The growth of the productive forces(1)

&

alternative of the world working class

 

The source of “productive forces” and the “growth of productive forces” is labour, or the consequence of individuals` intercourse with one another and with the nature. Each generation is standing on the shoulders of previous and future generation on the shoulders of present. In other words skill, experience, tool making, technology and knowledge are inherited from previous generations, in turn is further developed and passed on to the future generations. The “growth of productive forces” bears a dual characteristic features, i.e. reducing the time for procuring subsistence and by degrees ease /or increase subsistence. 

 

“The growth of productive forces”

Primitive human beings had been faced a great difficulty to sustain their subsistence; however to the extend they developed tool making skill, gradually improved their living conditions. Hence, intrinsically the “growth of productive forces” led both to the ease of maintaining subsistence and lesser time required to spend for. And gradually here and there human beings “worked to live rather than lived to work”. However, today despite colossal growth of the productive forces, majority of the workers are, in a sense, “living to work rather than working to live”.

It is apparent that, with the awesome level of “growth of productive forces”- the product of living labour transformed into the dead labour- it is nonsensical to claim that the insufficient degree of “productive forces” is a major barrier to the revolutionary transition from capitalist “wage-slavery system” to a “society of associated producers” based on “from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his needs”. If, so. Therefore, why there is no any revolutionary alternative on the side of so-called political organisations, who are apparently advocating the emancipation of world working class? In other words, the revolutionary response of the world working class in the face of capitalism crisis and the founding of  a radical social production relationship based on “from each according to her/his ability and for each   according to her/his needs” required a certain level of the  “growth of productive forces”. Now the burning question is, has the necessary level of economic conditions been achieved for a revolutionary transition from capitalism “wage-slavery-system”? I have endeavoured to discuss this fundamental question here. But, as far as the various current political currencies are concerned, they stand silent as to the premises of “productive forces” and its relation to the revolutionary alternative to the capitalist “wage-slavery system”.  Like a taboo, they shy away from addressing the subject matter of the “growth of productive forces”.  Furthermore, I have consciously made no reference to the “Trade Unions`” position in respect of the “growth of productive forces”. Because, “Trade Unionism” is an integral part of the capitalism’s “wage-slavery system”.  

On the basis of the aforesaid premises, it is imperative to take on the unwarranted absence of an issue as fundamental of the “growth of productive forces”. Thus, in the face of barbaric attacks of capitalism to the conditions of work and living standard of workers, it is a matter of urgency, that the world working class to grasp the immense importance of the premises of the “growth of productive forces”.

The primitive human beings had been suffering from the absolute lack of possession of any instruments of production, in their search for food and shelter; they were both at the mercy of hunger and untamed necessary time, which was needed to provide them with subsistence. Further, it had not been improbable to the primitive human species, despite spending their whole day, yet at the end of day falling asleep hungry. Let us to say any advance, even learning to use a piece of pointed dry shoot- the product of Muscle and brain activity- for digging the earth to  extract vegetation roots,  it counted as an infinitesimal part of the process of the “growth of productive forces”, in course of  human beings` social evolution . Hence, with the slow pace of the “growth of productive forces”, on the one hand, the primitive human beings` securing their subsistence became some how easier and in line with it a degree of betterment of subsistence was attained, on the other had, in the course of the development of the “growth of productive forces” the necessary time frame was needed to procure the subsistence was reduced. 

Thus, any degree of the “growth of productive forces” acted as a double role, on the one hand obtaining subsistence became infinitesimally easier, and the time required procuring it diminished minimally, on the other. However, at some stage of the “ growth of productive forces” and social division of labour, now without troubling to work, some people started to live at the expense of  other people` “muscle and brain” labour. With the advent of class division, the latter phenomenon, i.e. the appropriation of a part of the fruit of labour of some people by others was elevated to a class dimension. Now, the living subsistence of one class was fully subsidised at the expense of toiling of the oppressed class.

If the producer was just producing for themselves, with the “growth of productive forces”, in comparison with the past, they both would have acquired a degree of the abundance of living subsistence and a degree of reduction in labour time. But, the expropriation of a part of the production of the oppressed class was meant that, the producing class both was deprived of a part of its product, and also the necessary labour time was elongated. Therefore, despite a degree of development of the “growth of the productive forces” the producer’s expectation for betterment of living subsistence and the reduction of necessary labour time encountered a barrier.  Thus, in the course of its development the” growth of productive forces” from being acted to improve the living subsistence and reducing necessary labour time, the seed of barrier of both maintaining living needs and reduction of necessary labour time was conceived. If, we look back to the course of the “growth of productive forces” we can  distinctively see the expropriation of a good chunk of product of the muscle-brain labour of oppressed classes by oppressor classes  at the social formations of slavery, feudalism and bourgeoisie.

