A Textbook issued by the Economics Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R




Transition from Manufacture to Machine Industry

So long as production remained based on hand labour, as was the case in the period of manufacture, capitalism could not achieve a radical revolution in the economic life of society. Such a transformation was effected with the transition from manufacture to machine industry, which began to take place in the last third of the eighteenth century and spread throughout the principal capitalist countries of Europe and the U.S.A. during the nineteenth century.

The material, technical foundation for the revolution was the machine.Every developed machine consists of three parts: (1) the motor mechanism, (2) the transmitting mechanism, (3) the working machine.

The motor mechanism acts as the moving force of the entire mechanism. It either generates the driving power itself (e.g., the steam engine), or obtains it from outside, from some available force of nature" (e.g., the water-wheel, moved by the force of falling water).

The transmitting mechanism consists of all kinds of devices (transmissions, cog-wheels, belts, electrical systems, etc.) which regulate movement, change its form where necessary (e.g., transforming a straight-line movement into a circular one), distribute it and transfer it to the working machine. Like the motor mechanisms, the transmitting mechanism serves to set the working machine in motion.

The working machine acts directly on the object of labour and produces the changes needed in it in accordance with a defined aim. If the working machine is examined more closely there will be found in it, albeit often in very altered forms, the same tools on the whole as are used in hand work. But in every case these are not hand-work tools any more, they are toolmechanisms, mechanical tools. The working machine was the point of departure of the revolution which led to the replacement of manufacture by machine production. After mechanical tools had been invented radical changes were introduced in the construction of the driving and transmitting mechanisms.

In its insatiable pursuit of profit capital acquired in the machine a mighty means of increasing the productivity of labour. First, the use of machines, which put a multitude of tools into operation simultaneously, freed the production process from the narrow limits imposed by the limitations of the human limbs. Second, the use of machines provided for the first time the possibility of employing in production tremendous new sources of energy-the motive power of steam, gas and electricity. Third, the use of machines enabled capital to place science at the service of production, extending the power of man over nature and revealing ever new possibilities of raising the productivity of labour. On the basis of large-scale industry the domination of the capitalist mode of production was consolidated. In large-scale machine industry capitalism found Its appropriate material and technical foundation.

The Industrial Revolution

Large-scale machine industry began in Britain. Favourable historical conditions had been formed in that country for a rapid development of the capitalist mode of production: the early abolition of serfdom and ending of feudal disunity, the victory of the bourgeois revolution in the seventeenth century, the forcible dispossession of the peasantry, and also the accumulation of capital by way of an extensive development of trade and of the plundering of colonies.

In the middle of the eighteenth century Britain was the country with the largest number of manufactories. The most important branch of industry was textile production. It was in this industry that the industrial revolution began which took place in Britain in the course of the last third of the eighteenth century and the first quarter of the nineteenth.

The extension of the market and the capitalists’ striving for profit made necessary an improvement in technique of production. In the cotton industry, which was developing more rapidly than other branches, hand labour predominated. The principal operations in the cotton industry are spinning and weaving. The product of the spinners’ work serves as the material of the weavers’ work. The increase in the demand for cotton Cloth pressed in the first place on the technique of weaving: in 1733 the flying shuttle was invented, which doubled the productivity of the weaver’s labour. This led to spinning lagging behind weaving. In the manufactories the looms often stood idle for lack of yarn. An urgent need to improve spinning technique arose.

This task was solved by means of the invention (in 1765-7) of spinning machines, each of which had fifteen to twenty spindles. The driving power of the first machines was at first provided by human beings or draught animals, but later machines appeared which were operated by water power. Further technical improvement led not only to an increase in the amount of yarn produced but also to improvement in its quality. At the end of the eighteenth century there were already in existence spinning machines with up to 400 spindles. As a result of these inventions the productivity of labour in spinning greatly increased.

There now arose in the textile industry another discrepancy: spinning had outstripped weaving. This discrepancy was overcome by the invention in 1785 of a mechanical loom. After a number of improvements the mechanical loom was introduced on a wide scale in Britain, and by the 1840’s had completely ousted hand-weaving. The processes of working up cloth-bleaching, dyeing, printing-also underwent radical changes. The application of chemistry shortened the time taken by these processes and improved the quality of the product.

