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greengalloway

As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Climate Change - steam vs water power


Thinking out loud

I've just written a piece for KYPP http://www.killyourpetpuppy.co.uk/news/?p=851 Direct Action, direct experience inspired by the Kingsnorth climate change camp which got a 'thank you' comment by Derek Wall who is a long time Green Party activist.

In the piece I used some quotes from Anselm Joppe's Guy Debord (1999). From the same text I have found this, which connects to my Galloway Levellers research

http://libcom.org/files/Imbeciles%20Guide%20to%20the%20Spectacle1.pdf
There are in fact two competing views to be found in Marx, the one envisaging liberation from the economy, the other liberation by means of the economy; nor may the two be simply assigned to different phases of his thought, as some would like to do. In his critique of value, Marx thoroughly exposed the “pure form” of the society of the commodity. At the time, this critique constituted a bold piece of anticipation; only today is it able truly to apprehend the essence of social reality. Marx himself was not aware, and his Marxist successors even less aware, of the gap that existed between his critique of value and the content of the greater part of his work, in which he scrutinized the empirical forms of the capitalist society of his era.
He could not have perceived how laden that era still was with precapitalist features, and consequently many of the characteristics he described were still very different from, even sometimes opposed to, what was to emerge later from the gradual victory of the commodity-form over all the relics of precapitalist times. Marx thus treated as essential traits of capitalism features that were in reality expressions of a still unfinished form of the system. Among such features, for example, was the creation of a class that had of necessity to be excluded from bourgeois society and its “benefits.”

The connection is that in the “What happened next” ( i.e. what happened after 1724) part of my research I have found that a small group of men from Galloway played a key role in the development of industrial capitalism in north-west England/ Manchester between 1770 and 1840.

The most influential was John Kennedy (1769- 1855), who was the second son of a hill farmer from Knocknalling farm in Kells/ New Galloway parish in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway, south west Scotland. In 1784, aged 15, he became apprentice to William Cannon (or Cannan) – also originally from Kells parish -who was a millwright in Chowbent/ Atherton near Preston. After finishing his apprenticeship, Kennedy moved to Manchester where he began making cotton making machines in association with other Galloway apprentices of William Cannon before becoming a cotton manufacturer in his own right. His firm, Kennedy and McConnel, became the largest in Manchester and the first to successfully apply steam power to cottton spinning. As a result Kennedy became a good friend of James Watt. Later, in 1825, Kennedy became a promoter of the Liverpool to Manchester railway and a friend of George Stephenson. In 1829 Kennedy was one of the three judges at the Rainhill Trial which was a competition to find the best steam locomotive to use one the new railway and which was won by George and Robert Stephenson's 'Rocket'.

At the same time that John Kennedy was helping to kick start a coal/ fossil fuel powered industrial revolution in Manchester, James Murray (died 1799) was trying to spark a water-powered industrial revolution in Galloway. From 1760 onwards Murray developed the hamlet of Gatehouse of Fleet (Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway) into an industrial town. In 1790 the first water powered cotton mill was built in Gatehouse. This was followed by three more, . In 1792 , out of a population of just over 1000, 500 were employed in Gatehouse's cotton mills – see Old Statistical Account for parish of Girthon -

http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/link/1791-99/Kirkcudbright/Girthon/11/315/

These water-powered cotton mills survived to be mentioned in the New Statistical Account for Girthon parish but by then (1840) employed only 200 -see

http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/link/1834-45/Kirkcudbright/Girthon/4/302/

and soon afterwards closed completely whilst Manchester's coal/ steam-powered mills went from strength to strength. Meanwhile Galloway's society and economy became fixed in the rural/ agricultural form it bears to this day.

Why did this happen? If John Kennedy had returned home to Galloway in 1791 rather than move to Manchester, could he have made Gatehouse of Fleet into an industrial success story rather than a failure? Probably not. The geology of Galloway contains no coal measures so the transition from water power to steam power could not have easily taken place. Another significant factor is that extreme tidal range of the Solway Firth made and makes it difficult for large scale shipping of goods in and out of Dumfries and Galloway.

So what is my point? I am not sure yet. I think that if Anselm Joppe (see above) is right about Marx 'misreading' the early (Manchester/ Engels 1844 Condition of the Working Class in England) form of industrial capitalism then there may be something of value in my research as it touches on the structural difference between John Kennedy: Manchester: steam power :: James Murray : Gatehouse of Fleet : water power.

That - from an early 21st century global climate change perspective- the most significant aspect of late 18th/ early 19th century industrial development was the physical difference between water and steam power as the energy source rather than the social/ economic impact of the factory system of manufacturing.

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