‘If you didn’t dream at work it would send you mad. The whole bench is like this, a galley of automatons locked in dreams.’ Without dreams a production-line worker is not ‘in the swing of it’, does less than his stint. It is not escapism, but part of the rhythm required by the machine process which invades even the innermost privacy. BS, 33, an aeu member, is a panel-beater on a line producing the tractors which a technician described in our last work article.

We go in at seven-thirty. To get to our shop you go down a flight of stairs, and at the top of them someone has written happy valley. It is part of an enormous factory with a population of eight thousand. We start working on our line at about eight o’clock, after we have had a drink of tea and a look at the papers.

There are nine benches down the line, a man standing at each. We make all the tractor parts in our shop. On our line we panel-beat the hoods, each man doing his part of the work and then manhandling it on to the next man, and so on, until it gets to me. We do two hundred and sixty hoods a day, and it only takes me two minutes to do my bit of it, though I was timed for ten minutes by the time-study man. When there aren’t enough hoods to make up our two hundred and sixty a day we ‘borrow’ from the next day—and then forget the next day that we have borrowed them.

The worst kind of foreman you can have is the one who has worked himself up from the bench, because he knows all the dodges, yet if it was a few years since he worked himself up there are a few up-to-date dodges he does not know. And anyway it’s strange how soon he forgets them when he’s no longer one of us. We work on our own time, at a piece-work rate. When each man was timed on the job recently two or three got less money for each hood. That was when the trouble started. So to be fair among ourselves we ended up by all pooling the job, so that no man would walk out with less money than another. This came about by a sort of ‘spontaneous agreement’—which is the only way I can describe it. It isn’t an uncommon thing though, and I know it happens on other jobs whenever it is possible. We also get four shillings an hour bonus, and that added to our piecework.

Each man, wearing a leather apron provided by the firm, has got a sander, buffer, picking hammer, block, mallet, and what we call a spoon—a long steel heavy implement for smoothing out the dents. After the hoods have been spot-welded, and gas-welded, Ron, the first man on the bench, gets to work on it. His job is to clean the gas weld up.

Ron is True Blue, the only man on our line who votes Tory. He tells me he’s never been so well off in his life as he is now. ‘I’ve got a car and house,’ he says, ‘so what more do I want?’ But Ron forgot to tell me (though I reminded him) that he’s got them on the hp which means he hasn’t got them yet at all. Everyone keeps telling us we are better off these days than we were in the nineteen-thirties. Of course we are not. It looks as though we are because everyone’s got things on tick. Take all the things off us that we have on tick and we would be worse off than we were in the nineteen-thirties. The rich still get richer and the poor still stay poor. All this hp is a trick to make you think you are rich or well off. You own nothing. Not that you want to, but at the same time you are being told in a thousand ways that to own something is the only thing in life. I told all this to Ron, and he voted Labour at the last election. About time, I said.