THE AMERICAN WORKER

PART 2
THE RECONSTRUCTION OF SOCIETY

by Ria Stone (1947)

Introduction

The crisis of contemporary society, the barbarism and chaos which govern the daily existence and immediate perspectives of men from one end of the earth to another, have provoked in all layers of society a probing into the ultimate perspectives of humanity. This probing, haltingly begun during the years of the depression, was momentarily suspended in the holocaust of the Second World War. But in the war also, the myth of salvation through the Roosevelt New Deal was exploded and with it the last barrier to the most relentless questions. The desperate efforts of the Wallace-ites and the Stalinists to perpetuate the Roosevelt myth, while condemning its contemporary international embodiment in the Marshall Plan, only make more pathetic the gulf between the memories of one dead man and the profound yearnings of two billion living ones. Today, in all strata of society, a search is going on for the way to create a world, one world, in which men can live as social and creative individuals, where they can live as all-round men and not just as average men. Out of this search a new philosophy of life is being created. Neither the Christian Revolution nor the Protestant Reformation, the only comparable milestones in the history of Western civilization, can parallel in depth and scope the process of evaluation and re-evaluation now going on in the activity and in the thoughts of men.

This report by Romano, a worker, of the life of a worker in the United States today, is a fundamental contribution to this evaluation. Un-like the writings of intellectuals and statesmen, it is a social document describing in essence the real existence of the hundreds of millions who constitute the basis of our society. The cultural life and philosophy of every society has always been determined by the life of the working class at its base. But except in periods of revolution, the world is wont to forget this. Nothing shows more clearly how close the social revolution is to the surface than the fact that today, wherever political and industrial statesmen meet to try to resolve the crisis of modern society, one problem haunts their minds - how to develop the productivity of the workers. Never has the attitude of the workers to their work meant more to society. In every country whatever the social denomination, the ability and willingness of the workers to produce is regarded as the foundation of national and international policy. If, as we believe, this is a problem actually resolvable only by placing the control of production into the hands and heads of the workers, it is also a problem which can be fundamentally understood only by penetrating into what the workers are doing and thinking as they work at their benches and at their machines.

Only by understanding the actual conditions of life and the actual strivings of an actual working class at a certain stage of its development, can the problems of humanity as a whole be understood. Those seeking in the modern barbarism for a unifying principle by which to understand the past and build the future, must turn their attention to the daily degradation of the individual and the concrete struggle for liberation which is developing in the working class.

We make our analysis of the American working class, not because it is the working class which we know best but also because it is the most powerful, the most advanced in the world in social productive powers. In the nineteenth century Marx made British capitalism the foundation for his economic analysis of capitalism. Today it is the American working class which provides the foundation for an analysis of the economic transition from capitalism to socialism, or the concrete demonstration of the new society developing with in the old.

 

CHAPTER I
THE PERMANENT REVOLUTION IN THE PROCESS OF PRODUCTION

The semi-skilled workers of mass production are today the vanguard of the workers in the United States. Between 1921 and the present day, particularly after the 1929 depression and during the second world war, American industry underwent an industrial revolution which, for depth and extent, has an antecedent only in the industrial developments of the early nineteenth century. As those developments erupted in the Chartist movement, the 1848 revolutions in Western Europe, and the Civil War in the United States, so the industrial revolution after the first world war has been preparing a world-wide social revolution.

Between 1899 and 1919 electric power had been utilized mainly to drive the old type machines. Between 1923 and 1929 new type machinery was introduced to exploit this electric power. On the basis of this new machinery and the centralization of capital resulting from the 1929 depression, production was then expanded and concentrated into enormous factories exceeding in size most of the towns of the world. These factories attracted into the ranks of the working class individuals from all sections of the country and from a multiplicity of former occupations. Farmers from the dust belt, white collar workers, the student youth who dreamed of professions and the old folks who had given up all hopes of a useful social existence; Negroes but lately tied to the plantations of the South, women whose lives had been confined to husbands and children - all these were sucked into the maw of the machine and had now to reconcile their previous mode of social existence with the new reality of work at the bench or on the line. Those who did not enter the newly developed productive apparatus between 1934 and 1939 were torn from their traditional moorings by the depression, and were available, at the beginning of the war for a stampede into the shipyards, the aircraft factories and the radio shops of the "arsenal of democracy." The industrial reserve army of seventeen million unemployed merged with the millions already at the bench and created the largest and most powerful industrial working class that the world has ever known.

 

The Contradiction of Semi-Skilled Labor

If these workers had but recently been carrying on their social existence within the confines of family, church and village, they were now part of an Industrial community. If they had but recently come actually or in prospect from occupations in which they controlled their pace of work or lack of it, they now found their lives completely dominated by the schedule of the time-clock, the machine and the assembly line. By the very nature of the new semi-skilled Labor, which on the one hand, necessitated the rapid learning of skills and on the other, degraded the worker to the monotonous repetition of certain operations, these workers were from the very beginning caught in a contradiction. They were neither the skilled artisans of the old aristocracy of labor nor were they the common laborers whose chief asset was their strength. The more each became lit for a variety of labors, the more, he as an individual, became replaceable. The skill of each was not expendable but it was not a monopoly so that the man, if not the skill, was expendable. Out of this contradiction the CIO had exploded in 1936--1937. It represented the instinctive striving of the American working class to tear itself loose from the contradiction between, on the one hand, its degradation by the machine into detailed labor, and, on the other hand, what Marx eighty years ago called the necessity inherent in modem industry for "variation of labor, fluency of function and universal mobility." Deepened and expanded by the war, this contradiction has become a cancer systematically eating away at the vitals of American bourgeois society.

If this contradiction pervaded the roots of the industrial community on the home front, it was even more sharply present in the army. Fourteen million men and women, irrespective of their former occupations, found themselves assigned to functions not only in combat but in transport, ordnance, office and hospital. A farmboy was transformed into a signal corps specialist; a clerk in a shoe store became a combat medic among whose functions was the administration of morphine or plasma to the wounded in accordance with his judgment of the nature of their injuries and the possibility of their recovery. All this was part of the routine experience of every enlisted man. And equally routine but more dramatic was the expendability of any one of them.

 

To Face With Sober Senses

For millions of workers, therefore, the industrial revolution of the last two decades has meant a combined and concentrated development of the history of modem capitalism. From farm to assembly line, from the home to the shop, from the desk to the machine, from the village to the metropolis, from Texas to Paris, they have experienced within a few short years the infinite variety of the modem world along with the deadly monotony of the labor process, the social insecurity and the circumscribed opportunities of capitalism.

What Marx described one hundred years ago as the essential movement of bourgeois society has come to life for sixty million workers:

"Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned and man is at last -compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind."

The American worker today is facing "his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind." The post-war strikes were the first empirical eruption of this evaluation. Following upon the great wave of strikes, individual workers and groups of workers, in their attempt to explain their actions to themselves, have been carrying on a restless search within their own thoughts, in conversations at the bench and at the bar, and wherever they meet and talk. The suddenness with which millions of workers have had their lives revolutionized by production against the background of capitalist depressions and wars, has transformed the American worker from an easy-going practical empiricist into a thoughtful, questioning, investigator into the realities of the society around him. Whether he goes on strike himself or only reads of others striking, whether he wins or loses his demands, the same question haunts the worker--where is all this leading to? The American workers are today trying to create a conception of social history out of their shattering disillusionment with the promise of the American way of life and the new appreciation of productive powers which they have gained by their experiences in industry and in the army.

 

The Creativity of the Workers

Nowhere more than in the United States do the workers, in putting forward their claims as workers, also put forward their claims as human beings. For geographical and historical reasons, based on the absence of feudal restrictions in the United States, the outlet of the frontier and the continual replenishment of the labor force through immigration, the expansion of the country has proceeded uninterruptedly through the expansion of the productive forces of men. The natural riches of the country have been taken for granted. The social wealth, prestige and power of the country is, and has been recognized to be, the result of industry which, robbed of its capitalist integument, is no more than human productive powers. In an impoverished agricultural region like Southern Italy, or on a small island like England which must maintain its empire by maneuverist alliances, the intervention of God or the political genius of statesmen may have been regarded as the decisive factor in the nation's history. The United States, on the other hand, although in general it lacks social thinking, has been dominated by the idea that the universe around us has been created through human energy and foresight. The result is the conviction pervading the thinking of the workers that work has or should have a positive and creative value.

It is not the right to vote which has endeared the American way of life to the American worker, but the opportunity for individual freedom and mobility. The democratic dream which is the ideological fabric of the United States, has never been the dream of political democracy. It has been the conviction, nourished by the actual opportunities in the country for over a hundred years, that every man, the common man, could test his capacities in a variety of ways. To the American workers freedom has been an economic force. The hope, always present although with every year less frequently realized, was that every man could be his "own boss." By which was meant not that he could become a boss over others but that he could in his own little shop or farm, regulate his own hours, put his own ideas into operation. Yesterday, millions of workers actually became their "own boss" in a tavern, an ice cream parlor, a gasoline station, a radio shop. Today the workers in the shop torture themselves with the thought of the impossibility of ever escaping from the factory prison. To the entrenched big bourgeoisie, "free enterprise" meant the right to extort surplus labor from the workers; to the workers "free enterprise" meant freedom from the necessity to sell their labor power to the boss and freedom from control by a boss over their productive hours.

