Showing posts with label slavery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label slavery. Show all posts

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Scotland's Slave Traders

Socialist Courier has previously drawn attention to Scotland’s role in the slave trade and the fortunes made from it, here and here .
Ian Bell in the Herald reminds us again of that dark period of Scotland’s history.
Richard Oswald trafficked at least 13,000 Africans, although he never set foot on their continent. By the time he bought Auchincruive House and 100,000 acres in Ayrshire in 1764, he was worth £500,000, "roughly equivalent" to $68 million (about £44m).

The mercantile class got rich twice over: despite fortunes made from stolen lives, they were quick to demand compensation when slavery was ended in 1833. Britain's government decided that £20m, a staggering sum, could be raised. Glasgow's slave traders got £400,000 – in modern terms, hundreds of millions.

30% of Jamaican plantations were run by Scots. Few realise that the behaviour of Scots busy getting rich in the slave-holders' empire was actually worse – routinely worse – than the worst of the America’s South cottonocracy. In the British West Indies, only 670,000 survived from two million imported.

Not all the slaves in the 18th century were black. In fact, in Barbados at one point 21,700 of 25,000 held were white. A great many of them, then and afterwards, were Scots who happened to be poor, homeless or political nuisances. Rounding them up and selling them off, especially after the '45, was routine. In the language of the time, and for obvious reasons, these were "redlegs".

To-day, the International Labour Organisation calculates that 126 million children around the world labour in a state of bonded servitude. .

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Scotland built on slavery

When the British Government passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 – 26 years after the trade itself had been done away with. it paid  the equivalent to £2 billion today which  was said to be equal to 40% of the government's entire budget in compensation to slave-owners.

Colonel John Gordon of Cluny, who in 1851 forced some 3000 of his tenants on the Outer Hebrides to emigrate to Canada. Cluny died in 185 received a total of £24,964 in compensation, relating to 1383 slaves across six plantations in Tobago, in the southern Caribbean.

Other Scots include James Cheyne, who cleared tenants from the Isle of Lismore in the 1840s and 1850s; the Malcolms of Poltalloch, who were involved in clearances in Argyll; Sir Archibald Alison, a noted social commentator; James McCall and Patrick Maxwell Stewart, who both had substantial holdings in railways; the Marquis of Breadalbane, and Sir William Forbes.

The figure was £6 for a child, an average of £50 for an able fieldworker, or between £18 and £20 if the fieldworker didn't have any specific skills to offer. For the top craftsmen within the slave population, like the sugar-boilers, who had a dangerous job and were particularly well sought-after, the figure might be £100. Slave-owners were allowed to claim compensation according to the composition of their workforce. A white artisan worker in Scotland would have been paid 25 shillings, of £1.25, a week, which is an instructive comparison.

 Scottish historian Professor Tom Devine "The list is mainly, perhaps even exclusively, concerned with the Caribbean. The great Tobacco Trade of the 18th century in Glasgow could not have existed without un-free labour.These are people on the list who were compensated for owning slaves but it does not include professional people, such as physicians, overseers, merchants and military people, who all gained from the plantation economies. Glasgow is usually the place that is cited as having a colonial connection, but if you look at the range of names and locations on the database, it is everywhere in Scotland, particularly in rural areas. This is why some people have argued that these monies were very important in terms of such things as agricultural improvement and the like."

Prof Devine said: “The myth has always been that Glasgow, for example, didn’t dirty its hands with the great transatlantic trade in blacks. Scotland was deeply involved in this but we are still in a degree of denial.”

Historians believe that much of Glasgow was built on slavery. Merchants earned huge fortunes from trading and so-called ‘Tobacco Lords’ — including John Glassford, Andrew Buchanan, James Dunlop and Archibald Ingram — all had streets named after them.

Professor Catherine Hall said it was "very striking" how many slave-owners there were in Scotland. She said: "The empire offered opportunities to the Scots on a very significant scale and working on the plantations was a favoured choice for Scots seeking their fortunes in the late 18th and early 19th century."

