of the laboring classes could be a great
inconvenience to "the nation" or "the people" (which entities, presumably, did not include the helots who actually produced
the things consumed by "the nation" or "the people"). The response of the capitalist (with the power of the state "at his
back"), in the colonies as in the Old World, was (as Marx put it) "to clear out of his way by force, the modes of production
and appropriation, based on the independent labour of the producer."52
Settler societies have always had one disadvantage, from the point of view of the ruling classes: the widespread availability
of cheap land. Adam Smith observed that in the North American colonies, where affordable land was readily available, the price
of labor was very high because the average laborer preferred independence to employment: "neither the large wages nor the
easy subsistence which that country affords to artificers can bribe him rather to work for other people than for himself."53
E. G. Wakefield, in View of the Art of Colonization, wrote of the unacceptably weak position of the employing class
in the colonies where self-employment with one's own property was readily available. Labor was scarce even at high wages.54
In colonies, labourers for hire are scarce. The scarcity of labourers for hire is the universal complaint of colonies.
It is the one cause, both of the high wages which put the colonial labourer at his ease, and of the exorbitant wages which
sometimes harass the capitalist.55
Where land is cheap and all men are free, where every one who so pleases can obtain a piece of land for himself, not only
is labour very dear, as respects the labourers' share of the product, but the difficulty is to obtain combined labour at any
This environment also prevented the concentration of wealth, as Wakefield commented: "Few, even of those whose lives
are unusually long, can accumulate great masses of wealth."56 As a result, colonial elites petitioned the mother
country for imported labor and for restrictions on land for settlement. According to Wakefield's disciple Herman Merivale,
there was an "urgent desire for cheaper and more subservient labourers--for a class to whom the capitalist might dictate
terms, instead of being dictated to by them."57
Faced with this situation, the capitalist could resort to one of two expedients. One of them was the use of slave and convict
labor, which we will examine in greater detail in a section below. The other was preemption of ownership of the land by the
colonial regime. Political preemption of the land was accompanied by a denial of access to ordinary homesteaders--either by
pricing land out of their range, or by excluding them altogether. Wakefield suggested that, since "[i]n the very beginning
of a colony, all the land necessarily belongs to the government or is under its jurisdiction," the government could remedy
the shortage of cheap wage labor by controlling access to the land.58
At the same time that it excluded the laboring classes from virgin land, the state in settler societies granted large tracts
of land to the privileged classes: to land speculators, logging and mining companies, planters, railroads, etc. Land grants
in colonial America were on a scale comparable those of William after the Conquest. Cadwallader Colden, classifying the population
in his State of the Province of New York (1765), put "the Proprietors of the Large Tracts of Land" of 100,000
to above one million acres, at the apex of the social pyramid. According to James Truslow Adams, in Provincial Society,
1690-1763 (1927), Capt. John Evans, a favorite of Governor Fletcher of New York, was granted "an area of indeterminate
extent of between three hundred and fifty and six hundred thousand acres..." Although he was later offered £10,000 for
this land, his annual quitrent was only twenty shillings (i.e., £1). Governor Bellmont later claimed that almost three-quarters
of available land had been granted to thirty persons during Fletcher's term. Lord Courtney, governor from 1702-08, likewise
issued large grants often running into the hundreds of thousands of acres, but preferred giving them to companies of land
speculators. In New England, in contrast, Adams wrote that the early pattern of land grants to settlers for setting up townships
led to more egalitarian patterns of land ownership. Unfortunately, this pattern was later supplanted by large-scale grants
of land to speculators, for later sale to settlers, either as individuals or companies.59
Such land-grabbing was central to American history from the very beginning, as Albert Jay Nock pointed out: "....from
the time of the first colonial settlement to the present day, America has been regarded as a practically limitless field for
speculation in rental values.”60
If our geographical development had been determined in a natural way, by the demands of use instead of the demands of speculation
[that is, appropriated individually by labor, as Lockeans, Georgists and mutualists agree is just], our western frontier
would not yet be anywhere near the Mississippi River. Rhode Island is the most highly-populated member of the Union, yet one
may drive from one end of it to the other on one of its "through" highways, and see hardly a sign of human occupancy.61
One cause of the American Revolution was Britain's "attempt... to limit the exercise of the political means in respect
of rental-values" (namely, the 1763 prohibition of settlements west of the Atlantic watershed). This prevented preemption
of the land by land speculators in league with the state.62 The mainstream history books, of course, have portrayed
this as an offense mainly against the individual homesteader, rather than the big land companies. Many leading figures in
the late colonial and early republican period were prominent investors in these land companies: e.g., Washington in the Ohio,
Mississippi, and Potomac Companies; Patrick Henry in the Yazoo Company; Benjamin Franklin in the Vandalia Company, etc.63
Lest anyone draw the conclusion that the practice of limiting the working population's access to land was a practice only
in the periwigged British Empire of Warren Hastings or Lord North, we should bear in mind that it has been followed in the
"new" Empire as well:
The apprehension of the same truth [stated by Wakefield] has in more recent times led colonial administrators in
certain parts of Africa to reduce native tribal reserves and to impose taxation on natives who remain in the reserves, with
the object of maintaining a labour supply for the white employer.64
C. Political Repression and Social Control in the Industrial Revolution.
Even after the expropriation of their land, the working class was not sufficiently powerless. The state still had to regulate
the movement of labor, serve as a labor exchange on behalf of capitalists, and maintain order. And historically, this function
was most vital when the bargaining power of labor threatened to increase: "one might expect that the efforts of the State
in a capitalist society to control wages and to restrict the freedom of movement of the labourer would be greater when the
labour reserve was depleted than when it was swollen."65 Thorold Rogers described the law from the Tudor period
until the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1824, as
a conspiracy... to cheat the English workman of his wages, to tie him to the soil, to deprive him of hope, and to degrade
him into irremediable poverty.... For more than two centuries and a half the English law, and those who administered the law,
were engaged in grinding the English workman down to the lowest pittance, in stamping out every expression or act which indicated
any organized discontent, and in multiplying penalties upon him when he thought of his natural rights.66
As we have seen above, the liquidation of the Church's system of poor relief left a void to be filled by the Tudor state's
harsh regulation of the working class. The act of Henry VIII in 1530 licensed beggars who were old or infirm, while providing
for the whipping and imprisonment of "sturdy vagabonds." The 27 Henry VIII strengthened the statute with ear-cropping for
second offenders, and execution for third. I Edward VI (1547) condemned anyone who refused work as a slave to whoever denounced
him. The 1572 act of Elizabeth I prescribed execution of unlicensed beggars on the second offense, unless someone would "take
them into service." The statutes were only repealed at the end of the sixteenth century, by 12 Ann, cap. 23, when they had
done their work. "Thus were the agricultural people, first forcibly expropriated from the soil, driven from their homes,
turned into vagabonds, and then whipped, branded, tortured by laws grotesquely terrible, into the discipline necessary for
the wage system."67
Queen Anne's repeal of the Tudor legislation did not, by any means, put an end to state-imposed regulation of the working
class' movement. The laws of settlement had been created, in the meantime, and were later supplemented by the Combination
Laws and the police state of Pitt. The government continued to set maximum wages, as well.
The Act of Settlement dates back to 1662. There had been a great deal of lower class movement during the Interregnum, characterized
by the tendency of "poor people... to settle themselves in those parishes where there is the best stock, the largest commons
or wastes to build cottages and the most woods for them to burn or destroy." As that quote from the preamble might suggest,
the Act was intended to remedy such excess mobility. Under its terms, two justices of the peace in each county were empowered
to eject any newcomer to a parish without independent means, and return him to his parish of origin. The legislation was explicitly
directed against cottagers and squatters in commons, and was evidently followed "by a destruction of cottages erected in
the free times of the interregnum."68
In a quotation earlier in this chapter, Marx referred to the "laws of settlements" as analogous to "the edict of the Tartar
Boris Godunov" in their effect on the English working population. Had he been more familiar with events in America at the
time he wrote, he might have referred to the Black Codes as a better analogy. Had he lived into the twentieth century, he
might have cited the internal passport systems of South Africa or the Soviet Union. The British state's controls on the movement
of population, during the Industrial Revolution, were a system of totalitarian control comparable to all these.
