Watch The Wobblies on :
Founded in 1905, The IWW, whose supporters were called “the Wobblies,” was a remarkable organization and this documentary captures the struggles, the spirit, the songs and satires of the movement. The production features the most astonishing interviews with elderly workers who participated in various IWW campaigns from the timber fields of the northwest to the Lawrence strike (1912) and the Patterson strike (1913) in which the IWW brought industrial unionism to fragmented and craft-conscious industries. None of them has lost their fervor, their belief in the revolution or their marvelous sense of humor. What other documentary offers a “talking head” who can both describe the debates in the lumber camps over the Russian Revolution and play—to concert level—a musical saw?
Beyond the powerful narratives, this documentary retrieved a terrific selection of old and archival footage, including cartoons and graphics, giving a narrative structure that provides a context for the interviews. The only intermittent narrator is Roger Baldwin, the founder of The American Civil Liberties Union, who at age 95 wrote his own script based on his brief membership in the IWW in 1919.
Bird and Shaffer describe both the making of this particular video and, in a retrospective after almost 30 years, its place in documentary movie history. For any student of documentaries as a specialty, this addendum is almost as fascinating as the main production. Inspired by The Sorrow and the Pity, the 1969 documentary about Vichy France, Bird and Shaffer claim that The Wobblies is the first of the “new wave” of documentaries that brought both new topics and new techniques to the field.
All of the “leaders–and how the Wobblies despised this term—were dead since this documentary was produced 73 years after the IWW was first organized. The producers, of necessity and of choice, had to interview normal IWW workers who became the “talking heads” for the production. Responding to a shift in labor history in the 1970s which emphasized the narratives of “ordinary workers”—in contrast to featuring union officials or institutions–Bird and Shaffer were determined to reach the grass roots. They relate with affection the interviews they conducted and the difficulties tracking down potential interviews. Shaffer describes the difficulties, for example, of interviewing workers in Bisbee, AZ, where 1,100 Wobblies were dragged into the desert in 1917, a moment in the town’s history that the residents wanted to bury.
Community College of Baltimore County
South Wales Anarchists are very pleased to invite you to the Cardiff Anarchist Bookfair, to be held on Saturday 23rd May 2009 from 10am – 6pm at Cathays Community Centre, 36 Cathays Terrace, Cardiff CF24 4HX. Free admission.
We’re hoping to create a vibrant space for you to come and sell things, talk shop, network, hang out and (re) connect with people. We’ll have stalls, workshops, speakers, food, crèche, a programme of DVDs and entertainment.
We are pleased to announce the setting up of another free, local resource – the radical lending library. Books in the library cover a huge range of topics, from anarchism to the environment and cooking, both fiction and non-fiction. Follow this link – http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/03/423520.html (or check out the BAN myspace)for a full book listing, or to find out what we have, or borrow a book, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The library will hopefully soon have a physical home at Twertons soon-to-be social centre ‘Off the Map’ (the old Twerton railway station). Happy reading folks!
P.s – we have also recently uploaded a mass (yet far from complete) bank of info about BAN activities over the last couple of years. To view it, follow this link – http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/03/423519.html
Bristol Antifa is part of a national federation comprised of local groups of militant anti-fascists, affiliated to the international Antifa movement. We exist to confront fascist ideas, activities and organisations wherever and however they occur. We utilise a wide range of tactics and believe it is important to confront fascism physically as well as ideologically. We do not advocate the electoral process as the means of defeating fascism nor will we work with groups that do. Our structure is anti-authoritarian and non-hierarchical. We oppose discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, disability or age. We will not work with, accept information from, nor pass information to the magazine Searchlight.
What Is Fascism?
It is a mistake to see fascism solely in terms of extreme far-right nationalist political parties such as the BNP, NF etc. While these are the most obvious target for an anti-fascist campaign, many policies promoted by other parties are equally fascist in nature, and demand an appropriate reaction. The media is also guilty of pushing far-right ideology (the tabloid treatment of the issues surrounding refugees for example) and their actions often fall within the remit of an anti-fascist group. We should oppose fascist ideology whatever its source. Equally, fascism is often used as a synonym for racism. Racism is a tool frequently employed by fascist movements, but it is important to be aware that fascists can be non-racist and indeed most racists are not fascists. While our major target is fascism, we must be aware that bigotry in all forms (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) needs to be fought, whether it comes from the mouths of fascists or from elsewhere.
There are many fascist groups operating in Britain, but the biggest threat comes from the British National Party who in recent years have done their utmost to hide their fascist politics beneath a thin veneer of respectability. Antifa opposes all fascist activity, but destroying the BNP is our current priority. Their presence on the political landscape pushes the wider political agenda to the right to the cost of working class people.
Fascism is a violent ideology. Throughout history, fascists have used violence against those who oppose them. Antifa is a continuation of the anti-fascist tradition of confronting fascism physically when it is necessary. Physical confrontation is only one of our tactics though, we do not aim to fetishise it as one tactic above all others, nor will we allow a hierarchy to develop based on the kudos of street-fighting. If an individual member feels unable to engage on this level they are no less worthy as an anti-fascist than any other member of the group. However, those with a moral problem regarding this issue should be advised that this is not the group for them.
Hierarchy & Group Structure
In keeping with our anti-authoritarian ideas, we seek to challenge hierarchy within our own movement and elsewhere. We do not believe in fixed leadership or power structures. Within Bristol Antifa we make decisions on a consensus basis to ensure that the opinions of all within the group are represented as far as possible. Where an organising role needs to be taken on by one or more people (for example, acting as chief steward during an action), we accept that this is immediately revocable should the members of the group be dissatisfied, and that the appointment of any role that could be seen as leadership is temporary and based on group consensus. There are situations in militant anti-fascism where decisions have to be made quickly and it is vital that those involved trust the person who is making those decisions. It is also vital that appointing those decision-makers does not create any unspoken hierarchy, so we encourage the rotation of roles as far as possible. The structure of our own movement needs to reflect our political goals.
The success of fascist politics depends on a divided and unorganised working class. Bristol Antifa believes that the means to effect social change must mirror the ends we wish to achieve, and therefore, reflecting our wider beliefs, we will never exclude any individual on the basis of their sex, race, age, (dis)ability, sexuality or any similar grounds.
We will not work with, accept information from, nor pass information to the so-called anti-fascist magazine/organisation Searchlight, and we will not work with individuals who have any connection to them. As an organisation that works hand-in-glove with State agencies, we cannot trust them or the agenda they pursue. Their influence within, and manipulation of, militant anti-fascism has been deeply divisive over the years. Their methods and involvement with State security services are well documented and entirely incompatible with our own position.
