Drawing on Walter Rodney’s lesser-known texts and speeches alongside his How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972), this essay demonstrates how Rodney applied Marx’s dialectical materialism to the study of slavery and colonialism in relation to labor in Africa and the Americas. It offers a critical response to the Brazilian theorist Denise Ferreira da Silva’s notion of the “racial dialectic,” which suggests that Marxism—and particularly the universal conception of human freedom embedded in Marx’s conception of the labor theory of value, primitive accumulation, and labor-time—is incapable of addressing the socioeconomic realities of slavery and colonialism. Rodney’s oeuvre provides an expansive engagement with Marx’s methodology applied to the realities of slavery and colonialism and contemporary political struggles on the African continent and in the Americas.

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