Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. III. The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole
THE increase of absolute surplus-value, or the prolongation of surplus-labor and thus of the working day, while the variable capital remains the same and employs the same number of laborers at the same nominal wages, no matter whether overtime is paid for or not, reduces relatively the value of the constant capital as compared to the total and the variable capital, and thereby increases the rate of profit even aside from the growth and mass of surplus-value and a possibly rising rate of surplus-value. The volume of the fixed portion of constant capital, such as factory buildings, machinery, etc., remains the same, no matter whether they serve for 16 or for 12 hours in the labor-process. A prolongation of the working day does not require any new expenditures for this most expensive portion of the constant capital. Furthermore, the value of the fixed capital is thereby reproduced in a smaller number of periods of turn-over, so that the time for which it must be advanced in order to make a certain profit is abbreviated. A prolongation of the working day therefore increases the profit, even if overtime is paid, or even if it is paid better, up to a certain limit, than the normal hours of labor. The ever more pressing necessity for the increase of fixed capital in modern industry was therefore one of the main reasons which induced profit-loving capitalists to prolong the working day.*11
The same conditions do not obtain if the working day is constant. In that case it is necessary either to increase the number of laborers and with them to a certain extent the mass of fixed capital (buildings, machinery, etc.), in order to exploit a greater quantity of labor (for we leave aside the question of deductions from wages or depression of wages below their normal level), or, if the intensity of labor and the productivity of labor are to be augmented and more relative surplus-value produced, the quantity of the circulating portion of constant capital increases in those lines which use raw materials, since more raw material is worked up within a certain time. And in the second place, the mass of machinery set in motion by the same number of laborers also increases, in other words, both portions of constant capital increase. An increase in surplus-value, then, is accompanied by a growth of the constant capital, the growing exploitation of labor goes hand in hand with a heightened expenditure of the means of production by which labor is exploited, in other words, a greater investment of capital. The rate of profit is therefore reduced on one side while it increases on the other.
Quite a number of running expenses remain almost or entirely the same, whether the working day is long or short. The cost of supervision is smaller for 500 working men during 18 working hours than for 750 working men during 12 working hours. "The running expenditures of a factory at ten hours of labor are almost as high as at twelve hours." (Report of Factory Inspectors, October, 1848, page 37.) State and municipal taxes, fire insurance, wages of various permanent employes, depreciation of machinery, and various other expenses of a factory, run on just the same, whether the working time is long or short. To the extent that production decreases, these expenses rise as compared to the profit. (Reports of Factory Inspectors, October, 1862, page 19.)
The period in which the value of machinery and of other components of fixed capital is reproduced is practically determined, not by the mere duration of time, but by the duration of the entire labor-process during which it serves and wears out. If the laborers must work 18 hours instead of 12, it makes a difference of three days per week, so that one week is stretched into one and a half, and two years into three. If this overtime is not paid for, then the laborers supply the capitalists not only with the normal surplus-labor without receiving an equivalent, but also give one week out of every three, and one year out of every three, for nothing. In this way the reproduction of the value of the machinery is speeded up by 50% and accomplished in two-thirds of the time which would be ordinarily required.
We start in this analysis, and in that of the fluctuations of the prices of raw materials (chapter VI), from the assumption that the mass and rate of surplus-value are given quantities, in order to avoid useless complications.
We have already shown in our presentation of co-operation, of division of labor and machinery, that economies in the conditions of production, such as are found in production on a large scale, are mainly due to the fact that these conditions are social ones growing out of the combination of labor-processes. The means of production are worked up by the aggregate laborer, a co-operation of many laborers on an immense scale, instead of by laborers operating in a disconnected way or co-operating at best on a small scale. In a large factory with one or two central motors the cost of these motors does not increase at the same rate as their horse-powers and their resulting extension of activity. The cost of transmission of power does not grow at the same rate as the number of working machines set in motion by it. The frame of any individual machine does not become dearer at the same rate as the number of tools which it employs as its organs. And so forth. The concentration of means of production furthermore saves buildings of various sorts, not only for actual working rooms, but also for storage sheds, etc. It is the same with expenses for fuel, light, etc. Other conditions of production remain the same, whether used by many or by few.
This entire line of economies arising from the concentration of means of production and their use on a large scale has for its fundamental basis the accumulation and co-operation of working people, the social combination of labor. Hence it has its source quite as much in the social nature of labor as the surplus-value considered individually has its source in the surplus-labor of the individual laborer. Even the continual improvements possible and necessary in this line are due solely to the social experiences and observations made in production on a large scale through the combination of social labor.
The same is true of the second great branch of economies in the conditions of production. We refer to the reconversion of the excrements of production, the so-called offal, into new elements of production, either of the same, or of some other line of industry; the processes by which these so-called excrements are thrown back into the cycle of production and consequently of consumption, whether productive or individual. This line of economies, which we shall examine more closely later on, is likewise the result of social labor on a large scale. It is the abundance of these excrements due to large scale production which renders them available for commerce and turns them into new elements of production. It is only as excrements of combined production on a large scale that they become valuable for the productive process as bearers of new exchange-values. These excrements, aside from the services which they perform as new elements of production, reduce the cost of raw material to the extent that they are saleable. For a normal loss is always calculated as a part of the cost of raw material, namely the quantity ordinarily wasted in its consumption. The reduction of the cost of this portion of constant capital increases to that extent the rate of profit, assuming the amount of the variable capital and the rate of surplus-value to be given quantities.
If the surplus-value is given, then the rate of profit can be increased only by a reduction of the value of the constant capital required for the production of commodities. To the extent that the constant capital enters into the production of commodities, it is not its exchange-value, but its use-value, which is taken into consideration. The quantity of labor which the flax can absorb in a spinnery does not depend on its exchange-value, but on its quantity, assuming the degree of productivity of labor, that is to say, the stage of technical development, to be given. In like manner the assistance rendered by a machine to, say, three laborers does not depend on its exchange-value, but on its use-value as a machine. In one stage of technical development a bad machine may be expensive, in another a good machine may be cheap.
The increased profit gathered by a capitalist through the cheapening of such things as cotton, spinning machinery, etc., is the result of a heightened productivity of labor. Of course, this improvement was not introduced in the spinnery, but in the cultivation of cotton and the building of machinery. There it required a smaller expense for the fundamentals of production in order to materialize a certain quantity of labor and secure possession of a certain amount of surplus-labor. This means a reduction of the expense required for the appropriation of a certain quantity of surplus-labor.
