Monday, August 20, 2007

Slavery and wage-slavery

In Mauritania, slavery was banned years ago in 1981 - but it persisted and now there has been passed a new law meaning anyone that keeps slaves can be thrown into jail for up to 10 years.The law foresees fines as well as jail terms for slave masters and reparations for the victims. Mauritania's change in mindset seems to have found its momentum after an army coup in 2005. The military junta leader, Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, declared slavery a problem last year, a marked shift from the denials of the man he ousted.

"It's a historic moment. One of the reasons slavery has flourished is because of impunity, but now it's been criminalised in clear and comprehensive terms," Boubacar Ould Messaoud, the head of SOS Slavery in Mauritania, said

Mauritania's history of slavery goes back more than 800 years when Arab raiders surged across the Sahara to subjugate black Africans. Mauritanian slaves are born into an established slave class, and this binds them to their master's household. They can be given as gifts, and bought or sold. They must marry who their masters say and are usually told they can only go to heaven on their master's word.

As one small boy put it when talking to the campaign group Anti-Slavery International: "I grew up in the master's family, there was one son, we were almost the same age... He went to Koranic school and I was a shepherd, herding animals. I also had to fetch water. I did the work of domestics 24 hours a day. As a slave, we are the first to wake up, we are the last to go to bed."

Little will change though for that boy . From chattel slavery to wage-slavery is not really such a big change, though . He will labour in the interests of others and toil for the benefit of the master class .

"Slaves are often thought of as people in chains. But here they are born into submission. They are chained in their heads..." Messaoud of SOS Slavery went on to say .
Indeed , that is a condition that many live under - perhaps not literally actual slaves but still , nevertheless , in bondage to the yoke of capitalism and the necessity of working for a wage or a salary for mere simple survival and yet not realising their enslaved position in class divided capitalist society.

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