Front Page Titles (by Subject) II. Economies in the conditions of labor at the expense of the laborers. - Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole
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II. Economies in the conditions of labor at the expense of the laborers. - Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole 
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, by Karl Marx. Ed. Federick Engels. Trans. from the 1st German edition by Ernest Untermann (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Co. Cooperative, 1909).
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II. Economies in the conditions of labor at the expense of the laborers.
Coal Mines. Neglect of the most indispensable Expenditures.
"Owing to the competition between the proprietors of coal mines, expenses are kept down to the minimum required for overcoming the most palpable physical difficulties; and owing to the competition among the miners, whose numbers generally exceed the demand, they are glad to expose themselves to considerable danger and to the most injurious influences for a wage which is little above that of the day laborers in the neighboring country districts, more especially since mining permits them to utilize their children profitably. This double competition is fully sufficient...to effect the operation of a large portion of the mines with the most imperfect drainage and ventilation; very often with badly built shafts, bad piping, incapable machinists, with badly planned and badly constructed galleries and tracks and this causes a destruction of life, limb, and health, the statistics of which would present an appalling picture." (First Report on Children's Employment in Mines and Collieries, etc., April 21, 1829, page 129.) About 1860, the average of fatal accidents in the English collieries amounted to 15 men per week. According to the report on Coal Mines Accidents (February 6, 1862), the total deaths from accidents during the ten years from 1852-61 amounted to 8,466. But the report itself admits that this number is far too low, because in the first years, when the inspectors had just been installed and their districts were far too large, a great many accidents and deaths were not reported. The very fact that the number of accidents has decreased since the installation of the inspectors, in spite of their insufficient numbers and limited powers, shows the natural tendencies of capitalist production. Still the number of the killed is very large. These sacrifices of human beings are mostly due to the groveling greed of the mine owners. Very often they had only one shaft dug, so that there was not only no effective ventilation but also no escape if this shaft became clogged.
Looking upon capitalist production in its details, aside from the process of circulation and the excrescences of competition, we find that it is very economical with materialized labor incorporated in commodities. But it is more than any other mode of production prodigal with human lives, with living labor, wasting not only blood and flesh, but also nerves and brains. Indeed, it is only by dint of the most extravagant waste of individual development that human development is safeguarded and advanced in that epoch of history which immediately precedes the conscious reorganisation of society. Since all the economies here mentioned arise from the social nature of labor, it is just this social character of labor which causes this waste of the lives and health of the laborers. The following question suggested by factory inspector B. Baker is characteristic in this respect: "The whole question is one for serious consideration, in what way this sacrifice of infant life occasioned by congregational labor can be averted?" (Report Fact., October 1863, page 157.)
Factories. Under this head belongs the disregard for all precautions for the security, comfort, and health of the laborers, also in the factories. A large portion of the bulletins of casualties enumerating the wounded and slain of the industrial army belong here (see the annual factory reports). Furthermore lack of space, ventilation, etc.
As late as October, 1855, Leonard Horner complained about the resistance of numerous manufacturers against the legal requirements concerning protective appliances on horizontal shafts, although the dangerous character of these shafts was continually proved by accidents, many of them fatal, and although the appliance for protection against this danger was neither expensive nor interfered with the work. (Rep. Fact., October, 1855, page 6.) In their resistance against this and other legal requirements, the manufacturers are ably seconded by the unpaid justices of the peace, who are themselves manufacturers or their friends, and who render their verdicts accordingly. What sort of verdicts those gentlemen rendered was revealed by Superior Judge Campbell, who said with reference to one of them, against which an appeal was made to him: "This is not an interpretation of an act of parliament, it is simply its abolition." (L. c., page 11.) Horner says in the same report that in many factories machinery is started up without warning the laborers. Since there is always something to look after, even when the machinery is at a standstill, there are always many hands and fingers busy on it, and accidents happen continually from the omission of a mere signal. (L. c., page 44.) The manufacturers of that period had formed a union opposing the factory legislation, the so-called "National Association for the Amendment of the Factory Laws" in Manchester, which collected, in March, 1855, more than 50,000 p.st. by an assessment of 2 shillings per