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 "Big Oil" was first to really take advantage of the severed relation

between money and commodity-capital by raising the dollar value of its commodity

(with no reference to wages whatsoever) at a rate described as "the oil shock".



Books by Alice Walker

Why War Is Never a Good Idea  / The Third Life of Grange Copeland / Meridian / The Temple of My Familiar / The Color Purple

By The Light of My Father's Smile / Revolutionary Petunias & Other Poems  /  In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose

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Lies, Truth and Unwaged Housework

A Response to   The Lie That Unraveled the World  


By Peter Taylor


For the past weeks your column "The Lie That Unraveled the World" has been resonating inside of me.

First, your words sent me back to a speech delivered by C. L. R. James in Brixton, London in August 1981. Titled "Three Black Women Writers: Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange", this talk is recorded in At the Rendezvous of Victory. You may already be familiar with this book (if not I obviously recommend it), in which case please excuse me for quoting the first two paragraphs in full.

I have chosen three books to discuss: Sula by Toni Morrison; Meridian by Alice Walker; and Nappy Edges by Ntozake Shange. These books are by three Black women, though I haven't chosen them because they are Black Women, but because they are very fine Black writers. They are first-class writers. Meridian and Nappy Edges I would place in the very front rank of books being published in the United States today. There is another reason, also, that I was particularly interested in these: they represent a social movement in the United States.

Women all over the world seem to have realized that they have been exploited by men. Marx pointed out many years ago that women were more exploited than the proletariat. (This is a remarkable thing for him to have said.) Now women are beginning to say: "Who and what are we? We don't know. Hitherto we have always tried to fit ourselves into what men and what masculine society required. Now we are going to break through that." These three women have begun to write about Black women's daily lives.

Black women in America for hundreds of years have been scrubbing, sweeping, cleaning, picking up behind people; they have been held in the background; kept for sex. And now Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Ntozake Shange have taken these Black women and put them right in the front of American literature. They can't be ignored any more. So it seems that in the women's movement, as usual in the United States, Black people took part; and they have taken a part in it which, as I hope to show you, is important not only to Blacks, but to society as a whole.

If you are indeed "taken as a madman for speaking of Walker's 'relevance'", then you are clearly in the finest of company.

And further on, you write: "For, in Walker's novels, race is indeed significant, but it is never the final determinant."

Again, C.L.R. James expresses a similar reading. While summing up his comments on Sula, James says: "She [Toni Morrison] is also saying that the real fundamental human difference is not between white and Black, it is between man and woman."

I agree with this truth. I leave aside the absurdly obscene 128 gradations, which official France attempted to impose on people in the colonies (pre-Haitian revolution), and the three or four categories into which apartheid South Africa attempted to divide the people, and also the one-drop regime of the United States. For all our complexions, there is only one race - the human race. Even modern science now agrees, and with nuff respect to Peter Tosh:

No matter where you come from

If you're a human

Then you're an African.

As they say in Jamaica, "When we are cut, we all bleed red".

Rather, the relation between a man and a woman is fundamental because this is the relationship through which the human race creates the human beings who live on into the future. And after the birth, these relationships of the mother with the father, and of both with the child, remain, for years, fundamental to the survival and growth of this member of the next generation.

This fundamental relationship does not exist between equals. And of course, it functions to maintain, to perpetuate, to reproduce this inequality of power between individuals. As you write in your essay:

America, Europe and also most of the nations and peoples of the earth have oppressive [patriarchal] hierarchies ritualized and institutionalized that lend themselves to the brutal oppression of women, children, and the weak.

And again:

Historically, in America, the hierarchy (patriarchy) has been structured white male, then white female, followed by all other persons, black male, black female, etc. At the very bottom of all these women in the world languishes the black female, cleaning up everybody's shit, always forced to defend her morality (read: sexuality), her appearance (read: beauty), her intelligence (read: humanity).

Now, your words sent me back to Sex, Race and Class by Selma James of the International Wages for Housework Campaign. Published some thirty years ago, this pamphlet, along with their other writings, expresses the analytical triumph of the revolutions of the sixties.

A hierarchy of labour-powers, to which there corresponds a scale of wages. Racism and sexism training us to acquire and develop certain capabilities at the expense of all others. So planting cane or tea is not a job for white people and changing nappies is not a job for men and beating children is not violence. Race, sex, age, nation, each an indispensable element of the international division of labour. Our feminism bases itself on a hitherto invisible stratum of the hierarchy of labour-powers - the housewife - to which there corresponds no wage at all.

