NEW TECHNOLOGY AND THE NEED FOR
NEW TECHNOLOGY AND THE NEED FOR
New Communist Party of Britain
pamphlet - print copy £2 plus postage
When Harold Wilson, Labour
Prime Minister in the 1960s, spoke about the “White Hot Heat of
technological revolution” he envisaged a situation where we would all
be enjoying much more leisure time. This hasn’t happened. Instead there
is a “culture” of long hours, unpaid overtime, a dramatic increase in
the tempo of work and job insecurity. The stress caused by working
under these conditions has grown enormously. It would seem that
we have become the slaves of new technology In reality what we are
experiencing is an increase in the rate of exploitation. It is the
employers who are cracking the whip; they work together in their
pursuit of higher profits by applying various techniques to
maximise the hours worked whilst minimising the wages paid. They
have the right to hire and fire and because of the lack of sufficient
militancy by the organisations of the working class; they are demanding
the maximum effort, whilst successfully retarding any significant rise
in wages. How should we meet this challenge? What should our immediate
demands be? Why is it that the only solution that can satisfy the
working class is socialism? This pamphlet will endeavour to answer
? The drive to maximise profits
Under capitalism every method to increase economic growth is enacted
solely to increase profits, never to increase wages or reduce hours.
of these methods are :
• The introduction of new technology. The British car
industry currently produces almost two million cars and commercial
vehicles annually. This is a similar volume to the industry’s peak
years of the early 1970s but employment in the industry has dropped
from 525,000 to 197,000. Before the closure of MG Rover productivity of
workers’ in the group had risen from 5.9 cars per worker in 1978 to 25
• The introducion of “lean production” systems
that require workers to work more intensely. In a report published in
November 2004, the TUC (Trades Union Congress) estimates that
work-related stress costs the economy up to £7 billion and as
many as 13 million lost working days a year. The Health & Safety
Executive says it is the biggest cause of working days lost through
injury or ill-health.
• The lengthening of the hours worked. Almost 5
million workers worked regularly longer than their contracted hours for
no extra payment, worth £23bn in extra profits to the
capitalists. This extra unpaid work is often performed to the detriment
of family life. This is no labour of love. The worker feels compelled
to do the extra unpaid work to safeguard their jobs in case of cutbacks.
All this contributes to the increase in profits which grew by up to 33
per cent in the second quarter of 2004, wages grew by a measly 4 per
cent. Deregulation, privatisation, restrictions to workers rights and
cuts in unemployment benefit have also contributed to the increase in
According to the office for national statistics, the mean annual salary
of chief executives and directors was £162,028. Train drivers,
who have the best paid manual jobs, were in 61st place earning
£33,425 a year while nurses were 143rd in the tables earning
£24,462. Among the worst paid workers were the 27,000 retail
cashiers and checkout operators who earned £10,734.
Capitalism cannot solve the problem of distribution. That is partly the
proof of the obsolescence of the system. On a national and
international basis there is massive poverty amidst incredible wealth.
Company directors walk away with golden handshakes of millions whilst
at the other end of the scale people struggle to make ends meet. We are
told that we are in a global economy, yet whilst famine stalks the
continent of Africa, African farmers have to comply with the World Bank
and International Monetary Fund decisions on which crops that may or
may not grow. The heavily subsidised food production in countries like
Britain results in the reduction of sustainable food production in
The factor that makes it imperative and inevitable for capitalism to
renew and revolutionise its productive techniques is the competition
from its rivals. The assumption of the capitalists is that it will be
their products that will be bought and not the products of their rivals
this results in too many products being produced. The market is unable
to absorb all that is produced and so the capitalists compete with each
other to gain a larger share of the market at the expense of their
rivals. In the sharpening struggle for markets trade wars develop
between large corporations, countries and economic trading blocks like
the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement. This
struggle for markets and control of resources, gives rise to physical
wars as they try to redivide the world in their favour.
War is not necessarily their preferred choice in solving the
contradiction of the crises of over production. Their first
choice is to augment the purchasing power of the market. This sometimes
gives some immediate relief to the system but at the cost of actually
aggravating the basic problem, as boosting the purchasing power of the
market is achieved not by increasing wages but by encouraging people to
go into debt – “buy now pay later” is the maxim. However, because these
debts have to be repaid with interest charges, the overall effect is
to cut the future purchasing power of wages, pensions and student
grants and so on.
The increase in debt puts pressure on workers to work longer hours in
order to pay off their debts. This working of extra hours makes
more profits for bosses and contributes even more to over?production.
