Deville - The People's Marx (1893)
I. The development of machinery. —The development of modern industry.
II. The value transferred by machinery to the product.
III. The labor of women and children. —The prolongation of the working-day. —The intensification of labor.
IV. The factory.
V. The strife between workman and machinery.
VI. The theory of compensation.
VII. Repulsion and attraction of work-people by the factory system.
VIII. Suppression of co-operation based on handicrafts and division of labor. —Reaction of the factory system on manufacture and domestic industries. —Transition from modern manufacture and domestic industry to modern mechanical industry.
IX. Contradiction between the nature of modern industry and its capitalist form. —The factory system and education.. —The factory system and the family. Revolutionary consequences of factory legislation.
X. Modern industry and agriculture.
Like every other development of the productive power of labor, the capitalist employment of machinery tends only to diminish the price of commodities and, consequently, to curtail the part of the day in which the laborer works for himself, in order to lengthen the other part in which he works only for the capitalist. Like manufacture, it is a particular method for the formation of relative surplus-value.
In manufacture, the industrial revolution begins with labor-power; in mechanical production, it begins with the instruments of labor. We must first then try to find out how the instrument of labor is transformed from a tool into a machine, and in that way accurately define the difference between a machine and a manual tool.
All developed machinery is composed of three essentially different parts: the motor mechanism, the transmitting mechanism, and the tool or working machine.
The motor mechanism drives the whole machine. It generates its own motive-power, like the steam-engine, or receives its impulse from an external natural force, like the water-wheel from a water-fall, the wing of a wind-mill from currents of air, etc.
The transmitting mechanism composed of fly-wheels, belts, pulleys, etc., regulates the motion, distributes it, changes its form if necessary, and transmits it to the working machine, the machine-tool. The motor and transmitting mechanism exist, in fact, only to set the machine-tool in motion and make it seize upon the subject of labor and change its form.
In examining the machine-tool, we find reappearing in it on a large scale, although under modified forms, the apparatus and tools used by the handicraftsman or the manufacturing workman; but they are no longer the manual implements of man, but have become the mechanical implements of a machine. The machine is therefore a mechanism which, when properly set in motion, performs with its tools the same operations that the workman formerly performed with like tools.
As soon as the implement, taken from the hand of man, is wielded by machinery, the machine-tool has taken the place of the simple tool, and a complete revolution has been effected, even when man continues to supply the motive power. For the number of tools with which man can work simultaneously is limited by the number of his own organs. While man has only two hands to hold needles, the stocking-loom, run by one man, knits with many thousand needles. The number of tools that a machine can bring into play simultaneously is therefore emancipated from the organic limits that hedge in the tools of a handicraftsman.
There are some implements that show clearly the double role of the laborer as the mere motive power and as the artificer. Take, as an example, the spinning-wheel. The foot acts on the treadle as motive power, while the hands spin by working with the spindle. It is this last part of the handicraftsman's implement that the industrial revolution first seizes upon, leaving to the workman, besides his new task of watching and attending to the machine, the purely mechanical role of furnishing the motive power.
The machine, the starting-point of the industrial revolution, supersedes the workman, who handles one tool, by a mechanism which works simultaneously with a number of similar tools, and which is driven by a single motive power, whatever the form of that power may be. Such a machine is however only a mere element of mechanical production.
When a certain point is reached, the dimensions of the operating machine and the number of its tools can be increased only by bringing into requisition a driving power mightier than that of man, leaving out of consideration the fact that man is a very imperfect agent for the production of continuous and uniform motion. And therefore, when the tool is replaced by a machine driven by man, it soon becomes necessary to replace man, as a source of motive power, by other natural forces.
Horses, wind, and water have been tried; but it was only with the invention of Watt's steam-engine that there was discovered a prime mover capable of generating its own motive power by consuming water and coal, and whose unlimited power is completely under the control of man. Besides, as this prime mover was not restricted in its sphere of action to those special localities where natural power, such as water, etc., was situated, it could be moved from place to place and installed wherever its action was required.
After the emancipation of the prime mover from the limitations of human strength, the isolated machine-tool, which inaugurated the industrial revolution, becomes a mere organ of the mechanism of production. One motive mechanism can now drive many machines. The entire productive mechanism presents then two distinct forms: either the co-operation of many similar machines, as in weaving, or a combination of different machines as in spinning.
In the first case, the product is made entirely by a single machine which performs all the operations. And the factory, the true form of the workshop based on the employment of machinery, appears at first as an agglomeration of machines of the same kind, working at the same time, in the same place. Thus a weaving factory is formed by the assemblage in one place of many power-looms. But here there is a true technical unity in the whole system, since all the machines derive their motion uniformly from a common motor mechanism. Just as a number of tools form the organs of a machine, so a number of similar machines form the organs of a single motive mechanism.
