[OPE-L:3596] Re: Class struggle at the point of production

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 5 Nov 1996 07:11:30 -0800 (PST)

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Massimo wrote in [OPE-L:3595]:

> From
> the perspective of the individual capitalist, if you cannot discipline the
> workers to work more intensively, you introduce a machine.

Which raises the larger question: how do capitalists increase the
intensity of work?

There are many options for capitalists that depend on the organization and
resistance of workers, such as:

(1) In the presence of unemployment, threats of firing.

(2) In the presence of unemployment, introducing new process technologies
which increase the productivity of labor. This is an interesting case,
btw, since increased intensity of work in the presence of increased
productivity due to technical change (where there is stable total output
and a stable workweek) would result in *additional* job loss. Yet,
capitalists use the *fear* of job loss to increase the intensity of work
(and it is also noticeable, in many job situations, that resistance to
speed-up and grievances against speed-up frequently *decrease* as layoffs

[I should add here that differential rates of unemployment seem to be a
crucial determinant in terms of capitalists' strategic responses to
increasing the intensity of work, e.g. where there are labour-power
shortages and capitalists have a hard time retaining workers and reducing
absenteeism, the strategic response re technological change can be very
different -- as in the re-design of work at a Volvo plant in Sweden).

(3) Differential wages based on "productivity", i.e. piece-wages.

(4) Make promises of promotion to individual workers in the hope of
establishing a new, more intense, standard.

(5) Changing the use of existing technology, e.g. increasing line speed on
assembly lines.

(6) Re-designing jobs and re-dividing tasks/job, e.g. with time-and-motion

(7) In the context of "labor-management cooperation", use trade union
"leaders" to assist in getting workers to work more intensively.

(8) Use existing technology to monitor workers' intensity, e.g. in an
office context, measure the amount of keystrokes/minute and time not
working of workers using word processors.

(9) Use other workers to put "peer pressure" on workers. e.g. "quality

etc., etc., etc.

Of course, all of these methods have their problems and limitations and
repression can sometimes result in a decrease in the intensity of work if
workers resist these changes.

In solidarity,