William Morris

Work In A Factory As It Might Be III

I have tried to show in former articles that in a duly ordered society, in which people would work for a livelihood and not for the profit of another, a factory might not only be pleasant as to its surroundings, and beautiful in its architecture, but that even the rough and necessary work done in it might be so arranged as to be neither burdensome in itself or of long duration for each worker; but furthermore the organization of such a factory, that is to say of a group of people working in harmonious cooperation towards a useful end, would of itself afford opportunities for increasing the pleasure of life.

To begin with such a factory will surely be a centre of education: any children who seem likely to develop gifts towards its special industry would gradually and without pain, amidst their book learning be drawn into technical instruction which would bring them at last into a thorough apprenticeship for their craft; therefore, the bent of each child having been considered in choosing its instruction and occupation, it is not too much to expect that children so educated will look forward eagerly to the time when they will be allowed to work at turning out real useful wares; a child whose manual dexterity has been developed without undue forcing side by side with its mental intelligence would surely be as eager to handle shuttle, hammer, or what not for the first time as a real workman, and begin making, as a young gentleman now is to get hold of his first gun and begin killing.

This education so begun for the child will continue for the grown man, who will have every opportunity to practice the niceties of his craft, if he be so minded, to carry it to the utmost degree of perfection, not for the purpose of using his extra knowledge and skill to sweat his fellow-workman, but for his own pleasure, and honour as a good artist. Similar opportunities will be afforded him to study, as deeply as the subject will bear, the science on which his craft is founded: besides, a good library and help in studying it will be provided by every productive group (or factory), so that the worker's other voluntary work may be varied by the study of general science or literature.

But further, the factory could supply another educational want by showing the general public how its goods are made. Competition being dead and buried, no new process, no detail of improvements in machinery, would be hidden from the first enquirer; the knowledge which might thus be imparted would foster a general interest in work and in the realities of life, which would surely tend to elevate labour and create a standard of excellence in manufacture, which in its turn would breed a strong motive towards exertion to the workers.

A strange contrast such a state of things would be to that now existing! For to-day the public, and especially that part of it which does not follow any manual occupation, is grossly ignorant of crafts and processes, even when they are carried on at their own doors: so that most of the middle class are not only defenceless against the most palpable adulterations, but also which is far more serious, are of necessity whole worlds removed from any sympathy with the life of the workshop.

So managed, therefore, the factory by co-operation with other industrial groups will both provide an education for its own workers and contribute its share to the education of citizens outside; but further, it will, as a matter of course, find it easy to provide for mere restful amusements, as it will have ample buildings for library, school-room, dining hall. and the like; social gatherings, musical or dramatic entertainments will obviously be easy to manage under such conditions.

One pleasure - and that a more serious one - I must mention: a pleasure which is unknown at present to the workers, and which even for the classes of ease and leisure only exists in a miserably corrupted and degraded form. I mean the practice of the fine arts: people living under the conditions of life above-mentioned, having manual skill, technical and general education, and leisure to use these advantages, are quite sure to develop a love of art, that is to say, a sense of beauty and an interest in life, which, in the long run must stimulate them to the desire for artistic creation, the satisfaction of which is of all pleasures the greatest.

I have started by supposing our group of social labour busying itself in the production of bodily necessaries; but we have seen that such work will only take a small part of each worker's time: their leisure, beyond mere bodily rest and recreation, I have supposed some would employ in perfecting themselves in the niceties of their craft, or in research as to its principles; some would stop there, others would take to studying more general knowledge, but some - and I think most - would find themselves impelled towards the creation of beauty, and would find their opportunities for this under their hands as they worked out their due quota of necessary word far the common good: these would amuse themselves by ornamenting the wares they made, and would only be limited in the quantity and quality of, such work by artistic considerations as to how much or what kind of work really suited the wares: nor, to meet a possible objection, would there be any danger of such ornamental work degenerating into mere amateur twaddle, such as is now inflicted on the world by fine ladies and gentlemen in search for a refuge from boredom; because our worker will be thoroughly educated as workers and will know well what good work and true finish (not trade finish) mean, and because the public being a body of workers also, everyone in some line or other, will well understand what real work means. Our workers, therefore, will do their artistic work under keen criticism of themselves, their workshop comrades, and a public composed of intelligent workmen.

To add beauty to their necessary daily work will furnish outlet for the artistic aspirations of most men; but further, our factory which is externally beautiful, will not be inside like a clean jail or workhouse; the architecture will come inside in the form of such ornament as may be suitable to the special circumstances. Nor can I see why the highest and most intellectual art, pictures, sculpture, and the like should not adorn a true palace of industry. People living a manly and reasonable life would have no difficulty in refraining from overdoing both these and other adornments; here then would be opportunities for using the special talents of the workers, especially in cases where the daily necessary work afforded scanty scope for artistic work.

Thus our Socialistic factory, besides turning out goods useful to the community, will provide for its for its own workers work light in duration, and not oppressive in kind, education in childhood and youth. Serious occupation, amusing relaxation, and mere rest for the leisure of the workers, and withal that beauty of surroundings, and the power of producing beauty which are sure to be claimed by those who have leisure, education, and serious occupation.

No one can say that such things are not desirable for the workers; but we Socialists are striving to make them seem not only desirable, but necessary, well knowing that under the present system of society they are impossible of attainment - and why? Because we cannot afford the time, trouble, and thought necessary to obtain them. Again, why cannot we? Because we are at war, class against class and man against man; all our time is taken up with that; we are forced to busy ourselves not with the arts of peace, but with the arts of war, which are briefly, trickery and oppression. Under such conditions of life labour can but be a terrible burden, degrading to the workers, more degrading to those who live upon their work.

This is the system which we seek to overthrow, and supplant by one in which labour will no longer be a burden.


Justice, 28th June 1884, p. 2.