In the second case, when the subject of labor has to pass through a series of gradual transformations, the machinery system accomplishes them by the use of different machines, but these machines are linked together into a chain. That co-operation with division of labor, characteristic of manufacture, reappears here as a combination of detail machines. However, an essential difference manifests itself at once. The division of labor in manufacture is strictly limited by the extent of human strength and capacity, and the division must be so arranged that each of the detail operations into which it splits the process can be performed by manual implements in men's hands. Mechanical production, on the contrary, freed from the restraints of human strength and capacity, bases the division of a process of production into several operations on the analysis of its constituent principles and successive stages, while the question of technical execution is solved by the aid of mechanics, etc. Just as in manufacture, the direct co-operation of the detail laborers establishes definite numerical proportions between the different groups of laborers, so in the combination of different machines, the uninterrupted employment of one detail machine by another, each furnishing the following machine with its subject of labor, creates a definite relation between their number, their size, their speed, and the number of laborers of each special kind that must be employed.
Whatever form it may take, an organized system of machines, working in unison, to which motion is communicated by a transmitting mechanism from a central prime mover which generates its own motive power, is the most highly developed expression or form of productive machinery. The isolated machine has been replaced by a mechanical monster whose gigantic limbs and organs fill entire buildings.
The division of labor in manufacture gave birth to the workshop for making the implements and mechanical apparatus already in use in some manufactures. This workshop with its laborers—skilled mechanics—made possible the application of the great inventions. It built machines. As these inventions multiplied and the demand for machines increased, the industry of machine- making was divided into varied and independent branches, and in each of these branches the division of labor was developed. Historically, then, manufacture forms the technical basis of modern industry.
The machines furnished by manufacture replaced manufacture by modern industry. But, while developing, modern industry revolutionized its technical basis, machine construction, and subordinated it to its new principle, production by machinery.
Just as the machine was only a paltry thing as long as it derived its motion from human power, just as the machine system progressed slowly until the traditional motive powers—animals wind, and even water—were replaced by steam, so modern industry was retarded in its progress so long as the machine itself owed its existence to human strength and skill, and thus depended on the muscular strength, the accuracy of vision and manual dexterity of the workman.
This is not all. The transformation of the mode of production in one branch of industry involves a transformation in another. The means of communication and transportation, made inadequate by the development of production, had to adapt themselves to the exigencies of modern industry. We see the result in railways and transatlantic steamships.
The enormous masses of iron, that it consequently became necessary to forge, weld, and fashion, necessitated monster machines that the methods of manufacture were unable to provide.
Modern industry was therefore obliged to resort to its characteristic instrument of production, the machine itself, to produce other machines. It thus created for itself a technical basis in conformity with its ruling principle.
A prime mover capable of exerting any desired amount of power already existed in the steam-engine. But in order to be able to make machines by machinery, it was requisite to produce mechanically the geometrically accurate forms, such as the circle, the cone, the sphere, etc., required in some parts of machines. This problem was solved in the beginning of our century by the invention of the slide-rest, which was soon made automatic. This appliance, the slide-rest, made it possible to produce the desired geometrical forms with a degree of ease, accuracy, and speed that no accumulated experience of the hand of the most skilled workman could give.
Modern industry, being able thereafter to develop freely, made the co-operative character of the labor-process a technical necessity imposed by the very nature of the instrument of labor. It created a productive organism, which exists in the workshop, independent of the laborer, and which forms the material condition of his labor. Capital stands confronting him in a new and more redoubtable form—that of a monstrous automaton beside which the power of the individual laborer sinks into insignificance.
We saw that the productive powers resulting from co-operation and division of labor cost capital nothing. They are the natural forces of social labor. Neither do the physical forces appropriated to the purposes of production, such as water, steam, etc., cost anything; but, in order to utilize these forces, there is need of certain apparatus made by man; to utilize the motive power of water, a water-wheel is needed; to exploit the elasticity of steam, a steam-engine is needed.
If then it is evident at the first glance that mechanical industry increases prodigiously the productivity of labor, one may nevertheless question whether the use of machinery saves more labor than its construction and maintenance costs.
Like every other component of constant capital or the part of capital advanced in means of production, machinery does not produce value, but only transfers its own value to the article that it is used to make. Now, this instrument of labor of modern industry, machinery, is very valuable compared to the instruments of labor used in handicrafts and manufacture.
If machinery is always utilized as a whole in the creation of a product, that is to say, as a factor in production, it is only consumed by fractions in the formation of value, that is to say, as an element of value. After the product is created, the machine, in fact, is still there. It has served as a whole in creating it, but it has not disappeared in the process of creation. It is there, ready to start once more to make a new product. It never confers more value than it loses, on the average, by wear and tear. There is then a great difference between the value of a machine and the value that it transfers to its product, between the machine as an element of value and the machine as a factor in production. As a machine lasts a long time and its daily wear and tear and expense are spread out over immense quantities of products, each one of its products absorbs only a very small portion of its value, and this portion decreases as the productivity, of the machine increases.
