G. F. Eckstein

Henry Luce and Karl Marx

(March 1948)

Source: Fourth International, Vol. IX No. 2 (Whole No. 84), March–April 1948 pp. 40–49.
Transcribed: by Damon Maxwell.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive (August 2016).

The centenary of The Communist Manifesto stirred the American bourgeoisie to unusual propagandistic activity. The Manifesto is admittedly one of the great pamphlets of history and its centenary would in any case have commanded notice. But the power of the Russian state and the spread of the Stalinist parties all over the world made it imperative for the bourgeoisie to “educate” its readers against the evils of “Communism.” The most thorough indoctrination was done by Fortune, Life and Time,the triple organs of Henry Luce, the multi-millionaire publisher.

The rise of propaganda is a distinguishing characteristic of our age. The Nazis named a Ministry of Propaganda and appointed one of their three leading men to it. The propaganda of the Stalinist regime is the most extensive and intensive the world has ever seen. During the war the Prime Minister of Great Britain performed that function himself on behalf of the United Nations. The United States government likes to claim that it is far behind the governments of Europe in the war of words. In reality private enterprise, in this field as elsewhere, performs tasks which in the more critical conditions of Europe are performed by the state. Thus a special interest attaches to the Luce publications.

The three major publications, over which Luce rules constitute one of the most remarkable social organizations of our time. Fortune is a monthly magazine, very expensive ($1.00 per copy) which serves big business, executives, and that small part of the general public which is able to pay well for serious surveys and analyses of world economy, American capitalism, individual industries, foreign rivals and foreign trade, labor-management relations, and such social problems as the Negro question in the United States.

Second in the hierarchy is Time. It aims not at the expert but at the reasonably well-educated busy man and his family. Its total circulation is nearly two million, of which nearly half-a-million copies are sold abroad. It prints a Latin-American edition in Jersey City and other overseas editions in Paris, Tokyo and Honolulu. Never before has the world seen a single journal printed more or less simultaneously in areas of the world so widely separated from each other. Its editorial and news-gathering organization is on a scale to correspond. It maintains bureaus in 13 US and Canadian cities, plus 85 part-time correspondents in other localities. Abroad there are bureaus in London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Prague, Rome, Cairo, New Delhi, Shanghai, Nanking, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and 55 part-time correspondents in other localities.

The aeroplane, radio, cable, trans-oceanic telephone, teletype, and other modern means of communication and transportation are the technological means by which this vast organization can carry out its individual investigation, reporting and commentary on events in any part of the world. An army of researchers, editorial writers, re-writers and experts, prepare this material.

Time boasts that, exclusive of printing, distribution etc., the cost of each word it publishes is $1.48 compared to an average of 10 cents per word for other papers.

Finally there is a weekly picture magazine organized on the same scale. Its emphasis is on telling the news in pictures. Life gives more comment than straight news and publishes articles and extracts from books by public figures such as Winston, Churchill, the Duke of Windsor, John Foster Dulles, William Bullitt, etc. Its circulation, mainly American and Canadian, reaches the astonishing figure of over five millions per week. In many workers’ homes old copies are kept for reference and Life is read by all classes of the population.

In addition the same company reaches a vast public with March of Time (Radio) and March of Time (Motion Picture). Never has a single private individual had such power to influence what people think about the world in which they live. The Henry Luce publications have a distinct political line. They have popularized the phrase “The American Century.” By this they mean that if is the destiny of American imperialism in the twentieth century to rule the world. They are anti-Russian and anticommunist. In the United States they support the Republican Party openly enough, but do not make a fetish of it. They are supporters of “free enterprise” and “democracy.” Apart from profit-making, their main business is boosting what they call “American democratic capitalism.”

In the January 1948 issue Fortune published in article on a hundred years of The Communist Manifesto. This article was reprinted in Life, and is offered to the public in pamphlet form, single copies free, 100 copies for $2.50. 1000 copies for $20.00. On January 19, Life carried an article by John Dos Passos, The Failure Of Marxism. On February 23, Time published a picture of Karl Marx on its cover and carried a full-scale study of his life, ideas and influence. We shall see that the Lucean views on Marxism were tailored to suit all classes.