The Authoritarian Left
For decades revolutionary left groups, such as the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party, have opportunistically used the mobilisation against fascism as a way of trying to swell their membership numbers and the coffers of their parties. We are not interested in working with these groups, nor with their front groups, such as the Anti-Nazi League™ or Unite Against Fascism™. Our experience is that these front groups exist merely to try and recruit members on behalf of the controlling party, to peddle their papers, and to manipulate and marginalize genuine anti-fascists. In the past we have seen the leadership of such fronts collaborate not only with the State, but also with the fascists themselves. We will not be fooled again, and advise genuine anti-fascists within these organisations to leave, after which we may be able to work with them.
Voting is something that allows the State to pretend we live in a democracy, and it is a tactic used by fascist parties such as the British National Party to promote themselves and their policies. While the BNP may be in a position to throw bricks through the windows of a few Asian households, it is New Labour that is locking up refugees and bombing Iraqi civilians. It is ridiculous to suggest that voting helps to stop fascism. This is the sort of insult to working class communities that has allowed the BNP to grow. This is the case whether we are being told to vote for the old Statist parties or opportunist fronts, such as Respect™, which has helped to promote bigotry (sexism and homophobia) in order to further the agenda of its leadership. The problems that allow racism and fascism to flourish will not be solved simply by voting for parties which mask their fascism slightly more cleverly than the BNP, nor for some middle-class tourist standing on a left-wing ticket.
The Wider Struggle
Eliminating the threat of fascism will not magically correct all the wrongs of the world. The first stage of real lasting social improvement begins with the downfall of global capitalism and its replacement with an alternative that puts working class people in control of their own lives. Members of Bristol Antifa are involved in a wide variety of other anti-capitalist struggles, but Bristol Antifa itself remains focussed on the fight against fascism, which we believe is linked to the wider struggle. The State will employ fascist tactics if necessary in the cause of suppressing dissent, and the fight against openly fascist ideology, wherever it comes from, is a critical part of the fight against the ultimate enemy – capitalism itself.
Fascists can be suppressed by the use of street-level tactics against their attempts to publicly organise. The fascists’ electoral ambitions can be defeated by the use of counter-propaganda. But a meaningful impact on fascism requires far more than this. We believe that involvement in local communities is critical (and this does not mean parachuting in as outsiders, but people taking action in their own communities). Education and presenting workable solutions to the problems faced by communities are absolutely vital to the struggle. These may be outside the current remit of Bristol Antifa, but we will wholeheartedly support these tactics and, while we may not be able to initiate such activities, we strongly encourage our members to involve themselves in this sort of grass-roots work.
Security & Recruitment
For tactical and security reasons, Bristol Antifa is not an open group. Some of our work may put us in conflict with the authorities, and of course with fascists themselves. We do not seek mass-recruitment and we do not hold regular open meetings. That said, we are always on the lookout for potential new members who are committed and security-conscious. If you are interested in getting involved with Bristol Antifa, or if you would like to assist us in our work, please get in touch.
Hip-hop has seen artists with social and political awareness. Rarely, however, has there been hip-hop fused with unashamedly class struggle, libertarian politics. 22-year-old Comrade Malone attempts to buck that trend with his album The Spontaneous Revolt LP.
Ed Goddard from libcom.org caught up with him to talk about life and politics in music.
Tell us a bit about your life growing up and how you got into politics.
I grew up on a council estate in north-west London and lived there for the first twenty years of my life. I’m not from a political background and didn’t really pay attention to politics until my late teens. In 2003, when the invasion of Iraq began, there was a massive walkout at my school with students blocking roads and making their way to go and protest outside parliament. At the time, this was just a day off school which let me go and get stoned with mates in the park. But it did have an effect and I started thinking a lot more about how shit things are. I questioned things a lot more after that, to the point where I was questioning the overall nature of capitalism, which I started to see as the root cause of all these problems.
When I was 20, I left home and lived in a homeless people’s hostel for a year. Throughout my time there, I was unemployed, on benefits and getting more pissed off, as were the boys I shared facilities with.
That hostel was a trap. The only way you could leave and get into social housing was by being referred by the staff there, which meant submitting to their rules and keeping up to date with the weekly service charge you’d pay from your benefits. My money would go fast on food and transport I’d use to look for work. When I got into service charge arrears I was threatened with eviction twice. Serious bully business from a housing ‘charity’! You could get on the council list, but it’d take a few years to build up enough points for a flat and even then your chances are ultra slim.
Why did you call the album The Spontaneous Revolt LP?
We made the album in about two weeks and I wanted that to be reflected in the name, as well as reflecting it’s political content. Spontaneous Revolt refers both to the nature of the album and the way in which it was made.
Tell us about your experiences so far within the UK hip-hop scene.
I got into the scene by grabbing the mic and turning up for free studio time any time I could. I recorded a cheaply made track at a music college which got passed around on copied CDs and ended up on pirate radio. I got invited to do live shows on air and eventually got a phone call from Kemet Entertainment Records, who I signed a recording contract with in 2006. Whilst on Kemet, I worked with some quality producers such as Baby J, Joe Buddha, and DJ Flip, and was getting a lot of shows.
Sadly, UK hip hop had its own little economic collapse, with nights like Kung Fu in Camden and Speakers Corner in Brixton closing, Itch FM shutting down, Low-Life records closing, and Kemet as well. There’s no green shoots here and no one’s bailing us out! We’re all redundant rappers now; last year I was in a quality studio off Harley street, and now I’m in DJ Downlow’s flat eating fried chicken with ghetto-flavoured mayonnaise.
As a class struggle anarchist, you’re quite different from a lot of other socially conscious rappers. What are your views on the prevalence of nationalist, religious or pro-Obama views in hip-hop?
They’re just a reflection of opinion in America. Politically, some of those opinions might be to the left, but if you want more class struggle in hip-hop, you need more class struggle in society first. Hip-hop reflects what’s already there, whether its street violence, political consciousness, or ‘Vote Obama’ feeling.
What radical traditions/movements do you take inspiration from?
The movements that inspire me most are always working class grassroots ones, and often, but not always, those with libertarian principles. Learning about what the CNT-FAI achieved in the 1930s, contributed to the confidence I have in the possibility of a self-managed society on a large scale. Hungary 1956 is another good example. It’s hard to hear conscious American hip-hop without reference to the Black Panthers. What’s inspiring about them is that they were a street-level organisation and their survival programs made a big positive difference to the lives of people in the community. These days, there’s often focus on organising in the workplace, but not enough on dealing with community issues. Right now, I’m also inspired by all the shit kicking off in Greece.
What do you think of the anarchist movement’s ability to engage working class youth such as yourself?
