Accumulation and Decomposition in the Era of Lift and Separate, 3
Mexico: Land, Labor, and the Forty Percent Bourgeoisie
5. OP LandL
The radical bourgeois....therefore goes forward theoretically to a refutation of the private ownership of land, which in the form of state property, he would like to turn into the common property of the bourgeois class, of capital. But in practice he lacks the courage, since an attack on one form of property,-- a form of private ownership of the condition of labor-- might cast considerable doubts on the other form. Besides, the bourgeois has himself become an owner of land.
--Karl Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 8, 1863
Let's Review: For capital to become capital, for the bourgeoisie to become the bourgeoisie, the capacity for labor has to be detached from the means of labor, so that labor itself appears as a commodity with only one use, its usefulness in exchange for the medium by which labor can purchase its own subsistence. The laborers confronts the condition of labor as alien to themselves. The condition then dictates to the laborer the terms of his/her subsistence and social reproduction.
For the bourgeoisie, this original, repeating, and permanent dispossession or separability appears in the markets, as the alienability, the purchase and sale, of the means of production of subsistence itself, of the land itself. For rent to exist as a commercial relation, not a personal one, or one of service, land must be more than owned. It must be endowed with value, the value that only exists and survives by being reproduced as more value in the products of labor performed on the land. Land must be separated, and then opposed to labor. The social relation, the buying and selling of labor power precedes the commercial relation of renting land for production for markets, of production not for subsistence, but for the medium of subsistence that also represents the expansion of value. .
The ascendancy of the bourgeoisie, the measure of the strength, the advancement, the modernity of its rule over society, is indexed in the development of agricultural productivity, in the size of the population dispossessed, released from agricultural production-- in the changes in land tenure, from serf, slave, bondsman, peasant; from manor, hacienda, plantation; from lord, slaveholder, cacique, caudillo; from tenant-farmer, sharecropper, debt peon. And the change to agricultural capitalist and rural worker. The advancement of bourgeois rule over society, as opposed to the advancement of society, and the vitality of that rule, as opposed to the vitality of the society, are indexed in the degree of separation, individual, collective, and communal from landholding, and land-using, for direct subsistence of the producers.
Let's Continue: Economically, the district or the estate or the town or even sometimes the family is self-sufficing, producing its own food, making its own clothing, manufacturing its own tools, or bartering with neighbors for the few necessities that cannot be supplied from the domestic stock. The methods of agriculture, like the implements with which they work, are medieval...
Over a large part of the country (as in other nations of Latin America) the land is held much as it was in Spain before the discovery of the New World-- in that age when in Western Europe the feudal system of land tenure still survived the decay of feudalism as a recognized institution. -- George McCutchen McBride, The Land Systems of Mexico, New York 1923.
The Spanish invaders, upon conquering the Aztecs, intended to replace the Aztec elite in kind; to rule the same empire with a different name, New Spain, through commanding tribute, and service, from the conquered.
So small were the Spanish numbers, so backward their institutions of religion and property that if it hadn't been for the epidemics inflicted upon the indigenous peoples, the conquerors would surely have been swallowed up and absorbed by the conquered. Disease is the secret to Spain's success in New Spain. Taxation, tribute, the encomienda would have been nothing without the power of pestilence...in the beginning.
The first epidemics struck the indigenous peoples even before Tenochtitlan had fallen. By 1548, 70 percent of the indigenous population had died out. By the end of the 16th century, the decline exceeded 90 percent.
The conquistadores carried lots of germs with them, but not the germs of new relations of land and labor. They took the land in the name of the King and Queen, but their interests, and their god, was a lot closer at hand than the monarchy and its court. The conquerors required service, labor service to mine the metals, labor service to tend the land, labor service as a form of taxation itself on the life of the indigenous peoples. The encomienda which had been exported to the Spanish Caribbean from the Canary Islands was reexported to New Spain. The encomienda was presented as a system of mutual obligations between the conquered and the conquerors, with however, only one side required to actually serve and labor for the other.
