[Marxism] Character of Assembly Line Work

Waistline2 at aol.com Waistline2 at aol.com
Sat Sep 26 00:49:26 MDT 2009


>> And some people on a feeder line had their stock built by lunch  time 
and went home, the foreman punched them out at the end of the day.   But in 
1973 Chrysler had several months downtime because of the oil  embargo.  When 
we came back, they had reorganized the work and much of this  slack was 
removed.  Just at the end of my tenure, Chrysler installed the  first automatic 
welders.  I only caught the very beginning of the  automation, and I don't 
know how this affected the character of the work  elsewhere in the plant.  I 
was assuming final assembly is still about the  same as in the 70s, but maybe 
I am wrong?  Has the character changed as Kay  describes or is this an 
urban legend?<<  

Comment

Not an urban legend but one sided. Everything  is one sided. Here is my one 
side. 

The application of the new  technology by definition lags behind the 
technological advance. The quantitative  addition of a new quality - technology, 
to an existing process brings to an end  expansion of the production process 
on the old basis. A leap form and takes  place which means transition. 
Partial application of the new technology creates  the next quantitative boundary 
of transition. 

The next expansion  is based on further application of the new qualitative 
additions. The entire  process can be observed by old radicals comparing an 
old Gestetner memo graph  printing machine to a modern laser printer. 
Remember the vinyl like stencils and  the leaflets coming off the "press?" And if 
you controlled the external energy  source - the "on and off" button, you 
were the creator. And if you passed your  creation out at a factory gate, and 
then got feed back after working hours . . .  a God like experience. 

Sorry, I love the smell of ink in the  morning. 

As a totality the comparison of the technological advance  - in this 
instance, would be between Gutenburgs cold type printing machine,  cranking out 
the first edition of the mass produced Bible and the modern  computerized 
printer, cranking out greeting cards in the wife futile attempt to  make the 
next buck. 

She is happy with every new creation but how  am I to be happy after a 
factory gate distribution of 'my baby" and knowing that  I picked up Gutenburgs 
ball? .

IBM's selectric type writer and  "selectic II" revolutionized the 1970's, 
as the printing industry was thrown  into material revolution. The New York 
strike of printers - the newspaper  industry, would come later and then hit 
Detroit.  

I was part  of this specific leap - transition, and then IBM's - "Big 
Blue," new   "composition system" carried us to the next level and then a gang of 
 revolutionaries, calling themselves Compugraphic, scored victory in the 
market  with wonderful typesetting equipment. The wife was working at the 
Guardian  newspaper in New York under Jack Smith and got her training in the 
revolution -  (the real one that is the material power of productive forces), 
as OJT - On the  Job Training. The revolution - which we like to paint as a 
purely subjective  matter, is material and captures the meaning of what Marx 
call "the material  power of productive forces." 

A new technology cannot be applied  everywhere at the same time. Outside 
military application, the technological  advance generally flows along the 
line of consumer products or properly speaking  light industry because of its 
profitability. In industrial society there has to  be a compulsion to gather 
together the engineers to design new equipment based  on the new technology. 
Before this happens the engineers have to be trained in  application of new 
technology and there has to exist a physical - material,  connection to 
apply the new technology in a given field. The actual process  becomes 
complicated because the moment you adapt a new technology and then  observe its 
working you are able to practically understand the "pathways" and  boundaries 
that the new technology challenge. The brightest amongst us know what  to do 
next. 

Soon as you see what the new quality that is  . .  . and how it is adapted 
to the existing system and its impact, you are really  for the next 
quantitative advance. The workers on the ground see the next  quantitative advance 
first, because the daily toil reveals "all the  mistakes."  The feedback 
loops inhibit their suggestions. All of this  inhibiting is not bourgeois. Some 
of it is people who do not want to be bothered  and simply desire to go home 
for a change and have dinner with the wife or  husband or person you want 
to have dinner with. 

