Karl Marx on The Limits the Working Day; and The Voracious Appetite for Surplus Labour.
(Introduction by Richard Abernethy)
To be a working man, woman – or child – in the mid-nineteenth century, at the time when Karl Marx wrote Capital, meant a life almost totally dominated and consumed by work. The Factory Act of 1847 had limited the working day to ten hours (i.e. a 60 hour working week, as Saturday was a normal working day), but only for women and young people in certain industries. Elsewhere, people were worked to the limits of endurance – and beyond. Marx describes the fate of Mary Anne Walkley, a milliner, who died suddenly at the age of 20, after working for 26 hours and 30 minutes at a stretch in a crowded, badly ventilated workshop, and then going to sleep in a dormitory that was also crowded and poorly ventilated.
That was 1863. In our own times, globalised capital is recreating similar conditions in newly industrialised countries. A 21-year-old woman working in a sports garment factory in Indonesia described her experience:
“In June and July 2003, the sewing department I am part of worked from 7am until 4am the next day because of a large Reebok order. We were allowed to go home for about seven hours, but had to be back at the factory at 11am to work until 10pm.”
While working on Capital, Marx was engaged in an international working class campaign to set a reasonable limit to hours of work. He drafted the resolution passed by the Congress of the International Working Men’s Association at Geneva in September 1866:
“We declare that the limitation of the working day is a preliminary condition without which all further attempts at improvement and emancipation must prove abortive... the Congress proposes eight hours as the legal limit of the working day”.
The reduction of the working day opened up time for family and social life, sports and hobbies, education and culture. Working people won for themselves time to find out about the world and participate in social and political movements in order to change it.
In Britain and other advanced capitalist countries there is still a tug-of-war between workers and employers over work and time. Annual working time is composed of normal, contractual hours (in the UK, typically around 37 per week), plus paid overtime, plus unpaid overtime, minus annual leave. In 1998, with the adoption of the European Union Working Time Regulations, it became unlawful for an employer to require more than 48 hours, on average, per week. There is still a loophole, whereby workers can “opt out” of the regulations, and some bosses make this a condition of starting a job, or pressurise staff into signing away their rights.
According to TUC figures, in the UK one worker in six works more than 48 hours a week, and one in ten works more than 55 hours. Many of the “extra” hours are made up of unpaid, unrecognised, unrecorded overtime. Often people face an informal expectation that they will put in extra time at their jobs, for instance, by being given work targets that can only be met by working extra time.
U.S. workers have the longest annual hours in the developed world, partly because their vacations are so meagre: on average, 8.1 days after a year on the job, 10.2 days after three years. This compares very badly with the UK (minimum 4 weeks) and France (5 weeks).
We invite our readers to share their experiences of this issue, through the pages of The Hobgoblin. It would be helpful to know both about situations where the long hours culture is a problem, and those where workers have successfully held the line of a ‘normal’ working day.
THE HOBGOBLIN NO.6 2005
Capital A Critique of Political Economy
The Working Day
By Karl Marx [I]
I. The Limits of the Working Day
We started with the supposition that labour-power is bought and sold at its value. Its value, like that of all other commodities, is determined by the working-time necessary to its production. If the production of the average daily means of subsistence of the labourer takes up 6 hours, he must work, on the average, 6 hours every day, to produce his daily labour-power, or to reproduce the value received as the result of its sale. The necessary part of his working-day amounts to 6 hours, and is, therefore, caeteris paribus, a given quantity. But with this, the extent of the working-day itself is not yet given.
Let us assume that the line A—-B represents the length of the necessary working-time, say 6 hours. If the labour be prolonged 1, 3, or 6 hours beyond A—-B, we have 3 other lines:
Working day I: A-------B - C
Working day II: A- - - -B- - -C
Working day III: A - - - B- - - - -C representing 3 different working-days of 7, 9, and 12 hours.