The Personal Method of Time

Let us begin with the Lucean editorial conception of Marxism which appeared in Time (at $1.48 per word).

Time says the world today is divided into Marxists and anti-Marxists; the “Man of the 20th Century” is Karl Marx. Marx, we are told, got into the center of all this commotion “by making a statement about the Machine. It was not a clear statement and ever more evidence piles up that it was wrong.” Marx was wrong. This is the key-note of all the Lucean writings on Marx. Marx was wrong ... Amazing business this. Tens of thousands of other writers, great and small, have been wrong. Few people get excited about it. But for nearly a hundred years now the chorus swells: Marx was wrong. It would seem that if anybody were so wrong time would take care of it and bury Marx and his errors in oblivion. But now Luce has to do the job all over again.

The failure of Marxism is that it leads to “a kind of prison existence where everyone is at the mercy of the warders.” (With singular obtuseness, Time quotes this from Bismarck, representative junker, whose descendants, bitter enemies of Marxism, have given the world the Nazi example of “a kind of prison existence where everyone was at the mercy of the warders.”) Yet, despite its failures. Marxism persists. It persists because “its converts get the only fully developed materialist religion, complete with creed, church, directions for salvation, answers to every question, saints, doctors and devils.”

Now Time makes a big jump and sets forth its own psycho-analysis of Marx’s life and character. “The ingredients in Marxism’s emotional force are 1) pity, 2) hate, 3) desire for power.”

Time concludes with examples of the projections of these three ingredients of Marx’s psyche into modern society. The “children of pity” are symbolized by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. The “Children of hate” are symbolised by Mussolini. The “children of love of power” are symbolised by Lenin. Thus Time finds in Marx’s psychology the origins of The Second International (the Socialists), of Fascism, (Mussolini and Hitler), and two stages of the Russian Revolution (Lenin and the Third International, Stalin and the Comintern).

This is nonsense. But it is nonsense read by millions of people anxious to learn. It is nonsense which on examination turns out to be skillfully adapted to the prejudices and weaknesses of the American people, it is designed to corrupt. First of all it is served up within a context of information gathered by all the resources of modem civilization. Against this background of fact it is as natural to absorb the poisonous analysis, as it was for people to accept Emil Ludwig’s early writings because of the great reputation of German scholarship.

Note also the personalized method. Long years of material prosperity and peaceful social evolution have inculcated the national tendency to pragmatic thinking. Absence of the class struggle in highly organized political form has created a tendency to symbolize political tendencies in individual figures and empirical slogans. In recent years, among the intelligentsia and the professional classes, there has developed a great interest in popularized, not to say vulgarized, psycho-analysis. Thought in the United States, particularly among the people for whom Time is designed tends to run along pragmatic lines and individual lines. The love of individual liberty, personal freedom is very strong. There is in general an absence of what Trotsky calls social thinking.

But at the same time, behind this pragmatic shell there has developed a profound distrust of capitalism as an economic and social system. Not love of capitalism but fear of totalitarianism is the psychological cement of capitalism today. The American people, particularly Time readers, mainly urban petty-bourgeois, are torn between their love of individual liberty and comfort and fear of regimentation. All this the Time article skillfully serves. Note the identification of Marxism with Catholic organization, always anathema to the Anglo-Saxon. Time concludes by saying that:

“Capitalism does not get all it can out of the Machine, or give men all that they should nave. But it has left men essentially free, while it gets more out of the Machine then Marxism does.”

Here Time is evidently on the defensive. It dare not shout about “free enterprise” in the manner of Hearst and the National Association of Manufacturers. Its public will not stand for this. Time knows this very well. It says that “capitalism has failed to proclaim, so that the world can hear – and that is not to capitalism’s credit – the victory that it has won over the argument of the Manifesto.”