At present people, in Britain, are in debt to the tune of about
£1,000 billion (€1,500bn, $1,800bn) which is 102 per cent of GDP
and growing at more than 14 per cent a year, almost 4 times the rate of
wage growth. Once this bubble bursts, when people find they cannot
service their debts, there will be a dramatic cut back in purchasing
power which could result in an economic recession further exacerbating
the existing problems. As a result of increased debt and marketing
pressures there is the feeling that finances are stretched in
spite of low inflation, a so-called stable economy, two-earner families
and longer working hours.
The level of debt is already showing signs that it is unsustainable in
that there are a growing number of people having their homes
repossessed: a 25 per cent increase in the first quarter of 2005.
Capitalism exacerbates the problem still further by increasing the
output per person per working day (productivity).To increase
productivity the capitalists reduce the amount of effort required to
produce a particular product or provide a particular service, they do
this by lengthening the working week and by making workers work more
intensely. New technology helps this process enormously either by
lightening the physical effort of the job or by the introduction of
“lean production” systems where workers are given a greater number of
tasks to perform.
Until the 1970s the emphasis was on producing skilled manufacturing
workers through apprenticeship schemes. Apprentices were given a well
rounded engineering background and would, when trained, make a
significant contribution to adding value to the production process. It
is only through the increased production of new products like food,
clothing, cars and televisions that GDP can grow in real terms.
Selling insurance or providing a banking service does not increase GDP
it only redistributes the existing “pot” of money.
With the introduction of new technology there is no longer a need to
have so many skilled manufacturing workers as computerised machines can
now replicate the skills of many of these workers as is the case in the
motor car industry exampled above. Many engineering companies have made
heavy investments in new machine tools. Some of these machine tools are
laser guided with diamond cutting tools so precision is very high and
wear very low. Wages can be reduced because the machines often run
around the clock, sometimes seven days a week, sometimes without
operators and with greater efficiency and accuracy.
This introduction of new technology has replaced many of the skills
that had been previously considered essential for a modern workforce.
Computer controlled machine tools have replaced many highly skilled
workers. In the office letter writing and book?keeping are carried out
more efficiently through the use of computers and their associated
programmes. Staff in call?centres deal with specific customer queries,
through the use of computerised telephone switch?boards that can direct
enquirers to specifically trained staff, thus obviating the need to
train multi?skilled staff. In shops numeracy skills are no longer
required as check-out operators simply scan the goods being bought.
Apprenticeships have been replaced by non-vocational university
education, the exceptions being law, medicine, social work, sciences ,
technology and engineering. Only on specifically orientated
technology and engineering courses will students be trained in how to
design, build or configure advanced computerised machines. To gain
entry to these courses students will need an advanced education in
physics and mathematics. In the office the requirement is for skilled
managers with related business knowledge.
Whereas acquiring these management and business skills will require
many years of education and training, the mastering of word processors
and spreadsheet tools can be achieved in a few weeks. The rest of
the workforce not directly engaged in design engineering or management
will require less specialised skills than were previously gained under
the old apprenticeship schemes.
The emphasis in education and in career development is for students to
move towards a career in business or finance as opposed to those
careers in the wealth creating or new technology sectors.
University acceptances for Information Technology (IT) courses have
declined from a peak of 29,000 in 2000 to 22,500 in 2003. According to
the research, the IT industry needs up to 179,000 entrants each year.
The problem is not just about numbers: jobs in engineering,
manufacturing and IT are perceived to be those most easily transferable
to other countries and are thus shunned by the young. Skills in new
technology are the very ones that are the most easily transferable with
the developing countries having a vast pool of highly educated and
technologically skilled people and can provide economy of scale. So
employers are holding back on training staff as they consider these
jobs as suitable for outsourcing overseas as the knowledge-based
content of the output of office workers can be exported anywhere. These
services being exported are not only at the low end of the value chain
– call-centre operators and data processors – but
increasingly at the upper end where software programmers, engineers,
accountants, lawyers, consultants and doctors work.
imperialist and developing countries
Until the mid 1900s imperialism exported capital to the former colonial
countries for the purpose of plundering their mineral wealth and
transferring it back to the metropolitan country for manufacture into
finished products. These finished products were either sold in the
metropolitan country or exported to elsewhere in the world. With
the introduction of new technology, the tendency now is for manufacture
to be conducted in countries with the lowest wages. In the past
manufacture was exported to countries with relatively small
populations, now the tendency is for manufacture or provision of
services to be conducted in China, India or elsewhere.
