Unemployment and the Machine

By The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

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Revolt Library Anarchism Unemployment and the Machine

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(1905 - )

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), members of which are commonly termed "Wobblies", is an international labor union that was founded in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. The union combines general unionism with industrial unionism, as it is a general union, subdivided between the various industries which employ its members. The philosophy and tactics of the IWW are described as "revolutionary industrial unionism", with ties to both socialist, syndicalist and anarchist labor movements. (From: Wikipedia.org.)

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Unemployment and the Machine

 Image from Marxists.org

Image from Marxists.org

Published by the

Industrial Workers of the World
2422 N. Halsted St., Chicago, Ill., U. S. A.



The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system.

We find that the centering of management of the industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work," we must inscribe upon our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for the everyday struggle with captialists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.


Unemployment has been talked about, written about, investigated. It has been the subject of lengthy reports and innumerable resolutions. A whole alphabet system of government, as well as several hundred leagues and associations have been born to end it. For four years there has been a dizzy ballyhoo of promises to abolish unemployment. But really nothing has been done about it.

The proof that nothing has been done about it surrounds us everywhere, in the dying C. W. A., in the masses of men looking for jobs, in the fear of joblessness that weighs down on those at work. That unemployment is just as much a problem as it ever was, is a, clear fact that anyone with eyes with which to see can see.

It is because it is time to do something about it that the I. W. W. issues this careful analysis of the relation between machinery and unemployment, establishing clearly that the cause of unemployment is exploitation, and that the machine has added to unemployment only as it added to exploitation. It is because of this that the New Deal machine wrecking is no more effective than the more primitive Luddite machine wrecking of a century ago, or the misguided craft efforts of the past generation. It is because of this that no sort of labor movement that consents itself with affording a system of "labor brokerage" can combat unemployment. It is because of this that the only program to deal with unemployment is the vigorous and revolutionary program of the I. W. W.; those who would do something about unemployment must do something about exploitation; those who would end unemployment must end exploitation.

Unemployment is not a problem of brick-layers, of garment cutters or of door-knob polishers; it is a problem of the working class. It will take an organization of the working class to solve it. There is only one such organization—the Industrial Workers of the World, with a place in one or another of its component industrial unions for every member of the working class.

If you are weary of waiting for something to be done about unemployment, and have decided to do something abate it, then:—

a) if you have not joined the I. W. W., do so at once;

b) if you are working, organize your fellow workers on the job, and don’t work too hard, or too long, or for too little;

c) if you are not working, get busy on the only job you ever had, the job you have been neglecting while doing the other class’s job—the job of organizing your class to run the world in its own interest.

Issued June, 1934, by the

General Executive Board of the I. W. W.

 Image from Marxists.org

Image from Marxists.org




The World-wide Crisis

At the end of the year 1931 the International Labor Office of the League of Nations at Geneva reported 125 million workers in the Western nations unemployed. The depth of the depression that followed the panic of October, 1929 had not been reached at that time so it is safe to say, using those figures as a basis for estimate, that the number of unemployed reached the 150 million mark in the summer of 1933. In the United States alone, conservative figures place the number of unemployed at 12,000,000 and this figure is inadequate for the reason that it does not include the partially unemployed, the "temporary lay-offs" or those who do casual and seasonal labor, nor allow for the idleness in the agricultural and kindred industries. A fairer estimate, therefore, would be close to 18,000,000 unemployed at this time.

This progressive slump into the slough of idleness, poverty, pauperism and misery has been going on for four years. It is world-wide. It cannot be explained upon an assumption of local national causes. It extends from pole to pole and from London to the Ganges. Nor can it be dated from the beginning of the panic in 1929 or the World War. The same forces that produced the World War and its immolation of over 40 million lives in violent death or death from famine and pestilence, are the causes of this postwar desolation and social disintegration. The world is sick from a progressive economic paralyzes whose symptoms have been perfectly apparent for fifty years.

As this condition of widespread international unemployment had been progressive in Europe and America since long before the World War, and its development in exaggerated form in the United States with the collapse of the stock market in October, 1929, was merely the climax of a series of progressive stages of world economic disorder, we must look for world causes rather than national causes as the reason for the general collapse of the economic structure. And, as the worldwide panic burst at the height of the period of greatest wealth production, with granaries and warehouses crammed with redundant goods, and banks overblowing with money and credit symbols, there can be no natural factor such as crop failure, flood or famine in the analysis. The direct opposite condition, one of peak production and natural superabundance prevailed. The fault must lie, therefore, in the system of production and distribution of wealth.

Two reasons popularly assigned for widespread starvation and pauperism in the midst of stupendous masses of stored wealth stand out. One is "overproduction" and the other is "over-development of the techniques of production." They both may be reduced to absurdity as far as they are to be considered fundamental causes. For it is silly to speak of overproduction of wheat when half the world is without ability to obtain sufficient bread. It is equally fatuous to speak of over-production of wool and cotton when the masses are growing ragged and haunting the secondhand clothing stations of the Salivation Army and the relief bureaus; or while the columns of our daily journals abound with appeals for charitable gifts of clothing and layettes for newborn infants. It is tragic irony to root out "over-productive" fruit orchards; to plow under every third row of cotton; or to restrict the planting of grain when millions of ill-clad and under-fed workers are haunting the garbage dumps and burrowing in the refuse cans for a scrap of food. And that condition is a fact of such common observation that it needs no data of reference. It is still more absurd to speak of an excess of building when the "For Rent" sign hangs on every fourth house in the residence suburb, while the evicted former tenants build shacks and chanties of packing boxes, burlap and tin cans on the fringes of all our cities, so that the name, "Shantytown" has come into common usage as descriptive of these new but unboasted real estate "additions."

The other factor of advanced technology is one that requires a more serious consideration, particularly since it has been so widely discussed under various names, "mechanization," "technocracy," "rationalization," "technological unemployment" and many others. Let us take a glance at it for a moment and see just what it is, for it isn’t new, however novel the late terminology may seem, or however cleverly the mystic soothsayers of economic science may draw their graphs and describe their curves of statistical trends.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution is a fact. It is undisputed that machines have been displacing men in industry for over 200 years and at a constantly accelerating rate. From the decline of the feudal era in the fourteenth century, when men first began to produce things on an extensive scale for sale and exchange rather than, as in previous ages, to supply the needs and luxury tastes of their overlords, in other words, since the beginning of commodity-production, there has existed a growing profit motive for increased production. A commodity is a thing produced for sale or exchange rather than for use. This production of things for sale and exchange has been the impelling force that has stimulated human greed for wealth through trade and manufacture. The more goods produced, the more wealth for him who held possession of the output; therefore, the faster commodities could be produced and sold, the more rapidly could wealth be acquired.

The first advances in increased power and productivity of labor were slow. Water-power, horsepower and wind-power have their limitations. It was not until the introduction of the steam-engine as a practical means of applying power to production in 1781 that the real industrial revolution began. Like all inventions, the steam-engine was a social growth. It had existed in embryonic form for centuries. It had been used in crude form to pump water from the mines of Cornwall for generations before Watt and Bolton, in response to the universal demand for increased commodity-production and for some form of power to replace the human body and the water, wind and horse power applied to spinning and weaving, improved the crude steam-engine into a practical prime mover in industry.

The development of power from that day to this can be measured best in terms of mechanical force. The best engines of the eighteenth century produced 50 horsepower. The turbines of today produce 300,000 horsepower.