Nor should it be forgotten that during the American Civil War much of Scottish business – including the owners of the Glasgow Herald newspaper – was firmly pro-South. Scottish shipyards, then at the cutting edge of marine technology, built the only fast steamers capable of evading the Union blockade of Confederate harbours and supplying the rebellion. Vast fortunes were being made by Clydeside shipbuilders and brokers building ships to beat the blockade. At the height of this boom in 1864, Warner Underwood, the US consul in Glasgow, complained that 27 Clyde yards were building no fewer than 42 large blockade runners. Early 1860s Scotland was the scene of a cat-and-mouse game between Confederate agents and Federal spies, the latter operating from a safe house in the sedate dormitory village of Bridge of Allan.  The cash rewards for the Scots involved in this illicit trade were phenomenal. The sum total spent on building and refitting runners up to 1864 was £1.4 million (about £140m in today's money) – one-third of which was pure profit. These blockade-runners made up no less than one-third of the vessels that ran the Union blockade – more than half the British-built tonnage. The South had few of the industries needed to equip and support armies of half a million men and acquiring modern (mainly British-made) weaponry was vital to the war effort.

Nor was it exclusively an elite preference. Scots coal miners, unlike Lancashire cotton workers, were working-class supporters of the slave-owning South. The South's morale was sustained by romantic 19th-century nationalist mythology partly derived from the novels of Sir Walter Scott. Many Victorian Scots made the link between the Confederate armies with those other glamorised underdogs of Scott's novels, the Jacobites, while the daring victories of Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson were won by quasi-guerrilla tactics overpowering stronger armies, offering Scots parallels with the victories of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. For the American South, romantic nationalism and chivalry were, of course, no more than sugar coatings on an economic system based on slavery, but they played a big part in causing the rebellion and keeping it going

Friday, December 28, 2012

Slavery statistics

Buying and selling people into forced labor is still a thriving business. Slavery is endemic to global capitalism.

There is a global slave population of between 20 million and 30 million people from South and Southeast Asia, along with China, Russia, Albania, Belarus, and Romania. There is a significant slave presence across North Africa and the Middle East. There is also a major slave trade in Africa. Slavery persists in Mauritania, where children of slaves are passed on to their slave-holders' children. And the North Korean gulag system, which holds 200,000 people, is essentially a constellation of slave-labor camps.  Most contemporary slavery is based on people-trafficking. There are likely more slaves in the world today than there have been at any other time in human history. For some quick perspective on that point: Over the entire 350 years of the transatlantic slave trade, 13.5 million people were taken out of Africa, meaning there are twice as many enslaved right now as there had been in that whole 350-year span.

 If the global slave population is 27 million, it's still 27 million out of a total of 7 billion, making it -- and here's the paradox -- the smallest fraction of the global population to be enslaved ever. If slavery generates between $30 billion and $45 billion a year to the global economy, it's a big industry, but it also amounts to the smallest ratio of the global economy ever represented by slave labor and slave output. While slavery has grown in absolute terms, it's shrunk in relative terms.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