Do you know of the work of the International Campaign for Wages for Housework? They can be reached at

The revolutions of the sixties - Black, women, youth/student, anti-colonial - broke-up the set of capitalist social relations which had been formed during The Great Depression and formalized during World War II. Expressed in the formula "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work", the assembly line materialized the production of this relationship between variable and surplus value. Crucially, this assembly line ran out the factory gate, through the community and back again. Seen from the point of view of the circuit of commodity-capital, the very first step was the realization of the value embodied in the commodity.

Not merely the sale of goods for a profit, this process had to reproduce labour-power for the waiting factory gates, i.e., to produce labour-power willing to again perform a fair day's work for a fair days wage. During this "age of Keynes", the formal relationship of money to commodity-capital was fixed, pre-determined, and guaranteed by the U.S. government - US$35.00 = 1 oz of gold.

Fuelled by the historic growth in the productivity of labour-power, the revolutions of the sixties attacked and overturned the power relations of capital all up and down the international hierarchy of labour-powers. By the early seventies, rulers of the "big power nations" were openly discussing the "crisis of governability", i.e., the refusal by people to accept their rules.

No longer could capital rely on its circuit as commodity-capital to command sufficient labour-power, to accumulate sufficiently. Formally, the relationship between money and commodity-capital (of dollars to gold) was severed - the U.S. government changed the rules by renouncing its guarantee.

When the working class imposes choices on capital, then capital always chooses against the working class.

Freed of its fixed link to commodity-capital, the U.S. dollar has been backed, since then, by U.S. power and wealth, its value determined by the amount of labour-power it can command. I think this is best seen in the circuit of interest-bearing capital, which both begins and ends outside any circuit of material production. Please don't get me wrong, we live and struggle in a very material (including spiritual) world. Indeed, "Big Oil" was first to really take advantage of the severed relation between money and commodity-capital by raising the dollar value of its commodity (with no reference to wages whatsoever) at a rate described as "the oil shock".

Immediately however, this accumulation created and exponentially expanded "petrodollars", i.e. money in the form of interest-bearing capital. And, despite its ever-expanding mass, the primacy of interest-bearing capital still required the imposition of a spike in interest rates, to levels greater than those existing "at any time since Jesus Christ walked this earth". The unprecedented expansion of debt during the Reagan years merely confirmed and expressed the ongoing domination of capital in its interest-bearing form.

As Marx notes:

The relations of capital assume their most externalized and most fetish-like form in interest-bearing capital. We have here M-M', money creating more money, self-expanding value, without the process that effectuates these two extremes. [It is] capital yielding a definite surplus-value in a particular period of time. In the form of interest-bearing capital this appears directly, unassisted by the process of production and circulation.

Capital appears as a mysterious and self-creating source of interest - the source of its own increase. The result of the entire process of reproduction appears a property inherent in the thing itself.. It becomes a property of money to generate value and yield interest, much as it is an attribute of pear-trees to bear pears.. As the growing process is to trees, so generating money appears innate in capital in its form of money-capital.

These appearances are of course false - and their maintenance requires the telling and the living of lies by the whole of society. And at the top the lies have become total:

9/11 Commission states: There were no links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Bush replies: There were links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.

The Black Commentator has portrayed this brilliantly in their picture of the Bush pirates floating in a bubble outside and above the world of human relations - a bubble of self-reproducing lies. In Issue 48 they write "The American "bubble" is a mostly white place, where fantasies of supremacy are passed around to justify [ongoing] privilege and aggression."

In reality, interest-bearing capital is "the result of the entire process of [capitalist] reproduction", i.e. it is money, which, is accepted by all in society as being able to return, after a certain period of time, along with a specified amount of surplus-value, a predetermined quantity of unpaid labour. In this way, capital accepts and assumes into the future its continued rule.

The success of this assumption that the ongoing functioning of the entire society will enable its continued accumulation of unpaid labour, this projected and desired future is actually created and produced by the unwaged labour of women. Daily, their unpaid work produces and re-creates the working-class with our set of internal hierarchical relations, i.e., the working-class in our social relationship to capital.

Since the mid-seventies, capital has stretched, and then stretched again, the international hierarchy of labour-powers and its corresponding scale of wages. Not only raising the top, the focus of capital's attacks have been on anchoring the bottom. Everywhere, these have focused explicitly on health care, education, social welfare, structural adjustments, privatization, migration controls, mass Black incarceration, etc. The result, first and foremost, is more work for women - work that is performed for little pay and for no pay.