horse-power. This sum was to pay for lawsuits of the members of the association against court proceedings instigated by factory inspectors, all cases of this kind being fought by the union. The issue was to prove that killing is no murder when done for profit. The factory inspector for Scotland, Sir John Kincaid, relates of a certain firm in Glasgow that it used the old iron of its factory to make protective appliances for all its machinery, the cost being 9 p.st. 1 shilling. If this firm had joined the manufacturers' union, it would have had to pay an assessment of 11 p.st. on its 110 horse powers. This would have been more than the cost of all its protective appliances. But the National Association had been organized in 1854 for the express purpose of opposing the law which prescribed such protection. The manufacturers had paid no attention whatever to this law during all the time from 1844 to 1854. At the instruction of Palmerston the factory inspectors then informed the manufacturers that the law would hence-forth be enforced. The manufacturers immediately founded their union. Many of its most prominent members were justices of the peace who were supposed to carry out this law. When the new Minister of the Interior, Sir George Grey, offered a compromise, in April, 1855, to the effect that the government would be content with practically nominal appliances for protection, the Association declined even this, with indignation. In various lawsuits, the famous engineer Thomas Fairbairn permitted the manufacturers to throw the weight of his name into the scale in favor of economies and in defense of the violated liberty of capital. The chief of factory inspectors, Leonard Horner, was persecuted and maligned by the manufacturers in every conceivable manner.
But the manufacturers did not rest until they had obtained a writ of the Queen's Bench, which interpreted the Law of 1844 to the effect that no protective appliances were prescribed for horizontal shafts installed more than seven feet above the ground. And finally they succeeded in 1856 in securing an act of parliament entirely satisfactory to them, by the help of the hypocrite Wilson Patten, one of those pious souls whose ostentatious religion is always ready to do dirty work for the knights of the money-bag. This act practically deprived the laborers of all special protection and referred them to the common courts for the recovery of damages in cases of accident by machinery (which amounted practically to a mockery, on account of the excessive cost of lawsuits). On the other hand, this act made it almost impossible for the manufacturers to lose a lawsuit, by providing in a very nicely worded clause for expert testimony. As a result, the accidents increased rapidly. In the six months from May to October, 1858, Inspector Baker reported an increase of accidents exceeding that of the preceding six months by 21%. He was of the opinion that 36.7% of these accidents might have been avoided. It is true, that the number of accidents in 1858 and 1859 was considerably below that of 1845 and 1846. It was 29% less, although the number of laborers had increased by 20% in the industries subject to inspection. But what was the reason for this? So far as the moot question was settled in 1865, it was due mainly to the introduction of new machinery which was provided with protective appliances from the start and to which the manufacturer did not object because they required no extra expense. A few laborers had also succeeded in securing heavy damages for their lost arms and having this sentence upheld even by the highest courts. (Rep. Fact., April 30, 1861, page 31, and April 1862, page 17.)
This may suffice to illustrate the economies in appliances by which life and limb of laborers (also children) are to be protected against dangers arising in the handling and operating of machinery.
Work in Closed Rooms. It is well known to what extent economies of space, and thus of buildings, crowd the laborers into narrow rooms. This is intensified by economies in appliances for ventilation. These two economies, coupled with an increase of the labor time, produce a large increase in the diseases of the respiratory organs, and consequently an increase of mortality. The following illustrations have been taken from the Reports on Public Health, 6th report, 1863. This report was compiled by Dr. John Simon, well-known from our volume I.
Just as the combination of co-operative labor permits the operation of machinery on a large scale, the concentration of means of production, and economies in their employment, so it is the co-operation of large numbers of laborers in closed rooms and under conditions determined by the ease of manufacture, not by the health of the laborer, which is on the one hand the source of increased profits for the capitalist and on the other the cause of the waste of the lives and health of the laborers, unless it is counteracted by a reduction of the hours of labor and by special precautions.
Dr. Simon formulates the following rule and backs it up with abundant statistics: "To the extent that the population of a certain district is made dependent upon co-operative labor in close rooms, to the same extent, other conditions remaining the same, increases the rate of mortality in that district through pulmonary diseases." (Page 23.) The cause of this is bad ventilation. "And there is probably in all England not a single exception from the rule that in every district, which has an important industry carried on in closed rooms, the increased mortality of its laborers suffices to color the mortality statistics of the entire district with a decided excess of pulmonary diseases." (Page 24.)