We mentioned in the foregoing the savings realized in the process of production by the co-operative use of the means of production by socially combined laborers. Other economies, resulting in the expenditure of constant capital from the shortening of the time of circulation (a result brought about largely by the development of the means of communication) will be discussed later on. At this point we shall mention the economies due to progressive improvements of machinery, namely 1) of its substance, such as iron for wood; 2) the cheapening of machinery by the improvement of methods of manufacture, so that the value of the fixed portion of constant capital, while continually increasing with the development of labor on a large scale, does not grow at the same rate;*12 3) the special improvements enabling the existing machinery to work more cheaply and effectively, for instance, improvements of steam boilers, etc., which will be further discussed later on; 4) the reduction of waste through better machinery.
Whatever reduces the wear of machinery, and of the fixed capital in general, for any given period of production, cheapens not only the individual commodity, seeing that every individual commodity reproduces in its price its share of this wear and tear, but reduces also the aliquot portion of the invested capital for this period. Repair work, etc., to the extent that it becomes necessary, is figured in with the original cost of the machinery. A reduction of the expense for repairs, due to a greater durability of the machinery, reduces the price of this machinery correspondingly.
It may be said also of these economies, at least of most of them, that they are possible only through the combination of labor and are often not realized until production is carried forward on a still larger scale, so that they are due to an even greater combination of laborers in the direct process of production.
On the other hand, the development of the productive power of labor in any one line of production, for instance in the production of iron, coal, machinery, buildings, etc., which may be in part connected with improvements on the field of intellectual production, especially in natural science and its practical application, appears to be the premise for a reduction of the value, and consequently of the cost, of means of production in other lines of industry, for instance in the textile business or in agriculture. This follows naturally from the fact that a commodity, which issues as a product from a certain line of production, enters into another as a means of production. Its dearness or cheapness depends on the productivity of labor in that line of production from which it issues as a product. Thus it is at the same time a basic condition, not only for the cheapening of commodities into whose production it enters as a means of production, but also for the reduction of the value of constant capital, whose element it becomes, and thereby for the increase of the rate of profit.
The characteristic feature of this kind of economies in the constant capital due to the progressive development of industry is that the rise in the rate of profit in one line of industry is the result of the increase of the productive power of labor in another. That which the capitalist appropriates in this case is once more a gain which is the product of social labor, although not a product of the laborers directly exploited by him. Such a development of the productive power is traceable in the last instance to the social nature of the labor engaged in production; to the division of labor in society; to the development of intellectual labor, especially of the natural sciences. The capitalist thus appropriates the advantages of the entire system of the division of social labor. It is the development of the productive power of labor in its exterior department, in that department which supplies it with means of production, which relatively lowers the value of the constant capital employed by the capitalist and consequently raises the rate of profit.
Another raise in the rate of profit is produced, not by economies in the labor creating the constant capital, but by economies in the operation of this capital itself. On one hand, the concentration of laborers, and their co-operation on a large scale, saves constant capital. The same buildings, appliances for fuel and light, etc., cost relatively less for large scale than for small scale production. The same is true of power and working machinery. Although their absolute value increases, it falls relatively in comparison to the growing extension of production and the magnitude of the variable capital, or to the mass of labor-power set in motion. The economy realized by a certain capital within its own line of production is first and foremost an economy in labor, that is to say, a reduction of the paid labor of its own laborers. The previously mentioned economy is distinguished from this one by the fact that it accomplished the greatest possible appropriation of the unpaid labor in other lines in the most economical way, that is to say, with as little expense as a certain scale of production will permit. To the extent that this economy does not rest on the previously mentioned exploitation of the productivity of the social labor employed in the production of constant capital, or in an economy arising from the operation of the constant capital itself, it is due either directly to the co-operation and social nature of labor within a certain line of production, or to the production of machinery, etc., on a scale in which its value does not grow at the same rate as its use-value.
Two points must be kept in view here: First, if the value of c were zero, then p' would be equal to s', and the rate of profit would be at its maximum. In the second place, the most important thing for the direct exploitation of labor is not the exchange-value of the employed means of exploitation, whether they be fixed capital, raw materials or auxiliary substances. In so far as they serve as means to absorb labor, as media in and by which labor and surplus-labor are materialized, the exchange-value of buildings, raw materials, etc., is quite immaterial. That which is ultimately essential is on the one hand the quantity of them technically required for their combination with a certain quantity of living labor, and on the other hand their fitness; in other words, not only the machinery, but also the raw and auxiliary materials must be good. The good quality of the raw material determines in part the rate of profit. Good material leaves less waste. A smaller mass of raw materials is then needed for the absorption of the same quantity of labor. The resistance to be overcome by the working machine is also less. This affects in part even the surplus-value and the rate of surplus-value. The laborer consumes more time with bad raw materials than he would with the same quantity of good material. Wages remaining the same, this implies a reduction of the surplus-labor. Furthermore this affects materially the reproduction and accumulation of capital which depend more on the productivity than on the mass of labor employed, as shown in volume I.
The fanatic hankering of the capitalist after economies in means of production is therefore intelligible. That nothing is lost or wasted, that the means of production are consumed only in the manner required by production itself, depends partly on the skill and intelligence of the laborers, partly on the discipline exerted over them by the capitalist. This discipline will become superfluous under a social system in which the laborers work for their own account, as it has already become practically superfluous in piece-work. This fanatic love of the capitalist for profit is expressed, on the other hand, by the adulteration of the elements of production, which is one of the principal means of reducing the value of the constant capital in comparison with the variable capital, and thus of raising the rate of profit. In addition to this, the sale of these elements of production above their value, so far as this value reappears in the product, plays a considerable role in cheating. This practice plays an essential part particularly in German industry, whose maxim seems to be: People will surely appreciate getting first good samples and then inferior goods from us. However, these matters belong in a discussion of competition, and do not further concern us here.
It should be noted that this raising of the rate of profit by means of a depreciation in the value of the constant capital, in other words, by a reduction of its expensiveness, is entirely independent of the fact whether the line of industry, in which this takes place, produces articles of luxury, necessities of life for the individual consumption of laborers, or means of production. This circumstance would be of material importance only in the case that it would be a question of the rate of surplus-value, which depends essentially on the value of labor-power, and consequently on the value of the customary necessities of the laborer. But in the present case the surplus-value and the rate of surplus-value have been assumed as given. The proportion of the surplus-value to the total capital, which determines the rate of profit, depends under these circumstances exclusively on the value of the constant capital, and in no way on the use-value of the elements of which this capital is composed.