When miners were chattel slaves and not wage slaves

A system of servitude once existed in Scotland, sanctioned by the practice of two centuries, by virtue of which colliers and their families were fixed to the soil almost as effectually as if they had been bought in the slave-market of New Orleans or born in the hut of a negro on some Virginian plantation. It was not a relic of the social system of the Middle Ages, but was the result of express enactment by the Scottish Parliament.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, coal miners in Scotland, and their families, were bound to the colliery in which they worked and the service of its owner.  This bondage was set into law by an Act of Parliament in 1606, which ordained that "no person should fee, hire or conduce and salters, colliers or coal bearers without a written authority from the master whom they had last served". The cruel edict reduced the Scottish collier to the position of a serf or a slave. By that Act, workmen in mines, whether miners, pickmen, winding-men, firemen, or in any other service of the mine, were prohibited from leaving that service either in hope of greater gain or of greater ease, or for any other reason, without the consent of the coal-owner, or of the Sheriff of the County; and any one receiving a runaway into his service and refusing to return him within twenty-four hours was to be fined one hundred pounds Scots. A collier lacking such written authority could be "reclaimed" by his former master "within a year and a day".  If the new master did not surrender the collier, he could be fined and the collier who deserted was considered to be a thief and punished accordingly.  The Act also gave the coal owners and masters the powers to  to apprehend "vagabonds and sturdy beggars" and put them to work in the mines.  A further Act of 1641 extended those enslaved to include other workers in the mines and forced the colliers to work six days a week. The Habeas Corpus Act of Scotland, in 1701, which declared that "the imprisonment of persons without expressing the reasons thereof, and delaying to put them to trial is contrary to law"; and that "no person shall hereafter be imprisoned for custody in order to take his trial for any crime or offence without a warrant or writ expressing the particular cause for which he is imprisoned" specifically stated "that this present Act is in no way to be extended to colliers and salters."

In the early centuries of our country's history, while yet the forests were extensive and wood abundant, there was little need for coal. The early coal-workings were of a superficial character, being chiefly of the nature of quarries; indeed, the primary meaning of the word heugh - the name given in past times to a coal-pit - is a steep bank or glen. The labourers on the coal-producing estates, assisted by the members of their families, performed the work when it suited their convenience. Such was the state of the coal-mining population in the sixteenth century, when the country was awakening to a sense of its commercial capabilities. There was a rise of an extensive trade with foreign countries, leading to the wider development of existing coal-works, and the opening up of new fields to meet the demand. The owners of new coal-works, having no trained colliers on their own estates, sought them at established collieries, and induced them by means of gifts and promises of higher wages to leave their employment. This was naturally resented by their masters, who had difficulty in getting sufficient workers for their own pits. The aggrieved coal-owners made application to Parliament to put a stop to the practice. Primarily designed to prevent desertions, the Act authorized a coal-owner to retain his colliers as long as he had work for them. From the fact that many collieries were then in constant operation, and that some have worked continuously to the present day, it is apparent that the colliers attached to works of a permanent character were bound for life, and from generation to generation. And even in the case of collieries where work was not continuous, the worker found that he could not oblige his master to give him a testimonial on leaving, and that he was liable to be recalled as soon as work was resumed. Indeed, it appears to have been the rule for masters to withhold a testimonial, in order that they might the more freely reclaim when need arose. James Gray of Dalmarnock gave up a coal-work and allowed his colliers to go where they pleased, but took the precaution to reclaim them every year in order to preserve his right to them if he should set up his colliery again.  It was customary also for the parents of a child to receive a gift from the master at the birth or baptism of the bairn in token of the child's being bound along with the parents.

For the first hundred years after the passing of the Act of 1606, it seems to have been the general belief of both masters and men that if a deserting collier succeeded in evading pursuit, by going over to England, or keeping in hiding elsewhere, for a year and a day, he was then at liberty to work where he chose. This was deemed a grievance by the coal-owners, and they sought to have an Act passed in the year 1700 making their title effectual and not subject to lapse if they, within a year and a day of desertion, cited the fugitive at the market cross of the chief burgh of the shire in which he had his residence. The Act was not passed, for what reason does not clearly appear, but decisions of the Court of Session in 1708 and later had the effect of giving the masters what they desired in this particular. The Lords of Session found that colliers could not be hired without a testimonial from their former master, and that Sir Thomas, having now a going coal-work, might well reclaim them; and, although away several years from him.

The system could not survive the industrial revolution that the country underwent consequent on the development of the use of steam.The process of emancipation began with an Act of Parliament of 1775 which freed the colliers in age-groups - those under 21 and between 35 and 44 were to be freed in 7 years, those between 21 and 34 were to be freed in 10 years and those over 45 were to be freed in 3 years.  The liberation of the father freed the family.  However, gaining freedom required a formal legal application before a Sheriff and a great many colliers continued to be bound until 1799 when an Act was passed that all colliers in Scotland were "to be free from their servitude".