The first textile factories were built on the banks of rivers and the machines were driven by means of water-wheels. This greatly restricted the possibility of using machine technique. A new kind of prime mover was needed which was not dependent on a particular place or season. Such a prime mover was the steam engine.

The steam engine was invented in its primary form as far back as the manufacturing period, and from 1711 to 1712 was in use in the English mining industry in the form of a pump for extracting water from mines. The industrial revolution in England gave rise to a demand for a universal steam engine. This task was accomplished in England in the 1780’s through the perfecting of the steam engine already in existence.

The introduction of the steam engine was of enormous importance. The steam engine was a prime mover of universal significance, free from the numerous shortcomings inherent in a water-driven engine. Using coal and water, the steam engine produces a motive force which is wholly under man’s control. This machine is movable; it frees industry from its attachment to natural sources of power and makes it possible to concentrate’ industry in any place desired.

The steam engine became widespread not only in Britain but also beyond its bounds, creating the prerequisites for the appearance of large-scale factories with many machines and a large number of workers.

Machines revolutionised production in all branches of industry. Not only did they seize hold of cotton production, they also came to be used in the woollen, linen and silk industries as well. Means were quickly found of using steam engines in transport: in 1807 the first steamboat was built in the U.S.A., and in 1825 in Britain the first railway was built.

At first machines were produced in manufactories by means of hand labour. They were expensive and were insufficiently powerful and precise. The manufactories could not produce such a quantity of machines as was required by rapidly-growing industry. This task was solved by going over to production of machines by machines. There arose a new, rapidly-developing branch of industry-engineering. The first machines were made mostly of wood. Later the wooden parts of machines were replaced by metal ones. The replacement of wood by metal, which increased the longevity and durability of machines, revealed the possibility of working at such speed and with such intensity as previously had been unthinkable. At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were invented mechanical hammers, presses and metal-working lathes : first turners’ lathes, then milling and boring-machines.

For the production of machines, locomotives rails and steam-ships an enormous quantity of iron and steel was needed. Metallurgy began to develop quickly. Of great importance in the development of metallurgy was the discovery of a method of smelting iron ore with mineral fuel instead of with charcoal. The blast-furnace was increasingly improved. In the 1830’s cold blast began to be replaced by hot, which quickened the blast process and gave a large saving of fuel. New, improved methods of smelting steel were discovered.

The spread of the steam engine and the growth of metallurgy created a need for enormous quantities of coal, which led to a rapid growth of the coal industry.

As a result of the industrial revolution Britain was transformed into the industrial workshop of the world. After Britain, machine production spread in other countries of Europe and in America.

The industrial revolution in France took place in the course of the few decades immediately following the bourgeois revolution of 1789-94. The capitalist factory became predominant in French industry only in the second half of the nineteenth century:

In Germany, owing to its feudal disunity and the continued survival of relations originating in serfdom, the industrial revolution took place later than in Britain and France. Large-scale industry began to develop in Germany only from the 1840’s onward and advanced especially quickly after the unification of Germany into a single State in 1871.

In the U.S.A. large-scale industry arose at the beginning of the nineteenth century. American machine industry began to develop rapidly after the Civil War of 1861-5. When this happened the technical achievements of British industry were widely drawn upon, together with an influx of surplus capital and of cadres of skilled workers from Europe.

In Russia the transition from manufacture to the machine stage of production began before the abolition of serfdom, but developed to its full extent in the first decades after the Reform of 1861. However, even after the fall of serfdom numerous survivals of the feudal-serf-owning system in the country hindered the transition of industry from hand to machine production. This circumstance affected to an especially striking extent the mining industry of the Urals.

Capitalist Industrialisation

The industrial revolution marked the beginning of capitalist industrialisation. The basis of industrialisation is heavy industry, the production of the means of production.