A relative cheapening of the means of production does not, of course, exclude the absolute increase of their aggregate values. For the absolute scope of their application grows extraordinarily with the development of the productive power of labor and the parallel extension of the scale of production. The economies in the use of constant capital, from whatever point of view they may be considered, are the result, either exclusively of the fact that the means of production serve as co-operative materials for the combined laborers, so that the resulting economies appear as products of the social nature of directly productive labor itself; or, in part, of the fact that the productivity of labor is developed in those spheres which supply capital with means of production, and in that case these economies present themselves once more as products of the development of the productive forces of social labor, provided only that the total labor is compared with the total capital, and not simply with the laborers employed by the individual capitalist owning this particular constant capital. The difference in this case is merely that the capitalist takes advantage not only of the productivity of labor in his own establishment, but also of that in other establishments. Nevertheless, the capitalist presumes that the economies of his constant capital are wholly independent of his laborers and have nothing at all to do with them. On the other hand, the capitalist is always well aware that the laborer has something to do with the fact whether the employer buys much or little labor with the same amount of money (for this is the form in which this transaction between the laborer and the capitalist appears in the mind of the latter). The economies realized in the application of constant capital, this method of getting a certain result out of the means of production with the smallest possible expense, is regarded more than any other power inherent in labor as a peculiar gift of capital and as a method characteristic of the capitalist mode of production.
This conception is so much less surprising as it seems to be borne out by facts. For the conditions of capitalist production conceal the internal connection of things by the utter indifference, alienation, and expropriation practiced against the laborer in the matter of the material means in which his labor must be incorporated.
In the first place, the means of production constituting the constant capital represent only the money of the capitalist (just as the body of the Roman debtor represented the money of his creditor, according to Linguet). The laborer comes in contact with them only in the direct process of production, in which he handles them as use-values of production, as instruments of labor and materials of production. The increase or decrease of the value of these things are matters which affect his relation to the capitalist no more than the fact that he may be working up either copper or iron. Occasionally, however, the capitalist likes to profess a different conception of the matter, as we shall indicate later on. He does so whenever the means of production become dearer and thereby reduce his rate of profit.
In the second place, so far as these means of production in the capitalist process of labor are at the same time means of exploiting labor, the laborer is no more concerned in the relative dearness or cheapness of these means of exploitation than a horse is concerned in the dearness or cheapness of the bit and bridle by which it is steered.
In the third place, we have seen previously that the social nature of labor, the combination of the labor of a certain individual laborer with that of other laborers for a common purpose, stands opposed to that laborer and his comrades as a foreign power, as the property of a stranger which he would not care particularly to save if he were not compelled to economize with it. It is entirely different in the factories owned by the laborers themselves, for instance, in Rochdale.
It requires hardly any special mention, then, that the general interconnection of social labor, so far as it expresses the productivity of labor in one line of industry by a cheapening and improvement of the means of production in another line, and thereby a raising of the rate of profit, affects the laborers as a matter foreign to them and concerning only the capitalists, since they are the ones who buy and own these means of production. The fact that the capitalist buys the product of the laborers of another line of industry with the product of the laborers in his own line, and that he disposes of the product of the laborers of another capitalist by virtue of having appropriated the unpaid products of his own laborers, is mercifully concealed for him by the process of circulation and its attending circumstances.
This state of things is further complicated by the fact that these economies in the employment of constant capital assume the guise of being due to the peculiar nature of the capitalist mode of production, and to the special function of the capitalist in particular. The thirst for profits and the demands of competition tend toward the greatest possible cheapening of the production of commodities, just as production on a large scale first develops in its capitalistic form.
Capitalist production promotes on the one hand the development of the productive powers of social labor, and on the other it enforces economies in the employment of constant capital.
However, capitalist production does not stop at the alienation and expropriation of the laborer, the bearer of living labor, from his interest in the economical, that is to say, rational and thrifty, use of the material requirements of his labor. In conformity with its contradictory and antagonistic nature, capitalist production proceeds to add to the economies in the use of constant capital, and thus to the means of increasing the rate of profit, a prodigality in the use of the life and health of the laborer himself.
Since the laborer passes the greater portion of his life in the process of production, the conditions of this productive process constitute the greater part of the fundamental conditions of his vital activity, his requirements of life. Economies in these requirements constitute a method of raising the rate of profit, just as we observed on previous occasions that overwork, the transformation of the laborers into laboring cattle, constitutes a means of self-expanding capital, of speeding up the production of surplus-value. Such economies are: The overcrowding of narrow and unsanitary rooms with laborers, or, in the language of the capitalist, a saving in buildings; a crowding of dangerous machinery into one and the same room without means of protection against this danger; a neglect of precautions in productive processes which are dangerous to health or life, such as mining, etc.; not to mention the absence of all provisions to render the process of production human, agreeable, or even bearable, for the laborer. From the capitalist point of view, such measures would be quite useless and senseless. No matter how economical capitalist production may be in other respects, it is utterly prodigal with human life. And its saving in one direction is offset by a waste in another, owing to the distribution of its products through trade and the competitive method. Capitalism loses on one side for society what it gains on another for the individual capitalist.
Just as capital endeavors to reduce the direct application of living labor to necessary labor, and to abbreviate the labor required for the production of any commodity by the exploitation of the social productiveness of labor and thus to use as little living labor as possible, so it has also the tendency to apply this minimized labor under the most economical conditions, that is to say, to reduce the value of the employed constant capital to its minimum. While the value of commodities is determined by the necessary labor-time contained in them, not by all of the labor-time incorporated in them, it is the capital which gives reality to this determination and at the same time reduces continually the labor-time socially necessary for the production of a certain commodity. The price of that commodity is thereby lowered to its minimum, since every portion of the labor required for its production is reduced to its minimum.
It is necessary to make a distinction in the economies realized in the employment of constant capital. If the mass, and consequently the amount of the value, of the employed capital increases, it means primarily a concentration of more capital in one hand. Now, it is precisesly this greater mass in one hand, going hand in hand, as a rule, with an absolute increase but relative decrease of the number of employed laborers, which permits economies in constant capital. From the point of view of the individual capitalist the volume of the necessary investment of capital, especially of its fixed portion, increases. But compared to the mass of the worked-up materials and of the exploited labor the value of the invested capital relatively decreases.
