Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Take control of our futures

British workers are being shut out of decisions over the rising use of robots in the UK economy, according to a report from the commission on workers and technology, run by the Fabian Society and the Community trade union, almost six in 10 employees across Britain in a poll said their employers did not give them a say on the use of new technologies. From a series of factory and workplace visits across the country to gather evidence, the two-year commission has heard that workers often feel powerless and frustrated about their lack of influence over tech decisions.

The findings come as another report finds the use of robots in poorer regions triggers the loss of almost twice as many jobs as in wealthier ones. In a study by the consultancy firm Oxford Economics, the rapidly growing use of robots is expected to have a profound impact on jobs across the world, resulting in up to 20m manufacturing job losses by 2030. Around 1.7m manufacturing jobs have already been lost to robots since 2000, according to the study, including as many as 400,000 in Europe, 260,000 in the US and 550,000 in China. The global analysis of 29 advanced economies found that each new industrial robot eliminated as many as 1.6 manufacturing jobs on average. In the lower-income areas of the nations in the study, this figure rises to 2.2 jobs, with 1.3 jobs lost in a richer area.

Automation is rapidly invading one industry after another, and, wherever it is implemented, all but a relative handful of the workers formerly employed are "automated" out of jobs. Common ownership of every facility and factory needed for social production -- is the only answer to the grave problems raised by the advent of robotic manufacturing and distribution.

Capitalist production processes, which has long made the worker an appendage of the machine, is now moving to restrict the "privilege" of being a small cog in the machine to a smaller fraction of the working class. The "superfluous" remainder of us face an insecure future of miserable subsistence as some sort of helots of the capitalist state. Indeed, it could bring to a head the conditions requisite for the establishment of an industrial feudalism.

However, the evils which have accompanied the progress of technology are not in the least inherent in machinery itself. They are inherent, rather, in the private ownership of the tools upon which society's life depends. If freed of the fetters of private ownership and converted into social property, new technology - especially the automated plants would immediately become a blessing and not a curse. Owned in common by the community, these efficient industries could be cooperatively operated to produce an abundance for everyone, readily turned out with but a little labour contribution from each.

Rather having capitalist owned and controlled production menace us with with increased industrial tyranny the self-management of free producers would be a liberating experience for us all.

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