Under the Poor Laws and the Laws of Settlement, a member of the English working class was restricted to the parish of his
birth, unless an official of another parish granted him a permit to reside there. The state maintained work discipline by
keeping laborers from voting with their feet. It was hard to persuade parish authorities to grant a man a certificate entitling
him to move to another parish to seek work. Even on the rare occasion when such a certificate was granted, it amounted to
a system of peonage in which the worker's continued residence in the new parish was conditioned on maintaining the good will
of his employer. Workers were forced to stay put and sell their labor in a buyer's market. Adam Smith ventured that there
was "scarce a poor man in England of forty years of age... who has not in some part of his life felt himself most cruelly
oppressed by this ill-contrived law of settlements."69
At first glance this would seem also to be inconvenient for employers in parishes with a labor shortage.70 Factories
were built at sources of water power, generally removed from centers of population. Thousands of workers were needed to be
imported from far away. But the state solved the problem by setting itself up as a middleman, and providing labor-poor parishes
with cheap surplus labor from elsewhere, depriving workers of the ability to bargain for better terms on their own. This practice
amounted, in nearly every sense of the term, to a slave market:
No doubt, in certain epochs of feverish activity, the labour market shows significant gaps. In 1834, e.g.. But then the
manufacturers proposed to the Poor Law Commissioners that they should send the "surplus population" of the agricultural districts
to the north, with the explanation "that the manufacturers would absorb and use it up." "Agents were appointed with the consent
of the Poor Law Commissioners.... An office was set up in Manchester, to which lists were sent of those workpeople in the
agricultural districts wanting employment, and their names were registered in books. The manufacturers attended at these offices,
and selected such persons as they chose; ...they gave instructions to have them forwarded to Manchester, and they were sent,
ticketed like bales of goods, by canals, or with carriers, others tramping on the road, and many of them were found on the
way lost and half-starved. This system had grown up into a regular trade. This House will hardly believe it, but I tell them
that this traffic in human flesh was as well kept up, they were in effect as regularly sold to these... manufacturers as slaves
are sold to the cotton grown in the United States."71
There you have it: the Tudor state without the whippings, ear-croppings and executions; the Black Codes without the lynchings.
Child laborers, who were in no position to bargain in any case, were a popular commodity in these poor-house slave markets.
According to John Fielden ("The Curse of the Factory System, 1836),
In the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and more particularly in Lancashire, the newly invented machinery was used
in large factories built on the sides of streams capable of turning the water-wheel. Thousands of hands were suddenly required
in these places, remote from towns.... The small and nimble fingers of little children being by very far, the most in request,
the custom instantly sprang up of procuring apprentices from the different parish workhouses of London, Birmingham,
Relief "was seldom bestowed without the parish claiming the exclusive right of disposing, at their pleasure, of all
the children of the person receiving relief," according to the Committee on Parish Apprentices, 1815.73 Frances
Trollope estimated that 200,000 children, altogether, were pressed into factory labor.74 Even when Poor Law commissioners
encouraged migration to labor-poor parishes, they discouraged adult men and "[p]reference was given to 'widows with large
families of children or handicraftsmen... with large families.'" In addition, the availability of cheap labor from the
poor-law commissioners was deliberately used to drive down wages; farmers would discharge their own day-laborers and instead
apply to the overseer for help.75
Although the Combination Laws theoretically applied to masters as well as workmen, in practice they were only enforced
against the latter.76 "A Journeyman Cotton Spinner"--a pamphleteer quoted by E. P. Thompson77--described
"an abominable combination existing amongst the masters," in which workers who had left their masters because of disagreement
over wages were effectively blacklisted. The Combination Laws required suspects to answer interrogations on oath, empowered
magistrates to give summary judgment, and allowed summary forfeiture of funds accumulated to aid the families of strikers.78
In other words, workers subject to the Combination Law magistrates were deprived of all the common law's due process protections.
Workers, far from possessing the much-heralded "rights of Englishmen," were thrown into prerogative courts as arbitrary as
At the same time, the laws setting maximum rates of pay amounted to a state enforced system of combination for the masters.
In Adam Smith's immortal words, "[w]henever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between the masters and
their workmen, its counselors are always the masters."79
In the mid-19th century, a superficial examiner might conclude, the state's "progressive" reforms finally began to remedy
all these evils. But as the historians of corporate liberalism have shown us in regard to the "progressive" reforms of the
twentieth century, these "reforms" were in fact undertaken in the interests of the ruling class. Their ameliorating effect
on working conditions, to the real but limited extent they occurred, were a side effect of their main purpose of increasing
political stability and bringing the working class under more effective social control.80
Regarding legislation for the ten-hour day, for example, Marx described it as an attempt by capitalists to regulate the
"greed for surplus labour"; they served to regulate the economy in the interest of the capitalist class as a whole,
in a way that could only be accomplished by acting through the state. With competition unlimited by the state, the issue of
working conditions presents a prisoner's dilemma for the individual capitalist; it is in the interest of the capitalist class
as a whole that the exploitation of labor be kept to sustainable levels, but in the interest of the individual capitalist
to gain an immediate advantage over the competition by working his own labor force to the breaking point. As we shall see
in Chapter 6 below on the rise of monopoly capitalism, the real effect of such regulations is to coordinate labor practices
through a state-enforced cartel, so that those practices are no longer an issue of competition between firms.
These acts curb the passion of capital for a limitless draining of labour power, by forcibly limiting the working day by
state regulations, made by a state that is ruled by capitalist and landlord. Apart from the working-class movement that daily
grew more threatening, the limiting of factory labour was dictated by the same necessity which spread guano over the English
Marx referred, later in the same chapter, to a group of 26 Staffordshire pottery firms, including Josiah Wedgwood, petitioning
Parliament in 1863 for "some legislative enactment"; the reason was that competition prevented individual capitalists
from voluntarily limiting the work time of children, etc., as beneficial as it would be to them collectively: "Much as
we deplore the evils before mentioned, it would not be possible to prevent them by any scheme of agreement between the manufacturers....
Taking all these points into consideration, we have come to the conviction that some legislative enactment is wanted." Attempts
by employers to limit the workday voluntarily to nine or ten hours, in their collective interest, always came to nought because
the individual employer found it in his interest to violate the agreement.82
As for trade unions: even after the Combination Laws were repealed in 1825, the position of workers was different from
that of masters in regard to contract. "The provisions of the labour statutes as to contracts between master and workman,
as to giving notice and the like, which only allow of a civil action against the contract breaking master, but on the contrary
permit a criminal action against the contract-breaking workman, are to this hour (1873) in full force."83
In 1871, trade unions were officially recognized by Act of Parliament. But another act of the same date (the Act to amend
the Criminal Law relating to Violence, Threats, and Molestation), had the effect that "the means which the labourers could
use in a strike or lockout were withdrawn from the laws common to all citizens, and placed under exceptional penal legislation,
the interpretation of which fell to the masters themselves in their capacity as justices of the peace."84 Thus,
the state at the same time permitted collective bargaining, and prohibited collective bargaining outside the avenues prescribed
and regulated by the state. In much the same way, the great "labor victory" of the Wagner Act was followed, in short order,
by Taft-Hartley, which criminalized most of the tactics by which the CIO victories of the early Thirties had been won independently
of the state. And in the process, as Hilaire Belloc so brilliantly explained, for the laborer contract was replaced by status--one
step in the retrograde long march toward industrial enserfment of the wage-earning population.85 A comment of Adam
Smith a century earlier is worth quoting again: "Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between
masters and their workmen, its counselors are always the masters."86
The working class lifestyle under the factory system, with its new forms of social control, was a radical break with the
past. It involved drastic loss of control over their own work. The seventeenth century work calendar had still been heavily
influenced by medieval custom. Although there were spurts of hard labor between planting and harvest, intermittent periods
of light work and the proliferation of saints days combined to reduce average work-time well below that of our own day. And
the pace of work was generally determined by the sun or the biological rhythms of the laborer, who got up after a decent night's
sleep, and sat down to rest when he felt like it. The cottager who had access to common land, even when he wanted extra income
from wage labor, could take work on a casual basis and then return to working for himself. This was an unacceptable degree
of independence from a capitalist standpoint.
In the modern world most people have to adapt themselves to some kind of discipline, and to observe other' people's timetables,
...or work under other people's orders, but we have to remember that the population that was flung into the brutal rhythm
of the factory had earned its living in relative freedom, and that the discipline of the early factory was particularly savage....
No economist of the day, in estimating the gains or losses of factory employment, ever allowed for the strain and violence
that a man suffered in his feelings when he passed from a life in which he could smoke or eat, or dig or sleep as he pleased,
to one in which somebody turned the key on him, and for fourteen hours he had not even the right to whistle. It was like entering
the airless and laughterless life of a prison.87
As Oppenheimer suggested in the quote earlier in this chapter, the factory system could not have been imposed on workers
without first depriving them of alternatives, and forcibly denying access to any source of economic independence. No unbroken
human being, with a sense of freedom or dignity, would have submitted to factory discipline. Steven Marglin compared the nineteenth
century textile factory, staffed by pauper children bought at the workhouse slave market, to Roman brick and pottery factories
which were manned by slaves. In Rome, factory production was exceptional in manufactures dominated by freemen. The factory
system, throughout history, has been possible only with a work force deprived of any viable alternative.
The surviving facts... strongly suggest that whether work was organized along factory lines was in Roman times determined,
not by technological considerations, but by the relative power of the two producing classes. Freedmen and citizens had sufficient
power to maintain a guild organization. Slaves had no power--and ended up in factories.88
The problem with the old "putting out" system, in which cottage workers produced textiles on a contractual basis, was that
it only eliminated worker control of the product. The factory system, by also eliminating worker control of the production
process, introduced the added advantages of discipline and supervision, with workers organized under an overseer.
