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Ure says of a machine used in calico printing: "At length capitalists sought deliverance from this intolerable bondage" [namely the, in their eyes, burdensome terms of their contracts with the workmen] "in the resources of science, and were speedily re-instated in their legitimate rule, that of the head over the inferior members." Speaking of an invention for dressing warps: "Then the combined malcontents, who fancied themselves impregnably entrenched behind the old lines of division of labour, found their flanks turned and their defences rendered useless by the new mechanical tactics, and were obliged to surrender at discretion." With regard to the invention of the self-acting mule, he says: "A creation destined to restore order among the industrious classes.... This invention confirms the great doctrine already propounded, that when capital enlists science into her service, the refractory hand of labour will always be taught docility."  Although Ure's work appeared 30 years ago, at a time when the factory system was comparatively but little developed, it still perfectly expresses the spirit of the factory, not only by its undisguised cynicism, but also by the nalveté with which it blurts out the stupid contradictions of the capitalist brain.
THE THEORY OF COMPENSATION AS REGARDS THE WORKPEOPLE DISPLACED BY MACHINERYJames Mill, MacCulloch, Torrens, Senior, John Stuart Mill, and a whole series besides, of bourgeois political economists, insist that all machinery that displaces workmen, simultaneously and necessarily sets free an amount of capital adequate to employ the same identical workmen.  Suppose a capitalist to employ 100 workmen, at £30 a year each, in a carpet factory. The variable capital annually laid out amounts, therefore, to £3,000. Suppose, also, that he discharges 50 of his workmen, and employs the remaining 50 with machinery that costs him £1,500. To simplify matters, we take no account of buildings, coal, &c. Further suppose that the raw material annually consumed costs £3,000, both before and after the change.  Is any capital set free by this metamorphosis? Before the change, the total sum of £6,000 consisted half of constant, and half of variable capital. After the change it consists of £4,500 constant ( £3,000 raw material and £1,500 machinery), and £1,500 variable capital. The variable capital, instead of being one half, is only one quarter, of the total capital. Instead of being set free, a part of the capital is here locked up in such a way as to cease to be exchanged against labour-power: variable has been changed into constant capital. Other things remaining unchanged, the capital of £6,000, can, in future, employ no more than 50 men. With each improvement in the machinery, it will employ fewer. If the newly introduced machinery had cost less than did the labour-power and implements displaced by it, if, for instance, instead of costing £1,500, it had cost only £1,000, a variable capital of £1,000 would have been converted into constant capital, and locked up; and a capital of £500 would have been set free. The latter sum, supposing wages unchanged, would form a fund sufficient to employ about 16 out of the 50 men discharged; nay, less than 16, for, in order to be employed as capital, a part of this £500 must now become constant capital, thus leaving only the remainder to be laid out in labour-power.
But, suppose, besides, that the making of the new machinery affords employment to a greater number of mechanics, can that be called compensation to the carpet-makers, thrown on the streets? At the best, its construction employs fewer men than its employment displaces. The sum of £1,500 that formerly represented the wages of the discharged carpet-makers, now represents in the shape of machinery: (1) the value of the means of production used in the construction of that machinery, (2) the wages of the mechanics employed in its construction, and (3) the surplus-value failing to the share of their "master." Further, the machinery need not be renewed till it is worn out. Hence, in order to keep the increased number of mechanics in constant employment, one carpet manufacturer after another must displace workmen by machines.
As a matter of fact the apologists do not mean this sort of setting free.
They have in their minds the means of subsistence of the liberated work-people. It cannot be denied, in the above instance, that the machinery not only liberates 50 men, thus placing them at others' disposal, but, at the same time, it withdraws from their consumption, and sets free, means of subsistence to the value of £1,500. The simple fact, by no means a new one, that machinery cuts off the workmen from their means of subsistence is, therefore, in economic parlance tantamount to this, that machinery liberates means of subsistence for the workman, or converts those means into capital for his employment. The mode of expression, you see, is everything. Nominibus mollire licet mala.
This theory implies that the £1,500 worth of means of subsistence was capital that was being expanded by the labour of the 50 men discharged. That, consequently, this capital falls out of employment so soon as they commence their forced holidays, and never rests till it has found a fresh investment, where it can again be productively consumed by these same 50 men. That sooner or later, therefore, the capital and the workmen must come together again, and that, then, the compensation is complete. That the sufferings of the workmen displaced by machinery are therefore as transient as are the riches of this world.
