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wage slavery

Chattel and wage slavery

In 1855, Frederick Douglas, a former slave, born on a Maryland plantation in 1817, had his book, My Bondage and My Freedom published.

We reproduce three passages from his book because we think it draws parallels between chattel slavery in the USA over a hundred years ago and the position of a modern wage slave:

Book Reviews: 'Rogue State', 'The Culture of Make-Believe', & 'The Future of Success'

Who's a rogue state?

'Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower'. By William Blum. (Zed Books, 2002)

Editorial: Slavery and slavery

This month low-key ceremonies are taking place to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. Slavery continued, with imported slaves replaced by plantation-bred ones, and was not abolished till 1833. It continued for a further 30 or so years in the Southern States of the USA.

By slavery in this context is meant “chattel slavery”, where humans were owned as the legal property of other humans just like any other movable property. It had been widespread in Ancient Greece and Rome where some slaves were used as domestics but the great bulk were put to work in agriculture and mining. As they were themselves the property of their masters so was the product of their labour. In other words, they were exploited by having what they produced taken from them. This was again the situation on the sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations of North and South America and the West Indies from the 16th to the 19th century.

The happy slave syndrome

Why do we so doggedly embrace the wages and money system when it openly makes use of us?

For some of us our wage slavery can buy us a comfortable, prosperous lifestyle and personally rewarding work; for others it means being discarded; for most of us perhaps it’s something in between. But in any event, the sole purpose of the capitalist system is to make a profit out of us and to accumulate capital, and no amount of TV property programmes, cars, foreign holidays, latte coffee, or shopping makes any difference to that.

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