The extension B—-C of the line A—-B represents the length of the surplus-labour. As the working-day is A—-B + B—-C or A—-C, it varies with the variable quantity B—-C. Since A—-B is constant, the ratio of B—-C to A—-B can always be calculated. In working-day I, it is 1/6, in working-day II, 3/6, in working day III 6/6 of A—-B. Since further the ratio surplus working-time, necessary working-time, determines the rate of the surplus-value, the latter is given by the ratio of B—-C to A—-B. It amounts in the 3 different working-days respectively to 16 2/3, 50 and 100 per cent. On the other hand, the rate of surplus-value alone would not give us the extent of the working-day. If this rate, e.g., were 100 per cent., the working-day might be of 8, 10, 12, or more hours. It would indicate that the 2 constituent parts of the working-day, necessary-labour and surplus-labour time, were equal in extent, but not how long each of these two constituent parts was.
The working-day is thus not a constant, but a variable quantity. One of its parts, certainly, is determined by the working-time required for the reproduction of the labour-power of the labourer himself. But its total amount varies with the duration of the surplus-labour. The working-day is, therefore, determinable, but is, per se, indeterminate. 1
Although the working-day is not a fixed, but a fluent quantity, it can, on the other hand, only vary within certain limits. The minimum limit is, however, not determinable; of course, if we make the extension line B—-C or the surplus-labour = 0, we have a minimum limit, i.e., the part of the day which the labourer must necessarily work for his own maintenance. On the basis of capitalist production, however, this necessary labour can form a part only of the working-day; the working-day itself can never be reduced to this minimum. On the other hand, the working-day has a maximum limit. It cannot be prolonged beyond a certain point. This maximum limit is conditioned by two things. First, by the physical bounds of labour-power. Within the 24 hours of the natural day a man can expend only a definite quantity of his vital force. A horse, in like manner, can only work from day to day, 8 hours. During part of the day this force must rest, sleep; during another part the man has to satisfy other physical needs, to feed, wash, and clothe himself. Besides these purely physical limitations, the extension of the working-day encounters moral ones. The labourer needs time for satisfying his intellectual and social wants, the extent and number of which are conditioned by the general state of social advancement. The variation of the working-day fluctuates, therefore, within physical and social bounds. But both these limiting conditions are of a very elastic nature, and allow the greatest latitude. So we find working-days of 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 hours, i.e., of the most different lengths.
The capitalist has bought the labour-power at its day-rate. To him its use-value belongs during one working-day. He has thus acquired the right to make the labourer work for him during one day. But, what is a working-day? 2
At all events, less than a natural day. By how much? The capitalist has his own views of this Ultima Thule, the necessary limit of the working-day. As capitalist, he is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital. But capital has one single life impulse, the tendency to create value and surplus-value, to make its constant factor, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus-labour. 3
Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him. 4
If the labourer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist. 5
The capitalist then takes his stand on the law of the exchange of commodities. He, like all other buyers, seeks to get the greatest possible benefit out of the use-value of his commodity. Suddenly the voice of the labourer, which had been stifled in the storm and stress of the process of production, rises:
The commodity that I have sold to you differs from the crowd of other commodities, in that its use creates value, and a value greater than its own. That is why you bought it. That which on your side appears a spontaneous expansion of capital, is on mine extra expenditure of labour-power. You and I know on the market only one law, that of the exchange of commodities. And the consumption of the commodity belongs not to the seller who parts with it, but to the buyer, who acquires it. To you, therefore, belongs the use of my daily labour-power. But by means of the price that you pay for it each day, I must be able to reproduce it daily, and to sell it again. Apart from natural exhaustion through age, &c., I must be able on the morrow to work with the same normal amount of force, health and freshness as to-day. You preach to me constantly the gospel of "saving" and "abstinence." Good! I will, like a sensible saving owner, husband my sole wealth, labour-power, and abstain from all foolish waste of it. I will each day spend, set in motion, put into action only as much of it as is compatible with its normal duration, and healthy development. By an unlimited extension of the working-day, you may in one day use up a quantity of labour-power greater than I can restore in three. What you gain in labour I lose in substance. The use of my labour-power and the spoliation of it are quite different things. If the average time that (doing a reasonable amount of work) an average labourer can live, is 30 years, the value of my labour-power, which you pay me from day to day is 1 / 365 x 30 or 1 / 10950 of its total value. But if you consume it in 10 years, you pay me daily 1 / 10950 instead of 1 / 3650 of its total value, i.e., only 1/3 of its daily value, and you rob me, therefore, every day of 2/3 of the value of my commodity. You pay me for one day's labour-power, whilst you use that of 3 days. That is against our contract and the law of exchanges. I demand, therefore, a working-day of normal length, and I demand it without any appeal to your heart, for in money matters sentiment is out of place. You may be a model citizen, perhaps a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and in the odour of sanctity to boot; but the thing that you represent face to face with me has no heart in its breast. That which seems to throb there is my own heart-beating. I demand the normal working-day because I, like every other seller, demand the value of my commodity. 6
We see then, that, apart from extremely elastic bounds, the nature of the exchange of commodities itself imposes no limit to the working-day, no limit to surplus-labour. The capitalist maintains his rights as a purchaser when he tries to make the working-day as long as possible, and to make, whenever possible, two working-days out of one. On the other hand, the peculiar nature of the commodity sold implies a limit to its consumption by the purchaser, and the labourer maintains his right as seller when he wishes to reduce the working-day to one of definite normal duration. There is here, therefore, an antinomy, right against right, both equally bearing the seal of the law of exchanges. Between equal rights force decides. Hence is it that in the history of capitalist production, the determination of what is a working-day, presents itself as the result of a struggle, a struggle between collective capital, i.e., the class of capitalists, and collective labour, i.e., the working-class.
