His explanation of the rise of capitalism placed the African slave trade, the European extermination of indigenous people in the Americas and colonialism at its heart. A cotton spinning jenny is a machine for spinning cotton. Torn away from these conditions, it is as little capital as gold by itself is money, or as sugar is the price of sugar.
In Capital, Marx writes: The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of the continent, the beginnings of the conquest and plunder of India, and the conversion of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of black skins are all things that characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist production. In this passage, Marx shows no prejudice to Blacks ("a man of the black race," "a Negro is a Negro"), but he mocks society's equation of "Black" and "slave" ("one explanation is as good as another").
As the Trinidadian historian of slavery Eric Williams put it: "Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery." And, one should add, the consequence of modern slavery at the dawn of capitalism.
While slavery existed as an economic system for thousands of years before the conquest of America, racism as we understand it today did not exist.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - From time immemorial?
The classical empires of Greece and Rome were based on slave labor.
More importantly, encounters in the ancient world between the Mediterranean world and Black Africans did not produce an upsurge of racism against Africans.
In Before Color Prejudice, Howard University classics professor Frank Snowden documented innumerable accounts of interaction between the Greco-Roman and Egyptian civilizations and the Kush, Nubian, and Ethiopian kingdoms of Africa.
But none of these cultural or ideological factors explain the rise of New World slavery or the "modern" notions of racism that developed from it. Racism, it's said, is as old as human society itself.As long as human beings have been around, the argument goes, they have always hated or feared people of a different nation or skin color.They arose and became part of the dominant ideology of society in the context of the African slave trade at the dawn of capitalism in the 1500s and 1600s.Although it is a commonplace for academics and opponents of socialism to claim that Karl Marx ignored racism, Marx in fact described the processes that created modern racism.If we understand white people as originating in what is today Europe, then most slaves in ancient Greece and Rome were white.