The workers today have lost the sense of economic freedom and look upon their work as a form of bondage. Work has become to them just "labor," just "putting in time." It is to them neither the expression of their own humanity, a means to the development of humanity in general, nor a preparation for eventual freedom. It is only for "the company," and will always be only for "the company." The company is interested only in production for the sake of production. The worker, created by the development of the productive forces, is interested in producing as a human being. The worker enjoys work. On his days off from the auto assembly line, he is as likely as not to spend his time tinkering with his car. Thereby, he expresses in his "free" time the characteristic distinguishing the human species from the animal species. But the difference between free working time and wage working time is never absent from his mind, either in retrospect or in prospect.

It is this much more than the unequal distribution of wealth in the United States which has convinced the American workers of the class character of capitalism. The alienated, non-creative character of his productive activity keeps the American worker in a constant turmoil and questioning regarding the perspectives of such activity. The economist sees unemployment and lack of purchasing power for the workers as the basis of the social crisis and thinks he can resolve the question by "full employment," (e.g. sixty million wage-earning jobs) and higher or guaranteed annual wages. It is a typically bourgeois illusion. The workers today are, as one bourgeois analyst has described it, psychologically unemployed.[1] Working or not working, they are constantly haunted by a feeling of frustration and a fear that they are doomed to remain victims of the attraction and repulsion of capital.

Precisely because American capitalism has been the most revolutionary and progressive of all capitalisms in the sense of unlocking the mysteries of production, there is organic to the American workers a conviction that any social order to which they give their devotion must be revolutionary and progressive in the same sense. It is therefore precisely the previous vigor of American capitalism which is today its greatest weakness in the face of the American working class.

 

The Alienation of the Workers

The American worker today makes in practice the distinction which Marx made nearly a hundred years ago in theory - the distinction between abstract labor for value and concrete labor for human needs. Marx denied that the essence of value production was the search for profits by the individual capitalists. He specifically denounced the bourgeois political economists who could see the law of motion of capitalist economy only in the greed of individuals. Marx was concerned with the activity of the workers. By value production, he meant production which expanded itself through degradation and dehumanization of the worker to a fragment of a man. The essence of capitalist production is that it is a dynamically developing relation by which the dead labor in the machine, created by the workers, oppresses and degrades to abstract labor the living worker which it employs. Abstract labor is alienated labor, labor in which the worker "develops no free physical and spiritual energy but mortifies his body and ruins his spirit." [2] Concrete labor for needs, on the other hand, is not merely nor even essentially the labor which produces butter rather than guns. It is the labor in which man realizes his basic human need for exercising his natural and acquired powers.

Marx described abstract labor in human terms which penetrate to the very roots of the psychological and social reality of today. Alienated labor, he said, "is external to the worker, does not belong to his essence. Therefore, he does not affirm himself in his labor but negates himself. He does not feel contented but dissatisfied... The worker therefore feels himself to be himself away from labor and in labor he feels remote from himself. He is at home when he does not work and when he works, he is not at home. His labor is therefore not free but coerced, forced labor. Labor is therefore not the satisfaction of a need but is only the means to satisfy the needs outside of it."

To read Romano's description of the life in the factory is to realize with shocking clarity how deeply the alienation of labor pervades the very foundations of our society. All the preoccupation of the intellectuals with their own souls and with economic programs for "full employment" and a higher standard of living, fade into insignificance in the face of the oppressive reality of the lifetime of every worker. The importance of Romano's document is that it never for a single moment permits the reader to forget that the contradictions in the process of production make life an agony of toil for the worker, be his payment high or low.

The new society must bring about a revolutionary transformation in the lives of the workers in the shop. That was the axis of Marx's thinking.

Socialist relations of production, he said, are those in which "labor becomes not merely a means to live but is itself the first necessity of living. The powers of production have also increased and all the springs of cooperative wealth are gushing more freely together with the all-around development of the individual."

By the powers of production, Marx meant the fully developed productive powers of the individual workers, freely associated with their fellow workers. Such universality in the workers was the only means for developing universality in the rest of society. Without the universality of the workers, the dehumanization of the whole of society was inevitable.

The capacity and the desire for universality are created by capitalism itself and nowhere more than in the United States. The American worker has little sense of the political history of the country except insofar as it is embodied in a few great names, but the daily experiences of his conscious years give him a conception of the revolutions in production which constitute industrial history. He is therefore in constant revolt against the attempts of bourgeois society to give a mystical character to capital in the process of production by confining him to certain detailed operations. Outside of his working hours, the worker drives a car, a new model every few years, a process which demands from him confident control over the machine and the spontaneous adjustment to a variety of signals. Electrical appliances, the press with its variety of subjects, the movies and television surround him and stimulate his human appreciations. The American worker, and particularly the young worker, is the most mobile in the world. During the course of one year, he may fulfill the technical requirements of a half-dozen jobs as he wanders from factory to factory seeking to escape from the factory altogether. The potentiality of such productive powers forced into the regimen of their limited exercise in the factory is a source of constant frustration to the workers, intensifying their hatred of their work and their anxiety to find another mode of expressing their humanity.

 

CHAPTER II
THE HUMAN NATURE OF INDUSTRY

Not only does the potentiality of such productive powers exist in the workers; the means of production themselves have been developed to the stage where only through the free exercise of the workers' productive powers can the machines themselves be employed. Abstract labor reaches its most inhuman depths in machine production. But at the same time, it is only machine production which lays the basis for the fullest human development of concrete labor.

 

The Social Development of Machinery

For over one hundred years the development of the means of production has been through the transference from the worker of all his skills, capacities and sensitivities. First, by division of labor and the perfection of the detailed operations of the workers under manufacture, the technical basis for the machine was created. Then the machine itself emerged as the embodiment of these detailed operations. The machine had a strictly capitalist use. It was the basis for extracting more surplus labor from the workers by means of its greater regularity, intensity and uniformity. Hence, every incorporation of human powers into the machine was a corresponding dehumanization of the worker. However, at a certain stage of its development, the machine itself began to become so valuable, not only in terms of the capital invested in it but also in terms of the complexity of operations which it embodied, that new qualities were demanded from the workers. At first, it was primarily physical energy which was demanded from the workers. Then with the technical development of the machine, the irregular energy supplied by the workers became insufficient, and first steam power, then electric power became the source of energy. With the substitution of the electric motor in the late nineteenth century, and the increased mobility and flexibility of the machinery, the basic requirements from the workers became training and discipline. What was demanded from the workers was manual dexterity and control, combined with complete subordination to the management in assignment of tasks. This combination, euphemistically known as efficiency, gave birth to a new pattern of thought known as Taylorism. The machine was semi-automatic and demanded a semi-skilled worker, a worker capable of certain manual skills and control but with no intellectual skills or over-all conception of the production process. All such skills and responsibilities became the province of engineers and technicians. Today, the knowledge, science, etc., of the means of production have reached a new stage. With the development of electric power and electronics, completely automatic production is possible and necessary. The units of production can now incorporate complete flexibility, power, precision, freedom of movement and ease of control. But what is required from the workers on such production units is equal flexibility, precision, freedom of movement and ease of control. The workers must themselves become complete masters of the productive powers developed in the instruments of production.

The universality which is embodied in the machines must also be developed in them. What is required in each worker is not only manual but technical knowledge. Even more important, the objectification of all-around human activities in the machine demands the creation of a comparable human sensitivity. The semi-skilled worker is not sufficient, nor is the specialized technician. As the objective world more and more incorporates the human sensitivities of man, man himself must increasingly assimilate the acuteness in perception which characterizes the operations of the objective world.

 

The Appropriation of Human Nature

"Within the capitalist system all methods for raising the social productiveness of labor are brought about at the cost of the individual laborer; all means for the development of production estrange from him the intellectual potentialities of the labor-process in the same proportion as science is incorporated in it as an independent power." Yet not theory but life shows us that at a certain stage, the increased transference of human science, skills and sensitivities to the machine demands a corresponding integration of the same science, skills and sensitivities in the workers employing the machine. This is the dialectical process so sneered at by the intellectuals. Without a dialectical transformation in which the worker is enriched in human capacities in the same proportion as the means of production, the productive forces inherent in the means of production themselves can not be unleashed.

This dialectical transformation is the essential content of the appropriation by the workers of the means of production. This is the new production relation which the social revolution must introduce a production relation in which the productive forces inherent in both machines and men are unleashed. This production relation is therefore also a new human relation of men to nature and of nature to man.

