Michael Kidron


(October 1956)

First published as a pamphlet by Michael Kidron (London NW8) in October 1956.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


The Labour Movement is beginning to wake up to the problem of automation. “It brings heaven down to earth,” says the capitalist press. And some of the trade-union leaders echo reassuringly that it will not affect us greatly, that it is being introduced gradually and that the bosses are, after all, “aware of their responsibilities.”

Although we are still at the very beginning of automation, we have already learned otherwise. The crisis in the motor industry would not have been so deep were it not for the increased productivity brought about by automation. The need to find markets would not have been as acute were it not for the same thing. As for the bosses’ being aware of their responsibilities, the workers in the industry have brought us down to earth and demonstrated by strike action that the capitalist class begins to be aware of responsibilities only when forced to do so.

We have learned for the n-th time that when the bosses gain control of a means to human happiness all they do with it is further human misery. And we may yet be forced to learn that “automation in the hands of Capitalism”, as one delegate put to the Oxford conference of shop stewards in the motor industry (September, 1955), “is akin to the Hydrogen bomb.”

This pamphlet will show that kinship. It will demonstrate that automation introduced by unplanned Capitalism is a tremendous threat to workers and to people generally, and that the decision whether automation is to be a blessing or a curse depends on independent action of the working class in gaining control of it.

A lot has been learned from the American working class. Their experience of automation preceded ours and is more widespread. A lot, therefore, will be said that, on the basis of British working class experience, might seem far-fetched or premature. It is well, however, to be forewarned.

July 1956


Automation is full mechanization. It becomes possible when machines are made to control the routine operations of other machines. But whenever and however it is introduced, it is a revolutionary force. It affects every aspect of work relations within the factory and has an impact on every aspect of life outside. Its biggest threat is that of unemployment. But before we come to that let us look at some aspects of its impact within the individual factory.


“Automation”, according to Diebold, the acknowledged expert on the subject, “provides the answer to the human problem of machine pacing and subordination of the worker to the machine.” [1] So it does when there is full automation. But when automation is partially applied pace setting becomes even worse than before.

Automation integrates the whole plant into one continuous process. “The rate of output will be decided by managements on technical grounds, and it will be controlled by technicians rather than operatives.” [2] Where there are gaps in automation, for example where an operator does repetitive work between two automatic machines which require work to be removed and fed at fixed intervals, the operator must work at the pace set by the whole line. The problem exists in any production line; but in an automatic factory it is crucial.

We have experience of what this means in practice. In the Ford plant at Dagenham, Essex, “the operator on a transfer-line (automated-MK) is semi-skilled and is usually paid in the same way as other semi-skilled men”, but he has more to think about than the operator of an individual machine-tool. His actions are more varied and continuous; he may cover more ground, has more points to watch, and must react more promptly.” [3]

Automation does not mean speedup only incidentally. It is used consciously to cut down waiting time even where conventional machines are operating. The Potter Instrument Co. in the US recently announced the production of a small computer that can be attached to any machine. “Used to study frequency-changing combinations of automatic machine cycles”, states the announcement, “it calculates the production on each machine of a group and the waiting time during which the operator is not loading any machine.” [4]

Stripped of technical jargon, this means that speeds and piece-rates would have to be argued with an electronic brain instead of with human management snoopers.

Nothing as mass produced has appeared yet in this country but Brook Motors Ltd., of Huddersfield, have installed a device in their Barugh Green plant near Barnsley called ‘the Brain’. It “is operated by one girl and yet controls about 250 women workers.”

“Under the old system,” states a report [5], “... when a winder had finished a job, she had to report to the production control office and wait an average of seven minutes before she could be provided with the materials required for the next job.

“Now there is no waiting. When one of the 250 winders has finished a job, a red flash appears on the panel of ‘the Brain’, which is being controlled by a girl, the girl passes an order and presses a button for a green light to appear ...”

and the materials are delivered instantly. The boss has saved seven minutes; the workers have sweated a little more.

As pace-setting becomes more and more a function for the plant engineers (who can, because of the integration of the whole plant into one process, determine the rhythm of work in the entire factory), the individual worker becomes less and less able to set his own work-pace. Even the single shop or section loses its power to adjust speeds. They become a factory affair which must be made subject to factory-wide bargaining between workers and management.

In this, American workers have had more experience than we. They have also made greater gains than we have. In an epic 22 weeks’ strike at Westinghouse on the issue of piecework and production standards, the International Union of Electrical Workers broke the management’s prerogative to decide unilaterally that each worker must produce a given number of pieces a day or face suspension or the sack. Since March 1956 all disputed piece rates and speeds have been the subject of arbitration. Although this is very far from workers’ control of speeds it is a step towards it. It is an essential first line of defence against capitalist automation.

Health and Conditions

Shop-Stewards will have to watch the effect of automation on the mental health of workers.

One of the first things to guard against is mental fatigue as a result of speedup. This happens in every case of partial automation where, even if physical activity is at a minimum, the speed of reaction to signals and dials limits the speed of the machine. Constant tension and the fact that the operator may have to take in and act continuously on a heavy load of information quickly gives rise to “perceptual fatigue.”

A famous interview in the New York Post showed what this means to the individual worker:–

“Then there are workers who can’t keep up with automation. Such as Stanley Tylak. Tylak, 61 and for 27 years a job setter at Ford, was shifted from the River Rouge foundry machine shop to the new automated engine plant. He was given a chance to work at a big new automatic machine.

“Simply, straightforwardly, he told his story: ‘The machine had about 80 drills and 22 blocks going through. You had to watch all the time. Every few minutes you had to watch to see everything was all right. And the machines had so many lights and switches – about ninety lights. It sure is hard on your mind.

“‘If there’s a break in the machine, the whole line breaks down. But sometimes you make a little mistake, and it’s no good for you, no good for the foreman, no good for the company, no good for the union.’

“And so Stanley Tylak, baffled by the machine he couldn’t keep up with, had to take another job – at lower pay.” [6]

Strain comes for other reasons, not only from overtaxing the worker with too many control functions. Two trade unionists who had been on an English Speaking Union tour of America reported that “they had heard of cases where so peculiar has been the atmosphere of the almost fully mechanized factory that some of the workers have had nervous breakdowns in a very short time.” [7]

Joseph A. Beirne. President of the Communications workers of America, showed how deep is the impact of the new working conditions.

“We know,” he told a Congress Subcommittee, [8] “of cases where some workers have gotten sick on the steps of the new toll centre; others developed various illnesses which could be traced to fear of new work operations. We have been told of mature women crying in restrooms, improperly prepared for new methods and fearful of losing their jobs or being pressured into unwanted, early retirement with inadequate pensions. The tragedy of the mature worker whose skill area suddenly disintegrates and is incorrectly retrained is profound.”

