Emanuel Garrett Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Emanuel Garrett Geltman

Truman Pushes Arms Bill; Independent Western Union Is Europe’s Need

(8 August 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 32, 8 August 1949, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

President Truman last week withdrew Section 3 from his military assistance program proposals to Congress. The program itself can now be expected to wind its way through the various congressional channels toward approval – if not on the billion-and-a-half-dollar level proposed immediately by the administration, then on some lower level pending fuller enactment at the next session of Congress.

Section 3 was the unprecedented, and highly controversial, request that discretion on the disposition of MAP funds be given the president. If is doubtful that President Truman actually expected to put Section 3 over; it is more likely that he put if forward as a kind of trial balloon, a test of how far he could go in the atmosphere of cold war.

The implications of the request were, of course, enormous. Given the size of the funds, and their purpose, and the context of planetary cold war in which the MAP is framed, they would have extended executive authority to a point hitherto unreached in peacetime.

However much Congress as a whole is united in principle behind the concepts that underlie MAP, Section 3 stretched that agreement beyond its tensile strength. Opposition, naturally, was particularly strong from the Republican benches of Congress – from its “internationalist” Vandenberg wing as well as from its isolationist remnant.

Arsenal of Capitalism

With Section 3 withdrawn, there is nothing in the way of principle to impede the enactment of MAP. Such congressional opposition as exists is based primarily on reasons of economy, and it is quite possible that the sums now asked may be whittled down for the present, only to be replaced in larger quantity at a later time. Whatever wrangling may ensue, Congress and the administration must necessarily agree that the U.S. as arsenal of world capitalism is the concomitant of the U.S. as political and economic master of the capitalist world.

MAP is but a concretization, in one area, of the North Atlantic Pact. It provides, in its essential planks, that a billion and a half dollars be appropriated to bolster the military machines of the non-Stalinist nations. Specifically:

These are the essentials of the plan. To them we should perhaps add this: the atom bomb, and in general all weapons developed since the end of World War II, are to be lent to one. United States imperialism is willing to help its friends, but doesn’t quite trust them beyond the limits required by the great conflict with Russia for world control. It apparently is cognizant of the fact that friendship among peaceful capitalist allies is a tenuous thing.

Apart from possible congressional quarrels over details of MAP, there remain also various kinks that must yet be ironed out. From a practical point of view, they are major problems – such as how replacements and spare parts shall be provided. However, these problems exist on the periphery of general purpose and outline of the plan.

On the premises of U.S. imperialism, there is no doubt that the program is a necessary one. Solid, incontrovertible facts support it. The European nations are incapable, by their own separate efforts, of building their defenses. Their individual resources are insufficient to stand off the encroachments of a giant imperialism like Russia. Or to stand off the demands of a giant imperialism like the U.S. Separate, no nation can easily resist the drag of the two great imperialist orbits.

That the European nations recognize this is evidenced in many ways. Whatever their several ambitions may be, they are increasingly forced together in various arenas of cooperation.

There was first the Benelux union. There is at the moment of writing a meeting of something that goes under the name of Council of Europe which, with the admission of Greece and Turkey, now includes most European nations outside the iron curtain. And there is also in session as we write a meeting of the military chiefs of the Atlantic Pact nations, with the U.S. joint chiefs of staff in attendance. The deliberations are top secret.

The point is that they HAVE to act in concert. And the United States, promoting its own aims, sees that too. The separate nations of Europe are insufficient to HER purpose; they have to be coordinated. Unfortunately, while these moves recognize the need of Western Union in Europe, they do not advance the independence of the European, people nor free them from the fear of war. On the contrary, they in many ways drive the point of that fear deeper.

It’s in the Air

There is no desire stronger among the European people than the desire for peace. As separate nations they cannot assert their demand for peace. To pool their interest in peace in a union which can have the economic and political strength to make the objective realizable is the clearest kind of sense. The question then becomes, what kind of union?

There are, as we have already pointed out, various kinds of western union in process of shaping – not the least important of which is that union which the U.S. is promoting for efficient operation of its plans.

The Council of Europe is an explicit form of western union – a union in which Britain would like to see itself as the dominant force, France likewise, etc. Military union, which already exists in considerable measure – though Britain and France have sharp differences over orientation based on British reluctance to commit itself as strongly to continental intervention as France wants it to – is a form of western union.

Churchill is hot for western union. He is, in fact, a British representative to the Council of Europe. De Gaulle is hot for western union; he is reported to be demanding sweeping parliamentary organization in which presumably France (with himself as its quasi-dictator) would be the major power.

Western union is very much in the air. Though it may for the moment be the property of discredited and discreditable rulers, each intent on national ambition, it is based on the reality of need. Europe, divided, can do nothing to stand off Stalinist aggression – or, therefore the threat of war. Europe, united, can be a bulwark for peace by asserting the strength it gains through unity. At the moment western-union in Europe is the manipulation of the United States, or the plaything of capitalist politicians. It requires the intervention of the people to enforce a Western Union which by its very premises can promote the health of Europe, encourage the spread of socialism, and direct the world toward peace.

Independent and Democratic

The first premise is INDEPENDENCE. Western Union without independence from the will of the United States, is merely a recognition of the weakness contained in separation; it does not augur peace, but does indeed guarantee embroilment in war. The same goes for western union which is the instrument of ANY one of the leading European nations who seek to revive dead-as-a-doornail imperialist glories.

The second premise is DEMOCRACY. Without the fullest democratic principle in application, western union can develop into little more than an efficient device for intrigue. How far the Council of Europe is from the kind of western union required by the peoples of Europe is indicated by the fact that to it comes Foreign Minister Tsaldaris representing the outrageous, U.S.-financed Greek tyranny. The Greek rulers have about as much place in an independent, democratic union of the Western European nations as Nazis have in a synagogue.

Democratic, Independent Western Union presupposes that the peoples of Europe choose their representatives; and presupposes as well that in unifying their resources, the nations commit themselves to the defense and extension of democratic liberties. Independent Western Union while customs barriers divide country from country is ridiculous; Independent Western Union, bringing the promise of peace and stability, while the participants enslave their own people or others, is a fiction. The participant nations have to be committed to democracy in practice, else it can only develop into another power bloc – which is what certain European politicians, ardent proponents of unity, have in mind.

In the present circumstances, the effective answer to the North Atlantic Pact and to MAP, which is conceived as part of the same global plan, in Independent Western Union, to which the peoples of Europe – arid this is most important, including those of Germany and Austria – can bring their resources for economic and political advances, and for peace. A genuinely Independent, Democratic Western Union would not, of course, be welcomed with MAPs. Which is precisely the point!

Emanuel Garrett Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 24 August 2021