Given the rate at which the machine is worn out and consequently the rate at which it transfers its value to the product, the magnitude of the value transferred depends on the original value of the machine. The less labor it embodies, the less value it has and the less it adds to the product.
It is clear that there may be a simple displacement of labor. If there has been expended in the production of a machine as much labor-time as its use economizes, the total quantity of labor required for the production of a commodity, and, consequently, the value of the commodity has not diminished. But the value transferred to the product may be diminished, even though the purchase of a machine costs as much as the purchase of the labor-powers that it replaces, because, in this case, the machine replaces more labor-time than is represented by it. The price of the machine, in fact, expresses its value, that is to say, that it is the equivalent of all the labor-time that it contains, no matter how that time was divided between necessary labor and surplus-labor; while the same price paid to the laborers whom it replaces, is not the equivalent of all the labor-time that they furnish, but is only equal to a part of that time—their necessary labor-time.
Considered solely as a means of cheapening the product, the employment of machinery is limited in this way: the labor-time expended in its production must be less than the labor-time saved by its use.
For the capitalist, the use of machinery is still more closely limited. He pays, not for labor, but for labor-power, and the actual wages of the laborer are often below the value of his labor-power. Therefore the capitalist is governed in his calculations by the difference between the price of machinery and the price of the labor-powers it displaces. It is this difference that determines the net cost to the capitalist and decides him to employ the machine or not. From his standpoint, profit springs from the diminution, not of the labor he employs, but of the labor for which he pays.
By rendering muscular exertion needless, machinery makes it possible to employ laborers without great muscular strength, whose limbs are but slightly developed, but are, on that account, all the more supple. When capital seized upon the machine it at once sought the labor of women and children. Machinery, that mighty agent for saving human labor, was straightway converted into an instrument for increasing the number of wage-workers. It brought all the members of the family, without distinction of age or sex, under the sway of capital. All were forced to work for the profit of the capitalist. Childhood was robbed of its playtime, and adults could no longer work in freedom at home for the support of the family.
The value of the laborer's labor-power was formerly determined by the cost of maintaining the laborer and his family. By throwing the family on the labor-market and thus distributing among several labor-powers the value of one single labor-power, machinery lowers the value of labor-power. It may be that the four labor-powers, for example, that a working-class family now sells, bring in more than the single labor-power of the head of the family did formerly; but there are also four days' labor instead of one. Four persons now, instead of one, must furnish to capital, not only labor, but also surplus-labor, in order for a single family to live. Thus machinery, while multiplying the exploitable human material, at the same time raises the degree of exploitation.
Machinery, as employed by capital, profoundly changes the nature of the contract between the capitalist and the laborer. The fundamental condition of this contract was that the capitalist and laborer should deal together as free persons, both commodity owners, one the owner of money or the means of production, the other the owner of labor-power. All this is overthrown, as soon as the capitalist buys women and children. Formerly, the laborer sold his own labor-power, of which he could freely dispose; now, he sells women and children. He has become a slave-dealer.
By the addition to the working-class of a large number of women and children, machinery at length succeeds in breaking down the resistance that the male laborer still opposed in the manufacturing period to the despotism of capital.
The apparent ease of working with machinery, and the more pliant and docile character of women and children, aid in reducing labor to servitude.
Machinery creates, both new conditions which allow capital to give a free rein to its constant tendency to prolong the working-day, and new motives which intensify its thirst for the labor of others.
The longer the period during which the machine functions, the larger is the quantity of products over which is spread the value that it transfers, and the smaller is the share added to each commodity. Now, the active life-time of the machine is evidently determined by the length of the working-day multiplied by the number of days during which it functions.
The material wear and tear of machines is twofold. They wear out, on the one hand, by use, on the other, by non-use, as a sword rusts in its scabbard. But in use the wear and tear is compensated, while in non-use there is nothing to show for it. Therefore every effort is made to curtail the time during which the machine is not in use. Where it is feasible, they are run day and night.
The machine is, besides, subject to what might be called moral wear and tear. In however good condition it may be, it depreciates in value by the construction of improved machines which come into competition with it. The danger of its moral wear and tear is lessened by shortening the period of its physical wear and tear, and it is clear that prolonging the working-day shortens this period.
The prolongation of the working-day makes it possible to extend the scale of production without increasing the part of the capital represented by buildings and machinery. Thus, the surplus-value is increased, and the expenses necessary to obtain it diminished. On the other hand, the development of mechanical production compels the investment of an ever-increasing part of capital in means of labor, machinery, etc., and every interruption of the working-time renders useless, so long as it lasts, this ever-growing capital. The smallest possible intervals of idleness and a continuous prolongation of the working-day are then desirable for the capitalist.