Mental and psychological stress of this nature will always be a feature of production as long as profits can be made out of over-loading the individual worker with control operations, as long as retraining programmes are skimped and job-insecurity lasts. They are part of capitalism. But even within capitalism they can be alleviated by lessening the duration of strain, by cutting the work-week without loss of pay, by improving conditions within the plant.

Shift Work

Mechanization results in an increase in the ratio of capital to labour. Automation increases this ratio even further. Every moment that the plant is idle means a loss to the owner since machines, unlike labour-power, are paid for whether they are employed or not. For this reason and because it is always costly to interrupt a continuous operation – as the oil industry and some methods of steel-making show – automated plants will be expected to run to a three-shift seven-day-week timetable.

This means a struggle over the number of shifts, night-shift and holiday-working pay. It means a struggle about overtime, for the management will always find it expedient to replace a fourth shift (a fourth shift is necessary to man rest days and holidays) with overtime worked by the other three and so save the expense of recruiting and training other workers. Thus, in the US, workers in the chemical and petroleum industries (which are highly automated) work an average of one to one-and-a-half hours a week more than the average for all manufacturing. These averages do not tell the whole story because they cover all employees in these two industries, including truckers, salesman, office staff and so on as well as those working in the automated plants.

Probably the worst threat posed by round-the-clock operations is that of compulsory overtime and compulsory night- or holiday-shift work. This threat is especially real when we remember that some of the automated plants will employ a very small work-force. The Esso refinery at Fawley, near Southampton, for example, has a total of fourteen workers per shift to man both its distillation and cracking plants although it produces fully one-third of all oil products consumed in Britain. Labour needs are so small compared with the available work-force that, whether there is full employment or not, the management would find very little difficulty in replacing any particular worker. The threat of the sack is potent in such circumstances and the pressure that management can bring to bear when enforcing compulsory overtime is formidable.

Where large numbers of workers are involved and while full employment lasts, the question of compulsory overtime and compulsory night-shifts can be solved on a plant basis. The bitter struggles of our dockers in 1954-55 on these very principles shows that. But within the confines of a small plant, unless the work-force can rely on the organized strength of the workers outside their plant they might be defeated.


By reducing direct contact with machines, automation should make working safer although the results of injury, if it occur, might well be more serious than in a conventional plant owing to the increased speed of operation. Partial automation increases the speed of the usual operations but does not entirely displace the direct operator. Industrial injury, when it does occur, is grave.

There are no figures to work on, but experience has shown that unless shop-stewards are on their toes, managements will skimp and scrape in installing any device that does not result in an immediate increase in output. Thus, one delegate at the Oxford conference of the motor industry’s shop-stewards (September, 1955) told of a three-year long attempt to get guards put up around a transfer-line whose only safety gadget was a notice reading “Danger, unattended machines at work.” In another big car factory the jaws of an automatic hoisting device were failing to close properly. A worker was stationed at the spot to give the extra push required. Nobody should have been stationed there. Part of the conveyer system came adrift, struck him and killed him. [9]

These dangers and others like them are bound to occur unless the shop organization has prior knowledge of the machines that are to be installed and some experience of working with them.

The New Jobs

As automation spreads and the rate of output becomes more and more the decision of managements and technicians, straight time pay will take over areas now covered by piece-rates. Until then, of course, piece-rate workers will have to bargain hard about speedup. But the problems that will become more pressing as automation proceeds are: what are the new jobs? What rate are they going to get? who is going to fill them?

Automation amalgamates whole series of production steps into continuous processes. The job descriptions and demarcations that grew up around the old tools become outmoded in the new conditions and new ones are called for. Leaving aside for the moment the question of job elimination and the redundancy of skills (these will be dealt with later) a big problem arises in connection with the definition of the new jobs and their rates.

In the chemical industry, for example, there is a tendency to combine the job of a welder with that of a pipefitter. In other cases, the job of an electrician has been fused with that of an instrument man. In yet other cases, ‘instrument man’ or ‘panel-minder’ is a totally new job. None of these can be classified on a national basis yet, because automation is still very much a tailor-made affair with each plant presenting unique problems. Each will have to be dealt with on a plant and shop basis. Full freedom and autonomy must be given to the factory organization to negotiate these job descriptions with local management.

These classifications are important from another angle. American car workers have already discovered that automation is seized upon by managements to break down the lines of demarcation between trades and to put pressure on men in one trade to do the work of men in another at lower rates.

Even if pay differentials are unimportant management would find it useful to have men doing the same job but organized in different trades and in different unions.

It is therefore of the utmost importance to classify these jobs as regards trades and rates. These job descriptions will be harder to fix the more gradual the changeover. They must be negotiated before, if possible. the new machines are installed, while management is jittery about the idle capital. The new jobs must rate higher than the old – they demand broader skills from their operators, they give the worker responsibility for more capital operating at higher speeds than before, they increase his productivity enormously.

The Changing Composition of the Work Force

Very closely related to the problem of job description is effect that automation will have on the composition of the work-force in the plant.

Some facts are interesting. At the Esso oil refinery at Fawley, near Southampton, only 800 of the 3,000 people employed do operational work. Of these 800 “the vast majority” are engaged on specialized operations or on ancillary operations on storage tanks and pipelines. There are nearly twice as many maintenance engineers as operators. [10]

A chemical plant in this country had 700 production workers and 300 maintenance men and technicians before automating; the ratio fell to 550 production workers to 450 maintenance men and technicians after automation. [11]

It is clear that automation means a tremendous increase in technicians as a proportion of the work-force. Their importance increases as automation progresses.

Changes occur not only in connexion with the manual trades. It affects the office staff as well. In fact, automation is the technical revolution which, for the first time, makes the distinction between manual and mental labour, between workers by hand and by brain, meaningless. For, by mechanizing the control of machines, the new techniques have mechanized the office – the final control and co-ordinator of both machines and workers in any traditional plant. The automated office becomes part of, and is in indistinguishable from the automated plant. Jobs that used to be done on the shop floor – guiding machines with the aid of a chart, for example – might be done in the office – by punching holes in a tape which will later be fed into an automatic machine, for example. And vice versa. The entire workforce is involved.


Automation eliminates some jobs and creates others. Some workers will be upgraded, some downgraded. In both cases there will be problems to solve.

We are told again and again that automation needs higher skills and eliminates boring, repetitive work. But anybody who says this means that there will be an upgrading of jobs, and not necessarily an upgrading of people. Business is interested in the jobs, not in the people who fill them.

Who is going to get these new, higher-paid jobs?

The new machines can often be operated by an unskilled worker where before a highly skilled man was required.

