Hal Draper

PROS AND CONS: A Discussion Corner

Consistent Opposition to Marshall Plan

(14 June 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 24, 14 June 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Henry Judd’s reply last week should, I think, makes it clear that the editorial he defends is trying to ride both horses on the Marshall Plan. The Goldman-Farrell position is in my opinion incorrect, but it makes sense. The editorial does not; and Judd only brings its ambidextrous character into the light.

The emphasis in the editorial SEEMED to be: opposition to the Marshall Plan on PRINCIPLE. Judd furthermore concedes that this opposition is NOT based on any conditions or strings in the ERP bill itself, but on the necessity of voting No to show lack of confidence in the imperialist government which proposes it as the concretization of American imperialist strategy today. He even says: “The Marshall Plan IS imperialism” – which, I presume, means that whatever objectionable“clauses and conditions” are written into the bill, these objections are secondary and not decisive.

With this, I agree. But this phase of the editorial is only the left-handed pitch. Side by side with it somehow, the editorial and Judd insist that we are for economic aid to Europe “BY THE PRESENT, CAPITALIST GOVERNMENT.” This furthermore is to be viewed as an IMMEDIATE DEMAND, like a housing program.

Essential Question

Now if this present capitalist government proposed a Housing Plan (let us say, for good capitalist reasons and no matter what the motivations or preambles), we might condemn it as inadequate and demand more; but certainly we would not oppose the Plan on principle! Nor would we declare in advance that we would vote No on it – even if our vote was not decisive! Nor would we mouth phrases like: “This Housing Plan IS capitalism, etc.! In fact, if the editorial in question WERE about an “immediate demand,” it would be fit only for a curiosity in a political museum.

This touches the essential question. If you would vote No on the ERP bill FOR NO OTHER REASON than the fact that it is the concretization of American imperialist strategy and as a vote of no-confidence in the imperialist government which is going to employ it as such – then how on earth are you ever going to vote FOR any economic-aid bill proposed by this “present, capitalist government”? It can’t be done.

Would it be enough to counterpose a bill cleansed of “conditions and strings”? No, these are not the decisive things, you say. Then what would you propose such that you can vote FOR aid by this present, capitalist government? What COULD you propose, if you are for voting No on ERP precisely as a vote of no-confidence in this present capitalist government itself?

To Ben Hall and myself, Labor Action answers: We are for aid by this present imperialist government. And in answer to Goldman the ball shifts to the other hand. But we will vote No on any bill actually proposed for employment by this present imperialist government – no confidence! – even with no conditions or strings written into the bill. One cannot continue to pen schizo answers like this,i n alternate “reply” to the pro- and anti-Marshall Plan positions.

Given political opposition to American imperialism’s Marshall Plan for the reasons you state in the anti-phase of your see-saw: there is only one possible way to view the question of “economic aid.” That is precisely as a “transitional demand” (as we have called certain demands which present an answer to an immediate problem but which are not realizable under this present capitalist government). It was this line which was specifically rejected in the formulation of the editorial, when I proposed it in advance – hence the uneasy see-saw.

Transitional Demand

We want to make clear that we have nothing in common with the Stalinists’ preference for economic chaos and ruin in Western Europe and their opposition (admitted or not) to economic aid as such. We are for economic aid – but not for an economic-aid program which is the main arm of American imperialism’s drive to buy up Europe.

To this we counterpose ECONOMIC AID TO EUROPE UNDER WORKERS’ CONTROL, not under the control of this present capitalist government. As Marxists we fully recognize that a fight for this is part and parcel of the fight for a workers’ government – that is why it is a“transitional demand.” But that is the only economic-aid program on which we can vote Yes without going along with “the American imperialist strategy in our day.” This essential idea, here concisely expressed, would require expansion and elaboration, of course, but it is the political heart of the question I am concerned with in this restricted space.

To this Judd replies that “it would shunt aside to another planet” the need for economic aid to Europe. (He thus says a bit too much in his new-found discovery that your position is “much closer to that of Goldman” than it is to Hall’s and mine.) We used to hear that planetary sneer when, during the late imperialist war, we insisted that we were FOR fighting Hitlerism, but against supporting this “war against fascism.” How then did we propose to fight Hitlerism concretely (that is, with armed force)? Under a workers’ government, we said (in political essence); meanwhile the main enemy was at home. Then came the reference to planets, by people who wished to represent the imperialist war as primarily (for them) a “war against fascism” – just as supporters of the Marshall Plan today claim that its decisive (for them) political, meaning is European economic reconstruction, rather than the main gun in the cold phase of World War III.

But – as the editorialists and Judd know in their left phase – the fight for a workers’ government is not taking place on another planet; it happens to be the reason for existence of the Workers Party and Labor Action. Our position on the Marshall Plan (that is, on American imperialism), must be indissolubly connected with it.

Last updated on 1 March 2018