II Industrial Progress
The Private Property Superstition.-The working class is today enslaved chiefly because it does not understand the conditions of its life and labor. A few rich people own the lands and machines. The many labor and have nothing. This every worker knows. But why is this so? How long has it been thus? How long is it likely to continue? And most important of all, what are the workers going to do in order to help themselves? When we ask these questions, we find that very few workers can give a clear and satisfactory answer. Only when they can answer these questions will the first great step toward a better condition have been taken.
The Story of the Island.-Let us simplify the problem. Imagine that, instead of continuing to work here in America among the 30,006,000 workers on this great continent, ten workers should go off to an uninhabited tropical island which is only ten square miles in area. There they would not need expensive houses and clothing, nor would they have to lay by great supplies of food for the winter. A very small amount of labor would be enough to support a family. Now let us suppose that when the ten went ashore on that island, one of their number should step forward and say:
"This is my island. I hold here a document which proves it. This document was received by my greatgreat-grandfather from 'the King of Great Britain in 1760. Of course the King never saw the island, neither did my great-great-grandfather. But I am his only living heir. So the island is all mine. The law permits me to do with it what I wish. I am not going to driveyou away. In fact, I shall not stay myself unless you do. I see that you have tools with which to cultivate the soil. Go to work at once. I shall charge you for rent only three-fourths of what you produce. That is, if any of you produce a hundred-bushels of sweet potatoes, I shall take seventy-five and leave you twenty-five, Each of you will need all that is left you, but of course I shall not need all that I receive. I shall be paid as rent twenty-seven times as much as any of you are permitted to keep. I shall use of this one part, and send twenty-six parts to America. There it will be sold and for the money I shall buy machines. When the machines come you need no longer pay me rent. Each of you will then produce 1,000 bushels. Instead of letting you keep twenty-five bushels, as I did when you rented the land of me, I shall pay you only enough money to buy back fifteen bushels. If you do not wish to work for me you need not. You will still be free citizens of this island. Those who think I am not leaving them enough may stop working. There is the sea. You may jump into it. In that case I can get plenty others from the cities of the United States who will gladly come here and take your places. I shall, however, at once make one of you a policeman, who will club the remainder of you and imprison you if you get to be unruly and disobey the laws I make. I shall very soon bring a lawyer here. He will teach you to respect this holy document I hold in my hand. It is the foundation of our property and of our liberties. The first task to be performed is to build me a mansion on the hill. After that, if there be any timber left, you may build yourself some shacks here on the beach."
So situated the propertyless workers would quickly understand their condition. Unless they were bereft of reason by respect for the property rights of the individual, they would simply laugh at the document and its owner. They would probably go to work for themselves, each taking his whole product and leaving the "owner" only what he himself produced.
North America No Different.-The working people of North America are in much the same condition as the nine workers on the island would have been had they quietly consented to become enslaved. But the island was very small and North America is very great. The island had ten people, North America has more than 100,000,000. On the island there was but one old wormeaten paper which established the owner's right to property in the land. In North America the workers behold a great mass of laws, old and new, which they have been carefully taught to respect and obey. These laws were made by the political and legal servants of the masters. They were created for the purpose of protecting property which existed long before the law gave the owners a "right" to it. Yet all the rights which the capitalists claim are based on these laws. As soon as the workers determine to abolish them, or ignore them, the capitalists' "right" to what the workers have produced will cease to exist.
If this seems very strange and hard to understand it is because of the great area and population of America and the long time it has taken to create the present gigantic system of industry with its protecting laws and government. So the first matter to deal with and understand is the nature of this system of industry.
The Growth of the Machine Process
How have our mines and factories and railroads come to be just what they are? There was a time in America when every young man could start out and make a living for himself without begging work from some onewho had it to offer. The cobbler owned his shop and small tools. The carpenter built the cobbler's shop and the cobbler mended the carpenter's shoes. This was a fair exchange of labor. No one was robbed. How different it is today. The shoe workers in some of our large factories make on the average twelve pairs of shoes for each worker in a day, but they get only the price of one, or less, as wages. The carpenters build mansions for the rich and live in miserable tenements, which are also owned by those same rich. How did all this come about?