Take the case of the turret lathe controlled by punched tape:–

“Setup, heretofore required a skilled operator or a setup man”, says the American Machinist. [12] “Now the setup is planned by a methods engineer or ‘programmer’ and the tape is punched accordingly by a clerk – both in the office. The tape is delivered to the machine with the shop order and the operation sheet or tool scheme. An unskilled operator can mount the numbered, ‘plug-in’, preset tools according to the chart and can place the tape in the machine director. As simply as this, the machine is ready to produce pieces.”

The danger here is obvious. Unskilled workers will be taken on to displace skilled men at lower rates.

In the case of the new operative jobs – automation tenders, transfer-line operations – there is another danger. The training time is short – a couple of weeks at the most – and training is done on the job. The difficulty here is not whether the bosses will think it worth while to train anyone, but to see that they do not choose their men for their own purposes.

The problem of retraining and who is to be retrained becomes even more acute when it is a question of the highly skilled jobs and not merely operative ones. In this case the skills themselves are sometimes difficult to acquire and therefore take longer to learn.

Political and Economic Planning, a research institution devoted to studying questions of interest to Big Business, states quite blunt “it will become more difficult to obtain promotion in industry except by securing educational qualifications.” [13]

The difficulties in getting these new jobs – programmers, maintenance men for automation lines, electronic engineers – for the men displaced by the new machinery cannot be exaggerated. Unless they are forced to do so, why should the bosses retrain workers for long periods – measured in months and even in years – at their own expense? They will do their best to get out of it. They will sack workers made redundant by automation and bring in new men who have been trained in the new skills from outside: they will replace the older workers by having younger workers train at the expense of the community.

This is already widespread in the United States. “ Some companies,” reports James Stern of the UAW-CIO Automation Committee, “have shown the regrettable tendency to prefer new workers and to let the old workers shift for themselves.” [14]

This “regrettable tendency” is to be expected from Capitalism. It is one that is spreading in Britain and one that can be stopped only if the sharpest struggle is waged on the issue of retaining and retraining at the boss’ expense of workers selected on the basis of a seniority system hammered out on the shop floor.

Selection of trainees for the new jobs in this way does not solve the whole problem. Men of forty, fifty or sixty who have worked at a single job for anywhere up to 45 years cannot be expected to learn a new skill easily nor, once the new skill is mastered, can they adapt themselves to new working conditions. The management will concentrate on younger workers who promise more years of ‘returns’ for the ‘investment’ sunk into them, Retraining for mature worker will be more difficult to obtain, Sometimes it will have to be a struggle for broader seniority groupings or for full work at the old job or full maintenance at the old level of earnings rather than for retraining as such.


The threat of elimination of entire departments or jobs through automation will make unworkable seniority systems which are based on time spent on one particular job or in a particular department. There must be broader-based seniority systems.

One solution has already been mentioned – retraining according to seniority rights for the new, higher-paying jobs. No worker must be passed over – and the job given to an outsider or a less senior worker – simply because of age and the disinclination of the employer to provide the training that would qualify him for the job.

But this is not enough. The elderly worker may not be able to cope with the new job, or may not wish to change the old one. More important by far, the number of workers displaced from their jobs will always be greater than the number that can be newly placed in that particular shop or department. There must be factory-wide seniority groupings. Some of the American unions have gone further and negotiated inter-plant transfers based on seniority groupings and industry-wide preferential hiring clauses with all firms under contract with the union.

But even this does not solve the problem. Automation eliminates more jobs than it creates. However broad the seniority grouping, if the jobs are not there no amount of seniority will help. James B. Carey, Secretary-Treasurer of the CIO and President of the International Union of Electrical Workers (U.S.), commented bitterly on the value of seniority rights. He said [15]:

“During this present period of so-called prosperity and expansion in our industry, Westinghouse in East Pittsburgh does not employ production workers that have less than 13 years’ seniority ... you cannot even be on the waiting-for-hire list unless you have 9 years’ seniority. There are 1,500 people on the waiting list, all of them having 9 years or more seniority ...”

Whose Jobs are Scrapped?

So far, we have kept strictly to the questions which automation raises for those workers who either retain their jobs or have then present jobs replaced by new ones. But automation is not introduced merely to replace machinery with more expensive machinery The investment must be justified by the amount of labour it saves Its gravest threat is to employment.

We shall be coming back to the question of unemployment in general later. What we want to see here is who will be affected in the individual factory and how the factory organization should provide the first line of defence.

There is no argument about the tremendous increase in productivity that automation provides. An inquiry undertaken at the University of Chicago revealed that in 12 cases of automation ranging from chocolate refining to railroad traffic control the reduction in employment was between 13 and 92 per cent with a average reduction of 63.4 per cent. [16] (At the same time the increase in productivity was between 12 and 1,320 per cent and average 382 per cent). To come nearer home, workers in the motor industry have felt in the flesh what Alick Dick, managing director of Standards’, meant when he said,

“We are not installing £4 million worth of equipment in order to employ the same number of men We can’t carry people for fun. [17]

No skill can claim immunity from the threat of redundancy. Semi-skilled workers in the motor industry have already felt what damage a transfer-line can do them. They have yet to feel what is like when assembly operations – which employ 30 per cent that industry’s labour force – are automated.

At the moment we are told that assembly is the hardest nut for automation to crack, that assembly is the basic operation in mass-production industries and that the semi-skilled worker need not therefore fear much further displacement. It is pointed out that only 6 per cent of the operations in the most modern motor-car factories are automated.

American workers have already had occasion to see through these arguments as product after product has been redesigned to cut out assembly as much as possible and replace it with machining which is more readily automated. Jack Conway, Chairman of the Committee on Automation set up by the United Automobile Workers of America has already warned that motor-car designers are busy on new models – due to appear in 1959 – that will be amenable to automatic treatment. [18]

However, in this we need not rely on American experience alone. By far the most spectacular redesign of a product for automation purposes was first done in this country in connexion with wireless assembly. In the traditional method of assembly, 60 per cent of the labour time was spent on cutting, twisting, lacing and soldering the mass of wires that goes into a wireless set. It would have been impossible to design a machine to duplicate these complicated hand-movements, but a way was found to render them unnecessary. Instead of making the electronic circuit out of hand-connected wires, channels of conducting material (silver or copper) are printed or stamped on flat boards of glass, ceramic or plastic. The stamping can easily be handled by machines, as can the stamped boards, so that now 2 unskilled girls do the work that previously required 200 semi-skilled workers.

Redesign is thus sure to undermine the position of the semi-skilled worker as automation techniques become more widely adopted.

The position of the skilled worker is not too assured either. We already have some experience of automatic precision-boring machines, general purpose lathes and milling machines – all of which can sidestep the skilled worker by being programmed directly by the engineer with punched or magnetic tape. So far we have not worried about them, partly because of lack of experience, partly because we have been told that automation cannot compete with a skilled worker when it comes to making small quantities of complicated products – the basis of the British engineering industry.

