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This is a very important and moving book, and don't let anything I say in this notice put you off reading it. The title doesn't look very inviting, I know. It looks like one of those analyses of international movements of money and workers, including multinationals and the IMF that one always thinks a good socialist should have read but which I, for one, don't seem to get down to: 'The New (or Post) Industrial Inter- or Multi Something-or-Other'. The subtitle conveys a lot more: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, but neither title nor subtitle indicates why radical scientists should find it so important, and that's what I want to do. It's not really a review, since I learned so much from this book and am—along with everyone I know who has read it—so enthusiastic about it that it will be some time before critical reflections start happening.

It is very hard for people who have been trained in science and technology to get a real understanding of what it means when socialists argue that science and technology are fully integrated into hierarchical and authoritarian societies, whether capitalist or state-capitalist. It is even harder to grasp that so-called progress in advanced technological societies has been achieved through the intensification of alienation, with science and technology at the heart of that process. The relevant arguments come across at a very abstract and academic level, as in the work of Marcuse and Schroyer or at a very freaky and personal level, as in the work of Roszak. While one can be intellectually convinced by the one and evocatively identify with the other, there is a big gap. Neither really delves into and displays how in particular day-to-day ways-science and technology actually oppress, exploit and alienate people. Nor do they carry their analyses into the place of work of most workers. The consequence is that working scientists and technologists find it relatively easy to fail to take in how what they do for a living blights others' lives— how science and technology reify people through the work process. Well, Braverman fills in that gap and makes the connections powerfully clear.

If they turn to the Marxist classics, a lot of scientists and technologists are disappointed, since the emphasis on the forms of the commodity relationship, the sale of labour power and the creation of surplus value appear to lead toward economics and away from the labour process and the experience of work in a modern society. Capitalist economics is overtly about the creation and circulation of capital, not people. Marxist political economy aims to demystify capital and reveal it as the realities of social relations, but many readers of Marx and Marxist writings get bogged down in the exigencies of commodities, money, theories of absolute and relative surplus value, the vicissitudes of capital, and they long for more about the working day and the experiential realities of the division of labour. Braverman helps to explain why we find some of these issues uninteresting and inaccessible and brings those which do interest us into close relations with one another. He has provided a very readable analysis (I really couldn't lay it down) of how the social relations of exploitative technological societies produce the science and technology which are applied to the work process and increasingly subdivide, de-skill, routinise, brutalise and reify it until there is no craft, no meaning; and the goal of one of the pioneers of 'factory discipline' (Josiah Wedgwood) is brought even nearer: 'to make machines of men [and women] as cannot err'.

And the role of science? 'Science is the last— and after labour the most important — social property to be turned into an adjunct of capital. The story of its conversion from the province of amateurs, "philosophers", tinkerers, and seekers after knowledge to its present highly-organized and lavishly financed state is largely the story of its incorporation into the capitalist firm and subsidiary organizations. At first science costs the capitalist nothing, since he merely exploits the accumulated knowledge of the physical sciences, but later the capitalist systematically organizes and harnesses science, paying for scientific education, research, laboratories, etc., out of the huge surplus social product which either belongs directly to him or which the capitalist class as a relatively free-floating social endeavour is integrated into production and the market. The contrast between science as a generalized social property incidental to production and science as capitalist property at the very centre of production is the contrast between the Industrial Revolution, which occupied the last half of the eighteenth and the first third of the nineteenth centuries, and the scientific-technical revolution, which began in the last decades of the nineteenth century and is still going on.' (p.156)

How does this connect with Marx’s analysis? ‘Within the historical and analytical limits of capitalism, according to Marx's analysis, technology, instead of simply producing social relations, is produced by the social relation represented by capital. The capitalist mode of production is traced by Marx from its beginnings, when it "is hardly to be distinguished, in its earliest stages, from the handicraft trades of the guilds, otherwise than by the greater number of workmen simultaneously employed by one and the same individual capital," through domestic industry, the manufacturing division of labour, machinery and modem industry, and the factory system, in which the capitalist mode of production is at last fully created and the inherent social form of labour under capitalism "for the first time acquires technical and palpable reality." From this point of view, the first volume of Capital may be considered a massive essay on how the commodity form, in an adequate social and technological setting, matures into the form of capital, and how the social form of capital, driven to incessant accumulation as the condition of its own existence, completely transforms technology.’ (20) It is important to notice the way round the argument is put. Braverman is not saying merely that technology produces social relations but rather that the ’"mode of production" we see around us, the manner in which the labour processes are organized and carried out is the "product" of the social relations we know as capitalist.' (21) Thus, 'Within the capitalist firm it is the social forms that dominate technology, rather than the other way around.' (21n)