From Hand Labor to Machine Labor.-The story of the past is one long tale of constant changes in human labor and human life. More of these changes occurred in the nineteenth century than in any other century in human existence. Greater changes occurred in America during this century than in any other country. In America they were, in fact, so great and far-reaching in their effects that the coming change to Socialism will not be, in itself, nearly so wonderful. To begin with, in 1790 the population of the United States numbered less than 4,000,000 Nearly all these people lived on a narrow strip of land along the Atlantic coast. In 1910 the population had spread over the whole continent. In this short period of time North America was won from the wilderness and turned into a nation of farms, factories and railroads. It was surely a greater task for the American working people to conquer the wilderness than it will be for their descendants of the twentieth century to reconquer America from the few capitalists who have taken it from them. But this great change brought about by the workers of the last century could not have taken place had it not been for a change in the methods of work which everywhere came with it. We refer to the change from hand labor to machine labor.
This was the most important revolution that the world has ever known. We must relate briefly how it took place in America. For unless it is understood, Socialism and the Socialist Movement cannot be understood.
Cloth-Making.-Before the year 1800 most of tile cloth worn in America was spun and woven in the homes of the people. A farmer would own a few sheep and himself clip their wool. His wife and daughters then took this wool, cleaned, spun and carded it, and wove it into cloth. Of the cloth they made clothing for all the members of the family. Thus no capitalist was permitted to take a large part of their product for permitting them to work.
Two machines brought about a great change in this important work. The first was the spinning machine, which was invented in England in 1764. A weaver named Hargreaves, who could neither read nor write, got the idea and successfully worked it out. It was one of the most important inventions of all history and therefore Hargreaves was one of the greatest men who ever lived. But the historians have not been much interested in what the working people have done, although they have done almost everything worth while in the world.
This machine was improved by others and finally brought to a state of great perfection. The first American factory to use cotton spinning machinery was built in Rhode Island in 1791. These factories would probably have not been very successful in America had it not been for another important machine invented in 1793. This was Whitney's cotton-gin. Like Hargreaves, and nearly all other inventors, Whitney was a poor man, being a school teacher. He died poor. The cotton-gin made it possible to raise cotton over the whole of the Southern states. It was probably the most importantmachine ever invented in America, as it gave long life to chattel slavery and thus brought about the Civil War. These machines made cotton and cotton cloth cheap. The whole industry of cloth-making was taken from the homes to factories. In 1804 there were only four textile mills in operation. In 1811 there were 87 mills, with 80,000 spindles and 4,000 wage-workers. In 1815 there were 76,000 workers in the textile factories. This development was brought about practically by the War of 1812 and the trouble with Great Britain leading up to it, which kept British goods out of the American market. Since that time this industry has grown wonderfully. The machines have been constantly improved. At first it took a worker to tend each machine. At the present time much of the cotton and wool is spun and woven almost automatically. In some cases the worker tends twelve machines, the product of these being 300 yards of cloth a day. It was of a great benefit to the capitalists that women and children could operate textile machinery. ',This made wages low and profits large. And where wages are low and profits are large we have a heaven for the capitalist and a hell for the wage-worker. Hours are usually long-ten hours a day being the rule in the North and twelve hours in the South. In the South tens of thousands of very small children, many under eight years of age, are employed in this industry. In some cases wages are so low that the capitalist takes more in profits every year than his whole plant is worth. A great many kinds of cloth are now made by machines. The workers produce silks and fine woolens for their idle masters. For themselves they buy, with their small wages, cheap cottons and shoddy goods made out of old rags.
Working people invented practically all of the machines, Working people raise all of the cotton andwool. Working people manufacture the cloth. But the idle capitalists own the machines. That is the cause of the great injury done the workers.
Power Machinery.-Who shall do the work? We have already asked and partially answered this question. Generally speaking, people do not work any more than they must. The poor must work or starve. That is why one finds them always so busy. But machines are cheaper to keep than people. That is why machines have been so much introduced by the capitalists. Machines do not have to be fed and clothed. Also, it does not cost so much to make machines as it does to raise children. So the machine process permits the capitalists to pay the worker just enough to keep himself. Low wages, therefore, force the working people to take their children to the factory. Very often the children can secure work when there is none to be had for the parents. He will do the work who will'work cheapest.