“A greater proportion of British industry”, writes Austen Albu, Labour MP, “must continue to produce specialised products, largely capital goods, and will be more slowly affected by these changes than the mass production industries or than the process industries which do not employ large number in relation to their output. Because of these facts, unions like the AEU .... are not all worried.” [19]

Nothing could be more erroneous. Events have since forced the AEU to be worried. The new electronically-controlled machines have proved themselves to be cheaper and better than skilled workers for short-runs and even for prototypes.

Some of the possibilities of these machines were outlined by D.T.N. Williamson, head of the Department of Ferranti’s at the Institute of Production Engineers’ Conference on the Automatic Factory, held in Margate, June, 1955. He cited the example of three-dimensional cam which takes three weeks to make by traditional methods but which, when machined on an automated milling machine, can be planned, computed and machined in four hours. Another job which used to take two weeks when done by a skilled man can now be done in one hour.

The new techniques, are, according to Williamson, cheaper by far than the conventional ones. He compared a shop containing 10 ordinary milling machines with a computer-controlled shop containing only two electronically-run machines and showed that wages and salaries dropped from £13,000 to £5,000 a year while overheads, depreciation and maintenance costs increased by only £855 a year. Over a period of seven years by which time both shops are fully written off) the traditional methods will have cost £106,000 to run while the computer set-up cost only £56,000.

Although the example is not the best that could be given (because the computer in question could just as easily have controlled ten or even more milling machines without appreciably increasing over-heads or other running costs) it is important. It shows that even – highly-skilled – ‘job-shop’ operations are not immune to automation and that the new methods are cheaper than the traditional ones.

Finally, the office worker is just as vulnerable to automation, if not more so. Routine office work can easily be taken over by electronic computers like LEO (Lyons’ Electronic Office) at Cadby Hall. LEO first displaced 37 full-time clerks and their tabulating machines when it took over the preparation of pay-rolls for 10,000 workers (it completes the task in 4 hours). It then displaced 200-400 more when it took over the pay-roll of another large company the daily bakery orders of 150 Lyons’ tea-shops and various other clerical jobs. It does a week’s work of a clerk for 16s. 4d. [20]

No skill can claim exemption from automation. Every routine whether manual or mental can be taken over by machines. Every type of worker is faced by redundancy and the sack.

Relocation of Plants

Automation tends to make the employer independent of large pools of labour power. Of course, this does not apply in cases of partial automation to the same extent as in full automation, but it is a factor that has to be taken into account when faced with the question of sackings.

Relocation of his plant offers the capitalist greater economic advantages under automation than is usually offered by a shift from an old to a new plant. In most cases it would be cheaper to build a new plant than to adjust the old one to the new method of production. Another attraction in building totally new plants is the ease with which the struggle over automation can be by-passed.

Relocating plants does not merely give the management power to dictate terms to the new workers before they enter the gates, or power to sack their previous work-force without having to struggle over the details of the process, it enables them to locate their plants in the most backward, rural and unorganized communities where labour is cheaper and the traditions of industrial struggle have to be learned from scratch. “We favour small plants in small towns,” says the head of a highly-automated electronics firm employing 26,000 workers in 43 plants in different towns throughout the US. “We open many of our plants in farm areas at 7 o’clock in the morning, so they (the workers) can get through at 3 in the afternoon. Then they go home and farm after that.” [21] No wonder “there is in some small town some differentiation (in wages) because living costs are smaller than in big cities.” Of course, part-time farmers are considered to supply part of their own wages. They are not organized.

Admittedly this is a problem that. touches highly industrialized Britain much less than the US where a larger proportion of the population lives in rural communities. Nevertheless we have seen it here as well: Witness, for example, the differences in conditions (including pay) in the Hawker factories at Blackpool (not very well organized) and elsewhere (well organized), differences that were sufficient to spark a bitter strike in the autumn of 1955.

Relocation of plants adds greatly to the threat of unemployment.

Automation – How Fast?

Automation is being introduced so slowly, it is said, that the work-force will have time to adjust itself without unemployment.

Such complacency has very little to do with modern conditions of organized research and planned application of scientific discovery. Of the 19 inventions voted the most useful and introduced between 1883 and 1913, it took an average of 176 years between the invention and the first working model, then another 50 years until it had its first important use; in the case of atomic power the 176 years telescoped to 35 and the fifty years to five. [22]

The pace of innovation has been accelerated enormously We can expect it to continue to do so.

Automation shows this trend quite clearly. A survey made among 20 machine-tool companies in the United States “disclosed the belief that automation probably will make almost twice as much progress in the next five years as it has in the past ten years” [23] while an American economist has estimated that at the present rate of progress American industry might be fully automated within a decade. [24]

No comparable estimates have been made for Britain but we hardly need any. Capitalist competition makes it imperative for the British bosses to keep as near as possible to the timetable of their American rivals – or be completely knocked out of world markets.

The Growth of Monopolies

There can be no underestimating the scope and speed of automation. One of the gravest dangers which it holds out is the increase in the rate of monopolization that it makes possible a therewith the bankruptcy of the smaller capitalists. As always the workers will have to carry the can of capitalist competition.

Automation needs huge investments of capital. Only the biggest monopolies can afford a changeover to the new techniques, involving as they do new plants and total rationalization of production. How many firms can afford a conversion to the tune of £4 million as at Standard’s Banner Lane plant, or the sums ranging from £100,000 to a quarter of a million for an electronic computer? Only the very biggest, the giant monopolies. And even then, before automation is attempted, mergers and combinations are often necessary to make it possible. Take, for instance, the spate of mergers that took place in our motor industry before the question of automation was posed in practice – the formation of the British Motor Corporation by Austin and Morris and the subsequent absorption of Fisher-Ludlow, or the Ford-Briggs merger, or Standards-Singer-Mulliner combination.

Those that cannot afford to automate will fall by the wayside. The very savings that automation makes possible will ensure that. Besides, only the monopolies can pay the very high salaries that are needed to corner the technical knowledge for running an automated plant. Or can devote the necessary resources to undertaking research on automation. Only the biggest monopolies command the mass markets that can justify the long runs and the standardization essential to automation. Or can afford the millions that go on high-pressure advertising, or the multi-millions that are invested in chains of retail outlets and servicing shops (General Electric has 400,000 of these in America alone). [25]

Under these circumstances, the speed of monopolization will accelerate greatly. Takeovers and mergers amongst the greater bankruptcies amongst the smaller fry of the Capitalist world will increase. And with the concentration of capital in the hands of the giant monopolies will go the concentration of unemployment in the smaller firms. After all, if even a giant Studebaker-Packard, one of the 150 biggest firms in the United States, a company that produces 470,000 cars a year and has an annual turnover of $1,000 million, can be faced with closure as a result of the heightened competition due to automation, the outlook for workers in smaller companies is bleak indeed.

