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Slavery, the US Constitution, slave-Persons and free-Persons

The modern need to abolish voluntary servitude


Editor's note: On the occasion of Black History Month and the 200th Anniversary of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade and chattel slavery, all the Queen's horses and all the Queen's men and women are favourably comparing wage slavery to chattel slavery, and voluntary servitude to involuntary servitude. Thus, in her Speech on the Occasion of the Celebration of African Heritage Month on 12 February 2006, Gov. Gen. MichaŽlle Jean asks rhetorically, "Do we know that Black slaves were the backbone of the labour force that built Halifax?" By focusing on the advance from one to the other, they ignore "the reality that former slaves still could not use the full added-value they produced to benefit themselves, their families, their communities and the social economy, and to organize a state that upheld the public good and the dignity of those free Persons of African descent, a state with institutions capable of mobilizing the masses to defeat the racist revanchists." The aim is to prettify voluntary servitude and capitalism as, in the words of the Governor General speaking on 13 February 2007, "an achievement that has eluded many societies" - part of the "civilizing values" of the present-day Anglo-American powers wreaking havoc on and enslaving all those without such "achievement" - and to implant an ideology in the minds of the people that voluntary servitude represents freedom of labour.

The following text is Part II of the document, "The Modern Need to Abolish Voluntary Servitude", published by the Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L), 22 November 2005. Shunpiking Online is publishing this excerpt as reference material for our readers on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of the slave trade.


THE U.S. Constitution ratified in 1787, although never mentioning slavery by name, refers to slaves as "other Persons" in Article 1, Section 2; "such Persons" in Article I, Section 9; and a "Person held to service or labour" in Article IV, Section 2. Throughout the constitution the term "Person" also refers to those not held in involuntary servitude.

Categories of people and labour-Persons are partially defined in Article 1, Section 2:

"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."

"Free Persons" as a category includes those understood to have the right to own other Persons, those who have the right to bind indentured labour-Persons to labour-contracts for a term of years, those who have the right to purchase the voluntary servitude of others, those who voluntarily sell their servitude, and "those bound to Service for a Term of Years," which refers to indentured labour-Persons.

Free Persons could not normally be owned as slave-Persons, although many free Persons of African descent were forced into slavery under one pretext or another, such as being kidnapped by bounty hunters, transported to a slave state and sold into slavery.

Excluded from free Persons are "Indians not taxed" and "all other Persons," which refers obliquely to slaves, with one other Person equal to three-fifths a free Person for purposes of apportionment.

Indentured labour refers to free Persons who have been voluntarily or otherwise contracted into servitude to free Persons for a specified term usually calculated in years. Indentured labourers are considered members of the collective of "free Persons" in terms of apportionment. This reflects the ruling ideology that voluntary servitude constitutes freedom of the individual or at least potential freedom, as voluntary servitude to free Persons who own the means of production has a time limit certain whether measured in years, days or hours.

Involuntary servitude to free Persons is only limited by death or under exceptional circumstances by freedom from slavery granted by a free Person-owner with the consent of the state.

Nowhere does the constitution attempt to explain the glaring contradiction between the popular will of those other Persons considered less human for whatever reason and legally held in bondage to free Persons and the legal will accorded to free Persons who have the legal right of ownership of other human beings and the legal right to seize the entire added-value produced from involuntary servitude reduced only by the amount needed to maintain their human property and taxes paid to the state.

Nowhere does the U.S. Constitution attempt to explain the contradiction between the legal will of those Persons who have seized the land occupied for thousands of years by Native Persons, and the popular will of those the constitution calls "Indians" who never relinquished their right to those lands and are subjected to unrelenting racist abuse and discrimination and who, if not taxed, are excluded from membership in the collective of free Persons for purposes of apportionment.

Nowhere does the Constitution attempt to explain the contradiction between the legal right of certain free Persons who engage in their own private means of production the voluntary servitude of other free Persons who do not own any means of production, and the popular will of those other free Persons who must submit to voluntary servitude to survive, as the means of production are privately owned and eventually completely monopolized by a very small number of free Persons.

Forcing free Persons to submit to voluntary servitude for a time limit certain measured in years, days or hours means that those free Persons who own the means of production have the legal right to seize the entire added-value produced from voluntary servitude reduced only by the amount paid to employees to maintain themselves and their families and taxes paid to the state.

For practical consideration the U.S. Constitution includes women as Persons categorized as other Persons (slaves), free Persons or "Indians" but the prevailing ruling consciousness did not accord women federal political voting rights until 1920.

The full quotation in Article 1, Section 9 reads:

"Limits on Congress

"The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person."

The "importation of such Persons" speaks of the international slave-Person trade and that a maximum tax (duty) of $10 per imported "such Person" can be levied and that Congress cannot prohibit the importation of such Persons until 1808. The article does not address the internal trade of such Persons within the United States, which continued legally until the 1865 abolition of slavery and all forms of involuntary servitude, except for the involuntary servitude of convicted prisoners legally held by the state that now numbers well over 2 million, many of whom are free Persons of African descent.

The full quotation in Article 4, Section 2 reads: "No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due."

Here the Constitution says that each individual state has its own law of slavery that is not in contradiction with the federal rule of law. Slave-Persons and indentured labour-Persons escaping the law of slavery in one state by running to another must be returned to their rightful free Person-owner regardless of the laws of the state in which they have sought refuge. Article 4, Section 2 created a massive, violent, bounty-hunting business to capture and return for a fee those Persons bound in involuntary servitude, ensnaring even free Persons of African ancestry.