Capitalist industrialisation takes place spontaneously, in response to the capitalists’ drive for profit. The development of large-scale capitalist industry usually begins with the development of light industry, i.e., the branches producing consumer goods. These branches require a smaller investment of resources and capital circulates faster in them than in heavy industry, i.e., in the branches producing means of production-machines, metals, fuel. Heavy industry begins to be developed only at the end of a more or less long period of time during which light industry piles up profits. These profits are gradually pumped into heavy industry. Thus capitalist industrialisation is a process which takes many decades.

In Britain, for example, the textile industry for a long time remained the most developed branch of industry. In the second half of the century. heavy industry began to play the predominant role. The same order of succession in the development of branches of industry occurred in the other capitalist countries too.

In the second half of the nineteenth century metallurgy continued to develop; the technique of smelting metal improved, the size of blast-furnaces increased. The production of pig-iron grew. In Britain the production of pig-iron increased from 193,000 tons in 1800 to 2,285,000 tons in 1850, 6,059,000 tons in 1870 and 7,873,000 tons in 1880. In the U.S.A. it grew from 41,000 tons in 1800 to 573,000 tons in 1850, 1,692,000 tons in 1870 and 3,897,000 tons in 1880.

Down to the last third of the nineteenth century the steam engine remained the only kind of engine used in large-scale industry and transport. Steam played a very great role in the development of machine industry. Throughout the nineteenth century further improvement of the steam engine continued; the capacity of steam-driven machines increased and also the degree of utilisation of heat energy. In the 1880’s the steam turbine came into being. Thanks to its advantages it began to oust the steam engine from a number of branches.

However, the more large-scale industry grew, the more rapidly did the inadequacy of steam as a motive force become apparent. A new kind of mover was invented-the internal combustion engine, at first using gas (1877), and then an engine working on liquid fuel, the diesel (1893). In the last third of the nineteenth century a new and powerful force appeared in the arena of economic life, which revolutionised production still more-electricity.

In the nineteenth century machine technique laid hold of one branch of industry after another. The mining industry-extraction of ores and of coaldeveloped. In connection with the invention of the internal combustion engine the extraction of petroleum increased. The chemical industry underwent extensive development. The rapid growth of large-scale machine industry was accompanied by intense building of railways.

Capitalist industrialisation is brought about both by means of the exploitation of the wage-workers and the ruin of the peasantry of the country concerned and also by means of the plundering of the working people of other lands, especially colonies. It leads inevitably to a sharpening of the contradictions of capitalism, to the impoverishment of millions of workers, peasants and craftsmen.

History has seen various paths of capitalist industrialisation. The first path of capitalist industrialisation is the path of conquest and plunder of colonies. That was how Britain’s industry developed. Having conquered colonies in all parts of the world, Britain pumped enormous profits out of them for two centuries and invested the profits in her own industry.

The second path is the path of war and the imposing of indemnities by victor countries on defeated countries. Thus Germany, after defeating France in the Franco-Prussian War, obliged her to pay five thousand million francs as indemnity and invested these in her own industry.

The third path is the path of enslaving concessions and loans, which lead to the economic and political dependence of backward countries upon the capitalistically developed countries. Tsarist Russia, for example, granted concessions and obtained loans from the Western Powers on extortionate terms, endeavouring in this way to advance gradually along the path of industrialisation.

In the history of various countries these different paths of capitalist industrialisation were often interwoven and supplemented each other. The history of the economic development of the U.S.A. offers an example. The large-scale industry of the U.S.A. was created with the aid of foreign loans and long-term credits, and also by way of unrestrained plundering of the indigenous population of America.

Despite the development of machine industry in the bourgeois countries, a very great part of the population of the capitalist world continues to live and work under conditions in which primitive hand technique predominates.

Growth of Towns and Industrial Centres. Formation of the Class of Proletarians

Capitalist industrialisation caused a rapid growth of towns and industrial centres. The number of large towns in Europe (with populations exceeding 100,000) increased sevenfold during the nineteenth century. The proportion of the urban population grew unceasingly at the expense of the agricultural population. In Britain as early as the middle of the nineteenth century and in Germany by about the beginning of the twentieth century, more than half of the entire population was concentrated in towns.

In the period of capitalist manufacture, the masses of wageworkers did not yet represent a settled class of proletarians. The workers in the manufactories were relatively few and to a considerable degree they were connected with agriculture dispersed among a multitude of small workshops and kept apart by all sorts of narrow craft interests.