The anarchist movement needs to start holding Skins parties with free booze and drugs, and a strict dress code of hoodies, caps, and trainers only! But on a serious level, it’s about communicating with people in the right way. People in political groups might be experienced and knowledgeable but young working class people often feel they lack that experience and knowledge to be active. Most people don’t know the definition of anarchism. The anarchist movement has got to let people know what it’s all about and show people that there are no intellectual entry requirements.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m gonna be recording and releasing more free material. For most of the time, I’ll be working alongside DJ Downlow, my partner in crime in studio and pub. I’d love to do a tour across Europe and I’m thinking about the possibility of doing that, but it won’t happen this year. As for now, I’m just gonna keep releasing free music.
Spontaneous Revolt Free Download – www.sensei.fm
By Don Fitz and Tim Kaminski
In the days when there was an Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union (OCAW), its St Louis business agent, Bob Tibbs senior, enjoyed coming to Green Party events. He would tell us that his union knew how bad nuclear powerplants were and that it would be happy to get rid of them if workers would be guaranteed jobs of equal pay in other industries. That’s “social unionism”. The union looked beyond wages and working conditions – it asked if what it was producing truly benefited humanity. 
Social unionism is most needed in times of crisis. The automobile industry is truly in crisis. According to the February 14, 2009, Wall Street Journal, car sales have dropped to a 30-year low. In November and December, 2008, Ford, General Motors (GM) and Chrysler went to , whining that without tens of billions of dollars in government handouts they would go belly up. Washington
As if the big three automakers had told them what to say, Congress responded that a condition for granting bailout loans must be autoworkers’ surrendering the gains won during the last half century. After a few months of browbeating its membership, United Auto Workers union (UAW) executives indicated their willingness to go along with giving up the right to strike and the slashing of wages, health benefits, job security, Supplemental Employment Benefits and rights of new hires.
Confident that it was successfully using the crisis to bludgeon the union, on February 17, 2009, GM asked for US$16.6 billion, in addition to the $13.4 billion it has already received, and Chrysler sought $5 billion to be put on top of its $4 billion in-pocket. With no thought of protecting jobs via a shorter work week, GM pledged to chop 37,000 production line and 10,000 salaried positions. 
The unanswered question was: If the private corporations had so unequivocally demonstrated their inability to manage the auto industry, and if they were putting the entire US economy at risk, why should they not be “de-privatised” — taken over by the government — instead of being rewarded for incompetence? The auto barons have no interest in such a question. Neither Republican nor Democratic party politicians imagined asking it. And UAW honchos did their best to pretend that nationalisation had never entered the mind of the union.
A split personality with two left hands
The response of the labour and social justice left has been to demand protection of the jobs and benefits of those whose work has not already been off-shored. Auto industry militants seek support from other unions to fight any give-backs that union bosses seek to shove down their throats. As news stories blast the opulent squandering of millions by bankers, unionists increasingly ask why should they bear the brunt of the attack on living standards?
Meanwhile, anyone whose head has not been buried in the sand for the last decade knows that the private automobile is at the root of countless environmental evils. Few devices are responsible for more destruction. It’s not just the tens of thousands of fatalities and injuries on the road. Or health disasters in auto factories and their feeder industries, such as oil and steel. It’s more than the enormous contribution of cars to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Not even adding in the massive toxins that cars pour into the air, resulting in asthma, lung and other diseases tallies the full destructiveness of the private automobile.
Transcending all of these is the automobile being the cornerstone of a culture that sacrifices relationships between people to increasingly frantic “mobility”. Cities are split apart by highways as people live kilometres from their families in sprawling suburbs. The rush-hour drive transforms the eight-hour work day into 10 or even 12 hours away from home.
Of all idols that the corporate mind-set worships, none is more blasphemous that the Tower of Auto. The automobile epitomises a society that makes workers beg for a job that forces them to labour at an increasingly exhausting pace so that they can be dumped when the factory closes, robbed of their healthcare and pensions, and compelled to watch their communities polluted, their children poisoned from toxins and their grandchildren fried from global warming.
Yet, it is not unusual for people to rally to save jobs while having amnesia concerning the environmental catastrophe those jobs embody. And there is certainly nothing unique about an environmental forum that says nothing about work life. Pity the poor leftist who schedules both in the same day, having to remember when to wear the personality of a labour activist who ignores the environment and when to be an environmentalist ignoring labour.
Forward to the past
There was a time, not so many generations ago, when the Knights of Labor and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) proclaimed that labour organisations should never limit themselves to bread and butter issues. Defending basic rights should be a part of imagining what society would be like if it was not ground down by capital. The original labour organisations asked how workers could reorganise industry to benefit society rather than make profit.
Propping up an obsolete technology may seem like it is defending jobs. In the long run, it does nothing of the sort. Tall buildings used to have multiple elevator operators. As push button elevators came in, those jobs were doomed. Demanding that elevator operator positions be maintained could only feed an illusion. It would have been far better to demand, like the OCAW, that elevator operators be guaranteed the transition to a different job.
Automobile production is doomed. The last half of the world’s oil will disappear far more rapidly than did the first half. No fantasy of shale oil, tar sands, hydrogen or the like will save the private automobile. The only salvation for the remaining auto jobs is a complete rethinking of what can replace the production of cars. If auto workers are to be retrained, what would their new jobs be?
If not the private automobile, then …
To say that the “private” car should be abolished does not mean that all automobile manufacturing should cease. There will be plenty of need for vehicles for the disabled, for use in the construction industry, for emergency the services and car sharing. That is totally different to people owning a car for single-occupant personal use. But production for these purposes would be vastly less than the constantly expanding production of private cars and could not absorb all auto jobs.
Automobile plants should be immediately retooled to increase the production of buses and trains as the manufacture of cars declines. This would also result in a lowering of production. The only way that masspublic transport can be efficient is for the total mass of production to be less than that required to move the same number of people in individual cars. The number of jobs created by bus and train manufacture will be less than the number lost by manufacturing fewer cars.
Automobile plants need to be redesigned for environmentally positive production. Production of windmills and solar panels are good options. Increased production of bicycles is important if we are to design cities so people can make 80% of their trips without motor vehicles. Yet, adding non-private vehicles, buses, trains and environmental production will tally a smaller number of jobs than required by existing auto plants.
The obvious solution to preserving jobs is a reduction in the number of hours everybody must work. If we can produce what we need with fewer hours of labour, why don’t all of us work less rather than having some work more than 30 hours a week while others have no job?
Who could make this happen? It’s not likely to be the corporations. Those sitting around waiting for the big three automakers to make a socially responsible decision will get bed sores on their butts.
Maybe the Democratic Party politicians will decide to do the right thing. Or maybe not. After all, it was the Clinton gang that rammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through and did everything in its power to outsource US jobs.
What about the UAW officialdom? A big problem is that none of the fundamental changes needed in the US economy are going to happen without nationalising the banks and the automobile companies. Demanding nationalisation would require union bosses to think beyond Roosevelt’s New Deal and they won’t even ask to revive it.
