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Henry Judd

World Politics

The Follow-Up on ERP

(10 May 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 19, 10 May 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Although the original report that President Truman planned a special message to Congress, asking for enactment of lend-lease military aid to the countries of Europe receiving aid under the Marshall Plan proved to be premature, it is clear that such action – in one or another form – will shortly be taken.

This inevitable “next-stop” development illustrates one of the illusions held by those who urge wholehearted and uncritical support to the Marshall Plan as such. That is, their false conception of the Marshall Plan as a mere, single act of Congress providing for billions of dollars worth of food and materials to Europe. The actual act adopted by Congress is merely one part, one aspect, of the whole plan itself which is vast and sweeping in scope. The plan is really a broad historic strategy, with political, economic, military and social implications. Bit by bit, this strategic conception of the most far-sighted (from their point of view) American imperialists will unfold before our eyes. We are now witnessing the preparations for stage two – the military guarantee to bolster up the economic aspects of the plan for the rehabilitation of Western European capitalism.

Toward Military Intervention

If the political objective of the ERP is the rehabilitation and stabilization of Western European capitalism, to suit the needs and necessities of American imperialism, then it follows with perfect consistency that this program must be underwritten in military terms. A series of events have begun which must end in ever growing military interventionism.

First, five nations of Western Europe (England, France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, signed the Brussels Pact which formed a loose military alliance and defensive pact. On the same day this Pact was signed, Truman told Congress, “I’m confident that the United States will, by appropriate means, extend to the free nations the support which the situation requires. I am sure that the determination of the free countries of Europe to protect themselves will be matched by an equal determination on our part to help them to do so.” By“appropriate means,” of course, arms and munitions was meant.

A provision was written into the Marshall Act itself providing for the standardization of military equipment in the various treaties which each recipient nation must sign.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Spaak of Belgium visited Washington and openly suggested that Congress be asked to provide weapons for Belgium and other signatories of the Brussels fifty-year pact. It is also rumored that important military figures from Norway and perhaps other Scandinavian countries are in Washington for similar consultations.

Await Initiative from Abroad

Secretary of State Marshall then told a news conference that the project of sending armaments to Europe was under “active study.” The heads of the armed forces were working on this project, labeled as military lend-lease revival. Then the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee asked the State Department to draft such a bill for its consideration, while broad hints were sent around that the European Marshall bloc should prepare a balance sheet on military needs, in much the same manner used for the balance sheet on economic needs.

Then came the denied report of the Truman special message – but this step appears to be scheduled for later on. Truman undoubtedly desires the initiative to come from the Marshall bloc itself, in the form of a request which he will promptly fulfill. Besides, it would not be wise to prematurely speed up the military phase of the Marshall Plan, particularly when its propagandistic aspects of food shipments must be emphasized now. The next step will, in all likelihood, be the passage of a revived military lend-lease bill and, ultimately, the actual creation of a sweeping military alliance in which America pledges immediate support in the event of an open Russian attack upon one of the bloc.

These facts carry their own message. They should be carefully considered by those critical of Labor Action for its critical attack upon the Marshall Plan and its refusal to give it blanket endorsement while, at the same time, insisting upon the necessity of economic aid and rejecting the sectarian position of simply being “against.” It is not so much a problem of “for” or “against” as of clearly understanding what the whole strategic orientation of American capitalism is, at the moment. That may be summed up as hegemony of Western Europe and active preparation, on all fronts, of war with Russian imperialism. The Marshall Plan, narrowly considered, is a part of this orientation; more broadly considered, it is this orientation. If “war is a continuation of politics by other means,” then war with Russia will be the planned continuation of Marshall Plan politics, by the medium of military guarantees and alliances.

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