Automation is thus the weapon of monopoly capitalism as surely as unemployment is its result.

Monopolies and Markets

“During this year and next,” writes the Economist, “a large proportion of the industrial investment decided upon during the boom years of 1953-55 will be maturing (like Standard’s) ...” The Economist goes on to say, “... automation cannot occur without the effective demand – probably widely distributed demand – to buy the extra goods. [26]

Very true. Automation needs mass markets. But it also needs investments that only the biggest capitalists, the monopolies, can afford. Unfortunately, the very increase in the monopolies’ strength that automation implies is a guarantee that these mass markets will not be found. A monopoly can be trusted to extract the highest possible price for its product – there is no competition to ensure that prices fall to somewhere around the costs of production. And without a drastic reduction in prices, where is the growth of markets to come from that will absorb the increased output of automated industry?

A struggle for lower prices will be pushed into the foreground by these changes in the structure of capitalism. The monopolists must be put on the defensive by widespread agitation on the part of consumer councils.

The Myth of New Employment in New Industries

We are often told not to worry about unemployment. People sacked in the automating industries will be absorbed in the automation industries – the ones that make the new equipment.

This argument ignores a fundamental fact. Automation is not merely a product: it is a principle of production. The automation industry can be automated. Unless there is a vast growth in markets we cannot expect much new employment.

Again we must rely on American experience which is wider and deeper than our own. A Department of Labour study states:

“Electronic output in 1952 was 275 per cent higher than in 1947 but was produced by only 40 per cent more workers ... Output per man-hour (in the electronics industry) may rise even faster during the next few years as a result of improvements in manufacturing techniques ... These trends towards ‘automation’ may result in the greatest reduction in unit man-hours in the industry’s history during the next few years.” [27]

In the field of electrical machinery production, output rose by 87 per cent between 1947 and the first half of 1955 while the number of production workers increased by only 14 per cent. [28] Between 1953 and 1954, production in the electrical industry remained unchanged, yet employment dropped by 93,000, the workweek contracted by an hour and the number of man-hours worked fell by 12 per cent. [29]

Automating automation has become quite a big industry already. General Mills, the American breakfast food company, has put on the market a fully automatic machine for the production of electronic equipment. Called Autofab this machine will assemble in little over a minute the same number of multi-part electronic units that now takes one worker a full day to assemble. It requires only two workers and one supervisor and has a capacity of more than 200,000 assemblies a month, operating only 40 hours a week. The American Navy Bureau of Aeronautics has gone even further with its ‘Project Tinkertoy,’ They designed and successfully operated a machine that could be used for assembling a wide variety of electronic devices from standardized parts, in a way analogous to the children’s building block game.

All this means one thing. Unless a market is found for the tremendous increase in productivity which automation makes possible, the number of new jobs in the new automation industries will be smaller than the number of workers sacked from the older industries. New employment without new markets is a myth.

No Sackings! Cut the Work Week Without Loss of Pay!

The threat of the sack is especially acute in the case of the older worker. Even in a full employment economy, the older worker finds it extremely difficult to find a new job. “I believe,” said the American Secretary of Labour, “that industry has tended to look upon a man over 45 as not too good a risk in initial employment,” [30] while W.P. Kennedy, President of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, brought evidence to show that the average age-limit for new employees in train and yard service is no more than 25 years. [31]

The further automation progresses and the greater its demands for new skills, and greater sharpness of reaction, the more difficult will it be for the older workers to find employment. For them the struggle against sackings might very well be the struggle for the right to work.

As for the rest of the work-force in an automated plant, even under conditions of full employment, sacking must lead to a reduction in earnings. For the firm that can afford automation is the firm that could afford ‘fringe-benefits’ over and above the nationally-negotiated standard wage. The sack, even when followed by new employment, will mean that the worker must take a cut. No amount of compensation will alter that.

Sackings become much more serious when unemployment spreads. As soon as the present boom conditions give way to slump the struggle for work will become a struggle for the retention of the jobs we have. There will be no others to move to even if we accept a cut in earnings. We shall be able to work only if we mobilize all our forces to fight for no sackings! for a cut in the workweek without loss of pay!

This is the only final answer to capitalist redundancy. It is one which we shall have to put forward now, before general unemployment overtakes us.

At the moment, however, we have full employment or nearly full employment. Automation has been applied sparingly so far. There is no doubt that the struggle for the right to work in these conditions will be sporadic, limited and too weak to stop the bosses. Although we cannot relinquish the slogans of ‘no sackings’ and ‘shorter workweek without loss of pay’ (or ‘sliding scale of hours’) as the only real answer to unemployment under capitalism, we must hammer out a policy to deal with sackings as they are bound to occur before they become general. Today our fight must centre on reducing the price paid by the worker for redundancy, and getting the capitalist class to shoulder the burden.

For an Agreed Procedure on Redundancy

Within the individual plant. the first principle must be: if sackings are inevitable, if we haven’t the strength to prevent them outright, then at least let us guard against the bosses’ attempts to use redundancy to weaken the factory organization. We can’t allow the management to sack union members and retain ‘nons’ or sack the older worker and keep their blue-eyed boys. More important than anything else, we can’t have them victimizing the works leadership – the convenors and the stewards.

The answer to the bosses’ picking and choosing is for the works organization to enforce definite ground rules to deal with sackings. Last-in-first-out is the traditional union method of dealing with the problem. It is good, but not enough. The convenor, the stewards, may not be the ones with the most seniority. They might have been victimized elsewhere and become the last ones in their new employment and therefore the first ones to go out despite the fact that they might be the most competent leaders of the fight inside the factory. Besides, although last-in-first-out was imposed on the bosses only after a tough struggle on the part of the organized workers, yet, as a policy, it treats all workers equally – those that took part in the struggle as well as the ‘nons’ – the ones that cashed in on the results but had nothing to do with achieving them.

Last-in-first-out is not enough. The elected representatives of the shop floor must be protected by special seniority rights (as happens frequently in American plants). They must have top seniority as long as they serve as elected officers of the shop floor. (Of course, as soon as they lose their positions they also lose their special rights and have to take their turn on the basis of their own seniority.) And whatever firing procedure is to be used must make the distinction between unionist and non-unionist clear.

Thus, if sackings are inevitable, the ‘nons’ must be the first to go, the elected workers’ representatives – the last. Last-in-first-out will apply to all the rest.

In this way we question the bosses’ unilateral ‘right’ to manage – a first step in questioning their unilateral right to control production.

The Guaranteed Annual Wage

Controlled sackings is not enough. Some workers will be fired. They must be protected. The bosses must be forced to take the responsibility for their support until they can find other employment.