Something is wrong. Capitalism needs to give assurance. Fortune, Life and Time are trying to do this. But they can’t. Any serious analysis of their publications shows this, and nowhere so clearly as in their attempt to “refute” Marxism.

The Social Method of Marx

In the issue of March 8, two weeks after the article on Marx, Time celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary with an article describing its own origin and development. The company was formed in 1923. In October 1924 Time’s circulation was 50,000. 1n November 1929 it opened its first news bureau in Chicago. In November 1942 came Time’s overseas edition. In April 1945 Time’s European edition started printing operations in Paris, etc. Here is the characteristic presentation of a free enterprise titivating his clientele and boosting his wares. This constant personalization and individualization of phenomena is the same method which Luce uses in the analysis of important events. There is, however, another method of looking at historical events and this is Marx’s specific contribution to modern thought. You will find it in the famous chapter XXXII of Capital on the Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation. There Marx describes the development of capitalist production as follows:

“one capitalist always kills many. Hand in hand with this centralization or this expropriation of many capitalists by few. ...”

The growth and proliferation of Luce’s huge organization for the collection and dissemination of news was not in essence due to Luce’s individual enterprise, to the fact that he did this on such and such a day and founded that on another day. Marx established as one of his great discoveries a law of capitalistic development – the centralization of the means of production into ever greater centralized, concentrated units. That is a specific law of capital accumulation. Luce publications are merely an example of it. So are General Motors and Firestone. Luce fitted into this movement.

But side by side with this law goes another. It is worth the attention of those who, like Luce, stand astonished at the magnitude and diversity of the “free enterprise” and “rugged individualism” which result in the issuance of Fortune, Time,and Life. At the same time as capital centralizes itself there develops

“on an ever extending scale, the cooperative form of the labor-process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labor into instruments of labor only usable in common, the economizing of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialized labor, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world-market, and this, the international character of the capitalistic regime.”

The cutting down of the trees for paper, the construction of the great printing machines, the whole complicated process by which a Time reporter hears of events a thousand miles away, takes a plane to the spot, puts what he has seen and heard on his typewriter, radios information and pictures, the organization whereby it is disciplined into magazine form and brought to the public, all this is part of the contrary process associated with the centralization of capital: the process of the socialization of labor.

The conscious technical application of science, the transformation of the instruments of labor into combined socialized labor-only such labor could produce and distribute journals like Time and Life. In the old days a great editor could make a paper by the force of his editorial personality and a few men to set type. Not today. Marx did not merely make a statement about “the Machine.” He saw long before anyone that the capitalist use of machinery would inexorably develop a type of combined, social labor which would make the free enterprise, the magnate, superfluous. Today Luce is entirely superfluous. He could disappear without a ripple. The great newspaper chains are characteristic features of all big countries. They are a social necessity and would have appeared in the US if Luce had never been born.

Let us note again the last phrases in the quotation from Marx: “the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market, and this, the international character of the capitalistic regime.” The economic and social movement creates the mass international paper. It is not by accident that in 1941 Luce pushed out into Latin America, in 1943 to Canada, and in 1945 into Europe. He expressed the suddenly increased international interests and responsibilities of American capitalism, the needs of the people for information in a menacing world and the need of capitalism to give them that information in a manner suitable to itself.

This last is important. if by some miracle Luce were to experience a change of mind and begin to propagate Marxism in his journals they would collapse like a pack of cards.

Further, if his journalistic empire collapsed tomorrow another would spring up in its place either by beginning afresh, or by a coalition or reorganization of existing journals. To say this is not to deny the capabilities of the Napoleonic Henry Luce. But it explains their effectiveness as an expression of basic social forces. What would Luce say if these achievements were to be explained by the pity, (or ferocity), hate (or love), desire for power (or desire for service) which were alleged to be characteristic of Luce’s personality? Yet this is the kind of tripe he serves up to the American people to explain the influence of Marxism and the rise and development of Social-Democracy, fascism, Communism, and Stalinism. Marx, great genius though he was, could only express social forces and that is why Marxism persists.

