Ch 12 The Triumph of Industrial Capitalism Pt

CH.12-THE TRIUMPH OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM

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CHAPTER XII: THE TRIUMPH OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM

SECTION 3: FACTORY LEGISLATION

 

THE HISTORY OF FACTORY LEGISLATION IS MAINLY RELATED TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MACHINERY.

WHEN MACHINERY WAS CRUDE AND UNCERTAIN, DUE TO IRREGULAR WATER POWER, OWNERS HAD TO GET MAXIMUM USE OUT OF WORKING MACHINERY, AND HOURS OF WORK ROSE TO 18 PER DAY. WHERE ONLY 12 WERE WORKED, A DOUBLE SHIFT WAS IN PRACTICE TO ENSURE MACHINES WERE NEVER IDLE.

IN THIS WAY, THE GREATEST OUTPUT WAS ACHIEVED FROM THE LEAST OUTLAY. MANY MILL OWNERS STARTED WITH ONLY £100, VERY SMALL CAPITAL INDEED.

THE RESULT WAS HUMAN MISERY, CHILD LABOUR AND VERY POOR WORKING CONDITIONS THAT SHOCKED EVEN THE TOUGHEST CONSCIENCE, ESPECIALLY THAT OF THE TORY LANDLORD WHO DREW HIS WEALTH FROM THE MORE GENTEEL EXPLOITATION OF AGRICULTURAL WORKERS. THESE WORKERS, IT MUST BE NOTED, EARNED SEVEN TO EIGHT SHILLINGS PER WEEK AND PAID 1.6d to TWO SHILLINGS RENT FOR THEIR COTTAGES.

THE WORST ABUSES WERE IN CONTRAST TO ROBERT OWEN’S NEW LANARK MILLS, WHERE IT WAS SHOWN THAT OUTPUT WAS NOT IN DIRECT PROPORTION TO THE NUMBER OF HOURS WORKED. IT WAS POSSIBLE TO WORK TEN AND A HALF HOURS A DAY, DO WITHOUT THE LABOUR OF THE VERY YOUNG AND STILL MAKE SUBSTANTIAL PROFIT.

WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF FASTER, MORE POWERFUL AND MORE COSTLY MACHINES THAT USED STEAM POWER, THE ADVANTAGES OF A VERY LONG WORKING DAY BECAME LESS.

IT WAS THE WATER POWERED MACHINE OWNERS WHO PUT UP THE MOST RESISTANCE TO REDUCE HOURS AND IMPROVE WORKING CONDITIONS.

AS CAPITAL WAS SUNK INTO MACHINERY, THE RELATION BETWEEN THAT CAPITAL AND THE CAPITAL USED FOR PAYMENT OF WAGES CHANGED. THE AMOUNT OF LABOUR NEEDED TO PRODUCE A GIVEN ARTICLE DECREASED, AND, AT THE SAME TIME, THE SPEED THAT THE NEW MACHINERY COULD WORK AT INCREASED GREATER THAN THE SPEED MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN COULD WORK FOR DURING A DAY LASTING 16 TO 18 HOURS.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN FACTORY OWNERS WELCOMED SHORTER HOURS OR ALLOWED THE FACTORY ACTS TO BE PASSED WITHOUT A BITTER STRUGGLE, BUT, POLITICALLY SPEAKING, THERE WERE TWO SIDES OF THE CLASS STRUGGLE.

FIRST, THE CONSTANT AGITATION OF THE WORKING CLASSES THEMSELVES, WHO LINKED THEIR DEMANDS TO PARLIAMENTARY REFORM, SHORTER HOURS, HIGHER WAGES, BETTER FACTORY CONDITIONS AND THE ABOLITION OF CHILD LABOUR.

SECOND, THEY, THE WORKERS, WERE THE BYPRODUCT OF A SAVAGE INTERNAL STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE TWO MAIN SECTIONS OF THE RULING CLASS: THE INDUSTRIALISTS AND LANDOWNERS.

THE INDUSTRIALISTS WANTED REPEAL OF THE CORN LAWS AND CHEAPER FOOD THAT WOULD ENABLE THEM TO KEEP WAGES LOW. LANDOWNERS CAMPAIGNED AGAINST LONGER HOURS AND OPPRESSIVE CONDITIONS TO DEFLECT CRITICISM FROM THEMSELVES.

RICHARD OASTLER, THE TORY CHARTIST, LED THE TEN HOUR AGITATION.

MARX IN 1847 RECOGNISED THAT THE WORKERS, WITH THE FREE TRADERS, REALISED THEY COULD NOT BE DUPED BY THE LANDLORDS IN THE COMMON CAUSE. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE REMNANTS OF FEUDALISM HAD BEEN ACHIEVED. THEY HAD ONE ENEMY TO DEAL WITH.

WORKERS DID NOT MAKE MISCALCULATIONS PLAYING LANDOWNERS AGAINST MANUFACTURERS.

THE ATTITUDE OF THE DAY THAT EVERYONE SHOULD BE FREE TO FOLLOW HIS OWN ‘ENLIGHTENED SELF INTEREST’ FOR THE GOOD OF SOCIETY AS A WHOLE INDICATED THAT STATE INTERFERENCE WITH INDUSTRY WAS CONDEMNED AS AN INFRINGEMENT OF NATURAL LAW.

TWO EXCEPTIONS WERE MADE. WORKERS WERE FORBIDDEN TO FORM ASSCOIATIONS TO FIGHT FOR THEIR IMPROVEMENTS, AND LANDLORDS WERE ABLE TO SECURE THE PROHIBITION OF WHEAT IMPORTS.

