Competing with the Machines

(January 1914)

The International Socialist Review, Vol. 14 No. 7, January 1914, pp. 400–402.
Transcribed by Matthew Siegfried.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

IN the recent investigation of the wages earned by women working at home in England it was found that some of these sweated folks were unable to make more than two dollars a week even when they worked sixteen hours a day.

Of course we remember that it is the COST of living in a country that determines the point below which wages can- not fall for very long. Working people have to be fed and housed just the same as horses do – if they are to appear on the job. These sweated English workers are able, after a fashion, to exist on $2.00 a week.

But the speed pace grows harder and faster every year and the price paid to these women per piece is falling constantly lower because the machine process has entered the field and is gradually lowering the cost of production. Every year the factory system crowds the sweated workers closer to the wall. Every season sees them toiling more madly for a smaller pittance.

Seven cents is now the price paid for making a pair of boys’ shoes at home, and from eighteen to twenty-five cents for a dozen pairs of boys’ knickerbockers. Women earn the magnificent sum of five and one-half to six cents for producing 144 tobacco boxes.

It is impossible to organize the workers in the sweated trades. In hundreds of cubby holes, dark corners and tipsy shacks they toil from the time they arise in the morning until they can no longer hold up their heads and hands at night No human agency can force a rise in the price of their labor power when the goods they make can be produced cheaper by machinery.

It requires time and leisure to become a thinking revolutionist. It is the factory process that gathers workers together in large groups with like aims and needs. It is the machine process that produces class consciousness and class solidarity.

When the last machine shall have abolished home sweat work, these English workers will follow their trades into the factories or will be thrown idle. In either case they will be better off than they are today. With nothing to lose they will arise in their might and fight for life. In the stress of the struggle for existence will they see and use the weapons that will mean the abolition of the wages system.

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Last updated on 31 May 2022