The workers described by Romano who wander about the plant, hungrily eyeing different machines and different operations, are seeking to make this appropriation and create this new human and natural relation. Their absorption in popular science magazines, startling science stories, museums of industry and art, is also part of this desire for re-integration. To the intellectual, smug in his contempt for the labor process, Marx's social program for the human appropriation of the social productive powers may seem abstract. But the worker who ingeniously devises new tools or carefully thinks through various setups, although in a fit of despair he would as easily break up the machine which dominates him, would have no difficulty in understanding that the new relations of production must be based upon the "free deve1opment, intellectual and social, of the individual." No other relations of production could break through the contradiction tearing at the workers in their daily life in the factory.

There may be vulgar materialists whose conception of completely automatic production provides only for robot operators. They betray the typical empiricism and naive realism of those intellectuals who have only contemplated the world and are therefore unable to understand that the world develops through the practical activity of man. Let them ponder the description of the actual design of "machines without men" developed by bourgeois engineers.[3]

We must begin by reaffirming the fact that the social and historical essence of the machine, stripped of its capitalist employment, is that it embodies human activities. This social essence has been lost sight of in bourgeois society which in its irrepressible need to expand surplus value by deve1oping ever more powerful machines to exploit the workers, has increasingly designed the machine in terms of end product rather than of operation.

Automatic production requires that the machines be designed in terms of operation rather than of the end product. The new machine is made up of many small units plugged together. Each unit is capable of performing one function, and several plugged together will be capable of doing all the operations required to build a given part. A great number of units linked electrically and by conveyors will produce and assemble a complete product. The complete machine will be highly adaptable and can be rearranged at any time to build a completely different product.

The basic units of the fully automatic factory will perform the following functions: l) To give and receive information, 2) To control through collation 3) To operate on materials.

All these can be performed automatically. The giving and receiving of information can be done through electronic detection devices such as the photoelectric cell; the carrying of information by devices such as the electric circuit; the recording of this information by devices such as the dictaphone and film; and the calculating of such information by devices such as the new electronic-tube counter.

The collation and control device is a system of electronic tubes and circuits that accepts information fed into it by information units and in turn feeds controlled power to the operation units in accordance with this information. The actual operation on materials - transport, fabrication and holding - can all be done by adaptations of familiar machinery.

 

The Need for Social Man

When Marx analysed the instruments of production as essentially "social objects," he was anticipating just such automatic machinery. A social object contains the totality of human activities as perfected by the previous industrial history of man. Fifty years ago, even twenty years ago, it might have been possible not to understand what Marx had in mind. But the actual inclusion of human sensitivities in the automatic machines being designed today dramatically reveals the essentially human nature of industry.

A social object requires for its control men who embody this human nature in themselves, the social man. Without this social man, the social object has no sense. "Just as for unmusical ears the most beautiful music makes no sense."[4] The completely automatic production unit is social also in the sense that it requires the most complete continuity of operations. If at any stage in the process, there is a loss of time, then the whole process is interrupted. Each man, therefore, in control of any particular stage of the process must be aware of the relation of his role in production to that of every other man. That is the essence of planning. Not coordination from above of pieces of steel, or inanimate chess men. Planning, as control from below, is an economic necessity based upon the enormous scope and variety of modern industry. Without the inclusion of this scope and variety in the worker, there is no planning within production but only blueprints for production. The bourgeoisie can conceive and introduce "planning" only in the sense of blueprints because its mental horizon is fettered by the class conception of workers as cogs in a machine, a conception as outmoded in the modern world as the mode of production out of which it developed. In this question -- so critical for national and world economics today -- the Stafford Crippses, for all their selfless devotion, are bound by the same fetters. Administration for the masses is no substitute for administration by the masses.

The yearning of the workers for universality today is no mere desire to acquire skills in a host of interesting jobs or to imitate the skilled craftsmen of an earlier age. The workers conceive of their mastery of the machine as a mastery of the process of large-scale production, and hence as an all-embracing integration of the workers' activity and judgment in a network of complex operations. It is associated humanity which will control production, and it is this control which will make of each man not an isolate individual doing one job or many jobs but a social individual participating in a social project.

Moreover, only arising from the exercise of their human capacities can there exist in the workers the willing cooperation and self-discipline without which the employment of the completely automatic unit is impossible. Without what has been called by Polakov [5] a "discipline of mind complying with the laws of nature," life, limb, product, plant and perhaps the whole neighborhood are in serious jeopardy. The example of an airplane crew can give an indication in microcosm of what is necessary on a social scale. The bourgeoisie during the war had to train each member of an air crew in a multiplicity of operations and a knowledge of the sciences embodied in flying. Most, if not all of the crew had to know something about the operations of the others, perhaps not as expertly as the operator, but well enough to take over in case of emergency. Equally important were the sensitivities of the individual members of the crew not only to new conditions but to each other. The human nature of the men was decisive for the functioning of the mechanism. What is true for the plane isolated in the air is even more true of automatic production on a community scale. Unless the workers as individuals and as a social unit are completely aware of the laws of nature as they apply to production, unless their mastery of production is the basis of social organization, unless they are using all their human senses, unless they have appropriated the capacities of the machines, unless they have a human social relation to one another, the mechanism is not only useless to them but a danger to the whole of society.

 

The Need for Universality

It is this economic need for universality on the part of the workers which makes it so difficult for the capitalists today to introduce completely automatic machinery. The semi-skilled worker of today is a worker within the transition process from semi-automatic machine production to completely automatic power production. His contradictions and frustrations are the contradiction and frustration of a class society which cannot complete the revolutionizing of the instruments of production. The bourgeoisie uses the most advanced techniques and completely automatic processes, to propagandize the worker as to the advantages of capitalism in advertisements, gadgets, means of consumption, but it cannot use them in production because that would require a complete destruction of the class relations of bourgeois society.

The economic necessity for new production relations for fully automatic production is recognized even by bourgeois consultants. Leaver and Brown in the artic1e which we have cited, write:

"The whole trend of present automatic controls and devices applied to present production machines is to degrade the worker into an unskiIled and tradeless non-entity. The development of completely automatic production lines would reverse this by demanding a skilled force of technicians and operators. The astonishingly rapid development of new skills and occupations under the pressures of war shows that men are up to it."

Even more dramatically, Polakov wrote a dozen years ago:

"With the advent of the Power Age, the tendency toward specialized men and universalized machines is gradually changing toward special single-purpose machines and all-around 'universalized' mechanics."

"What the Power Age requires of workers is something altogether different from the qualifications of the Machine Age or the pre-machine era workers."

"The Power Age worker's new requirements--his mental alertness, general intelligence, 'polytechnic literacy' and loyal dependability--are making him less and less a 'beast of burden', a mere 'machine hand', and more and more an intelligent human being, an all-around educated man, defining 'educated man' as 'those who can do everything that others do.' (Hegel)" [6]

 

Under Penalty of Death

But it was Marx who eighty years ago in Capital posed the problem with the most dramatic sharpness:

"Modern Industry, through its catastrophes, imposes the necessity of recognizing as a fundamental law of production, variation of work, consequently fitness of the laborer for varied work, consequently the greatest possible development of his varied aptitudes. It becomes a question of life and death for society to adapt the mode of production to the normal functioning of this law. Modern Industry, indeed, compels society, under penalty of death, to replace the detail-worker of today, crippled by life-long repetition of one and the same trivial operation, and thus reduced to a fragment of a man, by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labors, ready to face any change of production, and to whom the different social functions he performs, are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers."

Modern Industry, contemporary industry, has proved the scientific character of Marx's prognosis. It was no abstract philosophy regarding the universality of men nor sympathy for the degraded detail workers which enabled Marx to write with such penetration and foresight. Because he recognized that the essence of the machine was not its employment of mechanical powers, but rather its human nature, not what it produced but how it produced, he was able to anticipate that in time all human sensitivities would be embodied in machinery and that this, the human nature of industry, would be meaningless to men unless their human capacities were developed correspondingly. As he wrote in 1844:

"On the one hand, therefore, inasmuch as everywhere for man in society, objective actuality becomes the actuality of human essential capacities, human actuality and thus the actuality of his own essential capacities, all objects become for him the objectification of himself; objects affirming and realizing his individuality, his objects, he himself becomes object... Not only in thought but with all his senses, man is thus affirmed in the objective world."

"On the other hand, from the subjective point of view, an object has sense for me only insofar as my essential capacity is subjective capacity for itself, because the sense of an object for me... goes just so far as my sensitivity goes." [7]

The bourgeoisie today flounders about helplessly in the face of the social ruin which its rule has created. Never have the means of production been so highly developed, yet never have they seemed so inadequate to the task of elementary economic reconstruction. The penalty of death hangs over all humanity. The concrete alternatives are a continuation of the existing barbarism or the rebuilding of society by the enrichment of the human capacities of the workers.

This is one of the deepest aspects of Marx' s concept of historical materialism which has been concretely disclosed by the development of modern society with all its wealth in productive machinery and its poverty in social relations. The class relations of bourgeois production, by being a fetter upon the productive powers of the workers, are also a fetter upon the development of the means of production. The yearning and capacity of the masses for universality is only the concrete proof that the emancipation of society rests with them. The key to increased productivity and the reconstruction of society is the development of the humanity of the workers. It is this perspective of human freedom which the socialist revolution opens up before modern man.

