Good and gripping summary of the role machines play in capitalist production:
“Here, therefore, we have, in a concentrated expression, the alienated form which the objective conditions of labour — past labour — assume against living labour; here we have it as a direct antagonism, in that past labour, hence the general social powers of labour, including natural forces and scientific knowledge, appear directly as weapons, used partly to throw the worker onto the streets, to posit him as a surplus object, partly to break down his special skill and the claims based on the latter, partly to subject him to the thoroughly organised despotism of the factory system and the military discipline of capital.
It is in this form, therefore, that the social conditions of labour, which emerge from the social productive power of labour and are posited by labour itself, appear most emphatically as forces not only alien to the worker, belonging to capital, but also directed in the interests of the capitalist in a hostile and overwhelming fashion against the individual worker. We have seen at the same time how the capitalist mode of production not only changes the labour process formally, but radically remoulds all its social and technological conditions†28; and how capital here no longer appears as material conditions of labour — raw material and means of labour — not belonging to the worker, but as the quintessence of the social forces and forms of the individual worker’s common labour confronting him.
Here too past labour — in the automaton and the machinery moved by it — steps forth as acting apparently in independence of [living] labour, it subordinates labour instead of being subordinate to it, it is the iron man confronting the man of flesh and blood.†29 The subsumption of his labour under capital — the absorption of his labour by capital — which lies in the nature of capitalist production, appears here as a technological fact. The keystone of the arch is complete. Dead labour has been endowed with movement, and living labour only continues to be present as one of dead labour’s conscious organs. The living connection of the whole workshop no longer lies here in cooperation; instead, the system of machinery forms a unity, set in motion by the PRIME MOTOR and comprising the whole workshop, to which the living workshop is subordinated, in so far as it consists of workers. Their unity has thus taken on a form which is tangibly autonomous and independent of them. MECW 34 P. 30