We Marxists do not explain the foolishness of Time’s analysis of Marxism by the stupidity of Luce or his writers. Not It all. If Luce wanted an accurate and authentic analysis of Marxism he could get it – and at a less costly rate than $1.48 a word. He does not want it. His business is to mislead and befuddle the American public and this he must do because the American public is not only subjectively interested in Marxism but is objectively ripe for its doctrines.

Marxism and the People of the US

The American people are today subjectively interested in Marxism because Russia and the Communist (Stalinist) parties which play so great a part on the world’s stage, parade under the banner of Marx. But they are also becoming objectively ready for Marxism because of the development of capitalism in the United States. Luce knows this very well. Marx, in that same chapter in which he summed up his doctrine, taught that centralization of capital and socialization of labor produced polar oppositions in modern society. First, a diminishing number of magnates of capital like Henry Luce and Henry Ford, and secondly, a working class whose “misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation” constantly grow, and with this growing misery, a growing revolt. Then comes the climax of the Marxian doctrine: “The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with it, and under it.” There are now in conflict two modes of production. There is the mode of production of combined, socialized, labor, a cooperative process. This is socialism. But it is inhibited, distorted, held in check, stifled by the monopoly of a few upon the means of production. “Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last, reach a point where they become incompatible with the capitalist integument.” It is this conflict which is tearing society apart, provoking disturbance throughout the United States, and causing such concern to Henry Luce.

Marxism has always viewed the great social and political movements of modern times as expressions of the development of capitalism. For generations America thought that it was safe from these European upheavals. Then suddenly in 1936 following the depression of 1929 came the CIO. America today, shaken by internal and external convulsions, trembles on the verge of a social cataclysm. Capitalism is in danger here as elsewhere, And Luce knows it. If not, how explain the editorial on the Manifesto? All students of Marxism should read and ponder over this hoarse-voiced, red-eyed, breast-thumping document.

US economy, we are told, produced in 1947 more coal, more iron, more steel than in any but the peak pre-war years. It drove the output of consumer goods to all-time levels. It nearly doubled the 1929 rate of investment and capital formation etc, etc. But behind these gaudy posters of self-praise could be discerned the cloven feet of, fear, these achievements of the economy “made hash of the notion of the mature economy.” So it seems that readers of Fortune were bothered by the “maturity” of the economy.

But worse is to come. “In any case it is time for a wholesale revaluation of values.” Whose values? “For years many Americans and most Europeans have looked on socialism and planning as the wave of the future.” Very interesting! It seems that there have been vast numbers of Americans with no faith whatever in free enterprise, enough at any rate for, Luce to demand a “wholesale revaluation of values.”

What we wand to show is that Fortune, Time and Life have contributed to this state of mind of the American people which demands a “wholesale revaluation of values.” This is the dilemma of capitalism. It constantly creates the basic forces and even helps spread ideas and doubts which are leading to its own destruction.

This Fortune editorial is not unusual. It is characteristic of the Luce press which is always in a state of frustration between the reality of capitalism and what it wants its readers to think. Sir Stafford Cripps, in charge of the British economy, calmly informed the world a few weeks ago that the British economy would collapse unless aid were received from the United States in short order. [“Such is our world that leading statesmen make tremendous announcements like the impending fall of Britain without turning a hair, while millions listen and turn the radio on to something else. But Sir Stafford, too, would be able to show how wrong Marx was.”] The editorial in Life, Feb. 1947 ended as follows:

“The present British crisis is fair warning that Americans no longer be merely well-intentioned observers and critics in a safely compartmented world. We are already up to our knees in Britain’s fate. If she weakens further we shall be in it up to our necks.”

In Life of October 6, 1947, a Life correspondent from Paris reported: “If no new credits are allowed, France will be virtually bankrupt in three weeks.”

