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Henry Judd

PROS AND CONS: A Discussion Corner

Defends Editorial on Marshall Plan

(7 June 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 23, 7 June 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Dear Editor:

Although motivated from opposite viewpoints, the critical letters of comrades Goldman and Hall published in last week’s Labor Action, equally reject Labor Action’s editorial stand on socialist policy with respect to the Marshall Plan. In my opinion, these critical letters only serve to bolster the approach of Labor Action, and do not challenge its validity. Recognizing the difficulty and complexity of the problem, Labor Action attempted to avoid the equally undesirable doctrinaire-sectarian approach (that of Hall), and the short-sighted, narrow conception (that of Goldman) by evaluating the overall meaning of the Marshall Plan and properly placing, within the framework of the Plan, the aspect of material and economic aid which is apart of it. While it is true, as Ben Hall remarks, that Labor Action’s position is much closer to that of Goldman than his own, this is irrelevant since the fact is we reject both approaches!

Goldman’s Position

Let us consider the objections of our critics. First, those of comrade Goldman. According to him, Labor Action is opposed to the Marshall Plan “... because of the motives of its proponents”; and, in the same vein, because the “conditions and strings” attached to the ERP Bill make it necessary to oppose it. Goldman has read our editorial, no doubt,but he apparently has not understood why we are against the Marshall Plan in general, and would have voted “no” on the ERP bill in particular.

Let us reiterate the basis of our opposition. Considered as a whole,the Marshall Plan in all its aspects is the concretization of American imperialist strategy in our day. Our principled opposition to imperialism makes it mandatory to oppose the Plan of imperialism; the Marshall Plan IS imperialism, the imperialism of 1948. The “conditions and strings” in the ERP Bill itself are of SECONDARY importance; they are but the symptomatic evidence of the disease itself and certainly do not determine, by themselves, our attitude towards this Bill. They help us only to diagnose its real nature. If Goldman would but take the trouble to read the ERP Bill itself, adopted several weeks ago by Congress, he would understand this. He seems to think the Bill is a simple act of Congress appropriating $5½ billions for material aid, and nothing else. Let him read the Bill, its preamble stating its purposes, the various clauses and conditions etc. and he will learn why,in the concrete circumstances, we consider this specific Act part and parcel of the imperialist cloth of the Marshall Plan and why, therefore,we express our “no confidence” in American imperialism and its Plan by voting against the very Bill which symbolizes the Plan itself.

But, at the same time, Goldman is just as wrong when he interpret sour position to signify that we would oppose such a Bill or a similar one “... even if our vote means the defeat of the bill proposing aid.”There is nothing in the editorial justifying such a conclusion, particularly since it discussed a specific bill on which a specific vote had taken place in Congress under the circumstances of today. Although far too much emphasis has already been placed upon this question of Congress, voting procedure and parliamentary tactics (all of which is subordinate to the real issues involved), let me try to make one thing clear, if only to avoid further misunderstanding. There is nothing that says our present attitude toward this particular bill must be eternal and never-changing. If the inconceivable circumstance (to me, at least, inconceivable) had arisen where ours would be the decisive vote, determining whether any aid at all would go to the peoples of Europe, then in my opinion it is quite conceivable we would vote “yes,” because THEN the issue would be one of aid, or no aid, rather than the actual, now-existing issue of a vote of confidence or no-confidence. But it is obviously the latter issue which was involved in the real vote that took place, not Goldman’s imaginary vote. Thus it seems to me that comrade Goldman has failed to properly relate the Marshall Plan (Truman Doctrine, ERP Bill, military aid et al.), and the immediate question of economic aid to Europe, hence his argument.

Hall’s Position

Our differences with comrade Hall are more serious. Although he shares with comrade Goldman the fallacy of equating economic aid to Europe with the Marshall Plan, he carries his principled opposition to an impossible extent, falling victim to that system of “logic by extension” which invariably leads to absurd extremes.

If imperialist war will be the continuation of the imperialist Marshall Plan (as Labor Action has stated), then how will Labor Action’s policy on the Marshall Plan mean continuation of its opposition to imperialist war, when and if it begins? The implication of this “devil’s logic” is that since, according to Hall, Labor Action is at present critically supporting the Marshall Plan, it will therefore critically support the war that follows from it!. What is wrong with this, of course, is that Labor Action does NOT give “critical support” to the Marshall Plan, as does, for example, the Socialist Party.

We have explained, over and over, that we are against the Marshall Plan, but we are for full material aid to Europe, supplied and furnished by the present, capitalist government. Contradictory? No more “contradictory” than any other immediate demand (such as a housing program, higher social and unemployment insurance etc.) Marxists make upon the government. Why should comrade Hall be for a housing program from the government – one which would yield huge profits to contractors, etc.? His position is reminiscent of that of some early Marxists who,“on principle,” voted against any and all government legislation. They quickly abandoned this when its absurdity became apparent. We raise the demand of full aid to Europe in the same sense as any immediate demand upon the government, regardless of its composition. Is this the same as the Marshall Plan, or support of it? Hall, by attaching as a qualification, “... in principle, the necessity to install a working-class government to aid the non-imperialist reconstruction of Europe” makes out of our immediate demand a transitional slogan whose realization lies in the future, whether near or remote.

But why must the question of aid to Europe become a matter realizable only under such circumstances?The imperialist character of Marshall Plan aid lies not in the actual physical food and material itself, obviously. Material goods are “neutral.” The question is, how are they utilized, for what purposes and by whom?That issue will be resolved by the evolution and pursuit of the class struggle in Europe itself and by our concrete struggle against all efforts by America to make use of these goods for its imperialist purposes. Is it not legitimate to also point out that carrying out of Hall’s slogan means, practically speaking, no aid to Europe today?

“The chief task of American socialists in regard to the Marshall Plan is to expose these (humanitarian) pretensions,” says Hall. We disagree, because we conceive of TWO chief tasks, of equal importance: (1) To oppose American imperialism, its imperialist Marshall Plan with all its connotations and implications, its war aims and its pretensions. (2) To fight for economic aid to the masses of Europe AT THE SAME TIME, as absolutely vital and essential for the revival of the European revolutionary movement, the only movement that can possibly defeat Stalin’s obvious intent to conquer the entire old Continent. Does Hall accept the validity of our second proposition? How interesting that in his entire article there is no mention of the danger of Stalinism and, least of all, of a general strategy for overcoming this danger! Why? Because Hall is looking at the world through only one eye and this one eye sees ONLY American imperialism. We see the twin, dual and equal menaces of both American and Russian imperialisms and this gives us a truer picture of the situation.

The revolutionary movement is pressed harder than ever on two sides by the great weight of the two Powers. If this movement is to survive and grow, it must be able to maneuver and tack within the free space still left to it. This “free space” exists because of the contradictions between the two Powers. One of these contradictions, at the moment, compels American imperialism to pour billions into Europe for its reconstruction and stabilization. We would be supreme idiots not to take advantage of this. No, we want this aid to Europe, we demand more and more of it! It will help our class brothers there and give them the possibility of lifting themselves up once more and gaining that bare physical and moral level from which they will have the strength to combat, on an independent basis, both imperialist war camps. Prostitutes, Black Marketeers and paupers can’t make a revolution!

Thus we must reject Goldman’s position because it would mark a break in our consistent political opposition to American imperialism; and thus must we reject Hall’s position because it would shunt aside to another planet the need for a concrete struggle on behalf of the European workers. The position of Labor Action is: against the Marshall Plan as a whole; for the fullest immediate economic aid to the peoples of Europe.


Henry Judd

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