As a result of the industrial revolution and the further development of machine industry an industrial proletariat was formed in the capitalist countries. The working class grew rapidly in numbers, its ranks being continually reinforced from those of the peasantry and craftsmen who were being ruined. With the growth of large-scale machine-industry the local, craft and caste interests and prejudices of the earliest generations of workers were gradually outlived, along with their utopian aspirations to get back to the lost position of the medieval craftsman. The mass of workers were welded into a single class, the proletariat. Describing the formation of the proletariat as a class, Engels wrote:

“Only, the development of capitalist production, modern industry and agriculture on a large scale, gave continuity to its existence, enlarged its numbers and formed it as a special class with special interests and with a special historical mission." Engels, The Workers’ Movement in America", Marx and Engels, Works, Russian edition, vol. XVI, Pt. 1, p. 287.)

In Britain the number of the workers in industry and transport in thE second decade of the nineteenth century amounted to about two millions; during the ensuing hundred years the number grew more than threefold.

In France the workers in industry and transport in the 1860’s numbered about two millions, but at the beginning of the twentieth century there were nearly 3,800,000.

In the U.S.A. the number of workers in industry and transport amounted in 1859 to 1,800,000 and in 1899 to 6,800,000. In Germany the number of workers in industry and transport grew from 700,000 in 1848 to 5 millions in 1895.

In Russia after the abolition of serfdom the process of forming a working class went forward rapidly. In 1865,706,000 workers were employed in large factories and works, in mining and on the railways in 1890 they numbered 1,433,000. Thus, the number of workers in large-scale capitalist enterprises more than doubled in twenty-five years. Towards the end of the 1890’s the number of workers in large factories and works, in mining and on the railways had reached 2,207,000 in fifty provinces of European Russia, and in Russia as a whole had reached 2,792,000.

The Capitalist Factory. The Machine as a means whereby Capital exploits Wage Labour

The capitalist factory is a large-scale industrial enterprise based on the exploitation of wage-workers and using a system of machinery for the production of commodities.

A system of machinery is an aggregate of working machines which simultaneously carry out uniform production operations (e.g., looms of the same type), or an aggregate of working machines which, though of different kinds, are complementary to each other. A system of machinery of different kinds means a combination of detail-working machines, based on a distribution of production operations amongst them. Each detail machine supplies work to another machine. The machines operate simultaneously, the product continuously going through different stages of the production process and passing from one phase of production to another.

The introduction of machines ensures a tremendous growth in the productivity of labour and reduction in the value of commodities. The machine makes it possible to produce the same number of commodities with very much less expenditure of labour, or to produce with the same expenditure of labour a considerably larger number of commodities.

In the nineteenth century the working-up of a given quantity of cotton into yarn, using a machine, required only 1-180th of the labour-time taken when a hand-operated spinning wheel was used. Using a machine one adult or adolescent worker could in one hour print as many four-coloured chintzes as previously, by hand labour, could be printed by 200 adult workers. In the eighteenth century, under the manufacturing division of labour, a worker made 4,800 needles a day; in the nineteenth century one worker, operating four machines at once, produced up to 600,000 needles a day.

Under the capitalist mode of production all the advantages of introducing machines are appropriated by the owners of these machines, the capitalists, whose profits grow.

The factory is the highest form of capitalist co-operation. Capitalist cooperation, as joint work carried out on a relatively large scale, makes necessary a special function of management, supervision, co-ordination of the separate jobs. In a capitalist enterprise the function of management belongs to the capitalist and has specific features which figure at the same time as functions of exploitation of the wage-workers by capital. The capitalist is not a capitalist because he manages an industrial enterprise; on the contrary, he becomes the manager of an enterprise because he is a capitalist.

Already under simple capitalist co-operation the capitalist freed himself from physical work. With the growth in the scale of co-operation of labour he frees himself also from the function of direct and constant supervision of his workers. He transfers these functions to a special category of wage-workersmanagers and foremen-who give orders in the enterprise in the capitalist’s name. By its very nature, capitalist management is despotic."

