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