50 Years Ago: The Troubles of Shipbuilding Workers
An ancient occupation, that of a shipwright. According to a gospel-grinding chippy of the writer’s acquaintance, it dates from one Noah, who is supposed to have built an ark to keep a menagerie from getting wet feet. An obstinately bigoted and reactionary body of men, the Ship-constructors and Shipwrights Association. Much the same as other craft unions, of course, no better and no worse. Officered by such Labour jackals as Alex Wilkie, M.P.; John Jenkins, ex-M.P., and other equally ignorant shepherds of two-legged sheep, it is not to be wondered at that these one-time aristocrats of Labour find their economic position as bad as that of the docker, whom they secretly despise.
Modern developments in the shipbuilding industry enable the shipwright to see his skill gradually leaving his conceited carcase and inhabiting various machines, while our ultra-respectable mechanic, when not pawning the few remaining tools he needs, perforce becomes a fixer of machine made parts. This not only applies to shipwrights, but to all other artisans. It is the capitalist method of production and is therefore inevitable.
Shipwrights, like all other workers, have to learn that they arc only tolerated at all upon the earth because they are useful in the wealth producing processes of their masters. When, by the development of machine production, their slight remaining skill is absorbed by the machine, shipwrights will be things of memory only, their tasks divided and sub-divided among machine operatives.
From the Socialist Standard, February 1914