We saw, in Chapter XI, that the sum or mass of surplus-value is determined by the magnitude of the variable capital—in other words, by the number of laborers simultaneously employed—and by the rate of surplus-value. But if mechanical industry diminishes the labor-time necessary for the reproduction of the wages paid, and thus increases the rate of surplus-value, it obtains this result only by replacing the laborers with machines, that is to say, only by diminishing the number of laborers employed by a given capital. It transforms into machinery or constant capital, that yields no surplus-value, a part of the capital that was before spent for labor-powers and did yield surplus-value. Hence, the use of machinery with a view to increasing surplus-value involves a contradiction. By the curtailment of the necessary labor- time, it raises the rate of surplus-value; by the reduction of the number of laborers employed by a given capital, it diminishes the mass of surplus-value. This contradiction, instinctively felt though not consciously realized, drives the capitalist to prolong the working-day in the most abnormal fashion, in order to compensate the decrease in the relative number of laborers exploited, by increasing the duration of their surplus-labor and thus heightening the degree of their exploitation.
Machinery in the hands of capital creates, therefore, new and powerful motives for excessively prolonging the working-day. By adding to the army under the command of capital, women and children—strata of the working-class formerly exempt—and by placing in a reserve corps the laborers displaced by machinery, it produces a superabundant working population which is compelled to yield to the dictation of capital. Hence this economic phenomenon that machinery, the most efficient instrument for curtailing labor-time, becomes, by a strange paradox, the most unfailing instrumentality for transforming the entire life time of the laborer and of his family into time devoted to the expansion of capital.
The excessive prolongation of daily labor brought about by machinery in the hands of capitalists and the consequent degeneration of the working-class finally lead to a reaction on the part of society which, feeling itself menaced at the very sources of its vitality, enacts legal limitations of the working-day. As soon as the growing rebellion of the working-class compelled the State to decree a normal day, capital sought to achieve by an increase of the quantity of labor performed in a given time what it had been forbidden to accomplish by a progressive multiplication of the hours of labor.
With the legal curtailment of the day, the laborer was compelled to expend, by means of a greater exertion of his powers, more activity in the same time. Henceforth there are two ways of estimating the magnitude of labor—by its duration and by its degree of intensity. How is a greater expenditure of vital power in the same time obtained? How is labor rendered more intense?
The curtailment of the day intensifies labor in accordance with this evident law, that the efficient capacity of every animal force is in inverse ratio to the time during which it acts. Within certain limits, what is lost in duration is gained in efficiency.
So soon as legislation abridges the working-day, machinery is converted, in the hands of the capitalist, into a systematic means for extorting more labor out of every moment. But in order for machinery to exert this greater pressure upon its human servitors, it must be constantly improved. Every improvement in the system of machinery becomes a new means of exploitation, while the curtailment of the day forces the capitalist to derive from the means of production, driven at utmost tension, the greatest possible effect, while he strives to keep their running expenses down to the absolute minimum.
We have just studied the basis of the factory—machinery—and the direct reaction of mechanical industry on the laborer.
Let us now examine the factory itself.
The modern factory may be described as a vast automaton, composed of various mechanical and intellectual organs—the machines and the laborers—acting in uninterrupted concert for the production of a common object, all of them being subordinate to a self-regulated moving force.
Skill in handling the tool passes from the workman to the machine. Therefore, the hierarchy of specialized workmen, characteristic of the division of labor in manufacture, is replaced in the factory by the tendency to equalize and reduce to one and the same level every kind of work that has to be done by the minders of the machines.
The essential division is into workmen who are actually employed on the machines (among whom are included a few who look after the engine), and into mere attendants (almost exclusively children) of these workmen. In addition to these two principal classes, there is a numerically unimportant class of persons whose occupation it is to look after the whole of the machinery, and repair it from time to time—such as engineers, mechanics, etc.
Every child learns very easily to adapt his or her movements to the continuous and uniform motion of machinery. And, the ease and rapidity with which machine-work is learned does away with the necessity for transforming, as in manufacture, each sort of labor into an exclusive occupation. If the laborers must be distributed among the various machines, it is no longer indispensable to confine each one to a single task. As the movement of the factory (as a whole) is due to machinery and not to the laborer, the personnel may be constantly changed without causing any interruption in the progress of the work.