New alliance, old alliance
Wasn’t it 10 short years ago that labour, environmental and human rights activists, along with those supporting rights of indigenous people and many others, came together in Seattle to block the World Trade Organisation? Whatever the limitations of that coalition, it showed that corporate power can be successfully challenged by pulling many struggles together.
The potential for a new alliance is that we all have the same need: a better life with less work and the manufacture of less damaging stuff. Unfortunately, decades of defeat have left very few progressives willing to announce: “The emperor has no clothes!”
With a numbing unanimity of corporations, government and media demanding a “stimulus” package, who will say, “Attempting to jump start the economy by producing more of what we don’t need is the opposite of what should be done”?
Rather than increasing production, we could live vastly better lives by reducing production in a sane, planned way and sharing the necessary work. 
Is it too much for auto workers to question their own jobs? Actually, a better way to pose the question is: Why should any group of working people fail to challenge what they do and how they do it? If it is not outrageous for those who work in weapons plants to ask themselves if they should be guaranteed work that does not involve tearing the flesh off of other people’s bodies, then why shouldn’t auto workers ask if they need to be manufacturing something as deadly as the privately owned car? The same applies to steelworkers, lead miners, doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers.
It is not just in the auto industry — working people throughout the country are hurting. Correcting for statistical manipulation by the government, the true unemployment rate in the United States rose from 17.5% in December 2008 to 18% in January 2009. The US unemployment rate has already reached depression levels. 
Again correcting for governmental statistical manipulation, the true number of jobless in January 2009 was 716,000. Even if US Presideny Obama’s promised 3 million jobs materialise, the gain will be wiped out in a few months.
We need more cars like we need a new generation of nuclear power plants
We hear unending propaganda equating more cars with more jobs. To build a human economy we do not need a “stimulus” to increase the production of objects that harm us. Sensible economics requires: (a) universal healthcare, (b) universal retirement/unemployment coverage, and (c) guaranteed employment with a [much] shorter work week.
During the CIO organising days, auto workers paved the way in unionising plant after plant. For decades, the UAW was a trendsetter for the rest of labour, demanding pay that would allow workers to own their own homes and send their children to college. Now, a beaten and cowed UAW blazes the trail of union self-destruction.
In the 1930s, labour needed to protect job security, pay and standards of living. Those continue to be essential, but the great task of today is redefining work. The last half of the 20th century saw a continuous reconceptualisation of how to organise everything from transportation to computers to office work. Today, labour will either be in the forefront or the victim of job redesign. Union leaders who insist that labour must have no part in rethinking production trade labour’s birthright for a pottage of lentils.
Auto workers have the ability to again set the bar by proclaiming that labour must be at the centre of redefining jobs, the economy and, most important, working people’s role in establishing a just society. Shouldn’t those who do the work be the first ones to ask how it can be done in a different way or even abolished if it is useless or destructive?
It was no accident that Bob Tibbs senior was a OCAW business agent during the work day and signed people up to the IWW during the weekend. Though Bob died several years ago, his spirit continues to inspire activists who keep one foot in a languishing union, environmental or civil rights movement while hoping to kindle a dream for a different world.St Louis
Now is the time to pull disparate forces together for a program of (a) full employment with (b) fewer hours of work and (c) working people deciding what to produce and how to produce it. The economy, the environment and our society are in too much peril to allow the same corporations who created the mess to continue to make decisions for us.
[Don Fitz is editor of Synthesis/Regeneration and is on the national committee of the Green Party USA. He can be reached at email@example.com. Tim Kaminski is a retired committeeperson with United Autoworkers Local 110 and is Green Party candidate for 7th Ward Alderperson in St Louis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
1. A description of Bob Tibbs’ work is in Rosemary Feurer’s “The Gas Workers History Project & some thoughts on self-activity among workers and historians”, in Fitz, D., & Roediger, D. Within the shell of the old: Essays on workers’ self-organisation. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 1990, 37-41.St. Louis
2. Tablac, A. “GM, Chrysler lay out plans for survival’’, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 18, 2009, D1–2.
3. Fitz, D., “Production-side environmentalism’’, Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought. No. 47, Fall, 2008, 2–7. Also at http://links.org.au/node/843.
4. Before 1980 official unemployment figures included “discouraged” workers who had been looking for work for over a year. By removing them from current tabulations, comparisons of unemployment figures pre- and post-1980 are gross misrepresentations. See Roberts, P.C., “The Washington morons: Driving over the cliff’’, http://www.counterpunch.org/roberts02092009.html
Paul M. Sweezy: Cars and cities — `automobilisation’ and the `automobile-industrial complex’
This classic essay first appeared in Monthly Review, vol. 24, no. 11 (April 1973). It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the permission of Monthly Review.
Cities, after all, have a great deal in common with cars. More and more, in fact, they often seem to be turning into cars. There are deep mysteries here, impenetrable to the present shallow state of human understanding. Somehow, we know not how, things communicate.” — Russell Baker, New York Times, March 8, 1973
In Marxist theory the treatment of technology has generally referred to production, the means of production, the character of the labour process, and related matters. This follows the example set by Marx himself in his justly famous chapter on machinery and modern industry in Volume 1 of Capital which occurs in the part devoted to the production of relative surplus value. Neither there nor anywhere else in Capital is there any discussion or analysis of the impact of technology on consumption and via consumption on processes of capital accumulation and social development.
The reason for this is not that Marx excluded consumption from a role in the capitalist process. On the contrary, in the well-known Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy,” Marx wrote:
Definite production thus determines definite consumption, distribution, exchange and definite relations among these different elements. To be sure production, in its one-sided form, is in its turn also determined by the other elements. For example, if the market, i.e., the sphere of exchange, expands, production grows and becomes further subdivided.1
It is evident from this and other passages in the Introduction that Marx regarded production and consumption as dialectically interrelated aspects of a single complex process. As in all such cases, change initiated in any part can in principle — though it does not necessarily have to — ramify throughout the whole, setting in motion either self-limiting or cumulative sequences of change. Marx provided a classic description and analysis of a cumulative sequence of change within the production process in a beautiful passage which begins: “A radical change in the mode of production in one sphere of industry involves a similar change in other spheres.”2
The fact that Marx failed to analyse any such sequences involving both production and consumption did not arise from any denial that they might exist, or even that they actually did exist. In discussing the consequences of machinery, he wrote:
The immediate result of machinery is to augment surplus value and the mass of products in which surplus value is embodied. And, as the substances consumed by the capitalists and their dependents become more plentiful, so too do these orders of society. Their growing wealth, and the relatively diminished number of workmen required to produce the necessaries of life beget, simultaneously with the rise of new and luxurious wants, the means of satisfying those wants. A larger proportion of the produce of society is changed into surplus produce, and a larger part of the surplus produce is supplied for consumption in a multiplicity of refined shapes. In other words, the production of luxuries increases.3
Here was a clear example of an interaction of production and consumption resulting from technological change, one which from some points of view was certainly far from insignificant. The reason why Marx noted it only in passing and made no attempt to analyse it in depth, as he did with the consequences of machinery in the production process itself, was probably because he saw it as affecting only the consumption patterns of the capitalists and their dependents. As far as the working class was concerned, he believed that the capitalistic use of machinery had had disastrous consequences, ruining handicraftsmen and lowering the wages of factory hands by simplifying their work and opening the way for the mass employment of women and children. By comparison, the stimulation of luxury consumption by the capitalist class was a matter of secondary importance which not only could but should be abstracted from in studying the modus operandi of the capitalist system.