The actual process  is complex and generally involves the emergence of new 
industries and  corporations, like Cisco system. Old corporations cannot 
leave their profit  centers, as they reproduce capital for "flights of fancy" 
and "exotic  technology" and the new ideas of "kids." Once Cisco begin 
getting feed back on  their routers they could further development them as this 
equipment reproduced  capital. Their fights for quality control and people 
friendly product is not  appreciated. 

I went into the Mack II Chrysler engine plant a  couple of months ago (July 
2009) and it was mind boggling. I did 30 years at  Chrysler Mound Road 
Engine plant and watched the incremental application of new  technology to the 
production process between 1972 and 2001. Outside this living  experience I 
tried to keep up with the technology advance, which rendered my  personal 
record collection "old hat." 

I had stuff like Bernstein -  which plays in my head,  and the score to 
Doris Day's "The Pajama  Game."  I had a first printing of the "Temptations 
Sing Smokey" and Nucleus  "Jam On It."  I have a copy of "Roll, Bounce Skate:" 
and David Ruffian's  first solo album. I also have a copy of Grady Tate's, 
"Long Drive Home," which I  swear you will enjoy this today . . .right now. 
Play  "Follow the  Path."  I swear you will personal love this song. Trust 
nothing I write.  

I swear, I have the copy. 

A plant built after 1990  is so far advanced from a plant operating in 1973 
that it is scary. The plant of  1973 was probably built 25 years before 
1973 and given a 25 year life  cycle.  

The relationship of years is not the numbers. Did I  say this the right 
way? I should have listened to my dad and stayed in school.  

The 1973 plant was not built in say 1969 or 1965. The   velocity of capital 
did not move at the pace of  today. Read SA "Wolf  Report" and the articles 
on the computer chip industry and its capital formation  and return on 
investment. The 1973 plant was built in say 1950 and updated.  

The 1973 plant has to be located in real history. Then Chrysler  did not 
have the capital of Ford and General Motors. Our plants - our . . .  our!!!, 
sorry,  could not keep pace with General Motors and Ford. Put us at  the back 
of the industrial advance. Walter P Chrysler engineering genius falls  
victim to capital accumulation. 

One more factor is worth  considering. When is new technology or existing 
technology applied to the  production process? Top of the curve or the 
bottom? Bottom of the curve my  friend as a way to overcome the falling rate of 
profit. When times are good  under capitalism - and we had a good time, the 
work day is lengthened and the  existing production process is intensified - 
speed up, and no one builds new  plants for the moment. 

The Mack I and II plants were built in the  late 1990's and that means a 
five year time lag because they had to be designed  and then built. Our engine 
plants are forever behind that of the Japanese. The  moment you build a new 
factory today it is obsolete in fact, but not in  relationship to 
competitions between capitals. 

Man . . . in 1973  there is no way to see 2001 plants. No . . . people do 
not sit as such but are  called forth to regulate and calibrate machine 
processes. The alienation is  horrible because human contact is broken between 
individuals - as internal  cooperation, and replace by computerized processes. 
The absolute number of  workers is reduced absolutely. My plant, where I 
went to work had 3500 people.  The new plants producing the same quantity 
requires 900 at tops.  

Someone always have to "bell the cat." Today his requires being on  you 
feet and pushing the "bell the cat button." The material difference in ones  
job depends  on if you are in  machining or assembly, or stamping.  Machining 
processes involves drilling and shaping raw materials. By definition  this 
process takes longer than assembling finished products.  In the former  you 
wait for machine process to finish their operations. In the latter its  
"assess and elbows." 

Workers with seniority and given the  opportunity, go into the machining 
division. Stamping means what the word  "stamp" means. 
 
Watch your hands . . . ouch. 

No . .  the new industrial  work force does not sit down. There is still a 
distinction between white and  blue collar. Sitting down as a class is the 
destruction of value.  

Yes, I was elected out of the machining division.  

What do I know? It's Saturday 2:30 in the morning.  

WL. 






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