Engr. K Vijayachandran

Lightening the burden of life is the most fundamental social objective of technology or use of machinery for social production. In the Chapter on Machinery and Modern Industry of Capital Volume I, Marx had theorized that, this just does not and cannot happen in a capitalist society. He quoted John Stuart Mill; “It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.”

Despite the massive increase in the use of machinery and in the use of energy for driving them, vast majority of humanity are under compulsion to work much longer than what is socially necessary. Number of hours put in by American workers in a year has not shown any decline, despite the massive use of machines: The privilege of one-day work and six-days of cultural or spiritual enjoyment continues to be the prerogative of a microscopic minority; vast majority is denied this privilege, even today.

Marx had also quoted in his Capital, an ancient Greek poet, Antipatros; ‘who had hailed the invention of the water-wheel for grinding corn, an invention that is the elementary of all machinery, as the giver of freedom to the female slaves, and the bringer back of the golden age’:

Spare the hands that grinds the corn,

Oh, miller girls, and softly sleep

Let the Chantileer announce the morn in vein!

Deo has commanded the work of the girls to be done by the Nymphs,

and now they skip lightly over the wheels,

so that the shaken axles revolve with their spokes

and pull round the load of the revolving stones.

Let us live the life of our fathers,

and let us rest from work and enjoy the gifts that the Goddess sends us.

The chapter on technology describes also, how British capitalists managed to lengthen the working hours of British proletarians as they progressively introduced machinery in textile production also also to force their wives and children into abject wage-slavery. The tendency was checkmated by the nascent working class of nineteenth century America, who got united under the May Day slogan: Eight hours work, eight hours rest and eight hours of entertainment.

Humanity is destined to move even further, into a world where life is nothing but pure enjoyment and Man is totally liberated from the pain of existence: This, in brief, is my May Day wish and prayer! 1st May 2015