Political economy of the motor car
In the century since the publication of the first volume of Capital, however, it is clear that technological changes affecting both production and consumption and involving fundamental alterations in the consumption patterns of the mass of workers, with far-reaching consequences for the functioning of capitalism, have occurred in the advanced imperialist metropolises of the global capitalist system.4 What is at issue here is what may be called the political economy of the motor car which, so far as I am aware, has never been subjected to serious analysis in the Marxian literature.
In the beginning the automobile was of course a mere curiosity, but developed rapidly into a luxury good entering into the consumption of the upper class. “As long as motor cars were few in number,” Lewis Mumford wrote, “he who had one was a king; he could go where he pleased and halt where he pleased; and this machine itself appeared as a compensatory device for enlarging an ego which had been shrunken by our very success in mechanization.”5 This was clearly the situation which obtained before the First World War: in 1910 there were some 19,000 people for every car in the United States.6 During the next decade, however, the automobile began to enter into popular consumption, the ratio of people to cars dropping precipitously to approximately 11 to 1 by 1920. On the side of technology and production, the decisive factor here was Henry Ford’s introduction of the low-priced Model T, involving (as both cause and effect) such cost-reducing technologies as the assembly line and interchangeable parts.
Since 1920 the people/car ratio has further declined as follows: 1930 — 4.5; 1940 — 4.1; 1950 — 3.1; 1960 — 2.4; 1970 — 1.9. At the present time, in other words, there are more than half as many cars as people in the United States. The automobile has become a mass-consumption commodity in the fullest sense of the term. And in the process it has profoundly altered many aspects of social existence for all classes and strata of society.
The most obvious manifestations of this process — which the late Paul Baran and I have called the “automobilization” of society7 — are traffic congestion and pollution, and these are also the effects which have been most instrumental in focusing public attention on the social and environmental implications of automobilisation. But congestion and pollution are essentially superficial phenomena, comparable to the outward symptoms of a disease with deep roots in the organs of the body. If we are ever to deal with the disease itself we must go beyond the symptoms and study its etiology. In the present instance what we need first of all is to understand the ways in which the automobile in the process of becoming a mass-consumption good impinged upon and ultimately transformed the geography and demography of the country.
Before the automobile age there was a sharp physical division between city and country. The city was a clearly bounded built-up area beyond which there was country (or in some directions a body of water). People who worked in the city but lived outside of it had to rely on transportation by rail for getting in and out. With the railroads limited to providing station-to-station service and readily accessible only from relatively short distances on both sides of the tracks, the areas available for suburban settlement were quite restricted. They were for the most part inhabited by upper-income people and those who catered to their needs, providing for a quantitatively small sector of the bourgeoisie many of the advantages of country living in close proximity to the urban centres.8
The coming of the automobile as such did not change this situation. In the early years cars were expensive and unreliable so that only the well-to-do could afford them and their upkeep. In addition, except for city and town streets, roads were few and bad. Under these circumstances as far as the suburbs were concerned, cars complemented the existing patterns rather than changing them. Owned by the upper-income commuters and largely chauffeur-driven (the chauffeur fulfilling the role of mechanic as well as driver at a time when repair and service stations were all but nonexistent), cars expanded the area within which commuters could conveniently live but introduced no new elements into the picture. The 1920s saw the beginning of an extremely complex cumulative process, culminating in what it has become usual to refer to as today’s “urban crisis.” The immediately propelling forces underlying this process were, first, the cheapening of the automobile; and second, the extension of the road and highway network.
Laws of capitalist accumulation
On the production side, the development of the automobile and the automobile industry provides a classic illustration of the laws of capitalist accumulation. Originally consisting of hundreds of small shops, mostly formerly carriage-makers, using essentially handicraft methods, the industry was rapidly mechanised and concentrated in a few large firms. In the process new technologies were pioneered; and new forms and strategies of organisation and management were devised. The Ford Motor Company, under the sole control of the first Henry Ford, was the perfect example of what Marx called concentration of capital, expanding entirely through investing its own profits. General Motors, on the other hand, also illustrates the centralisation of capital in Marx’s sense, i.e., the combination of a number of separate enterprises into one, a pattern likewise followed by Chrysler and American Motors, the other two still surviving U.S. firms in the industry. During the fiercely competitive stage of the industry’s development, up to the early 1920s, prices declined in step with costs. As an example, when the Model-T Ford was introduced in 1908 its price was $1000; by 1924 it had fallen to less than $300, i.e., by more than 70 per cent.9 During the same period per capita national income in current prices more than doubled (from an average of about $300 in 1908 to $660 in 1924).10 Obviously the result of these changes was to open up a vast new market for automobiles during this crucial decade and a half: the total number of passenger vehicles registered in 1910 was about a half million and this had increased fortyfold to 20 million by 1925.11
All these cars would have had no place to go, however, had it not been for a vast increase in the road network. As a very rough indicator of what was happening here, the mileage of surfaced roads increased by 81 per cent between 1910 and 1920, by 88 per cent between 1920 and 1930, and by 97 per cent between 1930 and 1940.12 At the same time of course the quality and carrying capacity of the roads were greatly improved. In recent years, indeed, it has been mainly through the upgrading of roads or the construction of multilane freeways paralleling or replacing existing routes that the capacity of the highway network has been expanded.
It should not be supposed that all this has taken place in a smooth and continuous process. The dominant dynamic force has of course been the mass production and sale of new cars, rising from around two million in 1920 to eight million or more in the last few years (excluding truck, buses, and imports). But since cars last up to ten years or more, the number on the road, distributed in large part through the used-car market, cumulatively increased to nearly 90 million by 1970; and it is the total number of vehicles rather than new sales which generates pressure on the highways. This pressure has made itself felt unevenly and has been responded to by various governmental units at the local, state, and federal levels even more unevenly. At some times and places traffic has built up far beyond the capacity of the available roads, creating bottlenecks and intensifying pressures on the authorities; and at other times and places building has outstripped the growth of traffic, only to be overtaken in turn by the inexorable build-up of more cars and more traffic.