Although, then, from the technical point of view, the mechanical system puts an end to the former system of division of laborer, the latter nevertheless persists in the factory, at first as a tradition inherited from manufacture, afterward because capital lays hold of it to preserve it and remold it into a still more hideous form as a means to the systematic exploitation of labor-power. The specialty which consisted in handling one detail tool for a life-time, becomes the specialty of serving one detail machine for a life-time. Machinery is misused, in order to transform the laborer from his very infancy into a part of a machine, which is itself only a part of a system of machinery. He is thus bound to one simple operation and never learns the whole of even one stage in the process of production, and therefore he is good for nothing, if the opportunity to perform this operation is taken from him, either by his discharge, or by a new invention. He is thus made absolutely dependent upon the factory, and therefore upon capital.
In manufacture and handicrafts, the workman makes use of a tool; in the factory, the machine makes use of him. In manufacture, the motion of the implement proceeds from him; in the factory, he only follows the movements of the machine. The instrument of labor transformed into an automaton confronts the laborer, during the labor-process, under the form of capital—dead labor, that dominates and pumps dry his living labor-power.
Factory work not only over-excites the nervous system to the uttermost, but it prevents the varied play of the muscles, and fetters every free activity of the mind and body. The very ease of the labor becomes a torture, since the machine does not relieve the workman of labor, but robs the labor of all interest. Modern industry finally completes the separation we have already pointed out between manual labor and the intellectual powers of production, converted by it into the power of capital over labor. It converts science into a productive power independent of labor, links it to the mechanical system, and makes them both the property of the "master."
All the productive forces tend to insure the domination of this "master"—the capitalist—and in his eyes the existence of machinery is inseparably linked to his monopoly of it.
The subordination of the workman to the invariable regularity of the movements of machinery creates a barrack-like discipline, perfectly organized in the factory- regime. Under that regime there is no liberty, either as an abstract right or as an actual fact. The workman eats, drinks, and sleeps at the word of command. The despotic bell calls him from his insufficient rest and his unfinished meals.
The factory owner is an absolute law-giver. At his own good pleasure, he formulates, into a factory-code, his tyrannical authority over his workmen. To the laborers who complain of the unreasonable and arbitrary rules of the capitalist, he replies: "Since you voluntarily agreed to this contract, you must submit to its terms." The place of the slave-driver's lash is taken by the overseer's book of penalties. All penalties naturally take the form of fines and deductions from wages, so that the capitalist profits even more by the violation than by the keeping of his laws.
We will not discuss the material conditions under which, for the sake of economy, factory labor is carried on—the high temperature, the foul air loaded with the dust from the raw materials, the deafening noise of the machines, without mentioning the risks run among the powerful machines, surrounding one on all sides and regularly furnishing the material for a list of industrial mutilations and murders.
The struggle between the capitalist and the wage- worker dates from the very origin of industrial capital, and it raged throughout the period of manufacture. But only since the introduction of machinery has the workman attacked the instrument of labor. He rebels against this particular form of the instrument, which, in his eyes, is only a formidable enemy.
It took both time and experience for the workingmen to learn to distinguish between machinery and the use made of it by capital, and to direct their attacks, not against the material instruments of production, but against their use as means to exploitation.
Under the form of a machine the instrument of labor becomes the direct competitor of the laborer, and this antagonism manifests itself especially when newly introduced machines come into competition with the methods in use in handicrafts and manufacture.
The general system of capitalist production is based on the fact that the workman sells his labor-power as a commodity. Division of labor cripples this power by specializing it into ability to handle one detail tool. So soon as this tool is wielded by a machine, the workman loses his utility, just as a demonetized coin will no longer circulate. When that part of the working-class which machinery thus renders superfluous—not immediately needed for purposes of capitalist exploitation—does not succumb, it either vegetates in a state of pitiable poverty that keeps it in the ranks of the reserve-corps of capital's army, or else overcrowds other occupations in which it lowers the value of labor-power.
The antagonism between the machine and the laborer shows itself with analogous effects even in modern industry, when an improvement in the machinery takes place. The constant aim of these improvements is to diminish the manual labor for a given capital, which, thanks to these improvements, not only requires fewer laborers, but also constantly substitutes the less skilled for the more skilled, children for adults, and women for men. Now, all these changes cause variations in the rate of wages that are disastrous to the laborer.
And the machine does not act solely as a competitor whose superior power is always on the point of rendering the wage-laborer superfluous. It is as a power hostile to the laborer that capital makes use of it. It has become the most effective weapon for repressing strikes, those periodic revolts of labor against the despotism of capital. Some of the most important applications of machinery (new inventions or improvements in existing machinery) have been introduced by capital, in order to overcome the resistance of striking workingmen.
Some bourgeois economists maintain that machinery, by rendering superfluous in one kind of labor, some workmen who were employed in it—i.e., by discharging them and depriving them of their wages—sets free, by that very act, an amount of capital that destiny (as Mr. McKinley would say) decrees shall employ them anew in some other occupation. Hence, they say, there is here a compensation for the loss of employment. To deprive a laborer of the means of subsistence—to starve him—these gentlemen call freeing these means of subsistence for the laborer as new means for his employment in another industry. It all depends, you see, on the form in which the fact is expressed.