This will now be briefly illustrated by a few examples. We begin at the end, with economies in the conditions of production which are at the same time the living conditions of the laborer.
"Owing to the competition between the proprietors of coal mines, expenses are kept down to the minimum required for overcoming the most palpable physical difficulties; and owing to the competition among the miners, whose numbers generally exceed the demand, they are glad to expose themselves to considerable danger and to the most injurious influences for a wage which is little above that of the day laborers in the neighboring country districts, more especially since mining permits them to utilize their children profitably. This double competition is fully sufficient...to effect the operation of a large portion of the mines with the most imperfect drainage and ventilation; very often with badly built shafts, bad piping, incapable machinists, with badly planned and badly constructed galleries and tracks and this causes a destruction of life, limb, and health, the statistics of which would present an appalling picture." (First Report on Children's Employment in Mines and Collieries, etc., April 21, 1829, page 129.) About 1860, the average of fatal accidents in the English collieries amounted to 15 men per week. According to the report on Coal Mines Accidents (February 6, 1862), the total deaths from accidents during the ten years from 1852-61 amounted to 8,466. But the report itself admits that this number is far too low, because in the first years, when the inspectors had just been installed and their districts were far too large, a great many accidents and deaths were not reported. The very fact that the number of accidents has decreased since the installation of the inspectors, in spite of their insufficient numbers and limited powers, shows the natural tendencies of capitalist production. Still the number of the killed is very large. These sacrifices of human beings are mostly due to the groveling greed of the mine owners. Very often they had only one shaft dug, so that there was not only no effective ventilation but also no escape if this shaft became clogged.
Looking upon capitalist production in its details, aside from the process of circulation and the excrescences of competition, we find that it is very economical with materialized labor incorporated in commodities. But it is more than any other mode of production prodigal with human lives, with living labor, wasting not only blood and flesh, but also nerves and brains. Indeed, it is only by dint of the most extravagant waste of individual development that human development is safeguarded and advanced in that epoch of history which immediately precedes the conscious reorganisation of society. Since all the economies here mentioned arise from the social nature of labor, it is just this social character of labor which causes this waste of the lives and health of the laborers. The following question suggested by factory inspector B. Baker is characteristic in this respect: "The whole question is one for serious consideration, in what way this sacrifice of infant life occasioned by congregational labor can be averted?" (Report Fact., October 1863, page 157.)
Factories. Under this head belongs the disregard for all precautions for the security, comfort, and health of the laborers, also in the factories. A large portion of the bulletins of casualties enumerating the wounded and slain of the industrial army belong here (see the annual factory reports). Furthermore lack of space, ventilation, etc.
As late as October, 1855, Leonard Horner complained about the resistance of numerous manufacturers against the legal requirements concerning protective appliances on horizontal shafts, although the dangerous character of these shafts was continually proved by accidents, many of them fatal, and although the appliance for protection against this danger was neither expensive nor interfered with the work. (Rep. Fact., October, 1855, page 6.) In their resistance against this and other legal requirements, the manufacturers are ably seconded by the unpaid justices of the peace, who are themselves manufacturers or their friends, and who render their verdicts accordingly. What sort of verdicts those gentlemen rendered was revealed by Superior Judge Campbell, who said with reference to one of them, against which an appeal was made to him: "This is not an interpretation of an act of parliament, it is simply its abolition." (L. c., page 11.) Horner says in the same report that in many factories machinery is started up without warning the laborers. Since there is always something to look after, even when the machinery is at a standstill, there are always many hands and fingers busy on it, and accidents happen continually from the omission of a mere signal. (L. c., page 44.) The manufacturers of that period had formed a union opposing the factory legislation, the so-called "National Association for the Amendment of the Factory Laws" in Manchester, which collected, in March, 1855, more than 50,000 p.st. by an assessment of 2 shillings per horse-power. This sum was to pay for lawsuits of the members of the association against court proceedings instigated by factory inspectors, all cases of this kind being fought by the union. The issue was to prove that killing is no murder when done for profit. The factory inspector for Scotland, Sir John Kincaid, relates of a certain firm in Glasgow that it used the old iron of its factory to make protective appliances for all its machinery, the cost being 9 p.st. 1 shilling. If this firm had joined the manufacturers' union, it would have had to pay an assessment of 11 p.st. on its 110 horse powers. This would have been more than the cost of all its protective appliances. But the National Association had been organized in 1854 for the express purpose of opposing the law which prescribed such protection. The manufacturers had paid no attention whatever to this law during all the time from 1844 to 1854. At the instruction of Palmerston the factory inspectors then informed the manufacturers that the law would hence-forth be enforced. The manufacturers immediately founded their union. Many of its most prominent members were justices of the peace who were supposed to carry out this law. When the new Minister of the Interior, Sir George Grey, offered a compromise, in April, 1855, to the effect that the government would be content with practically nominal appliances for protection, the Association declined even this, with indignation. In various lawsuits, the famous engineer Thomas Fairbairn permitted the manufacturers to throw the weight of his name into the scale in favor of economies and in defense of the violated liberty of capital. The chief of factory inspectors, Leonard Horner, was persecuted and maligned by the manufacturers in every conceivable manner.
But the manufacturers did not rest until they had obtained a writ of the Queen's Bench, which interpreted the Law of 1844 to the effect that no protective appliances were prescribed for horizontal shafts installed more than seven feet above the ground. And finally they succeeded in 1856 in securing an act of parliament entirely satisfactory to them, by the help of the hypocrite Wilson Patten, one of those pious souls whose ostentatious religion is always ready to do dirty work for the knights of the money-bag. This act practically deprived the laborers of all special protection and referred them to the common courts for the recovery of damages in cases of accident by machinery (which amounted practically to a mockery, on account of the excessive cost of lawsuits). On the other hand, this act made it almost impossible for the manufacturers to lose a lawsuit, by providing in a very nicely worded clause for expert testimony. As a result, the accidents increased rapidly. In the six months from May to October, 1858, Inspector Baker reported an increase of accidents exceeding that of the preceding six months by 21%. He was of the opinion that 36.7% of these accidents might have been avoided. It is true, that the number of accidents in 1858 and 1859 was considerably below that of 1845 and 1846. It was 29% less, although the number of laborers had increased by 20% in the industries subject to inspection. But what was the reason for this? So far as the moot question was settled in 1865, it was due mainly to the introduction of new machinery which was provided with protective appliances from the start and to which the manufacturer did not object because they required no extra expense. A few laborers had also succeeded in securing heavy damages for their lost arms and having this sentence upheld even by the highest courts. (Rep. Fact., April 30, 1861, page 31, and April 1862, page 17.)
