Automation | 2 >
The development of automatic tracking and firing apparatus for anti-aircraft batteries ' during "World War II introduced' the germs of a new industrial revolution. 'The process thus portended is already under way. We have before us the technological possibility of freeing mankind from drudgery, providing mankind with incalculable material abundance and giving humanity the leisure time to develop its full potentialities. We have at hand the beginnings of a self-operating means of production. The name given to this new industrial revolution is automation.
The first industrial revolution came as one of the effects, of capitalism's unquenchable thirst for relative surplus value. Labor-saving machinery, increasing the productivity of labor, cut down ttie amount of socially necessary labor in a commodity; thereby •Veaking through a profit barrier. This first industrial revolution brought a persistent lowering of the value of labor power, an increase of constant capital at the expense of variable capital, and an inescapable decline in the rate of profit.
Now a new industrial revolution, automation, has entered upon the scene — a consequence, again,- of capitalism's lust for relative surplus value. Automation raises the contradictions of capitalist industrialization to a new intensity: technological unemployment beyond yesterday's wildest fear's, astronomical quantities of constant capital for each worker directly employed, rind a plummeting rate of profit. With automation, the capitalist "spider" has taken a "wasp's egg" under its skin. Automation, a qualitative change in she means of production, hastens the doom of an outdated society. Automation carries with it an intensification of the social and political forces that will drive the working-class to take power and reorganize society from top to bottom.
Already the beginnings of this new industrial revolution are met in such significant' areas of the economy as Ford's engine plant in Cleveland. (See Electrical Manufacturing, August, 1953.) The various journals which circulate among management and engineering staffs are crammed with both ads and articles featuring the "gimmicks," instruments and methods of automation. Parts and units specifically designed for use in constructing computers are manufactured and offered in quantity by an increasing number of firms. Large banks are advertising their willingness to finance automation in industry. Practically every major manufacturing firm in the country has some kind of automation plans already in development.
Part of this development of automation is. a by-product of the munitions industries. Modern jet aircraft fly too fast for the response rates of human -reflexes. More and more of the control of these craft is passing from the pilot to various types of electronic "brains." A supplier of parts receives orders for a certain quantity of such essential computer elements as servo-mechanism units.' Soon this supplier is in position to produce more servo-mechanism, units than' his Air Force contract requires. He advertises the surplus on the open market This pattern is reproduced over the entire electronics industry.
The manufacture of radar equipment, television sets, etc., generates productive facilities which are readily convertible to manufacture of control circuits. The general scramble for odds and ends in a shrinking internal market forces the process to a new pitch. We have only to survey the topics of articles and ads in industrial and professional engineering journals during the past few years to see some of this process in operation.
Thus it is the inner, inescapable logic of U.S. capitalism that drives it to wade in the seas of automation —,seas in which it cannot swim.
What we shall do here is to show why automation represents the beginning of a-new industrial revolution, why it is not merely a continuation of the old industrial-revolution. We shall show why capitalism, for the most profound social and economic reasons, cannot complete this- revolution. Finally, we shall show how automation relates to the problems of the socialist revolution.
What is Automation?
The history of man's economic, social and political development: revolves around his invention and development of tools. It is by the implements of chipped and flaked stone that we identify paleolithic man. The spear, the axe, the bow and arrow raised man's food - gathering power above that of other animals. The invention of the plow speeded the development of agricultural economy and the social and political forms which evolved from agrarian society. In each stage of man's social and political development we look for the root iri the changes in man's relationship to tools changes in the means of production.
The first industrial revolution under capitalism, through mechanization, took the motive power and the tools from the workman and transferred them to the machine, but kept the workman as an appendage of the machine. (Marx, Capital, vol. I, chap. 15.) Automation changes this relationship between man and his tools. From machines to make machines, our technology has now advanced to machines that control machines — and thereby machines that control themselves. The appendage of 4he machine —the worker 'at the machine
— is junked. A small portion of this
displaced labor force Will find jobs
in the control room and on maintenance teams. Further steps in auto
mation will eliminate: even these.
Automation eliminates the human