But, in the course of pre-capitalist periods the “growth of productive forces” proceeded with snail pace fashion forward; and during these historical times talking of having an abundant living subsistence was a wishful thinking. By contrast, in capitalism the “ growth of productive forces”  has made gigantic steps forward, and for the first time it provided the material, or economic conditions, for founding of a society based on “ from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his needs”(2)(3).

However, in spite of the enormous “growth of the productive forces”, alas the preventive dual character of the latter, i.e. barring elevation of the living subsistence and reducing the necessary labour time, has not been quashed. And, the abundant living subsistence, and the progressive reduction of working hours have sill remained illusory dream. Why? Because in capitalism the “growth of productive forces” is primarily served to produce surplus value or the accumulation of capital, and not aiming to continuously increasing the living subsistence and reducing the labour time (4).

In his book the “Critic of Political Economy” or “Capital”, Marx demonstrates that to appropriate a quantitative of social surplus labour- in the form of profit- capitalists have to sell their commodities cheaper in order to compete with each other. But, if they simply keep selling their commodities cheaper up to the cost of the production to compete with each other, the very existence of capitalism will be questioned. In consequence, to prevent prices falling too much and to appropriate a satisfactory rate of profit he has to:

1-    Capitalist prolongs the working hours. Let us say, the worker was working a 10 hours working day previously, and suppose he works 5 hours towards her/his wage, or reproduction of labour force, and 5 hours gratis to capitalist. IN this case rate of exploitation equal to 100 %. Suppose the capitalist forces labour to work a 14 hours working day. Now, labour is working 5 hours towards her/his wage, or reproduction of labour force, and 9 hours gratis to the capitalist. This time the rate of exploitation will jump up to 180 %. As such, the increase of working hours affords capitalist a wider scope, in comparison to the previous working practice, to compete with other capitalists. However, in competing with each other, the capitalists will encounter an impasse, if he just relying to increase working hours. Ultimately, a day comprised of 24 hours, and the capitalist can not force the worker to labour 24 hours. At any rate, the urge for competing, does force capitalist to extend working hours so much as he can. In consequence, despite the level of the “growth of productive forces” in comparison with the pre-capitalist periods, the reduction of necessary labour time and parallel with the latter, the increase of living subsistence encounter difficulty.

The employment of prolonged hours by capitalists, in addition to the limitation of  time scale- 24 hours- it does suffer from two more important shortfalls. Firstly, by relying solely to increasing the labour time, capitalist ignores the benefits of   utilisation of advanced technology. Secondly, prolonging the labour time, on the one hand provoking labour unrest, and also getting worker worn out so rapidly and thereby lowering the rate of productivity, on the other hand (5). Thirdly, sticking to the backward technology, in addition to the aforesaid deficiencies, it stands as a barrier to the mass production.

2-    In competing with other capitalists, he turns to employ an advanced technology, in place of his current instruments of production.  Thus, the latter increases the labour productivity. Now, a lesser number of workers produce more commodity than previously. Hence at the expense of utilising improved technology the capitalist sacks some of his workers. We have seen that, in employing the backward modes of production, or inferior instruments, the necessary working time was prolonged. Now, by introduction of improved technology, or benefiting the fruits of the “growth of productive forces” workers` lot become unemployment. Further, by introduction of the improved technology, the necessary working time- time for reproduction of labour power- of those of working labours either is not reduced at all, or in comparison to the continued development of technology, and resultant increased labour productivity, no tangible change will occur, in general. Therefore, according to the dual substance of the “growth of productive forces” in the course of its primitive stages- reduction in the time of procuring subsistence and betterment of subsistence, now it has been expected that, in proportion to the continued “growth of productive forces” both necessary working hours is kept becoming shorter, and the living subsistence more abundant. Whilst, we witness that, same as the previous class societies, the capitalist mode of production too, which based on the exploitation of the working class’s labour force, is bearing the mark of dual barriers to the reduction of  necessary working hours and  progressive betterment of  the living subsistence.