In the Caribbean, the labor and service of the conquered was organized on the basis of kinship of the indigenous peoples. In New Spain, where much of the territory and the population was already organized in villages, towns, and districts-- where the original kinship relations of land and land use had already given way to territorial organization--, the encomiendas were likewise constituted in the aggregation of districts, villages, territory. With the original encomiendas, service of the conquered was demanded and delivered to the conquerors, while the property of the indigenous peoples was to be respected. Theoretically. With the encomiendas territoriales, labor service became indistinct from the land tenure relations that bound the conquered to conquistadores. The demand on the laborer for service became the demand on the laborers' property. The expropriation of property became the essential relation for the reproduction of the laborers' service.
The Spanish monarchy had acknowledged, granted, and even supported the villages rights to their own properties. The Spanish crown essentially incorporated the villages as tax and tribute paying units, collectivities. The encomienda obstructed that tribute relation.
This produced more than a little bit of conflict between the crown and the conquistadores, none of it of any benefit to the indigenous peoples. The conquistadores imagined themselves as the nobility of the New Spain, bequeathing their titles, their entitlements, as property to their offspring. Originally, the grants of encomiendas could be revoked by the crown at any time for any reason. That didn't sit particularly well with our noble plague-carriers. In 1536, grants were extended by law to include two generations-- the original recipient and his children. This didn't sit well either. In 1542 when new laws attempted to abolish the encomiendas, opposition in New Spain and Peru was so intense that the laws were withdrawn. Decrees were established allowing the bequeathing of the encomiendas to a third, fourth, and fifth generation.
The territory of the encomiendas itself was entailed. It could not be divided. It was inalienable, without the power of exchange, the power to be exchanged. Entailed estates were the earthly manifestation of the pretenders to nobility. Entailment prohibited the selling of estates to any church, monastery, or church official. This did not stop the church from accumulating its own entailed lands.
The immense size of the encomiendas, the personal appropriation of the labor of the indigenous peoples as a, and in a, form of service, radically restricted agricultural production and threatened the crown's administrative centers, the cities. The encomiendas had to be abolished. And they were abolished, although it took most of the 18th century to accomplish that task.
The decimation of the indigenous population, rather than the resistance of the crown, put an end to the conquistadores pretense at nobility. Labor service was difficult to obtain, and impossible to maintain without aggrandizing the land of the pueblos. While the encomienda disappeared, the aggrandizement of the indigenous peoples' lands continued. The mechanism of service crumbled, or rather was displaced onto the haciendas.
The hacendados did more than just dream of passing on their titles, now titles in land, to their offspring. They lived it, spending their time in the cities while overseers administered the estates. The lands of the pueblos, while still seized, were no longer just objects of accumulation. The indigenous pueblos themselves were incorporated into the haciendas almost as internal colonies, functioning in a sense as mitochondria in the autonomous cellular structure of the haciendas.
In 1767, the Spanish crown ordered the expulsion of the Jesuits from all the lands of the conquest. The Jesuits owned many haciendas which were seized and sold to the "public" under supervision of the vice-royalty. Before, during, and after the struggle for independence, church lands were seized and sold, rendering onto Caesar what was once, if not the property of the greatest absentee landlord of them all, then at least the property of god's favorite realty company.
While land tenure relations varied throughout Mexico prior to the conquest, with hunting/gathering tribes of the north, and some coastal regions having no concept of land ownership, collective and communal landholdings were widespread in the Yucatan and the Mesa Central. The callipulli, originally an organization of communal property based on kinship, became an organization of communal property based on territory. Each village held, as a village, surrounding land, called the altepetlalli, for cultivation and for hunting, quarrying, timber. Water rights were so precisely calculated and distributed that the Aztec code was preserved and adopted by the Spanish.
The indigenous pueblos also distributed plots of land for family use, called tlatlmilli. These plots were held in perpetuity by families. Within the framework of communal territory and clan holdings, individual holdings were allotted.
While land was held in common in the Aztec system, use of the land was dedicated to specific social relations of production; the land were worked in common by the calipulli, but the products of the calipulli were divided and assigned to the payment of tribute, the support of the priesthood, and provisions for military expeditions. Specific lands, called tlatocatlalli, were cultivated for the chiefs. Tecpantlalli were lands cultivated for the maintenance of the chief's family and court.
These lands, altepetlalli, tlatlmilli, tecpantalli, were also inalienable, and could not be appropriated from the callipulli by the chiefs.
