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Albert Gates

Earl Browder Champions Incentive Pay

(November 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 45, 8 November 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following is a chapter taken from the pamphlet, Incentive Pay – the Speed-Up, New Style, by Albert Gates. It is the answer of the Workers Party to the newly inspired campaign of big business to pat over the piecework speed-up system against which the labor movement has fought for so many years.


By far the most dangerous element in this situation is the Stalinist Communist Party and the unions it controls. These wreckers of the union movement concern themselves primarily with the second front and other questions of interest to Stalin’s foreign policy. Keeping labor docile and tied to the war machine and to the production of profits for big business is the chief activity of unions under Stalinist leadership. The vital issues which concern the welfare of the American working class are cast aside because they conflict with the interests of the Russian bureaucracy.

Earl Browder, leader of the American Stalinists, is the outstanding propagandist for the bosses on the incentive pay issue. When he intervened directly in the UAW dispute on, this subject he was soundly rebuked by that organization for his union-wrecking role.

Browder argues that incentive pay will increase the wages of the workers and that only the bosses are opposed to the scheme. Knowing full well what incentive pay really means, but pretending that big business is opposed to it because it might have to pay a little more for a great deal more profit, Browder says it is the duty of the workers “to force better profits on unwilling employers.” One would think that the employers have only to wait for word from Browder that the pickings on the incentive pay scheme are good. But really, they are not so shy as Browder would have the workers believe – and, it goes without saying, a thousands times more honest than this new lackey of Wall Street!

Why, then, do the Stalinists fight so vigorously for incentive pay? Are they concerned with the desire of the workers to get more money? This is nonsense. The American Stalinists, acting for the Kremlin tyranny, are Russian nationalist agents. Their sole interest is the preservation of the rule of Stalin and the new bureaucratic class which lives off the exploitation of the Russian workers. When Stalin was allied with Hitler, Browder and his cohorts were on the side of the Axis in the war. They were not in the least concerned with production. On the contrary, they were interested in keeping production at a minimum. Incentive pay was farthest from the minds of these American representatives of Stalin.

But when the two dictators broke their friendship, when Hitler’s legions invaded Russia and that country became the ally of England and later of the United States, the American Stalinists became super-patriots. Now, nothing that the workers do is enough. No sacrifice of American labor is great enough.

Are American workers producing vast quantities of goods? It is not enough. Is the American ruling class sending more aid to Stalin? No matter, it must send more.

Are Browder and his party concerned with the lot of the American workers? Not at all. According to their views, the American working class and the working class of the entire world must sacrifice everything for Stalin’s rule over Russia.

Doesn’t this sound contradictory? Not at all. What Browder demands of the American workers, Stalin takes from the Russian. Russia, under Stalin, has become a vast prison for the Russian working class.

The Russian workers have lost their independence, their free trade unions, their other organizations, and their rights. They are driven like a herd under a vicious speed-up system, There have been no wage increases for them since the war broke out, and they work a twelve-hour day seven days a week. Stalin has borrowed the worst from the American efficiency experts and applied it to the Russian workers.

Russia has its own variation of the piecework system and incentive pay. It is called “Stakhanovism.” Those participating are “Stakhanovites.” They are special workers who set the pace for all other workers. They are the finks in the factories, the type of men whom American workers would drive out of the shops and the unions.

Even so friendly an observer of Russian affairs as Wendell L. Willkie was compelled to write, on his return from a visit to Russia:

“The Stakhanovites, strange as it may seem to us, are actually pieceworkers, paid at a progressively increasing rate on a speed-up system which is like an accelerated Bedaux system. The Russian industrial system is a strange paradox to an American. The method of employing and paying labor would satisfy our most unsocial industrialist.”

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