2. THE VORACIOUS APPETITE FOR SURPLUS-LABOUR. MANUFACTURER AND BOYAR
Capital has not invented surplus-labour. Wherever a part of society possesses the monopoly of the means of production, the labourer, free or not free, must add to the working-time necessary for his own maintenance an extra working-time in order to produce the means of subsistence for the owners of the means of production, 7 whether this proprietor be the Athenian calos cagaqos well-to-do man, Etruscan theocrat, civis Romanus, Norman baron, American slave-owner, Wallachian Boyard, modern landlord or capitalist.8 It is, however, clear that in any given economic formation of society, where not the exchange-value but the use-value of the product predominates, surplus-labour will be limited by a given set of wants which may be greater or less, and that here no boundless thirst for surplus-labour arises from the nature of the production itself. Hence in antiquity over-work becomes horrible only when the object is to obtain exchange-value in its specific independent money-form; in the production of gold and silver. Compulsory working to death is here the recognised form of over-work. Only read Diodorus Siculus. 9 Still these are exceptions in antiquity. But as soon as people, whose production still moves within the lower forms of slave-labour, corvée-labour, &c., are drawn into the whirlpool of an international market dominated by the capitalistic mode of production, the sale of their products for export becoming their principal interest, the civilised horrors of over-work are grafted on the barbaric horrors of slavery, serfdom, &c. Hence the negro labour in the Southern States of the American Union preserved something of a patriarchal character, so long as production was chiefly directed to immediate local consumption. But in proportion, as the export of cotton became of vital interest to these states, the over-working of the negro and sometimes the using up of his life in 7 years of labour became a factor in a calculated and calculating system. It was no longer a question of obtaining from him a certain quantity of useful products. It was now a question of production of surplus-labour itself: So was it also with the corvée, e.g., in the Danubian Principalities (now Roumania).
The comparison of the greed for surplus-labour in the Danubian Principalities with the same greed in English factories has a special interest, because surplus-labour in the corvée has an independent and palpable form.