Nevertheless, before and apart from the conquest, communal land tenure was being eroded by the growth of large estates on which tenants labored in share-cropping arrangements with the estate holders. These tenants were bound to the land as serfs. The estates themselves could be transferred, but not to the tenants, and when transferred, the tenants were transferred as part of the property of the estate. The tenants were a class apart from the callipulli, exempt from paying tribute to the chiefs or from working on the communal lands.
The conquest introduced the presidio, mission, and the Castilian pueblo into Mexico. The Castilian pueblo was a landholding body, an incorporation, where land was administered, leased, rented. Pasture lands were held in common as were areas for threshing of grain, hunting, production of charcoal, and storage. The ejido, often mistaken as the simple communism of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, was in fact the name for the common land at the outside the gates, or exit, of the Castilian village, and was introduced after the conquest.
The Spanish crown, assuming the status of chief, recognizing in the indigenous pueblo as parallel to the Castilian pueblo, "awarded" legal status to the communal and collective land tenure relations by incorporating these pueblos. The communal landholding arrangements made the pueblo the "natural" vehicle for the collection and remittance of tribute to the monarchy. In all its glory, the Spanish Empire was nothing more than a "subsistence plus" economy, with tribute being nothing more than direct aggrandizement for, and of, consumption, rather than a basis for expanded reproduction and for accumulation. .
6. Legacy Assets
It is this legacy of the conquest, of mercantile-feudal Spain, of conquistadores and monarch-- a legacy that one and the same time embraces the near extermination of the indigenous peoples and the preservation and incorporation of communal relations of land tenure, and subsistence agriculture into an economy of tribute and extraction-- that determines in all their modernity the conflicts, contradictions, antagonisms of the capitalist economic development of Mexico. It is this legacy that organically fuses underdevelopment and overproduction.
Interruption: Two cents worth and repeated
1. The bourgeoisie, developed/undeveloped and all states in between, recognize dispossession as the foundation to private ownership of the means of production. If Duchamp, working with glass, stripped bare the bride, the capitalist working with history stripped bare the laborer, divesting him/her of the visible means of support so that life itself hung by the skimpiest of threads, and that the only value he/she had was that of labor, and the only value that labor had was as a means of exchange for a wage, for access to subsistence.
2. This stripping bare is an historical process, definitive for capitalism in its emergence and development, persistent in every manifestation of capital's reproduction but always circumscribed, mitigated, deformed by the actual existing relations of production and property, not the least of which is the unevenness of capitalism's development not solely internal to a nation or country, but unevenness on the global platform. As capital becomes the dominant social relation globally, as it achieves valorisation through aggrandizing that labor stripped bare somewhere, at home or away, the less this world of capital can, or achieves, the stripping bare of labor everywhere, the transformation of the "pre-capitalist" social relations, the more it, capital, absorbs, accommodates, adapts those relations to its plastic universe of value. Marx writes in Capital, Vol 2: "No matter whether a commodity is the product of slavery, of peasants [Chinese, Indian ryots], of communes [Dutch East Indies], or of state enterprise [such as existed in the former epochs of Russian history on the basis of serfdom], or of half-savage hunting tribes, etc., commodities and money of such modes of production, when coming in contact with commodities and money representing industrial capital, enter as much into its rotation as into that of surplus-values embodied in the commodity-capital, provided the surplus-value is spent as revenue. They enter into both of the cycles of circulation of commodity-capital. The character of the process of production from which they emanate is immaterial. They perform the function of commodities on the market, and enter into the cycles of industrial capital as well as into those of the surplus-value carried by it. It is the universal character of the commodities, the world character of the market, which distinguishes the process of rotation of the industrial capital."-- Kerr Edition Vol 2. p. 125. A neat, and prescient, analysis of the basis for uneven and combined development, bright fellow that Karl.
Resumption: About the same time as its neighbors to the north, the South and the North of the United States, were solidifying their great compromise of the Kansas-Nebraska with that overture to civil war known as Bloody Kansas, the Mexican Revolution of Ayutla overthrew Santa Anna and set the stage for the Liberal government and La Reforma.
