Re.: Saul Landau: "The Cuba Conundrum"

Chris Brady cdbrady at
Fri May 2 15:45:02 MDT 2003

Early or mid-1990s I saw a documentary about Cuba by Saul Landau.
Somewhere in the middle some laborers were interviewed on their
job site; it was a big project, an electrical station or something.
They were smiling, relaxed, leaning on their tools, sitting on a low
and so on.  A professor commented afterwards that those workers
didn't look like they got much work done.

I thought then: "That's a very managerial perspective."
Then, having spent a substantial portion of my adult life as a manual
worker, I began to consider the nature of work in a workers' state.
Later I read an article by Michael Munk about work in Yugoslavia--
the way it was.  Without going into details here, it seems to me that
work in capitalist countries is motivated by economic terrorism.

I hated being pushed on a job by a money-grubbing contractor who
prefered we carpenters skipped details:"Nobody sees that shit! Forget
Let's go!!!"  such as pin-nailing in miters on casings so that they
part when the wood warps.  Or would rather you simply knock in a
butt-joint rather than rabbet in a proper shelf.  OR sent up number
stock for finish jobs...  the craft was ground out of it.  I knew an
woodworker who lapsed into smokey hash afternoons because he was
the most talented and knowledgable craftsman I ever met, with an
eye for good tools and quality materials, and was never allowed to
practise his trade.  Lunchtime would roll around and he'd find a
spot to stoke his bowl.  I remember waiting for an order to come in,
and suggesting that we could do other work while waiting.  He said,
"Why?  The contractor isn't here.  He won't notice nor care.
Don't be a chump."

Contractors who'd make you instal 24" centers instead of 16" in
partitions walls.  THrow up half-inch instead of five-eighths.
Float studs.  Minimize screws.  Plumbing contractors who
took a favor back from construction contractors for having
to redo lines--and thus having to bash ragged holes into new
walls --that would then have to be patched up by the contruction
crew, and patching takes way more time than putting in a 4x8 sheet.

I only recently read the Ragged Trousered Philanthropist.
It's not as bad now as it was then, but that's here. I can imagine
in the erstwhile "2nd World"... where workers are now faced with
market discipline.

More information about the Marxism mailing list