Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63
Part 3) Relative Surplus Value

Division of Labour and Mechanical Workshop.

Continued. The Productivity of Labour.

Volume 33, MECW, p. 477-501

[XIX-1235] The aim in investigating relative surplus value is to find how necessary labour time is reduced by the growth in the productivity of labour, and thereby surplus labour time, hence the surplus value which falls to the share of capital, is increased. An increase in the productivity of labour = a cheapening of the commodities which enter into the worker’s consumption, and the value of labour capacity is determined by the value of those commodities. With machinery there is the additional element that cheap means of labour are replaced by expensive ones. Constant capital must therefore be investigated here — it must be taken into account — since a new element now enters into it (and also into the valorisation process). The forces of nature cost nothing; they enter into the labour process without entering into the valorisation process; but the prime motors on which they act, or through which [they] are appropriated for the labour process, do cost something. The past labour contained in the constant capital forms a value component of the commodity, just as does the living labour obtained in exchange for the variable capital. If on the one hand the necessary (living) labour time were to fall, through an increase in the productivity of living labour, while on the other hand the value component of the commodity added by machinery were to rise in the same, or a higher, ratio, the commodity would become dearer instead of cheaper, and thus — despite the greater productivity of the living labour — no additional surplus value would be created; the surplus value would rather be lessened. For this reason, it is necessary to discuss already at this point, to a certain degree, the share which the value component added by the value of the machinery to the commodity, to the product, accounts for in the total value of the commodity.

On the other hand, it is clear in the case of the increase in the productive forces of labour brought about by simple cooperation and division of labour, d'abord, that the constant capital does not increase in proportion to the commodity; it is clear, secondly, that, even disregarding the higher productivity of living labour and therefore the lesser magnitude of value of the individual products, a cheapening of the commodity also takes place on account of economy in constant capital (particularly in the communal use of constant capital, parts of which, such as buildings, heating facilities, lighting, etc., do not increase in mass in the same proportion as the living labour they serve at the same time as general objective conditions of labour). In so far as the commodity is thereby cheapened — even disregarding the greater productivity of the living labour considered for itself — this circumstance can be mentioned, although we shall not examine it in more detail until the section on capital and profit.

It is precisely the characteristic feature of capitalist production that while even the social characteristics of labour which raise its productive power appear as a force alien to labour itself, as conditions lying outside it, as qualities and conditions not belonging to labour itself — for the worker always continues to confront capital as an isolated individual, standing outside the social connection with his fellow-workers — this is still more the case, prima facie, with the objective conditions of that social labour. The examination of these conditions therefore appears from the capitalist point of view as the examination of circumstances which concern capital alone, proceed from it and are enclosed within it, and have absolutely nothing to do with the worker. This is so even though it is only this social form of labour itself that converts these external conditions from such as exist in isolation for the individual worker into social conditions, concentrated conditions, which can be employed more economically through concentration in space and time and common employment by the cooperating workers; can be employed in such a manner that the workers’ greater efficiency in the labour process is accompanied by lesser costs, i.e. a smaller consumption of value by the workers, so that they enter to a lesser degree into the valorisation process.

We shall find, in connection with machinery in particular, how the alienation between these conditions of labour and the way in which the labour itself is carried on is held fast in the consciousness of the capitalist and asserted in his dealings with the worker.

This is, however, only a further consequence and carrying through of the antagonism which forms the essence [XIX-1236] of capitalist production, and was therefore already delineated in our discussion of absolute surplus value.

It is, in general, a characteristic of capitalist production that the conditions of labour confront living labour as independent, as personified, that it is not the worker that employs the conditions of labour, but the conditions of labour that employ the worker. It is precisely through this that the latter become capital, and the commodity owner who possesses them becomes a capitalist vis--vis the worker. This independence naturally ceases in the actual labour process, but the total labour process is a process of capital, it is incorporated in capital. To the extent that the worker figures in the process as labour, he is himself a moment of capital.

[V-175a/A] [222] The vitalising natural power of labour — the fact that by using and expending material and instrument it preserves them in this or that form, hence also preserves the labour objectified in them, their exchange value — becomes a power, not of labour, but of capital, as does every natural or social power of labour which is not the product of earlier labour or not the product of such earlier labour as must be repeated (e.g. the historical development of the worker, etc.). Therefore, this vitalising power is not paid for by capital. Just as the worker is not paid for his capacity to think.


Labour’s specific quality of preserving already objectified labour as objectified labour by adding a new quantity of labour does not receive any remuneration; nor does it cost the worker anything, as it is a natural property of labour. In the process of production the separation of labour from the objective moments of its existence — material and instrument — is superseded. The existence of capital and wage labour depends on this separation. Its supersession which actually takes place in the actual production process, is not paid for by the capitalist. Nor does the supersession occur through the exchange between capitalist and worker, but through labour itself in the production process. And as such present labour it is itself already incorporated into capital, it is a moment of capital. This preserving power of labour therefore appears as capital’s power of self-preservation. The worker has merely added new labour; past labour — in which capital exists — has an eternal existence as value quite independently of its material existence. This is how the matter appears to capital and to the worker.


[XIX-1236] With the formal subsumption of labour under capital, these conditions of labour undergo no further modification; they remain, physically, material and means of labour. But with the new mode of production, with the revolution in the mode of production created by capitalist production, these conditions of labour change their shape. They receive new determinations from the fact that they serve the socially cooperating workers as conditions. With simple cooperation and manufacture based on the division of labour, this modification affects merely the general conditions of labour, which can be utilised commonly, such as buildings, etc. But with the mechanical workshop based on machinery, the modification extends to the actual instrument of labour. As with the formal subsumption of labour under capital, these conditions, and therefore also their altered shape — a shape which has been altered by the social form of the labour itself — remain an alien circumstance to the workers. Indeed, in the case of machinery, as we shall see further on, the antithesis or alienation develops further, into an antagonistic contradiction.

A further question to be dealt with here is this: If we examine these conditions of labour, to the extent that they are cheapened in the social form of labour, this happens in relation to the cheapening of the commodities which enter into the worker’s consumption, and this is identical with the relative devaluation of labour capacity. What is important here is that the total amount of labour which enters into the individual product — the sum total of the past and present labour entering into it — is lessened. With cooperation and the division of labour it is evident that the living labour becomes more productive, performs the same work in a shorter time, while it goes without saying that the part of the value of the commodity which derives from the constant capital is not increased. With machinery this needs to be demonstrated, and will be demonstrated. But the characteristic feature of all 3 cases, in so far as relative surplus value is being considered, is that the living labour needs less time to produce the same commodity.