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Scottish Slavery

"It wisnae us"

At the beginning of the 18th century, Glasgow was a poor town and Scotland, an isolated country. The 1707 Act of Union opened up trading opportunities and entrepreneurs seized their opportunity. The economic boom in the 18th and 19th century was built on profits from the West Indies, "...ultimately, profits built from slavery." according to James Cant, a Scottish historian re-examining the emergence of Scotland as an economic powerhouse. "We look at the agrarian revolution in Scotland, the scientific development, and we look at entrepreneurial excellence in Scotland. We never looked at the other side of the ocean to where the raw material and the wealth were truly coming from."

Iain Whyte, author of Scotland and the Abolition of Slavery, insists we have at times ignored our guilty past. He said: "For many years Scotland's historians harboured the illusion that our nation had little to do with the slave trade or plantation slavery. We swept it under the carpet. This was remarkable in the light of Glasgow's wealth coming from tobacco, sugar and cotton, and Jamaica Streets being found in a number of Scottish towns and cities. For many years, the goods and profits from West Indian slavery were unloaded at Kingston docks in Glasgow."

One of Scotland's foremost philosophers of the Enlightenment, David Hume, declared:
"I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or in speculation. No ingenious manufacture among them, no arts, no sciences."

Slavery has been dubbed "the most profitable evil in the world". It is estimated that 20,000,000 African people were bought or captured in Africa and transported into New World slavery. 75% of all Africa's exports in 18th century were enslaved human beings. Only about half survived to work on the plantations, with a slave's life expectancy averaging a mere four years. Young Scotsmen rushed to the West Indies to make quick fortunes as slave masters and administrators. Many Scots overseers were considered among the most brutal. There are many examples of mistreatment and abuse of enslaved Africans by Scots. The conduct of these Scots was often shocking – but this should not be surprising because we know that "under certain conditions and social pressures, ordinary people can commit acts that would otherwise be unthinkable".

It did not become illegal to own a slave in Scotland until 1778. Until then it had been fashionable for wealthy families to have a young black boy or girl servant. Scottish newspapers, such as the Edinburgh Evening Courant and the Caledonian Mercury from the 1740s to the 1770s, carried adverts offering slaves for sale or rewards for the capture of escaped slaves.

Many of our industries, our schools and our churches were founded from the profits of African slavery. Scottish capitalists reaped the fruits of their labour in the colonies in the sugar, cotton and tobacco plantations. These industries saw Glasgow and much of the country flourish, were built on the backs of slaves. The profits slaves helped to create kick-started the industrial revolution in Scotland and brought it's merchants and traders great wealth. Familiar names such as Tate and Lyle was built on slavery. James Ewing of Glasgow who owned Caymanas sugar plantation in Jamaica built the Necropolis.

Scotland dominated the Virginian tobacco market. By 1720 Glasgow imported over half of all the American slave-grown tobacco. The "Tobacco Lords" made their fortunes in the colonies before returning to Scotland, many building large mansions. Tobacco made up over one third of Scotland’s imports and over half its exports. This trade was fantastically profitable and tobacco traders became some of the richest men in the world. Landowners had an interest in the tobacco trade and had the money to invest in ships. The noveau riche behaved outrageously with their new-found fortune. The Trongate in Glasgow’s Merchant City was their own private street. It was paved. They did not want to walk on muddy roads with the riff-raff as it would ruin their outfits. Poor people were beaten if they used the Trongate. Buchanan Street was named after a tobacco merchant called Andrew Buchanan.

The "Wee" Free Church was founded in 1843 . It raised some funds from slave-owning Presbyterian churches in the United States. Many people felt that the Free Church was therefore sympathetic to the slave-owners and opposed to the emancipation of the slaves. "Send back the money" became a popular rallying cry. The Church of Scotland did not petition Parliament to end the Slave Trade or Slavery.