Suppose the working-day consists of 6 hours of necessary labour, and 6 hours of surplus-labour. Then the free labourer gives the capitalist every week 6 x 6 or 36 hours of surplus-labour. It is the same as if he worked 3 days in the week for himself, and 3 days in the week gratis for the capitalist. But this is not evident on the surface. Surplus-labour and necessary labour glide one into the other. I can, therefore, express the same relationship by saying, e.g., that the labourer in every minute works 30 seconds for himself, and 30 for the capitalist, etc. It is otherwise with the corvée. The necessary labour which the Wallachian peasant does for his own maintenance is distinctly marked off from his surplus-labour on behalf of the Boyard. The one he does on his own field, the other on the seignorial estate. Both parts of the labour-time exist, therefore, independently, side by side one with the other. In the corvée the surplus-labour is accurately marked off from the necessary labour. This, however, can make no difference with regard to the quantitative relation of surplus-labour to necessary labour. Three days' surplus-labour in the week remain three days that yield no equivalent to the labourer himself, whether it be called corvée or wage-labour. But in the capitalist the greed for surplus-labour appears in the straining after an unlimited extension of the working-day, in the Boyard more simply in a direct hunting after days of corvée. 10
In the Danubian Principalities the corvée was mixed up with rents in kind and other appurtenances of bondage, but it formed the most important tribute paid to the ruling class. Where this was the case, the corvée rarely arose from serfdom; serfdom much more frequently on the other hand took origin from the corvée. 11 This is what took place in the Rumanian provinces. Their original mode of production was based on community of the soil, but not in the Slavonic or Indian form. Part of the land was cultivated in severally as freehold by the members of the community, another part — ager publicus — was cultivated by them in common. The products of this common labour served partly as a reserve fund against bad harvests and other accidents, partly as a public store for providing the costs of war, religion, and other common expenses. In course of time military and clerical dignitaries usurped, along with the common land, the labour spent upon it. The labour of the free peasants on their common land was transformed into corvée for the thieves of the common land. This corvée soon developed into a servile relationship existing in point of fact, not in point of law, until Russia, the liberator of the world, made it legal under presence of abolishing serfdom. The code of the corvée, which the Russian General Kisseleff proclaimed in 1831, was of course dictated by the Boyards themselves. Thus Russia conquered with one blow the magnates of the Danubian provinces, and the applause of liberal cretins throughout Europe.
According to the "Règlement organique," as this code of the corvée is called, every Wallachian peasant owes to the so-called landlord, besides a mass of detailed payments in kind: (1), 12 days of general labour; (2), one day of field labour; (3), one day of wood carrying. In all, 14 days in the year. With deep insight into Political Economy, however, the working-day is not taken in its ordinary sense, but as the working-day necessary to the production of an average daily product; and that average daily product is determined in so crafty a way that no Cyclops would be done with it in 24 hours. In dry words, the Réglement itself declares with true Russian irony that by 12 working-days one must understand the product of the manual labour of 36 days, by 1 day of field labour 3 days, and by 1 day of wood carrying in like manner three times as much. In all, 42 corvée days. To this had to be added the so-called jobagie, service due to the lord for extraordinary occasions. In proportion to the size of its population, every village has to furnish annually a definite contingent to the jobagie. This additional corvée is estimated at 14 days for each Wallachian peasant.
Thus the prescribed corvée amounts to 56 working-days yearly. But the agricultural year in Wallachia numbers in consequence of the severe climate only 210 days, of which 40 for Sundays and holidays, 30 on an average for bad weather, together 70 days, do not count. 140 working-days remain. The ratio of the corvée to the necessary labour 56/84 or 66 2/3 % gives a much smaller rate of surplus-value than that which regulates the labour of the English agricultural or factory labourer. This is, however, only the legally prescribed corvée. And in a spirit yet more "liberal" than the English Factory Acts, the "Règlement organique" has known how to facilitate its own evasion. After it has made 56 days out of 12, the nominal day's work of each of the 56 corvée days is again so arranged that a portion of it must fall on the ensuing day. In one day, e.g., must be weeded an extent of land, which, for this work, especially in maize plantations, needs twice as much time. The legal day's work for some kinds of agricultural labour is interpretable in such a way that the day begins in May and ends in October. In Moldavia conditions are still harder. "The 12 corvée days of the 'Règlement organique' cried a Boyard drunk with victory, amount to 365 days in the year." 12
If the Règlement organique of the Danubian provinces was a positive expression of the greed for surplus-labour which every paragraph legalised, the English Factory Acts are the negative expression of the same greed. These acts curb the passion of capital for a limitless draining of labour-power, by forcibly limiting the working-day by state regulations, made by a state that is ruled by capitalist-and landlord. Apart from the working-class movement that daily grew more threatening, the limiting of factory labour was dictated by the same necessity which spread guano over the English fields. The same blind eagerness for plunder that in the one case exhausted the soil, had, in the other, torn up by the roots the living force of the nation. Periodical epidemics speak on this point as clearly as the diminishing military standard in Germany and France. 13
The Factory Act of 1850 now in force (1867) allows for the average working-day 10 hours, i.e., for the first 5 days 12 hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., including 1/2 an hour for breakfast, and an hour for dinner, and thus leaving 10 1/2 working-hours, and 8 hours for Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., of which 1/2 an hour is subtracted for breakfast. 60 working-hours are left, 10 1/2 for each of the first 5 days, 7 1/2 for the last. 14
Certain guardians of these laws are appointed, Factory Inspectors, directly under the Home Secretary, whose reports are published half-yearly, by order of Parliament. They give regular and official statistics of the capitalistic greed for surplus-labour.
