14 December 2012

complete subordination to the undertaking and those who run it

The power which the bourgeoisie has to exploit and oppress the workers lies at the very foundations of our social life, and cannot be destroyed by any political and juridical transformation. This power consists in the first place and essentially in the modern system of production itself, that is to say big industry. Pungent dicta abound in Marx’s writings on this subject of living labour being enslaved to dead labour, “the reversal of the relationship between subject and object,” “the subordination of the worker to the material conditions of work.” “In the factory,” he writes in Capital, “there exists a mechanism independent of the workers, which incorporates them as living cogs.... The separation of the spiritual forces that play a part in production from manual labour, and the transformation of [these spiritual forces] into power exercised by capital over labour, attain their fulfilment in big industry founded on mechanization. The detail of the individual destiny of the machine-worker fades into insignificance before the science, the tremendous natural forces and the collective labour which are incorporated in the machines as a whole and constitute with them the employer’s power.” Thus the worker’s complete subordination to the undertaking and to those who run it is founded on the factory organization and not on the system of property. Similarly, “the separation of the spiritual forces that play a part in production from manual labour,” or, according to another formula, “the degrading division of labour into manual and intellectual labour,” is the very foundation of our culture, which is a culture of specialists. Science is a monopoly, not because public education is badly organized, but by its very nature; non-scientists have access only to the results, not to the methods, that is to say they can only believe, not assimilate. “Scientific socialism” has itself remained the monopoly of a select few, and the “intellectuals” possess, unfortunately, the same privileges in the working-class movement as they do in bourgeois society. And the same applies, furthermore, on the political plane.

Simone Weil, "The Causes of Liberty and Social Oppression" in Oppression and Liberty (2002: 40)