Even schools have a dark history. Bathgate Academy was built from money willed by John Newland, a renowned slave master and Dollar and Inverness Academies had a similar foundation of being funded by West Indies profits.

A host of other buildings and institutions Glasgow The Gallery of Modern Art (Stirling Library) was originally built by tobacco merchant William Cunningham as his home. Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Harmony House, Inveresk Lodge, were either bought or built using money acquired from slavery.

In St Andrew Square in Edinburgh there is a monument toHenry Dundas, who prolonged British slavery in the Caribbean by stopping MPs voting for its abolition. He also tried to reverse the independence process in Haiti as he feared similar rebellions damaging the economics of British slavery. He selected governors for the slave islands and, as governor of the Bank of Scotland, loaned money to shore up the slave business of his friends. When Wilberforce tried to secure the abolition of the slave trade, Dundas frustrated the process and forced him to add two notorious words to his Bill "gradually abolished". These two words ensured that slavery lasted 31 more years. To achieve abolition,£20 million was also paid in compensation to slave plantation owners in the West Indies - over 40% of the national budget, the equivalent of around £1.12 billion.

Alexander Allerdyce of Aberdeenshire was a slave trader. He took more African slaves to Jamaica than the entire population of Aberdeen at the time.

John Glassford owned 25 ships in nine trading posts in Maryland and eleven in Virginia. By 1775, Glassford controlled more than half the Clyde. He helped finance the Forth and Clyde canal. He set up the Fowlis Academy, a school for art and design.

By 1800 there were 10,000 Scots in Jamaica. Scottish surnames such as Douglas, Robinson, Reid, Russell, Lewis, McFarlane, McKenzie, McDonald, Grant, Gordon, Graham, Stewart, Simpson, Scott, Ferguson, Frazer and Farquharson are common in Jamaica. Many of the slave plantations were given Scottish names such as Monymusk, Hermitage, Hampden, Glasgow, Argyle, Glen Islay, Dundee, Fort William, Montrose, Roxbro, Dumbarton, Old Monklands and Mount Stewart. In 1817 Scots owned almost a third of all the slaves in Jamaica.

Enslaved Scots

Startling as it may sound, the slavery of the native Scot continued longer than that of the black slave. In 1606, an Act was passed, which ordained that no person should fee, hire, or conduce any salters, colliers, or coal-bearers without a sufficient testimonial from the master whom they had last served, and that any one hiring them without such testimonial was bound, upon challenge within a year and a day by their late master, to deliver them up to him, under a penalty of £100 for each person and each act of contravention, the colliers, bearers, and salters so transgressing and receiving wages to be held as thieves and punished accordingly. The colliers and salters were unquestionably slaves. They were bound to continue their service during their lives, were fixed to their places of employment, and sold with the works to which they belonged. It had been the rule for the collier and his family to live and be cared for and die on the estate on which he was born. Up till the year 1661, colliers and salters were the only workers to whom the Act applied, but in that year an addition made embracing other colliery workers - named watermen, windsmen, and gatesmen. An Act passed in 1672, for the establishment of correction-houses for idle beggars and vagabonds, authorized "coal-masters, salt-masters, and others, who have manufactories in this kingdom, to seize upon any vagabonds or beggars wherever they can find them, and to put them to work in the coal-heughs or other manufactories, who are to have the same power of correcting them and the benefit of their work as the masters of the correction-houses.

