The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard
Machinery, says the Liberal, has deepened the working man's chest and increased his stature by shortening the hours of work. When he says ‘shortened hours' we promptly ask ‘compared with when?’ and as promptly comes the answer: 'In comparison with the hours worked in the hungry forties’, or ‘when my grandfather was a lad’.
To compare present hours of work with the length of the working day in that transitional period when capitalism was in its birth throes (with the aim of extolling the difference), is an inane procedure.
Thorold Rogers has shown the comparative leisure of the workers under the system of ‘small production'—with that we need not deal. If we take our case at its worst and compare hours of work today with the hours toiled in the early years of capitalism, we find justification for our case. We find that side by side with the shorter working day has come a quicker pace, a more rapid rate of production, a faster consumption of working-class brain, nerve and muscle. Whether it be in the sphere of production—at lathe or loom, or in distribution on train, tram, or taxi, the working pace is fierce.
Even if we examine types of work where steam-power cannot be applied —office executive and the like—we find mechanical appliances such as calculating machines, typewriters, dictating appliances, etc., adding to the intensity of the workers grind.
From the Socialist Standard, January 1912.