Braverman undertook his research on the foundation of a wide ranging set of relevant jobs: apprentice coppersmith, steel-fabricating layout man, pipe fitter, sheet metal worker, freight car repairman, structural steel fitter. He went on to be co editor on the monthly American Socialist and to be editor and manager of two publishing houses, including Monthly Review Press. Metal working, office work, and publishing are all areas in which scientific and technological innovation have had great impact: Fred Taylor, the father of 'scientific management' began his work in the cutting and handling of metals, and office automation is synonymous with IBM. So, when Braverman talks about deskilling jobs in high-technology industries, he is not talking about worlds deduced from Hegel, Husserl or Frankfurt. Nor is he concentrating on the experience of work, a la Working for Ford, Work, Working, or The Seventh Man He is demystifying the mediations — how capitalist ideology becomes a material force in the machines and procedures of work. What it's like to work in these places is powerfully implicit in his prose, but the argument is about the job itself. Similarly, although he does not write about workers' struggles, his analysis clarifies their bases and justifications.

Here is a sketch of the contents. He begins by explaining very clearly the distinction between labour and labour power and considers 'the manner in which the labour process is dominated and shaped by the accumulation of capital'. (53) 'Having been forced to sell their labour power to another, the workers also surrender their interest in the labour process, which has now been "alienated". The labour process has become the responsibility of the capitalist.' (57) The worker suffers the progressive alienation of the process of production, while the capitalist gets to decide what to do with it. That's the basis for the development of a profession called 'management' and the progressive refinement of the division of labour, both of which determine what the firm does with the workers' labour power. And, of course, they do what is most efficient for the production of capital, while the worker fights holding actions on wages and conditions of work. In the earliest days the response was to smash the machines — Luddism. But the process of definition has gone so far into the structure of work that — as Braverman's whole analysis profoundly shows — the only response left to workers who wish to retain a shred of initiative and dignity, is to smash the whole system.

From this point onward in the argument, the scientist and technologist who wishes to know how what s/he does directly oppresses workers will get 350 pages of substantial answer divided into manageable chapters on, for example, scientific management and its effects, developments in machinery and their effects. When Braverman turns to monopoly capital — the modern corporation, the universal market, the role of the state — they are considered in relation to the processes of work. He then reviews particular jobs, showing in detail, as he does throughout the book, how occupations are de-skilled and routinized by the use of science and technology in clerical work, service occupations, and the retail trade. You simply take the skills and decisions out of the hands of the workers and build them into the tools and into the relations between fixed instruments and procedures. The final section has chapters on the current structure of the working class and its dramatic (and hidden) underemployment, and on 'the middle layers of employment', including the scientists and technologists who design the reifying machines and procedures. Whatever the job 'enrichers' say, work is getting more awful and the degradation of workers is increasing, though not, of course, in merely physical ways. Wage slaves may seldom drop in their traces from physical exhaustion; rather, they have ulcers and other ailments and miseries on a whole continuum of 'industrial health' disorders. They may indeed suffer from the symptoms of boredom, headaches, tension and/or shortness of breath, but the disease is capitalism.

Braverman's prose is clear and eloquent. The passion of his conviction is conveyed in the restrained dignity of his presentation, with occasional ironies. Here is a long example from his final chapter, which also sums up a central feature of his argument: 'In a study of the mechanization of industry conducted for the National Bureau of Economic Research in the 1930s, Harry Jerome concluded: "As to the effect on skill of further mechanization in the future... there is considerable reason to believe that the effect of further changes will be to raise the average skill required." Forty years later there are few who would disagree with this judgement. The idea that the changing conditions of industrial and office work require an increasingly "better-trained", "better educated", and thus "upgraded" working population is an almost universally accepted proposition in popular and academic discourse. Since the argument that has been thus far made in this work appears to clash directly with this popular idea, it is now necessary to confront the conventional view. The concepts of "skill", "training", and education are themselves sufficiently vague, and a precise investigation of the arguments which are used to support the thesis of "upgrading" is further hampered by the fact that they have never been made the subject of a coherent and systematic presentation. We can grapple with the issue only by attempting to give coherence to what is essentially an impressionistic theory, one which is obviously considered so self-evident as to stand above the need for demonstration.