Part of the answer has been given by some of the American unions – it is the Guaranteed Annual Wage (GAW). Every worker laid off receives a certain proportion of his normal pay for a stated period depending on his seniority with the firm. In this way, the management takes into account not only the immediate costs of technological change but also some of the costs of compensation to the workers made redundant. Management would then tend – if they can- to think twice before introducing automation. They will try to time the changeover while production is increasing and to locate their new plants in the vicinity of the old ones so as to minimize unemployment.

Of course, the bosses will attempt to get out of paying GAW as much as possible. They will hedge over the percentage of normal earnings to be paid for by the firm in compensation, over the degree of seniority needed, over where the money is to come from – profits or deductions from wages.

Here we can learn from American experience. The GAW was first gained by the United Automobile Workers’ Union. It is called Supplementary Unemployment Benefit and consists merely of additions to State unemployment insurance to cover a maximum of 65 per cent of previous wage rates for a maximum of 26 weeks. It was to be financed out of a special fund which the motor firms were committed to build up. In the event, when unemployment hit the American motor industry in the middle of 1956, the fund was not built up yet and very few workers benefited for more than a few weeks.

The GAW must be more than a bosses’ addition to a dole. It must be a firm commitment to pay full wages for a definite period, fund or no fund. It must be paid from profits. In this way the Guaranteed Annual Wage can become the first step to implementing the demand for work or full maintenance.

Open the Books

Every demand that automation gives rise to on the shop floor will find its answer in the office. ‘We can’t afford to retain workers, nor to retrain them. We can’t afford higher wages, idle shifts, the Guaranteed Annual Wage. We must keep our prices high.’ Thus say the bosses.

There can only be one reply to arguments of this sort. If they plead inability to pay, let them prove it by opening their books. Profits, orders, costs and prices must be open to workers’ inspection. And if, after such inspection, it is found that the private capitalist arm cannot compete successfully and satisfy the demands of its work-force at the same time, the State must guarantee what the private capitalist cannot – the right to full employment. The firm must be nationalized.

The Factory Organization

Automation increases the power of the shop floor tremendously. The integration of all jobs into one continuous process of production means that a stoppage in one section must immediately affect the whole factory. Increased mechanization means that the amount of capital per worker rises enormously and that the losses caused by a stoppage are enormous.

But we must know how to use this power. In order to deploy its forces in the most effective way possible the shop floor will have to adapt its organization to the changed conditions.

What are these changed conditions?

First in importance is the change in the physical structure of the plant and the change in the organization of production. As automation spreads and production becomes more and more a continuous process, the various divisions within a factory, each of which has a specific function, each of which forms a distinct phase in the production process, will tend to merge with one another. Of course, this merging has not yet gone very far in most industries. At present, it is feasible to automate only some of the processes that go on inside the factory. Factory divisions are yet with us and will remain. But the trend will be to full integration of production. This is important to the works organization.

Previously each shop was faced by special problems of production – speeds, rates, hours and so forth – that were not an exact replica of the problems that arose in other shops in the same factory; now, after the elimination of production by stages, production in special divisions, by the integration of the whole plant into one ‘line,’ each section in the factory has to deal with very much the same type of problem as each other section.

There is more to it than the mere standardization of the problems facing each section in the factory. That in itself is insufficient to demand a change in organization. What is of the utmost importance is the fact that the elimination of production by stages – “batch production” – eliminates the independence of action which – however limited in extent – each shop enjoyed under traditional conditions. It eliminates the possibility of direct action – go slow, sectional strikes – which the individual shop could adopt on its own account. With full automation, even with part-automation, the factory floor must act as a unit or not at all. Sectional action will affect the entire work-force. Unless such action is co-ordinated it could have a disastrous outcome.

To get full harmony of action within the plant the organization based on the shop will have to give way to a direct factory-wide organization.

Again, it must be stressed that we can only progress in the required direction at the pace set by the actual introduction of automation and the integration of the plant. But the direction must be clear.

Works Tactics

The works organization will have to reconsider the question of tactics. The change in the composition of the work-force and the fact that the new technical skills are of a general nature mean that an important section inside the factory – the least organized section – can be very mobile between plants and industries. The programme engineer in an oil refinery can easily work in an automated car factory: the technician on a piston line can do the same type of work in a cement plant.

Coupled with this mobility of skilled personnel is the fact that in the more mechanized industries supervisory personnel or a small staff of technicians are able to keep the equipment going by themselves. Telephone workers in the US have discovered to their cost that slowdowns and working to rule in telephone exchanges are relatively useless for applying pressure on the owners. They have discovered that even a full-scale strike is likely to break before the lack of proper maintenance starts affecting the telephone service.

Where a handful of blacklegs can keep a plant going, where therefore mass withdrawals of labour do not have the desired effect, the actual physical control of the plant may well become the cardinal issue as it has in many American telephone-operators’ strikes. The sit-down strike might become more important than the stay-out strike.

The Industrial Union

A works organization, however good, can only affect one plant. That plant might be only one of many in a firm. It might be a new plant with an untried works organization. In the event of a dispute, unless it is spread quickly over the whole firm and, in some cases, over the whole industry, it is most likely to be broken. Only an inter-plant organization – a union – can spread strike action to the extent that will ensure victory.

The trouble is that the unions as we know them today are ill prepared for these tasks. Leaving aside the question of their right-wing or Stalinist leadership for the moment, the actual union structure shows serious faults in the light of the new conditions.

Our unions are, in the main, either craft unions or general unions. In other words, they either organize workers exercising a given skill, or workers who have little or no skill but work in different industries. Of course this is general and there are many exceptions: the National Union of Miners and the National Union of Railwaymen include a number of skills and grades within the one organisation and are thus very nearly, but not quite, industrial unions; the Transport and General Workers’ union, although recruiting its membership from a variety of industries, is divided into industrial sections. Nevertheless, most of our unions can be said to be organized around certain skills or based upon unskilled workers.

Automation, however, means that many of the operating skills we know will be made redundant. It also means that machines integrate a great number of separate operating skills into one process. In the case of skills being made redundant, the union based on those skills is faced with redundancy as well. It can only survive if it claims jurisdiction over the skills that are to replace the old ones, as the printing unions did when the linotype machine threatened to replace the type-setters’ craft. But this can hardly be a solution inside an automated factory because the new methods of production do not merely threaten to replace one skill by another, they threaten to replace whole batches of skills by amalgamating them into one process that is performed automatically. In this case, a new problem arises, which union is to organize the new skill that might replace those covered at present by half-a-dozen or more unions?

A union structure based on craft differences and on the unchanging nature of the craft loses its usefulness. What we need is the amalgamation of all unions in an industry into a single industrial union.