With the transition to the factory the creation by capital of a special capitalist labour-discipline is complete. Capitalist labour-discipline is the discipline of hunger. Under it, the worker lives constantly under the threat of dismissal from the factory, in fear of finding himself in the ranks of the unemployed. Barrack discipline is characteristic of the capitalist factory.

Workers are punished by means of money fines and deductions from. their wages.1

In itself the machine is a mighty means of lightening labour and enhancing its productivity. Under capitalism, however, the machine serves as a means of intensifying the exploitation of wage-labour.

From its very first introduction the machine became a competitor with the worker. The capitalist rise of machines first and foremost deprives of their livelihood tens and hundreds of thousands of hand workers, who became redundant. For example, when steam-operated looms were installed on a large scale, 800,000 English and Scotch weavers were thrown on to the street. Millions of weavers were condemned to hunger and death in India because Indian hand-produced cloth could not stand up to the competition of British machine-made cloth. In consequence of the increasing use of machines and their increasing improvement, more and more wage-workers are ousted by machines and thrown out of the capitalist factories on to the streets, filling the ranks of the growing army of unemployed. The machine simplifies the production process and makes superfluous the use of great muscular strength by the worker. For this reason, with the transition to machine technique, capital extensively draws women and children into production. The capitalist obliges them to work under hard conditions and for wretchedly small pay. This results in a high level of child mortality in working-class families and the physical and moral crippling of women and children.

The machine opens up extensive possibilities of reducing the labour-time needed for the production of a commodity and so of shortening the working day. Under capitalism, however, it is used as a means of lengthening the working day. In the pursuit of gain the capitalist tries to use his machines to the full. First, the longer a machine is in paying use during a working day, the sooner he recovers its cost. Second, the longer the working day and the more fully the machine is used, the less danger there is that the machine will become technically obsolete and that other capitalists will succeed in adopting better or cheaper machines and so place themselves in more advantageous conditions of production. The capitalist strives therefore to lengthen the working day to its maximum.

In the capitalists’ hands the machine is used to pump more labour out of the worker during a given period of time. The excessive intensity of labour, overcrowding in the factory premises, the inadequacy of air and light, the absence of measures necessary for ensuring safety at work lead to mass incidence of occupational diseases among workers, the undermining of their health and the shortening of their lives.

Machine technique opens up a wide field for the utilisation of science in the production process and for making labour more intelligent and creative. Capitalist use of machines, however, leads to the worker becoming transformed into an appendage to the machine. To the worker’s lot falls only monotonous and exhausting physical work. Mental work becomes the privilege of certain special workers: engineers, technicians, scientists. Science serves capital. The antagonism between physical and mental labour continually deepens.

The machine signifies in itself a strengthening of man’s power over the forces of nature. By raising the productivity of labour the machine increases society’s wealth. But this wealth is taken by the capitalists, and the position of the working class, the principal productive force of society, continually worsens. Marx showed in Capital that it is not machines themselves that are the enemies of the working class but the capitalist social order under which they are used. He wrote that :

“machinery, considered alone, shortens the hours of labour, but, when in the service of capital, lengthens them; in itself it lightens labour, but when employed by capital, heightens the intensity of labour; in itself it is a victory of man over the forces of nature, but in the hands of capital, makes man the slave of these forces; in itself it increases the wealth of the producers, but in the hands of capital makes them paupers." (Marx, Capital, Kerr edition, vol. I, p. 482.)

From the very first rise of capitalist relations there began the class struggle between the wage-workers and the capitalists. It went on during the whole of the period of manufacture and with the transition to machine production assumed large dimensions and unprecedented sharpness.

The way in which the as yet immature labour movement expressed its protest against the baneful effects of the capitalist use of machine technique was to try to destroy the machines. The first cloth-shearing machine, invented in 1758, was set on fire by workers whom the introduction of this machine had put out of work. At the beginning of the nineteenth century an extensive “machine-wrecking" movement developed in the industrial areas of Britain, directed first and foremost against the steam-driven looms. The working class needed a certain amount of time and experience to understand that the oppression and poverty under which it suffered were due not to the machines themselves but to the use made of them by the capitalists.

