Slavery – at least chattel slavery – was outlawed in all of the countries in the world over a long timeline. For instance, Russia abolished slavery in 1723 but kept serfdom. Serfdom was abolished in 1917 after the Russian revolution. The slave revolution in Haiti outlawed slavery in 1804. Mexico got rid of it starting in 1810. Spain banned human bondage in most of its colonies in 1811 – except some islands in the Caribbean like Cuba. It was outlawed in the United Kingdom in 1833. Cuba finally abolished slavery in 1862. In 1865 after the Civil War it was outlawed in the U.S. with the passing of the 13th Amendment. Other countries like China abolished human enslavement in 1910, Afghanistan in 1922, Saudi Arabia in 1962, a bunch of Gulf Islamic states in the 1960s and lastly, Sunni Islamist Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981 and finally also made it a crime in 2007. De jure slavery no longer exists anywhere in the world - since 8 years ago.
However, capitalism still exists. With capitalism, private property and the profit motive, there is an incentive to continue de facto slavery. Not the chattel slaves of the old days, nor the ubiquitous wage slaves of today – but people forcibly held against their will, mostly in debt bondage, paid little or nothing, and never getting out of debt, or getting away. This is the sort of slavery that exists between chattel and wage – though some wage slaves have so much debt it can also last a lifetime. Sort of like modern U.S. prison labor or Jim Crow prisons in the South, but without any bogus legal reasons or sentence limitations. Debt and forced slavery have arisen to the point that now there are more slaves in the world than there were in 1860 or at any other time in history. According to reporter Benjamin Skinner, there are 27 million de facto slaves world-wide, based on estimates by NGOs and governments.
Capitalist neo-liberal India, that most self-congratulatory of countries, has the most (mostly debt) slaves of any country. Indian Dalit / Advasi workers and farmers of despised 'no-castes’ are born with a debt from their parents and, after working a lifetime for the landlord or owner, their children inherit that debt, continuing the work. India exports these 'untouchable' workers to other countries – 5.5 million work in the Gulf states. Narendra Modi, president of India and a (former?) member of the pro-fascist Hindu RSS - which sympathized with Hitler and Mussolini - will be doing nothing for these low-castes. This is why you find copies of Mein Kampf for sale in newspaper stalls across India. And why conditions for Indian workers in the Gulf are horrendous.
Romania is a league leader in the trafficking of sex slaves. Recent news stories have described Asian fishing vessels using slaves locked on boats to harvest shrimp. Others describe guarded labor camps in Mexico that produce vegetables, especially tomatoes, for the U.S. market. Sudan has 12,000 people in bondage because of the civil war there. 210 years after Haiti’s revolution led by Toussaint L’Overture, according to Skinner, 300,000 child slaves now live in Haiti. You can buy one for $50. Estimates are that in the U.S. there are up to 17,000 women forced into prostitution and held against their will each year. Not to mention undocumented immigrants held in sweatshops against their will in New York, Los Angeles and other cities.
The wealthy Islamic gulf states of the Middle-East, notable for banning chattel slavery last, have imposed brutal conditions on migrant workers instead. These workers do all the manual labor for the Arab Islamic aristocracies. The virtual slavery of female Asian domestics or sex slaves, or blue-collar workers continues, as passports are withheld so workers cannot escape.
In the Middle East it is called the ‘Kafala’ system - "Under the scheme the employer, to all extent and purposes, “owns” the migrant worker, who cannot change employers unless the sponsor decides to sell them on to someone else.” In Qatar 90% of the population are migrants. Many are virtually imprisoned. Many Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese and North Korean migrants have died building Qatar's 2022 World Cup facilities - almost one a day in 2014 according to the Guardian. Some reports say Nepalese are dying at 3-4 a day, as they are a mountain people working in desert conditions. The North Korean state pockets 90% of the wages of their forced laborers, as its autarkic economy is desperate for cash. In Abu Dhabi / Dubai, migrants are 95% of workforce. Females work as personal servants in a form of indentured servitude. Women are also forced into the sex trade for jet-set businessmen. All have their passports confiscated. Workers are denied payment of their paltry wages for months, and most are shorted at the end. There are no unions, no health and safety, so heat exhaustion and overwork lead to suicides. The governments lie about deaths. A shantytown called Sonapur in Abu Dhabi contains 300,000 workers. Sonapur means ‘the golden city’ in Hindi. It contains broken sewage systems, dysentery from bad water, overcrowding and misery. The gold is for others.
Why has slavery returned? A lot of modern anti-slavery organizations might not admit it, but its roots lie in modern globalist capitalism. Capitalism is a petrie dish for modern enslavement. It endures as the profiteer’s governments look the other way. Laws are not enforced. The almighty dollar or dinar or euro or peso or rupee rule, not the working classes. Private property is still the law of most lands and this includes human labor and human beings.
If the money-people can make a super profit without the 'free' wage system, so much the better!! They don’t really need chattel slavery anymore. De facto slavery conforms to the capitalist idea that all things are commodities, including human beings themselves, yet without any of the legal problematics. Just as chattel slavery dragged down the whole U.S. working class in the 1860s, so this kind of de facto slavery is a dead weight on struggles of workers, especially in India and the Gulf states.
Coming Soon: All this is found in a new book by Benjamin Skinner: “A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face With Modern-Day Slavery.” This book will be ordered by Mayday Books.
January 17, 2015