Wanted, Cheap Power.-Most wage-workers are today occupied in tending machines. That is, they set the machines to work, feed in the raw material, and take away the product. The first machines were run by hand. Hand power or human power has been the oldest and most common form of power. But to the employer this method is very expensive, because he must pay back so large a portion of the worker's product in wages. There have been many forms of power developed to take the place of the strength of the individual worker. These have been, chiefly, the power of animals, of falling water, of the winds, of steam, of electricity, and of ignited fuel gases, such as gasoline. All of these have been of tremendous importance in the history of industry. Without the help of draft animals in agriculture and land transportation, and of the sailing vessel for water transportation, it is doubtful whether civilization could everhave developed. Steam power came to be used about the same time that cloth-making machinery was invented. It was soon applied to the many other machines which were developed in rapid succession. The nineteenth century was the century of the steam engine. In England it was used to operate textile machinery as early as 1779. Even before that time it had been used to pump water out of the coal mines and to bring coal to the surface. This greatly cheapened the production of coal and therefore of iron. Cheap iron made possible cheap steam-engines and other machines. So the various industries that were developing helped one another along.
The Steamboat and Locomotive.-In America the steamboat was first developed about 1785, but not made profitable until Fulton navigated up the Hudson in 1807. The many excellent streams for water power long kept the stationary steam-engine from coming into use as rapidly in America as in England. In 1829 the first locomotive was operated in the United States. In 1830 there were only twenty-three miles of railroad; in 1840, eighteen hundred miles; in 1850, seven thousand miles; in 1860, thirty thousand miles; in 1870, seventy-two thousand miles. At the present time the United States contains 240,000 miles of railroad. This great growth in the means of transportation, together with the development of the postal system, telegraph and telephone, has developed the national and international market. So long as machines must be run by hand, by horse power or by water power, factories were small and therefore their output was limited. A large number of these small factories could not be located in one place, even if water power could be had, because of the great cost of transportation. Small factories were therefore scattered about the country wherever there was good water power and the markets were near at hand. The brains of a capitalist might have been ever so great, they could not outrun the conditions of industry. The whole nation went forward together, everybody except the idlers among the capitalists helping in the progress. Of course the great inventors, did more than anybody else, but a large number would be working at one invention at a time, and many failures were usually required to develop the knowledge which finally made one inventor successful.
So power machinery has grown to its present great proportions. The real difference between the America of today and the America of the Revolutionary War period, is the difference between an ox-team hauling a ton and a great locomotive hauling 5,000 tons. The greatest of the modern locomotives thus does the work of 10,000 oxen or horses., In the factories, meanwhile, the stationary steam-engine and the electric dynamo have developed to the same degree. One man working with modern machines is thus able to do the work of one hundred, one thousand or even five thousand men working without machines. But these foolish workers work harder than ever they did before. If they cannot keep up with the machines they are discharged and others hired.
Farming Machinery.-In agriculture the change from small tools to machines has been almost as great as in manufacturing. Nearly all of the work now done on farms is done by machines. It was the second quarter of the nineteenth century that witnessed the great changes on the American farm. McCormick, a farm boy in Virginia, invented the reaper. This made it possible for tile Western states to become the greatest grain producing area in the world, Cheap food meant cheap working people in the cities. So American capitalists were permitted to compete for the world's markets.
For a long time, down even till 1900, farmers whoowned one hundred or two hundred acres of land could make good use of the machines which had been invented. Their children could help run the machines and thus they kept all the profits. At most they hired one or two wage-workers, with a few extra during the summer months. But the machine process has now outgrown the size of the old-fashioned farm. Plows are being drawn by traction engines. Grain is being reaped and threshed by great machines which the small farmer cannot afford to buy and could not profitably use even if he possessed them. Above all, science is being applied to farming. The raising of crops, the breeding and care of cattle, and all the other work of the farm must be carefully studied. One man cannot possibly know all that must be known in this great and ever changing industry. So we must have farms of greater and greater area, where work may be specialized and where all the modern machines and scientific methods may be put to good use. This means that very soon only great capitalists can get profits out of a farm. The farm has been the last place where a man with a small amount of money could go to work, be his own boss and make a good living. But soon this will be impossible. In fact, in many states it is already impossible. Whenever the farmer must rent his farm he is no better off than the wage-worker in the city. It is safe to say that half the farmers in America receive no more for their long days of hard work than the unskilled day laborer.
Mining.-Before the coming of steam-power, coal mining was of very little importance. Now it is one of the most necessary industries we have. Coal is not only used for steam. It is also the most important domestic fuel in the United States. In the form of coke it is necessary to the manufacture of iron. The United States is now first in the production of coal.