To demonstrate the effects of dual barriers against falling of the working hours, and  progressive raising of standards of living of the working class, in proportion to the advancement of the “ growth of productive forces” on the contemporary capitalist relations, it would be suffice to make mention of two highly advanced capitalist countries of United States and United Kingdom. USA having the most advanced level of the “growth of productive forces”, its working class alike the working class of Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe, still plighted with the dual barriers against falling of necessary working hours and the rising of abundance of living subsistence. Thus, in American capitalism millions of workers are unemployed, more  than 40 millions of workers and their families living under the poverty line and the same numbers are lacking health insurance; millions of workers are homeless, whilst too many homes  are left empty. Further, the gas and electricity supplies of numerous homes of workers have been cut off, because they can not afford to pay the bills. There are many workers, who are terrified from falling ill, because thanks to their inability to pay the inflating hospital operation costs, they would have to sell their homes in order to pay the bill. There are numerous manufacturing and service industries paying poverty line wages to workers. The giant corporations of Ford, Chrysler and GM- General Motors- started to pay 50% less wages to the new employees etc. Now, let us to say a few words as to the necessary working hours. Last but not list, in comparison with their European sisters and brothers, the American working class get less annual holidays; or in other words, they work more days annually- a good indicator of so-called American dream!

In 1866, thanks to their fighting spirit, 100,000 of New York public service workers won a daily work of 8 hours. However, not only the capitalist class prevented the spreading of 8 hours working day demand to other manufacturing and service sectors, they clawed back New York City workers` achievement, too. In the mean time, the same year “The first International”, or “working Men’s Association” raised the banner of 8 hours working day. Tragically, the USA workers` demand for 8 hours working day was brutally crushed at the Chicago’s “Hey market” massacre on May 1 1886. And today, almost one and half century’s of colossal progress of the “growth of productive forces”, since the 1886 Mayday massacre, there are too many labours who are working a 60 hours week schedule- in the Super power USA!   

The American capitalism is wasting (6) a good chunk of total surplus value, which it expropriates from American working class to sustain its awesome “Military Industrial Complex”. The Pentagon budget- including its associated Departments, such as CIA, etc- stands at ≠ one $ Trillion. Only a fraction of military hardware is exported to make surplus value or profit; otherwise the main body of the armament goes to equip the armed forces. American Imperialism has built more than 750 military bases around the globe and has 250,000 soldiers stationed at them. Against this background, there are “food stamps” or coupon, and soup queues for unemployed etc. Thus, we see the grim fact of American capitalism’s immense progress of the “growth of productive forces”, that is stubbornly maintaining its dual operation to prevent necessary working hours to fall and the standards of living to rise.

Now, we shift from the American Super power to Europe. There was running a bitter row, in 1980s, between the Lady Margaret Thatcher, past UK prime minister, with her European Union counter parts in connection to the Social chapter. The latter had limited daily working hours, including the overtime, up to 48 hours. The UK prime minster strongly opposed this working restriction. And, she won the battle, and UK capitalism was opted out of the social chapter. Hence, UK capitalism was allowed to force labours to work up to 60 hours, including overtime. In a way, it is interesting; Lady Thatcher turned the wheel of labour relation back to 1850, when the parliament legalised 60 hours a week, whilst Manchester Textile workers fought for 8 hours work a day, in 1835.

Today, in the United Kingdom, parallel with the long hours of working regime, almost 3 million workers are unemployed- of course the real figure is more likely to be higher- and millions of workers are toiling with poverty wages etc. We see here too in UK the dual preventive character of the “growth of productive forces” stubbornly resisting the declining of working hours and flourishing of the living standards.

 

The growth of the productive forces and the material realisation of the slogan“from each according to her/his ability and to each according to her/his needs”

At the antediluvian time of the “growth of productive forces”, the adequate maintaining of human being’s social needs appeared as an innocent and sweet but unattainable dream. The Calling for justice and equality, if  not merely as the hollow terminologies, but rather a concrete conditions of achieving an adequate and quality food, pleasant clothing, desirable accommodation, good medical services etc, for every single individual, on the one hand, and taking the challenges of natural forces, on the other hand, were removed dream in the pre-capitalist eras. In the course of the human being’s social evolution, it is only the capitalist “wage-slavery system” that by leaps and bounds development of the “growth of the productive forces”, has made human being’s aspiration for the justice and equality, i.e. “from each according to her/his abilities and for each according to her/his needs” now feasible, - but of course not realisable. Because, capitalism is primarily aimed at expropriating workers surplus labour/ accumulating capital, rather than producing to meet the social needs of individuals. Therefore, when any particular invention was not compatible with the process of the accumulation of capital, either it is being shelved/ its broader utilisation is being curtailed. 