...the origin and success of the factory lay not in technological superiority, but in the substitution of the capitalist's
for the worker's control of the work process and the quantity of output, in the change in the workman's choice from one of
how much to work and produce, based on his preferences for leisure and goods, to one of whether or not to work at all, which
of course is hardly much of a choice.89
Marglin took Adam Smith's classic example of the division of labor in pin-making, and stood it on its head. The increased
efficiency resulted, not from the division of labor as such, but from dividing and sequencing the process into separate tasks
in order to reduce set-up time. This could have been accomplished by a single cottage workman separating the various tasks
and then performing them sequentially (i.e., drawing out the wire for an entire run of production, then straightening it,
then cutting it, etc.).
without specialization, the capitalist had no essential role to play in the production process. If each producer could
himself integrate the component tasks of pin manufacture into a marketable product, he would soon discover that he had no
need to deal with the market for pins through the intermediation of the putter-outer. He could sell directly and appropriate
to himself the profit that the capitalist derived from mediating between the producer and the market.90
This principle is at the center of the history of industrial technology for the last two hundred years. Even given the
necessity of factories for some forms of large-scale, capital-intensive manufacturing, there is usually a choice between alternate
productive technologies within the factory. Industry has consistently chosen technologies which de-skill workers and shift
decision-making upward into the managerial hierarchy. As long ago as 1835, Dr. Andrew Ure (the ideological grandfather of
Taylorism), argued that the more skilled the workman, "the more self-willed and... the less fit a component of a mechanical
system" he became. The solution was to eliminate processes which required "peculiar dexterity and steadiness of hand...
from the cunning workman" and replace them by a "mechanism, so self-regulating, that a child may superintend it."91
And the principle has been followed throughout the twentieth century. William Lazonick, David Montgomery, David Noble, and
Katherine Stone have produced an excellent body of work on this theme. Even though corporate experiments in worker self-management
increase morale and productivity, and reduce injuries and absenteeism beyond the wildest hopes of management, they are usually
abandoned out of fear of loss of control.
Christopher Lasch, in his foreword to Noble's America by Design, characterized the process of de-skilling in this
The capitalist, having expropriated the worker's property, gradually expropriated his technical knowledge as well, asserting
his own mastery over production....
The expropriation of the worker's technical knowledge had as a logical consequence the growth of modern management, in
which technical knowledge came to be concentrated. As the scientific management movement split up production into its component
procedures, reducing the worker to an appendage of the machine, a great expansion of technical and supervisory personnel took
place in order to oversee the productive process as a whole.92
The expropriation of the peasantry and imposition of the factory labor system was not accomplished without resistance;
the workers knew exactly what was being done to them and what they had lost. During the 1790s, when rhetoric from the Jacobins
and Tom Paine was widespread among the radicalized working class, the rulers of "the cradle of liberty" lived in terror that
the country would be swept by revolution. The system of police state controls over the population resembled an occupation
regime. The Hammonds referred to correspondence between north-country magistrates and the Home Office, in which the law was
frankly treated "as an instrument not of justice but of repression," and the working classes "appear[ed]... conspicuously
as a helot population.”93
... in the light of the Home Office papers, ...none of the personal rights attaching to Englishmen possessed any reality
for the working classes. The magistrates and their clerks recognized no limit to their powers over the freedom and the movements
of working men. The Vagrancy Laws seemed to supercede the entire charter of an Englishman's liberties. They were used to put
into prison any man or woman of the working class who seemed to the magistrate an inconvenient or disturbing character. They
offered the easiest and most expeditious way of proceeding against any one who tried to collect money for the families of
locked-out workmen, or to disseminate literature that the magistrates thought undesirable.94
Peel's "bobbies"--professional law enforcement--replaced the posse comitatus system because the latter was inadequate to
control a population of increasingly disgruntled workmen. In the time of the Luddite and other disturbances, crown officials
warned that "to apply the Watch and Ward Act would be to put arms into the hands of the most powerfully disaffected."
At the outset of the wars with France, Pitt ended the practice of quartering the army in alehouses, mixed with the general
population. Instead, the manufacturing districts were covered with barracks, as "purely a matter of police." The manufacturing
areas "came to resemble a country under military occupation."95
Pitt's police state was supplemented by quasi-private vigilantism, in the time-honored tradition of blackshirts and death
squads ever since. For example the "Association for the Protection of Property against Republicans and Levellers"--an anti-Jacobin
association of gentry and mill-owners-- conducted house-to-house searches and organized Guy Fawkes-style effigy burnings against
Paine; "Church and King" mobs terrorised suspected radicals.96
Thompson characterized this system of control as "political and social apartheid," and argued that "the revolution
which did not happen in England was fully as devastating" as the one that did happen in France.97
D. Mercantilism, Colonialism, and the Creation of the "World Market"
The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population,
the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting
of blackskins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta
of primitive accumulation. On their heels treads the commercial war of the European nations, with the globe for a theatre....
....The treasures captured outside Europe by undisguised looting, enslavement, and murder, floated back to the mother country
and were there turned into capital.98
We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour
that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods
produced in our own factories.99
In addition to its transformation of society at home, the state aided the accumulation of capital through mercantilism.
The modern "world market" was not created by free market forces. Like capitalist production in Western Europe, it was an artificial
creation of the state, imposed by a revolution from above. The world market was established by the European conquest of most
of the world, and by the naval supremacy of the Western European powers. Manufacturing to serve a global market was encouraged
by state intervention to shut out foreign goods, give European shipping a monopoly of foreign commerce, and stamp out foreign
competition by force. Since the process of creating a single world market has been so closely identified, since the mid-seventeenth
century, with the hegemony of Great Britain over the other Western European powers, we will focus on British mercantilism
and colonial policy in this section. Our survey here is not intended even as a systematic overview of the various subsidiary
themes in the evolution of colonialism; as Marx's panoramic quote above suggests, the subject is too broad for us even to
touch briefly on all its major sub-topics. The following is only a very uneven look at some of the more interesting aspects
of the subject that have especially caught our attention.
The Dutch wars during the Interregnum and the reign of Charles II established England as the dominant mercantile power
in the world. The Dutch carrying trade was largely eclipsed, and "the nucleus of all later settlements in India" were
won from the Dutch. In the process, the value of stock in the East India Company increased nine-fold. The East India Company,
established by charter from Cromwell, not only enjoyed close ties to the English state, but acted as proxy for it; it had
the financial and military backing of the state behind its rule.100
In addition to the naval supremacy arising from those wars, and the Dutch colonies added to English dominions, the British
position was further cemented by the Navigation Acts.
The imperial monopoly created by the Navigation Acts allowed merchants to buy English and colonial exports cheap and sell
them dear abroad, to buy foreign goods cheap and sell them dear in England. This increased merchants' profits, and forced
national income from consumption into capital, especially into the artificially stimulated ship-building industry, which boomed.
Thanks to new building and prizes captured in war, English shipping tonnage is believed to have more than doubled between
1640 and 1686.101
Trade carried out under such monopoly conditions was a much more lucrative source of accumulation than industry, providing
massive sums of capital for investment in the industrial revolution of the late eighteenth century.102
Modern exponents of the "free market" generally treat mercantilism as a "misguided" attempt to promote some unified national
interest, adopted out of sincere ignorance of economic principles. In fact, the architects of mercantilism knew exactly what
they were doing. Mercantilism was extremely efficient for its real purpose: making wealthy manufacturing interests rich at
the expense of everyone else. Adam Smith consistently attacked mercantilism, not as a product of economic error, but as a
quite intelligent attempt by powerful interests to enrich themselves through the coercive power of the state.
Despite mercantilism's theoretical preoccupation with the balance of trade, its practical concern was with favorable terms
of trade--buying cheap and selling dear.103 And this was quite rational, given the existence of captive foreign
markets. Modern free trade advocates assume a mythical world of consumer sovereignty, in which domestic capital has no compulsive
power over foreign markets. But this is untrue even in today's world, let alone the world of the seventeenth and eighteenth
The reason why an inelastic foreign demand should have been so easily assumed is not at first class clear. A principal
reason why they imagined that exports could be forced on other countries at an enhanced price without diminution of quantity
was probably because they were thinking, not in terms of nineteenth-century conditions where alternative markets were generally
available to a country, but of a situation where considerable pressure, if not actual coercion, could be applied to the countries
with whom one did the bulk of one's trade.104
Although opportunities for domestic plunder had been largely exhausted (at least for the time being), the possibilities
for naked force in foreign dominions were breathtaking:
As regards the internal market, experience had presumably taught [policy makers] that such measures [regulatory
rent-seeking and unequal exchange at expense of other capitalists] could quickly reach a limit, especially when the field
was already congested with established privileges and monopolistic regulations. Here there was little chance of a merchant
expanding his stint save at the expense of another; and internal trade was consequently regarded as yielding little chance
of gain from further regulation. But in virgin lands across the seas, with native populations to be despoiled and enslaved
and colonial settlers to be economically regimented, the situation looked altogether different and the prospects of forced
trading and plunder must have seemed abundantly rich.105
In their reliance on the state to enforce unequal exchange, the merchant capitalists were acting in the tradition of their
ancestors, the oligarchs who had taken over the artisan guilds and towns in the late Middle Ages, and set themselves up as
middlemen between the urban craftsmen and the rural peasants.