Let us listen, for a moment, to the Factory Inspectors.15 "The fraudulent mill-owner begins work a quarter of an hour (sometimes more, sometimes less) before 6 a.m., and leaves off a quarter of an hour (sometimes more, sometimes less) after 6 p.m. He takes 5 minutes from the beginning and from the end of the half hour nominally allowed for breakfast, and 10 minutes at the beginning and end of the hour nominally allowed for dinner. He works for a quarter of an hour (sometimes more, sometimes less) after 2 p.m. on Saturday. Thus his gain is:
Before 6 am 15 minutes
After 6 pm 15 minutes
At breakfast time 10 minutes
At dinner time 20 minutes
- 60 Minutes
Total for five days 300 minutes
On Saturday before 6 am 15 minutes
At breakfast time 10 minutes
After 2 pm 15 minutes
- 40 minutes
Weekly total 340 minutes
Or 5 hours and 40 minutes weekly, which multiplied by 50 working weeks in the year (allowing two for holidays and occasional stoppages) is equal to 27 working-days." 16
"Five minutes a day's increased work, multiplied by weeks, are equal to two and a half days of produce in the year." 17
"An additional hour a day gained by small instalments before 6 a.m., after 6 p.m., and at the beginning and end of the times nominally fixed for meals, is nearly equivalent to working 13 months in the year." 18
Crises during which production is interrupted and the factories work "short time," i.e., for only a part of the week, naturally do not affect the tendency to extend the working-day. The less business there is, the more profit has to be made on the business done. The less time spent in work, the more of that time has to be turned into surplus labour-time.
Thus the Factory Inspector's report on the period of the crisis from 1857 to 1858:
"It may seem inconsistent that there should be any overworking at a time when trade is so bad; but that very badness leads to the transgression by unscrupulous men, they get the extra profit of it. ... In the last half year, says Leonard Horner, 122 mills in my district have been given up; 143 were found standing," yet, over-work is continued beyond the legal hours. 19
"For a great part of the time," says Mr. Howell, "owing to the depression of trade, many factories were altogether closed, and a still greater number were working short time. I continue, however, to receive about the usual number of complaints that half, or three-quarters of an hour in the day, are snatched from the workers by encroaching upon the times professedly allowed for rest and refreshment."20 The same phenomenon was reproduced on a smaller scale during the frightful cotton-crises from 1861 to 1865. 21 "It is sometimes advanced by way of excuse, when persons are found at work in a factory, either at a meal hour, or at some illegal time, that they will not leave the mill at the appointed hour, and that compulsion is necessary to force them to cease work cleaning their machinery, &c., especially on Saturday afternoons. But, if the hands remain in a factory after the machinery has ceased to revolve ... they would not have been so employed if sufficient time had been set apart specially for cleaning, &c., either before 6 a.m. sic.! or before 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoons." 22
"The profit to be gained by it (over-working in violation of the Act) appears to be, to many, a greater temptation than they can resist; they calculate upon the chance of not being found out; and when they see the small amount of penalty and costs, which those who have been convicted have had to pay, they find that if they should be detected there will still be a considerable balance of gain.... 23 In cases where the additional time is gained by a multiplication of small thefts in the course of the day, there are insuperable difficulties to the inspectors making out a case." 24
These "small thefts" of capital from the labourer's meal and recreation time, the factory inspectors also designate as "petty pilferings of minutes," 25 "snatching a few minutes," 26 or, as the labourers technically called them, "nibbling and cribbling at meal-times." 27
It is evident that in this atmosphere the formation of surplus-value by surplus-labour, is no secret. "If you allow me," said a highly respectable master to me, "to work only ten minutes in the day over-time, you put one thousand a year in my pocket." 28 "Moments are the elements of profit." 29
Nothing is from this point of view more characteristic than the designation of the workers who work full time as "full-timers," and the children under 13 who are only allowed to work 6 hours as "half-timers." The worker is here nothing more than personified labour-time. All individual distinctions are merged in those of "full-timers" and "half-timers " 30
1 "A day's labour is vague, it may be long or short." ("An Essay on Trade and Commerce, Containing Observations on Taxes, &c." London. 1770, p. 73.)