The impact of this new power upon society was tremendous, even in its crude beginnings. The puny human body that had been the embodiment of power and skill for 7,000 years was thrust aside like sods turned up by the plowshare. The windmill and water-wheel, limited to favorable topographical areas, were quickly superseded. Old crafts and ancient ways of making a living became obsolete and Europe swarmed with hordes of displaced and starving working men and women. New machines to take the place of the hand-driven tools and adapted to, using the new power came into being with ever-increasing tempo. Great manufacturing cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham suddenly took on an access of rapid growth in wealth and population. And as economic wealth is power, the power and influence of the land-holding aristocracy gave way before that of a newly-enriched commercial aristocracy. To supply the factories with raw wool, peasants in hundreds of thousands were evicted and their small holding turned into sheep-walks. To provide the manufacturer with an unlimited supply of "free" slaves (that is, "free" to move about in search of a job) the feudal laws that bound men in service to the lord of the soil were tramped under foot or repealed and the evicted peasants were herded to the cities under pressure of starvation to compete with one another in the sale of their labor-power to the new lords of the factory and mill. By 1821, according to Seignobos’ "Political History of Europe Since 1814," there were 2,500,000 out of a total population of 12,000,000 on poor relief in Great Britain. This "relative surplus population" had been produced by deliberate expropriation of the lands of the peasants and the appropriation of the industrial machinery and inventions by the legal piracy of the upstart manufacturing aristocracy of Great Britain. To control or dispose of this mass of "technologically unemployed" workers without violent revolution was the great political problem of England’s ruling class for fifty years, just as the present mass of unemployed workers is the menacing problem of the ruling class of today.

In England "there remained in 1815," says Seignobos,

almost no independent peasants, small landed proprietors, or tenants on lease; all lands had finally been absorbed into great estates, belonging to lords or squires.

A similar concentration had taken place in manufacturing since the end of the eighteenth century. The industrial system had been revolutionized by two changes: 1st, the new machines driven by water or by steam, and the new mechanical arts, had created the factory system; 2nd, small employers who produced directly for a single business house, were replaced by capitalist employers who produced on a large scale for the general market and for exportation.

It is to be observed, in reading the above quotation from Seignobos, that England, whose present population is about 40,000,000, was suffering from a condition of "technological unemployment" and "surplus population" in 1821 when her population was around 12,000,000. There was no dearth of wealth in 1821; there is none today. England was the wealthiest because the most industrially advanced nation on earth in 1821; she is, next to the United states, the wealthiest nation in the world today. Of her total population, 2,500,000 or around 21 per cent were on poor relief in 1821. After a century of colonization and many and vast emigrations and the loss of 3,000,000 in the World War, 2,728,000 were on doles on Jan. 31, 1932 and these figures, like those of the United States do not adequately reflect the actual numbers of her unemployed which were much greater and have increased in the past year and a half. In 1821 the unemployment of her workers was attributed to the introduction of new machines, the excessive birthrate and the dispossession of her tenant farmers; today it is similarly attributed to rationalization, mechanization, "technological unemployment" and an excessive birthrate.

Two facts stand forth in this connection that are of prime importance; 1st, that poverty among the masses is not caused by pressure of population upon the means of subsistence or the tillable land area, for the same phenomena develop in the sparsely inhabited England of 1821 as in the densely populated England of 1933; 2nd, that inventions and consequent increase in the rate and mass of wealth produced through the greater efficiency of labor do not relieve or prevent growing poverty among the masses of the population. Wealth increases faster than population. In modern times, food and other means of subsistence have reversed the Malthusian law and have increased in a geometric ratio, that is as the series 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc., while population has increased in an arithmetical ratio; as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. So, instead of benefitting the working masses who produce all this increase of wealth, the opposite result follows and the workers grow relatively poorer and the rich richer.

The point of most importance in this connection is the fact that whatever the rate of technological advance, whether slow, as in the period of earlier capitalism, when water-power, wind-power, horsepower and the early steam-engine were the prime movers, as from 1735 to 1830; or with highly accelerated development as in the period from 1830 to 1900; or with the tremendous onward sweep of the machine processes that marked the period from 1900 to 1933; or, on the other hand, with the comparatively static condition of the 7,000 years that preceded the first of these periods, when practically no improvements in mechanical processes occurred, the results to the vast body of workers were the same. The ruling class owned and controlled the means of wealth production. The workers used them upon terms dictated by the owners. That condition was slavery, whether chattel slavery, in which the body of the toiler and skilled workman was owned outright by the patrician; or feudal serfdom, in which medieval lords owned the soil and dictated the terms of its use by feudal exactions; or modern wage-slavery, in which the capitalist master owns the machinery of production essential to life and controls the life of the worker by giving or withholding access to it upon terms dictated by himself and his class.

The evolution of society from each of these periods to its successor was marked by periods of temporary social and political disintegration and revolution and the irruption of a new ruling class previously suppressed and held to be inferior. And in each successive periodic revolution, the bases of privilege and power were broadened and made to include a more numerous class.

However important the tremendous incidence of machinery and new and improved technology may appear in the recent period, it is merely the form under which the fundamental cause of poverty and unemployment effects its results. The actual cause of the recurrent cycles of misery and poverty among the workers lies in the power of a class of parasitic nonworkers to shackle the inventive genius of the human race by claiming and exercising the right to own and control every accession of invention, every new fruit of human genius in the form of new machinery or new processes of production and to appropriate the beneficent results of social and scientific progress exclusively to themselves by owning and controlling every means by which such results may be applied.

Primacy of the Economic Factor in History

The industrial revolution that made power-driven machinery the prevailing method of wealth production began about 1735. We say "prevailing" method, for the reason that when a more efficient way of doing a thing comes into general use, the older and less efficient methods only gradually disappear. They still survive but only as vestigial remains of a dying culture. It is the elimination of waste energy by the more advanced methods that reduces the socially necessary labor and enables the nations developing them to grow more rapidly in population, wealth and power and, therefore, to "prevail" over peoples using more primitive methods. We speak of "socially necessary" labor as that labor which is applied to production in the most intelligent way; that is, which utilizes the most effective tools and methods to accomplish its purpose. A man who would plow with a crooked stick or an ox team hitched to a singlebottom plow would perform more manual labor to cultivate an acre than a man who used a modern tractor and a gang plow. But the extra labor would be no longer "socially" necessary because the modern tractor and gang plow is the tool that has socially survived and become adopted as the prevailing means of cultivation. Those who would persist in using the more primitive tools and methods, would be doomed to lag behind in the struggle for social survival and ultimately eliminated. It is only the socially necessary means of wealth production and the socially necessary labor power that determine the trends of civilization and the shifting of political power.

We have seen that the period of history that just followed the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution culminated about 1821-25 in a series of industrial crises similar to the present. Periodic panics have followed in cycles of from eight to twelve years as in 1837, 1848, 1857, 1873, 1,884, 1893, 1907, 1920 and 1929, with minor depressions or war in between. Panics and periods of depression had occurred at various times and in various nations in history before this series but only with the full development of capitalism in the nineteenth century did the industrial cycle become established as a characteristic of the capitalist system. The cause of these periods of economic reaction and depression were but vaguely defined in the earlier periods. They are thoroly understood today however much the scientific squid may try to becloud the clear waters of economic truth with sophistry and obscurantism. They constitute a fatal and inherent defect in the capitalist system which leads directly to inevitable revolutionary change. The development of machine and mass production is merely incidental to the general laws governing capitalism and not the primary cause of panics and depression. They would occur under a capitalist system of production and distribution of wealth however primitive the technique of manufacture might be. It is only important to point out that with each recurrence of the industrial cycle the periods of panic and depression become more intensified and world-wide in scope as the capitalist system obeying its inherent law of development becomes more integrated and centralized into a world embracing mechanism.

