A “Scientific” System of Sweating
|Written||13 March 1913|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1975, Moscow, Volume 18, pages 594-595.
U.S. capitalism is ahead of all. The greatest development of technology and the most rapid progress are facts which make old Europe emulate the Yankees. But it is not the democratic institutions that the European bourgeoisie is borrowing from America, nor political liberty, nor yet the republican political system, but the latest methods of exploiting the workers.
The most widely discussed topic today in Europe, and to some extent in Russia, is the “system” of the American engineer, Frederick Taylor. Not so long ago Mr. Semyonov read a paper on this system in the assembly hall of the Railway Engineering Institute in St. Petersburg. Taylor himself has described his system under the title of “scientific”, and his book is being eagerly translated and promoted in Europe.
What is this “scientific system”? Its purpose is to squeeze out of the worker three times more labour during a working day of the same length as before. The sturdiest and most skilful worker is put to work; a special clock registers—in seconds and fractions of a second—the amount of time spent on each operation and each motion; the most economical and most efficient working methods are developed; the work of the best worker is recorded on cinematographic film, etc.
The result is that, within the same nine or ten working hours as before, they squeeze out of the worker three times more labour, mercilessly drain him of all his strength, and are three times faster in sucking out every drop of the wage slave’s nervous and physical energy. And if he dies young? Well, there are many others waiting at the gate!
In capitalist society, progress in science and technology means progress in the art of sweating.
Here is an example from Taylor’s book.
Speaking of the operation of loading cast iron on to hand-carts for further processing, the author compares the old and the new, “scientific”, system:
|Number of workers engaged in loading . . . . . .||500||140|
|Average number of tons loaded by one worker (a ton
equals 61 poods) . . . . . . . . . . . . .
|Average earnings of worker (rubles) . . . . . . . .||2.30||3.75|
|Expenditure incurred by factory owner per ton of
load (kopeks) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The capitalist cuts his expenditure by half or more. His profits grow. The bourgeoisie is delighted and cannot praise the Taylors enough!
The workers get a wage increase at first. But hundreds of workers get the sack. Those who are left have to work four times more intensively, doing a back-breaking job. When he has been drained of all his strength, the worker will be kicked out. Only young and sturdy workers are taken on.
It is sweating in strict accordance with all the precepts of science.