 

CHAPTER III
CLASS INDIVIDUAL AND THE SOCIAL INDIVIDUAL

Marx did not write lightly of the penalty of death which faces modern society. The problem of revolutionizing the social relations to conform to the development of the productive forces is so critical for capitalist society, and particularly for American capitalist society, that the bourgeoisie has been forced to take cognizance of it in an organized fashion. At Harvard, for example, under the direction of Professor Elton Mayo, the intellectual servants of the bourgeoisie have advised it that "economic logic" and "technical invention" go hand in hand with an increasing social disintegration.

So hostile is the working class to existing social relations that it carries on an incessant revolt in the labor process itself, not only against any attempts to increase its productivity but also and essentially against any attempt to maintain productivity at all. As early as 1919, Herbert Hoover, head of the European Relief Commission, reported that what was holding up the reconstruction of Europe was "demoralized productivity." Today, the demoralized productivity is so deep-going, so pervasive, that without the destruction of class production relations and the development of universality in the workers, what society faces is the common ruin of the contending classes.

Mayo's researches, carried on in the factories, have led him to the conclusion that the workers function as a group and not as individuals. He writes:

"In every department that continues to operate, the workers have, whether aware of it or not, formed themselves into a group with appropriate customs, duties, routines, even rituals; and management succeeds (or fails) in proportion as it is accepted without reservation by the group as authority and leader."

The bourgeoisie is deeply disturbed at the attitudes of this working group. Nor is their concern only with the workers' hostility to the foreman, supervisor or boss. According to Mayo, the workers govern their activity in the shop by a social code which includes four axioms:

"You should not turn out too much work; if you do, you are a 'ratebuster.'"

"You should not turn out too little work; if you do, you are a chiseler."

"You should not say anything to a supervisor which would react to the detriment of one of your associates."

"You should not be too officious; that is, if you are an inspector, you should not act like one."

 

Disintegration of Old Social Ties

These four "don'ts" are the expression of the worker's alienation from any social purpose beyond those of the protection of his working group. They symbolize the disintegration of the old social ties of bourgeois society. A disintegration going on apace at its very core. The workers create a new social tie, their class solidarity. But precisely because the class does not find within the given, the capitalist society, any expression of social needs, precisely because it instinctively realizes that the existing social needs are the class needs of an alien class, this new social tie is expressed in a negative manner, creative only in devising means to oppose the given society.

Mayo goes on to say:

"Insistence upon a merely economic logic of production, especially if the logic is frequently changed, interferes with the development of... a code [of human collaboration ] and consequently gives rise in the group to a sense of defeat. This human defeat results in the formation of a social code at a lower level and in opposition to the economic logic."

Mayo does not know how profound are his observations. The workers today, pressing toward the revolution in the productive forces which require their classless universality or existence as social individuals, are instead forced by the production relations of capitalism into a class community. They create new social ties negatively because capitalist production relations prevent them from creating them positively. Their discipline, unity and organization as created by large-scale capitalism, are exercised in the service of their class, and class existence is not social existence but alien existence.

So long, therefore, as class existence is necessary, the workers cannot exercise their complete human capacities. They belong to the community "only as average individuals, only insofar as they live within the conditions of existence of their class... a relationship in which they participate not as individuals but as members of a class." (Marx, German Ideology.) The desire of the workers, and the economic and human necessity of society, is that the workers exist as social individuals. The oppressive weight of bourgeois relations forces them to exist only as average class individuals. "The lower social code" by which they govern themselves is their only protection against the enemy class.

The capitalists fear this "lower social code" because it impedes their need for surplus value and they seek to undermine it by destroying the unity of the workers, creating company men, etc. The workers hate this code because it conflicts with their natural human desire to do a good job and forces them to subordinate their individual personalities to the defensive needs of the class. Nowhere more than in the United States is there such a sharp division "within the life of each individual so far as it is personal and insofar as it is determined by some brand of labor and the conditions pertaining to it." (German Ideology.) The U.S. working class is hostile to class existence because it is a comparatively new working class without the European revolutionary tradition of opposition to the feudal aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. The American workers must struggle as a class and yet they and their confinement to a class position continually oppressive.

Degraded to badge numbers, the individual workers seek to distinguish themselves by their clothing, their knowledge of baseball players, movie stars, etc. They are pressing against the conditions of life of class society. The Negroes, the most oppressed layer and therefore the layer of society most confined to average existence in contemporary society, are the ones who reveal most deadly this contradiction between the human need for individual expression and the class need for uniformity. They hate being regarded as Negroes and yet are determined that society should recognize their growing revolutionary mobilization as Negroes. Each individual Negro may seek individual distinction in dress etc., but the individual distinction immediately becomes a uniformity of the race.

 

The Fully-Developed Individual

The bourgeoisie seeks to inculcate into the workers the idea that under the new socialist society their individuality will be destroyed. Sceptical tho they are of bourgeois propaganda in general, the workers are not un-receptive to this propaganda. Yet it is the class relations of bourgeois society which regiment the workers at the machine and impose average uniform existence upon their social lives. At every point in production, the workers are deprived of any opportunity for creative individuality. Any positive exercise of inventiveness in productivity would only react to the detriment of their class. "With the community of revolutionary proletarians, on the other hand, who take their conditions of existence and those of all members of society under their control, it is just the reverse; it is as individuals that the individuals participate in it." (German Ideology.)

Marx never wrote of the new socialist society without specifically emphasizing the fully developed individual who would be the basis of such a society. But the essence of individuality for Marx was the expression of self- activity in relation to the development of the productive forces and therefore a historical and not an abstract reality. To be an individual at any stage of society's development, the person must embody the previous gains of the species and the multiplicity of talents which these have made possible.

For nearly a century, capitalism, with its fetishism of commodities, has so dulled man's understanding of himself that he has believed individualism to be indistinguishable from personal aggrandizement and competition with others. Yet, when the bourgeoisie was revolutionary, i.e., could speak in the name of society, the essential characteristic of the successful capitalist was not his increase of his private coffers at the expense of others, but rather his "enterprise" which tore apart the mysteries in which the feudal guilds had surrounded production and destroyed the local barriers separating men from one another. Because the bourgeois revolutions destroyed the feudal fetters on man's self-activity, the bourgeois individual was essentially a co-worker with other individuals, expanding the horizon of society. He was in this sense a social individual. For this reason, the bourgeois individual not only expanded his wealth but also his physical and mental capacities, creating the most vibrant, energetic and cosmopolitan individual that society had ever known. [8]

This concept of the social individual has been lost in bourgeois society precisely because the bourgeoisie is no longer self-active, but has become the victim itself of the system which accumulates wealth at one pole while accumulating misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality and degradation at the opposite pole, i.e. on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital. As Marx was the first to point out:

"Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is ours only when we have it, when it exists for us as capital, or when we possess it directly, eat it, drink it, wear it on our body, in short, use it... For all the physical and spiritual senses, therefore, the sense of possession which is the simple alienation of all these senses, has been substituted." ("Private Property and Communism.")

Hence, with the decline of bourgeois society, or the development of its production relations into fetters upon the self-activity of individuals, the essence of the bourgeois individual becomes ruthless competition and accumulation in antagonism to the rest of society. To get there the "fastest with the mostest," the bourgeois individual must deprive all men, including himself, of all the human senses. Not he but value becomes the subject. He becomes respectable only as personified capital, i.e. to the degree that he serves the self-expansion of capital.

 

The Creation of New Social Ties

In opposition to the ruthless antagonistic competition of the bourgeoisie, the working class exercises all its ingenuity to devise means of suppressing its productive energies, at the expense not only of the bourgeoisie but even of the working class itself. In many shops what tires the workers out is not chiefly the physical exertions of their labor but the constant attention needed not to give the company a "fair day's work," because the worker refuses to be measured in terms of a "fair day's pay." Since man's essence is to exercise his self-activity and all his senses in a socially productive way, the slowdown, the self-imposed discipline against making suggestions for improving production, the deliberate neglect of the machine, are a constant source of frustration to the workers themselves.

It is only when the routine daily struggle of the class explodes into violent activity against the bourgeoisie (the throwing of a foreman out of the window, the conflict with the police on the mass picket line, etc.), activities which require an overt exercise of their creative energies, that the workers feel themselves as human. As a result, the return from the picket line to the covert class struggle is even more frustrating than if the strike had never taken place. The molecular development of these offensives and retreats can only explode in the revolution which will enable the working class to employ its creative energies not only in smashing the old relations of production but also in establishing new social ties of a positive and creative character.

The solidarity of the working class in its struggle against the capitalist class is only one side of the concept of socialized labor, a side which even the AFL bureaucrat can understand. It does not by any means begin to exhaust or even approximate the profound concept of the new social ties which Marx saw as the essence of socialism. Marx knew well the vulgar Communists of his day with their crude conception of levelling, and he answered them with a history sweep which has been amply justified by the development of the instruments of production.

"Social activity and social spirit by no means exist merely in the form of direct community activity and direct community spirit." However "community activity and spirit, i.e. activity and spirit which are expressed and asserted directly in actual society with other men, are to be found where--ever such an immediate expression of sociality is based on the essential content of the activity and are suited to its nature."