The present population of the earth is estimated at about 2 billions. It is probably three times as great as that of 1821. Yet the industrial revolution of 1775 to 1821, governed by the same inherent laws of capitalist development, produced a social and industrial crisis as great, relative to the population of the capitalist nations affected, as that resulting from technological and mechanical progress in the period from 1890 to 1929. The rate and relative per cent of displacement of men by machines within the capitalistically developed nations were probably not less. The breaking up of established habits, crafts, trades and social customs within those nations was probably as great, relative to their populations, as that taking place in the present revolutionary period. The relative amount of unemployment was probably equal.

The supremely important difference, however, is this: in the world of 1821 there were unsettled continents open for settlement and capitalist exploitation which furnished refuge for the displaced workers and room for expansion for the, then, new capitalist system. America, Australia and Africa furnished an outlet for the displaced human, and the civilized nations that yet lagged behind in production methods and technology provided constantly expanding fields of exploitation for capital. Today there is no such outlet. There are no new lands or continents. The modern machine has invaded them all. The whir of the wheels, belts and looms is heard from Bombay to Liverpool and the electric nerves have made one great social and economic organism of the earth from pole to pole, carrying power and culture in its modern form thruout the social universe. Only the primitive and obsolete method of class ownership and control remains to block the socialization of the human race.

In expanding, the industrial revolution, marked by the introduction of new inventions and machine precesses, has proceeded, not with uniform motion, but with constantly accelerated progress. The more machines the more rapid the rate of invention, for new inventions and ideas do not fall from heaven or come from inspiration, but evolve out of machines and processes in present use as the hands of the workers in contact with them suggest newer and more efficient methods and improvements to the workers brain. One new machine breeds many.

The power loom threw 800,000 hand-weavers onto the streets of London in the period of 1820-40. Those that survived starvation and the mortality that attends extreme poverty, joined with other displaced handicraftsmen and the evicted peasants and emigrated or were transported as "criminals" to America and the colonies, where they set to work reproducing the civilization and economic system from which they had just been expatriated.

But the displaced workers of today, numbering millions in all lands, cannot escape by emigration or by violating capitalist law and being transported to some penal settlement. For the machines that disinherited them now precede them to the foreign land. It is the machines that now emigrate and invade new territory faster than their human part—the workers. And the emigrant finds the same machines and the same unemployment facing him in all lands where capitalism is the prevailing method of wealth production. There is no escape from the conditions by emigration to a new country. The disease that afflicts society is constitutional and inherent in the capitalist system itself.

Nevertheless, it must be borne in mind that it is not the rate of mechanization or technological development that produces the poverty and unemployment. It is not the machines that produce the joblessness and misery. It is not overproduction of wheat that produced a bread famine among the poor. It is not overproduction of cotton and wool that makes men and women ragged and unclad. It is not excess of wealth produced that makes the producers penniless and unable to buy even a portion of their own product. Common sense and the most elementary social logic should enable even a capitalist economist to see that. It is the ownership and control of the land and machinery of production by a social class that lives without working, through the persistency of social laws and customs that have been outgrown by the economic structure of society, that is the cause of the present world-wide unemployment and social misery, even as it caused the more restricted crisis of a century ago. The world could bear it then because there was a way of escaping at least temporarily from it by emigrating and developing new and unaffected areas. It cannot escape by emigration today but must turn upon an obsolete system of class control as it has done in other ages and change it. The prevailing method of private capitalist ownership of the means of production and distribution is in increasing conflict with the biological necessities of the race and when that condition arises there always follow social upheaval and revolutionary change.


Surplus Value—the Source of Thieves’ Loot

Under any system in which the means of producing a living are the exclusive property of a limited class, the worker, deprived of such means, purchases the right to work for his living, paying for it in surplus labor. The worker’s day, economically speaking, is divided into two parts; the first and shooter period during which he works to reproduce the value of his own labor-power, or, in other words, his living; and a second and longer period in which he produces the surplus value which he is forced by necessity to yield to the owner of the land, machinery or other means of producing wealth. The commodities produced during the entire working day, no matter what their kind or character may be, are sold by the employer and thus are transmuted into a price-form, money, and the employer returns the worker’s portion to him in this form. It is called wages, but the money-form in which it is paid to the worker merely conceals the commodity-form in which it was originally produced. It is in reality merely part of the total amount of commodities produced by the worker during the whole day’s work, and the smaller part; for the greater portion is retained by the employer. The transmutation into the money or price-form also conceals the division of the day’s work into its two constituent parts—the necessary labor and the surplus labor. The part of the day’s product retained by the capitalist employer is surplus value. It is the wealth produced in this second period of the working day—surplus value—that constitutes the sole object of all capital investment. It is the basis of all capitalist values. It is the substance of all so-called earning power of capital. It is the soul of capitalism. It is the sacred cow that is worshiped as a god. It is the incentive of all endeavor by capitalist-minded humans. It is the subject of all sermons and precepts by gowned clerics and bewhiskered philosophers who do homage to the sacred cow: "Servants, obey your masters—work long and hard for him, and great will be your reward—in heaven. On earth you will get just wages—a mere subsistence—while your master takes the rest; but in heaven, after you are dead—ah! the golden glories that await you—ideological reflections of all the product of the unrequited surplus labor which you gave to your master on earth and which he converted into the physical earthly realities that he enjoys ease, comfort, luxury, peace."

To, produce this surplus value and to convert it into the price form of money and credit to the utmost possible expansion is the object of all capitalist endeavor. The more efficient the worker and the more effective the machinery and tools upon which his labor-power is expended, the greater the share of wealth accruing to the owner of the means of production. The worker’s share remains fairly constant—just enough to reproduce his labor-power—subsistence for himself and enough more to enable him to breed and support his off-spring—reproductions of himself to replace him when he is worn out and "scrapped." There is always a reserve army of unemployed workers on hand even in the best of times to keep down the wage through competition for the job at the level of a mere subsistence. Indeed, the entire working mechanism of capitalist society—its laws, institutions and political forms as well as its religions and ethical and moral codes are devised to that end—to maintain a surplus army of propertyless, unemployed workers for the purpose of stabilizing the wages and controlling the workers at a subsistence level. The surplus wealth that may be produced by the extension of the working day or the intensification of the surplus labor, either through speeding up the work or developing the effectiveness of the implements and means of production, is practically unlimited. We may say that while the worker’s share of the wealth produced always remains practically at a bare living level, the master’s share may be indefinitely increased by any or all of the following means:

1.—By prolonging the working day.

2.—By improving and increasing the efficiency of the machinery and means of production.

3.—By lowering the wages or the worker’s share of the day’s product.

4.—By intensifying the labor by speeding up the worker.

5.—By expanding the market or raising the price of the produce without raising wages.

It will be noticed that by any or all of these means the part of the product of the day’s work remaining in the hands of the employer is increased while the worker’s share remains unchanged. That is the peculiar quality of the surplus value upon which our capitalist system rests and which so endears it to the gamblers in the wealth produced by others, called capitalists—the unproductive gentry who "toil not neither do they spin," yet Solomon in all his glory was a poor skate compared to one of these latter-day parasites.