The incentives to take the outsourcing of more complex services one
step further and move them offshore are compelling. A body called
Accountants in India recently estimated that a qualified bookkeeper or
entry-level staff member in the US cost about $30 an hour, including
all the overheads (employee benefits, computers, office space,
continuing education and so on). Experienced accountants got 50 per
cent more. In contrast, a qualified, college graduate accountant,
trained in standard business management applications could be hired for
about $8 an hour in India.
should the working class respond to this development? How can jobs be
First of all the labour movement should put as much pressure as
possible to stop jobs being exported by the capitalists. It will not be
possible to win all such struggles. Many jobs in manufacturing,
banking, insurance and other service industries have already been
It is important to realise that our argument is with the employers. It
is not with the workers of the developing countries who in some
circumstances are being exploited by the same capitalists we are in
Even with the loss of jobs in the major imperialist powers like the US
and Britain the working class is growing in size and wherever jobs are
exported to, trade unions are developing as workers struggle to improve
wages, safety standards at places of work and health and
education facilities in the wider communities.
Through militant struggle and good leadership these countries will
experience a rise in living standards – and that is to be welcomed.
Indeed, the raising of living standards and working conditions through
active struggle will force the employers to think again about
transferring the jobs. To a certain extent this is already happening in
China as workers united around the Communist Party of China and the
ACFTU have forced even Wal?Mart to shift on it’s position of not
recognising trade unions.
The direct interests of the workers in Britain are best served by
giving the workers in the developing countries as much support and
solidarity in the struggles they wage against our common
oppressors – the capitalists.
In addition there are political developments taking place. The impact
of China’s example of working to a long term strategy for socialism
should not be underestimated. In planning for socialism China with Cuba
and Vietnam are showing the way forward to advance the interests of the
China and India are leading the way in the race for economic
development, but their approaches are very different. China is
developing its manufacturing base whilst India is increasingly
providing services to the developed world. Together, they are ushering
in a broader and more powerful strain of globalisation. This will
result in an appreciable rise in living standards which is to be
welcomed. The impact of China politically as well as economically
should not be underestimated in encouraging developing countries to
adopt the revolutionary perspective of socialism.
In the long run, the income Chinese and Indian workers make as
producers will show up on the other side of the ledger as they
exercise their new wealth as consumers, presenting opportunities to
suppliers elsewhere in the world.
technology and the class struggle
If Britain is to maintain any semblance of a wealth creating industry
it must train high quality scientists, engineers, architects and IT
Emphasis also needs to be put on the training doctors, nurses and other
health service professionals. It is a scandal that Britain
continues to deny training to people wanting to enter the health
profession whilst poaching staff from the developing countries.
Even with the adoption of new technology and the exporting of jobs it
needs to be stressed that there are certain trades where it is very
desirable to have apprentice style training with the emphasis on hands
on practice. These include plumbers, electricians, carpenters,
engineers, mechanics, bricklayers and so on. All too few of these are
being trained at the present time. In addition nurses, health and care
workers should have their status raised and their salaries
enhanced. Affordable housing for those care workers has to be found
near their places of work.
Transport employees should enjoy proper training.
Pensions should be tied to wages. Student grants need to be
reintroduced and paid for by higher taxation of the rich and a severe
curb on their incomes.
Outsourcing is not a new phenomenon what has changed is the speed,
quantity and quality of the jobs being exported. From the 1950s through
to the 1980s it was the export of low-added value jobs as in clothing
with these jobs being replaced with more more “knowledge-based” jobs in
the design and service orientated industries, now even these jobs are
Historically within Britain, it has been engineering, manufacturing and
the exploitation of the colonial empire that has provided jobs and
wages for Britain’s workers whether it was those directly working in
the wealth creating manufacturing, engineering, extractive and
agricultural industries or those working in the service and
finance sectors. This is not to say that relatively high wages were not
achieved without a determined struggle by the working class. With the
manufacturing base of Britain considerably weaker than in the 1950s,
there are now less than 4 million workers employed in the wealth
creating sector, it is the added value that these workers create that
is used to sustain the economy and pay the wages in the service and
finance sectors. Unless Britain invests in engineering and
manufacturing, creates university places to train engineers and other
scientists and actively encourages the young to work in the wealth
creating sector the decline will continue.
With the manufacturing base of the country weakened it will be a
difficult challenge to improve living standards and reverse the
decline, but it can be achieved by a determined struggle by the
revolutionary perspective is essential for Britain
The tactic employed in the leading capitalist countries by their ruling
classes to avoid socialist revolution has been to grant social
reforms. when the pressure from the working class for change is too
great, in the anticipation that the reforms will be revoked at the
earliest opportunity. In Europe workers are under great pressure to
work longer hours. Even though the European Parliament has voted to
limit the working week to 48?hours, in practice the ruling class will
attempt to make the 48?hour working week the norm under a pretext that
workers need to build an adequate pension for retirement.
There is much to defend and improve if we are to achieve the
benefits that Wilson intimated in his “White hot heat of technological
revolution” speech. It is this continuous battle to win social reforms
and then to defend them sometimes successfully other times not, that
leads to the political realisation that the only sure way of securing
social reforms and enhancing them permanently is for the working class
to assume control of the state through a socialist revolution.
