The question of incentive

The recent report in the “Daily Sketch” of the once well known actor Walter Hemming—professionally known as “Witty Walter Walton”—”lying at Death’s door, with fame and money gone, after amusing thousands of people,” once again shows Capitalism in its true light. The “Daily Sketch ” in giving his life’s history says : “His is the old old story of a footlight favourite who outlives his fame,” and winds up with the remark : “Bad lack, ill health, and vacant dates made inroads into his savings, and to-day the man who made much money for himself and more for other people (italics mine) is penniless.”

His bankruptcy, broken health, and dangerous illness at the age of 72, after about half a century of hard labour as a profit-making machine, following upon the death in abject misery and poverty, in Paris, of the man who invented cold storage and thus put thousands of pounds into the coffers of a certain section of the capitalist class, should demonstrate to’ the most sceptical the fact that the master class, after squeezing a wage slave dry, will throw him aside on the industrial scrap-heap like a sucked orange.

It is not long since a once famous opera singer who, according to the Capitalist Press, “Sang with all the famous opera singers of the day,” died in a London slum in poverty, hunger, and dirt. That organ of light and truth, the “Lon­don Daily Express,” recently said that “at the inquest on Mr. Richard Green, a once popular opera singer who had committed suicide, it was stated that he had been driven to sleep on the Embankment.” The recent bankruptcy and consequent return to poverty of Preston Muddock, who, under the nom de plume of Dick Donovan, became famous to fiction lovers as the writer of hundreds of detective novels, is still fresh in the mind of the present writer. Many other instances could be quoted to show the reward of industry under Capitalism, but the above will suffice.

In spite of the Capitalistic “copy book” pla­titudinarians, who prate that “it is better to go up like a rocket and come down like the stick, than never to go up at all,” the thinking man will still want to know how it is that members of the working class who, after a life of weary toil, have distinguished themselves, are left to starve and die in abject poverty, as soon as they cease to produce as much profit as they formerly did.

Why should workers, who, benefiting society, become as prominent as these, suffer from the effects of ”a rainy day” ? Those scoffers who introduce the ancient tag : “What incentive will there be under Socialism,” should ask them­selves in all seriousness, in view of the fore­going: “What incentive is there under Capi­ talism ” ?

Take labour-saving inventions, for instance. Every working-class inventor knows full well that unemployment will be caused to members of his own class, by his invention being placed on the market. What incentive is there for him to invent? The desire to benefit society ? Not a bit of it ! The need for bread, more probably. Indeed, many a wage slaye has withheld his invention from the world, recognising that labour-saving appliances mean increased unemployment and consequent misery and degrada­tion, in the particular trade his invention is used in. Then again, what reward does the inventor reap ? As a rule his invention, valuable though it may be, is bought by some rich company for a very trifling sum. All along the line inventors have received a miserable amount for their efforts. So we see that under Socialism, when poverty, hunger, and want will be banished from every hearth, the incentive to invent will be much greater than, under the adverse con­ditions of to-day. The inventor will then have every incentive, realising that in a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of all the machinery of wealth production and distribution, every invention he brings forward, instead of throwing his fellow workmen out of employment, as it did in the dark ages of Capitalism, will mean a reduction in the hours and monotony of labour, and con­sequent increase in the hours of leisure. Then inventions will benefit all mankind, whereas to-day they only benefit a small profit-grabbing capitalist class.

What greater incentive could obtain ?

The night of working-class misery is going to be very dark, and many a “hopeless dawn” will be encountered before the dawn of Socialism arrives. Hunted and harried by the master class ; bullied, insulted, and brow beaten by their henchmen and foremen ; daily, aye, hourly haunted by the fear of starvation and unemploy­ment ; led into quagmires and blind alleys by those political will-o’-the-wisps the “labour bleeders” ; intellectually chloroformed with that narcotic religion, the workers’ lives to-day are a burden to them—a longer or shorter, painful journey from cradle to coffin. Born slaves, they are slaves all their lives, and slaves they die.

The menacing operations of combines and trusts, which ignorant capitalist politicians think they can smash; the always increasing output of labour, assisted by improved machinery, and coupled with the competition of awakening Eastern nations, must cause more and more workers to be consigned to the industrial scrap-heap.

Along with the speeding up of the exploited will be the competition of the unemployed for the situations of those in work. Hunger and disease, prostitution and squalor, are bound to get worse, and will ever dog the worker’s foot­steps. Capitalism is rotten ripe. The social system is ready for a change. Its utility in developing industry is finished and it has out­ lived its usefulness.

We of the S.P.G.B earnestly exhort our fellow-workers to organise with us now ; to wage the biggest war the world has ever known—a war by its very nature international; a war upon which depends the happiness, joy and freedom of the class whose brain and brawn alone produce everything useful and necessary to society— the war known as the class struggle.

Fellow wage slaves, when are you going to waken up and help us with this work, your and our emancipation ?


Leave a Reply