Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968). rn The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.

The Working Day
(From “Capital”)

Marx, Karl

Karl Marx

(A German Jew, father of modern revolutionary Socialism, 1818–1883. Of his epoch-making work the scope of this collection permits but a brief passage, by way of illustration)

WHAT is a working day? What is the length of time during which capital may consume the labor-power whose daily value it buys? How far may the working-day be extended beyond the working time necessary for the reproduction of labor-power itself? It has been seen that to these questions capital replies: the working day contains the full twenty-four hours, with the deduction of the few hours of repose without which labor-power absolutely refuses its services again. Hence it is self-evident that the laborer is nothing else, his whole life through, than labor-power; that therefore all his disposable time is by nature and law labor-time, to be devoted to the self-expansion of capital. Time for education, for intellectual development, for the fulfilling of social functions and for social intercourse, for the free-play of his bodily and mental activity, even the rest time of Sunday (and that in a country of Sabbatarians!)—moonshine! But in its blind, unrestrainable passion, its were-wolf hunger for surplus-labor, capital oversteps not only the moral, but even the merely physical maximum bounds of the working-day. It usurps the time for growth, development, and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight. It higgles over a meal-time, incorporating it where possible with the process of production itself, so that food is given to the laborer as to a mere means of production, as coal is supplied to the boiler, grease and oil to the machinery. It reduces the sound sleep needed for the restoration, reparation, refreshment of the bodily powers, to just so many hours of torpor as the revival of an organism, absolutely exhausted, renders essential. It is not the normal maintenance of the labor-power which is to determine the limits of the working-day; it is the greatest possible daily expenditure of labor-power, no matter how diseased, compulsory and painful it may be, which is to determine the limits of the laborers’ period of repose. Capital cares nothing for the length of life of labor-power. All that concerns it is simply and solely the maximum of labor-power, that can be rendered fluent in a working-day. It attains this end by shortening the extent of the laborer’s life, as a greedy farmer snatches increased produce from the soil by robbing it of its fertility.