Economic Determinism

Thus we come to the crux of the question around which the entire organization of capitalist society is orbited—the expropriation of surplus value from wage-workers. To do this requires two fundamental things essential to the existence of the capitalist class; first, to educate and force the exploited slave into mental, moral and physical subjection to his condition; and, second, to take and maintain possession of all means, and all improvements and advances in the machinery and technology of wealth production. John Stuart Mill said, "It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being." And that is quite natural when we consider the division of society into its two classes—those who do all the work and are barred from participation in the fruits of progress by the requirement that they shall have no share other than a living in all the accruals of invention and scientific progress that flow from their labors as naturally as clouds rise from the sea; and that other class that does no labor but takes and retains possession of all the social product. Between these two classes there never has been and never can be any other than incessant struggle until the workers organize as a class and take possession of the means of production and the power that flows from such possession and banish class rule forever from the earth. The time for and the necessity of such action by the workers is determined historically by the development of the economic structure of society; that is the evolution from individual methods of production by handicraft to the vast integrations of mass production by machinery and the world-wide markers of today. Production, formerly individual, has become socialized; methods of ownership, control and distribution remain individualistic. This is an anachronism that is at war with natural evolution, producing the social stress and strife that can end only when socialized production becomes one with collective workers ownership and control. That the freedom of the workers from class oppression and exploitation depends upon the development and control of the means of wealth production was clearly seen over 300 years before the Christian Era by Aristotle. He said: "If the weavers shuttles were to weave of themselves, then there would be no need of apprentices for the master workers, or of slaves for the lords." So we arrive at that other great law of human progress first set forth by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the law of economic determinism and the economic interpretation of history. It reveals that in every historical epoch, the manner in which the people of that epoch produced and distributed the wealth was the factor that determined the character of the laws, institutions, moral codes and ideas of the period. This must necessarily be true because human life, like all other forms of life, depends upon production of the means of life. The implements and instrumentalities that men use in making a living have at all times played the most powerful part in shaping the destinies of the human race; and control of the means of wealth production has always determined the form of social and political institutions. When man emerged from his primitive backgrounds and assented his superiority over other primates it was as a tool-using animal. It may be said with the full support of history that the degree of individual freedom existing among various peoples and nations has always been proportioned to the degree of. control they retained over the lands, tools and implements with which they made. their living. For economic security is the foundation of liberty. Whosoever controls the means of wealth production of a nation, holds power over that nation. All power is economic at base. The shifting of centers of political power in the rivalries of nations has always been preceded by a shifting of control of the prevailing wealth-creating agencies. And within the nations the possession of control over the means of wealth production by one class has made it dominant over the rest of the nation, producing the class struggle. The masses, denied free access to land and tools, are at the mercy of the class that controls these necessary means of life. No laws or "bills of right" can secure any sort of rights to a class that has no organized power of control over its means of making a living. We may say, therefore, that the history of human progress has been a history of the development of tools in the broad sense of the word, meaning all means of creating wealth, marked by the struggles for their control as wealth-creating agencies. All political and social institutions; all established forms of thought in the religious and political field; all moral codes; all social habits and customs are conditioned by the prevailing methods of wealth production and the control of its implements and agencies. The laws and moral codes of any era are those formulated or interpreted by the owners of the wealth-creating means for the purpose of protecting and conserving their exclusive class control. But inventions change and advance faster than human habits and laws, causing both laws and moral codes to break down whenever the newer methods of producing wealth have come into conflict with laws and customs. We are now passing through such a period of revolutionary change.


The Uncontrolled Economic Cycle

Control of the machinery of wealth production for the purpose of creating surplus value is, therefore, the actuating motive of all capitalistic enterprise. It requires for its practice and perpetuation both a constant expansion and improvement of the machinery and modes of production. Among savage and primitive peoples the crude methods of production precluded the taking of surplus value. Life was largely a constant struggle with nature. With primitive methods of handicraft in a later period, the portion of the day’s work devoted to producing the worker’s living was necessarily longer than with the improved machines and largely automatic processes of today. As a consequence the relative portion of the day’s work given to producing surplus value for the masters has advanced with the advance of the machine processes. The worker’s portion of the day’s produce being controlled at a level that barely sufficed to enable him to live and the lengthening of the working day being limited by human habit, endurance and a tendency to resist change in established habits by the workers themselves, the natural method of increasing the employer’s share of the produce was to improve the efficiency of the machinery and thereby transfer as much as possible of the skill and strength of the worker to the machine by reducing them to simple mechanical processes. The worker ceased to be a skilled craftsman whose efficiency existed in his proficiency and mastery of a few simple tools. He increasingly became an unskilled laborer tending a machine which in turn became his master. He produced more and more commodities in a given time with each improvement in machinery and methods, but the increase belonged to his master as owner of the machines, while the worker’s share declined in relative proportion. The surplus value produced for the capitalist thus increasingly exceeded the wages of the worker. It is by this process that there accumulates in the possession of the capitalist an excess that must be sold abroad, for the worker’s purchasing power does not increase proportionately. The resulting competition between capitalists for markets for this excess of commodities, and the money and credit symbols into which the commodities are transformed in the market, stimulates the capitalist to cheapen production costs by utilizing every possible mechanical means to replace the worker with further mechanical improvements; for every increase in productivity of a given amount of labor power with lessened cost, enables the capitalist to undersell his competitor and capture the market. It also produces a constant increase in the amount of surplus value which cannot be used in the industry itself but must be invested profitably somewhere. This breeds international competition for markets and foreign fields of investment which results in wars. It produces another and more cumulative effect in that the constant seeking for a foreign field of investment for the accumulated surplus value converted into new capital, rapidly changes raw material producing regions that were once customers into industrially developed regions which become rivals for markets and rival producers of surplus value.

Thus the markets narrow relatively as industrial expansion proceeds with an increasing surfeit of unsalable commodities and capital that cannot find profitable investment. The struggle for survival between capitalists leads to a mad race for increased production at lower costs, over-development of plants and machinery, a rapid fall in prices in the competition for markets, ending in a final panic and wholesale shut-downs, bankruptcy and unemployment. These periods of crisis and panic followed by stagnation increase in frequency, scope and intensity as the area open for expansion is thus fully developed, and as machine production of commodities takes the place of raw material production in the newly developed regions. The agricultural nations that formerly exchanged raw material for manufactured goods rapidly become industrialized, producing their own manufactured goods and creating their own capital. The ever-narrowing field of exploitation and consequent increasing competition for the markets thus reach a final stage in which further expansion is impossible and the era of capitalism ends as it has ended in the years 1929-33 in an impasse, where it collapse in a final catastrophe of world-wide stagnation and revolution. That is the condition now presented. That is what has produced the world revolution now taking place, in which the old parliamentary systems, the old methods of uncontrolled competition and the old ways of doing things have disappeared forever from Russia, Germany, Italy, France and the United States, to give place to dictatorships, in which the state is used by the ruling class to stabilize and control production and markets in preservation or attempted preservation of an obsolete social and economic structure. The era of capitalism is passing into a transition stage, marked by collapse of credit and world-wide stagnation and unemployment. Markets and fields of exploitation have disappeared in proportion as production has increased internationally through advancing technology; and capitalism can, therefore, no longer expand. It is nearing an end, however slow may be the strangulation of its life breath—the production and expansion of surplus value. Previous crises and panics have passed through phases from depression to recovery by developing new fields of investment and new markets. That of 1837 ended in the Mexican War and the conquest of Texas and California. The impoverished victims of the aftermath of the panic of 1837 and the minor depression of 1848 poured into these newly opened territories and pioneered them for exploitation by adventurers and their kindred, the capitalists. The panic of 1857 was absorbed by the Civil War era of inflation and the homestead act provided an outlet for the jobless soldiers who were demobilized. An era of railroad building and speculation followed. The panic of 1873 ended in the development of the Northwest, the building of the Northern Pacific and a period of westward emigration. The panic of 1893 was followed by the Spanish-American War, the Klondike gold rush and the beginnings of American imperial expansion. The year 1913 saw another panic developing but the World War quickly developed the usual features of a war period—vast inflation of prices and the absorption of redundant man-power. The entire world went into an orgy of credit flotations. A crisis appeared in 1920 but it was deferred by tapping a new field of credit installment sales of autos, electric devices and every kind of gadget imaginable. The day of reckoning was delayed in an interregnum of the wildest speculation in history which came to the point of collapse in 1929. The panic was followed by the present depression—the most world-devastating and long-continued of the entire series of major panics. The whole world is bankrupt. There are no new worlds for the Alexander of surplus value to conquer—no new continents, no undeveloped markets. The world bandits of capitalism have ravaged the earth and are now wrangling over the spoils and consuming the spoils in the process of wrangling. The war that usually follows a world depression is already on the horizon in various directions and the ogre of capitalism is about to drown itself in its own blood.


