In Defence of the Luddites
The Hobgoblin - No. 9 - 2007
The following letter by Richard Abernethy was published in Newsweek International, November 13, as a response to an article by Gordon Brown on globalization:
Gordon Brown dismisses protests against capitalist globalization an "an angry resistance to change - old-style Luddism, in other words". ("We Need to Be More Fair," Sept. 18). It may interest you to know that the original Luddites were weavers in early 19th-century England who opposed, unsuccessfully, the introduction of new technology that, in the social conditions of the time, deprived them of their livelihood and threw their families into poverty. The propertied classes who put down the Luddites were themselves resistant to social and political changes, such as the extension of the vote to working people, the formation of unions and the reduction of working hours. Today's workers have good reason to be anxious about how
capital moves around the world in search of low paid, non-union workers without effective legal rights. Brown's globalization manifesto says nothing about the need for effective laws to protect workers from overwork and hazardous conditions, and for free, independent unions in all countries.
Richard Abernethy, Oxford