We could multiply these warnings unendingly. One more, this time on China will suffice. William Bullitt, ex-Ambassador, reports in Life of Oct. 13, 1947, after a special assignment in the Far East:

“The cause is a common cause. If China falls into the hands of Stalin, all Asia, including Japan, sooner or later, will fall into his hands. The manpower and resources of Asia will be mobilized against us. The independence of the United States will not live a generation longer than the independence of China.”

This is the world and the dependence of the US upon it which it and Time, week after week, paint for their readers. Henry Luce must take them for awful fools if he thinks that they are going to be convinced of the Fortune centenary editorial on the Manifesto that American economy is at the height of its power and that:

“Today it is possible to insist that American democratic capitalism is the fact, the great forward experiment of our time, that while promising no cheap utopia, it is itself utopian.”

The very form and structure of Luce’s organization show that today the ordinary citizen is increasingly aware of the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market and the international character of the capitalistic regime. Any moderately intelligent reader will have noticed the hollow and defensive attitude visible in Luce’s flag-waving for capitalism. It is possible to attribute this to emotions of pity, fear, or love of something or other in his personal character. It is more scientific to trace it to the deep concern of American capital over the widespread distrust of the system as it works in the United States which is seething through the country today.

The Luce publications, Life in particular, constantly betray a dangerous irritation with the American people for refusing to recognize the benefits which capitalism is showering upon them. On Feb, 3, 1947 Life published an editorial on Joshua L. Liebman’s Peace of Mind. Why, it asks, does this book continue in the list of best-sellers? We won the war,the boys are mostly home, everybody has a job. “Yet at one end of the scale citizens are moaning the blues, while at the other end they are reclining on the psychoanalyst’s couch recounting their lives and their loves.”

Life is angry and comes to the conclusion “that what this country really wants is a good kick in the pants.” The people, you see, cannot understand how wrong Marx is Life recommends as an antidote the power of God and the gospels of Jesus. The cure is not interesting – but the diagnosis of the United States is: “A nation so rich in blessings yet gripped with a psychic unhappiness ...” Marx wrote many brilliant pages on the “psychic unhappiness” of modern nations. Only he rooted this unhappiness very firmly in the class conflicts and bankruptcy of capitalist society.

But who teaches the American people to doubt capitalism? High on the list are the Luce publications themselves. A March 18, 1948 Life editorial on the Marshall Plan ends: “Let us remember that this is a capitalistic country, that capitalism is neither doomed nor a thing to be ashamed of ...”

It appears that the millions who read Life have to be continually reinsured about capitalism and its blessings. Is there then some connection between capitalism and their “psychic unhappiness”? Let us see.

On June 2, 1947 the subtitle of an editorial on the State of the Nation says: “It is Generally OK Don’t let Anybody tell you differently.” But the editorial itself belies the polemical confidence of the title. Life repeats the story of the waitress who plastered the face of her boss with a chocolate pie. It notes that domestic servants, garage mechanics, telephone operators, bell-hops seem to dislike their jobs more obviously than they used to. Is this perhaps “a general sense of frustration” which stems from the high cost of living and expresses itself in lower standards of courtesy? The lightness of tone stops as the editorial ends.

“It is fitting and proper for Americans to have a certain amount of uncertainty as they take the stage as protagonists in one of the world’s most crucial epochs. But a people which dreams up more things, makes more things and gives away more things, than any other in history ... need not overburden itself with worry and self-doubt.”

However, Thanksgiving 1947 raised the query once more: “What is this goal, this metaphysical certainty Americans seem to lack today.” Very dishonestly Life asks, “Did we ever have it? Did anybody?” As if the phenomenon is not something new, something which has grown steadily in the United States since 1929. Life gives up: “no triumph of democracy will remedy all human sadness and doubt.”

Editorial after editorial shows that the country is sick, sick with fear and doubt, questioning the validity of the system and fearful of it, sick in the houses of workers as well as in the conference rooms and editorial offices of million dollar corporations. Perhaps the most astonishing sentences along this line in the pages of Life are the following from the issue of Dec. 22, 1947:

And just as I once found myself in 1919 as a young man at variance with my most conservative father, so I now found myself unable to agree with many of the political ideas held by my young friends. It is not that I fear change for I have never been reactionary. What I fear, and what I now realize my father always feared, was violent change; – change that would sweep away fundamental and hard bought things.