The essential content of productive activity today is the cooperative form of the labor process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labor into instruments of labor only usable in common, the economising of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialized labor, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world-market, and this, the international character of the capitalist regime.

The bourgeoisie maintains a fetter on this essentially social activity by isolating individuals from one another through competition, by separating the intellectual powers of production from the manual labor, by suppressing the creative organizational talents of the broad masses, by dividing the world up into spheres of influence.

This conflict between the invading socialist society and the bourgeois fetters preventing its emergence is part of the daily experience of every worker.

The worker who longs for an overall conception of his production and its relation to others, who walks about speaking to other workers about their work, who emphatically goes through the motions of his co-workers, who sees in the skill of the German workers the key to rebuilding Europe, will understand what Marx meant by social activity because it is precisely this which he is constantly seeking to substitute for the isolation, estrangement and provincialism of bourgeois social relations.

The bourgeoisie in its revolutionary days could exist as social individuals only because it unleashed the creative capacity of human forces. Today, both the material and the human forces can become truly social. The unleashing of these more developed forces today by the proletarian revolution will make the workers into really social individuals who will be more inclusive of society and more representative of the gains of the species than the bourgeoisie was even in its heyday.

 

CHAPTER IV
IN SOCIETY WITH OTHER MEN

The worker in the modern factory is constantly torn between his human desire to cooperate with his fellow workers and the restricted relation to other men to which he is confined as a detail laborer. The development of all-sided universal man in the productive process is the key to the establishment of human relations between man and man. "That man is alienated from his species-essence means that one man is alienated from another and every man is alienated from human essence." ("Alienated Labor") Conversely, only when man becomes all-round universal man within the process of production, can he have human relations to other men first inside and then outside the process of production. This is the key to the sterility of the petty-bourgeois intellectuals and it is the key to the abolition of the alienated relations between the sexes and the antagonistic relations between the races.

 

The Intellectuals and the Quest for Universality

The petty-bourgeois intellectuals, today, are seeking for universality but in an alienated fashion because they are themselves the product of the division between manual and mental labor which is the climax of class relations. This division of labor is the culminating point of the inhumanity of class relations because it deprives both poles of the division of one essential aspect of human existence necessary to develop even their economic functions. To the degrading alienation of the manual worker from the intellectual processes of his production, there corresponds the debilitating alienation of the brain worker from the manual application of his ideas. The army aphorism that every officer needed a group of enlisted men to take care of him illustrates the impotence to which even the ruling class is condemned by this division of labor. Corresponding and arising from the monotonous repetition of certain manual tasks by the worker at the machine is the specialization in various detailed phases of technical production by the brain worker. In the oil refining industry, for example, one technician is confined to designing the cooling towers, another to fractionating towers, a third to piping and a fourth to chemical processes. In the rest of society, the same fragmentation develops. To the nurse whose daily existence is haunted by the thermometer and the bed pan, there corresponds at the other pole the eye, ear and nose specialist who performs fifty routine tonsilectomies in a working day. Schoolteachers are compelled to act as drillmasters and policemen to recalcitrant pupils, dissatisfied with an outmoded academic regimen.

If the workers feel their incomplete humanity and struggle against it, the intellectuals and technicians are even more restless because more inclined to introspection, more isolated from one another and therefore without the means for struggle which capitalist production creates for socialized labor. Being more facile and less confined by the immediate needs of their work and with a deep-seated conviction, nourished by their status in society, that they should be universal men, they develop hobbies, create fantastic dreams of a new world or escape to the "sweet monotony of toil" close to the earth.

With the decline of every society and with the consequent inability of the individuals of the ruling class to express any more the social essence of humanity, the petty-bourgeois moralists, horrified by the barbarism and decay, begin to get lost in the philosophic jungle of counterposing the individual as representative of individuality to society as representative of totality. As Marx pointed out, in exposing the idealism of the True Socialists, "Society is abstracted from these individuals, it is made independent, it relapses into savagery on its own, and the individual suffers only as a result of this relapse." (German ldeology) That is how the Existentialists are thinking today. They would rescue the individual from society ("Hell is other people" - Sartre).

 

Workers' Activity -- the Key

By contrast, Marx, with his eye on the development of social activity and social objects in the process of production, specifically warned: "We should especially avoid re-establishing society as an abstraction opposed to the individual. The individual is the social essence. His expression of life, although it may not appear in the direct form of a communal-type life carried out simultaneously with others, is therefore an expression and assertion of social living. The individual and the species life of man are not distinct." ("Private Property and Communism")

The basic philosophic reason for the incapacity of the petty-bourgeois intellectuals to develop the concept of the social individual is their confinement within the vulgar materialism and uncritical idealism of defining bourgeois society. This is a reflection in thought of the division in class society between manual and mental labor. In its revolutionary days, the bourgeois ideologists could see the basis of society in the productive activity of individual men. (Adam Smith - Labor is the source of all wealth.) Thus the basic class conception of the division of labor between leisure activities and productive activities was for a brief period subordinated in the vigorous industrial development. But with the increasing class differentiation of bourgeois society, productive activity becomes a symbol of degradation.

Industry is not "regarded in connection with the essence of man" but "only in terms of the external relations of utility." Although the products of industry are in reality the "objectified essential capacities of man," they are regarded only as "useful objects in ordinary material industry." Correspondingly, the true universality of men is sought not in the productive process but only in intellectual pursuits like art, science, religion, etc. The more the productive activity of the worker becomes degraded, the more the intellectual takes the "dirt" of labor for granted and seeks salvation in a realm of ideas and programs as remote as possible from the process of production. The petty-bourgeoisie today seeks to build its own philosophic community where ideas hold sway and what is important is not what men think but the fact that they think. Such a Platonic conclusion follows inevitably from the incapacity to see in the misery of the workers anything but misery.

Marx never took his eyes off the workers' activity in production because he never lost sight of the revolution which would transform labor into a human activity. Conversely, because he always had this revolution in mind, his main concern was always the actual life of the workers. As he insisted: "If you proceed from production, you necessarily concern yourself with the real conditions of production and with the productive activity of men. But if you proceed from consumption, you merely declare that consumption is not at present 'human,' that it is necessary to cultivate true consumption and so on. Content with this, you can afford to ignore the real living conditions and the activity of men." (German ldeology.)

The petty-bourgeois economists of the New Deal variety, who seek to alleviate the ills of bourgeois society, follow this pattern precisely. They think always in terms of the underconsumption or inhuman consumption of society. The agitation around atomic energy, for example, is always in terms of its inhuman use and not in terms of the objectified human capacities which it represents and can develop. When a depression threatens, the only solution the economist can find is increased purchasing power for the workers. When automatic production is recommended, the alarm is immediately set up that it will throw men out of work and therefore leave no market. This is the typical petty-bourgeois indifference to the worker' s productive life and therefore to the essential activity of man.

Not only is this so. It cannot be otherwise so long as the degradation of the activity of the worker is the means whereby production is expanded, i.e. so long as the proletariat remains proletariat. All the concentration of the economists and the reformists upon increasing consumption is only a reflection of this essential disregard, inherent in bourgeois society, of the activity of the producers. The problems of consumption will never be re-solved until the release of the human capacities of the producers resolves the problems of production. That is why the proletarian revolution which will release these capacities will bring about such a profound social change. By releasing the productive forces of the producers themselves, it will also release society from the preoccupation with the end-product and the accumulation and distribution of this end product. Men's thoughts can then be turned to the development of man's humanity in the process of production itself.

 

The Emancipation of Women

The development of man's humanity in the process of production is the only basis for establishing a human relation between men and women. Under the conditions of class society, the relationship of man to woman develops primarily as a sexual relationship and not as a relationship between human beings. "Because man is alienated in the productive process he feels himself more at home in his animal functions, eating, drinking, procreating, while in his human functions he feels more like an animal." ("Alienated Labor" )

The more man feels alienated from his humanity in production, the more he is driven to try to find his humanity, that is, to realize himself, as a man, in consumption, and particularly, in the sexual relation. This is true of the genus Man, i.e. both men and women. The more women are drawn by capitalism out of the division of labor between the sexes in the domestic sphere and into the alienated labor of production in the factory, the more they also feel at home not in their productive activity but in their sexual relations to men. For both, the sexual relation is what Marx called an animal relation because it is abstracted "from the rest of the range of human activity." (ibid) The greater the alienation in production, the greater the necessity to intensify and glorify the sexual relation with romance, etc. In the United States, this glorification has achieved its purest expression because in the United States, without feudal hangovers and with advanced industrial production, the relationship between men and women is a product of the alienated activity of both in the process of production. Within this framework the equality of the sexes is the equality of alienated man and alienated woman. Within the framework of class society, therefore, the emancipation of women is an emancipation of them as females and not as human beings. In order for the sexual relation to become a human relation, i.e. for eating, drinking, and procreating which are also human functions, to become human relations, it is necessary that the genus Man be emancipated from alienated labor. This is not to deny the importance of women struggling as women for emancipation. The workers must assert themselves as a class in order to achieve recognition as human beings and in order to recognize their own strength as human beings. Their class struggle is "the necessary form and energetic principle of the immediate future but it is not as such the goal of human development and the form of human society." ("Private Property and Communism.") Analogously, in order for women not to have to assert themselves as women in order to achieve recognition, it is necessary that the genus Man not be driven to seek in the opposite sex what Marx called his "common needs" rather than his "human needs."