The industrial union can take in its stride the changing conditions of production. It can use the collective strength of the workers against the boss instead of losing it in organizational and jurisdictional disputes. It can utilize the division in the boss-class by pitting all its strength against each firm in turn. Even more important than this is the fact that the industrial union can cover every worker and can demand most effectively and also retain the closed or union-shop. Today, the white collar worker is the weakest link in our Movement. He is badly organized as it is and can hardly be expected to take the shock of automation unless supported by the organized manual trades. On the other hand, the changing composition of the work-force towards a greater preponderance of white-collar technicians (staff grades) on the factory floor itself will tend to dilute the factory organization currently based on these manual grades. It is no good merely calling for these professional workers to organize into new craft unions – as does an ASSET pamphlet [32] – they have never done so with enthusiasm.

There are yet other weaknesses in our craft-union structure that the industrial union would eliminate. One is the distance and lack of understanding between the factory organization and the union branch, or the factory organization and the union bureaucracy. How long does a shop or factory dispute have to bear the label ‘unofficial’ before the union gives its stamp of approval? How often does it occur that the label ‘unofficial’ is never taken off and the strike fails as a result? A union branch that covers one or two skills in a number of factories cannot give undivided attention to the problems of one plant. A union that covers a number of industries cannot easily devote all its attention to the industry that is most affected by automation.

As long as the individual shop in a factory had a certain amount of leeway in defending its members against the bosses, it could afford a rough division of labour between shop and union. Let the union leaders negotiate national wage levels, national work-weeks, paid holidays and the like and the shop organization would then bargain for more on its own account. But with automation, the shop organization tends to disappear while national negotiations, although they can never be dispensed with entirely, will lose much of their importance with the progressive but unplanned introduction of automation. The union will be judged in accordance with how well it supports the works organization in dealing with the new problems.

Such a union cannot be a sectional organization. It must contain the total membership of the works organization whatever their craft. It must be built on the works organization as its basic unit. It can only be an industrial union. Every step towards such a union whether through federation or amalgamation is a step in the right direction.

A General Staff of Unions

Essential as the industrial union is, it certainly is not sufficient.

Finance capital does not recognize industries, it recognizes profits only. Rolls-Royce, for example, in this country is not merely a motor-manufacturing firm, it is involved in aircraft production.

Aircraft companies are intimately tied up with the ship-building and shipping industries. Every large industrial concern has banking support which in turn is related to other concerns in a wide network of inter-relations between monopolies, trusts and other amalgamations which control a variety of plants in many industries, An industrial union, however inclusive, will face a bargaining unit which can draw support over a vast area through economy-wide ramifications. The centralized organization of monopoly capitalism – ever-more centralized as a result of automation as we have seen – must be faced with a centralized organization of the working-class.

Automation means the expulsion of the labour force working in the automated plant. The capitalist press has made it clear that the workers expelled must find work in the ‘undermanned’ (and underpaid) industries and that every effort is going to be made to force the sacked workers to become ‘mobile.’ The threat is brutal and clear. Cut the work-force in some industries, redeploy workers to other badly-paid industries, use the displaced workers as a labour reserve to prevent wages rising in the non-automated industries and, in the ease of competition between automated and non-automated plants, increase the exploitation of the workers in the latter in order to keep pace with the higher productivity of the former.

That is only part of the story. Firms that can afford automation are the biggest ones, the giants of the economy. They have always paid the highest wages and will probably pay even higher wages to the fewer workers they will retain after automation. As it is, the differences in earnings between the motor-car workers and, say, transport workers is great. It promises to be enormous. These firms are also the monopoly firms that can and do keep prices at the highest levels.

Unless we have complete understanding and co-ordination between our unions, co-ordination that takes the practical form of keeping wages in the non-automated sections of the economy in line with those of the automated ones, of putting as much pressure on the automated firm to keep their prices down as is put on the unautomated firms to keep their wages up and so spreading the benefits that can be squeezed out of the boss class, we shall have a new aristocracy of labour rising above the depressed level of the working class. Only full co-ordination among the unions can prevent the weakening of solidarity that this implies.

The Trade Union Movement needs a General Staff, a General Council, with teeth – not the near-anarchist federation that we have at present. The Movement needs a National Wage Policy – not the ‘let the strongest gain and the weakest carry the can’ policy that rules today.

Trade Union Democracy

The more centralized our organizations, the more urgent it is to see that they express the will of the rank and file. It is the rank and file union member who will feel the pinch of automation, he must be sure that the union feels the pinch with him. Automation raises the demand for workers’ control of production more urgently than ever in the past: at the same time, and as an essential means to implement that demand, it raises the need for rank and file control of union policy and the policy of the General Staff.

Automation promises unemployment. It promises to create situations in which the bosses can only be brought to their knees by – ‘all-in’ or sit-down strikes and not the ‘all-out’ withdrawal of labour that we have become used to, situations in which the bosses’ control of the plant is questioned by the physical control of the plant by the workers themselves, despite the police, despite court injunctions, despite the whole might of the State machine. Can we expect the ‘Labour’ Knights and the ‘Labour’ Lords who owe their honours to this same State machine to represent us, to reflect the mood of the rank and file at such times? The right wing leadership that can bargain with block votes over the heads of the rank and file, that can ignore rank and file opinion on every vital issue, cannot be trusted with increased power. A Communist leadership that can spout democracy until it comes to putting it into effect can also not be trusted to respect the wishes of the rank and file. When both these leaderships combine with the bosses in strike-breaking (as in the case of the miners at Gwaun-cae-Gurwen in 1956, or in the dockers’ strikes the year before) they certainly cannot be trusted with increased power.

Again it rests with the rank and file member. In order to fashion automation to our liking, we must have sharper tools than we have at present. The Movement must have the cutting edge of rank-and-file control.

The Need for a Political Programme

However democratic our unions and however much we streamline them to meet the new conditions, they will not be able to do with all the problems posed by capitalist automation.

As we have seen, automation will greatly accelerate the trend towards monopolization in industry. It will thus strengthen the tendency (sufficiently widespread as it is) to offset union gains in wages, hours or conditions, by price raising. Unions will have to concentrate more and more on keeping wages in line with prices while their traditional weak spot – raising the workers’ share of the increased productivity – will show up more than hitherto.

But the most serious limitation of union activity, one that will assume the greatest importance as automation progresses, is the fact that even at the best of times unions can govern the conditions of employment, but not of unemployment. Automation threatens unemployment on a scale we have not seen for a long time; no union however constructed, however democratic, can organize workers that are out of a job for long.

Here we bring automation on to a political plane. The struggle of the works’ organization and of the trade union are of crucial importance in meeting automation. It is on the factory floor that our policy must be hammered out. But that is only in the first instance. The problems raised by capitalist automation are not confined to the factory; they spread further to involve every aspect of life. They must be met by a total policy, by a political programme that can widen the industrial experience of the workers directly affected into a complete socialist solution.