The mortality statistics of industries carried on in closed rooms, as examined by the Board of Health in 1860 and 1861, show the following facts: The same number of men between the ages of 15 and 55, having a rate of 100 deaths from consumption and other pulmonary diseases in English agricultural districts, has a rate of 163 deaths from consumption in Coventry, 167 in Blackburn and Skipton, 168 in Congleton and Bradford, 171 in Leicester, 182 in Leek, 184 in Macclesfield, 190 in Bolton, 192 in Nottingham, 193 in Rochdale, 198 in Derby, 203 in Salford and Ashton-under Lyne, 218 in Leeds, 220 in Preston, and 263 in Manchester. (Page 24.) The following table gives a still more convincing illustration.
It shows the deaths from pulmonary diseases separately for both sexes, between the ages of 15 to 25, computed on every 100,000. The districts selected are those in which only the women are employed in the industry carried on in closed rooms, while the men are employed in all possible lines of work.
In the districts with silk-industries, in which the participation of men in factory work is greater, their death-rate is also higher. The death rate from consumption, etc., in both sexes reveals, according to the report, the atrocious sanitary conditions under which a large portion of our silk-industry is carried on." And this is the same silk-industry whose manufacturers, boasting of the exceptionally favorable and sanitary conditions in their establishments, demanded an exceptionally long labor-time for children under 13 years of age, and were granted permission in several instances. (Volume I, chapter X, 6.)
"None of the hitherto investigated industries will have presented a worse picture than that given by Dr. Smith of tailoring. The work rooms, he says, differ considerably in the matter of sanitation; but nearly all of them are overcrowded, badly ventilated, and to a high degree injurious to health...Such rooms are necessarily hot, as it is; but if the gas is lighted, for instance during a fog in the daytime, or in winter in the evening, the heat rises to 80 or even 90 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 33 degrees C.) and causes a dripping perspiration and a precipitation of vapor on the glass panes, so that water is continually trickling down or dropping down from the skylight, and the laborers are compelled to keep some windows open, although they inevitably catch cold thereby.—He gives the following description of 16 of the most important shops of the West end of London: The largest cubic space alloted in these badly ventilated rooms to one laborer is 270 cubic feet; the smallest is 105 feet, the average being 156 feet per man. In a certain shop, which has a gallery running all around its sides and which receives light only from above, from 92 to 100 people are employed and a large number of gas jets lighted; the toilets are next door, and the room does not give above 150 cubic feet to each man. In another shop, which can be called only a dog kennel in a yard lighted from above and which can be ventilated only by one small window in the roof, from 5 to 6 people work in a room of 112 cubic feet per man." And "in these atrocious work rooms, described by Dr. Smith, the tailors work generally from 12 to 13 hours per day, and at certain periods work is continued for 14 to 16 hours." (Pages 25, 26, 28.)
(Page 30.) It must be noted, and has in fact been noted by John Simon, the chief of the Medical Department, who issued the report, that the mortality of the tailors, typesetters, and printers of London, for the ages from 25 to 35 years, has been reported too low, because the London employers in both lines have a large number of young people (probably up to 30 years of age) from the country engaged as apprentices and "improvers," that is to say, men who are being trained. These increase the number of employed on which the deathrates of London are computed. But they do not contribute at the same rate to the number of deaths in London, because their stay there is only temporary. If they get sick during this period, they return to their homes in the country to get well, and if they die there, they are registered in their own district. This fact affects the earlier ages still more and renders the death-rate figures of London for these ages completely valueless as standards of industrial violations of sanitary laws. (Page 30.)
The case of the typesetters is similar to that of the tailors. In addition to lack of ventilation, poisoned air, etc., their condition is aggravated by night-work. Their regular working time lasts from 12 to 13 hours, sometimes from 15 to 16. "Great heat and suffocating air as soon as the gas is lighted....It is not a rare occurrence that the fumes of a foundry, or the smell of machinery or of cesspools, rise from lower floors and aggravate the evils of the upper floors. The hot air of the lower rooms heats the upper ones by warming the floors, and if the rooms are low and much gas is burned in them, it is a great nuisance. It is still worse in places where steam engines are installed in the lower rooms and fill the whole house with undesirable heat...In general it may be said that the ventilation is defective throughout and totally insufficient to remove the heat and the products of combustion of the gas after sundown, and that conditions in many shops, especially if they were formerly living rooms, are most deplorable." In some shops, particularly for weekly papers, where boys of 12 to 16 years are also employed, work is carried on almost uninterruptedly for two days and one night; while in other printing shops, which make a specialty of job work, the laborer does not get a rest even on Sunday, so that his days of work are 7 instead of 6 per week. (Page 26, 28.)