When capital attacks, it is working class resistance that illuminates.

Even as capital was moving to consolidate its rule in its interest-bearing form, women in the International Wages for Housework Campaign were already "making visible the stratum at the bottom of the hierarchy of labour-powers - the housewife - to which there corresponds no wage at all". This unwaged labour of housewives is the fundamental source of the surplus-value accumulated by interest-bearing capital. Of course, patriarchy predates capitalism. And from its beginning, capital has exploited this power of men over women.

Now, however, this fundamental human relationship has been incorporated by capital into the very centre of its process of reproduction. No longer do the factory workers versus the assembly-line owners adequately express the class relation; rather, it is the unwaged housewife in confrontation with the moneylenders.

Even as the ever-expanding accumulation of interest payments continues, so also will our opposition to a barbaric, vampire-like, money-shitstem based on false appearances and lies. By laying bare the lie of man's dominion over woman, Alice Walker is speaking the truth. As such, she points the way for us all. As you wrote, we must stop the lies, and start telling the truth. In so doing, by telling the truth, we help create a future of equal rights and justice.

Power to the sisters and therefore to the class.

Peter Taylor is a long-time resident of Toronto, Canada. he was in the youth/student movement of the sixties, and later worked with Payday, an international network of men organizing with the International Wages for Housework Campaign. After marriage, he has actively tried to help his wife raise three children to young adulthood. Throughout, the message and heartbeat of conscious, roots reggae have nourished his spirit and body.

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My parents met and fell in love in Mississippi during the civil rights movement. Dad [Mel Leventhal], was the brilliant lawyer son of a Jewish family who had fled the Holocaust. Mum was the impoverished eighth child of sharecroppers from Georgia. When they married in 1967, inter-racial weddings were still illegal in some states. My early childhood was very happy although my parents were terribly busy, encouraging me to grow up fast. I was only one when I was sent off to nursery school. I'm told they even made me walk down the street to the school.When I was eight, my parents divorced. From then on I was shuttled between two worlds—my father's very conservative, traditional, wealthy, white suburban community in New York, and my mother's avant garde multi-racial community in California.

I spent two years with each parent—a bizarre way of doing things. Ironically, my mother regards herself as a hugely maternal woman. Believing that women are suppressed, she has campaigned for their rights around the world and set up organisations to aid women abandoned in Africa—offering herself up as a mother figure.

But, while she has taken care of daughters all over the world and is hugely revered for her public work and service, my childhood tells a very different story. I came very low down in her priorities—after work, political integrity, self-fulfilment, friendships, spiritual life, fame and travel. My mother would always do what she wanted—for example taking off to Greece for two months in the summer, leaving me with relatives when I was a teenager. Is that independent, or just plain selfish? —How my mother’s fanatical views tore us apart by Rebecca Walker

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Amazon's Alice Walker Page

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Report of the Research Committee
on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
Thomas Jefferson Foundation

January 2000


Based on the examination of currently available primary and secondary documentary evidence, the oral histories of descendants of Monticello's African-American community, recent scientific studies, and the guidance of individual members of Monticello's Advisory Committee for the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies and Advisory Committee on African-American Interpretation, the Research Committee has reached the following conclusions:

Dr. Foster's DNA study was conducted in a manner that meets the standards of the scientific community, and its scientific results are valid.

The DNA study, combined with multiple strands of currently available documentary and statistical evidence, indicates a high probability that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings, and that he most likely was the father of all six of Sally Hemings's children appearing in Jefferson's records. Those children are Harriet, who died in infancy; Beverly; an unnamed daughter who died in infancy; Harriet; Madison; and Eston.

Many aspects of this likely relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson are, and may remain, unclear, such as the nature of the relationship, the existence and longevity of Sally Hemings's first child, and the identity of Thomas C. Woodson.

The implications of the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson should be explored and used to enrich the understanding and interpretation of Jefferson and the entire Monticello community.—Monticello

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Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: A Brief Account 

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom (1777), the third President of the United States (1801–1809) and founder of the University of Virginia (1819). He was an influential Founding Father and an exponent of Jeffersonian democracy.