The capitalists made extensive use of the machine as a potent weapon for putting down the periodical workers’ outbreaks, strikes, etc., directed against the dictatorship of capital. After 1830 a substantial number of inventions were evoked in Britain directly by the requirements of the class struggle of the capitalists against the workers, the endeavour being made by the capitalists, through reducing the number of workers employed and using labour which was less’ skilled, to break the resistance of the workers to their oppression by capital.

Thus the capitalist use of machines causes a, worsening in the position of the workers and a sharpening in the class contradictions between capital and labour.

Large-scale Industry and Agriculture

The development of large-scale industry led to machines beginning to be introduced in agriculture as well. One of the weightiest advantages of largescale agricultural production is that it makes possible the use of machines.

Machines increase the productivity of labour in agriculture to an enormous extent. They are, however, beyond the resources of the petty peasant economy, for the purchase of machines demands a substantial outlay. In addition, the machine can be used effectively over large cultivated areas, for introducing industrial crops, etc. In large-scale economy based on machine technique the expenditure of labour per unit of production is markedly less than in petty peasant economy based on backward technique and hand labour. Consequently, petty peasant economy cannot stand up to the competition of large-scale capitalist economy.

The widespread use of agricultural machinery under conditions of capitalism hastens the process of differentiation among the peasantry. “The systematic employment of machinery in agriculture squeezes out the patriarchal ‘middle’ peasant as inexorably as the steam-driven loom squeezes out the hand-loom weaver." (Lenin, “Development of Capitalism in Russia", Selected Works, 12- vol. edition, vol. 1, p. 274.) Capitalism, in elevating the technique of agriculture and advancing it, ruins the mass of petty producers. Yet hired labour-power is so cheap in agriculture that many large-scale estates do not use machines but prefer to use hand labour. This hinders the development of machine technique in agricultural production.

Capitalist use of machines in agriculture is inevitably accompanied by intensified exploitation of the agricultural proletariat through raising the intensity of work. For instance, a kind of reaping machine which was widely used in its time was called “the brow-warmer" because working with it demanded great physical exertion.

In the machine period of capitalism the separation of industry from agriculture is completed and the antithesis between town and country deepened and made more acute. Under capitalism agriculture increasingly lags behind industry in its development. Lenin declared that the agriculture of the capitalist countries at the beginning of the twentieth century was at about the stage of manufacture so far as its technical and economic level was concerned.

Under capitalism the introduction of machine technique in agriculture proceeds much more slowly than in industry. While the steam engine made possible fundamental technical transformations in industry, in agriculture it was used only in the form of the steam-driven threshing machine. In the comprehensive mechanical thresher were later combined the threshing, cleaning and sorting of the grain. Only in the last quarter of the nineteenth century were horse-drawn machines -for grain-harvesting-harvester-binders brought into wide use. The caterpillar tractor was invented as far back as the 1880’s and the wheeled tractor at the beginning of the twentieth, but the more or less extensive employment of the tractor on large capitalist farms began only in the 1920’S, mainly in the U.S.A.

Down to the present day the basic motive power in the agriculture of the majority of capitalist countries is provided by draught animals, and the implements with which the soil is worked are the horse-drawn plough, harrow and cultivator.

Capitalist Socialisation of Labour and Production.
Limits to the Use of Machines under Capitalism

On the basis of machine technique great progress was achieved under capitalism in the development of the productive forces of society as compared with the feudal mode of production. The machine was a revolutionary force which transformed society.

“The transition from manufacture to the factory marks a complete technical revolution, which eliminates the age-old skill of the handicraftsman, and this technical revolution is followed by an extremely sharp change in the social relations in production, by a final rupture between the various groups taking part in production, a complete rupture with tradition, the intensification and expansion of all the gloomy sides of capitalism, and at the same time the mass socialisation of labour by capitalism. Thus, large-scale machine industry is the last word of capitalism, the last word of its negative and ‘positive’ aspects." (Lenin, “Development of Capitalism in Russia", Selected Works, 12-vol. edition, vol. 1, p. 303.)

On the basis of large-scale machine industry a spontaneous process of extensive socialisation of labour by capital is accomplished.