2 This question is far more important than the celebrated question of Sir Robert Peel to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce: What is a pound? A question that could only have been proposed, because Peel was as much in the dark as to the nature of money as the "little shilling men" of Birmingham.
3 "It is the aim of the capitalist to obtain with his expended capital the greatest possible quantity of labour (d'obtenir du capital dépense la plus forte somme de travail possible). J. G. Courcelle-Seneuil. "Traité théorique et pratique des entreprises industrielles." 2nd ed. Paris, 1857, p. 63.
4 "An hour's labour lost in a day is a prodigious injury to a commercial State.... There is a very great consumption of luxuries among the labouring poor of this kingdom: particularly among the manufacturing populace, by which they also consume their time, the most fatal of consumptions." "An Essay on Trade and Commerce, &c.," p. 47, and 15 3.
5 "Si le manouvrier libre prend un instant de repos, I'économie sordide qui le suit des yeux avec inquiétude, prétend qu'il la vole." N. Linguet, "Théorie des Lois Civiles. &c." London, 1767, t. II., p. 466.
6 During the great strike of the London builders, 1860-61, for the reduction of the working-day to 9 hours, their Committee published a manifesto that contained, to some extent, the plea of our worker. The manifesto alludes, not without irony, to the fact, that the greatest profit-monger amongst the building masters, a certain Sir M. Peto, was in the odour of sanctity (This same Peto, after 1867, came to an end a la Strousberg.)
7 "Those who labour ... in reality feed both the pensioners ... called the rich and themselves." (Edmund Burke, l. c., p. 2.)
8 Niebuhr in his "Roman History" says very naively: "It is evident that works like the Etruscan, which in their ruins astound us, pre-suppose in little (!) states lords and vassals." Sismondi says far more to the purpose that "Brussels lace" pre-supposes wage-lords and wage-slaves.
9 "One cannot see these unfortunates (in the gold mines between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Arabia) who cannot even have their bodies clean, or their nakedness clothed, without pitying their miserable lot. There is no indulgence, no forbearance for the sick, the feeble, the aged, for woman's weakness. All must, forced by blows, work on until death puts an end to their sufferings and their distress." ("Diod. Sic. Bibl. Hist.," lib. 2, c. 13.)
10 That which follows refers to the situation in the Rumanian provinces before the change effected since the Crimean war.
11 This holds likewise for Germany, and especially for Prussia east of the Elbe. In the 15th century the German peasant was nearly everywhere a man, who, whilst subject to certain rents paid in produce and labour was otherwise at least practically free. The German colonists in Brandenburg, Pomerania, Silesia, and Eastern Prussia, were even legally acknowledged as free men. The victory of the nobility in the peasants' war put an end to that. Not only were the conquered South German peasants again enslaved. From the middle of the 16th century the peasants of Eastern Prussia, Brandenburg, Pomerania, and Silesia, and soon after the free peasants of Schleswig-Holstein were degraded to the condition of serfs. (Maurer, Fronhöfe iv. vol., — Meitzen, "Der Boden des preussischen Staats" — Hanssen, "Leibeigenschaft in Schleswig-Holstein." — F. E.)
12 Further details are to be found in E. Regnault's "Histoire politique et sociale des Principautés Danubiennes," Paris, 1855.