Sarah "Sally" Hemings (Shadwell, Albemarle County, Virginia, circa 1773 – Charlottesville, Virginia, 1835) was a mixed-race slave owned by President Thomas Jefferson through inheritance from his wife. She was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson by their father John Wayles. She was notable because most historians now believe that the widower Jefferson had six children with her, and maintained an extended relationship for 38 years until his death. When Jefferson's relationship and children were reported in 1802, there was sensational coverage for a time, but Jefferson remained silent on the issue. Four Hemings-Jefferson children survived to adulthood. He let two "escape" in 1822 at the age of 21 and freed the younger two in his will in 1826.

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Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy

By Annette Gordon-Reed

Attorney Gordon-Reed (law, New York Law Sch.) presents a lawyer's analysis of the evidence for and against the proposition that Jefferson was the father of several children born to his household slave Sally Hemings. Gordon-Reed is not concerned with Jefferson and Hemings as much as she is with how Jefferson's defenders have dealt with the evidence about the case. Her book takes aim at such noteworthy biographers as Dumas Malone, who has been quick to accept evidence against a liaison and quick to reject evidence for one.—Library Journal

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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The Women Jefferson Loved

By Virginia Scharff

According to historian Scharff, Thomas Jefferson’s “most closely guarded secrets, the most fiercely maintained silences, all had to do with the women he loved.” It stands to reason that in order to fully understand a man as tremendously gifted and as deeply flawed as Thomas Jefferson, one must also understand and appreciate the women who collectively formed the foundation of his life and shaped the nature of his legacy. Although Jefferson’s mother, daughters, granddaughters, wife, and enslaved mistress were all fascinating women who played distinct roles in his life and legend, they were also creatures of their time and place, living, enduring, and playing by the rules of a patriarchal, male-dominated society. By studying these women Scharff not only opens a window to the heart and soul of one of our nation’s founders but also resurrects their own contributions to our nation’s history.—Booklist

The chapter on Sally Hemings does not add much new information, but it certainly lays out the facts we know in a comprehensive and well organized fashion. Much like Professor Gordon-Reed, the author carefully explains the strange dual-family existence that prevailed at Monticello, and how servants integrated with the Jefferson family as they all lived together. As regards the two daughters, they too emerge from the historical darkness and we learn a great deal about them and their important role in TJ's life and activities. As I read each chapter, I learned all manner of things of which I had not been aware, and I have read a lot of material on TJ. So women are central to the story, but there is also an abundance of additional facts and perspectives that very much enhance the book. —Ronald H. Clark

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The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

By Annette Gordon-Reed


This is a scholar's book: serious, thick, complex. It's also fascinating, wise and of the utmost importance. Gordon-Reed, a professor of both history and law who in her previous book helped solve some of the mysteries of the intimate relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, now brings to life the entire Hemings family and its tangled blood links with slave-holding Virginia whites over an entire century. Gordon-Reed never slips into cynicism about the author of the Declaration of Independence. Instead, she shows how his life was deeply affected by his slave kinspeople: his lover (who was the half-sister of his deceased wife) and their children. Everyone comes vividly to life, as do the places, like Paris and Philadelphia, in which Jefferson, his daughters and some of his black family lived. So, too, do the complexities and varieties of slaves' lives and the nature of the choices they had to make—when they had the luxury of making a choice. Gordon-Reed's genius for reading nearly silent records makes this an extraordinary work.—Publishers Weekly

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Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

By Tony Horwitz

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown's uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict. Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy. On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown's capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist.

The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown's dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called "a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale." Tony Horwitz's riveting book travels antebellum America to deliver both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a nation divided—a time that still resonates in ours.

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Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

By John D'Emilio

Bayard Rustin is one of the most important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America's consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual. Acclaimed historian John D'Emilio tells the full and remarkable story of Rustin's intertwined lives: his pioneering and public person and his oblique and stigmatized private self.

It was in the tumultuous 1930s that Bayard Rustin came of age, getting his first lessons in politics through the Communist Party and the unrest of the Great Depression.

A Quaker and a radical pacifist, he went to prison for refusing to serve in World War II, only to suffer a sexual scandal. His mentor, the great pacifist A. J. Muste, wrote to him, "You were capable of making the 'mistake' of thinking that you could be the leader in a the same time that you were a weakling in an extreme degree and engaged in practices for which there was no justification."

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 19 June 2012




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  Related files: On Almost Meeting Alice Walker   A Lie Unravels the World   Lies Truth and Unwaged Housework