'In the form given to it by Jerome in the sentence cited above, the phrase upon which the issue turns is "average skill". Since, with the development of technology and the application to it of the fundamental sciences, the labour processes of society have come to embody a greater amount of scientific knowledge, clearly the "average" scientific, technical, and in that sense "skill" content of these labour processes is much greater now than in the past. But this is nothing but a tautology. The question is precisely whether the scientific and "educated" content of labour tends toward averaging, or, on the contrary, toward polarization. If the latter is the case, to then say that the "average" skill has been raised is to adopt the logic of the statistician who, with one foot in the fire and the other in ice water, will tell you that "on the average", he is perfectly comfortable. The mass of workers gain nothing from the fact that the decline in their command over the labour process is more than compensated for by the increasing command on the part of managers and engineers. On the contrary, not only does their skill fall in an absolute sense (in that they lose craft and traditional abilities without gaining new abilities adequate to compensate the loss), but it falls even more in a relative sense. The more science is incorporated into the labour process, the less the worker understands of the process; the more sophisticated an intellectual product the machine becomes, the less control and comprehension of the machine the worker has. In other words, the more the worker needs to know in order to remain a human being at work, the less does he or she know. This is the chasm which the notion of "average skill" conceals.' (424-5)

The consequences of de-skilling are very profound. They go hand-in-hand with bringing the worker away from home and subjecting him or her to factory discipline in the Industrial Revolution. Where once workers could control days and hours of work, manner and pace of construction and even, in some cases, what to make and its shape and decoration, these areas of idiosyncrasy, skill, pride and creativity were progressively removed by capitalist manufacture. The more work is centralised, the more items are mass-produced, and the more science and technology get built into the machines and procedures, the more interchangeable workers become and the less control they have. The more s/he is reduced to automatism and monitoring, the more the dead hand of docile labour past — dead labour— dominates the living labourer of the present. (227) The initial step of taking the tool from the worker's hand and fitting it to a mechanism is part of a continuous historical evolution which has led by stages to complete reification of the work process. Braverman traces the history of scientific management in the twentieth century and argues that 'It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the scientific management movement in the shaping of the modern corporation and indeed all institutions of capitalist society which carry on labour processes.' (86) But Taylor did have to convince the man 'Schmidt' to carry pig-iron exactly as he was told. Braverman retails Taylor's (1911) account — an honest expression of how bosses see workers. "'Our first step was the scientific selection of the workman. In dealing with workmen under this type of management, it is an inflexible rule to talk to and deal with only one man at a time .... "' (No chance of solidarity there.) Taylor made the issue clear to the pig-iron handler, "'Well, if you are a high-priced man, you will do exactly as this man tells you to-morrow, from morning till night. When he tells you to pick up a pig and walk, you pick it up and you walk, and when he tells you to sit down and rest, you sit down. You do that right straight through the day. And what's more, no back talk. Now a high-priced man does just what he's told to do, and no back talk. Do you understand that?"' Taylor acknowledges how he treats the worker and is candid about his view of the man: "'This seems to be rather rough talk. And indeed it would be if applied to an educated mechanic, or even an intelligent labourer. With a man of the mentally sluggish type of Schmidt it is appropriate and not unkind, since it is effective in fixing his attention on the high wages which he wants and away from what, if it were called to his attention, he probably would consider impossibly hard work...." ' (103-6) Taylor elsewhere refers to Schmidt as 'so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type.... He is so stupid that the word "percentage" has no meaning to him, and he must consequently be trained by a man more intelligent than himself into the habit of working, in accordance with the laws of this science before he can be successful.' (Principles of Scientific Management, p.59) Lucky thing, since Schmidt's productivity went up 400% while his wages were increased 60%. Guess who got the rest?

Braverman rightly adds, ’The merit of this tale is its clarity in illustrating the pivot upon which all modern management turns: the control over work through the control over the decisions that are made in the course of work.' (107) Taylor was, as always, quite candid: "The managers, assume . . . the burden of gathering together all of the traditional knowledge which in the past has been possessed by the workmen and then classifying, tabulating, and reducing this knowledge to rules, laws, and formulae...."' (p. 112) The move from Taylorism to Fordism leaves the worker no choice as to the pace of work. Henry Ford drew the idea of a continuously moving assembly line from the tracks used to move carcasses in a meat packing plant, and the result was that he could produce as many cars in a day as he had once done in a year. Braverman points to the human consequence: The quickening rate of production in this case depended not only upon the change in the organization of labour, but upon the control which management, at a single stroke, attained over the pace of assembly, so that it could now double and triple the rate at which operations had to be performed and thus subject its workers to an extraordinary intensity of labour.... Craftsmanship gave way to a repeated detail operation, and wage rates were standardized at uniform levels.' (p. 148) Thus, 'Machinery offers to management the opportunity to do by wholly mechanical means that which it had previously attempted to do by organizational and disciplinary means.' (p. 195) This process is never-ending. It was extended throughout the whole range of the division of labour — a process Braverman chronicles. 'Despite the variety of means used in all the innovations we have been describing, their unifying feature is the same as that which we noted at the outset of this discussion: the progressive elimination of the control function of the worker, insofar as possible, and their transfer to a device which is controlled again insofar as possible, by management from out side the direct process.' (p. 212)

The final result is a micro-nomenclature of reification, whereby every bodily motion is classified and timed: G = Grasp, H = Hold, B = Bending, or 'trunk movement with hips as hinge' (p. 174). Punching a time clock is even broken down into six steps and timed to the fourth decimal place. Finally, the secretary's jobs of writing and typing become the subject of a new, partially computerized, set of mechanical operations called 'word processing'. (Does your firm/ lab/ school/ department/ college/ library subscribe to the periodical Word Processing Report?) The scientific management of office work has followed the goal of eliminating time 'inefficiently' spent on 'personal relations and contacts among secretaries and between secretaries and their "principals" ' (p. 346-7). The alliance of science and technology with capitalist efficiency has led, quite literally and systematically, to the exploitation of people as parts of the machine. 'This mechanical exercise of human faculties according to motion types which are studied independently of the particular kind of work being done, brings to life the Marxist conception of "abstract labour".... Labour in the form of standardized motion patterns is labour used as an interchangeable part, and in this form comes ever closer to corresponding, in life, to the abstraction employed by Marx in analysis of the capitalist mode of production.’ (pp. 181-82)

It is at this point that the aspects of Marxism which many scientists and technologists find inaccessible, come into relation with the procedures and processes of work. 'It will already have been noticed that the crucial developments in the processes of production date from precisely the same period as monopoly capitalism. Scientific management and the whole "movement" for the organization of production on its modern basis have their beginnings in the last two decades of the last century. And the scientific-technical revolution, based on the systematic use of science for the more rapid transformation of labour power into capital, also begins, as we have indicated, at the same time. In describing these two facets of the activity of capital, we have therefore been describing two of the prime aspects of monopoly capital. Both chronologically and functionally, they are part of the new stage of capitalist development, and they grow out of monopoly capitalism and make it possible.' (p. 252) Lest it be thought that private and personal life escapes this degradation, Braverman points out that 'It is only in its era of monopoly that the capitalist mode of production takes over the totality of individual, family and social needs and, in subordinating them to the market, also reshapes them to serve the needs of capital.' (p. 271) Just as the modern conception of the family was created within the new conditions of factory employment in the industrial revolution (see Smelser, Bowles, Zaretsky, and Pearson), the more recent opportunity to work for capital all the time, even 'in private', is a creation of the era of monopoly capital's totalization of discipline in production, reproduction and consumption.

In conclusion, I want to revert to the centrality of science and technology to this situation. 'In the first form of the division of labour, the capitalist disassembles the craft and returns it to the workers piecemeal, so that the process as a whole is no longer the province of any individual worker. Then, as we have seen, the capitalist conducts an analysis of each of the tasks distributed among the workers, with an eye toward getting a grip on the individual operations. It is in the age of the scientific-technical revolution that management sets itself the problem of grasping the process as a whole and controlling every element of it, without exception. "lmproving the system of management," wrote H. L. Gantt, "means the elimination of elements of chance or accident, and the accomplishment of all the ends desired in accordance with knowledge derived from a scientific investigation of everything down to the smallest detail of labour...." And it is the scientific-technical revolution which furnishes the means for the partial realization of this theoretical ideal.

'Thus, after a million years of labour, during which humans created not only a complex social culture but in a very real sense created themselves as well, the very cultural-biological trait upon which this entire evolution is founded has been brought, within the last two hundred years, to a crisis, a crisis which Marcuse aptly calls the threat of a "catastrophe of the human essence". The unity of thought and action, conception and execution, hand and mind which capitalism threatened from its beginnings, is now attacked by a systematic dissolution employing all the resources of science and the various engineering disciplines based upon it. The subjective factor of the labour process is removed to a place among its inanimate objective factors. To the materials and instruments of production are added a "labour force", another "factor of production", and the process is henceforth carried on by management as the sole subjective element.’ (pp. 170-71)

Once the decisions and subjective elements of the work process are all in the hands of management, what the worker encounters is apparently fixed, immovable, objective, 'given'. As Marx puts it, the worker no longer employs the instruments of labour, but the instruments of labour employ the worker. Braverman follows Marx in demystifying this encounter: 'It has become fashionable, however, to attribute to machinery the powers over humanity which arise in fact from social relations. Society, in this view, is nothing but an extrapolation of science and technology, and the machine itself is the enemy. The machine, the mere product of human labour and ingenuity, designed and constructed by humans and alterable by them at will, is viewed as an independent participant in human social arrangements.... This is the reification of a social relation; it is . . . nothing but a fetishism, in Marx's sense of the tern.' (pp. 228-9) But the result of treating the machines and the machinelike procedures we have been describing, as objective, is that technical specialities are multiplied and that this becomes 'the condition for dispossessing the mass of workers from the realms of science, knowledge and skill.' (p. 426) Mastery over the labour process develops only 'in and through scientific, technical, and engineering knowledge' which is concentrated in the hands of management and a highly subdivided technical intelligentsia, while it is kept away from the ordinary working population.' (pp. 443-44) Scientists and technologists might feel inclined to continue their objectively oppressive role, even after its essential structures and textures have been laid bare by Braverman. But even this elitist, meritocratic, scabbing hidey-hole is itself shrinking: 'Thus, the scientific-technological revolution possesses, in the long run, this trait: that with its spread, the proportion of the population connected with scientifically and technologically advanced industry, even if only in the form of helots, eventually shrinks.' (pp. 321-2) The masses of labour sloughed off by this process have less and less interesting jobs to do and are more and more merely 'hands' as they became in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. So we can learn what we do and choose to make common cause with those we now oppress or we can wait until our own wretchedness leaves no alternative anyway.

Monopoly capital degrades work and workers via what we do as scientists and technologists, however mediated our relations with particular work processes. In their theories and findings science and technology reify nature, human nature and society — both directly and by virtue of their authoritarian, legitimating role in education, at work and in all dimensions of culture and everyday life. In its internal social relations the doing of science and technology is itself an expression of capitalist (and state capitalist) alienation, exploitation and reification of workers. Braverman's analysis of the work process charts much of the territory between the very concrete and the very abstract aspects of the oppressive role of what its originators saw as a great non-polluting engine for progress and enlightenment. His book helps us to see that capitalism is one system — science, technology and all. Even the cautiously liberal-chic New York Review was moved to grant that ’No other lesson emerges more clearly from Braverman's study than that technology and science are not wholly independent variables in history but social forces that adapt themselves to the needs and exigencies of the social milieu in which they are established.' Will the last person to see please turn off the light at the end of capital's laboriously-burrowed tunnel; meanwhile,we'll get on with taking the mountain away.