So completely did the law of Scotland regard them as a distinct class, not entitled to the same liberties as their fellow-subjects, that they were excepted from the Scotch Habeas Corpus Act of 1701. In 1775 their condition attracted the notice of the legislature, and an act was passed for their relief . Its preamble stated that "many colliers and salters are in a state of slavery and bondage" and that their emancipation "would remove the reproach of allowing such a state of servitude to exist in a free country." But so deeply rooted was this hateful custom, that Parliament did not venture to condemn it as illegal. It was provided that colliers and salters commencing work after the 1st of July 1775, should not become slaves; and that those already in a state of slavery might obtain their freedom in seven years, if under twenty-one years of age; in ten years, if under thirty-five. The Act imposed so many conditions to be observed by those to be freed, such as they were obliged to obtain a decree of the Sheriff's Court that little advantage was taken of it. Moreover, many of the masters were not disposed to give up their old rights without a struggle, and they sought to retain their hold on the workers by advancing money which the poor colliers were too ready to accept and with the advances being kept up as debts against them the colliers were rarely in a condition to press their claims to freedom. Hence the act was practically inoperative. But eventually in 1799, their freedom was established by law

The White Slave Cargo

White servants came to the Colonies and the Caribbean before most of the African slaves. Large numbers of Scottish people were sent to the colonies largely against their will in the 17th and 18th centuries. Mainstream histories refer to these labourers as indentured or bonded servants, not slaves, because many agreed to work for a set period of time in exchange for land and rights. However, the term slavery applies to any person who is bought and sold, chained and abused, whether for a decade or a lifetime. Excerpts from wills show how white servants would be passed down along with livestock and furniture. During that indenture period the servants were not paid wages, but they were provided food, room, clothing. Indentures could not marry without the permission of their owner, were subject to physical punishment (like many young ordinary servants), and saw their obligation to labour enforced by the courts. To ensure uninterrupted work by the female servants, the law lengthened the term of their indenture if they became pregnant. One could buy and sell indentured servants' contracts, and the right to their labour would change hands.

Many early settlers died long before their indenture ended or found that no court would back them when their owners failed to deliver on promises. And many never achieved their freedom with many of the labourers dying before their 4 to 7 years were complete due to the harsh conditions and the often brutal treatment by the plantation owners. Those that survived often remained in the Caribbean and became managers and overseers.

Convicted criminals and political prisoners, including religious nonconformists, were also sent to the colonies as a workforce. In the late 17th century the religious turmoil in Scotland produced a regular supply of indentured labourers.Covenanters and Scottish royalists captured by Cromwell after battle were sold as indentured labourers to the West Indies. In 1666 the city fathers of Edinburgh shipped off "beggars, vagabonds and others not fitt to stay in the kingdome" to Virginia in the Phoenix of Leith under Captain James Gibson. The Scots Privy Council also saw indentured labour as an opportunity to get rid of undesirables and those guilty of certain crimes, and they regularly sent people to Virginia as a punishment rather than keep them in jail.

Ultimately indentured labour did not bring the profit desired. For example, the cost of indentured labor rose by nearly 60 percent throughout the 1680s in some colonial regions. A cheaper source of labour was sought and the plantation owners quickly realised the potential profit that could be made from buying and selling Africans, grasping the opportunity of using a malleable renewable labour force. When slaves arrived in greater numbers after 1700, white labourers became a privileged status and assigned to lighter work and more skilled tasks.

Wage Slavery

It was only when economists like Adam Smith suggested slavery hampered freedom of enterprise that the argument took hold that it was no longer financially viable. It was about economics. Now it was the turn of wage slavery to chain people.

Those who defended the slavery and indentured labour described how owners had to feed, clothe and shelter their enslaved workers and how this made them better off than labourers in the factories in Europe since the factory workers' very small wages hardly kept them in food and clothes and shelter. Capitalist factory-owners needed a flexible labour force and a reserve of workers they could draw on in times of expansion and who could be discarded in times of slump. They did not want to own their workers, precisely because they wanted, when business took a downturn, to be free of any obligation to maintain them as they would have had to with chattel slaves. They favoured “free” labour. They were only interested in buying their workers’ ability to work for a limited period. “Free” labour meant more than that the worker was just not a chattel slave. It meant that he or she was also not tied to the land either as a peasant or a serf. It means that the only productive resource they own is their ability to work, their labour-power, which they are “free” to sell to some capitalist employer or other. Socialists regard labour as free only where the labourers themselves individually or collectively own and control the means by which they labour (land, tools, machinery, etc.).

