Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings

By Karl Marx; Max Eastman | Go to book overview

because the "wretch" who does this work gets paid for such a small portion of his labour, that machinery would increase the cost of production to the capitalist. ("Wretch" is the recognised term in English political economy for the agricultural labourers.) In England women are still occasionally used instead of horses for hauling canal boats ( 1860), because the labour required to produce horses and machines is an accurately known quantity, while that required to maintain the women of the surplus population is below all calculation. Hence nowhere do we find a more shameful squandering of human labour power for the most despicable purposes than in England, the land of machinery.


CHAPTER X
THE INFLUENCE OF INDUSTRIAL PROGRESS ON THE WORKING CLASSES

(Extracted from vol. II, ch. 15, sections 3-7.)


(A) Labour of Women and Children

IN so far as machinery dispenses with muscular power, it becomes a means of employing labourers of slight muscular strength and those whose bodily development is incomplete, but whose limbs are all the more supple. The labour of women and children was, therefore, the first thing sought for by capitalists who used machinery. That mighty substitute for labour and labourers was forthwith changed into a means for increasing the number of wage-labourers, by enrolling under the direct sway of capital every member of the workman's family, without distinction of age or sex. Compulsory work for the capitalist usurped the place, not only of the children's play, but also of free labour at home within moderate limits for the support of the family.1

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1
Dr. Edward Smith, during the cotton crisis caused by the American Civil War, was sent by the English Government to Lancashire, Cheshire, and other places, to report on the sanitary condition of the cotton operatives. He reported, that from a hygienic point of view, and apart

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