As one writer has said of it, this was the former 'policy of the town writ large in the affairs of State'. It was a similar
policy of monopoly to that which at an earlier stage the towns had pursued in their relations with the surrounding countryside,
and which the merchants and merchant-manufacturers of the privileged companies had pursued in relation to the working craftsmen.106
Ireland was an early dress rehearsal for a number of atrocious themes that were to recur throughout the history of colonialism.
Ireland, during and after Cromwell's conquest, experienced a death-rate comparable to the killing fields of Pol Pot, or of
East Timor after Suharto's invasion.
The settler societies of Australia and the New World relied heavily on slave labor of one kind or another. According to
Wakefield, when cheap land was available in the colonies, the only way for the capitalist to obtain labor at a profit was
to employ convict or slave labor. Although, as we have seen above, Wakefield preferred a government policy of artificially
pricing laborers out of the land market, he recognized slavery as a necessary makeshift when labor was scarce relative to
As was the case with the use of full-scale terror war to secure control of Ireland and expropriate land from the natives,
the large-scale use of slave labor in foreign colonies was pioneered (in British realms at least) by Cromwell. One of the
earliest sources of slaves was the defeated Irish people, along with the Protectorate's internal enemies. To be "Barbadoesed"
appeared as a new verb, referring to the massive traffic in transported political criminals to that island.
America was built on slave labor. Most people are more or less aware of the importance of African slavery in the New World
(as Joshua Gee wrote in 1729, "[a]ll this great increase in our treasure proceeds chiefly from the labour of negroes in
the plantations."108 For that reason, and not to downplay its significance or sheer brutality, we focus here
on the coerced labor of convicts and indentured servants, about which much less is generally known. Given the scale of black
slavery and of convict and indentured white labor, it is likely that the vast majority of Americans in 1776 were descended
from those brought here in chains.
Abbot Smith, a specialist in the history of indentured and convict labor, estimates that one-half to two-thirds of white
immigrants to the North American colonies belonged to one of those categories.109 Although estimates of the extent
of such immigration vary, all are quite high. According to Edward Channing's History of the United States, 10,000 members
of the British underclass were kidnapped for transportation in 1670. A 1680 pamphlet gives the same figure.110
In Virginia alone, Thomas Wertenbaker estimated anywhere from 1500 to 2000 entered the colony annually from 1635-1705. Indentured
labor was the foundation of production in the tobacco colonies throughout the seventeenth century.111
From the late seventeenth century on, the tobacco economy shifted to a reliance mainly on black slaves, as a means of social
control. The poorly developed legal distinctions between black and white labor, combined with the brutal treatment of both
and their close association on the plantations, threatened the planter aristocracy with biracial class solidarity. This threat
became concrete from time to time in the form of revolts--especially Bacon's Rebellion, in which white and black laborers
together nearly overthrew the colonial government. As a result, the legal status of black slaves was legally formalized in
slave codes in the 1670s, and "white skin privilege" and racist ideology were used as a means to divide and rule. The shift
to black plantation labor reduced the threat of social war. Even so, indentures and convicts continued to be a major part
of the white labor force, and the beginning of large-scale transportation of criminals after 1718 threatened the shaky social
peace once more.112
As for the eighteenth century, leaving aside voluntary indentures, Arthur Ekirch estimated that "some 50,000" convicts
were transported from the British Isles.113 Convict laborers alone represented "as much as a quarter of all
British emigrants to colonial America...."114 Lest anyone object that such servitude was involuntary only for
those guilty of crimes, we should keep in mind the nature of their offenses. The typical transportee was a petty criminal,
"a young male labourer driven to crime by economic necessity...." The majority of crimes were theft of property, by
members of the classes "most vulnerable to economic dislocation"--descendants of the same "sturdy vagabonds" thrown
onto the highways by the first large-scale expropriation of the peasantry two centuries before. During economic downturns,
an estimated 20-45% of the English populace "may have lacked the means to buy sufficient bread or otherwise feed themselves."
Even in comparatively good times, the proportion did not fall below 10%.115 Gregory King, "the pioneer statistician,"
estimated that over half of the population earned less than they consumed and were supported by poor rates.116
It is also worth bearing in mind that the legal system of that time was in the hands of justices of the peace, who represented
the interests of the gentry against the overwhelming majority of the people. And once a pauper entered that legal system,
guilt was by no means a necessary condition for transportation. J.P.s assumed the right to sentence to transportation even
acquitted persons, if they could not find "sureties for good behaviour."117
Another large group who were liable to involuntary transportation without having committed any offense were children. Sir
Thomas Smythe and Sir Edwin Sandys, of the Virginia Company, petitioned the Council of London in 1618 to remedy the labor
shortage in their American plantation by allowing the transportation of "vagrant" children. According to the terms of the
consequent bill, chlidren eight or over were subject to capture and transportation. Boys were liable to sixteen years servitude,
and girls to fourteen. The city aldermen were empowered to direct constables to seize children "loitering" on the streets
and to commit them to Bridewell prison-hospital pending shipment to America. Besides these "vagrants," children of the indigent
were also pressed into service, on pain of cutting off poor relief to recalcitrant parents. Although the bill ostensibly provided
land to those who had completed their term of service, a muster of the Virginia colony in 1625 found almost of the 1619 and
1620 transportees still alive.118
The rates of death were high for indentured and convict laborers in general, adults as well as children. Beginning with
the transatlantic voyage itself, a death rate of 20% was regarded as acceptable, although it was often much higher. The overhead
cost of white laborers was much lower than that for African slaves, since the cost of capture was so much lower.119
The numbers of indentured servants successfully completing their terms of service and collecting the land guaranteed by
law, if any, were likewise small. As was the case with the children in the previous paragraph, only a minority of indentured
servants actually collected the land that was guaranteed to them under their contract. In Maryland, for example, of 5000 indentured
servants entering that colony from 1670-1680, fewer than 1300 collected their 50 acres. Over 1400 had died in service, and
the rest were defrauded.120 Masters often deliberately worsened conditions of work for indentured laborers toward
the end of their terms, in order to induce them to run away and forfeit their land or money. In addition, masters were able
to add years to the term of service for relatively minor offenses. Once such offense was marrying without the master's permission,
or having children out of wedlock--even when the master was the father. It goes without saying that such children were born
into servitude, and stayed there until they reached adulthood. Half of indentured servants, in the colonies taken together,
did not survive their term of service.121
One of the most lucrative services the state provided for British manufacturing was the suppression of competing production
in the colonies.
Measures, not only of coercion applied to colonial trade in order that it should primarily serve the needs of the parent
country, but also to control colonial production, became a special preoccupation of policy at the end of the seventeenth century
and the first half of the eighteenth.... Steps were taken to prohibit the colonial manufacture of commodities which competed
with the exportable products of English industry, and to forbid the export of enumerated colonial products to other markets
Although he was wrong in describing them as "[a]n essential prerequisite" for the industrial revolution, Christopher
Hill was correct in his assertion that "large and stable colonial monopoly markets" were an important means of promoting
The conquest of India, where the authorities in India, followed by the destruction of the Bengalese textile industry (makers
of the highest quality fabric in the world), was motivated to a large extent by such concerns.124 Although Bengalese
manufacturers had not yet adopted steam-driven methods of production, they likely would have done so, had India remained politically
and economically independent. At the time of conquest, as Chomsky describes it,
India was comparable to England in industrial development. The conqueror industrialized while Indian industry was destroyed
by British regulations and interference.... Had [such measures] not been undertaken, Horace Wilson wrote in his History
of British India in 1826, "the mills of Paisley and Manchester would have been stopped in their outset,
and could scarcely have been again set in motion, even by the power of steam. They were created by the sacrifice of Indian
Under British rule, the textile center of Dacca was depopulated from 150,000 to 30,000.125 Jawaharlal Nehru,
in his 1944 work The Discovery of India, correlated the level of poverty in the various parts of India with the length
of time the British had been there. The once prosperous territory of Bengal, the first to be colonized, is today occupied
by Bangladesh and the Calcutta area.126
The old mercantilist system having accomplished its mission, by the mid-19th century the official British ideology shifted
to "free trade." Free trade ideology has been adopted by the capitalist class, historically, when they were securely in possession
of the fruits of past mercantilism, and wished to competing commercial powers from arising in the periphery by the same methods.