FACTORY LEGISLATION FOR IMPROVEMENTS HAD TO BE FOUGHT FOR. THE ARGUMENTS THAT ‘ALL PROFITS ARE MADE IN THE LAST HOUR’ WAS A FAVOURITE AND THAT BY REDUCING HOURS THE PROFIT WENT. THIS CONTRADICTED ECONOMIC FACT.

IN 1802, A MILD ACT TO PREVENT SOME OF THE WORST ABUSES CONNECTED WITH EMPLOYING PAUPER CHILDREN WAS FOLLOWED BY THE COTTON FACTORIES REGULATION ACT OF 1819, WHICH FORBADE THE EMPLOYMENT OF CHILDREN UNDER NINE AND LIMITED THE WORK OF THOSE BETWEEN NINE AND 16 TO A 13.5 HOUR DAY.

AS THERE WAS NO CONTROL TO ENFORCE THE ACT, SO IT WAS DEAD IN THE WATER.

NOT UNTIL 1833 AND THE PASSING OF THE REFORM BILL (DUE TO PRESSURE FROM THE MOST VIOLENT WORKING CLASS AGITATION THROUGHOUT THE NORTH OF ENGLAND) WAS AN EFFECTIVE ACT WAS PASSED.

THIS ACT PROHIBITED THE EMPLOYMENT OF CHILDREN UNDER NINE, EXCEPT IN SILK FACTORIES, LIMITED THE HOURS OF OLDER CHILDREN AND PROVIDED FACTORY INSPECTORS.

IN 1847, THE TEN HOURS’ BILL LIMITED THE HOURS OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN AND, IN PRACTICE, SECURED A 10 HOUR DAY FOR MOST MEN, SINCE IT PROVED UNPROFITABLE TO KEEP FACTORIES OPEN FOR THEM ALONE.

EMPLOYERS TRIED EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK TO EVADE AND DEFY THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT.

THESE ACTS ONLY APPLIED TO THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY, NOT MINING, WHERE THE MINES’ COMMISSION OF 1842 DISCLOSED CONDITIONS HAD BECOME WORSE THAN IN 1833, RESULTING IN CHILD LABOUR INCREASES IN LANCASHIRE AND WEST RIDING.

THE FACT WAS THAT ADULTS’ WAGES WERE SO LOW THAT THEY WERE FORCED TO PUT THEIR CHILDREN INTO ANY OCCUPATION OPEN TO THEM.

BEFORE THE FACTORY ACTS WERE PASSED, EMPLOYERS WERE FULL OF THE INSUPERABLE DIFFICULTIES THEY FACED, BUT AFTERWARDS SOON FOUND THAT MACHINES COULD BE DEVISED TO SERVE THE SAME ENDS, SAVING LABOUR AND PRODUCTION  COSTS. SO, THE EXTENSION OF THE FACTORY ACT RESULTED IN INVENTIONS WHICH MADE MANUFACTURING MORE PROFITABLE.

“MORE MACHINES TO REPLACE MUSCLE POWER, BUT MORE CONCENTRATION OF THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION ON WORKING PEOPLE” - MARX.

FOR EXAMPLE, A MACHINE TO DIP MATCHES REDUCED THE WORK FORCE FROM 230 TO 32, THEREBY MAKING 32 DO THE WORK OF 230.

EVEN MORE STRIKING WAS THE ABILITY OF THE CAPITALIST TO TURN HUMANITARIN DISCOVERIES TO THEIR ADVANTAGE. THE DAVY LAMP, INVENTED IN 1816 TO PREVENT MINE EXPLOSIONS, ACTUALLY INCREASED THE NUMBER OF ACCIDENTS BECAUSE MINE OWNERS COULD OPEN DEEPER AND MORE DANGEROUS SEAMS. IN MANY CASES, IT WAS ALSO USED AS AN EXCUSE FOR NOT PROVIDING PROPER VENTILATION. (SIR HUMPHREY DAVY TOOK NO ROYALTIES, CLAIMING HIS INVENTION WAS A GIFT TO HUMANITY.)

THE FACTORY ACTS LED TO MORE AND BETTER MACHINERY. OLDER FACTORIES BECAME OBSOLETE. INDUSTRY WAS CONCENTRATED, DRIVING OUT THE SMALLER CONCERN.

AS MARX SAID, THE RESULT OF FACTORY LEGISLATION PRODUCED A MODERN INDUSTRY AND CONCENTRATED LABOUR, WHICH HAD BEEN EMPLOYED EVENLY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, INTO A MEANINGLESS SYSTEM OF PRODUCTION.

CAPITAL AND CAPITALISTS NEVER BECAME RECONCILED TO SUCH CHANGES, EXCEPT UNDER PRESSURE FOR THE COMPULSORY REGULATION OF THE HOURS OF LABOUR.

FACTORY LEGISLATION WAS A NECESSARY PART OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION AND THE TRANSFER OF THE PRODUCTION FROM SMALL TO LARGE CONCERNS, WHICH CONSTITUTES THE TRIUMPH OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM IN ENGLAND.

THE TIME HAD COME FOR THIS TRIUMPH TO RESULT IN OPEN CONFLICT BETWEEN THE INDUSTRIAL CAPITALIST, THE LANDLORD AND FINANCIER FOR POLITICAL SUPREMACY

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