This may suffice to illustrate the economies in appliances by which life and limb of laborers (also children) are to be protected against dangers arising in the handling and operating of machinery.
Work in Closed Rooms. It is well known to what extent economies of space, and thus of buildings, crowd the laborers into narrow rooms. This is intensified by economies in appliances for ventilation. These two economies, coupled with an increase of the labor time, produce a large increase in the diseases of the respiratory organs, and consequently an increase of mortality. The following illustrations have been taken from the Reports on Public Health, 6th report, 1863. This report was compiled by Dr. John Simon, well-known from our volume I.
Just as the combination of co-operative labor permits the operation of machinery on a large scale, the concentration of means of production, and economies in their employment, so it is the co-operation of large numbers of laborers in closed rooms and under conditions determined by the ease of manufacture, not by the health of the laborer, which is on the one hand the source of increased profits for the capitalist and on the other the cause of the waste of the lives and health of the laborers, unless it is counteracted by a reduction of the hours of labor and by special precautions.
Dr. Simon formulates the following rule and backs it up with abundant statistics: "To the extent that the population of a certain district is made dependent upon co-operative labor in close rooms, to the same extent, other conditions remaining the same, increases the rate of mortality in that district through pulmonary diseases." (Page 23.) The cause of this is bad ventilation. "And there is probably in all England not a single exception from the rule that in every district, which has an important industry carried on in closed rooms, the increased mortality of its laborers suffices to color the mortality statistics of the entire district with a decided excess of pulmonary diseases." (Page 24.)
The mortality statistics of industries carried on in closed rooms, as examined by the Board of Health in 1860 and 1861, show the following facts: The same number of men between the ages of 15 and 55, having a rate of 100 deaths from consumption and other pulmonary diseases in English agricultural districts, has a rate of 163 deaths from consumption in Coventry, 167 in Blackburn and Skipton, 168 in Congleton and Bradford, 171 in Leicester, 182 in Leek, 184 in Macclesfield, 190 in Bolton, 192 in Nottingham, 193 in Rochdale, 198 in Derby, 203 in Salford and Ashton-under Lyne, 218 in Leeds, 220 in Preston, and 263 in Manchester. (Page 24.) The following table gives a still more convincing illustration.
It shows the deaths from pulmonary diseases separately for both sexes, between the ages of 15 to 25, computed on every 100,000. The districts selected are those in which only the women are employed in the industry carried on in closed rooms, while the men are employed in all possible lines of work.
In the districts with silk-industries, in which the participation of men in factory work is greater, their death-rate is also higher. The death rate from consumption, etc., in both sexes reveals, according to the report, the atrocious sanitary conditions under which a large portion of our silk-industry is carried on." And this is the same silk-industry whose manufacturers, boasting of the exceptionally favorable and sanitary conditions in their establishments, demanded an exceptionally long labor-time for children under 13 years of age, and were granted permission in several instances. (Volume I, chapter X, 6.)
"None of the hitherto investigated industries will have presented a worse picture than that given by Dr. Smith of tailoring. The work rooms, he says, differ considerably in the matter of sanitation; but nearly all of them are overcrowded, badly ventilated, and to a high degree injurious to health...Such rooms are necessarily hot, as it is; but if the gas is lighted, for instance during a fog in the daytime, or in winter in the evening, the heat rises to 80 or even 90 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 33 degrees C.) and causes a dripping perspiration and a precipitation of vapor on the glass panes, so that water is continually trickling down or dropping down from the skylight, and the laborers are compelled to keep some windows open, although they inevitably catch cold thereby.—He gives the following description of 16 of the most important shops of the West end of London: The largest cubic space alloted in these badly ventilated rooms to one laborer is 270 cubic feet; the smallest is 105 feet, the average being 156 feet per man. In a certain shop, which has a gallery running all around its sides and which receives light only from above, from 92 to 100 people are employed and a large number of gas jets lighted; the toilets are next door, and the room does not give above 150 cubic feet to each man. In another shop, which can be called only a dog kennel in a yard lighted from above and which can be ventilated only by one small window in the roof, from 5 to 6 people work in a room of 112 cubic feet per man." And "in these atrocious work rooms, described by Dr. Smith, the tailors work generally from 12 to 13 hours per day, and at certain periods work is continued for 14 to 16 hours." (Pages 25, 26, 28.)
(Page 30.) It must be noted, and has in fact been noted by John Simon, the chief of the Medical Department, who issued the report, that the mortality of the tailors, typesetters, and printers of London, for the ages from 25 to 35 years, has been reported too low, because the London employers in both lines have a large number of young people (probably up to 30 years of age) from the country engaged as apprentices and "improvers," that is to say, men who are being trained. These increase the number of employed on which the deathrates of London are computed. But they do not contribute at the same rate to the number of deaths in London, because their stay there is only temporary. If they get sick during this period, they return to their homes in the country to get well, and if they die there, they are registered in their own district. This fact affects the earlier ages still more and renders the death-rate figures of London for these ages completely valueless as standards of industrial violations of sanitary laws. (Page 30.)
The case of the typesetters is similar to that of the tailors. In addition to lack of ventilation, poisoned air, etc., their condition is aggravated by night-work. Their regular working time lasts from 12 to 13 hours, sometimes from 15 to 16. "Great heat and suffocating air as soon as the gas is lighted....It is not a rare occurrence that the fumes of a foundry, or the smell of machinery or of cesspools, rise from lower floors and aggravate the evils of the upper floors. The hot air of the lower rooms heats the upper ones by warming the floors, and if the rooms are low and much gas is burned in them, it is a great nuisance. It is still worse in places where steam engines are installed in the lower rooms and fill the whole house with undesirable heat...In general it may be said that the ventilation is defective throughout and totally insufficient to remove the heat and the products of combustion of the gas after sundown, and that conditions in many shops, especially if they were formerly living rooms, are most deplorable." In some shops, particularly for weekly papers, where boys of 12 to 16 years are also employed, work is carried on almost uninterruptedly for two days and one night; while in other printing shops, which make a specialty of job work, the laborer does not get a rest even on Sunday, so that his days of work are 7 instead of 6 per week. (Page 26, 28.)