The milliners and dress makers occupied our attention also in volume I, chapter X, 3, so far as overwork was concerned. Their work rooms are described in the present report by Dr. Ord. Even if they are better during the day, they become overheated, foul, and unhealthy during the hours in which gas is burned. Dr. Ord found in 34 shops of the better sort that the average number of cubic feet per worker was as follows: "In four cases more than 500; in four other cases 400-500; in five cases 200-250; in four cases 150-200; and finally in nine cases only 100-150. Even the most favorable of these cases barely suffices for continued work, when the room is not perfectly ventilated...Even with good ventilation the workshops become very hot and stuffy after dark on account of the many gas jets needed." And here follows a remark of Dr. Ord concerning one of the minor workshops operated for the account of a middleman: "One room, containing 1,280 cubic feet; persons present, 14; space for every person, 91.5 cubic feet. The girls looked haggard and neglected. There wages were said to be from 7 to 15 sh. per week, aside from tea...The hours of labor from 8 A. M. to 8 P. M. The small room, in which these 14 persons were crowded together, was badly ventilated. There were two movable windows and a fireplace, which was, however, closed. There were no special appliances of any kind for ventilation." (Page 27).
The same report states with reference to the overwork of the milliners and dress makers: "The overworking of young women in fashionable millinery stores prevails only for about 4 months in that monstrous degree which has elicited on many occasions the momentary surprise and indignation of the public. But during these months work is as a rule continued in the shop for fully 14 hours per day, and on accumulated rush-orders for days from 17 to 18 hours." In other seasons work in the shop is carried on probably for 10 to 14 hours; those working at home are regularly engaged for 12 to 13 hours. In the making of ladies' cloaks, capes, shirts, etc., including work with a sewing machine, the hours passed in the common work room are fewer, generally not more than 10 to 12, but, says Dr. Ord, "the regular hours of labor in certain houses, at various times, are subject to considerable extension by means of extra paid overtime, and in others work is taken home in order to be finished after the regular working time. We may add that either one of these methods of over-work is often compulsory." (Page 28). John Simons remarks in a footnote to this page: "Mr. Redcliffe, the secretary of the Epidemiological Society, who had especially frequent opportunities to examine the health of milliners and dressmakers of the first firms, found among 20 girls who said of themselves that they were "quite well" only one in good health; the others showed different degrees of physical exhaustion, nervous debility, and numerous functional troubles arising therefrom. He names as causes, in the first instance, the length of the working hours, which he estimates at a minimum of 12 hours per day even in the dull season, and secondly, 'overcrowding and bad ventilation of workrooms, air poisoned by gas lights, insufficient or bad food, and lack of provision for domestic comfort.'"
The conclusion at which the chief of the English Board of Health arrived, is that "it is practically impossible for laborers to insist on that which is theoretically their first sanitary right: the right of having their common labor freed from all needless conditions injurious to health, so far as may lie in the power of their employer, and at his expense, whatever may be the work to be accomplished by them for their employer. And while the laborers themselves are actually not in a position to enforce this sanitary justice, neither can they expect any effective assistance from the officials responsible for the enforcement of the Nuisance Removal Acts, in spite of the presumable intention of the legislator." (Page 29.)—"There will no doubt be some small technical difficulties in the way of determining the lowest limit where the employers shall be subject to regulation. But...in principle the claim to the protection of health is universal. And in the interest of myriads of working men and working women, whose lives are needlessly stunted and shortened by the infinite physical ills caused by their occupations, I venture to express the hope that the sanitary conditions of labor will just as universally be placed under fitting legal protection; at least sufficiently to safeguard an effective ventilation of all closed work rooms, and to restrict as much as possible the particular unsanitary influences naturally inherent in every dangerous line of industry." (Page 63.)