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Henry Judd

World Politics

ERP and Its Strings

(23 February 1948

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 8, 23 February 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It is paradoxical that just at the moment when the Marshall Plan shows signs of finally taking on specific shape, with the approval last week by the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee of an actual bill for recommendation to the Senate, the plan itself, as originally conceived of, is rapidly dying from lack of interest and boredom! The Marshall Plan bears a resemblance to the famous Al Schacht, the ball-playing comedian, who tied himself into a knot winding up and then let fly with his famous pop-out slow ball!

From a propagandistic and political standpoint, all the ineptitudes and weaknesses of American imperialism, that would-be world beater, have been shown up in the handling of the Marshall Plan. The whole conception of European recovery, organized along majestic lines with America pouring its wealth and material into the collapsed veins of the Old World has given way to aknock-down brawl over how much, what conditions and by whom administered. And simultaneously with the evaporation of the grandiose Marshall scheme there has been a definite, tangible economic recovery in many countries of Western Europe over the past three months!

While Western Europe must still seek and accept aid, it is clear that the need is decreasing (coal production in England, France and Germany is steadily upward, and crop prospects for spring and next autumn’s harvest are excellent due to the extreme mildness of the winter) and that the capitalist powers of Western Europe will feel more able to resist American demands. While the donor has been quibbling over the details, the future beneficiary has grown stronger and America will find, perhaps to its astonishment, that its help will go, not to a broken-down beggar, grateful for each crumb, but to a dignified gentleman now more able to take care of himself.

Bill Names Conditions

All the more ironic, then, is the fact that precisely at this moment the Senate committee proposes to attach obvious and provocative strings to the bill just voted out by it. But first, the terms of this bill, contrasting with the original Marshall-Truman proposals: the committee recommends $5.3 billion, for one year starting April 1. Truman had originally drafted a five-year plan, then dropped down to $6.8 billions for 15 months. The Senate wants to be able to review the ERP within one year, before giving another dime. The Senate has removed administration from the hands of the State Department and given it, in effect, to a congressional committee of 14. Thus the link Marshall wishes to establish between the working out of the plan and the State Department, actual administrative organ of American imperialism, is broken – a sharp defeat for him and Truman. Finally, where Marshall cautioned about conditions, the Senate committee, as we shall see below, outdid itself in listing such conditions. With all this, Senator Vandenberg is more than cautious about the future even of this bill! The House has yet to be heard from. “I have received no assurance of any nature regarding the health or mortality of this measure,” said Vandenberg. It comes belatedly into the world, but its condition is that of a prematurely-born infant.

The bill proposed by the Senate committee provides for the cutting off of any aid to any nation “out of step” with the program. What are some ,of the “out of step” considerations? A summary indicates what is meant by being “in step” with America’s ERP proposition:

  1. Each of the 16 European nations involved must sign a multilateral treaty with the United States, accepting the pledges and production goals contained in the ERP itself.
  2. Each country must submit, for approval by the American overall administrator, “programs for the increased production of coal, steel, transportation facilities and food.”
  3. The American administration has power, at will,to halt aid to any nation which he considers to be violating the agreement. The meaning of this is concretized in the clause that terminates aid “because of changed conditions,” which, further concretized, means if a nation has the misfortune to come under Stalinist control or rule, or any other political regime not quite satisfactory to America. Popular elections will shortly be held in Italy, then France and, long before ERP has run its course, all the 16 nations involved. This clause, if finally adopted, will be held over their heads like a club. De Gasperi, Italy’s Prime Minister, has already used it in the opening rounds of his electoral campaign. In passing, we might raise the question as to whether aid to the Greek monarchy would cease if that miserable dictatorship were to become a popular republic? Changed conditions?
  4. Treaties must provide for promotion of industrial and agricultural production to permit the nation concerned to become independent of outside economic aid. What can this mean? That will depend upon the concrete evolution of economic factors, always to be judged, however, in a unilateral fashion by the American administrator. He may decide that recovery has advanced to a sufficiently high point in a given country, but the working masses of that country may have different ideas about the meaning of the word “recovery.”
  5. Finally, treaties must facilitate transfer to the United States, for stockpiling purposes, of raw materials deficient here. This, of course, is to further tighten American control over such deficient and rare materials as uranium, manganese, oil, tin, etc.

Confirms Imperialist Character

Considered in any light, the Senate proposed bill is striking confirmation of the imperialist character of the Marshall Plan as conceived of by America’s political leaders. It proposes terms which infringe in more than one way upon the national independence of the 16 countries involved, since aid to be given is at a price, a price which is not even clearly set in advance, but is obviously subject to raises as dictated by American political interests!

Even a socialist is entitled to be surprised at the cold-blooded and open character of the “strings” attached to this bill. It will certainly not sit well in the 16 European capitals, and will further provide European Stalinism with agitational material for its mills. For those who, like Labor Action, support the idea of full and unhampered material and economic aid to all European countries, an important part of the task of fighting for this kind of action is the exposure and condemnation of such terms as those proposed in the Senate, and shortly to be debated in the House.

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