In the section on capital and profit, on the other hand, what is involved is neither the increase of surplus value, surplus labour time, which is rather presupposed as given; nor is it the reduction in the total amount of Past and living labour which enters into the commodity; it is instead the way in which the ratio of the surplus value to the value of the total capital advanced, and in particular the quantitative proportion between the living labour employed and the past labour employed, is affected by the economy in constant capital which is first made possible by the social forms taken on by labour in the capitalist mode of production, but excluded, in contrast, in the case of the dispersed labour of independent handicraftsmen or small-scale agriculturists. *Such is the difference in the consideration of the same circumstances from different points of view.*


If we now return to machinery, it is evident that the mode of production corresponding to it finds its purest and most classical expression in the automatic workshop, in which the application of the machine takes the form of the application of a connected system of machinery, of a totality — falling into a number of different phases — of mechanical processes which have as their common motor a prime motor driven mechanically, with the drive provided by natural forces. The single machine makes its appearance in many spheres of production, replacing [XIX-1237] either earlier individual trades of the handicraft type, or kinds of work previously performed through cooperation, such as, in the latter case, building machines, [or] e.g. sowing, mowing, threshing machines, etc. There is, particularly in the first case, a re-emergence of handicraft production, based now on machinery, such as with the original spinning machine, many kinds of loom, the sewing machine, etc. But this handicraft production based on the machine now appears as nothing more than a transition to large-scale industry. Or, in manufacture (and agriculture) based on the division of labour, the machines intervene in specific processes, while other processes, which are admittedly connected with the former processes, but still interrupt mechanical production, require human labour, not for the supervision of a mechanical process, but for the production itself. This is the way in which manufacture and large-scale agriculture reappear, in changed shape, in the period of machine production.

The automatic workshop, however, is a perfected mode of production, corresponding to machinery, and it is the more perfect, the more it forms a complete mechanical system, and the less individual processes still require (as do mechanical spinning mills not employing selfactors) to be mediated through human labour.

Machinery has a negative impact on the mode of production resting on the division of labour in manufacture and on the specialised skills of labour capacity produced on the basis of that division of labour. It devalues the labour capacity specialised in this way, in part reducing it to simple, abstract labour capacity, and in part producing on its own basis a new specialisation of labour capacity, the characteristic feature of which is its passive subordination to the movement of the mechanism itself; its complete annexation to the needs and requirements of the mechanism.

//The Ricardian example (Principles of Political Economy, 3rd Ed” [p.] 469 sqq.):

Let the capitalist have 20,000. 7,000 of this is invested in fixed capital; 13,000 as circulating capital employed in the support of labour.

Now machinery to the amount of 7,500 is added to the fixed capital of 7,000. Hence the total fixed capital now = 7,000+7,500 = 14,500. There therefore remains a circulating capital of 20,000-14,500, i.e. 5,500. Previously the gross produce was 15,000, hence a profit of 2,000. Or ‘/to on 20,000,=10%.

The extra labour previously employed by “7,500” “would become redundant” [p. 471].

Ricardo now continues:

* “The reduced quantity of labour which the capitalist can employ, must, indeed, with the assistance of the machine, and after deductions for its repairs, produce a value equal to 7,500, it must replace the circulating capital with a profit of 2,000 on the whole capital"* ([p.] 471).

I.e. the amount of surplus value and therefore the rate of profit (10%) on the 20,000 remains exactly the same, although now less than half the quantity of labour is employed, compared with previously. Previously the variable capital was 13,000, now it is only 5,500. The phrase, “with the assistance of the machine” means nothing here, since Ricardo himself argues, as against Say, that the machine only adds its own value (as included in its annual wear and tear) to the product; but no surplus value. Ricardo does not investigate how this “fact” can be reconciled with the theory of value, which it contradicts prima facie.//

* “Machine, or engine, is any mechanical instrument contrived to move bodies. And it is composed of the mechanical powers. Mechanical powers are certain simple instruments, commonly employed for raising greater weights, or overcoming greater resistances, than could be effected by the natural strength without them. These are usually accounted 6 in number, viz. the lever, the wheel and axle, the pulley, the inclined plane, the wedge, and the screw” * (Hutton, A Course of Mathematics, [pp.] 174-75).[223]

The mechanical workshop takes the place of 1) manufacture based on the division of labour; 2) the independent handicraft enterprise.

Although the mechanical workshop 1) negates simple cooperation, in so far as it puts the machine in the place of power created through cooperation; and 2) negates the division of labour, in so far as it abolishes cooperation or manufacture resting on the division of labour, there does nevertheless occur within the mechanical workshop itself both cooperation and division of labour. Point 1 needs no further discussion here. It should however be remarked that, given machinery as the material basis of the mechanical workshop, simple cooperation plays a much more important role in it than the division of labour.

[XIX-1238] But what is above all involved here is this question: what kind of division of labour is it which predominates in the mechanical workshop, as opposed to the kind which characterises manufacture?

There are two points to distinguish here.

Either, a), machinery develops into a system of machines, which perform different processes, each of which forms a phase for the next one, as in spinning, paper manufacturing, etc. Here there naturally emerges a new division of labour, which belongs to the a mechanical workshop, and which must be examined specifically.

