Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
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Hugo Gellert: Karl Marx' 'Capital' in Lithographs

The Factory


. . . We saw how machinery leads to an increase in the amount of human material for exploitation, by its annexation of the labor of women and children; how it extends its grip over the whole of the worker's life-time by its immoderate extension of the working day; and how its progress, which renders possible an enormous increase of production in ever shorter periods, serves as a means for the establishment of a system by which more and more work is done in a shorter time -- as a means by which labor power is more and more intensively exploited. Let us now turn to consider the factory as a whole, the factory in its most highly developed form. . . .

Along with the tool, the worker's skill in handling it passes over to the machine. The functional capacity of the tool is now emancipated from the personal restrictions imposed upon the worker's labor power. This sweeps away the technical foundation upon which the manufacturing division of labor is based. Instead of the hierarchy of specialized workers which was characteristic of the manufacturing division of labor, we find that in the automatic factory there is a tendency towards the equalization or levelling down of the work which the assistants of the machinery have to perform. The artificial differences between the detail workers are now mainly replaced by natural differences in age and sex. . . .

In manufacture and in handicrafts the worker uses a tool; in the factory he serves a machine. In the former case the movements of the instrument of labor proceed from the worker; but in the latter the movements of the worker are subordinate to those of the machine.

In manufacture the workers are parts of a living mechanism. In the factory there exists a lifeless mechanism independent of them, and they are incorporated into that mechanism as its living appendages.

"The dull routine of ceaseless drudgery and toil, in which the same mechanical process is incessantly repeated, resembles the torment of Sisyphus -- the toil, like the rock, recoils perpetually upon the wearied operative."

While labor at the machine has a most depressing effect upon the nervous system, it at the same time hinders the multiform activity of the muscles, and prohibits free bodily and mental activity. Even the lightening of the labor becomes a means of torture, for the machine does not free the worker from his work, but merely deprives his work of interest.

All kinds of capitalist production, in so far as they are not merely labor processes, but also processes for promoting the self-expansion of capital, have this in common, that in them the worker does not use the instruments of labor, but the instruments of labor use the worker. However, it is only in machine production that this inversion acquires a technical and palpable reality.

Through its conversion into an automaton, the instrument of labor comes to confront the worker during the labor process as capital, as dead labor, which controls the living labor power and sucks it dry.

The divorce of the intellectual powers of the process of production from the manual labor, and the transformation of these powers into powers of capital over labor, are completed (as previously indicated) in large-scale industry based upon machine production. The special skill of each individual machine worker who is thus sucked dry, dwindles into an insignificant item as contrasted with the science, with the gigantic forces of nature, and with the mass of social labor, which are incorporated into the machine system and out of which the power of the "master" is made. This master, in whose brain the machinery and his monopoly of it are inseparably intertwined, tells his "hands" contemptuously whenever he is at odds with them, "The factory operatives should keep in wholesome remembrance the fact that theirs is really a low species of skilled labor; and that there is none which is more easily acquired, or of its quality more amply remunerated, or which by a short training of the least expert can be more quickly, as well as more abundantly acquired. . . .The master's machinery really plays a far more important part in the business of production than the labor and the skill of the operative, which six months education can teach and a common laborer can learn." . . . .