[lbo-talk] Re: decentralised genocides

Bill Bartlett billbartlett at enterprize.net.au
Sun Jun 8 06:42:41 PDT 2003

At 2:55 PM +0800 8/6/03, Grant Lee wrote:

>On the contrary, I think that "state genocide" almost always _is_ "free
>enterprise genocide" --- with the obvious exception of those cases which
>occurred under ultraleftist regimes --- since there have always been
>economic beneficiaries (in terms of primitive accumulation and disciplining
>labour) among the bourgeoisie. Also, can you name one case where the state
>actually (as opposed to rhetorically) opposed a case of "free enterprise
>genocide" _while_ it was happening?

I gather the British government did make some effort to moderate the colonial squatters in New South Wales. That's why they were called "squatters", because they occupied vast areas of Aboriginal land without authority.

> > you must be unaware
>> of the wars of extermination waged in Brazil
>Give me a break, I said there were cases of genocide in modern settler
>>if you walk into the Museum of History of Rio Grande do Sul, the first
>> thing you see is a history of the resistance of the Indians and other
>> against the state... Australians simply cannot even assimilate Aborigines
>into their national
>> narrative, except as some kind of wildlife. (Australian coins each feature
>> a different weird aussie critter - Kangaroo, Echidna, Platypus - except
>> one, which features a nameless Aboriginal-looking man.)
>I don't know enough about Brazilian culture to really comment on the
>comparison. The design of the A$2 coin _is_ weird --- I think this must be a
>common form of racism/denial/cultural appropriation in ex-colonial
>societies, considering the similar fetishisation of Indians in North
>American culture. (Speaking of museums, I haven't verified this, but an
>Argentine friend tells me that the facade of the natural history museum in
>Buenos Aires includes the image of a medicine man . having sex.)
>> In the Australasian area we actually have an intricately detailed case
>> of immunological shock, the fate of the indentured labourers in
>> The maximal case against this being criminal is posed by Ralph
>> who until recently was at the U. of Adelaide. He suggests that the workers
>> in the plantations in fact had very good bargaining power versus their
>> bosses and that the death rates were simply a consequence of immunological
>> shock. Statistics which he presents show very clearly that when a new area
>> was opened for recruiting, people from those areas would die three or four
>> times faster than those from other areas, particularly if the opened area
>> was not Malarial. He presents this as evidence of the system not being
>> exploitative.
>I'm familiar with some of his work as my main area of research is similar,
>i.e. the British settlement of north west WA, in the 1860s. Shlomowitz's
>usage of "exploitation" simply reflects a neoliberal position, whereas I
>think you and I would both agree that all capitalist modes of labour are
>exploitative, both of those who perform capitalist-productive labour and
>those who are excluded from it (and/or subsistence activity in this
>context). I cited Marx's "General Law Of Capitalist Accumulation" to this
>effect on the "Genocide, Holocaust" thread on 1/6/03.> I think that it would
>be entirely impossible for someone in
>> one of these farms to miss the fact that opening a new area caused people
>> there to suffer immensely and die.
>You have to be careful with the word "farm". I mean epidemics _may_ have
>been "missed", although I doubt it, in areas of _plantation_ agriculture,
>which --- all over the world --- generally used large numbers of experienced
>labourers, usually imported from overseas --- in large part because they
>were more easily coerced than hunter gatherers. However: the impact of
>disease was certainly not overlooked by the capitalist/administrative
>classes in the much larger areas of Australia opened to the more dominant
>livestock and/or intensive maritime industries in the late 19th C., since in
>these regions the rapid recruitment of hunter gatherers was the norm and ---
>from the point of view of capitalists --- the main result of smallpox and
>other diseases was shortages of labour. This was suggested by reports that
>the prominent pastoralist Emma Withnell vaccinated hunter gatherers at her
>property at Roebourne in 1866. (The unreliability of vaccination was shown
>by the fact that some settlers who had been vaccinated still caught
>smallpox.) And the 1870 Blue Book for Western Australia (p.27) reported:
>"At the new settlement on the North West Coast, of which Roebourne is the
>central point, the Aborigines have been found of the greatest service, and I
>think it may be very safely asserted that, without their assistance, the
>district would scarcely be tenable, as they not only serve in the capacity
>of shepherds and laborers, and thereby save much expenditure to the
>graziers, but their services in the Pearl Fishing are indispensable; they
>are expert divers, and scarcely any shells are obtained except by this
>trade, and no boat is fully equipped without ten or twelve Natives on board;
>in fact without their assistance this valuable trade could not be carried on
>except by the importation of divers from some other country. By the returns
>received, it appears that 266 males and 31 females are employed in the
>manner above stated, and taking a radius of 150 miles from Roebourne, these
>266 may be estimated as comprising one half of the males above the age of
>> Yet the system persisted in opening ever
>> new frontier areas, partly impelled by people in other areas having
>> they were being ripped off and demanding better rates. In other words,
>> was a profit motive. It is pretty much brute luck that 90% of people
>> wiped out in one of these little excursions. It was just unbelievably
>> reckless. And that, as I said, is the maximally rose-tinted case.
>There is no doubt about this "unbelievable recklessness". Obviously early
>modern capitalists --- i.e. before the utilitarian/positivist/reformist
>turn --- were not noted for their consideration of negative externalities
>and the social repercussions of those, i.e. the repercussions on _their_ own
>position. Perhaps I'm out of touch if "genocide", is now frequently used in
>relation to the creation of a relative surplus population, which in the
>absence of a welfare state --- as in these historical cases --- always
>implies disease and starvation. I mean, as Marx said, the creation of a
>relative surplus population in proportion to economic growth (rather than
>the absolute population level) is _the_ most characteristic aspect of
>capitalist accumulation. That this is so frequently overlooked by people on
>the left is a tribute to the hegemonic power of capital. So I don't think I
>am out of touch with common usage, even if that usage is distorted by a
>general ignorance of what early capitalist industrialisation _was_ like ---
>and what it would be like now --- if it were not now held in check by a
>greater degree of class consciousness. If you can change the usage, it would
>be a great achievement. I wish you lots of luck, but I have my doubts.
>> So I cannot see your retort as anything but disingenuous.
>I have no idea what "retort" this refers to, but I hope I have reassured you
>that mine is a considered position and not some kind of academic game.

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