Of course, the "free trade" actually adopted by Great Britain, as we shall see in Chapter Seven, was much closer to the neo-mercantilist
"free trade" of Palmerston than the genuinely liberal free trade of the Cobdenites. Although the U.S., as a latter-day conterpart
of Great Britain, is quite vocal in its support of "free trade," the American, German and Japanese industrial systems were
created by the same mercantilist policies, with massive tariffs on industrial goods. "Free trade" was adopted by safely established
industrial powers, who used "laissez-faire" as an ideological weapon to prevent potential rivals from following the same path
Although we have concentrated in this section on the earlier waves of colonialism and their effects on the formative period
of industrial capitalism, the record of enslavement, robbery, and devastation was at least as great under the "New Colonialism"
of the late 19th century. Exploitation of the Third World under the latter form of colonialism involved large-scale transfers
of wealth to the developed world, and resulted as a consequence in vast super-profits.
In the New as well as the Old Colonialism, a central object of policy was "to clear out of his way by force, the modes
of production and appropriation, based on the independent labour of the producer." According to David Korten,
One of the major challenges faced by colonial administrators was to force those who obtained their livelihoods from their
own lands and common areas to give up their lands and labor to plantation development, that is, to make them dependent on
a money economy so that their resources, labor, and consumption might yield profits to the colonizers.127
This was accomplished first of all by "dispossessing indigenous communities of the greater part of their traditional
territories": claiming uncultivated or common lands, forests, and grazing lands as property of the colonial administration,
and abrogating traditional rights of access; and second, by head taxes to compel subsistence farmers to enter the money economy.
Throughout the colonies, it became standard practice to declare all "uncultivated" land to be the property of the colonial
administration. At a stroke, local communities were denied legal title to lands they had traditionally set aside as fallow
and to the forests, grazing lands and streams they relied upon for hunting, gathering, fishing and herding.
Where, as was frequently the case, the colonial authorities found that the lands they sought to exploit were already "cultivated",
the problem was remedied by restricting the indigenous population to tracts of low quality land deemed unsuitable for European
settlement. In Kenya, such "reserves" were "structured to allow the Europeans, who accounted for less than one per cent of
the population, to have full access to the agriculturally rich uplands that constituted 20 per cent of the country. In Southern
Rhodesia, white colonists, who constituted just five per cent of the population, became the new owners of two-thirds of the
land.... Once secured, the commons appropriated by the colonial administration were typically leased out to commercial concerns
for plantations, mining and logging, or sold to white settlers.128
The latter theme continued even in post-colonial times, when corporate agribusiness relied on authoritarian Third World
regimes to evict peasants from land needed for large-scale cash crop production.129
At the same time, to relieve the labor shortage, colonial authorities (especially in British and French West Africa) resorted
to forced labor to solve the labor shortage. Taxation was found, however, to be a much more efficient way of accomplishing
the same end. In colonial Africa and Asia, poll taxes or excise taxes on staple commodities were used to force subsistence
farmers to sell their labor in the cash economy in order to pay them.130
Conclusion: “The World We Have Lost”--And Will Regain
Capitalism was not, by any means, a "free market" evolving naturally or peacefully from the civilization of the high Middle
Ages. As Oppenheimer argued, capitalism as a system of class exploitation was a direct successor to feudalism, and still displays
the birth scars of its origins in late feudalism.
Romantic medievalists like Chesterton and Belloc recounted a process in the high Middle Ages by which serfdom had gradually
withered away, and the peasants had transformed themselves into de facto freeholders who paid a nominal quit-rent. The feudal
class system was disintegrating and being replaced by a much more libertarian and less exploitative one. Immanuel Wallerstein
argued that the likely outcome would have been "a system of relatively equal small-scale producers, further flattening
out the aristocracies and decentralizing the political structures."131
Although such medievalists no doubt idealized that world considerably, it was still far superior to the world of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries. Kropotkin described, in terms evocative of William Morris, the rich life of the High Middle Ages,
"with its virile affirmation of the individual, and which succeeded in creating a society through the free federation of
men, of villages and of towns.132 "In those cities, sheltered by their conquered liberties, inspired by
the spirit of free agreement and of free initiative, a whole new civilization grew up and flourished in a way unparalleled
to this day."133 The free cities were virtually independent; although the crown "granted" them a charter in
theory, in reality the charter was typically presented to the king and to the bishop of the surrounding diocese as a fait
accompli, when "the inhabitants of a particular borough felt themselves to be sufficiently protected by their walls...."134
The technical prerequisites of the industrial revolution had been anticipated by skilled craftsmen in the urban communes,
scholars in the universities, and researchers in the monasteries;135 but the atmosphere of barbarism following
the triumph of the centralized state set technical progress back by centuries. The nineteenth century was, in a sense, a technical
and industrial "renaissance," built atop the achievements of the High Middle Ages after a prolonged hiatus; but because of
the intervening centuries of warfare on society, industrial technology was introduced into a society based on brutal exploitation
and privilege, instead of flowering in a society where it might have benefited all.
The Renaissance as it happened, G.K. Chesterton argued, was only an anemic ghost of what it might have been had it taken
place under a democracy of guilds and peasant proprietors. Had Wat Tyler and John Ball been successful, Chesterton speculated,
our country would probably have had as happy a history as is possible to human nature. The Renascence, when it came, would
have come as popular education and not the culture of a club of aesthetics. The New Learning might have been as democratic
as the old learning in the old days of mediaeval Paris and Oxford. The exquisite artistry of Cellini might have been but the
highest grade of the craft of a guild. The Shakespearean drama might have been acted by workmen on wooden stages set up in
the street like Punch and Judy, the finer fulfillment of the miracle play as it was acted by a guild.136
The real advancement, the real humanism and progress of the High Middle Ages, has been neglected, and the barbarism and
regression of the age of the absolute state disguised as a rebirth of civilization. In short, history has been not only rewritten,
but stood on its head by the victors.
How many lies have been accumulated by Statist historians, in the pay of the State, in that period!
Indeed have we not all learned at school for instance that the State had performed the great service of creating, out of
the ruins of feudal society, national unions which had previously been made impossible by the rivalries between cities?....
And yet, now we learn that in spite of all the rivalries, medieval cities had already worked for four centuries toward
building those unions, through federation, freely consented, and that they had succeeded.137
By 1650 the earlier egalitarian trend Wallerstein remarked on had been reversed. In the meantime, what he calls the "capitalist
world-system" had been established in response to the crisis of feudalism and rising wages.
The socio-economic crisis weakened the nobility such that the peasants steadily increased their share of the surplus from
1250 to 1450 or 1500.... It was the increase in the standard of living of the lower strata moving in the direction of relative
equalization of incomes... that for the upper strata represented the real crisis....
There was no way out of it without drastic social change. This way... was the creation of a capitalist world-system, a
new form of surplus appropriation. The replacement of the feudal mode by the capitalist mode was what constituted the
seigniorial reaction; it was a great sociopolitical effort by the ruling strata to retain their collective privileges, even
if they had to accept a fundamental reorganization of the economy.... There would be some families, it was clear, who would
lose out by such a shift; but many would not. Additionally, and most importantly, the principle of stratification was not
merely preserved; it was to be reinforced as well.
Does not the discovery that the standard of living of the European lower strata went down from 1500 to at least
1800... demonstrate how successful was the strategy, if such it could be called, of economic transformation?138
On this latter point, according to Maurice Dobb, the strategy was successful indeed. In the two centuries before the Tudor
dynasty, wages had doubled in terms of wheat. After 1500, they fell more than enough to reverse that gain. Part of this fall
in real wages was the result of the price revolution of the 1500s, which amounted to a program of forced investment: "To
the extent that money-wages failed to rise as the commodity price-level rose, all employers and owners of capital were abnormally
enriched at the expense of the standard of life of the labouring class."139
There was, as Wallerstein wrote, "a reasonably high level of continuity between the families that had been high strata"
in 1450 and 1650. Capitalism, far from being "the overthrow of a backward aristocracy by a progressive bourgeoisie,"
"was brought into existence by a landed aristocracy which transformed itself into a bourgeoisie because the old system
was disintegrating."140 In The Modern World-System, he described the process as one of "embourgeoisment"
of the nobility141--especially in England, where "the aristocracy to survive had to learn the ways of and partially
fuse with the bourgeoisie."
As Wallerstein suggested above, some families in the old landed aristocracy lost out; those adaptable elements who survived
absorbed large elements of the bourgeoisie into their ranks. The new agricultural class arose in the fifteenth century as
a result of the fact that the landed aristocracy had failed to become a caste, and the gentry had failed to become a lesser
nobility. In this new class, the old distinction between aristocracy between aristocracy and gentry was losing its significance.
Wallerstein cited Perez Zagorin on the tendency for men "in a position to deploy capital in agriculture, trade, and industry"
to acquire "the command of social life." This combined class, which also included the old merchant oligarchs who were
canny enough to invest in modern methods of production, enriched itself at the expense of the increasingly proletarianized
Christopher Hill's analysis of the transformation of the landed class parallels that of Wallerstein to a large degree.
The great landowners who thrived in the new economy were those who adapted to "the new society in which money was king."