The U.S. Constitution does not define slavery or suggest any category of people considered potential or actual slave Persons or those free Persons excluded from the possibility of being owned as slave Persons
The U.S. Constitution does not define slavery or suggest any category of people considered potential or actual slave Persons or those free Persons excluded from the possibility of being owned as slave Persons. The unwritten prevailing dominant consciousness according to the ruling ideology and the law of slavery was extraordinarily racist, with only those Persons of African origin considered eligible to be owned as slave Persons. (Native persons or "Indians" were considered for a time to be legitimate targets for slavery but generally proved too difficult to hold in bondage, as they would escape back to their own or another Native nation.)

The unwritten prevailing dominant consciousness according to the ruling ideology does not consider any racial category as restricting those eligible to participate in voluntary servitude either as employees or employers. The prevailing ruling ideology considers that all free Persons have the right to employ voluntary servitude in their private means of production and all free Persons have the right to submit to voluntary servitude.

As with any kind of servitude, voluntary or involuntary, the employee-Person, indentured labour-Person or slave-Person does not have the right to the full added-value produced by their labour or the full revenue generated by their labour. A portion of the added-value produced by them or revenue generated by them is used to maintain the slave-Person, and to pay the indentured labour-Person for the time engaged in voluntary or involuntary servitude and to pay the employee-Person for the time engaged in voluntary servitude. Those free Persons who own the means of production and employ voluntary or involuntary servitude have the right to seize the entire added-value reduced only by an amount used to maintain those engaged in servitude and taxes paid to the state. Those free Persons who own means of production outside the productive sectors - such as retail, and employ voluntary or involuntary servitude - have the legally-protected power to seize the entire generated revenue, reduced only by an amount used to maintain those engaged in servitude, taxes paid to the state and the costs of production such as power and depreciation of buildings, machines and tools.

Upon the victory of the northern states in the Civil War over the southern Confederacy, a great chance was lost to pay reparations to the freed slaves of African descent.

Those former slaves who had built the southern states, in particular the extensive means of production of the agricultural economy from field to semi-finished and finished commodity were deprived of the land, plantations and enterprises that belonged to them collectively by popular right.

The involuntary servitude of those of African descent had created the enormous accumulated added-value from 200 years of work that was now materialized in the existing means of production. The sweat and blood of slaves had nurtured the plantations and other workplaces.

At the very least the United States owed the collectives of slaves and still owes their descendents the plantations, enterprises and cultivated lands they had built and nurtured
The free Person owners of the economic enterprises of the slave states and many in the North seized the added-value produced by Persons of African descent for their individual use and to maintain the culture and institutions of racial exploitation, hatred and repression. Taxes paid from the added-value produced by the slaves was used in part to finance the forces of repression that brutally enforced the law of slavery, crushing the countless slave rebellions and daily trampling on the dignity and culture of those forced into involuntary servitude, in many cases causing premature and painful violent death. At the very least the United States owed the collectives of slaves and still owes their descendents the plantations, enterprises and cultivated lands they had built and nurtured, and which had been the economic base of those free Persons and state that had stolen the added-value produced by slaves and abused them horribly.

The best the former slaves could expect from the ruling ideology was a change in their status from involuntary servitude to voluntary servitude
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The ruling capitalist ideology in its very soul is essentially racist, anti-worker and anti-communist. After the Civil War, it would not allow a transfer of property built by the former slaves to collectives of those slaves, and blocked the freed slaves from consolidating any political or economic power during reconstruction. Of course, as former slaves, most of them had nothing but their voluntary servitude to sell to make a livelihood. The best the former slaves could expect from the ruling ideology was a change in their status from involuntary servitude to voluntary servitude. The capitalist system demands a steady, vast supply of voluntary servitude and investment opportunities for those who own capital. Many former slaves began an exodus north as free Persons to begin voluntary servitude in the means of production owned by free Persons with capital. They were vilified as cheap competition for those already engaged in voluntary servitude. Free Person owners of the means of production used racism as an important weapon to divide and weaken the resistance of free Persons forced to sell their voluntary servitude and to keep them from building a unified collective movement of employees in defence of their rights and common interests.

Many former slaves who remained in the South eventually began new lives in voluntary servitude on land, plantations and enterprises that they and their ancestors had developed and built. Their new social status as free Persons with only their voluntary servitude to sell, as sharecroppers (tenant farmers) and farm workers on land in some places still controlled by the original plantation owners or seized at a good price by free Persons with money, many coming from the North as carpetbaggers, put the former slaves in a very vulnerable position for continued racist abuse. The ruling ideology demanded that those who had nothing upon emerging from involuntary servitude would only have their voluntary servitude to sell and would be condemned to continue lives of poverty and social and racial abuse. Without having the strength of collective ownership of means of production and blocked in their efforts to consolidate political power, former slaves became targets of revanchism and terror of those free Persons who formed the Ku Klux Klan and other fascist state-supported gangs. Free Persons who seized the means of production used the state legislative bodies and municipal councils to introduce racist codes attacking the dignity of former slave Persons and refashioned a law of slavery governing voluntary servitude and the negation of social and political rights of free Persons of African descent.

Ruling capitalist ideology focused on the advance from involuntary servitude to voluntary servitude but ignored the reality that former slaves still could not use the full added-value they produced to benefit themselves, their families, their communities and the social economy, and to organize a state that upheld the public good and the dignity of those free Persons of African descent, a state with institutions capable of mobilizing the masses to defeat the racist revanchists.

The modern need to abolish voluntary servitude requires the repudiation of the ruling ideology that voluntary labour servitude to the owners of the means of production represents freedom of labour, an exchange of equal value between free Persons, and the highest possible and final form of human relations of production.

(To be continued)

November 22, 2005 - No. 192

November 23, 2005 - No. 193

November 24, 2005 - No. 194



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