The milliners and dress makers occupied our attention also in volume I, chapter X, 3, so far as overwork was concerned. Their work rooms are described in the present report by Dr. Ord. Even if they are better during the day, they become overheated, foul, and unhealthy during the hours in which gas is burned. Dr. Ord found in 34 shops of the better sort that the average number of cubic feet per worker was as follows: "In four cases more than 500; in four other cases 400-500; in five cases 200-250; in four cases 150-200; and finally in nine cases only 100-150. Even the most favorable of these cases barely suffices for continued work, when the room is not perfectly ventilated...Even with good ventilation the workshops become very hot and stuffy after dark on account of the many gas jets needed." And here follows a remark of Dr. Ord concerning one of the minor workshops operated for the account of a middleman: "One room, containing 1,280 cubic feet; persons present, 14; space for every person, 91.5 cubic feet. The girls looked haggard and neglected. There wages were said to be from 7 to 15 sh. per week, aside from tea...The hours of labor from 8 A. M. to 8 P. M. The small room, in which these 14 persons were crowded together, was badly ventilated. There were two movable windows and a fireplace, which was, however, closed. There were no special appliances of any kind for ventilation." (Page 27).
The same report states with reference to the overwork of the milliners and dress makers: "The overworking of young women in fashionable millinery stores prevails only for about 4 months in that monstrous degree which has elicited on many occasions the momentary surprise and indignation of the public. But during these months work is as a rule continued in the shop for fully 14 hours per day, and on accumulated rush-orders for days from 17 to 18 hours." In other seasons work in the shop is carried on probably for 10 to 14 hours; those working at home are regularly engaged for 12 to 13 hours. In the making of ladies' cloaks, capes, shirts, etc., including work with a sewing machine, the hours passed in the common work room are fewer, generally not more than 10 to 12, but, says Dr. Ord, "the regular hours of labor in certain houses, at various times, are subject to considerable extension by means of extra paid overtime, and in others work is taken home in order to be finished after the regular working time. We may add that either one of these methods of over-work is often compulsory." (Page 28). John Simons remarks in a footnote to this page: "Mr. Redcliffe, the secretary of the Epidemiological Society, who had especially frequent opportunities to examine the health of milliners and dressmakers of the first firms, found among 20 girls who said of themselves that they were "quite well" only one in good health; the others showed different degrees of physical exhaustion, nervous debility, and numerous functional troubles arising therefrom. He names as causes, in the first instance, the length of the working hours, which he estimates at a minimum of 12 hours per day even in the dull season, and secondly, 'overcrowding and bad ventilation of workrooms, air poisoned by gas lights, insufficient or bad food, and lack of provision for domestic comfort.'"
The conclusion at which the chief of the English Board of Health arrived, is that "it is practically impossible for laborers to insist on that which is theoretically their first sanitary right: the right of having their common labor freed from all needless conditions injurious to health, so far as may lie in the power of their employer, and at his expense, whatever may be the work to be accomplished by them for their employer. And while the laborers themselves are actually not in a position to enforce this sanitary justice, neither can they expect any effective assistance from the officials responsible for the enforcement of the Nuisance Removal Acts, in spite of the presumable intention of the legislator." (Page 29.)—"There will no doubt be some small technical difficulties in the way of determining the lowest limit where the employers shall be subject to regulation. But...in principle the claim to the protection of health is universal. And in the interest of myriads of working men and working women, whose lives are needlessly stunted and shortened by the infinite physical ills caused by their occupations, I venture to express the hope that the sanitary conditions of labor will just as universally be placed under fitting legal protection; at least sufficiently to safeguard an effective ventilation of all closed work rooms, and to restrict as much as possible the particular unsanitary influences naturally inherent in every dangerous line of industry." (Page 63.)
In his report for October, 1852, L. Horner quotes a letter of the famous engineer James Nasmyth of Patricrofit, the inventor of the steam hammer, which contains substantially the following statements.
The public is little acquainted with the immense increase of motive power obtained through such changes of system and improvements (of steam engines) as he is mentioning. The machine power of the district of Lancashire was for almost forty years under the pressure of timid and prejudiced traditions. But now the engineers have been happily emancipated. During the last 15 years, but particularly in the course of the last 4 years (since 1848) a few important changes have taken place in the operation of condense steam engines. The result was that the same machines accomplished far more work, and that the consumption of coal was considerably decreased at the same time. For many years, since the introduction of steam power in the factories of this district, the velocity which was considered safe for condense steam engines, was about 220 feet of piston lift per minute, that is to say, a machine with a piston lift of 5 feet was limited by regulation to 22 revolutions of the shaft. It was not considered appropriate to drive the machine faster. And since the entire installation was adapted to this velocity of 220 feet of piston lift per minute, this slow and senselessly restricted motion prevailed in the factories for many years. But finally, either through a lucky unfamiliarity with this regulation, or for better reasons of some daring innovator, a greater velocity was tried, and, since the result was very favorable, this example was followed by others. The machine was given full rein, as the saying was, and the main wheels of the transmission gear were changed in such a way that the steam engine could make 300 feet per minute and more, while the machinery was kept at its former speed. This acceleration of the steam engine had become general, because it had been demonstrated that more available power was gained from the same machine, and that the movements were much more regular on account of the greater impetus of the driving wheel. The same steam pressure and the same vacuum in the condenser produced more power by means of a simple acceleration of the piston lift. For instance, if by appropriate changes we can accomplish that a machine yielding 40 horse power with 200 feet per minute makes 400 feet with the same steam pressure and vacuum, we shall secure exactly double that power, and since the steam pressure and the vacuum are the same in both cases, the strain on the various individual parts of the machine, and thus the danger of accidents, will not materially increase with an increase of speed. The whole difference is that we consume more steam in comparison to the accelerated movement of the piston, or at least approximately so; and furthermore, there is a somewhat more rapid wear of the bearings, or friction parts, but this is hardly worth mentioning. But in order to obtain more power with the same machine by speeding up the piston, more coal must be burned under the same steam boiler, or a boiler of a larger volume of evaporation must be employed, in short, more steam must be generated. This was accomplished, and boilers with a greater volume were installed with the old "accelerated" machines. These accomplished consequently as much as 100% more work. About 1842, the extraordinarily cheap generation of power with steam engines in the mines of Cornwall began to attract attention. The competition in cotton spinning compelled the manufacturers to seek the main source of their profits in economies. The