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Albert Gates

PROS AND CONS: A Discussion Corner

Issues Involved in the Discussion

(14 June 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 24, 14 June 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The discussion on the Marshall Plan as it appears in Labor Action has produced some curious views. Apparently Comrade Goldman has set the tone to this discussion and also its limits. He regards the Marshall Plan as a huge relief project which seeks to succor the European masses. In his rejoinder to the editorial which appeared in LA, he grants out of hand that the government has other motives, but that is secondary since the project is “a concrete plan for aid to Europe.” If that is its main feature, how can “a socialist oppose a concrete plan for aid to Europe because he does not approve of the motives of those who propose the plan?”

Having forced the discussion on this plane, Goldman compelled the authors of the Labor Action editorial to squeeze themselves dry to prove that we, socialists, are for relief and would tell the European workers not to reject such relief even if it came from U.S. imperialism.

Thereupon, Goldman creates a hypothetical situation in which a hypothetical socialist congressman is faced with a tie vote in Congress on the question of aid to Europe. Could such a congressman then vote against a plan, whose “motives” are bad, but which provides relief for the masses? The editorial’s answer is somewhat ambiguous since it states that we are opposed to the Plan and yet gives no clear-cut formulation for this opposition or how this hypothetical congressman would vote in this hypothetical situation (a really concrete, practical and realistic phase of the discussion!!).

In any case, the editorial at least tries to understand what the Marshall Plan is. Farrell understands it too, but he has made a choice and his choice is clear: in the struggle against Stalinism he is ready to support western imperialism against the Stalinist variety. He has some misgivings about it, to be sure since he wishes there was some way in which the problem of aid could be controlled by the working class. But, since that is out of question now, he is willing to settle for bourgeois control and bourgeois policy as the lesser evil in the world situation.

Not a Relief Project

But Goldman does not even have that kind of inverted logic in his favor. As a matter of fact, despite his protests that he does understand the nature of the Marshall Plan, that is exactly what has to be discussed with Goldman. For if he does understand the nature of the Marshall Plan and still persists in his views, he really shuts his eyes to what is important and opens them to what is not, and adopts an extremely dangerous position.

The Marshall Plan is not a huge relief project for the purpose of supplying food, shelter and clothing to the European masses. This aspect of its relief aims are secondary, subordinate and incidental to its main purpose of stabilizing the industrial potential of western Europe in preparation for the next. war. But that is not all.

  1. The Marshall Plan is the concretization of the “Truman Doctrine.” Its main relief aims are concerned with the revival of the economies of America’s potential allies for war. The Plan is the latter-day method employed by the U.S. to put Europe oh economic rations, to subordinate its economy and to aid in strengthening this nation’s position in that part of the world.

    All else is subsumed under this basic orientation. The economic and political policies of the current administration, and those of its successor, will travel a road determined in advance by the above aims. It is an extreme form of political myopia which thinks, first, that the Marshall Plan is important only for the relief it offers the European masses, and second, that there are “no strings attached” to the plan. Goldman’s discussion of “strings” is really facetious.
  2. The aid contemplated by the Plan, which is directed primarily to industry, and through private capitalist channels, for the most part, is accompanied by political blackmail. Humanitarianism has nothing whatever to do with the “motives” (read: aims) of the plan. Otherwise, aid would be given freely and universally.

    A plan which seeks the subordination of the economy of a large part of the industrial world to the United States has an endless number of strings emanating from it. Otherwise no one could explain much of the conflict in the ruling stratum of American society around such questions as the desirability of reconstructing potential industrial rivals, which industries to revive, how much capital to advance, what cartelization shall be permitted, or what nationalizations to countenance.
  3. On the specific question of the control of the European currencies, Goldman’s answer is unserious and really a non sequitur. He writes:"Let me assure you that socialism can come into existence in spite of the fact that the European currencies might be tied to the American dollar.” Whether socialism can come “in spite of” this, has nothing whatever to do with the question. Socialism can come in spite of many things, including imperialism, crises, fascism and Stalinism. The point under discussion, however, is whether or not there are strings attached to the plan. In his first letter, Goldman wrote that he did not know of any strings attached. In that too, he was unique, since he is probably the only person in the country who did not know that. Again, American control of the European currencies is of inestimable importance. For behind this rather prosaic fact lies another prosaic fact: American control of the economy of the Plan nations. But behind these prosaic facts are the living ones: the U.S. must intervene in the everyday economic, political and social life of western Europe, and the class relations therein. It will thus affect the day to day life of every man, woman and child in those countries. Already, Paul G. Hoffman, gauleiter of the Plan, warns the British Labor Party government not to nationalize the steel industry or suffer the loss of assistance.
  4. But the real “string attached” is that only those countries which agree to come into a western European-U.S. economic, political and military bloc will receive American assistance. Is that a condition, a string, or whatever other adjective you want to use, attached to the plan? The answer is obvious. And all of this has consequences, for imperialism and for socialism alike. Suppose a nation does not agree to come into this bloc? No aid! Suppose it does? Then it has to accept certain U.S. premises.
  5. The planned policing of food and clothing relief is another aspect of political blackmail. Some congressman may be concerned that there be no waste and no black marketing in such goods. But primarily the policing is for the purpose of guaranteeing that these materials serve American aims and do not find their way into“communist hands.”

One can have doubts about “strings attached” only if one conceives of the Marshall Plan primarily as a relief project, or a humanitarian enterprise. One can have no doubts whatever about it if one views the Marshall Plan for what it really is, the expression of American post-war imperialist policy, the outgrowth of the failure of the U.S.-Russian alliance to survive the first days of peace.

Opposing Imperialism

Given these considerations, our policy is indicated. As socialist internationalists, as opponents of both imperialist camps, we cannot and must not give support in any form to either of the imperialist power blocs. More than ever it is required that we carry the independent banner of world socialism. The forces of confusion and disorientation are great indeed and they require no assistance from us. We remain alone against a world of savage opponents, a world sharply divided between active and passive supporters of capitalist imperialism and Stalinist imperialism. Even sections of the Fourth Internationalist movement, most notably the Cannonite Socialist Workers Party, play the role of left-handed supporters of Stalinist imperialism.

Under such world conditions our obligations are clear. If we had a congressman his task too would be clear. He would use that parliamentary tribunal to speak out the truth! Not only about Stalinist imperialism, but American imperialism as well. He would say what the Marshall Plan is, and not confuse the issue with some unclear statements about relief. A socialist congressman would present his own program and his own plan. For we are never against anything per se. We are against the Marshall Plan, but we are for this or that socialist plan.

But obviously, given Goldman’s hypothetical situation, our lone socialist congressman would get only his own vote for his plan. And assume that there was a tie vote, would our lone socialist in Congress sit by and permit no relief for the European people? Obviously not, if he could do anything about it. Without supporting the Marshall Plan and voting against it, he would move an amendment on relief alone. Would that solve anything? Maybe not. But in that way we would take no responsibility for the acts of an imperialist government.

Yes, we demand of a capitalist government that it grant relief. It has happened before, it may happen again. Capitalist governments have been known to send relief, and may perhaps do so again. But we can never subordinate our class politics, our socialist politics, our internationalist positions to such a question. We can never lost sight of our internationalist socialist program in fighting for such a partial demand. We can never conduct ourselves in such a manner that we become identified with the bourgeoisie and its political programs.

In this particular case, it is impossible for socialists to vote for or support the Marshall Plan because, attached to it, subordinated and incidental to it, a measure of relief is granted as a vehicle for enforcing and realizing the broader aims of American imperialist policy in Europe.

It is interesting to observe the great tumult about relief now, in the discussion of the Marshall Plan. Why were there no vigorous interventions by Goldman and Farrell and others during the many months of governmental debate on UNRRA, which was more nearly a pure relief proposition and when its abolition created an interim period of no relief whatever to Europe? Were not the European masses in want then? Yes, even more so than in some countries today, for in several of the countries, the industrial production indices indicate a higher level than before the war. Obviously, it is not the “relief” question which beats so strongly, but the Stalinist seizure of power in Czechoslovakia which has produced the present intense interest in the Marshall Plan. But the interests, consciously or not, have a political meaning, not a humanitarian one.

That is the plane on which the discussion should be held and not on whether socialists are, or should be, in favor of relief when given by a capitalist government. We never opposed it when the Roosevelt government gave it during the Thirties and now. We complained that it was insufficient. But that is not the same thing as voting for or endorsing imperialist policy under the guise of supporting relief measures.

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