A revolution in the relations between men and women requires a revolution in the mode of production according to the development of the wealth of human capacities contained in industry and hence also in man. "The restricted relation of men to nature determines their restricted relation to one another." (German Ideology.) Today, the basis for overcoming this restricted relation of men to nature lies in the appropriation of the productive powers by man. There can thus be built a new economic foundation for a human rather than a restricted relation between the sexes. In no sphere of human relations will the new social ties be more obvious. For the first time both men and women will be emancipated from the preoccupation with the sexual relation in its biological or romanticized form.

 

The Human Relation Between the Races

The antagonisms between the races will also find its final resolution only through the development of all-sided universal man in the process of production. The Negro is forced by the oppression of his race in the existing, i.e. capitalist society, to fight as a Negro. This nationalistic revolt continually shakes the stability of the existing society and is therefore one of the most important contributing factors to the success of the proletarian revolution.

It is however, in the social community, created in the heat of the class struggle, e.g., in the sitdown strikes which built the CIO, that the relations between white and Negro workers are the relations between revolutionary men, i.e. men who feel themselves bound in a social cause and therefore instinctively recognize themselves and each other as universal men, social individuals. The pattern laid in this self-mobilization is the pattern which will be created in the process of production itself by the social revolution. A completely new mode of production will be created which will develop the men of both races as universal all-sided men who can have human relations rather than race relations with one another.

So long as each man has an exclusive sphere of activity which is forced upon him and from which he can not escape, he must have an alienated relation to other men and particularly to those men from whom an easy distinction can be made on superficial characteristics. The inhumanity of man to man is the result of the inhumanity of every man in his specifically human, i.e. productive functions. The increasing frustration of man in production drives him to an increasing alienation from his fellow men outside the process of production. Only through the development of all-sided men will this process be reversed. The alternative is a police state to hold together the men alienated from one another in society.

Thus, all problems of social relations in the crisis of contemporary society, the alienation of the manual and mental workers, the family, the state, race tensions--all drive us back to the one essential problem--how to release the humanity of man in the process of production. It was by keeping his eye on the process of production that Marx was able to develop a truly social philosophy in which all men, of both sexes, of all races and of all occupations, were viewed as all-round human beings. This philosophy he called "humanistic naturalism" or "naturalistic humanism." Civilization has never known and could never have known a more human philosophy because civilization has never known a situation where the developed existence of industry and of human psychology can be what Marx called "the opened book of human capacities." The bourgeoisie must keep this book closed. The proletarian revolution will force it open and release all those imprisoned within the alienation and fragmentation of bourgeois society.

 

CHAPTER V
THE CRISIS OF THE CAPITALISTS

No ruling class has ever been able to maintain itself for long in the face of contempt from the masses as to its economic powers. The workers today have lost respect for the bourgeoisie as technical administrators. They do not so much hate the bourgeoisie as despise it. The workers every-where say: "It is getting so that supervision don't give a damn about anything." The war brought this contempt to a head when the workers found that, despite the propaganda about the boys at the front, they had to loaf on the job because profits had been guaranteed by cost-plus. The workers recognize that the bourgeoisie's only respectability remains its right to hire and fire, and in strike after strike in the post-war wave, they have defied this cherished prerogative.

Knowing that its economic logic has carried it to this impasse and terrified by the production revolts of the workers, the bourgeoisie is seeking today to resolve its crisis by teaching the bosses to be social administrators rather than technical administrators. Listen to Elton Mayo:

"We do not lack an able administrative elite but the elite of the several civilized powers is at present insufficiently posted in the biological and social facts involved in social organization and control."

"If at all critical posts in communal activity we had intelligent persons capable of analyzing an individual or group attitude in terms of, first the degree of logical misunderstanding manifest; second, the non-logic of social codes in action, and third, the irrational exasperation symptomatic of conflict and baffled effort; if we had an elite capable of such analysis, many of our difficulties would dwindle to vanishing point."

This is the idealism which if organized into political form would be nothing less than Fascism. The big bourgeoisie of Germany created Hitlerism for precisely these ends.

Organic to bourgeois society is the concept that the masses must be administered. If technical administration does not keep them quiet, then social administration must be introduced. If social administration by private capitalists does not succeed in obtaining the collaboration of the workers, then there must be organized social administration of the masses by the state.

Every solution to the discontent of the workers can be tried by the bourgeoisie except the one solution which would get at the roots of the discontent, namely, the appropriation by the workers of all the knowledge, science and control which is incorporated in industry.

 

The Recourse to Mass Psychiatry

The bourgeoisie is unable to surrender to the workers the human nature of industry. They must therefore construct a theory that the psychological illness of the workers constitutes the human nature of the workers. Compare with this Marx's conception of human psychology as the "opened book of human capacities!" The gap between the psychological conceptions of man as ill and of man as striving toward a complete humanity is not only a theoretical one. It is firmly rooted in the class relations. Because the workers can no longer adapt themselves to the existing, i.e., capitalist society, bourgeois thought can only believe that the fault is with the workers and not with existing society.

Unable to open the book of human capacities, the bourgeoisie seeks to console the workers through the agency of a mediator. The class basis for this mediator was analyzed by Marx one hundred years ago.

"Every self-alienation of man from himself and from nature appears in the relationship by which he surrenders himself and nature to another man differentiated from him. Thus religious self-alienation necessarily appears in the relationship of the layman to the priest, or also, since it is here a question of the intellectual world, to a mediator. In the practical actual world, self-alienation can only appear through the practical actual relation to another man." ("Alienated Labor.")

The bourgeoisie thinks that by listening sympathetically to the personal troubles of the workers, they will thereby give dignity to labor and personality to the workers. This is the confessional of the personnel office, Mr. Anthony in the shop. It is the modern version of the priestly confessional. Stemming from the attitude to the workers in the shop, it is today running riot through all spheres of society, and particularly American society, as is evidenced in the post-war movies.

The Catholic Church was developed to mediate between man and God, who according to the Christian doctrine was only the human nature of man (Christ). In the same way, today, an elite of psychiatrists is to be developed to mediate between the workers and their human nature embodied in industry. The elite is to become man' s priestly nature.

But unlike the priests of the Catholic Church, today's mediators between the workers and their human nature must exercise a total control over the workers precisely because of the striving for totality and universality in the workers. If total control of the productive process is not exercised by the workers, then the mediators must exercise total control of all aspects of the workers' lives. If the social productive powers of the workers are not enriched, then the knowledge by the administrators of the physiology, psychology and sociology of the workers must be thoroughly organized. The solution proposed by Mayo can arise only out of the contempt for the working class so organic to the bourgeoisie and its hired prize-fighters. But for precisely this reason this contempt is not to be dismissed lightly. When challenged, it passes very easily over into fear and desperate counter-revolutionary measures. One year after the defeat of Hitler in Europe, Mayo's book originally written in 1933, was reprinted by Harvard University. It is a warning not only to the workers but also to the petty-bourgeoisie which continues to bury its soul in individual psychiatry when the bourgeoisie is laying a base for mass psychiatry.

The consultants to the bourgeoisie today offer the same solution to the class antagonism as Hegel offered in his time to the Prussian state. What they are calling for are wiser men, better administrators, men who have a consciousness of the new "psychological reality of 1947." As Hegel, viewing the extreme opposition of classes demanded that a universal class be adapted to the task of mediation (Philosophy of Right), so the bourgeois consultants today seek to embody universal knowledge in the administrative elite. In 1819, Hegel began only with the idealism of the intellectuals and their rear of the masses. He had to end with the concept of the totalitarian state. There was no other alternative. Any attempt to make the masses object rather than subject, any attempt to take the initiative way from them at a time when their objective and subjective need is to assume the complete initiative, can only end by stamping out all their initiative. Fascist Germany has given us living proof that as soon as this occurs, barbarism for the rest of the nation follows immediately.

But if this is the perspective today without the social revolution, it is also a guide to the all-sided development of man which the proletarian revolution must introduce. The only effective struggle against Fascism is the revolutionary struggle for universal man. The Lutheran revolution destroyed the priest as mediator and permitted man to become his own interpreter of human nature in God. The proletarian revolution must destroy every barrier which mediates between the workers and the objectively unfolded wealth of their human nature.

 

CHAPTER VI
THE WORKERS' CRITIQUE OF POLITICS

The rise of Fascism and the impotence of political democracy as a weapon against it have robbed the petty-bourgeoisie of the illusion that its arguments and ideas were the locomotive of history. But the crisis of the petty-bourgeoisie is the crisis of politics and here as always, the instinctive attitudes of the working class must be our guide. The modern American worker is supremely indifferent to politics. Three hundred and sixty-five days in the year, it matters little or nothing to him whether a Democrat or a Republican holds office. And on the three hundred and sixty-sixth day, he usually cares only if it is a presidential year. This lack of political interest has its roots in the American development. The experience of the workers has been that Democratic or Republican, whatever the differences or lack of difference in the platform, successful candidates acted according to the needs of the American capitalist economy.

