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How Metalworkers c. 1910 viewed their Work (1912)

These quotes from various metalworkers reveal the range of attitudes they held with regard to their work: from alienation to ambivalence and sometimes even pride. One also sees the influence of Marxist theories of production on the Socialist working class.

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Metalworkers organized in Social Democratic organizations in Berlin, Solingen, and Idar-Oberstein were asked in a survey in 1907-1911: "Do you enjoy your work or do you take no interest in it?" – What follows are some of the answers (the identification of the respondent is followed by his daily work hours and average weekly wage):

A twenty year-old locksmith; 10 hours, 20 marks: "The answer to this question varies. It is enjoyable when it is done and looks pleasing to me. I have no interest when I think of the purpose and use of my product in the function it now begins to assume."

A twenty-one year-old machine fitter [Maschinenschlosser]; 9 hours, 36 marks: "I am interested in new jobs and complicated things. Mass-produced goods disgust me."

A twenty-three year-old metalworker; 10 hours, 30 marks: “If I’m allowed to say the whole truth, it gives me no pleasure.”

A twenty-four year-old metalworker; 9 hours, 35 marks: "I can answer this question with a flat-out 'no.' The private capitalist production process has thoroughly quashed my interest in the work, since I receive only a fraction of the true value of my labor to which I am entitled by law in the form of wages."

A twenty-five year-old stamper [Stanzer]; 9 hours, 31 marks: "I am like the machine, which is driven by power."

A twenty-six year-old lathe-operator; 9 1/2 hours, 43 marks: "I suppose I am interested in the work only out of a desire to earn money."

A twenty-seven year-old knife maker; 10 hours, 30 marks: "Yes, I am interested in it."

A twenty-eight year-old metal polisher; 9 hours, 36 marks: "I don't have any special interest in my work, but when it is done, especially figurines, I take pleasure in the way they look."

A twenty-nine year-old moulder [Former]; 8 hours, 42 marks: "On the whole my work is interesting, and since I don't have to exert myself too much, I perform it with or without pleasure, depending on what kind it is, but in either case I do my job."

A thirty year-old iron turner [Eisendreher]; 10 hours, 30 marks: "No, I just do my work mechanically."

A thirty-one year-old locksmith; 10 hours, 25 marks: "Necessity forces me to take an interest. If that were not the case, I would do something other than slaving away in the sooty and smoky factory hall amongst Polaks and other mentally retarded people. A feeling that a sane person would call pleasure is not something I can derive from my work."

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