[lbo-talk] Accumulation (was IRA & ETA)

Grant Lee grantlee at iinet.net.au
Mon Mar 29 16:22:22 PST 2004

Yoshie said:

> Actually, Michael Perelman would agree (and so would I) with you that
> to confine the term "primitive accumulation" to the period of
> emergent capitalism alone is far too narrow a definition. It can be
> usefully employed to refer to the ongoing process of expropriation.

And pre-capitalist formations.

> For instance, Thomas R. Martin writes: "The case of the foundation of
> a Greek colony in Cyrene (in what is now Libya in North Africa) in
> about 630 B.C. reveals how full of tensions the process of
> colonization could be. The people of the polis of Thera, on an
> island north of Crete, apparently were unable to support their
> population. [...]

> Conscripting one adult son from each family for forced emigration
> sounds more like a community's desperate attempt at survival,
> necessitated by demographic pressures, than accumulation even in a
> simple sense, i.e. the rich in Thera grabbing local land at the
> expense of the poor, causing the latter to seek land elsewhere.

I'm not familiar with this example, but a tiny island state like Thera would generally have felt the pinch from population pressures, far more than Britain. Nevertheless, this description to me has parallels with England/Britain's export of members its own relative surplus population (a threat to accumulation thorugh "disorder") -- beginning in the 16th Century -- to Ireland (the "Plantations"), N.America, and Australasia. And the subsequent export, from 1847, of the Irish relative surplus population.

(In fact, I owe my existence to forced emigration: "Black 47" was exactly when my great-great-great-grandmother was sent from Dublin to Australia, as an indentured servant, at the age of 15. A few decades later, her daughter married a British convict, a man transported after being found guilty of a misdemeanour.)

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