The Capitalist Alternative – Slump or War

For an entire generation before the last war, British Capitalism could not solve the problem of mass unemployment in this country. Hardly a year passed without its one or one-and-a-half million in the dole queues. Only war itself solved the problem.

Since the second World War we have had full employment. War destruction needed replacement, war-time employment created a demand (and the purchasing power to make it effective) which could not be satisfied until after the war, Germany and the rest of Europe, and Japan, were incapable of competing in international markets. And so the few industrial powers that could exploit the situation – and Britain was one of them – rode on a boom of expanding markets and full employment.

This was not to last. Germany and the rest of Europe and Japan soon re-entered the export race. The pent-up demand was satisfied and war destruction made good by 1949. And then we had the first inklings of a slump. American production dropped by 7 per cent and Britain devalued her currency by 40 per cent to meet the new situation.

The crisis did not grow because the Korean War intervened and once again turned slump into war. Again capitalism had a boom. But it is a boom that has since been kept alive by one thing only – the arms budget. Faced by vanishing markets, Capitalism has had to create a market artificially. And there is none so convenient as the war market.

Automation makes the problem of markets more acute than it has ever been. Never has the productivity of labour been so high as under the new technical conditions. The alternative of capitalist war or slump is now more naked than ever.

And the proof?

Automation started leaving its mark in the United States in 1956 But the American government had already prepared the solution “As far as feasible,” states the 1956 Economic Report of the President to Congress, “government contracts are being placed with firms in labour surplus areas. An inducement has been given to the location of defence production facilities in such areas by allowing tax amortization benefits beyond those granted elsewhere.” [33]

By the spring, unemployment had become severe in the motor car producing centres of Detroit, Cleveland and South Bend. The Government declared these areas “distressed areas” and hurriedly announced its intention of placing arms orders in them.

The Capitalist alternative – slump or war – is old and proven. Automation makes it even clearer, while atom power makes it even more deadly. Today, Capitalism’s alternative, slump or war, need as it never has before, the working class of the world to present it own alternative – Socialism.

The Need for Socialism

Automation offers tremendous possibilities to humanity. It can free man from slavery to the machine. It can free us from the double degradation of giving one class all the work – uncreative, boring and stultifying – and another class all the leisure – just as uncreative, just as boring and just as stultifying. It can end the artificial dichotomy between neurotic city life and idiotic country life; between workers by hand and workers by brain.

But Capitalism cannot give us full automation. It can only use the new techniques to bring new terrors to this world – the terrors of unemployment or war. Automation can only benefit humanity if it is controlled. There is only one guarantee of its human use – workers control of automation, workers control of production, the only meaning of Socialism.

The Transition to Socialism

Privileges are not given up lightly. People born into wage-slavery, trained to wage-slavery and fed wage-slavery through papers, wireless and television day in day out do not question privileges easily. The struggle for Socialism can only develop as the outcome of hundreds of partial struggles, each of which highlights one injustice, each of which adds to the consciousness of the working class that Capitalism must go.

These partial struggles form the transition to Socialism. Their slogans are the transition programme to Socialism. Each alone does not herald a new society, for each deals with a problem of the old. But taken together they amount to a complete transformation to a workers’ state, the first step towards Socialism.

The Transitional Programme for Automation

It is the men on the shop floor that are feeling the first impact of automation. The first skirmishes are fought out in the factory. Unless the works organization takes the initiative and meets automation with definite demands, unless these demands have been made known again and again in works meetings, unless a constant educational campaign is conducted on the shop floor to convince the unconvinced, the boss can use automation as a terribly effective weapon.

The factory organization – the first to meet automation – gains enormously in importance as the first workers’ organization to formulate a defence against it. The policy hammered out in the factory is the basis for all working class policy on a wider scope

This policy must include the following demands, each of which deals with a specific problem which might arise, each of which muse be presented when needed.


1. John Diebold, Automation, The Advent of the Automatic Factory, London 1952, p.161.

2. Department for Scientific and Industrial Research, Automation, H.M. Stationery Office, 1956, p.78 (hereafter referred to as DSIR.)

3. DSIR, p.68.

4. Advertisement quoted in Diebold, op cit., p.114 (my emphasis – MK).

5. Automation Age, London, Vol.1, No.5 (January, 1956) (my emphasis – MK).

6. Quoted by Walter Reuther, Vice-President CIO-AFL in his Statement to Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization of the Joint Committee on the Economic Report, Congress of the United States, Washington 1955 (hereafter referred to as Hearings), p.103.

7. Railway Review. January 20, 1956.

8. Hearings, pp.341.

9. Reported in Marxist Quarterly, Vol.3. No. 2 (April 1956), p.95.

10. Political and Economic Planning, Planning, Vol.XXI, No.380 (June 13 1955), p.70 (hereafter referred to as PEP).

11. Cited in Organization for European Economic Co-operation, Automatic Processes in Industry, EPA/ST/1604 (Restricted), Paris, April 29, 1955, p. 29 (hereafter referred to as OEEC).

12. August 1, 1955, p.106.

13. PEP, p.82.

14. The Implications of Automation, Address by James Stern to 17th Annual Convention of Connecticut State CIO, January 14, 1955.

15. Hearings, p.236.

16. Ph.D. thesis (unpublished) by David G. Osborn, quoted by Professor Walter S Buckingham in his evidence, Hearings, pp.34, 43.

17. Quoted in Tribune, 4 May 1956.

18. Speech to European Productivity Association as reported in Automation Age (November 1955).

19. Albu, Automation and the Trade Unions, in Automation, London Press Exchange Ltd., Papers, No.1, May 1955.

20. Description of LEO in DSIR, Automation Age, Vol.I, No.1 (August, 1955), pp.40-2.

21. Testimony of Don G. Mitchell. Chairman and President of Sylvania Electric Products, inc., Hearings, pp.184, 194 (my emphasis – MK).

22. Ritchie Calder. Science Makes Sense, London 1955.

23. Journal of Commerce, September 7, 1955.

24. Quoted by Reuther, Hearings, pp.139-140.

25. Hearings, p.424.

26. May 12, 1956.

27. Quoted by Walter Reuther, Hearings, p.109.

28. Quoted by J.B. Carey, Secretary-Treasurer, CIO and President, International Union of Electrical Workers, Hearings, p.223.

29. A. Hartnett. Secretary-Treasurer, IEU-CIO, in Report, Radio, TV and Parts Conference Board, Fort Wayne, Indiana, March 4, 1955.

30. Hearings, p.274.

31. ibid., p.466.

32. Association of Supervisory Staffs, Executives and Technicians, Automation. A Challenge to Trade Unions and Industry, London 1956.

33. loc cit., p.61.


Last updated on 25.2.2005