The truth is that the workmen made superfluous by machinery are driven from the workshop and thrown upon the labor-market where they add to the numbers of the workmen already at the disposal of capital. Driven from one branch of industry, they can, of course, seek employment in another. But if they find it, if they once more get the means to buy the beans of subsistence which their discharge set free—that is to say, which their lack of wages prevented them from buying—they owe this to a new capital that has appeared on the labor- market, and not to the capital that formerly employed them. The latter capital has not been "set free," but has been converted into machinery. And their chances are very slender; for, except in their former occupation, these men, stunted by the division of labor, are worth very little and are admitted only into the lower grades of employment that are poorly paid, and because no skill is exacted, are always plentifully supplied with applicants for employment.
Machinery is not responsible for the miseries that follow in its train. It is not its fault if, in our social environment, it separates the laborer from his means of subsistence. Wherever it is introduced, it renders the product cheaper and more abundant. After its introduction, society possesses at least as much, if not more, of the necessaries of life, than before, for the laborers displaced by it, without taking into account the immense portion of the annual product squandered by idlers.
If machinery has become the instrument of man's enslavement; if this unfailing means for shortening the day's work prolongs it; if this magic wand for increasing the wealth of the producer impoverishes him—all this is because its use is controlled by the capitalists. These contradictions and antagonisms, inseparable from the use of machinery in a bourgeois environment, spring not from the nature of machinery, but from its employment by capitalists as an exploiting agency.
Although machinery throws a larger or smaller number of laborers out of work in the handicrafts and branches of manufacture into which it is introduced, it may nevertheless cause an increase of employment in other branches of production.
As the quantity of articles made is much larger with machinery, more raw materials are needed, and therefore the industries that furnish these raw materials must increase the bulk of their products. It is true that this increase may not be effected solely by increasing the number of the laborers. The intensity of the labor may be heightened or its duration lengthened.
Machines give rise to a kind of laborers devoted exclusively to their construction, and the more machines there are, the more numerous this category of laborers becomes. As machinery increases the mass of the raw materials, instruments of labor, etc., the industries which make use of these raw materials, etc., divide up more and more into various branches, and the social division of labor is developed far further than under the action of manufacture.
The system of mechanical production augments surplus-value. This increase of wealth in the capitalist class, accompanied, as it is, by a relative diminution of the number of laborers employed in producing the necessaries of life, creates, with the new demand for luxury, new means of satisfying this demand. The production of luxuries increases. This development of luxury causes a rapid growth—ever growing more rapid—of the class of domestic servants, composed of lackeys, coachmen, cooks, maids, etc.
The multiplication of the means of labor and subsistence leads to the construction of gigantic systems of communication and transportation. New industries arise and open new avenues to labor.
But all these extensions of the domain of employment have nothing in common with the so-called theory of compensation.
Every improvement in machinery diminishes the number of the laborers required, and, therefore, banishes from the factory a part of its personnel. But, when mechanical exploitation is introduced or improved in one branch of industry, the extraordinary profits enjoyed by those who are the first to apply the improved methods, soon bring on a period of feverish activity. These profits attract capital which is always seeking for specially profitable investments. The new processes come into general use. The erection of new factories and the enlargement of old ones thus caused, increases the total number of laborers employed. This expansion of the amount of capital invested in factories—in other words, a quantitative change in mechanical industry—attracts laborers, while the improvement in machinery—in other words, a qualitative change—repels them.
But the expansion of production, caused by the multiplication of factories, floods the market with an apparent excess of commodities and this, in turn, leads to a retardation, a paralysis of production. The life of industry is thus transformed into a series of periods of moderate activity, prosperity, over-production and stagnation. The laborers are alternately attracted and repelled—driven hither and yon—and this process is accompanied by continual changes in the age, sex and skill of the work-people employed. The uncertainty, the ups and downs to which exploitation by machinery subjects the laborers finally become the normal conditions of their existence.
Exploitation by machinery suppresses co-operation based on handicraft labor. For example, the mowing-machine supersedes the co-operation of a number of mowers. Machinery also suppresses manufacture based on the division of manual labor. The machine for making pins gives us an example of this. One woman looks after four machines producing many more pins than many men formerly did by the system of division of labor.
When a single machine takes the place of co-operation or of manufacture, it may itself become the basis of a new handicraft. However, this organization of a handicraft on the basis of a machine serves merely as a transition to the factory system which makes its appearance ordinarily, as soon as water or steam take the place of human muscles as the motive power. Here and there, nevertheless, a petty industry may for a time be carried on by mechanical power, by hiring steam-power or by using small power-generators, such as gas engines.
