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Susan Green

Pros and Cons: A Discussion Corner

Issues in Discussion
of Marshall Plan

(9 August 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 32, 9 August 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It is incorrect to have one opinion presumably as a socialist and a member of the Workers Party, and another one as a private citizen so to speak. The whole case of the Marshall Plan has to be presented in accordance with the socialist ethic that a revolutionary socialist movement – not a Stalinist movement – cannot be built behind the backs of the workers but by taking them into fullest confidence. It is hypocritical to mutter under one’s breath “thank God for the Marshall Plan” and in public merely to flay it as the imperialist scheme that it assuredly is.

Much has been made of the question: “What would you do if you were in Congress during the discussion of the Marshall Plan?” If a member of the Workers Party were in Congress, the political situation in America would be very different from what it is today and this difference would have to be taken into consideration in arriving at a position on any issue. But taking the question flatly, the course of action of a member of the WP in Congress would have to be something like this: First, to try to get on the floor a counter plan embodying real international cooperation and sound workers’ control. Failing here, as no doubt would be the case, an attempt to submit certain amendments to the Marshall Plan bill to eliminate its most obnoxious imperialist features, would have to be made. Failing this, a vote could be cast for the Marshall Plan, stating fully and openly that this was limited and critical support, necessitated by the fact that history has offered no other way to give Europe the aid urgent for humanitarian and socialist reasons. We have before had to clarify to the workers complicated political positions as, for instance, our advocacy – ourselves a party – of another party, an independent labor party.

Lines Were Defined

It has been more or less assumed in this discussion, unwarrantedly so, that those who take a position of limited and critical support of the Marshall Plan, will ipso facto support American imperialism in the war with Russia. This does not help clarify the issues involved in the Marshall Plan, in spite of involvement of the Marshall Plan in war preparation. The condition of the world, on both sides of the iron curtain, will have to be known and taken into consideration, if and when World War III comes. A year ago the Marshall Plan should have been considered as such.

A word now about the timing of the discussion of the Marshall Plan within the party and in Labor Action. It comes just about a year too late. As soon as the Marshall Plan was projected, its nature could have been foretold, namely, that it was to be the plan of American imperialism to repair the war damage, both human and material, for three reasons: (1) to prevent western European countries from slipping under the heel of Russia; (2) to rebuild and groom them as allies in the coming war; and (3) also to restore these countries as customers for American products. It could have been foreseen that all the conditions, strings and compulsions necessary to accomplish these ends for American imperialism, would be imposed. Imperialism is what it is.

We could also then have seen that the by-products of the American imperialist plan – namely, aid to the European people as consumers and a lift to disintegrated European industry so that, some measure of economic stability might possibly be patched up – were not only desirable but absolutely urgent from a humanitarian point of view and from the point of view of historic progress. For without some degree of economic revival in Europe, without the release of workers from the degradation of primitive grubbing for a crust of bread, there was little hope of a socialist revolutionary rebirth.

So the lines were defined even before the hearings began in Congress. It was important to have a discussion then and a position established then because we must try to intervene wherever possible in the great issues of the day. Of course, we can intervene only in the sense of trying to influence the working class through our connection with the small section thereof that reads our press and keeps contact with our ideas.

Because we did not have a well-thought-out position, our contribution to the national and international discussion carried on in Congress and indeed all over the world, was rather routine and dogmatic. We did not go far beyond showing up the imperialist nature of the plan, the strings attached, the power the United States would have over western Europe, etc. Our contribution to the worldwide discussion was epitomized in the cartoon in Labor Action showing a prostrated Europe between the grasping beast, Russia, and the identical, grasping beast, America. This oversimplification must have struck more than one of our readers as unrealistic.

Lag in Discussion

Our line of propaganda and education would, of course, have depended upon what position we had taken. Perhaps we would have formulated an alternative plan containing the elements of real international cooperation and of sound workers control. But realities would have had to be the guide. For instance, on the question of workers control, logically one would have to answer the point: “Would you give the European Stalinist-dominated unions control over American aid?”

The necessity for timely discussion in a political group cannot be overemphasized, not only in order to intervene in the best possible way at the right time. It is also important not to lag behind events which, constantly changing, make a different impression on the mind with time and blur the original issue. For example, contributors to this discussion in Labor Action have already forgotten that the Marshall Plan did influence the outcome of the crucial Italian election. Some, now that the Marshall Plan moneys have begun to pump new blood into old veins, talk about the tendency to “overemphasize” the industrial and social collapse of Europe.

This is not written to blame anyone for the delay in discussing the issue. In our party, with opportunity for all to initiate a discussion, responsibility rests on the whole party. But the fact remains that while now the discussion is about what a correct socialist position should be, a year ago the discussion would have included also the consideration of how best to intervene in this biggest (at that time) national and international issue.

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