Who finds his young friends ready for such drastic changes? This person is the Duke of Windsor, one time King of Great Britain, Emperor of India, ruler of the greatest Empire the world has yet seen. The Duke has cleared himself but it is obvious that the Committee on Un-American Activities has much hard work ahead before it clears the country of all subversive elements.

The Failure of Dos Passos

The article by Dos Passos on The Failure of Marxism in Life of January 19, 1948 followed hard upon the Fortune editorial. It gives the readers his experience as an ex-radical to prove that socialism has been tried and find failed. Dos Passos has nothing new to say, Russia has degenerated into a terrible tyranny. But capitalism is not blameless. It led mankind into World War I in 1914. After a period of economic chaos there came a brief interval of prosperity which ended in the crash of 1929. Then came Nazi Germany and continuous crisis, culminating in the most terrible war mankind has known. The world has been left broken and bleeding.

Dos Passos goes to Britain where, with capitalism still in existence, some modest nationalization has taken place. He calls this Socialism and, watching the results two years, decides that Socialism has failed there too. Socialism is not the answer, he says. “We’ve got to do better than that.” But what exactly? The implication is obvious. Support American capitalism. Back Truman, or maybe Eisenhower, Wallace or Dewey, or sit at home and think, just think.

The moanings of Dos Passos, it is clear, will not cure the nation’s “psychic unhappiness.” If Marx was so wrong, the people would dearly love to know who was right, But, according to Dos Passos, everybody was more or less wrong. Roosevelt and his advisors “failed to see the world clearly” and so deprived the US of the fruits of victory. But not only the small group of leaders in Washington failed to see clearly. The whole body of thinking Americans “had just not caught up with the times.” The nation forgot a lot of things, for instance, that “liberty like peace is indivisible.” It forgot that the only sensible foreign policy was to encourage liberty and oppose oppression.

The chief enemy of liberty is the Soviet Union. The nation had forgotten this too. But Truman, Marshall, MacArthur, Forrestal, Walter Winchell, James Burnham, Churchill, De Gaulle, the President of Chile, and lots of other people know it now. They tell us every day. But we have not noticed any vast relief in the American people at the fact that the universal amnesia on this score has now been cured.

Why did this happen? Wilson “let himself be trapped into the state committee rooms of the old men of Versailles.” There were some other criminals too. The British capitalists were so rich and self-satisfied that they “neglected” to keep their “industries tooled up to-date or to protect the worker’s standard of living or to conserve their natural resources. If only they had not “neglected” these things. The British now have a new ruling class, the labor leaders. But alas, they too, are as dumb as the Americans who forgot the British capitalists were neglected. On the whole the “new ruling class” in Britain “tends to be so blinded by the utopian glamour, of the word ‘socialism’ that it has found it difficult to envisage the problem which confronts the nation.”

This is the world of deceit and self-deceit in which Dos Passes lives. This is his contribution to Luce’s proof that Marx was wrong. Roosevelt’s memory was bad. Wilson was too slow on his feet, and Attlee’s eyesight deceives him. If Marxism has failed, as Dos Passos contends, he likewise testifies that the defenders of capitalism have not been so conspicuously successful.

Luce and the Workers

In the writings of the Luce press there is little sense of the workers as an independent social class. The Fortune editorial proclaimed that contrary to the Marxian utopia America was already “the most classless society” history had yet seen. When the Luce reporters and writers chronicle the activities and ideas of the American working-class, they see them always as economic units or organized for economic ends. “Collective bargaining” is the usual limit of their horizon.