The foregoing account of the interaction between cars and roads is descriptive in nature and fails to convey a sense of the enormous power of the economic forces which have driven the process forward, especially in the last 25 years since the recovery of the automobile industry from the almost complete shutdown forced upon it during the Second World War. The private interests which cluster around and are directly or indirectly dependent upon the automobile for their prosperity are quantitatively far more numerous and wealthy than those similarly related to any other commodity or complex of commodities in the U.S. economy. Here is a quick run-down.
(1) The automobile industry itself. The first, third, and seventh corporations on Fortune’s list of the 500 largest are automobile producers, and the industry as a whole is easily the most profitable in the economy.13
(2) Manufacturing industries largely dependent on the automobile. Three more of the largest ten on the Fortune list (nos. 2, 6, and 8) are oil companies. And by one researcher’s count, altogether 22 of the 50 largest (including the auto and oil companies already listed) “are in automobiles and highways for the bulk of their income.”14
(3) Service industries largely dependent on the automobile. Here we include dealers, wholesalers of vehicles and parts, gasoline stations, and all sorts of garage and repair facilities. In 1967 there were about a half million establishments under these headings employing over two million employees. If we assume that in most cases the proprietors also work, we would conclude that something over 3 per cent of the total labour force is employed in directly servicing automobiles. And this does not count the numerous categories of employment, such as motels and resorts, which are almost as dependent, albeit indirectly.
(4) Users of highways for profit. After a rapid process of centralisation, there were 1250 intercity trucking companies in 1968, employing nearly a half million workers and carrying around 20 per cent of the country’s long-distance freight. At the same time the Teamsters Union, which is the largest union in the country with a membership of more than 1,700,000, is centred in the fields of trucking and warehousing. In addition of course most big corporations have their own fleets of trucks. And there are other types of commercial highway users such as buses (urban and intercity) and taxicabs.
(5) Makers of highways, including an important segment of the construction industry (about 11 per cent of the total measured by value added in 1968) and a large number (about 600,000 in 1969) of government workers (federal, state, and local) employed in the planning, supervising, maintaining, and repairing of highways.
(6) Last but not least is the automobile-driving public (in 1968 there were 101 million registered motor vehicles of all kinds and 105 million licensed drivers). Though the increasingly severe problems of congestion and pollution are now causing many of the country’s motorists to have second thoughts, it is nevertheless true that through the whole period of automobilisation from 1910 right up through the 1960s, they felt more or less continuously restrained and frustrated by an inadequate road and highway network. They therefore provided massive and enthusiastic political support for road-building, culminating in the launching in 1956 by the federal government of the multibillion-dollar Interstate Highway System, backed by a device called the Highway Trust Fund which ensured that all federal taxes collected on motor vehicles, gasoline, and related equipment would be used to construct a vast system of superhighways.15
This bare listing of the main components of what may be called the automobile-industrial complex could, and in any thorough study should, be complemented by an analysis of its structure and modus operandi. Here it must suffice to note that these various interests are represented by a large number of trade associations and other organisations which are amply financed and staffed and are active on a full-time basis at all levels of government as well as in the realm of propaganda and opinion formation. As Jerome puts it, “The scurry work, the wheedling and coercion, the swapping of favors and collection of political debts, is done by a large and complexly interwoven network of associations and pressure groups.”16 As would be expected, in other words, the enormous economic wealth and power of the automobile-industrial complex have been effectively mobilised and brought to bear at the political and ideological levels.
Impact on development of cities
Let us now turn to the impact of automobilisation on the development of cities and the living patterns of their inhabitants. Decisive in this connection has been the obliteration of the old sharp dividing line between city and country. Drive from the centre of an American city today in any direction, and you will of course eventually come to open country. But you will never cross a boundary clearly demarcating the one from the other. What you will observe instead is a gradual thinning out of the density of settlement. The old distinctive commuter suburb dependent on rail transport has been swallowed up and incorporated into an expanded urban area.17 And in some places, particularly in the northeast between Boston and Washington, expanding urban areas or metropolises have run into each other.18 In such cases your trip from one city centre will take you through roughly concentric rings of decreasing density into another set of concentric rings of increasing density.
This obliteration of the old distinctions between city, country, and suburb — often called “urban sprawl” — would have been impossible but for the automobile which, with its complementary road and highway network, has introduced what may be called a generalised factor of mobility replacing the former limited and specific modes of mobility. The car can go in any direction for any distance. The horse-drawn vehicle, on the other hand, is necessarily short-haul, and both railroads and trolleys are track-bound and therefore restricted to certain prescribed routes. These specific modes of mobility impose a definite shape on both economy and society, much as a skeleton may be said to impose a shape on a living body. With the coming of the generalised factor of mobility, these constraints are removed and radically new locational patterns become possible.
They become possible, but no particular new pattern is dictated or enforced. What actually happens is therefore determined by other considerations. And here we must, I think, give primacy to the overall process of capital accumulation which both seeks out and responds to profitable investment opportunities on the one hand, and creates new ones on the other. The point is that with greater freedom of mobility, the shape of economy and society could adjust to the pushes and pulls of the accumulation process more rapidly and completely than would otherwise have been the case. And the likelihood of cumulative rather than self-limiting processes of change was greatly increased. Moreover, the possibility existed and was soon translated into reality that cumulative change, once initiated, would take on a life of its own, often contradicting rather than serving the economic and social needs which had given rise to it in the first place.
Automobilisation started somewhat later, but in the main coincided with the transition from competitive to monopoly capitalism. The emerging corporate giants, including those directly or indirectly dependent on the automobile, were more profitable than their predecessors and were therefore able to grow more rapidly than the smaller and more competitive sectors of the economy (Marx’s concentration of capital); and their huge financial resources gave them the leverage to engineer an uninterrupted series of mergers (Marx’s centralisation of capital). Technologically, this increasingly dominant monopolistic sector of the economy was (and is) highly dynamic, manifesting a strong bias toward more and more sophisticated, capital-intensive methods of production. Moreover, the big monopolies, in their search for new markets, have made available to other sectors of the economy advanced mechanical, electronic, chemical and other sophisticated technologies which in turn have revolutionised these sectors’ methods of production. What is particularly relevant from our present point of view is that in this way U.S. agriculture, in spite of the fact that it does not readily lend itself to monopolisation, has been rapidly mechanised and chemicalised, leading to the relative depopulation of the countryside and the crowding of displaced farmers, sharecroppers, and agricultural labourers into the cities. As a result of this internal migration as well as of natural population growth, the cities have experienced very rapid expansion during the automobilisation period. (In the half century from 1910 to 1960, the urban population increased from 42 million to 125 million, approximately 300 per cent; while the rural population increased 50 to 54 million, or only 8 per cent.)
