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Henry Judd

[Criticism of Homer Paxon on the Marshall Plan]

(September 1948)

From New International, Vol. 14 No. 7, September 1948, p. 223.
Transcribed &marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


The difficulty we have with the article of Homer Paxon (The New International, July 1948) is certainly not with its description and analysis of the Marshall Plan as such. Paxon has given us the imperialist essentials of the project and explained its relationship to the development of American capitalism.

What we find lacking is the proper setting of the plan within the context of the world situation as it is today. Just as the relationship between politics (including; foreign policy) and national economy has changed considerably since the time of Marx — above all, in this period of absolute capitalist decay — so has the character of imperialism itself.

The Marshall Plan is not “simply” an imperialist plot, motivated by the economic needs of American capitalism. From the point of view of profits as such, the investment of billions in the outmoded, depleted and unproductive economies of capitalism’s most ancient home is surely the poorest possible choice. A billion invested in backward India would yield more profits in one year than the $17½ billion will in Europe over the next five years. We have already indicated the impossibility of repayment.

The point is that now, in 1948, the fulfillment of capitalism’s economic goals (which have, incidently, changed considerably also) is utterly dependent upon and follows political considerations. It is the political problems besetting American imperialism which drive it to behave in such and such a fashion, within the general, long-range context of its economic needs and development.

Thus, for example, Paxon points out that the ERP Act gives the American president the right to shut off aid at will. This, formally speaking, is certainly the fact. But the reality is far different and American imperialism could no more shut off aid arbitrarily and unilaterally than it could afford to drop its aid program and see Stalinism conquer Europe. The importance of Paxon’s formal consideration is lost if it is not qualified by describing the actual relationship of forces. There are many other remarks of Paxon of the same nature that tend to give a distorted and unbalanced picture.

Furthermore, it must be remembered that even the limited success of the plan in operation will tend to create counter-forces within Western European economy itself. We are not suggesting that these counter-forces will definitely influence the tempo and measures permissible to America.

For example, since the tendency of America is to favor the revival of Western Germany, centering around the Ruhr, as against that of France, it is perfectly clear that at a later stage there must be a counter, self-protective tendency for England, France and possibly Italy to band together within the Marshall Plan bloc and oppose this favoring of Germany.

This is but one of many economic counter-tendencies which will develop and make, it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for America to obtain the economic “straightjacket” stranglehold over Europe which Paxon seems to think will and must come. The spirit of “economic determinism” is much too rife in the Paxon analysis, and should have been replaced by more caution and care in dealing with these complexities where innumerable variants exist.

Henry Judd

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