La Reforma imagined the conversion of the corporate forms of landed property, entailed estates of the church, haciendas, and the communal lands of the indigenous pueblos into units of free soil, "yeoman" farms, but the legacy of the conquest and landed property condemned the liberals to power as an imaginary bourgeoisie, lacking the cohesion, depth, grasp of and on the economy, and not least importantly, the money required to actually turn dreams into reality.
In order to support an actual national government, in 1861 Juarez asserted federal control over the revenues flowing into the coffers and pockets of the state governors. At the same time, he imposed a moratorium on servicing the international debt, suspending interest payments for two years. France, Britain, and Spain temporarily put aside their differences to propose a joint occupation of the ports of Mexico, garnishing all customs payment due Mexico in compensation for the heartache and anxiety Juarez's actions had inflicted on the fragile health of the their gentile bankers. While Juarez organized against the proposed invasion, the dream of a yeoman's capitalism in agriculture faded in Mexico just as it was fading away globally.
Liberalism was incapable of transforming the relations of land and labor. However precise, stringent, detailed the the written laws of La Reforma disentailing estates of church and pueblo, however great the commitment of the liberals to individual private property, the liberals lacked the economic weight, the possession of a mass of productive apparatus, and a mode of production, capable of overpowering, bulldozing [almost literally] and burying [literally] its own antecedent. Juarez and his generals, Mariano Escobedo in the north and Porfiro Diaz in the south, could wage, lead, and conquer in the War of Intervention, expelling the French, executing that poor imitation of a poor imitation of an emperor enthroned by that other poor imitation of an emperor, Louis Bonaparte. They could not overcome the the convergence of Mexico's past with the future of capitalism, which future was already unfolding in the reconstitution of the Southern plantation class by the US bourgeoisie. Past and future joined hands when the Juarez government acknowledged its obligation to service 65.5 million pesos of debt owed to Britain.
Debt, that alpha and omega of value, was the kiss of death planted on the bride when she arrived at the altar of capitalism with her dowry of small property .
If the liberals imagined an economy of honest yeoman working small estates to support the edifice of capitalism, Porifirio Diaz was a man of spectacularly successful in lacking an imagination. Big property, incorporating small property through its aggrandizement was no dream; it was "progress." Diaz offered companies undertaking the survey of public lands ownership of one-third of the surveryed property. Between 1883 and 1910, 27 percent of the total area of the republic was conveyed to private companies. By 1910, Mexico, a country of 14 million rural producers representing 64 percent of the working population, was also a country where 95 percent of rural families were landless and 5 percent of the population controlled 90 percent of the land. The indigenous pueblos, most of which were incorporated into the physical territory and direct rule of the haciendas, had become villages of hired men and migrant plantation hands; a rural, semi-migrant proletariat.
Where debt and expropriation didn't suffice to eviscerate the indigenous pueblos, "progress" leant its hand. Marshes were drained to clear areas for tillage, properly set irrigation lines and other commercial reasons. The destruction of the marshes eliminated the pueblo's access to fish, an important source of protein. External sources of income from market activities, such as weaving, were destroyed when the rushes and reeds disappeared along with the marshes. Pueblo agriculture underwent a dramatic involution, where greater applications of labor on smaller plots of land were necessary to provide even near-subsistence yields.
With such dramatic destruction of the indigenous lands, the stage should have been set for Act 2 in the melodrama of capitalism's rise-- the movement of the landless, laboring populations into the cities, where an entrepreneurial bourgeoisie, rubbing its palms and licking its chops, having gathered the means of production beneath its skirts would now launch itself into the wonderful song and dance of "Accumulation Now and Forever!" Except there was little enough of those means of production in and around the cities. Except the accumulation that was taking place was accumulation based on the already existing markets of the advanced countries, not the domestic market. Except that the domestic market was not that of the yeoman farmer expanding production through applications of technology to agriculture; it was the market of the hacienda, the sugar plantations in Morelos, the henequen plantations in the Yucatan. Except capitalism in its international, world-historical development had already dropped the curtain on "independent," "small" production.
Labor on these plantations was in part labor of debt peonage, in part forced labor, that is labor compelled as punishment rather than by economic necessity. The Yaqui people were shipped to the plantations as punishment for their resistance to the expropriation of their access to water and land in Sonora. Indigenous people from other states were sentenced to plantation labor for similar reasons. At the beginning of the 20th century, the henequen plantations were controlled by a group of thirty planter families, called the casta divina.