Or, b), a system of this kind does not result; for we do not understand by this system merely the link between motive power, transmitting machinery, and working machinery. This link can be found in all mechanical factories without distinction. Two things are, in turn, possible here.

a) Either a handicraft is replaced by a machine, as e.g. the handloom is replaced by the mechanical loom, or the turner’s bench is replaced by a mechanical lathe. Here the mechanical workshop directly replaces handicraft work, and machines of this kind can also bring into existence a new kind of handicraft work. Once they have developed into’ a mechanical workshop, what characterises this workshop is cooperation. Many such machines (set in motion by the same motor and the transmission apparatus connected to it) work together at the same place and the same time, and there is therefore added to them a large number of human machine assistants, working alongside each other simultaneously. Whether a machine of this kind is operated in isolation by a small master with a pair of assistants, or a number of them work together, the handicraftsman, who performed various operations and whose labour represented a larger or smaller totality of pieces of work, is replaced by a single machine, which performs these operations simultaneously. This handicraftsman is replaced by a mere assistant to the machine. The same thing takes place in the mechanical workshop composed of many such machines. Only there is the difference that in the first case power was still developed in so far as man still remained the prime motor with this machine too, whereas in the workshop man is replaced with an automaton, a mechanical driving force. No division of labour in our sense took place here. It is therefore not abolished. What is abolished is a more complex kind of labour, comprising various activities, which is replaced by simple machine labour. By simple machine labour we understand the assistance man has to render to the working machine.

b) But if a machine of this kind replaces a manufacture based on the division of labour, examples of which we have just given, this rests directly on a negation of the division of labour. The specialisation achieved by labour capacity through the division of labour is destroyed, and labour capacity is therewith depreciated, in so far as the system of manufacture required a hierarchy of labour capacities, so that there was simple labour at one point and, corresponding to it, more complex labour at another. Simpler labour now replaces simple labour; though simple, the latter was still specific, and had therefore developed into a specialised skill, however lousy the work might be. Here the system of manufacture can turn back into handicrafts, i.e. the work can be carried on by independent small masters with a pair of assistants; but this is always to be regarded as no more than a transitional stage to the mechanical workshop.

In so far as a division of labour takes place here, it proceeds solely from the general structure of the mechanical workshop; hence from the distinction, d'abord, between prime motor and working machine. The former may require stokers, feeders of the prime motor with coal, water, etc., or also the clearing out of ashes, etc. Workers employed in this way, whose numbers are limited by the small number of prime motors in operation in a workshop, are mere menials. The principle of the division of labour here is not that a particular specialism is developed, but that certain simple functions can be performed by one person for many, just as well on a large as on a small scale. E.g., a furnace can be heated for many just as it can for a few. Secondly, there are services performed for the machine as such, in order to keep it in constant repair. Thus there are workers charged with the sharpening e.g. [XIX-1239] of carding machines, or mechanics and engineers attached to the workshop. Individual persons can only be attached in this way because there is a large quantity of machines working simultaneously, hence there is constantly something to be patched up, etc., friction to be removed, so that the whole of the time of such a man can be usefully employed. There are naturally only a small number of these people, who do no “machine labour”, but are attached to the workshop after being selected from the circle of those accessory workers required to set up the workshop (machine producers, handicraftsmen, etc.).

Finally, menials are needed to sweep up the waste, remove the debris of the workshop, etc. This is one of the main tasks of the children (in the sense of the English Factory Acts). This kind of labour has nothing to do with machine labour as such; it is merely a menial function. One cannot speak here of the development of a particular specialism, but only of menial tasks, which do not demand power or presuppose the development of any sort of specialised skill. //In the case of the lace machine women and children have to perform machine labour.//

These categories are to be found in every workshop (mechanical), as also in manufacture, in part.

But the workers who really supervise the operation of the machines, or the main body of workers properly so called, are people who all do the same thing, so that here there is no actual division of labour, but instead simple cooperation; the economic basis of its effect here is not cooperation among human beings, but the circumstance that economy is demanded where a common motor and transmission machinery are used for many similar machines (leaving aside buildings, etc., which is also characteristic of manufacture resting on simple cooperation).

But finally, in so far as firstly children are required here for wholly simple menial services, and on the other hand young people of both sexes and women are required for the actual machine labour, a new division of labour emerges, found already in handicrafts, and in slave labour resting on cooperation, namely between overlookers and actual workers. This division of labour arises from the need for discipline and supervision in the armies of workers, as in other armies, and has nothing to do with the development of specialisation, unless it be specialisation in checking, giving orders, and cavilling. These overlookers in fact represent the capitalist towards the workers. In the case of the small handicraft master, who works with a few journeymen, this work of supervision and command, the disciplinary power, is bound up with his cooperation in the work. With the industrial capitalist, this labour of superintendence, which is “his”, is performed by workers delegated by him. These are the NCO’s of the workshop. It is in fact the overlookers and not the capitalists who perform the real labour of superintendence. The mechanical workshop is altogether characterised by these relations of subordination, regimentation, just as under the system of slavery the ruling mode of cooperation is slave-driving Negro slaves and working Negro slaves. It is labour for the exploitation of labour.

With both the kind of mechanical workshop just examined and the one that rests on a system of machinery — whether these two kinds of workshop replace independent handicrafts or manufacture — very skilled labour is often replaced by simple machine labour, as in the mechanical workshop, and special skills are always destroyed.

a) We come now to the mechanical workshop based on a system of machinery. Here a division of labour naturally takes place. //It is not necessary to repeat here the characteristics this kind of mechanical workshop has in common with the one considered above, characteristics which therefore apply to the mechanical workshop in general.// This division of labour has its material basis in the differences between the specialised machines which perform specific phases of the production process, and for the service of which there are therefore allotted parties of workers trained and assigned exclusively to that purpose. Here too the main body of workers is always formed by those employed in the final operation, not by those employed in preliminary or subsequent work. There is added here a new kind of menial service, which falls to the children to perform, namely when the transfer of the object of labour from one machine to another is accomplished not by the machine [XIX-1240] itself but by human vehicles, who in fact form here only the porters, the arms and legs, who act as intermediaries in the transfer of the material from one machine to another. Differences of age and sex play a major role here, in so far as certain manipulations require somewhat more strength, physical size, etc., and, according to the nature of the material to be worked on, more dexterity, agility, or, particularly with hard materials, a greater power of resistance.

In manufacture the tasks are divided into a hierarchy of abilities and strength, depending on what is required to make use of the instruments, and on whether the skills demanded for this are easier or harder to achieve. Certain physical and mental qualities of the individuals are here seized upon, in order through their one-sided development to create in manufacture a total mechanism formed out of human beings themselves. Here, in the mechanical workshop, the body of this total mechanism consists of the differentiated machines themselves, each of which performs the particular special processes, following one upon the other in succession, which are required for the process as a whole. Here it is not a specially developed labour capacity which puts into service a particular instrument in a skilled fashion, it is instead the self-acting instrument which needs special and constantly attached servants. There the worker puts into service a particular instrument; here particular groups of workers serve various machines, which perform particular processes. The hierarchy of abilities which more or less characterises manufacture disappears here.

What distinguishes this mechanical workshop is rather a general equalisation of services, so that for those really employed in machine labour the transition from one machine to another is entirely possible, within a short period of time, and without great preparations. In manufacture, the division of labour proceeds from the fact that the particular tasks to be performed can only be performed by particular specialised labour capacities, hence that not only distribution but real division of the labour into groups of specialisations must take place. With the mechanical workshop, in contrast, it is the machines which are specialised, and their simultaneous functioning, although they perform successive phases of the same total process, requires the distribution among them of particular groups of workers, who are always entrusted with the same services — which are all equally simple. It is a distribution of the workers among specialised machines rather than a division of labour among specialised labour capacities. In the one case, the labour capacity which puts into service the particular instruments is specialised; in the other case, the machine served by particular groups of workers is specialised. Leaving aside the mere menials mentioned previously and newly occurring here, the main distinction is between strength and agility. In so far as strength is to be employed, this is merely the average strength possessed by every adult male as distinct from females and children. This can therefore be reduced to a simple difference of sex and age. But the agility and dexterity which is demanded, and similarly the quickness of observation, and altogether the highly strained attentiveness required, have to do with the fact that the rapidity of functions at the machine runs parallel with the speed of the machine itself, and that a number of these machines, each of which has many functions, have simultaneously to be served, e.g. in the connecting up of threads. In large part this kind of agility — leaving aside the fact that practice, habit, is the main thing here — requires in turn no particular special skill, but a degree of application peculiar to e.g. certain ages, more characteristic of the undeveloped (youthful) body than the developed one. All these services are distinguished by their passivity, their adaptation and subordination to the operations and motions of the machine itself. This specialisation in passivity, i.e. the abolition of specialisation itself as specialisation, is what characterises machine labour. Improvements within the mechanical workshop itself are aimed at removing as far as possible all the skills which have again grown up on its own basis. It is therefore completely simple labour, i.e. [labour characterised by] uniformity, emptiness and subordination to the machine. Deadening labour, as labour which [XIX-1241] requires the complete subsumption of the individual under it, just as with the division of labour in manufacture. It prevents the development of specialisation, but is itself in turn specialised in this lack of specialisation. Here the last remnant of the worker’s satisfaction in his own labour disappears, to be replaced by absolute indifference, which is itself conditioned by the labour’s lack of real content.

In manufacture, labour is continuous. In the mechanical workshop, attentiveness to the work of the machine is continuous, and so is the movement of the worker, conditioned by the movements of the machine (where the worker must move backwards and forwards with the machine). His real interventions, in contrast, are incidental, according to whether the machine has made an error or not. Here, therefore, the worker is in constant servitude to the machine, whereas in manufacture the instrument always remains the servant.

In manufacture — considered as a whole — the individual worker forms a living part of the machine as a whole, i.e. the workshop, which is itself a mechanism consisting of human beings. In the mechanical workshop, on the other hand (i.e. the workshop considered here, which has developed into a system of machinery), man is a living accessory to its aggregate body, which exists outside him in the shape of the machine, and to the automatic machinery. Yet the machinery as a whole consists of machines, which form parts of that whole. Here human beings are merely the living accessories, the conscious appendages, of the unconscious but uniformly operating machinery.

The mechanical workshop is characterised by cooperation (simple) and the distribution of the cooperating agents among the various parts of the whole of the big automaton, as its mobile accessories and servants; by subordination to the movements and operations of the machine, to which the worker is chained as to his fate; by the equivalence of all kinds of work and by passivity; and by the absence of specialisation or at most the development of mere differences of age and sex into specialisations. Discipline and subordination arise here not merely from cooperation but from subordination to the system of machinery as a whole.

Ure, who is notorious even in England as the shameless apologist of the factory system, nevertheless performed a service in being the first to grasp its spirit correctly, and sharply to characterise the distinction and the antithesis between the automatic workshop and the system of manufacture based on the division of labour, which was treated by Adam Smith as the most important thing. (This to be brought in later.) The removal of the hierarchy of skills; the destruction of the specialisations entrenched behind “the division of labour”, and therewith the introduction of a passive subordination — with its accompaniment of absolute discipline, regimentation, subjection to the clock and the rules of the factory — these things are very properly picked out by Ure, as we shall now see from certain extracts. The regained universality of the worker in this system exists only in itself, in so far as he is indifferent towards his labour, the content of which lies outside him, and in so far as he develops no specialisation. In reality, however, this is the development of a specialisation without content.

[XX-1242][10] Whereas under handicrafts, and even in manufacture, the movements of a human being direct those of the instrument, the reverse is the case in the mechanical workshop: the movements of the machinery direct those of the human being.

Sir David Barry:

“The indispensable necessity” (for the workers) “of forcing both their mental and bodily exertions to keep exact pace with the motions of machinery propelled by an unvarying, unceasing power. 2) The continuance of an erect posture for periods unnaturally prolonged and too quickly repeated. To these causes are often added dusty rooms; impure air, heated atmospheres, constant perspiration” (Engels, [Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England,] p. 193).

“The slavery in which the bourgeoisie holds the proletariat chained, is nowhere more conspicuous than in the factory system. Here ends all freedom in law and in fact. The operative must be in the mill at half-past five in the morning; if he comes a couple of minutes too late, he is fined; if he comes ten minutes too late, he is not let in until breakfast is over, and a quarter of the day’s wages is withheld. He must eat, drink, and sleep at command... The despotic bell calls him from his bed, his breakfast, his dinner.

“What a time he has of it, too, inside the factory! Here the employer is absolute law-giver; he makes regulations at will, changes and adds to his codex at pleasure, and even if he inserts the craziest stuff, the courts say to the working man: Now, when you have freely entered into this contract, you must be bound by it” (Engels, pp. 217-18 [p. 467]).

The whole of this law-making boils down to fines or deductions from wages.

Engels quotes this from a regulation:

“’ 6) Every operative detected speaking to another, singing or whistling, will be fined 6d.; for leaving his place during working hours, 6d.'

“It may be said that such rules are necessary in a great, complicated factory, in order to insure the harmonious working of the different parts; it may be asserted that such a severe discipline is as necessary here as in an army. This may be so, but what sort of a social order is it which cannot be maintained without such shameful tyranny?... Every one who has served as a soldier knows what it is to be subjected even for a short time to military discipline. But these operatives are condemned from their ninth year to their death to live under the sword, physically and mentally” (l.c., [p.] 219 [p. 468]).

“But it is far more shameful yet, that according to the universal testimony of the operatives, numbers of manufacturers collect the fines imposed upon the operatives with the most heartless severity, and for the purpose of piling up extra profits out of the farthings thus extorted from the impoverished proletarians” ([p.] 220 [p. 469]).

This is the only legislation in the world — these are the only codes of law in the world (the slaveholder at least dispenses with this mock legislation) — the confessed purpose of which is nothing else than to “enrich” the legislator as far as possible at the expense of his subjects; a legislator who only aims at the extortion of money for his private advantage.

And it is precisely the apologists of the factory system, such as Ure, the apologists of this complete de-individualisation of labour, confinement in barrack-like factories, military discipline, subjugation to the machinery, regulation by the stroke of the clock, surveillance by overseers, complete destruction of any development in mental or physical activity, who vociferate against infringements of individual freedom and the free movement of labour at the slightest sign of state intervention.

“Overwork and forced work” (Engels, [p.] 151 [p. 416]).

“As voluntary, productive activity is the highest enjoyment known to us, so is compulsory toil the most cruel, degrading punishment” (l.c., [p.] 149 [p. 415]).

The machines “work against the workers, not for them” (l.c., [p.] 173 [p. 433]).

“The collectingof both sexes and all ages in a single work-room, the inevitable contact between them, the crowding into a small space of people, to whom neither mental nor moral education has been given [XX-1243] and the accumulation of a number of relatively “raw” people in a workroom, are all characteristic of the mechanical workshop [p. 441].

Full-timers — Half-timers — this way of describing workers who work full time and children who work only half time, which is not only used by the English manufacturers, but occurs officially in the Factory Reports, is much more characteristic of the factory system than the distinction between masters and hands. Here the workers are purely and simply personified labour time, and the character of capitalist production emerges in its pure form. Age differences are reduced to full-timers and half-timers, 10 1/2 hours and 6 hours. The workers are merely personified hours.

“The time of children, which should be devoted solely to their physical and mental development,” is sacrificed to “the greed of an unfeeling bourgeoisie. The children are withdrawn from school and the fresh air so that they can be exploited for the benefit of the manufacturers” (l.c., [p.] 187 [p. 443]).

There can be no doubt that the factory system sacrifices women and children more than any other system. Moreover, the preponderance of women and children in the mechanical workshops breaks the resistance [of the workers] and adds a passive element which also condemns the adults to slavery, to passive subordination.

“Let us hear how they (’the humane bourgeoisie') acted before the factory inspector was at their heels. Their own admitted testimony shall convict them in the Report of the Factories’ Inquiry Commission of 1833” (l.c., p. 187 sqq. [ibid.]).

1817: petitions from Owen (then a manufacturer in New Lanark), calling for legislative guarantees for the health of the operatives, and especially of children. [Factory] Acts of 1818, 1825 and 1831

“of which the first two were never enforced, and the last only here and there. The Act of 1831 (Sir J. C. Hobhouse) provided that in cotton m ills no one under 21 should be employed between half-past seven at night and half-past five in the morning; and that in all factories young persons under 18 should work no longer than twelve hours daily, and nine hours on Saturday” ([p.] 208 [pp. 459-60]).

The introduction of child labour brought the worker to the point of selling, instead of his own labour, that of his children, therefore selling his children and conducting a slave trade with them. This brought about an essential change in the relation between capitalist and worker, for the buyers of labour capacity are no longer faced with sellers of their own labour, but with sellers of alien labour, of labour capacities which are capable neither of taking responsibility, nor of entering into a contract. The married worker endeavours to recover by the sale of his children what the adult worker loses through the competition of child labour. Here, then, there is not even the form of the contract, which characterises the relation between capital and labour, the formal freedom of the two contracting parties, for it is not children who make contracts, but their parents who make them on their behalf. An English Tory writer says on this subject:

* “Infant labour has been called in to aid them"* (the adult workers) *"and even to work for their own daily bread. Without strength to endure such disproportionate toil, without instruction to guide their future life, they have been thrown into a situation morally and physically polluted!... The Jewish historian has remarked upon the overthrow of Jerusalem, by Titus, that it was no wonder it should have been destroyed, with such a signal destruction, when one inhuman mother sacrificed her offspring to satisfy the cravings of absolute hunger” * (Public Economy Concentrated etc., Carlisle, 1833, [p.] 66).

[XX-1244] The factory system includes the sale of children by their parents, and at the same time the annihilation of the physical and mental development of the workers in embryo, i.e. in the years of their childhood.

We always proceed here from the assumption that labour capacity is paid at its value, and we therefore do not have to consider the real movement of wages here. It nevertheless results from the factors determining the Average value of wages that the value of labour capacity includes a wage sufficient to support the family of the worker. Since the factory system converts women and children into wage labourers who have to earn their own subsistence, the value of labour capacity is thereby depreciated, not only because women and children emerge as competitors of the other workers, but also because the Average value is now paid, and this value is divided among all members of the family. A Ricardian, De Quincey, remarks correctly on this:

* “The numerical increase of labourers has been great, through the growing substitution of female for male and above all of childish for adult, labour. Three girls of 13, at wages of 6 to 8s. a week”,* //much too high!//” in their myriads displaced *the one man of mature age, at wages varying from 18s, to 45,"* (Thomas de Quincey, The Logic of Political Economy, Edinburgh, 1844, [p.] 147, note).

There is therefore no doubt at all that the Average VALUE of labour capacity is thereby brought down, devalued, or that this is a direct consequence of the mechanical workshop, which requires neither muscle power, nor skilled labour, the learning of which can only be begun at a more mature age, and then can only be brought to the required level of virtuosity through long years of apprenticeship. One of the first results of the factory system was the abolition of apprenticeship.