The Part Played by Machine Development

We perceive, then, the part that mechanical development and advancing technology play in producing crises and unemployment. We see, too, that these crises are periodic and recur at all stages of capitalistic evolution from the era of handicraft to the present. These periods of recurrence are called the "Business Cycle" by Roger Babson and others. They have been analyzed by capitalist economists from every possible viewpoint. Wesley C. Mitchell, Irving Fisher, Paul Douglas, Roger Babson and innumerable others have gathered the most exhaustive data and assigned the most various reasons for the cyclical slump into depression from peaks of prosperity. Psychology and astrology have been seriously involved as explanations of the phenomena. Prof. Irving Fisher is inclined to think that astronomical causes such as spots on the sun, periodic diminution of solar heat radiation and the conjunction of the earth and other planets are factors in causing the panics. The one perfectly obvious reason for the cyclical slump is forbidden—surplus value in the form of debt burdens laid upon industry, such as over issues of speculative capital and excessive bond issues based upon speculative productive power of the workers in industry. The cumulative character of investment capital drawn from surplus value must, of necessity, make these speculative crises more and more severe and more world-wide in scope. The only thing to consider in this present, the world’s worst and longest period of stagnation and depression caused by the capitalist system, is whether or not it is the inevitable, final collapse from which there can be no recovery under capitalism. And while we are trying to answer this question, it is well that we reiterate our original statement that it is not the technological and mechanical advance that produces the crisis and that must ultimately end in abandonment of the entire system of uncontrolled private ownership of industry and the ungoverned capitalist mob rule of the economic structure by which the entire world makes its living through labor. The advancing machine processes are no more to blame than advancing education, advancing science, advancing progress in general. It is the social relations that are to be adjusted to the changing technology, and not the technology that is to be adjusted to. the established and obsolete social relations. As H. M. Hyndman has said, "Facts move faster than human minds." The human mind must catch up with the facts. And in this connection let us quote the statement of Karl Marx (Vol. 1, "Capital", Swan Sonnenschein Edition) :

Capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons established by the instrumentality of things.

The "things" in this reference are the implements and means of producing wealth, owned by the capitalist class. The "social relation" is that of capitalist and wage slave. This social relation is established by means of surplus value—the product of unpaid labor which is withheld from the worker by the capitalist through the division of the day’s work into necessary labor and unnecessary or surplus labor.

The social relation between the capitalist and the wage slave existed a long time before the accumulation of capital was sufficient to offer means, incentive and stimulation to the general improvement of the tools of production. It began to exist when the master craftsman of the middle ages engaged the services of journeymen and apprentices. Through the accumulation of wealth produced by the handicraft of his "help" and the sale of the commodities produced, the master craftsmen became separated economically from his journeymen. From guild-master to merchant and manufacturer was a step and it was from the rapid accumulation of manufacturing wealth that surplus value became both a means and an incentive to the invention and introduction of power-driven machinery. We thus see that the relation of capital to labor antedated machinery and was its genesis, not its result.

But lest we give the capitalist undue credit for stimulating progress in the arts and sciences, it is well to differentiate right here between "capitalism" and the "capitalist". It was not the capitalist who invented all the vast complex of mechanical devices that make up the modern technology of industry. Inventions are social growths. Most inventions arise from the use of the machines by workers. Most of the world’s greatest inventors have died poor—stripped of the fruits of their genius and patient labors by capitalist promoters. The intricate character of modern machinery represents the aggregate of small contributions and accretions from the hands and brains of thousands of obscure workers and inventors who died in their obscurity while the clever promoter capitalized the invention or process and reaped a harvest of surplus value from the exploitation of both the inventor and the workers who produced the increased volume of wealth. The great capitalists are strange combinations of gambler, adventurer, huckster and politician; they are neither scientists nor inventors. The Rockefellers, Morgans, Insulls, Kruegers, Weyerhaeusers, Carnegies, Schwabs, and their like never contributed a single valuable idea or discovery to society. It is not the Marconis, De Forrests, Steinmetzs and Michaelsons that today dominate the financial world and reap the harvest from their benefits to mankind.

Not even as organizers of industry are the capitalists either original or able. Their failure as administrators is clearly shown by the haphazard and wasteful manner in which they have manipulated the banks, the railroads and the natural resources of the country. They accumulate their vast holdings as frequently by wrecking and mal-administering industry as by promoting it. In every national crisis of war or depression, the first step toward efficiency is to undo the evil done by their greed and incompetency as stewards of the public weal. The government took over the railroads during the war to reorganize them into a state of efficiency. It called in boards of technical experts to produce results. It is necessary in the present panic to consult the "brain trust" before the politician and capitalist can act intelligently.

In the beginnings of capitalism the rate of accumulation of surplus value was necessarily slow, being generated from the primitive processes of handicraft. It acquired momentum like a snowball rolled down hill as the general demand for commodities increased. Trade developed rapidly between the nations, the producers of raw material in undeveloped nations exchanging their product for the manufactured product. Manufacture succeeded handicraft and the mechanical development increased in speed throughout the capitalistic nations. The power-driven factory succeeded hand-manufacture. Revolution followed when the agrarian landlords attempted to stay the tide of wealth and power that swept into the hands of the previously despised trading and manufacturing classes by the vast accumulations of capital and commodities. The feudal system collapsed and the feudal aristocracy was displaced by a hitherto unprivileged class—the bourgeoisie.

It should be clear from what has preceded that the existence of the capitalistic "social relation" essential to the existence of the capitalist system depends upon the accumulation of surplus value. And this accumulation depends in turn upon the co-existence of undeveloped, non-industrial raw-material producing regions with manufacturing regions, each exchanging its products for those of the other. The surplus value which is the source of capitalist accumulation arises from the conversion of the raw material or the natural resource into the manufactured produce or usable commodity through the instrumentality of labor applied to machinery and the natural resources. It is the value transferred from human labor to the raw material in the process of manufacture or conversion into commodities that creates the "profit" of the capitalist. It is derived solely from the exploitation of unpaid labor. The paid-for portion of the day’s work produces no profit. Quite naturally, the raw-material producing nations prefer to develop their own manufacturing resources and thus save this profit for themselves. So capital is borrowed from the accumulations of surplus value in the manufacturing nations and used to develop the industries of the less developed regions. This, as has been shown, constantly reduces the fields open for exploitation, narrows the market and ultimately renders the taking of surplus value impossible; for, although surplus value arises from production only, it cannot be converted into either capital or revenue until it has passed into the money-form through sale. It follows that capitalism can exist only as long as it has open markets and regions undeveloped capitalistically in which to expand, for the condition of profit-taking requires that the worker who produces the values shall always produce more for the capitalist than he receives in wages or purchasing power. A stabilized exchange between the producers or workers and their exploiters is, therefore, impossible. Machinery and technology are the means through which surplus value is increased at the expense of the worker and thereby hasten the ultimate collapse of the capitalist system.


