The Technological Explosion


This is the text of a leaflet published
by the De Leonist Society of Canada.
Date of publication: to be determined
(During the 1980s or the 1990s).

The Technological Explosion

The De Leonist Society

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution the nascent capitalist class leapt forward with great strides to constantly improve its labor-displacing machines in a mad rush to satisfy their insatiable hunger for profit. And to kill-off their fellow capitalists who lacked the means to compete in this claw and fang struggle. As the father of scientific political economy, Karl Marx, noted: One capitalist kills many.

The workers' attempt to resist these "monsters" culminated in the formation of the Luddites in Great Britain (1811-1816), who rioted and smashed the textile machines in their vain belief that this would reduce the terrible unemployment they suffered. But they could not stop the relentless march of technology!

The beginning of the 20th century accelerated the process. Mass production swept throughout the capitalist countries and the industrialists progressively improved the labor-displacing machine. Automation had become a household word.

In the last decade or so workers have become acutely aware of the frightening consequences of improving technology. Yet few of them recognize the revolutionary implications of the Computer.

Modern computers are the latest extension of the Industrial Revolution and the same economic compulsions and motivation brought them into existence. It was the late Hungarian-American mathematician, John Von Neumann, who in 1946 proposed certain mathematical concepts that helped inaugurate the age of Computers.

However, he was not the first to propose that such computers could be built. Charles Babbage, the British inventor, designed a mechanical computer in the early 19th century. But the vacuum tube, the transistor, and other electronic marvels had not yet been invented.

They were, when Von Neumann proposed his great concept and this brought the modern computer into practical use. His principles, plus a great deal of continuing experimentation have constantly improved their effectiveness and they are used in every human endeavor. Millions of workers will feel their full impact as more and more are forced into the ranks of the permanently unemployed, eking out an existence on the "dole."

In Capital, in the chapter dealing with "Machinery and Modern Industry," Marx wrote with prophetic insight: "But machinery not only acts as a competitor who gets the better of the workman, and is constantly on the point of making him superfluous. It is also a power inimical to him, and as such capital proclaims it from the roof tops and as such makes use of it. It is the most powerful weapon for repressing strikes, those periodical revolts of the working class against the autocracy of capital." (Kerr Edition, Page 475)

As if to confirm this truth with a vengeance, a recent article on Robots in the "San Francisco Chronicle" (September 18, 1984) began with these words: "Tireless, efficient and reliable, industrial robots are performing dozens of tasks at Bay Area electronics companies. The robots work around the clock without demanding time off for coffee, meals or trips to the bathroom. They also never ask to be paid."

The article might also have included "and they never go out on strike." It also pointed out that "Although skeptical of robots at first. . .companies now are rushing furiously to make up for lost time." Robot makers say the automatons pay for themselves in 12 to 24 months by reducing human labor expenses while increasing productivity, quality and yields.

And so the technological explosion leaves the workers hanging on the ropes with no surcease until they recognize that what is desperately needed is a revolutionary change in our economic and social structures, a new and sane society of Socialism, where the useful and productive workers will preserve their human dignity and enjoy the full fruits of these marvelous machines that will then become the collective property of all the people and a blessing to mankind.

That is the program being offered by the De Leonist Society.