Under capitalism there can be no partnership with the employers, the
partnership spoken of by the employers, Mr Blair and some trade union
leaders is not a partnership based on equality. It is based on the
acceptance of capitalist norms of behaviour. The capitalist right to
exploit is the essential principle enshrined in capitalist democracy.
Just as in ancient Greece the slaves had no say in that democracy, the
workers say in capitalist society is essentially muted. The opinion
forming media is largely monopolised and controlled by the
anti?communist, anti?socialist anti?trade union and anti?working class
As capitalism continually revolutionises the means of production, the
possibilities for changing the relations of production increase. But
even given a revolutionary situation occurring,the transition from
capitalism to socialism depends on the political consciousness of the
working class, its revolutionary resolve and strength of organisation,
its ability to link immediate struggles to longer term perspectives and
its skill in winning allies and neutralising some of its enemies as it
achieves its goal of establishing working class state power.
immediate struggles – unite and fight
As capitalism moves into crisis the ruling class will intensify its
efforts to divide the working class. Racism, religious bigotry and
narrow nationalism are some of the weapons used to achieve that
division and are increasingly becoming evident as witnessed in the
British 2005 general election campaign. The tendency for capitalism to
resort to authoritarian rule and even fascism is usual when the system
enters into crisis.
Against the divide and rule strategy of the ruling class, the working
class seeks to unite the people around the general demands for peace,
full employment, defence of the environment, public ownership and
improved public services.
The immediate need today is to build trade union organizations at the
places of work. This is not just an organisational task. It must
include and ideological work as well.
Over the past few years the working class has changed considerably in
its composition. The industrial working class is still of crucial
importance for political and economical reasons, but it has been
weakened. Those employed in the service sector have increased their
class consciousness and have formed militant trade unions. Health
workers, teachers, local government workers and civil servants come
readily to mind.
Many in the labour force are not class conscious. Some do not even see
themselves as part of the working class but as their material
circumstances change they can be won for progressive policies. The
trade unions nationally can adopt strategies and make their wage claims
more effective. They should consider submitting their wage claims at
the same time and even go so far as jointly deciding what the claim
should be. The practice of wage claims being based on percentage
increases should be abandoned because they widen the differentials to
the detriment of the low paid worker. Wage claims should be based on a
cash across the board basis.
The organisation best equipped to counter capitalist ideas is a
Marxist?Leninist Communist Party. Its strategy must harmonize with the
struggle for working class unity. The basic demands of peace, full
employment and public ownership must figure prominently in the working
The New Communist Party has a strategy designed to help the working
class win their immediate aims and the longer term task of achieving
political power. In the conditions of Britain we believe it to be
fundamentally wrong to contest elections against Labour Party
We state quite openly that our policy includes becoming an affiliate to
the Labour Party to participate in the struggle for the restoration of
those aims within the Labour Party Constitution that promoted public
ownership (Clause 4) and defeat the right wing policies of the current
leadership. In addition we consider it important to strengthen the
democracy in the Labour Party by helping to transform its national
conference into a body whose decisions are binding on the whole
is the Labour Party?
It is a working class party with a federal structure comprising, among
others, trade unions, the Co?operative Party, the Socialist Health
Association and individual constituency Labour Parties. The bulk of
it’s membership are affiliated through the trade unions. It is a party
that works for reforms within the system. It is not a revolutionary
party. It considers the state to be neutral. It encompasses members
widely varying in their political beliefs and outlooks. When the New
Communist Party takes it’s rightful place in the federally based Labour
Party, the left will have been considerably strengthened having the
opportunity to unite and develop around a vanguard for socialism. This
too is of vital importance because the struggle for state power cannot
be achieved solely by spontaneous action.
Socialism would resolve the problem of distribution, so poverty would
With socialism the rewards from production and new technology would be
used to enhance the quality of life of the majority of the people. The
needs of the community will have to become a priority over the
unfettered desires of the individual. That quality of life would
embrace not just material things but culture as well. To reverse global
warming, an integrated framework will be put in place to ensure that,
as far as possible, there will be a reduction in the emission of
polluting gases and other materials damaging to the eco?system,
consistent with sustainable world economic development and that takes
account of maximum assistance to the developing countries.
Socialism would eliminate the pressure for profit made by vested
interests like the oil companies, which veto the initiatives to
combat global warming, and replace cut throat competition with
cooperation and would help to ensure that successive generations
inherited a world at peace, cooperation and greater happiness. It is
not an exaggeration to say that socialism is a necessity to guarantee
the future existence of human kind.
That surely is a goal that is worth fighting and sacrificing for.
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