 

The “growth of productive forces” and the challenge of a misunderstanding

In 1875, when Marx criticised the “Gotha programme of the German Social Democratic Party”, he rightfully focussed on the level of the “growth of productive forces”. Marx was realistically conceived that, Due to an inadequate “ growth of the productive forces”, if the German working class conquered the state power then, it would not be able to organise the social production on the basis of “ from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his needs”. In consequence, to achieve the final goal, Marx saw an inferior or lower phase, i.e. “from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his work” was necessary.

Let us cast a glimpse at the last quarter of 19th century. For the sake of our argument, in 1875, the electricity power has not been invented yet- let alone airplane, etc. In 1878, “Sigmund Schuckert”, a German citizen, built the world’s first Electricity generator at town of Etal in Bavaria. His Electricity generator was formed of 24 small dynamos, which were moved by a steam power. The latter’s electricity powered the lighting of green house of “Lnderhaf” castle. In 1875, “Hay Market” situated at push west end of London. The Capitalists would have alighted from their carriages there, and off they go to attend their businesses. Then, carriage drivers at “Hay Market” would feed horses with hay. What have today remained from the old “Hay Market” of 1875, just its name and the “Hay market” Theatre; and now in place of drivers, carriages, horses and hay, there would park Rolls Royce, next to the “Hay Market Theatre”. With the same token, the “growth of productive forces” has not remained stationary since then. It is ironic, following the tremendous “growth of the productive forces”, in the course of almost one and half century since 1875, still there are people who talk of socialism; even this, not an immediate call for the revolutionary transition form capitalist “wage-slavery system”, but it serves as a strategic slogan.

Today, the world capitalism is experiencing dual contradictory conditions. It is extremely unlucky, because it is going through an unprecedented structural crisis; but at the same time world capitalism is lucky, for the world working class is both lacking an “anti-wage-slavery” programme, and a single worldwide organisation corresponding to the latter.

 

The “growth of  productive forces” and the dawning of  elements of society based on “from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his needs” within the capitalist “wage-slavery system”.

According to Marx’s analysis of social evolution, each class society, including capitalism “wage-slavery system” is basically a historical production relationship. In other words, capitalism is neither a natural relation nor an eternal one. Besides, it providing an economic basis for the revolutionary transformation into a society based on “from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his needs”. At certain stage of its development, capitalism creates some elements of future society:

At certain stage of its development, there develops within the capitalism giant manufacturing industries, by employing thousands of workers, dramatically changed the face of small workshops of Messer Smith and sons. As Marx describes, in these big companies, the owners of capital are no longer direct managers of the enterprises, but are moved out of the process of production and simply, as share holders, receiving their incomes. On the other hands, the managers are not the owners of these corporations, but they are salaried employees of the capitalists (7). As such, the small workshops owned and managed by individual capitalists were evolved into a social production- Marx called it the expropriation of private ownership within the capitalist mode of production. On this account, until the beginning of the 20th century, the concrete manifestations of the realisation of the “ future society of associated producers” was limited to the emergence of the giant manufacturing companies and related social production process. Hence, if then a person would asked a socialist worker, could you show me some concrete manifestations of the future society of the “ society of associated producers” within the present capitalist system; the socialist worker would have referred him to the existence of giant factories. Up till the early 20th century, the socialist worker could not go beyond the giant companies and showing some other tangible elements of future “associated society of producers” of “from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his needs”.

However, in the wake of the First World War, in previous “Soviet Union”, a range of elements, manifestation of future “Society of Associated Producers”, including full employment, universal accommodation provision, free health care, and education, free provisions for the promotion of art and cultural engagements etc, were introduced. In the mean time, it has to be emphatically pronounced that, the introduction of such elements do not tantamount to a “society of associated producers”. Further to the Russian experiment, and in the aftermath of the Second World War a string of reforms, known as the “welfare state”- under the pressure of working class- were introduced in the various western countries. These reforms too, constituted some elements of the future “society of associated producers”, such as the provisions of accommodation, National Health Service, education, caring of elderly and so on and so forth (8). Though, it is some time now, the capitalist countries have hurried dismantling The “Welfare State”. 

Therefore, the future society “from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his needs” is not an idealist society as the bourgeois social engineers would claim. The idea- opposite to the matter- does not possess a material entity at all. The future society of “from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his needs” does hold its material basis as the moribund Capitalism so does.

 

An overview of a few elements of the historical development of the “ growth of  productive forces”

For the sake of trees, too many a workers could not see the wood. The latter is a befitting expression in conjunction to the attitude of workers towards the paramount category of the “growth of productive forces”. They take “growth of productive forces” for granted, on the one hand, and fully foreign to its role as to lowering working time-eliminating the scourge of unemployment- and raising the standards of living, On the other hand.

 With reference to the “growth of productive forces”, we can distinguish three stages:

A-    Utilisation of  the muscular-brain forces

B-    The emergence of the mechanical devices and automation

C-    The extensive employment of automatic machines and robots in various fields, particularly in the process of production, since 1980s.

It is reasonable to expect, that the necessary working hours should have been declined, in commensurate with the progressive “growth of the productive forces”. However, it was not the case because; the exploitation of workers by the cruel capitalism “wage-slavery system” has frustrated the above aspiration.

According to Marx, the process of capitalism production constituted of the process of commodity production and the process of circulation or exchange of commodities. In the course of the development of capitalism “wage-slavery mode”, the “productive forces” both at the first and second circuit have been developing.

Historically, along with the development of capitalism and expropriation from peasants, the need for the growth of agricultural products gave impulse to the Industrial revolution in the agriculture domain. The latter process took from 17th to 19th centuries. We can make mention of the arrival of chemical fertilisers, invention of new methods to improve earth’s productivity, in place of the traditional method of fallow, the invention of corn drill  and thrashing machines etc(9).

 It is interesting to note that, long before the textile workers, in early 19th, wrongly targeting machinery as the origin of their unemployment, and smashed them up; haunted with the spectre of unemployment, as a result of introduction of machinery into agricultural industry, farming workers destroyed them.

The “growth of productive forces” at agriculture sector gave impetus to the “growth of productive forces” at manufacturing sector. Following the exploitation of wind and water powers in the mechanical devices, the “productive forces” made faster progress- in comparison to the previous periods. There came Steam engine, rail way, flying shuttle, spinning Jenny, spinning mule, in the textile industry. Roads of rails called “wagonways” were being used in Germany as early as 1550. These primitive railed roads consisted of wooden rails, which horse-drawn wagons or carts moved with greater ease than over dirt roads. Wagonways were the beginning of modern railroads.

George Stephenson built the world’s fist public railways, in 1825. It had 15 kilometres speed an hour. George Stephenson’s invention heralded the age of railway revolution. The employment of steam engine propelled a huge progress in the "productive forces", both in the production and transportation fields.

Up till the invention of steam engines, ships were navigated using the oarsman’s muscle and wind powers. The development of steam engine ships ushered a revolutionary age in the navigation industry. Before the invention of railway, industry used animals, carts and canal barges, which  hauled by labours.

 wp31851f29 05 06

 Workers haul barge on the Volga River-Russia- 1900

 

In 1769, the Scotsman “James Watt” patented an improved version of the steam engine that heralded in “Industrial revolution”. The thought of using steam power to propel boats occurred to inventors soon after the potential of Watt’s new engine became known. The era of the steamboat began in America, in 1787, when John Fitch made his first successful trial of a forty five foot steamboat on the Delaware River.

 wp414908c4 05 06

John Fitch-Design sketch ca.1787

 

Marx noted in the Grundrisse of machines invented in the textile industry were doing the job of 250 to 300 workers.

 

If, I may digress for a moment, the textile workers` movement for 8 hours working day may interest the reader. When Manchester textile workers demanded 8 hours working day, in 1835, it was based on the back of past 3 centuries of inventions in both agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Thus, the demand for 8 hours working day, on the side of textile workers was not an idle slogan. As a mark of honour to the Manchester textile workers` campaign for 8 hours working day; today world working class should raise the fallen banner of shortening working hours of Manchester workers, and demanding for the reduction of working hours in commensurate to the present level of the “growth of productive forces”.

