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The Connection Between Slavery, Growth Of Capitalism, And Colonization

1331 words - 6 pages

Robinson (1984) affirms that there exists a close relationship between the growth of capitalism and slavery. Slaves were the property of slave owners; slaves were dehumanised because they were commodities that were sold and they represented unfree labour (Robinson, 1984). According to Marx (1984, 45), the profits made by the slaves were prime to the primitive accumulation which then led to the growth of manufacturing and industrial capitalism. The value created by slave labour was appropriated by the metropole, and this created immeasurable disparities of wealthy between the colonies and the metropole, both historical wealth and contemporary wealth (Robinson, 1984). For example, the raw material used in production of textiles, which led the Industrial Revolution in Britain, was slave-produced. Robinson (1984:46) argues that the economic footing of slave labour and slavery formed the economic basis of the political ideologies that emerged from the French Revolution, i.e. liberty, equality and fraternity – thus the economy and politics are inseparable. One may thus argue that when colonialism (politics) was established, then capitalism (economy) was expanded, for example, the more colonies Britain had, the more capitalism grew. Slavery, says W.E.B du Bois, was a significant subsystem of capitalism and that at the centre of the economics of slavery was the idea of the racial superiority of non-black people (Robinson, 1984: 61). The underlying principle for the development of capitalism was slavery and it was thus not coincidental (Robinson, 1984: 47).
Furthermore, the relationship between slave labour and the growth of capitalism resulted in the colonial conquest of Africa by Europe. South Africa is a geological area that was drastically transformed by the arrival and occupation of the Dutch and British from 1652 to 1931(South African History Online, 2012: 81-84). The European settlers divested the locals, such as the Khoisan, of their land and livestock and attempted to get the locals to work for them and this benefitted the Europeans because they gained profit since they did not have to pay for land and labour and thus capitalism grew as a result. The locals withstood the divestment and occupation and also resisted working the land for settlers (South African History Online, 2012). The settlers responded through the use of violence and by introducing slavery and other forms of forced labour. The supposed superiority of European persons as opposed to the supposed inferiority of non-European persons resulted in non-European labour being integrated into South African capitalism as forced and cheap labour - for instance, indentured workers from India who had to work in sugar plantations in Natal and the forced migration of African labour to work in mines in the Transvaal. The privileged jobs went to the European settlers while the low-ranked jobs went to the local Africans. It is therefore clear that a racial hierarchy emerged which shaped the...

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