What has the Industrial Revolution Done For You?

Dec 27




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"Truly,What has the Industrial Revolution Done For You? Articles we are rich, far richer than we think; rich in what we already possess, richer still in the possibilities of production of our actual mechanical outfit; richest of all in what we might win from our soil, from our manufactures, from our science, from our technical knowledge, were they but applied to bringing about the well-being of all."

--Peter Kropotkin, 1892
"The Conquest of Bread," Chapter 1, Part I

Everything we consume today is a product of machines, technology, art, and science. From your bread to your clothing -- from the place where you live and sleep, to the place where you labor and create: everything we use today is the product of a massive industrial complex. It includes engineering designers, mathematicians, and architects as much as it requires assembly line workers, truckdrivers, and warehouse laborers.

There are some cases where there is specialized labor instead of machine labor, such as in construction. But the builder who is hammering window frames into an apartment is doing it with tools made in a factory. Without them, his job would be impossible, and with primitive, hand-made tools, the task would need significantly more time.

Even where manufacturing and production aren't directly involved, all industries have a dependence on them; without the tractors and combine harvestors, there would be very little food, and industry can't operate without healthy employees. And this is besides the tools, equipment, and raw material that other industries need.

"The spirit of oppression, the spirit of servility, and the spirit of fraud, these are the immediate growth of the established administration of property. They are alike hostile to intellectual improvement. The other vices of envy, malice, and revenge are their inseparable companions."

--Thomas Malthus, 1798
"An Essay on the Principle of Population," Chapter 10

The industrial revolution made production and work far more efficient. One person today can produce what fifty workers could produce three or four centuries ago. But if this is true, why are we working the same amount, or in some cases, working even more?

It might be considered a paradox, but as soon as productivity went up with the Industrial Revolution, working hours significantly rose. Sometimes they went as high as fifteen, sixteen, or twenty hours a day. These conditions persist even today, where Capitalism exploits underdeveloped nations.

How much each hour of labor produces has increased by one hundred fold; but the hours of working have increased. In contrast this, the rate of wages and living conditions has only slowly increased compared to the rates of profits and wealth. As profits reached record highs during the boom of the 1990's, there were still hundreds of millions the world over without running water.

"This industrial government makes the real laws of the land. It determines who shall and who shall not work and how long and for what wages. That is, it has the power to say who shall live and who shall not live. It legislates as regards the amount of protection the worker shall receive while at work. It holds in its hands the powers of both the industrial and political governments. It has decreed, in order that profits may be increased, that the workers shall suffer slavery, starvation, disease and death."

--Big Bill Haywood, with Frank Bohn
"Industrial Socialism," Part 4: Industrial Freedom, the Growth of Socialism

It's still a world where something as common as the flu takes the lives of thousands of children daily -- not because of an unwillingness to work in the parents, but because of private ownership and management of the land, which has been directed to serve the few and not the masses.

It is a world where factories and manufacturing plants have poisoned the air, destroyed the atmosphere, and filled the oceans with tons of mercury. Something as simple as a children's toy can give you lead poisoning, and something as common as a car can puts cancerous toxins into your body. More than any generation, you are commonly exposed to these dangers, but healthcare isn't free -- you work more, suffer more, but you are capable of producing more.

If we want to create a world where our production serves us and isn't used against us, we need to unionize as a class against Capitalism. Through a General Strike, we can cripple the Capitalist economy, and subdue our masters to our demands. And all struggles and battles of the one, great union will be preparing it for the day when it completely abolishes the Capitalist system.

"The simple fact is that industrial conditions have undergone such a complete change that now the trade union, instead of uniting the workers, divides them, incites craft jealousy, breeds dissension and promotes strife—the very things capitalists desire; for so long as the working class is divided, the capitalists will be secure in their dominion of the earth and the seas, and the millions of toilers will remain in subjection."

--Eugene Victor Debs, 1905
"Class Unionism"


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