13 "In general and within certain limits, exceeding the medium size of their kind, is evidence of the prosperity of organic beings. As to man, his bodily height lessens if his due growth is interfered with, either by physical or local conditions. In all European countries in which the conscription holds, since its introduction, the medium height of adult men, and generally their fitness for military service, has diminished. Before the revolution (1789), the minimum for the infantry in France was 165 centimetres; in 1818 (law of March 10th), 157; by the law of March 21, 1832, 156 cm.; on the average in France more than half are rejected on account of deficient height or bodily weakness. The military standard in Saxony was in 1780, 178 cm. It is now 155. In Prussia it is 157. According to the statement of Dr. Meyer in the Bavarian Gazette, May 9th, 1862, the result of an average of 9 years is, that in Prussia out of 1,000 conscripts 716 were unfit for military service, 317 because of deficiency in height, and 399 because of bodily defects.... Berlin in 1858 could not provide its contingent of recruits, it was 156 men short." J. von Liebig: "Die Chemie in ihrer Anwendung auf Agrikultur und Physiologie. 1862," 7th Ed., vol. 1, pp. 117, 118.
14 The history of the Factory Act of 1850 will be found in the course of this chapter.
15 I only touch here and there on the period from the beginning of modern industry in England to 1845. For this period I refer the reader to "Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England," von Friedrich Engels, Leipzig, 1845. How completely Engels understood the nature of the capitalist mode of production is shown by the Factory Reports, Reports on Mines, &c., that have appeared since 1845, and how wonderfully he painted the circumstances in detail is seen on the most superficial comparison of his work with the official reports of the Children's Employment Commission, published 18 to 20 years later (1863-1867). These deal especially with the branches of industry in which the Factory Acts had not, up to 1862, been introduced, in fact are not yet introduced. Here, then, little or no alteration had been enforced, by authority, in the conditions painted by Engels. I borrow my examples chiefly from the Free-trade period after 1848, that age of paradise, of which the commercial travellers for the great firm of Free-trade, blatant as ignorant, tell such fabulous tales. For the rest England figures here in the foreground because she is the classic representative of capitalist production, and she alone has a continuous set of official ctatistics of the things we are considering.
16 "Suggestions, &c. by Mr. L. Homer, Inspector of Factories," in Factories Regulation Acts. Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 9th August, 1859, pp. 4, 5.
17 Reports of the Inspector of Factories for the half year. October, 1856, p. 35.
18 Reports, &c., 30th April, 1858, p. 9.
19 Reports, &c., l. c., p. 10.
20 Reports &c., l. c., p. 25.
21 Reports &c., for the half year ending 30th April, 1861. See Appendix No. 2; Reports, &c., 31st October, 1862, pp. 7, 52, 53. The violations of the Acts became more numerous during the last half year 1863. Cf Reports, &c., ending 31st October, 1863, p. 7.
22 Reports, &c., October 31st, 1860, p. 23. With what fanaticism, according to the evidence of manufacturers given in courts of law, their hands set themselves against every interruption in factory labour, the following curious circumstance shows. In the beginning of June, 1836, information reached the magistrates of Dewsbury (Yorkshire) that the owners of 8 large mills in the neighbourhood of Batley had violated the Factory Acts. Some of these gentlemen were accused of having kept at work 5 boys between 12 and 15 years of age, from 6 a.m. on Friday to 4 p.m. on the following Saturday, not allowing them any respite except for meals and one hour for sleep at midnight. And these children had to do this ceaseless labour of 30 hours in the "shoddyhole," as the hole is called, in which the woollen rags are pulled in pieces, and where a dense atmosphere of dust, shreds, &c., forces even the adult workman to cover his mouth continually with handkerchiefs for the protection of his lungs! The accused gentlemen affirm in lieu of taking an oath — as quakers they were too scrupulously religious to take an oath — that they had, in their great compassion for the unhappy children, allowed them four hours for sleep, but the obstinate children absolutely would not go to bed. The quaker gentlemen were mulcted in £20. Dryden anticipated these gentry:
“Fox full fraught in seeming sanctity,
That feared an oath, but like the devil would lie,
That look'd like Lent, and had the holy leer,
And durst not sin! before he said his prayer!"
23 Rep., 31st Oct., 1856, p. 34.
24 l. c., p. 35.
25 l. c., p. 48.
26 l. c., p. 48.
27 l. c., p. 48.
28 l. c., p. 48.
29 Report of the Insp. &c., 30th April 1860, p. 56.
30 This is the official expression both in the factories and in the reports.
I The following are Sections1 and 2 from Chapter 10 of Volume 1 of Capital. Reproduced from the Marx/Engels Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 1995, 1999
THE HOBGOBLIN NO.6 2005