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Fourth International, May-June 1951


World in Review

MacArthur’s Dismissal and Its Real Significance


From Fourth International, Vol.12 No.3, May-June 1951, pp.67-68.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A Senate committee has spent more than a month investigating the reasons for MacArthur’s sensational dismissal. The investigation is still going strong and hundreds of thousands of words giving verbatim reports of the hearing, including the testimony of MacArthur himself, of General Marshall, of General Bradley, etc., are filling the pages of the daily press. The senators are discovering what any attentive observer already knows. The main reason for his removal as American pro-consul in the Far East is that his bluntness and rashness threatened the entire skein of US foreign policy, the loss of all allies vital to its plans for war against the USSR and the “communist world.”

The sweep of the Chinese revolution, that drove Chiang Kai-shek off to Formosa despite the billions of dollars of help he got from Washington, rallied the masses of Asia to the new China’s side. The old European powers have had to take this fact into account if they wanted to retain the slightest economic fruits of their age-long colonial hold over that continent. These same powers have had to face widespread sympathy among their own working classes with the revolutionary aspirations of the Asian masses, as well as resistance to being dragged into atomic war.

MacArthur’s dismissal is thus in a very real sense a product of this worldwide resistance to imperialism. The former satrap refused to take this sentiment into account in his splendid isolation at the Dai Ichi. The hard-headed war planners in the Pentagon and the State Department diplomats could not avoid facing it every day.

The course of the Senate hearings, however, has revealed that, so far as the main practical aspects of foreign policy and military strategy in the Far East are concerned the differences between MacArthur and the administration are small and dwindling. General Marshall has come out as strongly for keeping Formosa out of China’s hands as the partisans of MacArthur could have desired. Both he and the State Department’s Mr. Rusk have made it plain that the United States does not countenance recognizing the Peiping Government or tolerating its admission into the UN. And even as the hearings were unfolding, an American military mission was stepping up aid in equipping the forces of Chiang Kai-shek. The economic blockade of China has been pushed through the UN. Their whole argument boils down to the question: Is the bombing of Manchuria and the naval blockade of China’s coast advisable at present?

It appears that what the Pentagon and the White House objected to in MacArthur’s policy was not so much its essence as its timing. MacArthur, as General Bradley put it, wanted “the wrong war, with the wrong enemy, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.”

The key to an understanding of the administration’s diplomacy in contrast to MacArthur’s sabre-rattling was furnished by General Marshall when he explained to the Senators at the hearings why he had sponsored a coalition between Chiang and Mao Tze-tung during his mission to China in 1946. It was a “temporising proposal,” Marshall said, to save an “impossible situation” – a situation in which “a military power” (Chiang’s army) was being rapidly chewed up by an irresistible revolution.

In other words, the projected coalition was a maneuver to cheat a revolution which at the time could not be defeated head-on. All of the US-backed “peace” proposals in the UN throughout the Korean war have to be understood in this same light. Namely, as proposals to give the imperialists more time to mount their “Operations Killer.” Indeed, that is how the entire foreign policy, the entire scheme of war preparations at home as well as abroad has to be understood.

It has also become clear that the Marshall Plan “for the rehabilitation of Europe,” the Point Four program “for economically backward countries,” even the “Fair Deal” platform at home have been part of this same smokescreen for militarization. Under its cover the men of Big Business and their generals aimed to gain time to hatch their plans of world conquest. All these fine plans, programs and platforms were designed from the first to trick the peoples, whom they were alleged to aid, into support of the military aims of US capitalism.

The Korean war, and the head-on challenge of the Asian peoples linked up with that war, have revealed the true face of US imperialism to a considerable extent. The armaments program has come out into the open, the pace of war mobilization has been stepped up. But the policy of “temporizing” expressed in Washington’s program of “containment” has not been altogether abandoned. That is the meaning of the MacArthur dismissal made evident by the Senate hearings.

To be sure, instead of proposing coalitions, Marshall and his friends now propose to gain time by means of a “limited” war in Korea which has already cost several million lives and the destruction of most of that country in less than a year. They consider Western Europe, not the Far East, as the main theatre of military preparations and operations and want to concentrate their forces there. They want to avoid an immediate outbreak of World War III, which the Generals testify cannot fail to bring atomic destruction to the heart of the USA itself. They want time to prepare the industrial machine for full war production capacity.

What hope do they hold out for averting global war? Here is the best prospect that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Bradley, could give the senators in arguing for this policy: “... Maybe the man following Stalin will have a falling out with somebody else and by some kind of turnover we will have a condition where they will abandon their presently announced intention.” (Naturally, in Bradley’s opinion, that intention is to “rule the world.”)

This bit of wisdom is borrowed from the fountainhead of ruling class policy these days, from Winston Churchill, who has repeated it on a number of occasions. All their hopes for averting war are concentrated on an accident in the Kremlin. And this is a measure of the dilemma of the Western imperialists. They want to rally the masses of the World behind them against the totalitarian bureaucracy in Moscow. But the masses, as in China, have their own solutions which do not at all coincide with Washington’s plans and schemes (anymore than with Moscow’s). Their revolutionary aspirations and independent actions upset these schemes and undermine the whole system of imperialism.

Hence the imperialists’ only real faith is placed on some change of personnel, some shake-up in the Stalinist bureaucracy. Some such miracle, they hope, will give them a new lease on life, a means to curb the spreading anti-imperialist upsurge and to fasten their domination on the world once more while sparing them the maximum risk – the risk of their own skins that all-out war with atomic weapons entails.

To the increasingly restive public, such speculations are hardly calculated to inspire confidence. On the contrary. The MacArthur hearings have not halted the growing distrust of the American people for the administration’s foreign policy or lessened the unpopularity of the Korean slaughter. Every poll taken continues to show a rising demand for peace. As the first steps for positive action in this direction, the Socialist Workers’ Party has put forward the following program:

  1. Stop the war now. Don’t let it spread!
  2. Withdraw all American troops from Korea!
  3. Recognize the government of the new China!
  4. Let the American people vote on the issue of war and peace in a national referendum!

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Last updated on: 24 March 2009