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PROS AND CONS: A Discussion

Confidence and Lack of It in Marshall Plan

(31 May 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 22, 31 May 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The discussion on the Marshall Plan in the May 17 issue of Labor Action is of great interest not primarily because it airs the issues in dispute between the editorial board and Goldman but because it indicates that despite differences in emphasis both take fundamentally the same position. Where one puts an ambiguous “No” the other places a qualified“Yes.”

The common basis for the two points of view can be summarized as follows: the working class of Europe cannot defeat Stalinism unless European economy is stabilized. Only the U.S. can provide, immediately and effectively, the aid essential to recovery. Since a working-class government does not now rule the United States and since action must come immediately, we favor aid for this purpose by the existing capitalist government. But the government is imperialist and attaches imperialist strings to its aid; we therefore fight for aid from the imperialist government free of imperialist strings.

Such a position does not flow from the fundamental political slogan of the “Workers Party”: Neither Washington nor Moscow: It can only reassure and stimulate political trends toward critical support of American imperialism and its world strategy. Economic recovery of Europe, free of imperialist dictation, can be supported and financed in only one way: by a working-class government in the United States. The capitalist class can and will carry out only an imperialist policy on a world scale. By proposing to persuade or compel the present government to pursue a non-imperialist policy on this question, both Goldman and the editorial board foster the illusion already prevalent enough with our meager assistance that it is possible to purge world capitalist strategy of its imperialist character if only the workers fight hard enough. Such a conclusion does not refute but strengthens those who go further and believe it possible to purge war conducted by the capitalist class of its imperialist character.

Meaning of “No” Vote

The editorial board states that a socialist congressman would vote against the Marshall Plan on grounds of “principle” as a means of expressing a lack of confidence in the imperialist ruling class. Our enthusiasm for this laudable sentiment is restrained from boiling over by the fact that this principle is in contradiction with the general line of the editorial board on aid to Europe.

The “No” vote on the Marshall Plan can be compared with the traditional stand of Marxists in voting “No” on the budget of capitalist states. The “No” vote, on principle, is cast not because of oppositions to the “connotations” political or otherwise, nor because of opposition to any single aspect or group of aspects of a given “bad” budget but as an expression of lack of confidence in the ability or willingness of the ruling class to run the state or society in the interests of the working class.

A “No” vote against the Marshall Plan “on principle,” following this traditional policy, would have to express not an opposition to any special “connotations” of the plan but a lack of confidence in the ability of the present ruling class because of its very nature as an imperialist bourgeoisie to rebuild Europe in the interests of the masses, a lack of confidence in its ability to devise anything but an imperialist plan. From this lack of confidence flows, in principle, the necessity to install a working-class government to aid the non-imperialist reconstruction of Europe.

But the editorial board while expressing its lack of confidence by a “No” vote announces its policy of “exacting” aid from the imperialist state to rehabilitate Europe without imperialist strings. The real principle thus established is that we have no confidence in the bourgeoisie when it acts in an imperialist manner but that we are confident that it can be compelled to act otherwise. This is the same principle established in a somewhat different manner by Goldman.

Chief Task

Tactical questions dealt with in the statement of the board are not decisive to this point. Whether we present our views in a bill, as amendments, how we present our ideas in a union ... all this is important. But before deciding on the validity of a given tactic we have to decide what it is supposed to accomplish. Does it aim to teach that a non-imperialist plan can be exacted from an imperialist government or does it demonstrate the need to get rid of such a government in order to get such aid.

This matter is of vital importance today because the United States obscures its real plans with professions of humanitarianism and philanthropy. The chief task of American socialists in regard to the Marshall Plan is to expose these pretensions.

War, says Judd (Labor Action, May 10) will be the planned continuation of Marshall Plan politics. Let him explain then, how our policy on war will be the “planned continuation” of our policy on the Marshall Plan. If we can exact a non-imperialist reconstruction of Europe from an imperialist government, why is it not possible to exact a war which is essentially non-imperialist?

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