Dover Western Docks Revival

Let us for a moment set aside technological determinism and instead consider technology as a determinant.

The earliest archeological evidence for the wheelbarrow is in Chengdu in 118AD. It took about 1,000 years for wheelbarrows to make their way to medieval Europe. References to artefacts which could be wheelbarrows starts to appear around 1170.

Anyone who has tried to move a tonne of sand or gravel by hand, or by sack, or using a wheelbarrow will understand the difference. It is too convenient to talk about ‘class struggle’ and technology without considering both class and technology and the invention, development, spatial spread and appropriation of technology. Can we assume that wheelbarrows became popular because they were (and are) labour saving devices?

What we do know is that within capitalist production, a key determinant is the expansion and accumulation of capital. This dynamic creates huge pressures to replace living labour with dead labour. People are replaced by machines.

Here we can see the domination of electrically powered hydraulic cranes. One crane operator replacing several gangs of dock workers.

While the number of dock workers has decreased, the number of workers in warehouses and distribution centres has greatly increased.

Dock workers were well organised with powerful unions. Warehouse workers often find themselves working in the gig economy. Casual employment with poor conditions, long hours and short pay.

So yes, there is a relationship between class interests and technology. But that explains the appropriation and use of technology rather than the development of technology itself.

General cargo ship Humbergracht which has just arrived from Casablanca

Another interesting aspect to this dynamic is that technical development has already created the conditions for the physical liberation of humanity from boring, tedious, dangerous, repetitive and soul destroying work.

But to change the current relationship of workers to machine production will require the disposal of a ruling class which holds all productive property as its own.

%d bloggers like this: