1920s >> 1923 >> no-226-june-1923

The only way

“Surely you don’t believe everything you read !” is a phrase often hurled at the Socialist when he uses some written evidence to support an argument. The answer is : “No, especially when it comes from the daily press !” But although newspaper reports must be accepted guardedly, yet confessions as to the iniquities of the present social order (which prove useful in the hands of the Socialist in the case against Capitalism) are made from time to time by the Capitalist press.

Is there ever an argument more frequently put forward against the practicability of the Socialist theory than the one of “lack of incentive?” Our comrade who debated at the Leyton Town Hall last March with Mr. A. E. Newbould, ex-Liberal M.P. for West I.eyton, met with the same worn out, exploded objection, viz. : That Socialism would destroy all incentive to work and invention. Of course, there was no difficulty in bringing evidence forward to smash the argument to smithereens. There never is, or was any trouble to FIND evidence as to the treatment meted out to the workers (inventors included) under Capitalism; the only drawback is that the evidence cannot be enumerated in the time or space available. In other words the answer’s a book.

The question “How would you compensate those with inventive genius under Socialism?” is usually asked with much concern, and, when the Socialist answers that each individual will give of his best to society, and receive in return the best that society can produce, the anti-Socialist is not satisfied. Neither is the Socialist satisfied—until he has asked : “How are inventors treated under Capitalism?” This is where the evidence comes in, and this is where the daily press comes in, for out of their own mouths ye shall condemn them— or words to that effect. The Daily News (28/4/23) gives one more instance to add to the long list of starving inventors, who have found that mere brains don’t stand an earthly when up against the all-powerful quid or the mighty dollar. We are informed by the Daily News correspondent that Joseph Tall, now an old man of 72 :

“took out the first patent in this or any other country for a method of reinforcing concrete in order to render it suitable for building.”

and that :

“The records at the Patent Office show that during the subsequent decade he added over a score more patents covering the whole field of concrete construction.”

That’s what Joseph Tall did. This is what he got:

“A few years before the Great War of 1914 the same Joseph Tall was tramping England in search of work. For five nights he slept out with the human wreckage on the Thames Embankment.”

And this is why he got it:

“He struck me,” continued the writer, “as the sort of man who would know, by instinct, as it were, all about machinery and materials, and nothing’ at all about finance. It is a common failing with inventors.”

In other words, this man only had the “ability” to do useful work. He didn’t know anything about the dirty, low-down tricks necessary to “get on.” He didn’t know that the owners of wealth don’t intend to let any of that wealth slip from their grasp just because somebody else happens to have brains. He didn’t know that the Capitalists weren’t going to let him use their materials to work out his ideas, or interfere with their source of profit. Of course, he didn’t; he was only an inventor ! Again we read:

“All his patents were of no use without capital, and he had to fight the brick ring. By the time he was thirty his patents were beginning to lapse one after another.”

All wealth, including the material which Joseph Tall wanted to work out his ideas with is owned by the Capitalist Class, and it is only with their consent that these materials can be used, no matter how marvellous may be the discoveries of the specially talented. Joseph Tall’s new introductions did not appeal to the brick ring, so the fact that he had patented his inventions did not matter. The Capitalists could afford to wait, and the patent rights would soon begin to expire. How simple ! Talk about inventors going the usual way—THE ONLY WAY would be more correct.


(Socialist Standard, June 1923)

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