In the history of human beings` social development, the periods of lower, middle, new stone, bronze and Iron ages hold significant places. Before the invention of “Bessemer Process” in 1855, Iron and Steel were produced in small quantities, by craftsmen. Using “Bessemer Process” to produce Iron and Steel, made a revolution in the capitalist “wage-slavery system”. To date, Iron has been played among other things a central role in the production of innumerable varieties of machineries and tools for the manufacturing and agricultural sectors:

1-    Agricultural industry  

The invention of tractor, combine and other mechanical machines, modern methods of irrigation, cultivation on many hundreds, even thousands, hectares of land, exceedingly increased the “growth of productive forces” in agricultural sector.

2-    Transportation Industry 

George Stephenson’s primitive railway with low speed of 15 kilometres has today given way to bullet trains speeding at 350 kilometres an hour. Super- cargo-ships and super-tankers up to ½ a million tonnage of capacity succeeded John Fitch boat of 1787. If, up till 1960s, cargos in net sacks were unloaded or loaded from and into the ship, by many thousands of Dockers, or dock labours; today, Monster overhead cranes transferring huge containers onto a long articulate vehicle or into the ship. Hence, on dockland, many thousands of dock labours gave way to a few huge overhead cranes and a few crane drives and their associates.

3-    Invention of modern industrial tools 

Until 1860, pickaxe, spate and alike were used for excavating and mining. The Alfred Nobel’s invention of explosive dynamite or “Nitro-glycerine” and later development of awesome machineries, such as huge trucks, mechanical spades, and conveyer belt completely changed the face of mining industry. By exploding dynamite thousands tones of rock and earth were cut off the mountain. Then a loader, a huge truck and a convener belt and a couple of assistants, they worked the job of many a hundreds of workers. If, in the past primitive instruments were used for back breaking job of cutting tunnels, today a giant  circular machine cutting the tunnel and conveyer belt carrying rocks and earth.

4-    Coal mining industry

As a source of fossil fuel in industry, the coal held the same role as Iron in the process of Industrial production. Without coal and Iron, it was impossible to build an Ironwork’s blast furnace. In earlier time, miners used primitive tools to cut the coal, and then coal’s dram was hauled either by a miner or a horse.

               wpe09d0cd3 05 06  A young girl labour hauling the dram

 

5-    Ship building industry

Up till 1914, though colossal ships and ferries, in comparison to 1835, were being built, however it would take quite a long time. In building ship’s hull, or body, Iron plates to be joined together, needed tens of thousands of bolts.

Due to the invention of welding method, the cumbersome of bolting job became redundant. Whilst, it took 1& 1/2 year to build a ship previously, was cut down to 1&1/2 months. Accordingly, the productivity jumped up 12 times, or 1200%; but the worker wage and labour time was not improved. 

6-    Wood Industry

As an example of almost full automation of the process of wood industry, it caught my attention.

DIY companies from UK have leased a part of Estonia’s forest. Here, the mechanical machine would cut the tree, stripping branches off and then loaded into the wagon; trees transported and dropped to the plant next to the seaside. From now on, everything is automated and the final product is loaded into the ship.

7-    Printing Industry

Since 1980, owning to the introduction of high-technology in the printing Industry as a whole, the productivity has increased astonishingly. It was gone the time of letter-setting, which was too slow and hazardous. Today, using relevant software, the whole text is prepared in a fraction of previous time. The paper is moving so fast along the machine that due to the friction it would catch fire. Thus, the existence of extinguishing devices next to the printing machine is a general feature of today’s printing technology.

8-    Textile Industry

I have related from Marx elsewhere, telling machines were invented in the Textile Industry, which could perform the job of 250 to 300 workers. It is Suffice here to print the following illustration as a proof of dazzling “growth of the productive forces” in the Textile Industry. 

                wp9fad20be 05 06

 A forest of Spindles but just one labour

 

9- Automobile Industry

The first automobile equipped with steam engine was made in 1769. A range of inventions, improvement in the steam engine car and eventually invention of combustion chamber and using petrol, led to the beginning of car industry in 1900, at western countries. 

