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Henry Judd

World Politics

Truman and His ERP

(19 January 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 3, 19 January 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As had been expected, the international aspects of the Truman address on The State of the Nation have touched off sharp criticisms and conflicts within the ranks of the new session of Congress. This part of his proposals dealt almost exclusively, of course, with the Marshall Plan, or the European Recovery Program, and contained the proposal that Congress should authorize the outlay of almost $7 billion, beginning with April 1 of this year and lasting for 15 months, to start the ERP on its historic way. This “contribution to world peace,” as Truman calls it, is but the “initial amount” essential. The fact that Truman has asked only for a fifteen-month appropriation, while it is a tactical capitulation to the Republicans, is not too important, since the over-all sum remains fixed at between $15 and $18 billions of dollars, for a period lasting until July 1952.

Thus the Marshall Plan, the backbone and highest expression to date of American foreign policy, is now formally cast into the fire and the debate will commence, growing warmer and more revealing as time passes. It has already met a hostile and unfriendly reception not only from the Republican ranks, but also to a surprising degree from Democratic Party ranks. This debate is bound to color and affect in many ways all aspects of American domestic and international development. Marshall, in his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, attempted to reassert the Administration’s offensive in the issue, by insisting that the plan – embodying administration in its entirety by the State Department – must be either accepted or rejected in toto. But it is clear that the struggle will be long and heated. Taft has predicted that a greatly modified Marshall Plan will not be put into practice until some time after July, not April, of this year. The very fundamentals of the plan will be challenged by lingering isolationist Republican elements, in the first place, and by Wallace supporters, representing Stalinist Russia’s opposition to European aid. Democrats, big business interests and liberal ideologists who take a long-range view of the perspectives of American imperialism will be the most articulate supporters of the Truman proposals.

Sharpest debate will be over attempts to cut down the amount of money involved, with Senator Taft demanding a scaling down to $5 billion maximum. Neither side in this debate will make any effort to link directly the problem of the money involved with issues of prices, inflationary trends, taxation, etc. This statement may appear to be not the case, in view of the fight over taxation, etc., but what we mean is that no one will propose clearly and directly that the money be raised in a specific manner – such as, for example, by a capital levy on industry (which contributed so much to the destruction of Europe), or higher profits taxes. Finally there will be a dispute over the question of what conditions, and precisely how they shall be made, will be attached to the loans; as well as the matter of who shall run and operate the ERP. The Administration, of course, knows it cannot formulate conditions that openly and crudely play havoc with the national independence of the countries involved. This would defeat any possible success that ERP may expect even before it gets going, because it would defeat its political purposes which are, in their own way, of equal importance to the economic aims. The ERP opponents, on the other hand, will attempt, to attach such strings as will grant advantages to privately owned industries and corporations where extensive nationalization has taken place (such as England), and, at the same time, will attempt to strike blows at any possible recovery of those industries and businesses which may offer future competition to American export trade.

The Final Plan

Despite the violence and vehemence of the opposition, it is apparent that an ERP will emerge from this session of Congress. It must emerge, because the interests of American imperialism demand this. Modified, cut-down, changed, amended and revised, it will still be a specific plan, formulating America’s position at this phase in its history. Both sides, fundamentally representing only differing wings of American capitalism, have presented their maximum program. Now will begin the bargaining and working out of terms. But Truman and his Administration will win out. Not even the most ignorant and isolationist-minded Republican has dared propose no ERP for Europe!

For American imperialism, now reaching out for economic mastery over the markets of our entire globe, simultaneously with its probing for strategic bases for ultimate war with Russia, must come to the aid of Europe, from its own point of view. It must underwrite and stimulate a limited and closely-guarded economic uplift in Western Europe as the only possible means of halting Stalinist expansion and seizure of power over the entire Continent. The many-billioned payment for this underwriting is necessary because this is the sole weapon American imperialism possesses. A limited period of capitalist stabilization of Western Europe thus becomes a vital part of the imperialist future. ERP, in some form, must be adopted as the means of achieving this.

What brands ERP – no matter what its final form – as imperialist is not so much the inevitable strings and conditions that will be attached to it, but rather this way in which it fits into the historic program of American imperialism, together with the fact that the entire discussion and debate over it (with the exception of the revolutionary press) will be a dispute over what is the best way to advance these interests. Truman-Marshall have their way; Taft-Vandenberg another way and Wallace a third way. A socialist ERP, Which could be adopted quickly and without dispute, would simply concern itself with helping the recovery of the masses of Europe in the quickest and easiest possible manner. Problems of profit, conditions, eventual war, limitation of competitive productivity, etc., wouldn’t enter into the picture.

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