The moment they leave this sphere they drown the workers in the American nation. In this they reflect the role of the proletariat in the past of American history, and also, be it well understood, a determination to confine the proletariat to that negative role. But within that framework they carry on intensive investigation of the minds and attitudes of the American workers. Fortune for November 1946 published a remarkable article on The Fruitful Errors of Elton Mayo, Mayo being an industrial psychologist who has done work in labor-employee relations. The same ideas were served up in a highly personalized form for Life by one of its three senior writers, John Chamberlain, in the following month. Chamberlain entitled his: Every Man a Capitalist. Sub-title ran as follows: “A manufacturer named Adamson solves a major US problem: labor. He splits profits with workers. Result: profits up 500%, strikes zero.” A small capitalist invited his men to work hard and share profits. The men practically took over the plant. They worked as never before, stronger ones helped the weaker ones, all were alert for bottlenecks. The first year production efficiency jumped 54 per cent. This story being told at some length, Chamberlain then gets to the main point.

What exactly can management do to solve the crisis in labor relation? (The congress of course passed the Taft-Hartley Act). “Brute force” is not enough and it doubtful if it will work. Mayo says that workers need more than “protective clauses” in the contract and good wages. They also need a sense of participation, need to feel that they are necessary members of a social unit. But how to accomplish this in modern production? “It works when they’re all out to do a job for Uncle Sam,” said the President of the Packard Company. “But what’s the unifying factor going to be after the war? Are the workers going to beat hell out of the production line all for the love of the stock-holder?”

Everyone knows they will not, says Chamberlain:

“In factories that are inexorably chained to an extreme specialization and to the rigidly repetitive actions required by the moving belt, the sense of craftsmanship cannot always be allowed full scope. No doubt something could be done in even the most fully mechanized plant toward rotating a worker from hour to hour on different jobs, but even though this might have a salutary effect on the fatigue curves it would probably fail to evoke a fully satisfying sense of creation.”

Chamberlain notes that the group sense created by modern socialized labor can equally well be used by workers for conducting “a truly artistic slow-down.”

Over and over again during the past years the Luce publications come back to this problem of the worker in modern industry. Sometimes, they give it up as beyond them. In an article on Henry Ford, Charles J.V. Murphy, another senior writer, says:

“The philosopher’s case against Ford is that he annihilated individual craftsmanship, bound man to the machine, and cast up economic and social problems on which he could discover no acceptable solution. But why expect him to? ... [The solution] is up to the philosophers.”

The Luce probings into the future of labor in modern industry lead their writers into some strange places. That cannot occupy us now. Enough to say that Henry Ford no more “created” his problem than Luce “created” his publications. When Ford was running about the Michigan countryside in short pants, Marx wrote:

“Within the capitalist system all methods for raising the social productiveness of labor are brought about at the cost of the individual laborer; all means for the development of production transform themselves into means of domination over, and exploitation of, the producers; they mutilate the laborer into a fragment of a man, degrade him to the level of an appendage of a machine destroy every remnant of charm in his work and turn it into a hated toil; they estrange from him the intellectual potentialities of the labor-process in the same proportion as science is incorporated in it ax an independent power; they distort the conditions under which he works, subject him during the labor-process to a despotism the more hateful for its meanness; they transform his life-time into working-time, and drag his wife and child beneath the wheels of the Juggernaut of capital ... Accumulation of capital wealth at one pole, is therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital.’” (Capital – Volume 1, p. 709)

Thus Marx foresaw the problems which modern industry would create. And he posed the solution. The workers would have to remodel society completely on a new basis. Society would have to become truly democratic in that every man, more or less, could have the education and the training to be able to do what every other man did. Marx expressly disclaimed theories of individual equality. But only on the basis of a fully human existence for all men could human individuality flourish.

Marx pointed out that society would never be remodeled unless the proletariat of all countries did it, and until they did, society would be increasingly torn by growing contradictions and antagonisms, a sense of impeded development in all classes, and ultimately the collapse into universal barbarism. The “psychic unhappiness” of the American people, the social and psychological problems which the Luce publications report so accurately and before which they stand baffled and angry fire proof that Marx was not wrong. Luce is scared stiff that this disillusionment is fertile soil for Marxism. In this he is absolutely correct.

Last updated on 8 October 2020