The took less interest in court affairs, ostentatious expenditure, and hospitality, and instead turned their attention toward
estate management, rack-renting, the leasing of mining rights, etc. By the seventeenth century, the elements of the old landed
aristocracy who had been unable to make this transition had largely disappeared. The surviving aristocracy consisted almost
entirely of those "capable of taking advantage of the intellectual and technical revolution in estate management."143
The Civil War, as Wallerstein understood it, was between the old and the new landed class. The former, the decadent rentier
class that infested the royal court, was defeated; the latter went on, as the Whig oligarchy, to achieve political supremacy
in 1689.144 Although the Civil War was followed by a resurgence of the landed interest, this interest consisted
of the new capitalist agricultural class: those elements of the old landed aristocracy who had adopted capitalist methods
of agricultural production and learned to thrive in a capitalist economy, along with merchant-capitalists, yeomen, and gentry
who had had sufficient capital to invest in the capitalist revolution. Wallerstein contrasted this to France, in which the
old court aristocracy had retained its supremacy.145 These points are echoed in part by Arno Mayer,146
who argued for continuity between the landed aristocracy and the capitalist ruling class.
Some apologists for capitalism try to minimize the continuity between the landed and industrial ruling classes, and stress
the plebian origins of industrial capitalists in the nineteenth century. For example:
The early industrialists were for the most part men who had their origin in the same social strata from which their workers
came. They lived very modestly, spent only a fraction of their earnings for their households and put the rest back into the
business. But as the entrepreneurs grew richer, the sons of successful businessmen began to intrude into the circles of the
As Maurice Dobb pointed out, however, although much of the entrepreneurship of the industrial revolution was indeed carried
out by "new men..., devoid of privilege or social standing," they were nevertheless heavily reliant on old money for
their investment capital. Although the new industries were, to an extent, built by men from the humble ranks of master craftsmen
and yeomen farmers with small savings, the great bulk of capital by which industry was financed came from "merchant houses
and from mercantile centres like Liverpool." These humble upstarts were able to make money off their own small savings
only through the favor and patronage of the old ruling class. "[A]ntagonism between the older capitalist strata and the
nouveaux riches of the new industry never went very deep."148
The investment capital available for the industrial revolution was the accumulated loot from centuries of previous robbery
by the ruling class. It was accumulated by the merchant capitalist oligarchies of the late Middle Ages, that took over the
democratic guilds and robbed both urban craftsmen and rural peasants through unequal trade. It was accumulated by the mercantilists
who carried out a similar policy of unequal exchange on a global scale. It was accumulated by a landed ruling class of capitalist
farmers who expropriated the peasantry and became the Whig oligarchy. It was into this old money elite that the new money
men of the nineteenth century were co-opted.
But whatever their class origins, the industrial capitalists of the nineteenth century benefited massively from the previous
coercion of the landed and mercantilist oligarchies. The prejudicial terms on which the British laboring classes sold their
labor were set by the expropriation of their land, and by authoritarian social controls like the Laws of Settlement and the
Combination Law. And the favorable terms on which the British textile industry sold its output were set by the role of British
armed force in creating the "world market," and suppressing foreign competition.
One might argue that the industrial capitalists were passive beneficiaries of such policies, and played no role in their
formation: for example Mises, who portrayed them as offering "salvation" to those reduced to misery by the enclosure movement,
a legacy in which they were innocent of any complicity.149 One might argue that the industrial capitalists would
have preferred to operate in an environment where laborers had independent access to the means of production and subsistence,
could take work or leave it, and could therefore afford to drive harder bargains in the wage market. One might argue that
they would have preferred selling their wares in the face of vigorous competition from Indian and Egyptian textile industry.
One might make such arguments, no doubt, and find plenty gullible enough to believe them.
Capitalism has never been established by means of the free market. It has always been established by a revolution from
above, imposed by a ruling class with its origins in the Old Regime--or as Christopher Hill or Immanuel Wallerstein might
put it, by a pre-capitalist ruling class that had been transformed in a capitalist manner. In England, it was the landed aristocracy;
in France, Napoleon III's bureaucracy; in Germany, the Junkers; in Japan, the Meiji. In America, the closest approach to a
"natural" bourgeois evolution, industrialization was carried out by a mercantilist aristocracy of Federalist shipping magnates
The process by which the high medieval civilization of peasant proprietors, craft guilds and free cities was overthrown,
was vividly described by Kropotkin.151 Before the invention of gunpowder, the free cities repelled royal armies
more often than not, and won their independence from feudal dues. And these cities often made common cause with peasants in
their struggles to control the land. The absolutist state and the capitalist revolution it imposed became possible only when
artillery could reduce fortified cities with a high degree of efficiency, and the king could make war on his own people.152
And in the aftermath of this conquest, the Europe of William Morris was left devastated, depopulated, and miserable.
In the course of the sixteenth century, the modern barbarians were to destroy all that civilization of the cities of the
Middle Ages. These barbarians did not succeed in annihilating it, but in halting its progress at least two or three centuries.
They launched it in a different direction, in which humanity is struggling at this moment without knowing how to escape.
They subjected the individual. They deprived him of all his liberties, they expected him to forget all his unions based
on free agreement and free initiative. Their aim was to level the whole of society to a common submission to the master. They
destroyed all ties between men, declaring that the State and the Church alone, must henceforth create union between their
subjects; tht the Church and the State alone have the task of watching over the industrial, commercial, judicial, artistic,
emotional interests, for which men of the twelfth century were accustomed to unite directly.153
The role of the nascent State in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in relation to the urban centers was to destroy
the independence of the cities; to pillage the rich guilds of merchants and artisans; to concentrate in its hands the external
commerce of the cities and ruin it; to lay hands on the internal administration of the guilds and subject internal commerce
as well as all manufactures, in every detail to the control of a host of officials--and in this way to kill industry and the
arts; by taking over the local militias and the whole municipal administration, crushing the weak in the interest of the strong
by taxation, and ruining the countries by wars.
Obviously, the same tactic was applied to the villages and the peasants. Once the State felt strong enough it eagerly set
about destroying the village commune, ruining the peasants in its clutches and plundering the common lands.154
Of course, the urban communes were also subverted from within. With the help of the rising absolute monarchs, the guilds
and towns were gradually taken over by oligarchies of merchant capitalists and wholesalers, and transformed from democratic
associations of master craftsmen, into "close corporations of the richer merchants, which sought to monopolize wholesale
trade" between town craftsmen and peasants. These merchant capitalists came to control the town governments as well as
the guilds. The democratic governance of the town communes was replaced by oligarchy, in which the franchise was increasingly
restricted and public offices formally barred to all but wealthy burghers. These oligarchs grew rich on unequal exchange,
profiting at the expense both of town laborers and the peasants who bought their goods; craftsmen were prohibited by law from
directly marketing their goods outside the city walls.155
The outcome of the process, both internal subversion and external assault, was that Europe was spoiled as a conquered territory,
and the people living in it were treated as an occupied enemy. The contrast between the Europe before and after this spoilation
could not have been greater:
In the sixteenth century Europe was covered with rich cities, whose artisans, masons, weavers and engravers produced marvelous
works of art; their universities established the foundations of modern empirical science, their caravans covered the continents,
their vessels ploughed the seas and rivers.
What remained two centuries later? Towns with anything from 50,000 to 100,000 inhabitants and which (as was the case of
Florence) had a greater proportion of schools and, in the communal hospitals, beds, in relation to the population than is
the case with the most favored towns today, became rotten boroughs. Their populations were decimated or deported, the State
and Church took over their wealth. Industry was dying out under the rigorous control of the State's employees; commerce dead.
Even the roads which had hitherto linked these cities became impassable in the seventeenth century.156
Peter Tosh had a song called "Four Hundred Years." Although the white working class suffered nothing like the brutality
of black slavery, there has nevertheless been a "four hundred years" of oppression for all of us under the system of state
capitalism established in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Ever since the birth of the first states six thousand years
ago, political coercion has allowed one ruling class or another to live off other people's labor. But since the early modern
period the system of power has become increasingly conscious, unified, and global in scale. The current system of transnational
state capitalism, without rival since the collapse of the soviet bureaucratic class system, is a direct outgrowth of that
seizure of power, that revolution from above, "four hundred years" ago. Orwell had it backwards. The past is a "boot stamping
on a human face." Whether the future is more of the same depends on what we do now.
Appendix: On the "Necessity" of Primitive Accumulation
A central failing of Marxism (or at least the vulgar variety) has been to treat the evolution of particular social and
political forms as natural outgrowths of a given technical mode of production.
No social formation is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed,
and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have
matured within the framework of the old society. Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve,
since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution
are already present or at least in the course of formation. In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois
modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society.157
For the Marxists, a "higher" or more progressive form of society could only come about when productive forces under the
existing form of society had reached their fullest possible development under that society. To attempt to create a free and
non-exploitative society before its technical and productive prerequisites had been achieved would be folly.158
According to Marx, the laboring classes were capable, on their own, of achieving only a "petty bourgeois consciousness"
(to paraphrase Lenin). He quoted, with apparent approval, the paternalistic elitist Owen's statement to similar effect:
Without large capitals, large establishments would not have been formed; men could not have been trained to conceive the
PRACTICABILITY OF EFFECTING NEW COMBINATIONS, IN ORDER TO SECURE A SUPERIOR CHARACTER TO ALL and the production of more wealth
annually than all could conceive.159
In other words, workers were too atavistic to perceive the advantages of voluntary cooperation and combination, of pooling
their resources for large-scale production, without forward-thinking capitalists knocking their heads together and forcing
them to increase the productive forces. By quoting the paternalist Owen with every sign of approval, Marx implied that industrial
production was impossible until the producers were robbed of their property in the means of production and driven like beasts
into the factories.