The legal, social and political status of wage-slaves is superior to that of chattel slaves. However, when we compare their position in the labour process itself, we see that here the difference between them is not a fundamental one. A wage or a salary is the price of the human commodity labour power, the capacity to work. Because workers are compelled to work for their employers for a duration of time, being exploited, the wages system is literally a form of slavery and the working class are wage slaves. We are all compelled to obey the orders of the “boss” who owns the instruments of production with which we work or who represents those who own them. In a small enterprise the boss may convey his orders directly, while in a large enterprise orders are passed down through a managerial hierarchy - overseers. But in all cases it is ultimately the boss who decides what to produce and how to produce it. The products of the labour of the (chattel or wage) slaves do not belong to us. Nor, indeed, does our own activity.

Another obvious difference between chattel slavery and wage slavery is that as a chattel slave you are enslaved – totally subjected to another’s will – at every moment from birth to death, in every aspect of your life. As a wage-slave, you are enslaved only at those times when your labour power is at the disposal of your employer. At other times, in other aspects of your life you enjoy a certain measure of freedom. The wage-slave has some scope for self-development and self-realisation that is denied the chattel slave. Limited to be sure, for the wage-slave must regularly return to the world of wage labour.

According to Engels: "The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master's interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence."

It is sometimes objected that wage workers are not slaves because they have the legal right to leave a particular employer, even if in practice they may be reluctant to use that right out of fear of not finding another job. All that this proves, however, is that the wage worker is not the slave of any particular employer. For Marxists, the owner of the wage-slave is not the individual capitalist but the capitalist class. Whether we choose the wages system or not, we are in reality bound to it. We are not by law bound to a single individual, but, in fact, to the capitalist class as a whole. You can leave one employer, but only in order to look for a new one. What you cannot do, lacking as you do access to the means of life, is escape from the thrall of employers as a class – that is, cease to be a wage-slave.

Frederick Douglass, a former slave, born on a Maryland plantation in 1817 makes it clear in his book My Bondage and My Freedom:
"In the country, this conflict is not so apparent; but, in cities, such as Baltimore, Richmond, New Orleans, Mobile etc; it is seen pretty clearly. The slave-holder with a craftiness peculiar to themselves, by encouraging the enmity of the poor, labouring white men against the blacks, succeeds in making the said white men almost as much a slave as the black slave himself. The difference between the white slave, and the black slave, is this: the latter belongs to ONE slave-holder, and the former belongs to ALL the slave-holders, collectively. The white slave has taken from his, by indirection, what the black slave had taken from him, directly, and without ceremony. Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers"

With slavery the workers themselves become commodities, they have no rights and are legally the property of the person who controls them. With the wage system the labour power of the worker becomes one of the main commodities in the marketplace. Capitalist social relations emerged with the expropriation of common land by the aristocracy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Enclosures destroyed the lives of thousands of peasant families, turning them into propertyless vagabonds. Deprived of their land, their homes, their traditional surroundings and the protection of the law, the expropriated peasantry were left to sell the one thing they possessed - their ability to work.

The Chartist, Ernest Jones, dismissed the demand for "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work", which was to ask for:
"...a golden slavery instead of an iron one. But that golden chain would soon be turned to iron again, for if you still allow the system of wages slavery to exist, labour must be still subject to capital, and if so, capital being its master, will possess the power and never lack the will to reduce the slave from his fat diet down to fast-day fare!"

The law grants us personal liberties, and we therefore have the right to make our own decisions: where to live; who to work for; or whether to work at all. But underlying this veil of freedom are the real, material, physical facts, and they run as such: you can only live where you can afford to live; you can only work for someone who will willingly employ you; and while you are under no legal obligation to work for anyone at all, you will find it a struggle to live while not doing so.