First, as a result of the use of machines industrial production is more and more concentrated in large-scale enterprises. The machine itself requires the joint labour of many workers.

Second, a further development takes place under capitalism in the social division of labour. The number of branches of industry and agriculture is increased. At the same time the separate branches and enterprises become even more dependent one upon another. With this extensive specialisation of branches a factory-owner producing, for example, cloth, becomes directly dependent on a factory-owner producing yarn, the latter upon a capitalist who produces cotton, an owner of an engineering works, of collieries, etc.

Third, the disunity of petty economic units characteristic of natural economy disappears, and the petty local markets become fused in a vast national and world market.

Fourth, capitalism with its machine technique does away with the various forms of personal dependence affecting the worker. The basis of production becomes free hired labour. Greater mobility of the population is brought about, which guarantees an unfailing supply of labour-power to the growing branches of industry.

Fifth, with the spread of machine production a great number of industrial centres and large towns arise. Society is more and more split into two basic antagonistic classes-the class of capitalists and the class of wage-workers.

The socialisation of labour and production, for which machine technique served as the foundation, was a notable step forward in the progressive development of society. But the selfish interests of the capitalists, avid for profits, set a definite limit to the development of the productive forces. From the social standpoint it is advantageous to use a machine if the labour which it costs to produce the machine is less than the labour which will be saved by using it, and also if the machine lightens labour. But for the capitalist neither economising social labour nor lightening the worker’s labour means anything; all’ he cares about is economising on wages. The limit to the use of machines is therefore for the capitalist a narrower one. It is set by the difference between the price of the machine and the wages of the workers displaced by it. The lower the wages of the workers the weaker the incentive to the capitalist to introduce machinery. Therefore hand labour is still widely used to this day in the industry of capitalist countries.

Large-scale machine industry sharpened the competitive struggle between the capitalists and intensified the spontaneity and anarchy of all social production. Capitalist use of machines brought about not only a rapid development of the productive forces of society but also an unprecedented growth in the oppression of labour by capital and sharpening of all the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production.


(1) The transition from manufacture to large-scale machine industry meant an industrial revolution. Of very great importance for the transition to machine industry were: the invention of the steam engine, improvement in the method of smelting metal, and the making of machines to produce machines. The machine conquered one province’ of the production of commodities after another.

(2) With the growth of capitalism there took place the process of capitalist industrialisation of the most important countries of Europe and America. Capitalist industrialisation begins as a rule with the development of light industry. In the industrialisation of capitalist countries a big role is played by the plundering of colonies and conquered countries and also the obtaining of loans on extortionate terms. Capitalist industrialisation is based on the exploitation of wage-labour and intensifies the ruining of the broad masses of peasants and craftsmen. It leads to a further growth in the social division of labour, completes the separation of industry from agriculture, and makes more acute the antithesis between town and country.

(3) The capitalist factory is a large-scale enterprise, based upon exploitation of wage-workers and employment of a system of machines for producing commodities. Management in the capitalist factory is despotic in character. In capitalist society the use of machines is accompanied by increasingly burdensome labour of the wage-worker, his intensified exploitation and the drawing into production of women and children, who are paid extremely low wages.

Capitalist machine production completes the process of separating mental labour from physical and sharpens the antithesis between them.

(4) The development of large-scale machine industry leads to the growth of cities, to an increase in the urban population at the expense of the rural, to the formation of a class of wage-workers (the proletariat), and to growth in the numbers of the latter. The introduction of machinery into agriculture is an advantage for large-scale production. It leads to raising the productivity of labour and hastens, the process of disintegration of the peasantry. Under capitalism agriculture lags further and further behind industry, and this deepens the antithesis between town and country.

(5) Large-scale machine industry plays a progressive role in history, leads to the growth of the productivity of labour and to the socialisation of labour by capital. The limits to the use of machinery by the capitalists are set by the fact that capitalists introduce machinery only where its price is less than the wages of the workers displaced by it.


1. The British reader is reminded that these conditions and those described in subsequent passages, which were universal in British industry 100-I50 years ago and survived in many trades much later, may have been modified by organised pressure of the British working class, but still exist today in many capitalist countries -including British colonies-Editor, English edition.