remarkable difference in the consumption of coal per hour and horse-power shown by the Cornish machines, and likewise the extraordinarily economical performances of the Woolf Double Cylinder Machines, brought the question of fuel into the foreground, also in Nasmyth's district. The Cornish and the double cylinder machines furnished one horse-power per hour for every 3½ or 4 pounds of coal, while the machines in the cotton districts generally consumed 8 or 12 pounds per horse-power an hour. Such a marked difference induced the manufacturers and machine builders of Nasmyth's district to accomplish by similar means just such extraordinary economies as were then the rule in Cornwall and France, where the high prices of coal had compelled the manufacturers to restrict this expensive branch of their business as much as possible. This led to some very important results. In the first place, many boilers, one-half of whose surface remained exposed to the cold outer air in the time of high profits, were then covered with thick layers of felt, or bricks and mortar, and other material, by which the radiation of the heat, which had been generated at such high cost, was prevented. Steam pipes were protected in the same way, and the cylinders were also surrounded by felt and wood. In the second place, high pressure came into use. Hitherto the safety-valve had been weighted only so slightly that it opened at 4, 6, or 8 pounds of steam pressure per square inch. Then it was discovered that considerable coal could be saved by raising the pressure to 14 or 20 pounds. In other words, the work of a factory was accomplished by a considerably lower consumption of coal. Those who had the means and the enterprise carried the system of increased pressure to its full extension and employed judiciously constructed steam-boilers, which furnished steam at a pressure of 30, 40, 60, or 70 pounds per square inch, which would have scared an engineer of the old school to death. But as the economic result of this increased steam-pressure soon made itself felt in the unmistakable form of so many pounds sterling, shillings, and pence, the high pressure boilers for condensing machines became very common. Those who carried out the reform radically used the Woolf machines, and this took place in most of the recently built machines. These were the Woolf machines with two cylinders, in one of which the steam from the boiler furnishes power by means of the excess of pressure over that of the atmosphere, whereupon, instead of escaping as formerly after each stroke of the piston into the open air, it passes into a low pressure cylinder of about four times the volume of the other and, after accomplishing there some more expansion, goes to the condenser. The economic result obtained by such a machine is the performance of one horse-power per hour for every 3½ or 4 pounds of coal, while the machines of the old style required from 12 to 14 pounds for this purpose. A clever device permitted the adaption of the Woolf system with double cylinders, that is to say, the high and low pressure machine, to already existing machines and thus the increase of their performance and at the same time a reduction in the consumption of coal. The same result was obtained during the last 8 or 10 years by a combination of a high pressure machine with a condensing machine in such a way that the steam used in the former passed into the latter and drove it. This system is useful for many purposes. It would not be easily possible to obtain any accurate statistics of the increased performances of the same identical steam-engines supplied with some or all of these new improvements. But it is certain that the same weight of steam machinery now performs 50% more service on an average, and that in many cases the same steam-engine, which yielded 50 horse-powers at the time of the limited speed of 220 feet per minute, yields now more than 100 horse-powers. The highly economical results of the employment of high pressure steam in condensing machines, and the far greater demands made upon the old machines for the purposes of business expansion, have led in the last three years to the introduction of pipe boilers, by which the cost of steam generation is again considerably reduced. (Rep. Fact., Oct., 1852, pages 23 to 27.)
What applies to power generating, also applies to power transmitting and working machinery. According to Redgrave's report, on page 58 of the above-cited document, the rapid steps made in the development of improvements in machinery during the last years have enabled the manufacturers to expand production without additional motive power. The more economical employment of labor has become necessary through the shortening of the working day, and in most well-managed factories means are always considered by which production may be increased, and expenses decreased. Redgrave has before him a calculation, which he owes to the courtesy of a very intelligent gentleman in his district, referring to the number and age of the laborers employed in his factory, the machines operated in it, and the wages paid from 1840 to date. In October, 1840, his firm employed 600 laborers, of whom 200 were less than 13 years old. In October, 1852, they employed only 350 laborers, of whom only 60 were less than 13 years old. The same number of machines, with very few exceptions, were in operation, and the same amounts were paid in wages, in both years...
These improvements of machinery do not show their full effects until they are used in new and judiciously built factories.
According to the testimony of a cotton spinner in the factory reports for 1863, page 110, great progress has been made in the building of factories in which such improved machinery is to be installed. In the basement of his factory he twines all his yarn, and for this purpose alone he installs 29,000 doubling spindles. In this room and in the shed alone he saves at least 10% in labor. This is not so much the result of improvements in the doubling system, as of the concentration of machinery under one gearing. He can drive the same number of spindles with one single driving shaft, and thus he saves from 60 to 80% for gearing as compared to other firms. This furthermore results in a great saving of oil, grease, etc. In short, with perfected installations in his factory and improved machinery he had saved at least 10% in labor, not to mention great economies in power, coal, oil, grease, transmission belts and shafts.
With the advance of capitalist production the utilisation of the excrements of production and consumption is extended. We mean by the former the refuse of industry and agriculture, and by the latter either the excrements, such as issue from the natural circulation of matter in the human body, or the form in which objects of consumption are left after being used. Excrements of production, for instance in chemical industries, are such by-products as are wasted in production on a smaller scale; iron filings collected in the manufacture of machinery and carried back into the production of iron as raw material, etc. Excrements of consumption are the natural discharges of human beings, remains of clothing in the form of rags, etc. The excrements of consumption have the most value for agriculture. So far as their utilisation is concerned, the capitalist mode of production wastes them in enormous quantities. In London, for instance, they find no better use for the excrements of four and a half million human beings than to contaminate the Thames with it at heavy expense.
The raising of the price of raw materials naturally leads to the utilisation of waste products.
The general requirements for the re-employment of these excrements are: A great quantity of such excrements, such as is only the result of production on a large scale; improvements in machinery by which substances formerly useless in their prevailing form are given another useful in reproduction; progress of science, especially of chemistry, which discovers the useful qualities of such waste. It is true, that great economies of this sort are also observed in small agriculture carried on like gardening, for instance in Lombardy, southern China, and Japan. But on the whole the productivity of agriculture under this system is obtained by great prodigality in human labor-power, which is drawn from other spheres of production.