Noam Chomsky has explained that “the effort to overcome ‘wage-slavery’ has been going on since the beginnings of the industrial revolution, and we haven’t advanced an inch. In fact, we’re worse off than we were a hundred years ago in terms of understanding the issues.”

The Socialist Party appears to be the only political organisation in this country to take this task at all seriously. The Socialist Party do not just want to win a better deal for wage-slaves. We want to abolish slavery. We are the wage-slavery abolitionists! The influence of the capitalist system has ensured that many do not yet understand the necessity for the working class to free itself from slavery. It is a slavery not only of the body but of the mind too and that must be the worst enslavement of all.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Buying and selling people

Celtic have the highest player transfer outlay in the last five years, with a spend of just over £35 million, closely followed by Rangers who have spent around £33 million in the same period. Coming in at a poor third is Hearts who spent almost £3 million.

The teams that are making money from selling their players?

Celtic again leading the way with £35,574,000. Rangers have made sales of just over £20 million. Here is where Hibernian really punch above their weight. The Easter Road side have sold just over £16 million of players in five years and Hearts also sold well, £14 million. So the profits for Hibs have been almost £15million and for Hearts £11 million.

Almost every club in the division has turned a modest profit with the wheeling and dealing of player sales. Hibernian's business model is so focused on bringing through youth players and moving them on for healthy fees. It appears that Scottish football is all about the search of young, marketable talent. Celtic’s transfer balance is interesting, given the figures involved, as they seem to spend exactly what they make, reinvesting the money taken from sales into the playing squad. The club transfer policy seems to be to find players with a sell-on value, put them in the metaphorical shop window, sell them on at a profit and then repeat the process with the proceeds.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

slavery paid

Scottish businessmen collectively received the equivalent of £2 billion for loss of “property”on the outlawing of slavery, according to new research by a network of historians.

During the 1830s, the UK exchequer paid out £400,000 to around 100 Scottish claimants, mostly with Glasgow addresses.

The sums were to compensate for the freeing of their slave labour force. The total amount for the UK was £20 million. If equated to a proportion of national income at that time, the Scottish figure alone is equivalent to around £2bn in today’s terms.

Compensation to slave-owners was achieved largely due to the lobbying efforts of the West India societies, of which Glasgow had one of the most influential. The activities of the society, founded in 1807 and continuing to lobby on behalf of Caribbean sugar interests until the 1960s.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wage Slavery

Anti-racism protestors have marched through Glasgow to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.The St Andrew's Day Anti-Racism March, organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress, will remember the anniversary of the act to abolish the trade. First Minister Alex Salmond has given his support to the rally.Yet we know there still exists to-day another type of slavery - wage slavery

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Scotland's Slaves

Some migrant workers in Scotland are being treated like "modern day slaves", according to campaigners being reported by the BBC . Promises of good accommodation and pay quickly disappear when they arrive in Scotland.

Two Polish workers told BBC Scotland that after two weeks of labour they actually owed the farmer money.

The Prague Post reports that the life many migrant workers find in Scotland is not what they had envisioned. They are frequently abused and coerced into accepting illegal working conditions, said Beth Herzfeld of Anti-Slavery International.

The most common form of abuse is debt-bondage. This is the illegal practice of paying an employer up-front for work, rent and food . Sometimes said, it takes workers six weeks to repay these debts, and then they are fired. This is a common “trick” employers use to leech money from vulnerable workers explains Paul Millar , the Czech honorary consul in Scotland .

According to Herzfeld, debt-bondage is one of the tactics used to traffic people. Trafficking is when someone is taken to, or freely goes, from one place to another by means of deception, coercion or violence. Often, as in the case of many Czech workers in Scotland, their passports are confiscated, they have a debt to repay and, being unsure of their legal right to work, they are controlled by threats.

Dangerous housing and miserable pay are often the hallmarks of foreign workers’ lives in Scotland, according to Ian Tusker, assistant secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Congress .
“You could work all day for a pittance, basically... " Tusker said.

See a related article , Borders Crossed , in this month's Socialist Standard