Slavery and mechanization
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 28 11:26:25 MDT 2003
Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 3 No. 3, July 2003
Plantation Slavery and Economic Development in the Antebellum Southern
by CHARLES POST
By contrast, capitalists can reduce the size of their labour force to
adapt new, labour-saving machinery in response to changing competitive
pressures simply by laying off their redundant workers and expanding
the size of the reserve army of labour. Having consumed their capacity
to work for a specified period of time, the capitalists no longer have
any obligation to their former workers who are free to compete with
one another to find other buyers for their labour power. In sum, while
capitalists have and do attempt to intensify the labour of wage workers
through speed-up and lengthening working hours, the most effective means
of increasing output and reducing costs the mechanization of
production is available to capitalists, but not to slave-owners.
Michael Thad Allen. The Business of Genocide: The SS, Slave Labor, and
the Concentration Camps. Chapel Hill and London: University of North
Carolina Press, 2002. xii + 375 pp. Illustrations, map, notes,
bibliography, index. $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8078-2677-4.
Reviewed by L. M. Stallbaumer-Beishline, Department of History,
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
Allen's study focuses on activities of the WVHA, which was formed out of
a desire by Himmler to introduce modern, managerial practices to the
financial administration and economic enterprises of the SS. Himmler's
interests in the economy reflected his goal to bring the SS worldview
into private industry and to create a new economic order founded on
productivism and German racial supremacy...
Against the backdrop of how the WVHA emerged and functioned, Allen
examines the careers of several men in the commercial and engineering
sectors of the SS economic administration. He convincingly illustrates
that the SS mid-level managers were driven by a "plexus of ideologies."
They were neither cogs in a machine, nor trapped in a bureaucratic "iron
cage," nor banal technocrats. Allen finds that the commercial pursuits
of the SS were far less successful than the construction engineers. He
explains the differences in outcome may be due to the engineers' ability
to combine technical knowledge with ideological commitment. This becomes
obvious when we compare Allen's study of DESt, TexLed (Textil- und
Lederverwertung GmbH, Textile and Leather Utilitzation Ltd), and Hans
Kammler's SS construction corps.
TexLed's success can be explained by several factors, including the
simple fact that textile manufacturing is a labor intensive job which
proved perfectly suited to the use of concentration camp laborers. Yet
sound management also contributed to TexLed's ability to meet supply
demands and run at a profit. TexLed was managed by Fritz Lechler and
Felix Krug, who fully identified with the SS plexus of ideologies, and
they possessed modern, technological management skills. Like Ahrens,
they purchased the most modern sewing machines that could increase
output, but did not require skilled laborers. Therefore, their
operations fully exploited concentration camp labor through modern
managerial techniques, controlled labor costs, and profit-oriented
operations. At both German commercial operations, forced laborers were
exploited and treated cruelly (a topic that is discussed only briefly),
but TexLed demonstrated to Allen that "ideological extremism" and
business sense could be integrated coherently (p. 70).
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