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Albert Goldman

[On the Marshall Plan]

(14 April 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 20, 17 May 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Dear Editor:

I was indeed surprised when I read, in Comrade Bern’s article in Labor Action of April 12, that “we opposed the Marshall Plan.” I presume that by “we” Bern means the Workers’ Party, and I must confess that I do not remember having seen anything in the Party press which indicated that the Party had come out in opposition to the Marshall Plan.

It may be that the Party had adopted a resolution opposing the Plan and failed to publish it in the press. This would be bad because it was certainly our duty to publish a statement on such an important subject. It may also be that such a statement was published and escaped my attention. In either case I wish to go on record to the effect that in my opinion comrade Bern and all others who agree with him are committing a blunder.

Basic Aim

Bern says that “we oppose the Marshall plan because of its fundamental nature and because of the strings attached to it.” According to Bern its fundamental nature is “a military plan for the stabilization of Europe as the advanced base for American imperialism and its allies in the event of a shooting war against Russia.”

It seems to me that the fundamental purpose of the Marshall proposal can be stated differently and more correctly. Its basic aim is to reconstruct the economy of Europe as a weapon against Stalinist Russia. The capitalist proponents of the plan hope that in case either of peace or war the rebuilding of ruined Europe will make it more difficult for the Stalinist regime to gain control of Western Europe.

It is of course to be taken for granted that the American representatives of the capitalist class have no altruistic motives in proposing to send help to the European people and to aid in rebuilding European economy. But surely we are not so mechanical as to permit the aims of those who propose to help Europe to be the only factor which determines our position.

Since we are not in agreement with that aim we are justified in not supporting the Plan. However, since we cannot possibly oppose sending help to the European people and aiding them in reconstructing their economy, it is impermissible for us to oppose the Plan.

It does not follow that if we cannot support the Marshall proposal we must therefore oppose it. Can we not simply explain the meaning of the Plan and why we do not support or oppose it?

Positive Proposals

Were we in the fortunate position of having a representative in Congress, his proper course would be to explain the meaning of the plan, abstain from voting, and explain his abstention.

I shall go further and say that if our vote determined the defeat or adoption of the plan, it would be incumbent upon us to vote for it, with an explanation. For it is impossible for us to stand in the way of relief to the Europeans or to prevent there building of its ruined industries. (I do not claim that the Plan will succeed or that the relief will be properly given, but that is immaterial to the issue.)

We are not confronted by a situation where the alternative to the Marshall Plan is one for the reconstruction of Europe on a socialist basis. The alternative to the attempt to reconstruct Europe on a capitalist basis is to permit the industries of Europe to remain in ruins, to permit the people of Europe to remain hungry, and thus to aid the Stalinists. It must be remembered that were we in a position to defeat the Marshall Plan and proceeded to do so, the real beneficiaries would be the Stalinists.

Naturally it is our duty to make positive proposals with reference to the administration of the Plan, such as to have the European socialist parties play a dominant role in the control of the Plan. Also, we would be justified in opposing the Plan if conditions were attached to it which would harm the European working class, such as a condition to denationalize an industry. Bern speaks about the conditions attached to the Marshall Plan, but he mentions none, and I do not know of any of such a nature that opposition becomes mandatory upon us.

Socialism, comrade Bern should constantly remind himself, is not aided by ruined industries. Nor have we ever accepted the doctrine of “the worse the better.”

It is time that we cease following the old and simple formula: If the capitalists are for it, we are against it.


Albert Goldman
April 14, 1948

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