These thirty families depended on selling their production to the US, and to one customer above all in the US, International Harvester. Harvester had taken care to "hedge" its vulnerability by reaching a secret agreement with the planter-merchant Olegario Molina. Molina, acting as if he just stepped out the pages of Capital granted loans to other planters that were collateralized by their production of henequen. The price of the henequen offered as collateral was fixed, of course, below market. Gaining control of henequen, Molina was able to leverage that control into the purchase of railroads and warehouses-- the elements critical to the transportation of the henequen to market; to the circulation of the commodity of henequen.
The agreement between Harvester and Molina stipulated that Molina would make every effort to "depress the price of sisal fiber," agreeing to pay "only those prices...dictated by the International Harvester Company." In order to give Molina the leverage in the market necessary to drive prices down, Molina was given access to 10,000 bales of henequen held in inventory by International Harvester. Molina was awarded a commission, naturally, on every bale of henequen he secured for Harvester under this agreement.
The overall social product of this Harvester-hacienda alliance was...not unlike the impact of the conquistadores on the indigenous people in the 16th century. Near extermination. Between the recession of 1907 and the outbreak of the Revolution in 1910, Diaz had 16,000 Yaquis shipped to the Yucatan. The average life expectancy after arrival on a plantation..... one year.
7. Extraction and Accumulation
After 1873, the inflow of foreign investment into Mexico increased and was welcomed by Diaz, his cientificos, and the governors of the state districts. Directed towards mines and plantations, into an economy of extraction, the investment still and always required a means of transportation. Without any inland waterway system, rail was the only efficient means. Even an economy of extraction requires some accumulation.
The first rail line was constructed in 1873, connecting Mexico City and Veracruz. By 1883, more than 3000 miles of railroads had been constructed; by 1893, 6000 miles; by 1909, 11,000 miles. By 1910, capital invested in railroads measured 2 billion dollars, 80 percent of which was US owned. This represented 70 percent of all foreign investment in Mexico. Transport costs decline from an estimated ten cents per ton-kilometer by wagon in 1878 to 2.3 cents per ton-kilometer by rail in 1903.
The expansion of the railroads was accompanied by widespread dispossession of pueblo lands. Access to rail connections was vital to hacienda and plantation production, and the hacendados acted according to their interests.
The railroad were instrumental in centralizing power in Mexico, undermining the internal tariffs between states. Willing to share the spoils with the caciques, the government funded creation of the rurales, armed gangs to control the rural poor and break strikes. While the country remained overwhelmingly agricultural, employment in mining, manufacturing, transport, petroleum, and construction accelerated as the railroads grew.
Even an economy of extraction requires some degree of accumulation, and accumulation did occur. The great merchant families, spying a glimpse of a national market in the tracks of the rail system, invested in steel, cement, textile, cigaret, and beer production. However, the conditions in Mexico, and in the world markets required these merchants to initiate their enterprises as joint-stock companies to raise the funds necessary to initiate production.
Lacking a capital goods producing capability, as well as an intermediate goods producing capability, industrial accumulation required importing these means of production from the advanced capitalist countries of Europe, and the United States. While the development of the domestic market in Mexico was perhaps 50 years behind that of the United States and England, the machinery imported for the industrial start-up was of the most modern design, requiring large initial outlays of capital that could be recuperated by operating the equipment intensely and ceaselessly, thus lowering unit costs, thus aggrandizing the maximum portion of relative surplus value.... and thus propelling overproduction as the intensified production outran and overwhelmed expanded reproduction.
For all the wealth that flowed out of Mexico, and the wealth that flowed into the pockets of the merchants, bankers, the pockets of the caciques, the pockets of the cientificos, Mexico was fundamentally a poor country, and poor not just in the incomes of its population, but poor in the development of the markets that could support--capitalize--industrial production. The bonding and bondage of the indigenous people to the land of the hacienda, of the plantation, and to the ejido, the bonding of the rural population to direct production for subsistence limited the exchange of industrial and agricultural commodities.