This echoed his earlier assertion, in The Poverty of Philosophy, that the development of the forces of production
was impossible without class antagonism.
The very moment civilisation begins, production begins to be founded on the antagonism of orders, estates, classes, and
finally on the antagonism of accumulated labour and immediate labour.... No antagonism, no progress.... Till now the productive
forces have been developed by virtue of this system of class antagonisms.160
In raising such a question [as that of Proudhon, as to why the English working class had not received all the gains
of its 27-fold increase in productivity] one would naturally be supposing that the English could have produced this wealth
without the historical conditions in which it was produced, such as: private accumulation of capital, modern division of labour,
automatic workshops, anarchical competition, the wage system--in short, everything that is based upon class antagonism. Now,
these were precisely the necessary conditions of existence for the development of productive forces and of the surplus left
by labour. Therefore, to obtain this development of productive forces and this surplus left by labour, there had to be classes
which profited and classes which decayed.161
Freedom was impossible until slavery had created the material conditions for it. Indeed, Engels put it in so many words,
praising the "progressive" achievements of slavery and successive forms of class exploitation as necessary preconditions of
socialism (much as Christian theologians praise the felix culpa, or "happy sin" of Adam, for making possible the beatific
state of redeemed humanity).
It was slavery that first made possible the division of labour between agriculture and industry on a larger scale, and
thereby also Hellenism, the flowering of the ancient world.. Without slavery, no Greek state, no Greek art and science; without
slavery, no Roman Empire. But without the basis laid by Hellenism and the Roman Empire, also no modern Europe. We should never
forget that our whole economic, political and intellectual development presupposes a state of things in which slavery was
as necessary as it was universally recognized. In this sense we are entitled to say: Without the slavery of antiquity no modern
That the working classes' own forms of self-organization could not have been the basis for industrialization, went without
Glassworks, papermills, ironworks, etc., cannot be organized on guild principles. They require mass production; sale in
a general market; monetary wealth on the part of the entrepreneur.... [U]nder the old property
and production relations these conditions cannot be brought together.163
So industrial production, by definition, is something that cannot be freely organized by producers. Hell on earth is historically
A simple exchange economy, in which labor owned its means of production, was unable to move beyond petty industry of its
This mode of production [petty industry] presupposes parceling of the soil, and scattering of the other means of
production. As it excludes the concentration of these means of production, so also it excludes cooperation, division of labor
within each separate process of production, the control over, and the productive application of, the forces of Nature by society,
and the free development of the social productive powers. It is compatible only with a system of production, and a society,
moving within narrow and more or less primitive bounds. To perpetuate it would be, as Pecqueur rightly says, "to decree universal
The obvious question that springs to mind is, "Why?" Why could not an artisans' guild function as a means of mobilizing
capital for large-scale production, the same as a corporation? Why could not the peasants of a village cooperate in the purchase
and use of mechanized farming equipment? Perhaps because, in the absence of a "progressive" ruling class, they just couldn't
get their minds right. Or maybe just because.
The anarchist position, in contrast, is that exploitation and class rule are not inevitable at any time; they depend upon
intervention by the state, which is not at all necessary. Just social and economic relations are compatible with any level
of technology; technical progress can be achieved and new technology integrated into production in any society, through free
work and voluntary cooperation. Likewise, any technology is amenable to either libertarian or authoritarian applications,
depending on the nature of the society into which it is integrated.
All the technical prerequisites for steam engines had been achieved by the skilled craftsmen of the High Middle Ages. As
Once the great discoveries of the fifteenth century were made, especially that of the pressure of the atmosphere, supported
by a series of advances in natural philosophy--and they were made under the mediaeval city organization,--once these discoveries
were made, the invention of the steam-motor, and all the revolution which the conquest of a new power implied, had necessarily
to follow. If the mediaeval cities had lived to bring their discoveries to that point, the ethical consequences of the revolution
effected by steam might have been different; but the same revolution in technics and science would have inevitably taken place.
It remains, indeed, an open question whether the general decay of industries which followed the ruin of the free cities, and
was especially noticeable in the first part of the eighteenth century, did not considerably retard the appearance of the steam-engine
as well as the consequent revolution in arts.165
Had not the expropriation of the peasantry and the crushing of the free cities taken place, a steam powered industrial
revolution would still have taken place--but the main source of capital for industrializing would have been in the hands of
the democratic craft guilds. The market system would have developed on the basis of producer ownership of the means of production.
Had not Mesopotamian and Egyptian elites figured out six thousand years ago that the peasantry produced a surplus and could
be milked like cattle, free people would still have exchanged their labor and devised ways, through voluntary cooperation,
to make their work easier and more productive. Parasitism is not necessary for progress.
If anything, primitive accumulation hindered the cause of industrial progress at least as much as it helped it. Rather
than furthering the cause of innovation that would not otherwise have taken place, it is more accurate to say that primitive
accumulation created a situation in which the working class could be motivated only by compulsion. Given the
separation of labor from capital, the only means to industrialize and adopt large-scale production was by impoverishing labor
until its only choice lay between accepting work on any terms offered, and starvation. This is not to say that industrialization
could only have occurred under these circumstances--only that the wage system, once created, was limited to the possibilities
set by its own inner logic.
The separation of labor from capital, as has been true of so many aspects of state capitalism, led to irrationality. Laborers
were deprived of the intrinsic motivation to increase the efficiency and productivity of their work methods, which would have
existed in an economy of worker-owned and -organized production. The disutilities and benefits of labor not being fully internalized
by the laborer, the owners of capital could not find a sufficient labor force willing to work.
In fact, the ruling class did not simply impose from above a revolution that could not otherwise have occurred. Rather,
it preempted all alternative possibilities for industrialization from below. To the extent that the only source of investment
capital for machine production came from above, it is because the mercantile interests controlling the guilds and towns had
made it impossible for the laboring class to achieve the same results by horizontal association, and by mobilizing and pooling
their own credit. As we saw above, the mass of investment capital used in the industrial revolution came from the merchant
capitalists, who had taken it from the direct producers by robbery. In such a zero-sum situation, the laboring classes necessarily
had fewer reserves at their own disposal. At the same time, the democratic qualities of the guilds were actively suppressed,
and rendered incapable of serving as a vehicle for craftsmen to mobilize their own capital from below.
It is in this context that we should consider the extended passages in the Grundrisse on the role of usury and merchant
capital in preparing the way for capitalism. The merchant oligarchies, with the help of the state, were able to preempt, crowd
out, or suppress the self-organization of credit and to prohibit direct trade between producers and consumers, while amassing
to themselves large masses of merchant capital through state-enforced monopoly. It was only as a result of this legacy that
merchant capital was able to take control of the supply of raw materials for artisan labor, to control the wholesale marketing
of its products, and thus to organize production under the putting-out system.
1. Franz Oppenheimer, "A Post Mortem on Cambridge Economics (Part II)," The American Journal of Economics
and Sociology 2:4 (1943) 533.
2. Franz Oppenheimer, The State, trans. By John Gitterman (San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes, 1997) li-lii.
3. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Capital vol. 1, vol. 35 of Marx and Engels Collected Works (New York:
International Publishers, 1996) 704-5.
4. Oppenheimer, The State 5-6.
5. Ludwig von Mises, Human Action (Chicago: Regnery, 1949, 1963, 1966) 619-20.
6. Radley Balko, "Third
World Workers Need Western Jobs," Fox News.Com May 6, 2004. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,119125,00.htm Captured May 6, 2004.
7. Art Carden, "Sweatshops," Mises Economics Blog, May 6, 2004. http://www.mises.org/blog/archives/001956.asp#more
Captured May 6, 2004.
8. Oppenheimer, The State 6.
9. Ibid. 7-8.
10. Ibid. 8.
11. Ibid. 8.
12. The term "primitive accumulation" (or "original accumulation"), was originally used by
the classical economists in reference to the process by which, in the mists of time, capital had been originally accumulated
by an owning class distinct from laborers (Adam Smith’s "accumulation of stock"); it was assumed to have
been the result of success in the marketplace. Marx used the term ironically, standing it on its head. The term, succinctly,
referred to "an accumulation not the result of the capitalist mode of production, but its starting point." Marx
and Engels, Capital vol. 1 704.
13. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 705-6.
14. Ibid. 179-80.
15. Ibid. 706.
16. Ibid. 709.
17. J. L. and Barbara Hammond, The Village Labourer (1760-1832) (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1913) 27-8,
18. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 711.