Because different political parties have made so little difference to the actual development of the American economy, politics has been mainly a competition between groups of capitalists, organized into political machines, to cut for themselves bigger slices of the American pie. The pie was enormous and the politicians were begrudged their cuts only occasionally. Particularly in the cities where the political machines ruled during the invasion of immigrants from Europe, there was complete candor between the machine and the voters as to the code governing elections. Politics was an exchange of votes for the very real if inexpensive favors on the many problems that beset the foreign-born worker in a confusing new environment. However with the integration of the immigrant workers and the passing of the political machine, the machinery of politics has been exposed in all its nakedness. The result has been that the American workers are beginning to make their own profound critique of bourgeois politics as a fraud and a deception making no difference to their actual life.

 

The Illusory Political Community

In this, the American workers express with unerring instinct the same truth at which Marx arrived by his thoughtful study of the French Revolution. Politics, Marx said, was profoundly and essentially bourgeois. Its basis is the domination of one class over another and its consolation is that it provides the individual who is actually alienated in his material life with the illusion that he is participating in a social community. In their striving for complete emancipation, men go through the stage of political emancipation because it represents a progressive step over the domination of men by the opiate of religion. Religion gives men the illusion of democracy only in the heavenly kingdom. Political democracy at least brings the kingdom closer to earth.

But "political emancipation is the reduction of man, on the one side, to the member of bourgeois society, to the egoistic independent individual, on the other side, to the citizen, to the moral person." The more man is alienated from his true humanity in the process of production as a worker, the stronger must be the opiate that he is a social individual in his political relationships as a citizen. Hence, the necessity for the Fascist state. But "not until the real individual man is identical with the citizen and has become a generic being in his empirical life, in his individual work, in his individual relationships, not until man has recognized and organized his own capacities as social capacities and consequently the social force is no longer divided by the political power, not until then will human emancipation be achieved."

That is what Marx conceived as socialism--the actual appropriation by the workers in their productive material life, of their human capacities. Politics and the state would wither away, because it would no longer be necessary to maintain the illusory political community.

The analysis which Marx made of politics applies not only to bourgeois politics but to all attempts to substitute the political community for the actual community of emancipated man in the labor process. Thus, what dominates the life of the United States today is not the bourgeois parliament in Washington, which is at this moment beginning to appear as little more than an investigations committee, but what has been wisely called the "economic parliaments" of the trade union councils and conventions. It is the trade unions which today form the political community for millions of workers and to which therefore must be applied the Marxist criticism of politics.

 

The Industrial Organization of Labor

The American worker today has transferred his cynicism regarding bourgeois politics to trade union politics. In the trade union hall and at trade union meetings, he sees different caucuses vying for power and for the administration of the union. In creating the industrial union movement the workers felt that they were creating an instrument for their social emancipation. Now, however, the union appears only as an arena for opposing political groupings. The worker wonders why the labor leaders whom he has created should behave as they do. The answer to his question must be sought in the actual development of the capitalist mode of production. Thereby, we cannot only explain the labor bureaucracy to the workers but also to itself.

A labor union like the United Steel Workers of America embraces close to a million workers and includes not only steel foundries but iron-ore mines of the Mesabi, the aluminum rolling mills of Alcoa, Tennessee, the locomotive shops of Schenectady and the can factories of San Francisco. The structure of such a union is an industrial government with branches and divisions, not only parallelling those of the steel monopolies but even rivalling those of the national government. There is a legal department, a research and engineering department, a contract department, an accounting department, and a legislative department. The trade union machinery corresponds department for department, plant for plant, company for company, city for city, state for state to the machinery of the bourgeoisie.

The overall operations of such a union are the means whereby unity and continuity of production is maintained for different industrial units all the way from the mining of ore to the finishing of steam shovels. The United Steel Workers Union has been aptly termed U.S.A. The petty-bourgeoisie rants about the control which such giant unions have over the country. The big bourgeoisie knows that without these unions, it would be virtually impossible for it to keep production going for more than a few days. Modern society has reached the point where what is decisive is not the interlocking of financial wealth or directorates but the interlocking of production. For this the union or some kind of organization of labor is absolutely essential.

The union contract which is the constitution of this industrial government is the modus operandi of the actual process of production. It contains the analysis, breakdown and codification of the actual labor process of the millions of workers engaged in these industries. The most important features of the union contract are not the wage rates nor even the hours, but rather the unending rules and regulations regarding classifications of work, conditions of labor, piece-rates, etc.

These classifications and rulings are the classifications and rulings of the alienated, fragmented activity of the workers. They are the modern analogue of the old guild restrictions of feudal society. But whereas the guild restrictions were a barrier to the division of labor necessary to unlock the mysteries of production, today's codifications of alienated labor are a barrier to the reintegration and synthesis necessary to revolutionize the process of production. The revolutionary potentialities inherent in the productive forces, both material and human, have reached the point where the codification of the alienated labor process is a restriction on the economic necessities and actual yearnings of the workers for universality and reintegration.

The union contract governs the life of the worker from morning to night, during every minute of his working hours. The petty-bourgeois concept of the "social contract" was the myth of isolated individuals in which each counted only as one in forming the political community. The union contract is the actual reality of the fragmented individual in the labor process. The workers defend the union contract as a weapon against the bourgeoisie given the present relations of production. Not to defend the contract would intensify their exploitation because it would enable the bourgeoisie to force upon them a quantitative increase in alienated labor of the same quality. Moreover, and even more important, is the fact that the workers have won the contract through class warfare and see it as a symbol of victories won against the bourgeoisie. At the same time, instinctively, the workers feel that the classifications only codify their alienation. The workers fight hard for better contracts, they demand that the labor leaders get better contracts for them. But when the contract is won, the workers sense immediately that it represents a new shackle on them and an added responsibility for continuous production. Hence, they snort at the contract and console themselves that their struggle at least brought them a raise. It is a demonstration of the fact that the reforms of better contracts remain within the framework of alienated labor and only decrease its quantity.

 

The Dilemma of the Labor Leadership

The labor leader of today has no special privileges or skills to protect as did the organized workers of the old craft unions. More often than not, he has but recently come from the bench, and in actual salary and standard of living does not exceed the workers whom he represents. What corrupts the labor leadership is its role in the process of production itself. The labor leadership is the administrator of the union contract.

Because the labor bureaucracy represents the divisions of labor within the capitalist mode of production, its representation of the ranks must turn into an administration of the ranks. The labor bureaucracy is the agent of the workers but it is the agent of the alienated, i.e. semi-skilled workers. It is not, like the old Social-Democracy, an agent of the capitalists but it is a representative of the capitalist mode of production. The labor bureaucrat sits down with the capitalists and works out time-studies and classifications, not because he is collaborating with them as individuals but because they both represent the capitalist mode of production. That is why there is practically no difference between the time-study provisions of the union, the company and the labor relations board. And that is why, also, every committee man has at some time or other had misgivings about sending an aggrieved worker back to his bench on the basis of such provisions.

The wildcat strikes which have dotted the American landscape since the middle of the war are an expression of the hostility of groups of workers in isolated departments here and there against the alienated character of their labor. Once begun, they become the signal for other workers in other departments to revolt against the general alienation. The sharp words of a foreman, 90 heat, a new division of labor, any one of these can bring about a wildcat strike which erupts in the midst of the interlocking "socialized production" between the various industrial plants. It is precisely for this reason that the labor bureaucracy is so hostile to the wildcat strikes. The union bureaucracy represents the unification and stabilization of alienated labor. On the other hand, the wildcat strikes represent a revolt against alienated labor. The union bureaucracy pledges union responsibility in exchange for union security, but it cannot deliver because union responsibility depends on the ranks, and the ranks do not regard the stabilization of the status quo in production as their mission. The bureaucracy prefers well-organized national strikes to wildcats. Production is paralyzed as a whole, there is no disruption of the interlocking of production, and with everything shut down, there is no necessity for the mass picket lines which can erupt into conflicts with the state.

But the trade unions are not merely a structuralization of the existing mode of production. They are also the fruit of the expanding unity of the workers, a unity expanding along with the cooperative form of the labor process and exploding in the strikes which organize the union in opposition to the bourgeoisie. In this sense, they are schools of communism for the workers and have an intrinsically political character whether or not they take political expression on the parliamentary arena. It is this aspect of the trade union movement, the fact that they threaten a political movement of the working class against the bourgeoisie, which the capitalists fear most and which they are always seeking to undermine. Similarly it is this aspect of the trade unions which the workers are most prepared to defend against any attempts of the bourgeois state to destroy their organized strength.