As modern mechanical industry develops, the character of all branches of industry is transformed.
Machinery forces its way into the old manufacturing industries, now for one detail operation, now for another, and thus deranges their organization based on a fixed system of division of labor and completely revolutionizes the composition of their working force. Thenceforth, the division of labor is based on the employment of women, children and unskilled laborers—more briefly, on the employment of cheap labor.
Machinery also acts in the same way upon the so-called domestic industry. Whether the latter is carried on in the actual dwelling of the laborer or in small workshops, it is now only an annex to the factory, the manufactory or the wholesale house. Articles of clothing, for example, are largely made by these so-called home-laborers,—no longer, as formerly, for individual consumers, but for proprietors of factories, stores, etc., who furnish the materials when they give out the work. Thus, besides the factory operatives, the manufacturing workmen and the handicraftsmen whom it concentrates in large masses in huge workshops, capital also has an industrial army scattered over the country and in the large towns.
The exploitation of cheap laborers is practiced with more cynicism in modern manufacture than in the factory, properly thus called, because the substitution of machines for muscular power, which has taken place in the latter, is scarcely to be met with in manufacture. In domestic industry, this exploitation is still more scandalous than in manufacture, because the scattered condition of the workers weakens their power of resistance, because a whole band of intermediaries, devouring parasites, insinuate themselves between the employer and the worker; because the worker is too poor to provide himself with the most necessary conditions for his labor—ample space, air and light—; because, finally, it is among this class of laborers that the competition of worker with worker attains its maximum. These antiquated modes of production, modified and deformed, under the influence of modern industry, reproduce and even exaggerate its enormities for a time, but they are doomed to disappear.
The cheapening of labor-power by sheer abuse of the labor of women and children, by brutally depriving the workers of the normal conditions of life and exertion, and by over-work and abuse of night-work meets, at last, with physical obstacles, that the limitations of human strength and endurance make insurmountable. Hence, the cheapening of commodities brought about by these processes, and capitalist exploitation based upon them, are also checked at the same point. Though it takes many and long years to reach this point, when it is reached the hour has struck for the transformation of domestic industries and manufacture into the factory system.
The progress of this industrial revolution is hastened by the legal regulation of the working-day, by the exclusion of children under a certain age, etc., which force the capitalist manufacturer to multiply the number of his machines, and to substitute steam for muscles as a motive-power. The only weapon of domestic or household industries in the war of competition is unlimited exploitation of cheap labor-power. Hence, as soon as the limits of the day are legally fixed, and child-labor is restricted, they are condemned to death.
So long as handicrafts and manufacture form the basis of social production, the subordination of the workman to one exclusive occupation and the consequent hindrance to the development of his varied aptitudes may be looked upon as necessary conditions of production. The various branches of industry form so many callings closed to all who are not versed in the secrets and routine of the trade.
The new science of technology, created by modern industry, to-day teaches these secrets. It describes the various industrial processes, analyzes them, resolves their actual complex and intricate movements into a few fundamental forms of mechanical motion, and seeks to discover the improvements that may be made in these processes. Modern industry never looks upon and treats the existing form of a process as final.
While the preservation of their established mode of production was the fundamental condition of all former industrial classes, the bourgeoisie, by incessantly modifying the instruments of labor, per force, modify continuously the relations of production and the entire complex of social relations, which is founded on the form taken by material production. Hence, its basis is revolutionary, while the basis of all former modes of production was essentially conservative.
If the very nature of modern industry necessitates changes in the labor-process, frequent modifications of the functions of the laborers, and the versatility of the laborer, on the other hand, in its capitalist form, it reproduces the old division of labor in an even more odious form. The laborer was formerly tied for his whole life to one detail operation. Modern industry makes him an appendage of a detail machine. We know that this absolute contradiction between the technical necessities of modern industry and its social characteristics under the capitalist regime ends by destroying all the elements of certainty and stability in the life of the laborer, whose livelihood, as we saw in paragraph IV, of this chapter, may slip from his grasp with his instrument of labor at any moment, and who is constantly in danger of being made superfluous by the suppression of his particular detail function. This antagonism gives rise, as we have seen in paragraph V, to the monstrosity of an industrial reserve army, kept by poverty at the disposal of capital. It leads to the periodic decimation of the working-class, to the most reckless squandering of labor-power, to the ravages of a social anarchy which turns every economical progress into a public calamity for the working-class.
In spite of the hindrances to variation of labor under the capitalist regime, the very catastrophes which modern industry causes, imperatively compel the recognition of variation of work, and of the necessity of the greatest possible development of the various aptitudes of the laborer, as one of the laws of modern production. This is a question of life or death. Yes, modern industry compels society under penalty of death, to replace the one-sided worker of to-day, the drudge of one detail-function of production by the completely developed individual, ready and able to take up any kind of work, and who, by performing various and diverse functions, only gives free scope to the variety of his natural or acquired powers.