19. R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., 1926) 120.
20. Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, Regulating the Poor (New York: Vintage Books, 1971, 1993) 3-42.
21. Maurice Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd, 1963) 224-5,
22. Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System, Part I (New York: Academic Press, 1974) 251n.
23. Christopher Hill, The Century of Revolution: 1603-1714 (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1961) 147.
24. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism 172.
25. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 713.
26. Christopher Hill, Reformation to the Industrial Revolution, 1603-1714. Vol. 2 of Pelican History of Great Britain
(London: Penguin Books, 1967) 116.
27. Henry George, Progress and Poverty (New York: Walter J. Black, 1942) 320.
28. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 714.
29. Michael Perelman, Classical Political Economy: Primitive Accumulation and the Social Division of Labour (Totowa,
N.J.: Rowman & Allanheld; London: F. Pinter, 1984, c 1983) 48-9.
30. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism 226; Considerations Concerning Common Fields and Enclosures
(1653), in Ibid. 226.
31. The Hammonds, Village Labourer 42.
32. E. J. Hobsbawm and George Rudé, Captain Swing (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1968) 27.
33. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism 227.
34. "Development as Enclosure: The Establishment of the Global Economy," The Ecologist (July/August
35. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 715.
36. Qt. In Ibid. 610.
37. Hill, Reformation to the Industrial Revolution 275.
38. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 231.
39. Perelman, Classical Political Economy 38.
40. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage, 1963, 1966) 219-20, 358.
41. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 716.
42. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, vol. 3 of Marx and Engels Collected Works
(New York: International Publishers, 1998) 205.
43. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism 222.
44. Hill, Reformation to the Industrial Revolution 222.
45. Trevor Ashton, An Economic History of England: the 18th Century (London: University Paperbacks, 1972)
115, qt. in Perelman, Classical Political Economy 38.
46. Kirkpatrick Sale, Human Scale (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1980) 162.
47. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 717-8.
48. Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy, the State (Delavan, Wisc.: Hallberg Publishing Corp., 1983) 106n.
49. Hill, Reformation to the Industrial Revolution 121.
50. Perelman, Classical Political Economy 41-2.
51. Ibid. 42.
52. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 752.
53. Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Chicago, London, Toronto: Encyclopedia
Britannica, Inc. 1952).
54. E. G. Wakefield, A View of the Art of Colonization. Reprints of Economic Classics (New York: Augustus M. Kelley,
1969 (1849)) 166.
55. E. G. Wakefield, England and America II:5, qt. in Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 755.
56. Wakefield, England and America I:131, qt. in ibid. 756-7.
57. Herman Merivale, Lectures on Colonisation and Colonies, qt. in Ibid. 757.
58. Wakefield, View of the Art of Colonization 332-3.
59. Gary B. Nash, Class and Society in Early America (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970) 23, 33,
60. Nock, Our Enemy, the State 67.
61. Ibid. 67n.
62. Ibid. 69.
63. Ibid. 71.
64. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism 222.
65. Ibid. 23-4.
66. Six Centuries of Work and Wages, qt. in Ibid. 233.
67. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 723-6.
68. Hill, Reformation to the Industrial Revolution 141-2.
69. Smith, Wealth of Nations 59-61.
70. Ibid. 60.
71. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 273; all material in quotes is from Ferrand’s Speech in the House of Commons,
April 27, 1863.
72. Qt. in ibid 746.
73. J. L. and Barbara Hammond, The Town Labourer (1760-1832) (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1917) 1:44, 147.
74. Michael A. Hoffman II, They Were White and They Were Slaves: The Untold History of the Enslavement of Whites in
Early America. 4th ed. (Dresden, N.Y.: Wiswell Ruffin House, 1992) 16.
75. Thompson, Making of the English Working Class 223-4.
76. Smith, Wealth of Nations 61; Hammonds, Town Labourer 1:74.
77. Thompson, Making of the English Working Class 199-202.
78. The Hammonds, Town Labourer 123-7.
79. Smith, Wealth of Nations 61.
80. See Piven and Cloward, Regulating the Poor, on how these purposes were served by 20th century welfare
and labor legislation.
81. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 247.
82. Ibid. 276n.
83. Ibid. 729.
84. Ibid. 729-30.
85. Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1913, 1977).
86. Smith, Wealth of Nations 61.
87. Hammonds, Town Labourer 1:33-4.
88. Steven A. Marglin, "What Do Bosses Do? The Origins and Functions of Hierarchy in Capitalist Production--Part
I" Review of Radical Political Economics (Summer 1974) .
91. Andrew Ure, Philosophy of Manufactures, in Thompson, Making of the English Working Class 360.
92. David Noble, America by Design: Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism (N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf,
93. Hammonds, Town Labourer 72.
94. Ibid. 80.
95. Ibid. 91-2.
96. "Planting the Liberty Tree," Chapter Five of Thompson, Making of the English Working Class.
97. Ibid. 197-8.
98. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 741.
99. Cecil Rhodes, qt. In "Development as Enclosure" 134.
100. Hill, Reformation to the Industrial Revolution 129.
101. Ibid. 127.
102. Ibid. 128.
103. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism 202.
104. Ibid. 203-4.
105. Ibid. 210.
106. Ibid. 206.
107. Wakefield, A View of the Art of Colonization 324-6.
108. Hill, Reformation to the Industrial Revolution 185.
109. James G. Leyburn, The Scotch-Irish (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1962) 176.
110. Hoffman, They Were White and They Were Slaves 55, 77.
111. Thomas Wertenbaker, The First Americans: 1607-1690 (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1971) 24-5.
112. A. Roger Ekirch, Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775 (Oxford,
UK: Clarendon Paperbacks, 1987) 134-40.
113. Ibid. 1.
114. Ibid. 27.
115. Ibid. 55, 58.
116. Richard Hofstadter, America at 1750: A Social Portrait (New York: Vintage Books, 1973) 34-5.
117. Hill, Reformation to the Industrial Revolution 143.
118. Hoffman, They Were White and They Were Slaves 72-3.
119. Ibid. 80.
120. Ibid. 85-6.
121. Ibid. 85-90.
122. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism 205.
123. Hill, Reformation to the Industrial Revolution 191.
124. Ibid. 191.
125. Noam Chomsky, World Orders Old and New (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998) 115.
126. Noam Chomsky, Keeping the Rabble in Line (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1994) 87.
127. David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World (West Hartford, Conn.: Kumarian Press, 1995; San Francisco,
Calif.: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1995) 252.
128. "Development as Enclosure" 134.
129. Ibid. 138-9.
130. Ibid. 135-7.
131. Immanuel Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism (London, New York: Verso, 1983) 41-2.
132. Peter Kropotkin, The State: Its Historic Role, http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/kropotkin/state/state_toc.html Captured November 12, 2003. Sec. IV.
133. Ibid. Sec. V.
134. Ibid. Sec. IV.
135. See Jean Gimpel, The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages (New York: Penguin, 1977);
also Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1909) 297-8.
136. G. K. Chesterton, A Short History of England (New York: John Lane Company, 1917) 163-4.
137. Kropotkin, The State Sec. VII.
138. Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System, Part II (New York: Academic Press, 1980) 31.
139. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism 235-6.
140. Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism 105-6.
141. Wallerstein, The Modern World System, Part I 62, 286.
142. Ibid. 245-6, 256; Perez Zagorin, "The Second Interpretation of the English Revolution," Journal of
Economic History (September 3, 1959) qt. in ibid. 256.
143. Hill, Reformation to the Industrial Revolution 50.
144. Wallerstein, The Modern World-System, Part I 283.
145. Ibid. 290.
146. Arno Mayer, The Persistence of the Old Regime
147. Mises, Human Action 622.
148. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism 22, 277-8.
149. Mises, Human Action 620.
150. Michael Harrington, The Twilight of Capitalism (Simon and Schuster, 1976)
151. Kropotkin, Mutual Aid 215-22, 226-7, 230
152. See, for example, John S. Pettingill, "Firearms and the Distribution of Income: A Neoclassical Model,"
Review of Radical Political Economics (Summer 1981) 1-10.
153. Kropotkin, The State Sec. VI.
154. Ibid. Sec. VIII.
155. Dobb, Studies in the Development of Capitalism 88-124.
156. Kropotkin, The State Sec. VII.
157. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy 263.
158. In fairness, Michael Harrington argued that that work was a deliberate simplification and did not do justice to the
complexity of Marx’s thought as a whole. Twilight of Capitalism 37-41.
159. Six Lectures at Manchester, qt. in Karl Marx, Grundrisse, vol. 29 of Marx and Engels Collected Works
(New York: International Publishers, 1987) 99.
160. Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, vol. 6 of Marx and Engels Collected Works (New York: International
Publishers, 1976) 132.
161. Ibid. 159.
162. Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, vol. 25 of Marx and Engels Collected Works (New York: International
Publishers, 1987) 168.
163. Marx, Grundrisse 435.
164. Marx and Engels, Capital vol. 1 749.
165. Kropotkin, Mutual Aid 297.