The result of the Commission set up by the English bourgeois themselves was the Factory Act of 1833, which forbade the employment of children under nine years of age (except in silk mills), limited the working-hours of children between 9-13 years to 48 per week, or 9 hours in any one day at the utmost; that of young persons from 14-18 years of age to 69 per week, or 12 on any one day as the maximum, provided for an hour and a half as the minimum interval for meals, and repeated the total prohibition of night-work for persons under 18 years of age. Compulsory school attendance two hours daily was prescribed for all children under 14 years, and the manufacturer declared punishable in case of employing children without a certificate of age from the factory surgeon, and a certificate of school attendance from the teacher... Further, surgeons and inspectors were appointed” ([p.] 211 [F. Engels, The Condition of the Working-Class in England, pp. 461-62]).

How much this system is based on the devaluation of labour capacity is shown by its immanent polemic against education, of which there are examples above. It requires as a conditio [sine qua non] the non-development of these production machines!

In 1844, under Peel’s ministry, 6 1/2 hours’ labour for children between 8 and 13, 12 (from 6 o'clock in the morning until the evening, including mealtimes) for workers over 13.

“Surplus value” can only be extracted through

“the barbarous treatment of the operatives, the destruction of their health, the social, physical, and mental decay of whole generations” (Engels, p. 215 [p. 466]).

What distinguishes the factory system is the fact that in it the true nature of surplus value emerges. Surplus labour, and therefore the question of labour time, becomes decisive here. But time is in fact the active existence of the human being. It is not only the measure of human life. It is the space for its development. And the encroachment of capital over the time of labour is the appropriation of the life, the mental and physical life, of the worker.

[XX-1245] Machine labour does away with the all-round exertion of the muscles, it offers no opportunity for physical activity. Nor does it allow any mental activity. It prevents

“the worker from occupying his mind with other things” (l.c., [p.] 216 [ibid.]),

and in addition it takes control of this mind and body when it is still in an immature state.

It is,

“properly speaking, not work but tedium, the most deadening, wearing process conceivable” (l.c., [p.] 216 [ibid.]).

“The engine moves unceasingly; the wheels, the straps, the spindles hum and rattle in his cars without a pause, and if he tries to snatch one instant, there is the overlooker at his back with the book of fines. This condemnation to be buried alive, to give constant attention to the tireless machine is felt as the keenest torture” ([p.] 216 [ibid.]).

“The dull routine of a ceaseless drudgery, in which the same mechanical process is incessantly repeated, resembles the labour a of Sisyphus — the toil, like the rock, recoils perpetually on the wearied operative. The mind gathers neither stores nor strength from the constant work of the same muscles” (Dr. J. P. Kay) (Engels, l.c. [p.] 217, note [p. 467]).

The two books by Dr. Ure and Frederick Engels are absolutely the best on the factory system, and are identical in the field they cover; the difference being that what Ure expresses as the servant of the system, a servant whose horizons are confined within the system, is expressed by Engels as a free critic.

Engels remarks, in relation to the small masters in Birmingham, that the worker is in an even worse position here.

“The many small employers cannot well subsist on the profit divided amongst them, determined by competition, a profit under other circumstances absorbed by a single manufacturer” ([p.] 241 [pp. 488-89]).

This is true in general with the fall in the rate of profit which is inseparable from the coming of large-scale industry. The small masters, who have to divide among themselves the profit otherwise absorbed by a single employer, are in such a lousy situation that they themselves have to force down the workers’ wages to an abnormal degree.

In the London dress-making establishments there is a mass of young girls, 15,000 of them, who work 15 to 18 hours a day for 4 months of the year, during the season. In most of these establishments the girls never sleep more than 6 hours, often only 3 or 4, occasionally only 2 hours in 24, when they don’t have to work through the whole night. The only limit set to their work is the absolute physical inability to hold the needle another minute.

“Cases have occurred in which these helpless creatures did not undress during 9 consecutive days and nights, and could only rest a moment or two here and there upon a mattress, where food was served them ready cut up in order to require the least possible time for swallowing. In short, these unfortunate girls are kept by means of the moral slave-driver’s whip, the threat of discharge, to such long and unbroken toil as no strong man, much less a delicate girl of 14 to 20 years, can endure” ([p.] 253 [p. 498]).

The same can be said of the needlewomen of London.

[XX-1246] The large-scale industrial system has been put into effect:

1) in factories proper;

2) in manufactories, which all now employ machines to some degree;

3) in agriculture.

In all these one finds a system of production on a large scale. The number of workers is relatively small in proportion to the product produced by them in all these spheres together. Hence the large number of workers and particularly children and women workers who are simply exploited in attic rooms; where, without any real development in the productivity of labour, both the amount of surplus value created and the quantity of products depend exclusively on surplus labour and on paying only what is absolutely essential. This applies to the human material set free by the great system and therefore obliged to subject itself to every condition, even such in which the frightful consequences of this system emerge still more clearly than directly in the system itself — above all of course in those handicraft enterprises related to the factory, into which the whole of the surplus population is thrown, but then in all those spheres of labour which capital exploits formally, without giving rise to a capitalist mode of production in them, although the latter must ultimately take over, as in the cases of tailoring, sewing, baking, fancy weaving, lace making, etc., and then in fact even appears as an advance and an alleviation of the situation! Apologists of the system, such as Ure, therefore point to the atrocities of the system of labour produced outside the factory system by the factory system itself — whether under the small masters or under an enterprise only formally capitalist — in order to prove the relative beauties and advantages of the system itself! They only forget that those branches of labour are so to speak only the foreign department of the system, being still its direct offspring and logical consequence!

“The working class first manifested opposition to the bourgeoisie when they forcibly resisted the introduction of machinery at the very beginning of the industrial period” [p. 503].

“The manufacturer is Capital, the operative Labour” (l.c., [p.] 329 [p, 5631).

There are according to The Daily News (1862) an average of roughly 15 deaths by starvation every month in London.

Let us now see what Mr. Ure (Philosophy of Manufactures), the Pindar of the factory system, has to tell us about the essential character of the mechanical workshop.

Vol. I. Difference between the handicraftsman, who employs the instrument of labour, and the machinery, which employs the worker:

“It has been said, for example, that the steam engine now drives the powerlooms with such velocity as to urge on their attendant weavers at the same rapid pace; but that the handweaver, not being subjected to this restless agent, can throw his shuttle and move his treadles at his convenience” ([pp.] 10-11 [The Philosophy of Manufactures._ London 1835, p. 71).

