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Henry Judd

World Politics

Truman Accepts

(31 January 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 5, 31 January 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In significance and quality, the President’s inaugural address has been compared with Roosevelt’s famous Chicago “Quarantine” speech and his 1941 “arsenal of democracy” talk. In the sense that the Truman speech attempts to define the role and place of America in the world today it is definitely in the historic tradition of such remarks as those of FDR, but actually it was much further advanced and developed. Some have compared it rather with the “American Century” doctrine of Luce, expressed several years back, and it certainly had a ring and stamp to it that could be associated with a slick Life magazine editorial proclaiming America’s “destiny” to be world rule (in a benevolent sort of way, of course).

The Truman message was both ideological and political in nature. In his harsh ideological attack upon Russia and Stalinism (referred to as communism by him, of course), Truman indicated his acceptance of the concept that the struggle between American and Russian imperialism is first and foremost an ideological one, based upon two exclusive and contradictory social systems. It is easy enough to accept such a definition of the struggle’s “terms of reference,” but the Truman definition of the American ideology – “our people desire ... a just and lasting peace – based on genuine agreement freely arrived at by equals” – has as little relation to the real issues and definitions involved as does the definition of a “people’s democracy” by Matyas Rakosi, leader of Hungarian Stalinism, who has just informed the world that it is a “dictatorship of the proletariat, without the soviet form”! By “soviet form” Rakosi means, of course, workers’ democracy.

It is impossible to expect any correct and honest definition of the social and ideological issues involved from spokesmen of either side, since ideology is used equally as a camouflage for both camps. The real significance of the Truman ideological attack was that, at the start of his new term of office, he gave a clear indication to Stalin that any fundamental settlement of the dispute is out of the question; that the cold war will continue and that, at best, temporary and unstable agreements on tactical and secondary issues (such as an Austrian peace treaty) are all that can be expected. In this respect, he aimed to cut short the rather phony and feeble “peace offensive” that several Stalinist wheel- horses, like Marcel Cachin of the French CP, have been (pushing along in recent weeks.

An “American Century” Speech

The more positive political aspects of the inaugural address are more interesting. The differences between the Roosevelt speeches and this one with which they have been compared lies in the fact that the former intended deliberately to involve American imperialism in world affairs while the Truman speech assumes this deep involvement (there is not even the usual reference to the departure and death of isolationism) and is concerned with the question: what form shall this involvement take, and how shall it best be organized and carried out? In this sense, it was an “American Century” speech, proclaiming the power and might of American imperialism both in words and in the roar of the huge airpower armada display.

Of course, no plans were made specific nor was their content filled in. The bulk of the speech, however, dealt with America’s approach to the outside world – the program for combating Stalinism on a world-wide scale. A “dynamic” American leadership shall lead us in the struggle. The United Nations will continue to function, but new nations (from the colonial world) will be of increasing interest to American imperialism which shall attempt to establish solid relations with them not in the outmoded form of colonial occupation, but through the ties of business, commerce and economic loans.

The Marshall Plan, largely responsible for the temporary containing of Stalinism in Europe, will continue and at least $4 billions will be advanced this year. To bolster the economic and political gains of the Marshall Plan, a North Atlantic pact in the form of a “collective defense arrangement” will be arranged. Those nations involved in it will be supplied by a new form of lend-lease material aid, an adjunct to the ERP program. It is a “companion piece” of the Marshall Plan.

Streamlining U.S. World Control

Finally, and the newest concept of all, Truman proposed a broad generality according to which America will make “the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.”

It is clear that here we have a general conception that may mean innumerable things – for example, the development of a special Marshall Plan for a future Asiatic anti-Stalinist Union. Its specific meaning was deliberately left out for many reasons, most notab|e of which is the fact that the entire Asiatic world, thanks to the victory of Chinese Stalinism, is readjusting its relations with the Western nations and nothing is yet clear.

Behind the whole Truman, address is the recognition that economic factors will represent the new Administration’s most serious headaches in the future. Too many signs exist that the post-war boom period is over. The domestic market, in terms of capitalist economics, appears to have reached the saturation point or very soon will. Yet American imperialism is more productive than ever before! More than hitherto, it must turn toward outside markets and new areas for doing business. Conditions in Europe are such that no answer lies there. It is quite likely that an unprecedented stress may be placed by the new administration on capital investment and business relations with those areas of the world – Africa and southeast Asia. – that have yet to come under Stalinist influence and can still be developed in capitalist terms. It is apparently this that Truman had in mind in stating his new worldwide economic paternalism.

To say that America and the imperial power it represents has its social, political and economic fingers in every part of the world has become an obvious statement of fact. Now begins the period in which the effort will be made systematically to organize, streamline and build up this power. This is the main task that Truman has set for his administration – the systematic extension of the network of complicated binding ties which American imperialism is weaving around the world.

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