The Modern Machine Era

From the first crude machines that inaugurated the industrial revolution to the "one-billion wild horses" that represent the accumulated horse-power of today is a far cry. The mechanical marvels of the eighteenth century, the spinning jenny of Hargraves with its eight spindles, the spinning mule of Crompton, the power loom of Arkwright, the 50-horsepower engines of Watt and Bolton, the crude locomotive of Stephenson, the clumsy steamboats of Symington and Fulton, would evoke a smile if placed beside the power-monsters that now send their throbbing energy pulsing from gigantic power-plants to our industrial centers, and fill the skies, the seas and the submarine depths with their rush and clamor. But against a background of handicraft and peasant production these primitive beginnings of modern machine production appeared marvelous enough. The progress since has not been uniform in tempo. Every war period and every period of emigrant pioneering on an extensive scale has temporarily reduced the army of the unemployed and forced the masters to raise wages by lessening the competition for the jobs. For the worker sells his labor-power in the same manner that the capitalist sells the product of labor-power—as a commodity. The supply, if uncontrolled by organization of the workers, regulates the price of labor-power—the wages. It is wars, emigration and "prosperity peaks" that create an increased demand for machinery to take the place of the manual worker. The withdrawal of men from the labor-power market in capitalist wars for markets and new fields of exploitation relieves the pressure of want and impending starvation from the remaining workers and renders them temporarily more independent in their demands for a greater share in the money-form of the commodities which they produce. Machines and automatic processes are then introduced to take the place of manual workers and again build up the army of unemployed. The supply of available labor power is thus increased and competition for the jobs again reduces the workers to docility. Thus, the Napoleonic Wars, lasting nearly twenty years from 1796 to 1815 were marked by an immense advance in technology. The period of emigration and colonization that followed the demobilization of the armies, acted as a similar stimulation to invention. And through the crises and panics that followed as a result of each successive wave of increased production, the machine marched on to its final triumph when the recent World War accelerated the progress of mechanization until the involvement of the entire world in one vast industrial organism precipitated the panic of 1929-33. And now we shall see what this vast accumulation of surplus value in the form of machines, technological wonders, credits, debts, investments and unsalable commodities, with its consequent unemployment, doles and bread-lines consists of at this revolutionary apex of the machine age. Not very long ago, Dr. Chas. A. Prosser of Dunwoodie Institute, Minneapolis, who had been chairman of President Hoover’s National Unemployment Committee, said:

Prosperity with industry humming will with certainty encourage new inventions to displace continually more and more workers. That is the reason that prosperity will not of itself solve the unemployment problem.
In 1899, 4,713,000 workers turned out products to the value of $11,500,000,000. In 1929, 8,550,000 workers made products valued at $68,500,000,000. That is, less than twice as many workers produced six times the value in products. If there had been the same value production per worker in 1929 as in 1899, it would have taken 20,000,000 more workers to turn out these products and merchandise.

The above figures refer to the manufacturing industries alone. In transportation, mining and agriculture the same rate of displacement of manual labor by machines and new processes has taken place. The approximately 250,000 miles of railroads in the United States employed 2,075,886 people in 1920. In 1931 the total number of employes had dwindled to 1,282,825. In 1933 a further decrease was recorded and the railroads now employ slightly less than a million. A large number of these could be dispensed with if effective reorganization of the working forces took place. Wayne W. Parrish estimates that the entire transportation industry could be carried on with not over 600,000 employes.

The principal decrease in the number of necessary workers in transportation is due to lengthening of division points, double-headers, heavier tractors hauling longer trains, larger and more durable freight cars made of steel instead of wood and the electrification of many roads. The average capacity of freight cars in 1903 was 29.4 tons; in 1910, 35.9 tons; in 1915, 39.7 tons; in 1920, 42.4 tons; in 1925, 44.8 tons, and in 1931, 47 tons. And the tendency toward displacement of men in the industry is likely to continue indefinitely.

The coal mining industry has been permanently affected by the introduction of new fuels such as petroleum and gas, the development of hydro-electric plants and the use of more economical fuel consumers. The state of the industry is revealed in a very able report, an epitome of which was published in the New Republic for August 30, 1933, by Dr. Alexander Sachs of the Division of Research and Planning of the NRA. He reported that the total displacement of coal by other fuels and by new methods of economy in fuel consumption, amounted to 33 per cent reduction in all industrial and railroad uses since the World War. Had it not been for this saving in fuel efficiency according to Dr. Sachs American business would have used 210 million more tons of coal in 1929 than it did. Dr. Sachs says further:

The effect of disorganization has been particularly severe upon employment. In 1923 the industry employed 704,793 wage earners, while in 1931 the figure was 450,213. In 1932 the total employment was 379,565. The total reduction since the peak year, 1923, has amounted to about 45 per cent. But even that does not represent adequately the loss of employment. It is man-hours and man-days that tell the story. Not only has the number employed been drastically reduced, but the working time has also been curtailed. For a period of thirty-two years ending in 1921, bituminous mines worked on an average of 213 days a year. In no year during that period did the mines as a whole average as much as 250 days. Since 1921, the situation has become much worse, the nine-year period, 1922 to 1930, showing an average working time of 189 days. In 1931, the working time was 160 days, and in 1932, 145 days.

Mine power is now generally electrified. The mine mule has been largely displaced by the electric locomotive. The proportion of coal undercut by machine has increased from 56 per cent in 1918 to 80 per cent in 1932. The first machines to replace hand-shovelers were introduced in 1922. In 1932 a total of 1,880,000 tons were loaded by machines. In 1929 this had increased in the bituminous mines to 47,500,000 tons. Mechanical loading has been introduced chiefly in the union fields where wages were highest in order to save labor costs. In strip mining the power shovel has stimulated production from 1,300,000 tons in 1914 to over 20,000,000 tons in 1932. The increased exploitation of the worker by the machine process is revealed by the fact that the production per worker has risen from 3.8 tons in 1918 to 5.4 tons in 1932, an increase of 42 per cent since the World War. Wages have, on the contrary, declined. Newell G. Alford estimates that in the last ten years the number of men displaced by mechanical leading alone was about 50,000. Most of this permanent disappearance of jobs has occurred in the comparatively high-wage fields of the Middle West and the Rocky Mountains.

In the agricultural industry the pioneer American farmer has found it increasingly difficult to survive in competition with newer methods and machines. Up to 1855, the year that James Oliver patented his Oliver Chilled Plow, the American and European farmer had improved but little upon the ancient Roman method of spading the soil, an operation that required 96 man-hours to till one acre. The new plow greatly increased agricultural efficiency. Then came the revolution in tools and the 20-horse hitch with six 14-inch bottoms, which plowed from 12 to 15 acres per day. Today we have on the large farms of the west the tractor-drawn, 60-disc or duckfoot plow which reduces the man-hours per acre to the decimal fraction of an hour, .088, or about five minutes to the acre. Our new rate of tilling the soil is more than 1000 times that of the primitive farmer. The change is best illustrated by comparative figures showing the number of men that would be required under the different methods to till the soil for the production of the 1928-29 yield of wheat in the United States. Here are the figures:

By the ancient method of spading...........6,000,000 men With ox-drawn plows........................1,000,000  " With Oliver single-bottom plow of 1855.......500,000  " With modern 60-disc tractor plow...............4,000  "

To return again to manufacturing, we may consider the steel industry. One great corporation, the U. S. Steel Corporation, practicably dominates this industry. It is the largest single employer of labor in the world. In 1900, one man working seven full days of ten hours each, or seventy hours, produced one ton of steel. By 1929, with improved technology, one man produced a ton of steel in thirteen hours. In 1900 the output of steel in the United States was 11,000,000 tons, requiring 600,000,000 man-hours of labor. In 1929 the production had increased to 58,000,000 tons, but the man-hours required had increased to only 770,000,000. In other words, while total production of steel was increasing 427 per cent, the labor-time required to produce it increased only 22 per cent. Production of steel in 1933 is far below these figures because of the depression, and, therefore, not comparable, but it is known that the most advanced production methods have not yet permeated the industry and the trend is inevitable toward further displacement of men. This trend is seen in the citation of the fact that in 1929, the year of peak production in steel and iron, the number of workers were approximately the same as in 1887, although the output of steel had increased to 9.3 times that of 1887.