Urban growth on this scale would have involved a comparable increase in the geographical size of cities even if the new residential areas had been of the built-up, high-density variety. But given the general mobility factor introduced by the automobile, the urban-sprawl pattern, involving a much more than proportional increase in area, became both a possibility and a reality. Where in earlier times the children of slum-dwelling immigrants had, as they climbed the economic ladder, moved into compact neighbourhoods within the built-up city, now the tendency was increasingly to move to the fringes and the formerly railroad-dependent suburbs. The slums in turn were filled up no longer by immigrants from abroad (the First World War effectively put an end to this kind of immigration) but by those expelled from U.S. agriculture, including disproportionately large numbers of blacks, Mexican-Americans, and Puerto Ricans.
And now comes the final act in what may be called the drama of the car and the city. The massive outflow of population from the old inner city brings with it much more than a mere change in residential patterns. As people move out, all sorts of economic activities move with them, and a process of obsolescence and decay is initiated in the centre. First to follow the population movement of course are retail and service establishments. But these are soon joined by manufacturers and wholesalers who on the one hand now find a labour supply and cheaper land on the outskirts and on the other hand are repelled by the deterioration in the centre. The movement of residences comes first, but the movement of jobs soon reinforces the movement of residences, which in turn stimulates further movement of jobs, and so on in a self-reproducing cumulative process.
It might be supposed that this would result in a more or less even and continuous settlement of the space occupied by the outward movement, with densities declining in direct proportion to distance from the centre, so that there would after all be a reasonably clear demarcation between built-up area and open space beyond. But this is not the way it happens in a regime of private property in land such as that which obtains in the United States. Typically, large amounts of land are held off the market and out of use by investors (or, if you prefer, speculators), as a result of which the development process often has to leapfrog over areas of open land.19 And in addition densities are kept down by zoning ordinances prescribing minimum sizes for residential lots in parts of the metropolis, usually farther out, controlled by upper- and middle-income whites determined to exclude the poor and the black from their neighbourhoods. The consequence is that the city comes to sprawl over an area much greater than mobility and economic factors alone would dictate. By now, according to Hans Blumenfeld, “the overall density of American urban areas is about one fifth to one sixth of the density prevailing a century ago, when walking was the predominant mode of transportation.”20
This means that an enormous amount of transportation of goods and people has to take place day in and day out just to keep the life of the city going. Much of this is commuting in the traditional sense of the term, i.e., movement of people living in the outskirts to and from work in the city centre (this obviously creates all sorts of special problems because it is concentrated in a few hours in the morning and evening). But much more in the aggregate is of a different character: goods being supplied to economic units scattered all over the urban area; children going to and from school; shoppers getting to retail outlets and back home again; people getting together for social purposes; and a new and increasingly important kind of commuting, i.e., the going to and from jobs by workers who both live and work in the outskirts, which may involve relatively short trips in the same section but also may involve long trips from a section on one side of the city across the centre to another section on the other side (with all possible variations in between). Except in the case of traditional commuting, which lends itself very well to the use of public transportation, almost all of this movement now takes place by private automobile. An impressionistic notion of how vast the volume of travel by private automobile has become can perhaps be derived from the following two items culled from recent issues of the New York Times: (1) According to a Gallup Poll, 81 per cent of all American workers travel to and from work by automobile. (May 30, 1971); (2) The Associated Press reports that “American housewives average about 100 miles each week just in family chauffeuring and errands around town.” (January 23, 1973). With the number of cars, the urban population, and the area of sprawl all steadily expanding, it is no wonder that pollution and congestion are coming to be experienced as the manifestations of an acute urban crisis;21 or that the general factor of mobility which the automobile was in its golden age is increasingly turning into its opposite.
One final point needs to be made in this highly sketchy survey of the interrelation and interaction between the car and the city. When we speak of traditional commuting (outskirts to city centre and back), we are talking primarily about a small number of cities which are both big and also old in the sense that they had railroad-dependent suburbs in the pre-automobile age — chief among them New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco. In addition, these are cities with highly developed business centres not directly related to production, embracing national or regional corporate headquarters, banking and insurance, shipping offices, and so on. While there has been considerable outward movement of such functions, on the whole the advantages of keeping them together, in a compact area within which rapid face-to-face communication is easily maintained, are so great that these central business areas have grown with the overall growth of the metropolis. As a consequence, too, other economic and cultural activities which are encompassed in the concept of “downtown” — hotels and restaurants, theaters and concert halls, museums, elegant department stores and specialty shops — have survived and even flourished.
Where these conditions are found, the city retains much of its traditional structure and character, despite the ubiquitous sprawl and the decaying slums and ghettos between downtown and the outer residential areas. But where these conditions are not found or are found in a relatively undeveloped form — and this is the case with most cities which have experienced most of their growth during the automobile age — there has been a strong tendency for the old urban structure to break down and a new one without historic precedent to take its place. The process of sprawl has brought with it a decentralisation of most of the functions usually associated with downtown, with resultant emergence of a multiplicity of subcentres, each offering some of the services of downtown — shopping areas, branch banks, motels, restaurants, cinemas — but without any of its character or magnetism. When this stage has been reached, the city as a meaningfully organised and structured form of civilised living has disappeared in favour of an amorphous aggregate of people, dwellings, cars, roads, and economic units jumbled together in a more or less continuous and potentially ever-expanding geographical area. Los Angeles is the obvious prototype of this kind of urban area. It was vividly characterised as long ago as 1959, in a perceptive series of articles by Harrison Salisbury in the New York Times, as follows:
Here, nestled under its blanket of smog, girdled by bands of freeways, its core eviscerated by concrete strips and asphalt fields, its circulatory arteries pumping away without focus, lies the prototype of Gasopolis, the rubber-wheeled living region of the future.
Los Angeles is no longer a city as the term has been conventionally defined: Sam S. Taylor, general manager of Los Angeles traffic, calls Los Angeles a “mobile region.”
For anyone looking toward the future, toward the end result of the full autofication of the American metropolis, Los Angeles is the phenomenon to analyse most carefully.
When Lincoln Steffens went to the Soviet Union just after the Bolshevik Revolution, he proclaimed, “I have seen the future — and it works.”
Today’s visitor to Los Angeles might paraphrase Steffens and say, “I have seen the future — and it doesn’t work.” (March 3, 1959)
Since that was written a great deal has happened, and it seems less likely today than it did then that the future lies with Gasopolis. The recently created federal Environmental Protection Agency has even proposed that, in order to cope with the smog problem, automobile traffic in Los Angeles should be cut by 80 per cent through gasoline rationing. This was, to be sure, more for its shock effect than because the EPA or anyone else expects it to be taken seriously (one estimate is that an 80 per cent reduction in auto traffic in Los Angeles would mean the loss of 400,000 jobs). Still, this, like the already noted change in the public attitude toward the Interstate Highway System, is one of many indications that urban development in the United States is entering a new period in which increasingly serious efforts will be made to transform the automobile from the master to the servant of people.