Works mentioned and some related ones on topics discussed in the review:

Baritz, Loren, The Servants of Power: A History of the Use of Social Science in American Industry (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan Univ., 1960; also Wiley pb, 1965).

Berger, John and Jean Mohr, A Seventh Man: The Story of a Migrant Worker in Europe (Harmondsworth: Penguin pb, 1975).

Beynon, Huw, Working for Ford (Allen Lane: Penguin Education pb, 1973).

Blauner, Robert, Alienation and Freedom: The Factory Worker and His Industry (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago pb, 1964).

Bowles, Samuel, Herbert Gintis, and Peter Meyer, ’The Long Shadow of Work: Education, The Family and the Reproduction of the Social Division of Labour', Insurgent Sociologist 5 (Summer 1975), 3-22.

Braverman, Labour and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York & London: Monthly Review Press, 1974. Pp. xiv+465.

Ford, Henry, My Life and Work (London: Heinemann, 1923).

Fraser, Ronald (ed.), Work: Twenty Personal Accounts , Vol. 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin pb, 1968); Vol. 2 (Penguin pb, 1969).

Friedmann, Georges, The Anatomy of Work: Labour, Leisure and the Implications of Automation (London: Heinemann Educational, 1961; also Free Press pb, 1964).

Giedion, Siegfied, Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History (1948; N.Y.: Norton pb, 1969).

Gorz, André, 'Technical Intelligence and the Capitalist Division of Labour', Telos No. 12 (Summer 1972), 27-42; reprinted with critiques in Science for the People vol. 5 no. 3 (May 1973), 6-16, 26-29.

Gramsci, Antonio, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (1929-35; London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1971; also pb) — especially pp .277-320 on 'Americanism and Fordism '.

Haber, Samuel, Efficiency and Uplift: Scientific Management in the Progressive Era, 1890-1920 (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1964) .

Heilbroner, Robert, 'Men at Work' (review of Braverman), New York Review of Books, 23 Jan. 1975, pp. 6-8.

Hobsbawm, Eric, 'The Machine Breakers', Past and Present 1 (1952), 57-70.

Laing, Ronald D., Review of Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man, New Left Review No. 26 (Jul./Aug. 1964), 78-80.

Marcuse, Herbert, One-Dimensional Man: The Ideology of Industrial Society (London: Routledge, 1964; also Sphere and other pb).

Marglin, Stephen A., 'What Do Bosses Do? The Origins and Functions of Hierarchy in Capitalist Production', Review of Radical Political Economics 6 (1974),60-112; 7 (1975), 20-37.

McKendrick, Neil, 'Josiah Wedgwood and Factory Discipline', Historical Journal 4 (1961), 30-55.

Pearson, Geoffrey, The Deviant Imagination: Psychiatry, Social Work and Social Change (London: Macmillan pb, 1975).

Polaroid, Sidney, 'Factory Discipline in the Industrial Revolution', Economic History Review, 2nd series 16 (1963), 254-271.

Polaroid, Sidney, The Genesis of Modern Management: A Study of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain (Harmondsworth: Penguin pb, 1968).

, Theodore, Where the Wasteland Ends: Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society (N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972, London: Faber pb).

Schroyer, Trent, Towards a Critical Theory for Advanced Industrial Society', in Hans P. Dreitzel (ed.), Recent Sociology No. 2: Patterns of Communicative Behavior (London: Collier-Macmillan pb, 1970), pp. 209-234.

Smelser, N. J., Social Change in the lndustrial Revolution (London: Routledge, 1959).

Taylor, Frederick W., Principles of Scientific Management (l911, N.Y.: Norton pb, 1967).

Terkel, Studs, Working (N. Y.: Pantheon, 1972; also Avon pb, 1975; London: Wildwood).

Thompson, Edward P., ’Time, Work Discipline and Industrial Capitalism', Past and Present No. 38 (1967), 56-97.

Zaretsky, Eli, 'Capitalism, the Family and Personal Life', Socialist Revolution Nos. 13-15 also Winnipeg: Canadian Dimension pamphlet and London: Pluto Press pb, 1975).

This essay review first appeared in Radical Science Journal No. 4: 81-93, 1974.

Copyright: The Author

Address for correspondence: 26 Freegrove Road, London N7 9RQ

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