                                   

                                         wpb781696e 05 06

 A steam car, model 1777

Prior to the application of management method of “Fredrik Taylor”, the skilled labour, or craftsman, had been working to assemble the whole body of the car. IN F.T method, the whole body of work was divided into many minute parts; thereby the role of the skill worker became superfluous. Though, Taylor’s method increased productivity enormously, but in commensurate to the latter, neither wages improved nor working hours were dropped; further skilled worker’s emotional rewarding and diversity of job turned into a repetitive, dull and tiresome labour. The new boring regime of “Taylor’s management”, afflicted worker both physically and mentally. However, with the coming of robots, in the 1970s, the face of the car assembly plants were dramatically changed; the long file of robots formed the new feature of the car plants, productivity shot up, workers` stress, pain, long  hours of work, low wages and threat  of unemployment stubbornly remind as before(10).

10- The emergence of High-technology

The end of 1970 heralded beginning of the age of information revolution; not only High-technology dominates all branches of both industrial and service sectors, rather it constitutes- in the form of computer, etc- a part of household function. Robots, hardwares and softwares are today’s embodiment of the amazing “growth of the productive forces”. The well known saying that the world has become a village is no exaggeration but a reality. Human beings` social development has been depended upon the individual’s intercourse with one another and with the nature. Thanks to the awesome growth of the communication facilities, now we enjoy the ease of contact wherever we wish to make. Further, owning to the advanced means of present mains of communication the very ease and speed of the transfer of knowledge and technology from one corner to another corner of the globe have become a reality. Taking into considering the time zone difference, people from different countries can organise joint meetings; many operations, such as surgical operations, and so on and so forth are made today’s realities.     

Before the advent of high-technology the manufacturing and service industries had to store a substantial amount of various materials, incurring a lot of cost. Today, e.g. utilising High-technology, various parts of a computer is programmed to get built in China, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and South Korea in the Far East and Germany in Europe. And, within the span of a shortest time, postman delivers it at the door of American household.

Today, “High-technology” has incredibly “developed the productive forces”. Same as the giant ships are transporting cargos across the world capitalism, the speedy trains and aeroplanes are moving passengers around the world; at the same time communication facilities transfer information instantly. Before the invention of telegraph, the news from India to UK and conversely depended on the low speed of ship and then to the speed of horse or carriage.  The invention of telegraph then appeared as a revolution in the field of communication, and contributed to the” growth of productive forces”. However, it is extremely difficult to compare the role of the telegraph invention with the latter day “High-technology” systems.

 

Conclusion

Marx has defined the revolutionary transition of capitalism “wage-slavery system” to a “society of associated producers” based on the “from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his work”, corresponded to the level of the “growth of productive force” of his time. He has further predicted each member of the “society of associated producers”, in commensurate to her/his work, will be given a card to get their social needs from the public store.

Today, the gigantic “growth of productive forces” has both provided the material conditions “from each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/his needs” on the one hand, and smart cards holding every piece of information one needed to, on the other. Thus, Marx vision of future society is now a feasible reality.

 

Morad Azimi 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

-------------------------

Notes

1- The Bourgeoisie cannot exit without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production…

Manifesto of the Communist Party, Internet archive, Collective Works of Karl Marx & Fredrick Engels, V6, p 477, Section: proletariat and Bourgeoisie

2- The American Capitalism has made such level of the “growth of productive forces” that it can afford providing a standard of living “for each according to her/his ability from each according to her/his needs” to much more than it’s 300 million populations. In USA, it is feasible labours to work a maximum 25 hours week -in the first place sweeping away the scourge of unemployment for good – and providing a life style befitting 21 century standards, including free: housing provision, health service, education, caring elderly and disabled, etc.

In addition to idle billionaires, annually $ 90 billion worth of food is throwing into the bins in the America”.

3- Since the old ages, just 10% of Egyptian land along the Nile River valley has been cultivated; apparently the 90 % is Sahara. A few yeas ago, the dictator Hosni Mubarak- Now is deposed- boasted that, by pumping water from Nile, he was going to turn desert into a green land. What happened then was that, an underground lake discovered in a part of the desert. An UK company, using modern technology, started to grow potato. But the land had no nutrition, so it was added to the water, which pumped up from the underground lake. The produce was exported to UK. Ironically, both planting potatoes and plastic potato sacks were imported from Scotland.

4- According to Marx theory of value, the capitalist buys not worker’s labour, rather her/his labour power. This means, the working hours is divined into two portions. One portion is equivalent to the worker’s wage and the second part is approprieted gratis by the capitalist, his source of surplice value or profit.