The so-called waste plays an important role in almost every industry. The factory report for December, 1863, mentions as one of the principal reasons why farmers in many parts of England and Ireland do not like to grow flax, or do so but rarely, the great waste occurring in the preparation of flax by small scutch-mills driven by water. The waste is relatively small in cotton, but very considerable in flax. Good treatment in soaking and mechanical scutching may reduce this disadvantage considerably. In Ireland flax is frequently scutched in a very slovenly manner, so that from 28 to 30% are lost. All this might be avoided by the use of better machinery. So much tow fell by the side in the preparation of flax that the factory inspector reports having heard it said of some of the scutching mills in Ireland that the laborers carry the waste home and burn it in their fire-places, although it is very valuable. (Page 140 of the above report.) We shall speak of cotton later, in discussing the fluctuations of prices of raw materials.
The wool industry was carried on more intelligently than the preparation of flax. The same report states on page 107 that it was formerly the custom to veto the preparation of waste wool and woolen rags for renewed use, but this prejudice has been entirely dropped so far as the shoddy trade is concerned, which has become an important branch of the wool district of Yorkshire. It is doubtless expected that the trade with cotton waste will soon occupy the same rank as a line of business meeting a long felt want. Thirty years previous to 1863, woolen rags, that is to say pieces of all-wool cloth, etc., were worth on an average about 4 p.st. 4 sh. per ton. But a few years before 1863 they had become worth as much as 44 p.st. per ton. And the demand for them had risen to such an extent that mixed stuffs of wool and cotton were also used, means having been found to destroy the cotton without injuring the wool. And thousands of laborers were employed in 1863 in the manufacture of shoddy, and the consumer benefited thereby, being enabled to buy cloth of good quality at very reasonable prices. The shoddy so rejuvenated constituted in 1862 as much as one-third of the entire consumption of wool in English industry, according to the factory report of October, 1862, page 81. The truth about the "benefit" for the "consumer" is that his shoddy clothes wear out in one-third of the time which good woolen clothes used to last, and become threadbare in one-sixth of this time.
The English silk industry moved on the same inclined plane. From 1839 to 1862 the consumption of genuine raw silk had somewhat decreased, while that of silk waste had doubled. By the help of improved machinery it was possible to make this otherwise rather worthless stuff into a silk useful for many purposes.
The most striking instance of the utilisation of waste was furnished by the chemical industry. It utilises not only its own waste in new ways, but also that of many other industries. For instance it converts the formerly almost useless gas-tar into aniline colors, alizarin, and more recently even into drugs.
This economy through the re-employment of excrements of production must be distinguished from economies through the prevention of waste, that is to say, the reduction of excrements of production to a minimum and the maximum utilisation at first hand of all raw and auxiliary materials required in production.
The reduction of waste depends in part on the quality of the machinery in use. Oil, soap, etc., are saved to the extent that the parts of a machine are constructed accurately and polished. This refers to auxiliary materials. In part, however, and this is the most important part, it depends on the quality of the employed machines and tools whether a large or small portion of raw material is converted into waste in the process of production. Finally it depends on the quality of the raw material itself. This in turn is conditioned on the development of the extract industry and agriculture producing the raw material (the progress of civilisation strictly so called), and on the improvement of processes through which the raw materials pass before their entry into manufacture.
"Parmentier proved that the art of grinding grain was very materially improved in France in recent times, for instance since the time of Louis XIV, so that the new mills, compared to the old, can make as high as twice as much bread from the same amount of grain. In fact, the annual consumption of an inhabitant of Paris was at first placed at 4 setiers of grain, then at 3, finally at 2, while nowadays it is only 1½ setier, or about 342 lbs. per capita....In the Perche, in which I lived for a long time, the crude mills of granite and trap rock have been rebuilt according to the rules of advanced mechanics as understood for the last 30 years. They have been provided with good mill stones from La Ferté, the grain has been ground twice, the milling sack has been given a circular motion, and the output of flour has increased by one-sixth for the same amount of grain. I can easily explain the enormous discrepancy between the daily consumption of grain among the Romans and among us. It is due simply to the imperfect method of milling and bread making. In this connection I must explain a peculiar fact mentioned by Pliny, XVIII, c. 20, 2:...'The flour was sold in Rome, according to quality, at 40, 48, or 96 as per modius.' These prices, so high in proportion to the contemporaneous prices of grain, are due to the imperfect state of the mills of that period, and the resulting heavy cost of milling." (Dureau de la Malle, Economie Politique des Romains. Paris, 1840, I, page 280.)
These economies in the utilisation of fixed capital, we repeat, are due to the application of the requirements of labor on a large scale, in short, are due to the fact that these requirements serve as the first conditions of direct co-operative and social production, a co-operation within the primary process of production. On the one hand, this is the indispensable requirement for the application of mechanical and chemical inventions without increasing the price of commodities, and this is always the first consideration. On the other hand, only production on a large scale permits those economies which are derived from co-operative productive consumption. Finally, it is only the experience of combined laborers which discovers the where and how of economies, the simplest methods of applying the experience gained, the way to overcome practical frictions in carrying out theories, etc.
Incidentally it should be noted that there is a difference between universal labor and co-operative labor. Both kinds play their role in the process of production, both flow one into the other, but both are also differentiated. Universal labor is scientific labor, such as discoveries and inventions. This labor is conditioned on the co-operation of living fellow-beings and on the labors of those who have gone before. Co-operative labor, on the other hand, is a direct co-operation of living individuals.
The foregoing is corroborated by frequent observation, to-wit:
1) The great difference in the cost of the first building of a new machine and that of its reproduction, on which see Ure and Babbage.
2) The far greater cost of operating an establishment based on a new invention as compared to later establishments arising out of the ruins of the first one, as it were. This is carried to such an extent that the first leaders in a new enterprise are generally bankrupted, and only those who later buy the buildings, machinery, etc., cheaper, make money out of it. It is, therefore, generally the most worthless and miserable sort of money-capitalists who draw the greatest benefits out of the universal labor of the human mind and its co-operative application in society.
Notes for this chapter
Since in all factories a very large amount of fixed capital is invested in buildings and machinery, the gains will be so much larger the greater the number of hours during which this machinery can be kept employed." (Reports of Factory Inspectors, October 31, 1858, p. 8.)
See Ure on the progress in factory construction.
Part I, Chapter VI.
End of Notes
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