Any attempt to elaborate on this theme would take us far beyond the confines of an essay aimed at elucidating the role of the automobile in the genesis of the present urban condition.22 I will only say in conclusion that while I believe certain palliatives to be possible, at least in principle, within the framework of the present monopoly capitalist system, I do not think that fundamental changes in the structure of cities and their relation to society as a whole can be effected without a radical change in the social order. In what I have called the traditional commuter situation, it should certainly be possible to bring about a great improvement in public transport both into and out of the inner city and also within the inner city. This, perhaps together with certain restrictions on the use of cars in the inner city, might do much to relieve congestion, particularly of the rush-hour variety. But it would leave untouched other kinds of movement within the metropolis which are much less susceptible to facilitation through improvement of public transport.23 And it would do nothing to check, let alone reverse, the sprawl process.
To accomplish these ends, and at the same time to eliminate congestion and pollution and in other ways make the city a better place to live, it seems to me an absolutely necessary (though far from sufficient) condition that the causal link between the location of economic activity and profit anticipations has to be decisively broken. Only if a rational job pattern is planned and assured for years ahead will it be possible to develop new residential communities with appropriate population densities and efficient public transportation systems both within and between them. And this requires not only public ownership of land but also socialisation of the entire investment process so that production can be guided not by profit but for the satisfaction of the people’s needs.
1. The Introduction in question was first published by Kautsky in 1903 and is not to be confused with the Preface to the 1859 work The Critique of Political Economy. It is actually the Introduction to the Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Okonomie (Rohentwurf), which was not published in full until 1939. The quotation is from the East German edition of 1953, p. 20.
2. Capital, vol. 1 (Kerr ed.), pp. 418-422.
3. Ibid, p. 486.
4. In these notes I am drawing exclusively on my personal experience and acquired knowledge of conditions in the United States. But I believe that what is said applies, in the main, to the other imperialist centres in Western Europe and Japan.
5. Quoted in William V. Shannon, “The Untrustworthy Highway Fund,” The New York Times Magazine (October 15, 1972), p. 121.
6. Unless otherwise stated, all figures come from the Statistical Abstract of the United States, various years.
7. Monopoly Capital (Monthly Review Press, 1966), p. 241 and passim.
8. I grew up in a suburb of this kind. Several years before the First World War my family moved from New York to a suburb across the Hudson River in New Jersey. Our house was around a mile in one direction from the town and the railroad station, about as far away as the commuters then lived. In the other direction, between our house and the River (which, except for the underwater Hudson Tube between lower Manhattan and the Newark/Jersey City urban area, could only be crossed by ferry in those days), there was more than a mile of untouched woodland. The spread of the automobile and the building of the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson totally transformed the region and its relation to the city in the manner analysed in the text.
9. David S. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 442.
10. Calculated from Historical Statistics of the United States Colonial Times to 1957 (U.S. Government Printing Office, 2nd Printing, 1961), pp. 7, 139. The figure for 1908 is not exactly comparable to that for 1924 since the relevant National Income is the average for the years 1907-1911.
11. Ibid, p. 462.
12. Ibid, p. 458. The increase was down to 42 per cent for the decade of the 1940s owing to the drastic curtailment of new construction during the Second World War, and comparable figures do not appear to be available for 1960 and 1970.
13. A ranking of U.S. manufacturing industries by ten-year average rate of return on capital (for the decade 1949-1958) shows Motor Vehicles and Parts first with 28.2 per cent, while the second ranked industry trails with 23.2 per cent. B. C. Minhas, An International Comparison of Factor Costs and Factor Use (Department of Economics, Stanford University, 1960), p. 80.
14. John Jerome, The Death of the Automobile (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972), p. 112. The title of Jerome’s book, for better or worse, reflects wishful thinking more than fact, actual or prospective.
15. The following passage from John Jerome’s lively study, cited in the previous footnote, illustrates the change in the public attitude toward roadbuilding which is now under way. Back in 1956, he points out, the roadbuilders exulted in the magnitude of their works: “How the press releases rolled! Four hundred square miles of pavement! One and a half million acres of new right of way! Excavations to bury Connecticut knee deep. Sand, gravel, and stone to build a wall around the world fifty feet wide and nine feet high. Concrete enough for six sidewalks to the moon …. [B]y 1971, local lawsuits or local government action had halted the construction of Interstate projects in fifteen major American cities …. It had become virtually impossible to gain acceptance for a new Interstate in any urban area, and many rural segments of the plan … were in trouble…. The sea change in the American mood is precisely characterised by the Bureau of Roads’ press releases. When the Interstate was initiated, consumption of a million and a half acres of right of way or four hundred square miles of forest was fit material for boasting; now it has become a shameful admission.” Ibid, pp. 105-106. This changing public attitude doubtless portends other significant changes in the period ahead. This is a subject, however, which falls outside the scope of the present essay.
16. Ibid, p. 113.
17. It is true that what are now sometimes called exurbs, lying 50 miles or more from the city centre, have some of the characteristics of the older type suburbs. But there are no structural features such as were imposed by dependence on rail transport which protect them from being swallowed up in their turn. This indeed seems likely to be their ultimate fate as long as population continues to grow and there is no basic change in the socio-economic system.
18. The Boston-Washington region — which includes New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, as well as a number of lesser but still large cities — has been subjected to intensive study by the French geographer Jean Gottmann (Megalopolis: The Urbanised Northeastern Seaboard of the United States, New York, 1961). Gottmann naturally has to deal with the automobile in many contexts, but he appears not to be aware of its decisive role in the dynamics of the process under study, a fact which is perhaps best explained by the book’s total lack of any coherent theoretical framework.
19. In the language of North American urban planners, “developed” land is that which is actually used for any urban purpose (including parks), while all other land within the urban area is “open” or “undeveloped.”
20. Hans Blumenfeld, “Criteria for Judging the Quality of the Urban Environment,” The Canadian Architect (November, 1972), p. 47.
21. This is without taking into account the social and environmental pathology of the decaying inner city.
22. Let me add that this limitation of scope has also precluded more than passing allusions to the qualitative aspects of that condition. In particular the differential impact of automobilised urbanisation on various income levels and social groups has been almost totally omitted. The poor who cannot afford cars and the elderly and handicapped who are unable to make use of them regardless of their income are either effectively immobilised or confined to very limited and usually decaying areas. This adds a tragic dimension of helplessness and misery to millions of already blighted lives.
23. In making judgments of this kind one is likely to be influenced by one’s personal experience. I live in the New York metropolitan area in what used to be an old-style suburb. With a suitable improvement in the commuter railroad service and the inner-city subway-bus-taxi network — both of which are now in bad shape — I can easily imagine that I would hardly ever be tempted to drive into the downtown area. On the other hand, I also find it hard to imagine even an elaborate public transportation system which would satisfactorily substitute for the private car in the various other kinds of movement that are necessary for everyday living in the metropolis.