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In Volume One of Capital, Marx laid out what he called “The Secret of Capitalist Primitive Accumulation.” Capitalist accumulation must be preceded by some previous…
In Volume One of Capital, Marx laid out what he called “The Secret of Capitalist Primitive Accumulation.” Capitalist accumulation must be preceded by some previous accumulation, “an accumulation which is not the result of the capitalist mode of production but its point of departure” (1990, p. 873). Marx, concentrating on European history, identified the “double-freedom” requirement necessary for capitalist production: workers must be “free” to sell their labor-power and they must be “free” from the means of production. But in this analysis, Marx not only was focusing his remarks on Europe, he actually states that the “classic” case is limited to England, while the “history of this expropriation assumes different aspects in different countries, and runs through its various phases in different successions, and at different historical epochs” (p. 876). In the European colonies, land expropriation and forced labor were used, but another important means of forcing indigenous populations to work as wage-laborers or produce cash crops was taxation and the requirement that taxes be paid in colonial currency. This paper provides an overview of this method, and documents its historical importance, concentrating on Africa. Taxation also played an important role in the monetization and commoditization of African economies, and in the rise of a peripheral capitalism. As the paper demonstrates, Marx was not unaware of money taxes functioning in this manner, and the phenomenon was in no way limited to Africa.