The bourgeoisie, who, by establishing special schools for their own sons, simply obey the tendencies inherent in modern production concede to the proletarians the bare pretence of practical education. But, since legislation has been compelled to combine elementary instruction, however defective, with industrial labor, the inevitable conquest of political power by the working-class will introduce the teaching of theoretical and practical technology in the people's schools. The education of the future will combine—for all children above a certain age—manual productive labor with mental instruction and gymnastics—and also, in the case of boys, military exercises. This is the only way to produce fully developed human beings.
It is beyond doubt that the development of the new factors which will finally lead to the suppression of the old division of labor, binding each laborer to one detail operation, is in flagrant contradiction with the capitalist system of industry and the economic environment in which it places the workman. But the historical development of the contradictions and antagonisms inherent in a given mode of production and the social organization that corresponds to it, is, in practice, the only way by which they can be dissolved and the way prepared for another mode of production and a new form of social organization.
"Let every worker stick to his trade!" This acme of wisdom in the period of handicraft and manufacture became utter nonsense from the time that the clock-maker Watt invented the steam-engine, the barber Arkwright the throstle, and the goldsmith Fulton the steamboat.
The shameful exploitation of the labor of children forced legislation to interfere and attack not only the lordly rights of capital, but also the authority of parents. The law-making power, although devoted to the interests of capital, has been forced by the tactless ruthlessness of capital to take steps to preserve the new generations from premature decay. It was necessary for the representatives of the ruling-classes to take measures against the excesses of capitalist exploitation, and what could be more characteristic of this mode of production than this necessity?
The abuse of paternal authority did not create the exploitation of childhood. Quite the contrary, capitalist exploitation made this authority degenerate into an abuse. Legal intervention is an official confession that modern industry has converted the capitalist exploitation of women and children, which, by upsetting the home- life, has destroyed the working-class family of former times, into an economic calamity a confession that it has transformed parental authority into a device of the social mechanism intended to force the proletarian to furnish children to the capitalist directly or indirectly. The proletarian must, under pain of death, play his role of procurer and dealer in slaves.
However terrible and disgusting in the present environment the dissolution of the old family ties may appear, modern industry by virtue of the decisive role that it allots to women and children outside of the domestic circle, does nevertheless create a new economic foundation on which will arise a higher form of the family and of the relations between the sexes. It is just as absurd to consider the present form of the family as absolute and final, as it would have been to so regard its Oriental, Greek or Roman forms. The very fact that the collective working-group is composed of individuals of both sexes and of all ages, although a source of corruption and slavery under the rule of capital, contains the germs of a coming social evolution. In history, as in Nature, out of decay issues life.
While enforcing upon each separate industrial establishment uniformity and regularity, the legislation limiting the working-day is indispensable for the physical and moral protection of the working-class, though it multiplies, by the stimulus it gives to mechanical development, the anarchy and catastrophes of social production. It unduly intensifies labor and embitters the competition between the laborer and the machine. It hastens the transformation of individual labor into labor organized on a large scale and accelerates the concentration of capital! By wiping out small manufacture and domestic industries, it removes the last refuge of a host of laborers whom it robs of their means of subsistence, and who are kept by want at the disposition of capital until the dawn of the day when it shall permit them to work. Thus it takes away the safety-valve of the whole social mechanism. At the same time it broadens the base of the struggle against the domination of capital. It develops, along with the elements for the formation of a new society, the forces destined to destroy the old one.
If the employment of machinery in agriculture is largely free from the inconveniences and physical dangers to which it exposes the factory operative, its tendency to supersede and displace the laborer is realized in action with greater power.
In the domain of agriculture, modern industry has a more revolutionary effect than anywhere else on this account :—It does away with the peasant, that bulwark of society as it was, and puts in his place the wage-laborer. The need and longing for social regeneration and the class-struggle are thus made common to town and country.
In agriculture as in manufacture, the capitalist transformation of production seems to be only the martyrdom of the producer. The instrument of labor becomes the means of subduing, exploiting, and impoverishing the laborer. The social organization of labor becomes the means of crushing the individual independence of the laborer. But the dispersion of the agricultural laborers over vast areas breaks down their power of resistance, while concentration increases that of the urban workers.
In modern agriculture, just as in urban industries, the increased productivity of labor is bought at the price of the destruction of labor-power. Moreover, all progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress not only in the art of exploiting the laborer, but also in the art of exhausting the soil. All progress in the art of rendering the soil more fertile for a time is a progress in the ruin of its sources of fertility.
Capitalist production therefore develops the social form of production only by exhausting at once the two sources from whence springs all wealth—land and labor-power.