In relation to the discharged workmen, the £1,500 worth of means of subsistence never was capital. What really confronted them as capital, was the sum of £1,500, afterwards laid out in machinery. On looking closer it will be seen that this sum represented part of the carpets produced in a year by the 50 discharged men, which part they received as wages from their employer in money instead of in kind.
With the carpets in the form of money, they bought means of subsistence to the value of £1,500. These means, therefore, were to them, not capital, but commodities, and they, as regards these commodities, were not wage-labourers, but buyers. The circumstance that they were "freed" by the machinery, from the means of purchase, changed them from buyers into non-buyers. Hence a lessened demand for those commodities — voilà tout. If this diminution be not compensated by an increase from some other quarter, the market price of the commodities falls. If this state of things lasts for some time, and extends, there follows a discharge of workmen employed in the production of these commodities. Some of the capital that was previously devoted to production of necessary means of subsistence, has to become reproduced in another form. While prices fall, and capital is being displaced, the labourers employed in the production of necessary means of subsistence are in their turn "freed" from a part of their wages. Instead, therefore, of proving that, when machinery frees the workman from his means of subsistence, it simultaneously converts those means into capital for his further employment, our apologists, with their cut-and-dried law of supply and demand, prove, on the contrary, that machinery throws workmen on the streets, not only in that branch of production in which it is introduced, but also in those branches in which it is not introduced.
The real facts, which are travestied by the optimism of economists, are as follows: The labourers, when driven out of the workshop by the machinery, are thrown upon the labour-market, and there add to the number of workmen at the disposal of the capitalists. In Part VII.
of this book it will be seen that this effect of machinery, which, as we have seen, is represented to be a compensation to the working-class, is on the contrary a most frightful scourge. For the present I will only say this: The labourers that are thrown out of work in any branch of industry, can no doubt seek for employment in some other branch. If they find it, and thus renew the bond between them and the means of subsistence, this takes place only by the intermediary of a new and additional capital that is seeking investment; not at all by the intermediary of the capital that formerly employed them and was afterwards converted into machinery. And even should they find employment, what a poor look-out is theirs! Crippled as they are by division of labour, these poor devils are worth so little outside their old trade, that they cannot find admission into any industries, except a few of inferior kind, that are over-supplied with underpaid workmen.  Further, every branch of industry attracts each year a new stream of men, who furnish a contingent from which to fill up vacancies, and to draw a supply for expansion. So soon as machinery sets free a part of the workmen employed in a given branch of industry, the reserve men are also diverted into new channels of employment, and become absorbed in other branches; meanwhile the original victims, during the period of transition, for the most part starve and perish.
It is an undoubted fact that machinery, as such, is not responsible for "setting free" the workman from the means of subsistence. It cheapens and increases production in that branch which it seizes on, and at first makes no change in the mass of the means of subsistence produced in other branches. Hence, after its introduction, the society possesses as much, if not more, of the necessaries of life than before, for the labourers thrown out of work; and that quite apart from the enormous share of the annual produce wasted by the non-workers. And this is the point relied on by our apologists! The contradictions and antagonisms inseparable from the capitalist employment of machinery, do not exist, they say, since they do not arise out of machinery, as such, but out of its capitalist employment!
Since therefore machinery, considered alone, shortens the hours of labour, but, when in the service of capital, lengthens them; since in itself it lightens labour, but when employed by capital, heightens the intensity of labour; since in itself it is a victory of man over the forces of Nature, but in the hands of capital, makes man the slave of those forces; since in itself it increases the wealth of the producers, but in the hands of capital, makes them paupers-for all these reasons and others besides, says the bourgeois economist without more ado, it is clear as noon-day that all these contradictions are a mere semblance of the reality, and that, as a matter of fact, they have neither an actual nor a theoretical existence. Thus he saves himself from all further puzzling of the brain, and what is more, implicitly declares his opponent to be stupid enough to contend against, not the capitalistic employment of machinery, but machinery itself.
No doubt he is far from denying that temporary inconvenience may result from the capitalist use of machinery. But where is the medal without its reverse! Any employment of machinery, except by capital, is to him an impossibility. Exploitation of the workman by the machine is therefore, with him, identical with exploitation of the machine by the workman. Whoever, therefore, exposes the real state of things in the capitalistic employment of machinery, is against its employment in any way, and is an enemy of social progress!  Exactly the reasoning of the celebrated Bill Sykes. "Gentlemen of the jury, no doubt the throat of this commercial traveller has been cut.