50 Years Ago: Social Production: Individual Appropriation
In the days of handicraft and petty industry, production was individual. The worker owned individually the tools with which he worked, as they were small and primitive and easily made or purchased, and, as a consequence, he owned his product. The Capitalist system which arose out of handicraft, concentrated the scattered and feeble means of production and intensified them, first by co-operation and division of labour in the workshop and finally by machinery. But “the bourgeoisie . . . could not transform these puny means of production into mighty productive forces without transforming them, at the same time, from means of production of the individual into social means of production only workable by a collectivity of men” (F. Engels Socialism, Utopian and Scientific).
Nevertheless, although in this way the productive process was changed, the old individual mode of appropriating the products, adapted to handicraft, still remained intact—while production became socialised, ownership of the means of production and the product continued individual. This is the germ of all the anomalies of present-day society, which, instead of enabling the utilisation of all the forces of production to their utmost capacity, enforces their limited use and frequent stoppage. There exists an antagonism between the forces of production and the conditions of production.
(From the Socialist Standard, June, 1916)