Nor do new industries absorb the displaced workers. The newest large-scale industry is automobile manufacturing. Mass production in this industry is only twelve years old. The maximum production was reached in 1925-6 with 8,000,000 cars. But in 1925 it employed 47,000 fewer men than in 1924, and in 1926 it operated with 69,000 fewer than in 1925. In 1909 it required 303 man-hours to make one car; in 1929 the time had been reduced to 92 man-hours and in 1932 and 1933 the time is still less.

The curve of technological development is accelerating in all fields of productive industry. To review even the most recent advance would require volumes. We can only summarize in the briefest way a few of the outstanding achievements in invention that make up the trend toward increased production with fewer workers:

An ensilage harvesting machine cuts cornstalks in the field and delivers them to the silo without the handling of the stalks by a single human worker.

An automatic machine produces 73,000 electric light bulbs every 24 hours, displacing 2,000 hand operators for each machine installed.

A machine digger which operates with 37 laborers and does the work formerly requiring 7,000 pick and shovel men.

A tabulating machine does the work of 100 skilled actuaries.

The U. S. Department of Commerce reports that combines in one wheat harvesting area have cut the number of farm laborers required from 50,000 to 20,000.

An airplane driven by Roscoe Turner speeds from New York to Los Angeles on July 1, 1933 in 111/2 hours between midnight and noon at an average speed of 219 miles per hour. It is reported that this record has been beaten in more recent flight.

An Italian aviator, F. Agello, last summer attained a speed of 424 miles per hour in a plane driven by a 2900 horsepower motor making 3200 resolutions per minute.

A brickmaking machine operated by one man turns out 40,000 bricks per hour. The former output was 55 bricks per hour. The increase amounts to 720 times the former production.

In loading pig iron, two men can now do the work formerly done by 128 men.

And so on to infinity. The iron chink in fish-packing; dial phones, automatic cigar-making machines, automatic power stations, automatic stokers, automatic knitting machines, bookkeeping machines, paint sprayers, mechanical cotton-pickers, telephonic typewriters, the electric eye, a sort of mechanical brain of endless applications in industry, and so forth.


The One Way Out—Industrial Unionism

All of these marvelously complex machines, methods and technology are the instrumentalities through which capitalism accomplishes its purpose. That purpose is not the welfare of the many nor the social good of the masses. It is the exploitation of the working and producing part of the population for the enrichment of a class. It is an organized system based upon this exploitation for profit making in the interest of a class. The machines are merely the means through which the social relation of owner and wage-slave is maintained.

Capitalism is organized for a class purpose. It accomplishes its purpose through this special form of organization. All machines, inventions, processes and scientific accretions of knowledge are made subservient to this organization. The corporate form is the characteristic of capitalism. Before a new invention or a new project can be put in operation it is subjected to organization. It is capitalized. That is, its earning power—its power to extract surplus value from workers—is estimated in advance and a capital value placed upon this prospective earning power. That prospective value is called capital stock, common stock, preferred stock, or it is bond issue or some other form of debt laid upon the workers in advance of production. Every worker must assume his share of this debt when he takes a job. So every worker is born in debt. If he produces enough to pay the interest on the debt, he is retained on the job. If he can’t he is fired. If his work produces more than a normal rate of interest on the debt, the debt is enlarged by the issuance of more stock, bonds, debentures, etc. If the debt burden becomes greater than the productive power of the workers, frantic efforts are made to improve the instruments, machines, processes and conditions of profit taking. If that fails, the "business" shuts down or goes bankrupt. If the machines cannot pay a profit, they are junked along with their human parts—the workers.

It is the organized social relationship of owner and wage slave that produces surplus value. It is this relationship that produces the surplus value, no matter what machines or technology are used in the process. And it is against this social relationship that the workers must struggle to economic and social emancipation. Capitalism is organized to maintain this relationship. If machines become overbuilt or overcapitalized both they and the unsalable commodity production that flows from their use as instrumentalities of surplus value will be restricted by the capitalist class. You may call it "sabotage" or "controlled economy" or what you will, the result is the same. Just now the overcapitalization and the redundant machines as well as the extra land areas under capitalized operation are being subjected to NRA and its "codes". The redundant capital invested in machines and lands will be lost to the owners but others will profit and the social relation which is the soul of capital will be preserved.

It becomes apparent, therefore, that no form of organized resistance to this system of exploitation that the workers can make will be of any avail if it recognizes the legitimacy of the relation of capitalist owner and wage slave. Craft unionism, which is merely a form of labor brokerage in which the reactionary officials of the craft unions bargain with the masters for a brokerage on the sale of wage slaves or their services, is manifestly useful only to perpetuate the exploitation. Craft unionism recognizes the right of the capitalist to exploit labor. It prospers when there is a large turnover of labor power. It declines when the cyclical over-production of surplus value precipitates a panic. It is increasingly helpless to protect the worker as the rate of surplus value increases with improved technology. Craft unionism is the only thing in the labor world that has been rendered obsolete by the progress of mechanization. Political action has never been anything under capitalism but an instrument of demagogy and social deception for the purpose of maintaining the exploiting class an power.

In the readjustment of the social relationship between organized capital and the subjected wage- working class that is now taking place the function of the workers as the sole producers of wealth becomes more clearly apparent as mechanization increases. The individual worker may seem to have become of less importance with the growth of the machine processes. But only as an individual. The more complex the economic structure becomes, the more organic become its processes. That is, the more highly organized and interdependent become its working parts. But whatever mechanical agencies may be used, it is living labor that gives life and power to the machine processed. The working class becomes more highly organized for production under the machine processes; it must also become more highly organized for resistance to class exploitation. The individual unit, the craft unit, the district or regional unit of organized labor passes with the individual processes but the industrial form of organization becomes all the more necessary with the advancing technology.

The source of all power is still at the point of production—on the job—where all wealth is produced. The capitalist class has long since abandoned isolation and has organized as a class to control production. The working class must do the same. Its only refuge from economic and social oppression to the level of absolute slavery is in industrial unionism. That is the basis of the Industrial Workers of the World and its form of organization. The objection is raised that you cannot organize the unemployed. The answer is that you cannot organize unemployed capital. The social disintegration that takes place in periods of depression is destructive alike to both. But the fact remains that organized society must depend upon economic production for its existence and its wealth; and the unit of production is still the worker—not the machine. When the worker is laid off, the machines stop, production stops, consumption stops and investments begin a rapid process of dissolution. Contrawise, when production is resumed, it is the worker that pours the first lifeblood and vitality back into industry and the exchange of commodities that brings back capitalist prosperity. The new technology points only to better forms of organization among the workers. The hours must be shortened; the wages raised; the conversion of wealth taken from labor in surplus value into redundant capital and the capitalization of prospective earning plower must be checked by the only class that has an interest in checking it—the workers in industry. The workers in industry must be converted into an effective organized power to exercise control over the machinery of production. This can be done only through industrial unionism as advocated by the I. W. W. With such a power built up through organization in industrial form, the workers on the job will be able to convert the reserve army of the unemployed into an employed army of organized workers by shortening the working day and developing unity of action for the carrying on of industry when the rapidly approaching debacle of capitalism reaches its final destructive crisis. The objection that the unemployed cannot be organized is no more cogent now than in periods of prosperity; for the organism of capitalist production has always and automatically produced and maintained such a reserve of unemployed workers. Their increase in numbers during the later and more disastrous panics only points to the growing importance and necessity of correct organization on the job—the source of all wealth, all capital, and all power. The pressure of the mass of unemployed behind the forces of organized workers will, if correct organization be had at the point of production, only increase the power of the organized industrial workers, for it will make the periodic panics more dangerous to the ruling class. Even in the present depression which caught the workers unorganized or organized only in obsolete and ineffective craft or district forms, the capitalist class has seen the necessity of removing this menace to their existence as a class by shortening the working day and the working week. This force will be directed under industrial union organization into a more effective power for working class control of industry and the ultimate destiny of the workers, absolute industrial democracy, will be attained.

In the meantime the vast chaos in international capitalism can only increase with the increase in integration and mechanization. There is no absolute cure for unemployment in a system based upon surplus value. There is no way to reorganize society on a rational basis in conformity to the already revolutionized industrial processes save through control of industry by the workers and the elimination of the price system based upon surplus value. And there is only one form of social and economic organization that shows the way to this result—industrial democracy—and that is the Industrial Workers of the World. Organization by industries, without regard to craft skill or alignment; without regard to race, color, creed or nationality. International integration of all labor’s power into One Big Union, not only to produce power for carrying on the every day struggle with the capitalist class, which cannot be avoided, but to carry on production in an intelligent and organized manner, for the purpose of feeding, clothing and providing shelter for the masses in that rapidly approaching time when capitalism shall have finally proven itself impossible and shall be no more. The I. W. W., born in 1905, is the reflex and outgrowth of modern industry. It is not a visionary utopian plan but the logical line of action developed and indicated by modern industry for the preservation of society. It is the germ of the new society developed within the womb of the old. The worker who reads its literature and preamble is intelligently prepared to take his part in that inevitable struggle between the classes for control of industry which rapidly approaches. It is far better to be thus prepared to act intelligently than to be precipitated into the final chaos of capitalism’s collapse, just as the workers have been precipitated into the present hell of unemployment, misery and death, without warning and without knowledge or organized power to help themselves.

The worker who reads the literature of the I. W. W. and organizes into industrial union form under the banner of the I. W. W., not only takes the best course for the immediate relief of unemployment, but insures the formation of that organized nucleus around which the workers must rally in the chaos which capitalism must inevitably produce. Production for use and not for profit is the ultimate evolutionary phase of advancing machine production. The I. W. W. alone shows the way to that evolutionary outcome and prepares the worker for it. Meanwhile it will, if supported loyally by the workers, provide a means in time of industrial peace as well as during times of industrial struggle for the growth and preservation of working class power.

 Image from Marxists.org

Image from Marxists.org


Authorized by the General Executive Board

The press is the life of any modern movement. The I. W. W. press is fearless. It fights the boss class without compromise. It is the workers best educational and agitational instrument. Make the I. W. W. press more powerful and you will have stronger organization, and more of the good things of life which can be secured only by industrial organization. These are our publications:

INDUSTRIAL WORKER, weekly newspaper in English, official organ of the I. W. W. $1.50 a year; single copies 5 cents; published at 2422 N. Halsted St., Chicago, Ill.

TIE VAPAUTEEN, Finnish monthly magazine, 32 pages, 1$1.75 a year; single copies 15 cents, May and December 48 pages, 25 cents. Published at Duluth, Minn. Address Box 99.

INDUSTRIALISTI, Finnish daily newspaper. $4.50 a year, $2.50 six months, $1.50 three months. Single copies 5 cents. Published at Duluth, Minn. Address Box 99.

BERMUNKAS, Hungarian weekly newspaper, $2 a year, single copies 5 cents. Published at Cleveland, Ohio. Address Box 3912, Station S. S.

IL PROLETARIO, Italian weekly newspaper, $2 a year; single copies 5 cents. Published at 26 Mansfield St., Somerville, Mass.



The General Strike ......................................................................................................10c
Economic Interpretation of the Job ............................................................................10c
I. W. W. Song Book .....................................................................................................10c
Lumber Industry and its Workers ..............................................................................10c
Coal Miners Hand Book .............................................................................................10c
The Blood Stained Trail ..............................................................................................25c
Twenty-Five Years of Industrial Unionism ..................................................................5c
One Big Union .............................................................................................................. 5c
So You’re Out of a Job? ............................................................................................... 5c
What Is the I. W. W. Preamble? (A Dialogue)............................................................ 5c

In lots of ten or more copies 40 per cent discount allowed; half transportation charges.


The International
The Rebel Girl
An Ancient Jewish Lullaby and Child Laborer’s Spring Song
We Have Fed You All For a Thousand Years
The Advancing Proletaire
Russian Funeral Song
Don’t Take My Papa Away From Me
The Funeral Song of a Russian Revolutionist
Workers of the World Awaken

These songs are handsomely covered in appropriate colors. Single copies 15 cents each. In lots of 10 or more 10 cents per copy. Order from 2422 N. Halsted St., Chicago, Ill.

I.W. W. Literature in Foreign Languages


What Is the I. W. W.? .................................................................................................10c
Capitalist Justice..........................................................................................................25c
Industrial Unionism and Syndicalism ........................................................................... 5c
Shop Talks on Economics............................................................................................10c
I. W. W. in Theory and Practice..................................................................................20c


History of the I. W. W. (cloth bound)..........................................................................30c
History of the I. W. W. (paper cover) ........................................................................15c
One Big Union of the Workers ...................................................................................10c
One Big Union of the I. W. W......................................................................................10c


Economic Interpretation of the Job ............................................................................10c
What Is the I. W. W.? .................................................................................................10c


What Is the I. W. W.? .................................................................................................10c
Economic Interpretation of the Job.............................................................................10c


What Is the I. W. W.?..................................................................................................10c
The I. W. W.—Its History, Structure and Methods...................................................10c


The I. W. W. in Theory and Practice...........................................................................15c


What Is the I. W. W.? .................................................................................................10c


What Is the I. W. W.? .................................................................................................10c


Unemployment and the Machine ................................................................................10c
One Big Union .............................................................................................................10c


The Program of the Industrial Workers of the World.................................................l5c

In lots of ten or more copies 40% discount allowed; half transportation charges. Order from: Industrial Workers of the World, 2422 N. Halsted St., Chicago, Ill.


General Defense Committee

In the great struggle of the workers for bread and freedom, the most active of their numbers are often singled out by the hirelings of the master class; they are arrested and hailed into biased courts to be railroaded to long terms of imprisonment or to the gallows, to serve as a fearful example for other workers to remain obedient slaves.

The GENERAL DEFENSE COMMITTEE was organized in 1917 to provide legal defense and relief for members of the working class persecuted for their participation in labor’s struggle for a better life. Since the time of its foundation the G. D. C. has defended some of the most famous labor cases in America.

Membership in the General Defense Committee is open to everyone who subscribes to the principle of labor defense. Dues paying members are organized in locals all over the country. The dues are 25c initiation and 25c per calendar quarter, or every three months.


For further information write to:


2422 N. Halsted Street

Chicago, Ill.

From : Marxists.org


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January 20, 2021; 3:43:26 PM (America/Los_Angeles)
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