The products of the haciendas, the plantations, the fincas, the monterias had acted as commodities, has been absorbed by capital in the world markets, thus dissolving its expropriated value into the general stream of values in the markets; thus contributing, and drawing, a portion of the profits distributed by the total of exchanges in the market; thus drawing industrial capital towards itself.
And capital did follow the promise whispered by the hacienda, the plantation, the cacique, the hacendado, the cientifico. By 1895, 2 million labored in mines, manufacturing, transport, petroleum. In 1878, Mexico counted 99 textile mills with an average of 2000 spindles per mill. In 1910 there were 148 mills with an average of 4500 spindles each. Twenty mills had more carried more than 10,000 spindles.
The concentration of capital in textile production was severe. Two firms controlled 20 percent of all output and 100 percent of fine weave cloth production.
In steel and cement, similar concentrations existed. However, the limited nature of the market, and the importation of the production machinery from the advanced countries meant that the steel and cement industries output rarely exceeded 40 percent of capacity. Industrial capitalism in Mexico was a 40 percent endeavor, with a 40 percent bourgeoisie. Average real rates of return on for investors in industrial capitalism, boosted by the profitable tobacco and beer industries, rarely exceeded 3 percent.
In short, in essence, in actuality, what the United States and the advanced capitalist countries had experienced in the Long Deflation, 1873-1898 on a cyclical basis, overproduction, the pace of private production overwhelming the expansion of reproduction of the entire society, Mexico experienced as a congenital, structural, persistent condition. The obvious characteristics of Mexican industrial capital were its large initial costs of capitalization; its use of joint stock companies; its concentration and vertical integration; and most importantly, that its productive power exceeded, at the outset, its ability to achieve expanded reproduction. In this, Mexico showed the advanced countries, all of capitalism, its own future; a future of war and revolution as the means of production had outgrown the existing social relations of production, those relations of labor and land.
More than that, the more difficulty industrial capital confronts in its expanded reproduction, the more important become the values thrown into the market from the haciendas, the plantations, the "backward" units of "non"-capitalist production to the realization and distribution of any part of the total values in the market, as the lower wages paid to the rural labor force translated into reduced costs for advanced capitals. The less the relative exploitation of labor can develop, the more the absolute exploitation of labor becomes essential to maintenance of the entire system of exploitation.
The Mexican Revolution proved that the bourgeoisie had no answers to the problem of rural poverty; to the questions of land and rural labor. Not Madero, Huerta, Carranza, Obregon, Plutarco Calles, not the Convention of Aguascalientes, not the Constitutional Article 27, not Cardenas. Not even Villa or Zapata. Not even the Plan de Ayala. The rural struggles continued until 1940 and the beginning of World War 2, proving that.
The answers were in the expropriation of the haciendas, the plantations, the fincas, but how could a 40 percent bourgeoisie expropriate the landlords when landlords were the other 60 percent of capitalism?
The answers reside with a class capable of overthrowing all relations of private property in land and labor and then bequeathing a portion of that collective rural property to the indigenous peoples.
Mexico's development, its relations of classes, its very "national" revolution were international in origin; determined in and by the world markets. Likewise, the emancipation of the Mexican people, the indigenous peoples, the pueblos, the landless could not be achieved then, or now, on a national basis.
Sources: Zapata and the Mexican Revolution, John Womack, Jr., Vintage Books, New York 1968; The Mexican Revoluion 1910-1940, Michael J. Gonzales, University of New Mexico Press, 2002; Peace By Revolution, Frank Tannenbaum, Columbia University Press, 1933; Growth Against Development-- The Economic Impact of Railroads in Porfirian Mexico, John H. Coatsworth, Northern Illinois University Press, 1981; Industry and Underdevelopment, The Industrialization of Mexico 1890-1940, Stephen H. Haber, Stanford University Press, 1989; A Concise History of Mexico, Brian R. Hamnett, Cambridge University Press, 2006; The Railways of Mexico, A Study in Nationalization, John H. McNeely, Texas Western College Press, 1964; Agrarian Revolt in a Mexican Village, Paul Friedrich, Prentice-Hall 1970; The Land Systems of Mexico, George McCutchen McBride, American Geographical Society, New York 1923; The Mexican Revolution and the Limits of Agrarian Reform 1915-1946, Dana Markiewicz, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1993.
March 2, 2010
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March 2, 2010
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