The account of the Mill was a study of the frustration of community. The work was hard, the mill rooms cramped, dirty and intensely noisy. Hours were long and fluctuating: overtime was compulsory. Promotion did not exist, except for a lonely figure like Fred Beaumont, sweating out a heatwave in his jacket and tie. The only escape was to go to another factory. Inevitably some mills became-like London's East End-the places where new arrivals (Poles, West Indians) began their long climb, and where those who had dropped back (physically or mentally impaired, or simply demoralised) gradually gathered. Almost everyone at Cartwrights knew that the mill faced them at 7.30 every weekday morning for the rest of their lives. Yet at a first glance this looked like a community, not just an assortment of men and women at work. There was the constant joking, the gatherings in the lavatories or the soot-flecked corner on summer days, the free physical contact, the touching and stroking of cloth, the seaside trips. A constant reaching-out for the communal marked the natural style of life. But the workpeople had not become a community strong enough to bargain with the management. There was no union, only the longing for one. Organisers had gravitated to more pleasant mills. The management had the initiative, and
by establishing a piece-work system rather than a weekly wage system, they had emphasised the divisions against the workpeople. The local men were suspicious of the Poles and West Indians: a suspicion intensified because piece-work made everyone not workmates but competitors ('you can't afford to help other people'). Management sought productivity by playing on fissures within the community. The workpeople reacted by using their own weapons. Since overtime was compulsory, and work hours bore no relation to the rest of their interests and responsibilities, they earned high wages for a number of days, then took a day off and spent it sleeping, or bowling in the park or sitting in the club. Management's term for this was 'absenteeism', and it was regarded-in an uncomprehending way-as a moral failing. We can see this simple ethic being transmitted to the schools in the morning assembly leaflet on 'laziness'.