It was Sir Robert Peel who made the comment Ure refers to. After all, he still thought he was living in the good old days of his weaving father, since he went on to say

“the handloom weavers are mostly small farmers” [Fr. ed., p. 11, Engl., ed., p. 7].

Ure counters this, on pp. 11 and 12 [pp. 7-8], with the evidence of Dr. Carbutt of Manchester:

“Nothing can be a greater mistake; they live, or rather they just keep life together, in the most miserable manner, in the cellars and garrets of the town, working sixteen to eighteen hours for the merest pittance.”

But what was it that threw them into the cellars and garrets and condemned them to work for 16 to 18 hours a day, if not competition from machinery?

[XX-1247] “This class of operatives, who, though inmates of factories, are not, properly speaking, factory workers, being independent of the moving power, have been the principal source of the obloquy so unsparingly cast on the cotton and other factories” ([p.] 13 [pp. 8-9]).

This group of factory workers is composed in part of the menials mentioned earlier (of whom Ure is speaking here), in part of the NCO’s (overlookers) and in part of the engineers and mechanics who are associated with the factory.

What then does the classical factory or mechanical workshop consist in?

The term “designates ... the combined operation of many orders of work-people, adult and young, in tending with assiduous skill a system of productive machines continuously impelled by a central power... It excludes — all factories “in which the mechanisms do not form a connected series, nor are dependent on one prime mover... This title” (factory) “in its strictest sense, involves the idea of a vast automaton, composed of various mechanical and intellectual organs, acting in uninterrupted concert for the production of a common object, all of them being subordinated to a self-regulated moving force” ([pp.] 19-20 [pp. 13-14]).

Here are the main characteristics of the mechanical workshop.

A vast automaton, i.e. a system of connected productive mechanisms, receiving their motive power from a self-acting central motor. This system of machinery, with its automatic PRIME MOTOR, forms the body, the articulated body of the mechanical workshop. The cooperation of various classes of worker, distinguished mainly by whether they are adult or not, differences of age and gender. These workers themselves appear as merely the intellectual organs of the machinery (the machinery does not appear as their organ) who are distinguished from the inanimate organs by consciousness, and who work “in concert” with the latter, acting, like the inanimate machinery, in subordination to its moving force and equally uninterruptedly”.

The raw material has to pass through various metamorphoses, to which in the factory system there correspond various machines.

The main difficulty with the mechanical workshop lay in producing

“the discipline necessary to induce human beings to renounce their desultory habits of work, and to identify themselves with the unvarying regularity of the complex automaton. To devise and administer a successful code of factory discipline, tied to the necessities of factory diligence, was the Herculean enterprise, the noble achievement of Arkwright” ([p.] 22 [p. 15]).

Ure continues:

“Even at the present day, when the system is perfectly organised, and its labour lightened to the utmost” (!) “it is found nearly impossible to convert persons past the age of puberty, whether drawn from rural or from handicraft occupations, into useful factory hands” ([pp.] 22-23 [p. 15]).

Here Ure admits that, although no apprenticeship, etc., is needed, one must work in these mitigated jails, as Fourier calls them,[224] from one’s youth in order to be able to subject oneself to the “discipline” and to obey the “unvarying regularity of the complex automaton” throughout the whole of the day. This automaton is the autocrat here.

“When Adam Smith wrote his immortal elements of economics, automatic machinery being hardly known, he was properly led to regard the division of labour as the grand principle of manufacturing improvement. In each branch of manufacture he saw that some parts ... were, on that principle, of easy execution and [XX-1248] some ... were comparatively difficult; and therefore he concluded that to each a workman of appropriate value and cost was naturally assigned” ([p.] 28 [p. 191).

“But what was in Dr. Smith’s time a topic of useful illustration, cannot now be used without risk of misleading the public mind as to the right principle of manufacturing industry. In fact, the division, or rather adaptation of labour to the different talents of men, is little thought of in factory employment. On the contrary, wherever a process requires peculiar dexterity and steadiness of hand, it is withdrawn as soon as possible from the cunning workman, who is prone to irregularities of many kinds, and it is placed in charge of a peculiar mechanism, so self-regulating, that a child may superintend it.” [p. 20].

//And Ure, is still surprised that the workers are not grateful to the “peculiar mechanism” which devalues their labour capacity and deprives their specialism of any monetary value!// ([p.] 29 [p. 20]).

(Ure also speaks of the “menials” of his autocrat or automaton:

“In those spacious halls the benignant power of steam summons around him his myriads of ... menials” ([p.] 26 [p. 18]).

“The principle of the factory system, then, is to substitute mechanical science for hand skill, and the partition of a process into its essential constituents, for the division or graduation of labour among artisans. On the handicraft plan, labour was usually the most expensive element of a production: materiem superabat opus; but on the automatic plan, skilled labour gets progressively superseded, and will, eventually, be replaced by mere overlookers of machines” ([p.] 30 [p. 20]).

(And the worker is supposed to be grateful for being converted like this from a skilled man to a mere overlooker!)

“By the infirmity of human nature it happens, that the more skilful the workman, the more self-willed and intractable he is apt to become, and, of course, the less fit a component of a mechanical system” (where he must himself be an automaton)in which, by occasional irregularities, he may do great damage to the whole. The grand object, therefore, of the modern manufacturer is, through the union of capital and science, to reduce the task of his work-people to the exercise of vigilance and dexterity — faculties, when concentred to one process, speedily brought to perfection in the young” [pp. 20-21].

(Here Mr. Ure admits that the automatic system, like the division of labour, fixes the worker’s activity on a single point — only the undeveloped human being must be broken in from childhood onwards to be an “organ of the automaton”) ([pp.] 30, 31 [pp. 20-21]).

“In the infancy of mechanical engineering, a machine-factory displayed the division of labour in manifold gradations: the file, the drill, the lathe, having each its different workmen in the order of skill: but the dexterous hands of the filer and driller are now superseded by machines, etc., and those of the iron and brass turners by the self-acting slide-lathe. Mr. Anthony Strutt, who conducts the mechanical department of the great cotton factories of Belper and Milford, has so thoroughly departed from the old routine of the schools, that he will employ no man who has learned his craft by regular apprenticeship” ([p.] 31 [p. 21]).