In the same way, the labor leadership is not only the representative of the bourgeois mode of production but also the militant leadership thrown up by the mass movement. In this sense, the labor leadership represents the social movement of the masses against their alienated labor, represents their creative unity in action, and their need to appropriate the instruments of production in the all-sided way which, as we have shown, is only possible with a completely new mode of production.

The trade union leadership therefore has a dual character. It is the administrator for the capitalist mode of production but it maintains its hold on the masses only through the social, political and economic gains which it represents to the masses as a result of past struggles and as a promise of the future.

The Roman Emperors could not develop a mode of production which would give employment to the proletariat who had known free labor. They had therefore to give them bread and circuses and a political empire in which they could serve as overlords. In the modern world the New Deal bestowed respectability on the system of public works. The union bureaucrats try to avoid this pitfall. But they cannot satisfy the much more deeply rooted yearnings of the modern proletariat for a mode of production in which it can freely exercise its natural and acquired powers. They must therefore attempt by all forms of social programs, e.g., the health, educational and recreational programs of the ILGWU, the political programs of the CIO-PAC, the program for "wage increases without price increases" of Reuther, the welfare funds of Lewis, to justify their leadership of the workers. All the secondary aspects of the misery of the proletariat, the labor leadership can tackle, all material needs it can seek to satisfy, but the basic human need in the proletariat to appropriate the social productive powers in the labor process itself, that the trade union leadership cannot tackle so long as it functions as an integral part of the trade union machinery built on the existing mode of production.

We have treated above the misconception of class society that the real universality of men is not to be found in the labor process but in pursuits outside of it, in religion, art, politics, literature, etc.

Inherent in the wage labor on which capitalist production is built is the ideology that productive activity is merely a means to existence rather than the first necessity of human existence. Productive activity, in other words, is considered in bourgeois society to be labor, a means to satisfaction of needs and not a human need. The shortening of the working day, a fundamental premise for the new socialist relations of production, has been regarded as a means whereby the worker could have more hours to himself outside of production rather than as a means whereby his productive hours could become more human. Yet productive activity is the distinguishing characteristic of the human species, and to unleash such productive activity by developing the all-sided individual in the process of production is the objective of the socialist revolution.

The labor bureaucracy cannot tackle the essential question of the in-human activity of man in the labor process, because to do that it would have to represent a more human and therefore more productive mode of labor. In other words, it would have to pose the social revolution to the workers, not only as ridding society of the capitalist exploiters, but also as the solution of all concrete day-to-day problems arising from their life in the factory in a revolutionary manner. Unless it does this, it must remain confined within the bourgeois ideology of wealth and poverty in material terms.

 

The Yearning for Social Change

The trade union leadership of today degenerates into rival political machines like the capitalist parties of yesterday because the necessary revolutionary development of production which is now on the order of the day, rests not with it but with the objective needs of the economy rooted in the workers at the bench. Except for a political caucus which represents the movement of the workers toward a revolutionary solution for their life in the factory, each new leadership only administers the alien mode of production as did its predecessors, since each is the prisoner of this framework.

But there is one big difference between the capitalist politicians and the labor politicians. The workers to whom the trade union politicians must appeal are not the immigrants and dispersed artisans, mechanics and laborers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Rather they are highly concentrated, organized, disciplined by production, and have a deep yearning for social change. Therefore, to capture the allegiance and votes not only of the workers in his own industry but throughout the nation, and also to woo the petty-bourgeoisie, a labor politician like Reuther must put forward a comprehensive program for a New Deal as did the bourgeois politician Roosevelt in an earlier period. Reuther is perfectly aware that the whole movement of industry is in the direction of more extreme centralization of capital and socialization of labor. He is playing his political cards with this in mind. But as Marx pointed out in his analysis of Napoleon III, what appears in one period as tragedy, must appear in its imitation as farce. The American workers have gotten over the shock of the 1929 depression and the confused restlessness which could be appeased by Roosevelt's New Deal. Reuther may stop half-way. The American workers will not. Any movement which would place Reuther or one of the national labor figures at the head of the nation would be the result of such a self-mobilization of the nation's workers and such an attempt to rid themselves of the whole alienation of capitalist production that the labor bureaucracy would either be forced into a counter-revolutionary dictatorship against them or such a fumbling and confusion as would make the impotence of Attlee in Britain look like superb statesmanship.

 

Into the Realm of Freedom

So sharp is the contradiction within the trade union activist between his role as representative of the social movement of the proletariat and his duties as representative of the alien mode of production, that it is not uncommon for the trade union militants who helped form the CIO in 1936-37 to be returning to their benches or to shop stewardships, relinquishing their posts to ex-AFofL leaders, professional labor leaders, lawyers, etc. They are some of the material from which the revolutionary leadership of the next period will come. The theoretical answer to their dilemma, as it is the answer to the dilemma of all layers of society, is in the understanding of the social movement which brought them to leadership in the mass strikes of 1936-37.

Every major struggle by the workers is a struggle to leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom. When the struggle is over, and the gains have been crystallized in higher wages, shorter hours and union security, it appears that the essence of the movement was not the creative energies of the masses bursting the seams of capitalist society but rather the concrete ends achieved. The CIO, however, coming in a period when, particularly in the United States, an industrial revolution was taking place, when the whole world was agitated by the barbarisms of capitalism and when new deals and new social orders were part of the mental environment of every worker, still retains its revolutionary content in the memories of the workers who participated in its formation. Their hostility to the labor bureaucracy is an expression of their determination not to allow the CIO to become a routine appendage to the capitalist mode of production. As the bourgeois analyst, Peter Drucker, has pointed out, it is this revolutionary content to their unions which makes the workers today press upon their leaders to fight it out rather than to negotiate. In essence, the CIO was a social crusade, an attempt on the part of the American workers to rise to their historic destiny and reconstruct society on new beginnings.

Since World War II new millions have joined this crusade and acquired an organic awareness of the inter-relatedness of production between one department and another, from coal mine to assembly line; between town and country, from continent to continent. For the same reason that they derive a genuine satisfaction from the intricate functioning of this productive mechanism, they are today, more than ever before, seriously disturbed by the constant disruptions and threats of disruptions inseparable from its capitalist administration.

The American bourgeoisie is organically incapable of assuring any perspective of economic and social stability and progress on the one-world scale axiomatic in our time. Already its political front, which had seemed so imposing, is beginning to show signs of great strain. Today, more and more workers say, with that simple directness which requires no proof:

"Sure, we could do it better." In these words, there is contained the workers' recognition of the enormous scope of their natural and acquired powers, and the distorted and wasteful abuse of these powers within the existing society. In these words is contained also the overwhelming anger of the workers against the capitalist barriers stifling their energies and hence victimizing the whole world. Never has society so needed the direct intervention of the workers. Never have the workers been so ready to come to grips with the fundamental problems of society. The destinies of the two are indissolubly united. When the workers take their fate into their own hands, when they seize the power and begin their reconstruction of society, all of mankind will leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom.

RIA STONE

 

 

Notes

1. "What to Do About Strikes" by Peter Drucker, Colliers, January 1, 1947.

2. "Alienated Labor" from the 1844 Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of Marx, translated into English and published by the Johnson-Forest tendency, 1947..

3. Summarized from an article entitled "Machines Without Men" by E. W. Leaver and J. J. Brown, Fortune, November 1946

4. "Private property and Communism" from the 1844 Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of Marx, op. cit.

5. "The Power Age" by Walter N.Polakov, Convici-Friede Publishers, New York, 1933. Whos Who in America lists Polakov as president of Walter N. Polakov, Inc., Industrial Consultants. He has been an engineer for the Supreme Economic Council in the U. S. S. R. and for the Tennesse Valley Authority.

6. The reference to hegel is in Polakov's text.

7. "Private property and Communism" op. cit.

8. There exists within the United States today a stratum of small businessmen who still remember with pride the years of wage-earning apprenticeship by which they prepared themselves for setting up their own enterprises. With comparatively little capital investment in machinery to discipline the workers, these employers are dependent for their profits almost entirely upon the "cooperation" and willingness to work of their "helpers." The latter, however, have made their own appraisal of the obsolescence of small-scale production by rejecting the handicraft concept of skill or the substitution of tedious hand work for precision machinery. The demoralized productivity of the new generation of workers has created an ominous contradiction in these small capitalists. On the one hand, they constantly recall the energy and initiative by which they got to their present position and fervently wish that the workers of today could develop from within themselves comparable incentives to hard work and increase of skills in the old manner. As they express it, "the workers today have no ambition." On the other hand, sensing that new methods of production and the existing society do not stimulate such "ambition," and driven by the capitalist necessity to expand surplus-value, they look in desperation toward the panacea of a totalitarian state which will destroy the unions and force the workers to produce. Within this stratum today, there are significant numbers who are aware that the whip-hand of Fascism would not spare them. These would rejoice to see the workers establish a new social order based on the release of human productive forces. But while uncomfortably conscious that the present critical situation cannot long endure, they remain skeptical that the working class has the strength and determination necessary to revolutionize society. To stifle in this stratum its deeply-rooted preference for productivity based upon self-discipline and self-development, a Fascist movement would have to resort to monstrous lies, deceptions and force on a scale hitherto unknown.