A hundred years ago, when coal mining began in thiscountry, any farmer on whose land there cropped out a vein, might open a mine and sell the product. Today the coal-miners work for great trusts. They use machines and other expensive apparatus. The mines which employ the largest number of workers turn out the coal most cheaply. Even if a man with a small tract of coal land could operate a mine successfully, he could not dispose of his product, because the great companies and trusts own the terminals, get better rates from the railroads and have the markets monopolized.
In metal mining great capital is even more strongly intrenched. When gold was first discovered in California, a workingman, if fortunate enough to find a deposit, could wash out the precious metal in a pan. But this method is now a thing of the past. In the West, gold, silver and copper are taken from rock and soil which must be worked by expensive machines. All of the great copper mines of Montana are owned by the Standard Oil interests. The Smelter Trust, under the control of the Guggenheims, has possession of a large part of both the mining and smelter industries. If a man in the West, after a long search, discovers a rich mine, he can not work it without large capital. If he refuses to sell it for a small sum, one of the great companies will swindle him out of it. All he can then do is to go to work for wages in the mine.
The Making of Iron and Steel.-In this great and important industry we have the best example of industrial progress. A hundred years ago it was conducted like all other small business. One man would own a mine and another would burn charcoal on his farm. These men would sell their product to a third man who owned a forge and made the iron. This raw iron was sold to a man who had a shop for working it. Finally a man with a rolling and slitting mill, who put it into shape for the nail-maker or the blacksmith.
With every development of new machines for working iron and steel this industry has grown. Thirty years ago there were still a large number of high-paid workers in the iron and steel industries. Strength and skill were required to puddle, the molten metal or work it into the finished product. Then came the blast furnace, and finally the Martin-Siemans process of making openhearth steel. These drove the old-fashioned steel worker to the scrap heap along with the small tools he used. The iron ore now goes into one end of the mill and the finished product comes out of the other. For a man with a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to start in the iron or steel business would be ridiculous. The great Steel Trust now owns its own extensive mines, lines of railroad, and a fleet of vessels on the Great Lakes. It has a large number of gigantic iron and steel plants which produce from sixty per cent to seventy per cent of the iron and steel of America. The Trust could, if it thought it wise to do so, crush out all competitors in a year's time.
It is plain even from this short survey of American industries that the day of the small producer is past. Intelligent people always do their work in the easiest and quickest way. The manufacturer who produces his product the most cheaply, survives. Others perish. So those who live and maintain their standing in modern business are such as control the large capital necessary to buy the best and most machines and organize the greatest business.
The Machines Are Here to Stay.-When machines were first invented some very foolish working people attempted to destroy them. It was seen that the machines would take the place of workers and thus do them harm. The workers did not then understand that the time would come when they could join together and own and control the machines and thus be able to work much shorter hours. All they saw was that the machineswere doing them harm at the tit-lie. But workingmen, either organized or unorganized, can never fight the machines successfully. They must always accept the new machine and learn to work it. Machines are now displacing glass workers of all kinds, plumbers, carpenters and other woodworkers, printers, and, in fact, almost every kind of worker there is. This process will not stop. On the contrary it will go on ever more rapidly. The unemployed army will grow greater and greater. Women and children wage-earners will more and more take tile place of men. Already there are at work for wages in America, 4,000,000 children and 7,000,000 women. There is no chivalry in the workshop. Capitalism compels sex equality. At present it is equality in a common slavery.
Let the Machines Work for the Workers.-One of the worst features about the members of the working class is that they do not think themselves happy unless they are hard at work. Instead of letting the machines do the work many workers would rather do it themselves. This comes from the fact that there was a time when there were very few idlers and when all the workers, both men and women, were forced to toil constantly in order to live. The working class thus got into the habit of work. It now finds it very hard to give tip the bad habit, even though only a little work is necessary.
Machines have come to free the working class. Until the invention of machines people were enslaved by small tools to the soil. For them it was work or starve. Work or starve it is still, not because nature forces us to do so, but because we have not yet seen our way out of it. We are enslaved not to the soil but to the people who own the machines. The Socialist Movement has come to place the machines, the shops, the railroads, the land and the. mines in the possession of the workers. That will mean freedom, security and opportunity for all who live.
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