(And indeed the laws on apprenticeship were to be repealed soon after the emergence of machinery.)

The characteristic feature of the automatic system is, instead of the gradation and specifying of labour,

the equalisation of labour, or automatic plan. On the gradation system a man must serve an apprenticeship of many years before his hand and eye become skilled enough for certain mechanical feats; [XX-1249] but on the system of decomposing a process into its constituents, and embodying each part in an automatic machine, a person of common care and capacity may be entrusted with any of the said elementary parts after a short probation, and may be transferred from one to another, in any emergency, at the discretion of the master. Such translations are utterly at variance with the old practice of the division of labour, which fixed one man to shaping the head of a pin, and another to sharpening its point” (pp. 32-33 [pp. 21-22]).

The great Ure speaks proudly of

“that cramping of the faculties, that narrowing of the mind, that stunting of the frame, which were ascribed, and not unjustly, by moral writers, to the division of labour” ([p.] 34 [pp. 22-23]).

“It is in fact the constant aim and tendency of every improvement in machinery, to supersede human labour altogether, or to diminish its cost, by substituting the industry of women and children for that of men; or that of ordinary labourers, for trained artisans. In most of the water-twist, or throstle cotton mills, the spinning is entirely managed by females of sixteen years and upwards. The effect of substituting the self-acting mule for the common mule is to discharge the greater part of the men spinners, and to retain adolescents and children. The proprietor of a factory near Stockport states, in evidence to the commissioners, that by such substitution, he would save 50 a week in wages, in consequence of dispensing with nearly 40 male spinners, at about 25s. of wages each. This tendency to employ merely children with watchful eyes and nimble fingers”

//these watchful eyes and nimble fingers must be used up in the nick of time for the pockets of the manufacturers//

“instead of journeymen of long experience, shows how the scholastic dogma of the division of labour into degrees of skill has been exploited

(the English text has “exploded” here: the French translation brings out a fine double meaning)

“by our enlightened manufacturers” ([pp.] 34-35 [p. 23]).

After Ure has thus correctly described the “tendency” and the constant aim” to drive out labour, to subject the worker to the automaton-autocrat”, to reduce. the price of labour by substituting the labour of women and children for that of adults, and unskilled for skilled labour, after he has described this as the essence of the automatic workshop, he goes on to reproach the workers because by their strikes they — hasten! — the development of this beautiful system. As the system is the best thing for them, what could be more intelligent on their part than to “force” its development!

The predominance of women and children in the automatic workshop is, to be sure, the best proof of how fundamentally it differs from manufacture based on the division of labour, which requires “journeymen of long experience”.

Ure says of the application of “physics” in the Factory system that one would see there

many theorems bearing golden fruit, which had been long barren in college ground” ([p.] 37 [p. 24]),

“A horse can work at its full efficiency only 8 hours out of the 24” ([p.] 43 [p. 28]).

(And children [can work] 12?)

For the steam engine there are no such limits.

The expense per annum of a machine of 60 horsepower, worked 8 hours every day, is 1,565, which is about 1/5 of the amount needed to maintain living horses for that period [Fr. ed., p. 43, Engl. ed., p. 28].

“There are many engines” (steam engines) “made by Bolton and Watt, 40 years ago, which have continued in constant work all that time with very slight repairs” ([p.] 44 [p. 29]).

[XX-1250] “Steam engines furnish the means not only of their support but of their multiplication. They create a vast demand for fuel; and, while they lend their powerful arms to drain the pits and to raise the coals, they call into employment multitudes of miners, engineers, shipbuilders, and sailors, and cause the construction of canals and railways — ([p.] 45 [p. 29]).

Ure says of the advantages of machines:

“They enable an operative to turn out a greater quantity of work than he could before — ‘time’,labour'” (??) “and quality of work remaining constant” ([p.] 46 [p. 30]).

This leaves out, d'abord, the absolute lengthening of labour time; and secondly the greater intensity of labour, as far as its continuity is concerned. The statement as it stands in Ure is to be taken as the norm in so far as the value of the greater amount of the product likewise remains constant, in contrast to the growth in the intensity of labour we have considered elsewhere.

“A steam engine needs no period of repose” ([p.] 43 [p. 28]).

“The philosophy of manufactures is well displayed in the economy of power” ([p.] 42 [p. 27]). Firstly economy in the prime motor ([p.] 42 [p. 27] sqq.). Economy in the transmission machinery ([pp.] 55, 56, 57 [pp. 35, 36, 37]), Economy in the working machinery ([p.] 58 [p. 37] sqq.).

“Almost every tool is now more or less automatic, and performs its work more cheaply and with greater precision than the hand could possibly do” ([p.] 58 [p. 37]).

“The facilities resulting from the employment of self-acting tools have not only improved the accuracy, and accelerated the construction, of the machinery of a factory, but have also lowered its cost and increased its mobility in a remarkable degree” ([p.] 62 [p. 40] sqq.).

Mr. Ure himself admits that

however well-informed the mill proprietors of Great Britain may be” they by no means understand “the operative part of their business as clearly as the commercial” ([p.] 66 [p. 42]).

On p. 67 he speaks of the “ignorance” of the manufacturers as to the “structure of a good machine” [p. 42]. (So that they depend on the “managers”.) In any case, these “managers”, unlike the proprietors” of the factories, are, Ure tells us,

“the soul of our factory system” ([p.] 68 [p. 43]).

Having told us previously that the factory workers gain a deep insight into the nature of the mechanics and physics employed, Ure now admits, with regard to the proprietors:

“It may be supposed that this species of education can be most easily acquired in the midst of the machinery itself. But this is a mistake which experience speedily proves” ([p.] 68 [p. 43]).

He speaks quite correctly of

“the commercial views of the proprietor” ([p.] 67 [p. 43]) (as opposed to mechanical views) ([p.] 67 [p. 42]).

The automatic machine for dressing warps (see Engels [The Condition of the Working-Class in England, p. 511]) was a consequence of strikes:

“This example affords an instructive warning to workmen to beware of strikes, by proving how surely science, at the call of capital, will defeat every unjustifiable union which the labourers may form” ([pp.] 63-64 [pp. 40-41]).

[XX-1251] Any further citations from Part 2 of Ure’s book can be entered subsequently.[225]

Now we want first of all to examine the question of the replacing of labour by machinery.