5- English parliament, in 1850, legalised 60 hours weekly work, respectively, 5 days, each day 12 hours- from 6 am to 6 pm- including ½ hour for breakfast  and 1 hour for lunch; and 8 hours on Saturday, from 6 am to 2pm, including ½ for lunch. Thus, saving times for lunch and breakfast, the average daily hours from Monday to Saturday reduced to 10 hours. Capital, Marx V1, P 231. 

6-Only a fraction of the products of Military Industry of USA is exported. Hence, the Central government is annually pumping many tens of billions of dollars into military industry; that in the form of tax is extracted from American working class. The latter money just creates job, but not surplus value, as is the case in other companies; such as civil aviation industry, which is not financed by the government money and the whole product is sold in the market, to make profit.

7- Capital v3, pp 436-437

8- Giant pharmaceutical companies by lobbying congress and senators, they maintain monopoly on medication at the expense of working class. As a result, cheap foreign medication, e.g., from India is being blocked. There is also the policy of producing particular medication to maximise their profits. There is no wonder, why many pensioners endure long journey to Mexico to buy cheaper medication.

9- The initial way of dealing against exhaustion of land was to leave it fallow. To minimise the size of the latter, farmers adopted the following procedure:

First year      Second year            third year

In this way just 1/3 of farm land left fallow. Then farmers found particular Grain, was cultivated at the fallow land, which both improved exhausted land and was fed to animals. Then, fertilisers were used to improve land’s productivity. Also in the traditional fashion, separating wheat from husk, farmers have been beating wheat stem with a chained club. The latter primitive method was later give way to advanced machinery, such as combine.

10- It is apparent that, the economic muscle of a particular industry renders workers potentially a strong position to challenge employer’s attacks. The latter is true in the case of London Underground, which serves as London’s Economic artery. Underground workers by lunching sustained strike actions, they have been challenging the employer’s attacks on their working conditions. But strike action more than any other business affects the financial hub of London. Therefore, the government pokes its nose too, in the dispute between workers and the Underground bosses. Recently, a high ranking member of conservative party toyed idea of getting rid of strike threats; they have to fully automate London underground, and running it without driver. London underground has two unions; “RMT” represents the general staff and “ASLEF” represents drivers. These two Unions would take industrial action, either separately or jointly-if both unions have a common grievance.

Already, there is a single line of over-ground train, is called “dockland train“, which operates without driver, but maintains a single overboard guard. New York subway too does not have train drivers, but keeps a guard, who checks for potential hazards? Copenhagen- capital of Denmark- Metro is fully automated. Also, London’s Victoria Line operates without a driver, but preserves a guard.

If government gets away with its plan to fully automate Underground service, this would not only lead drivers to loose their jobs, but too many underground workers, including Signal, maintenance and emergency staff, etc loose their jobs as well. In the face of government’s threat, the RMT union took up the gauntlet and accusing government and Underground bosses, who threatening public safety. In reality, RMT is fighting back to secure workers job, which is understandable, but in my opinion sticking solely on safety tactic is exposing their twin weaknesses. In the first place, to secure employment they oppose introduction of the advanced technology, which is wrong. Every day airlines are taking hundreds of thousands of passengers into the sky. Thus, technology would overcome its potential shortfalls. Secondly, RMT is suffering from the similar symptoms, which dog the whole Trade Union movement i.e. shying away from political objectives, on the one hand, and from raising radical economic demands, on the other. In fact, it is the latter, which would attract workers support across the working class movement. “RMT” making the same mistake, their predecessor did in the past.

In 1980s, then government to rationalise underground, decided to eliminate the job of both train guards, which operating train doors and watching the platforms, and the job of lift, or escalator, attendants. In fighting to secure the job of train guards and lift attendants, exactly same as now Union raised the issue of safety of passengers only. Whilst they would have argued along with passengers’ safety, which was and still is a noble gesture, that if  government wanted to go ahead with their plan, either providing them proper training opportunity or alternative jobs, getting the same  wage they were earning, or if leaving them unemployed they must receive unemployment benefit  equivalent to their wages.

Now, the government’s ominous intention to introduce a full automation at  London Underground, and thereby throwing workers on the heap of unemployment; again demonstrates that the lot of workers, from introducing advanced technology, or the “growth of productive forces”, is to face unemployment or endure further erosion  of  their working rights.