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Ben Hall

PROS AND CONS: A Discussion Corner

How Shall We Look at ERP?

(21 June 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 25, 21 June 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Hall is looking at the world through one eye,” says Judd, “and this one eye sees ONLY American imperialism.”

It might be presumptuous for a one-eyed person to question the vision of a man who enjoys the use of two eyes. But I gain courage in the disconcerting discovery that the original diagnostician is himself cross-eyed. It is true that optometrist Judd has two eyes, but having simultaneously moved toward his nose, each sees a different image.

“How interesting,” says Judd, that Hall does not “mention the danger of Stalinism and least of all of a general strategy for overcoming this danger.” In an article in a forthcoming issue of the Bulletin of the Workers Party I say something about this question. Judd unsuccessfully blurs together his position on aid with a vague, shimmery hint of a promised “strategy” for fighting Stalinism under the proverbial formula: “Let not thy right eye know what thy left eye is seeing.”

Double Vision

As Judd squints out of his right eye, this is what he sees: the disorganized state of Europe leads to the growth of Stalinism and Stalinist influence. Unless Europe “recovers,” experiences a “revival,” the working class will be defeated by Stalinism. The socialist revolution is far off. Therefore the reconstruction of Europe, essential to the defeat of Stalinism, must come from the existing imperialist government of the United States. Therefore we are for “exacting” “aid,” that is, the capitalist reconstruction of Europe, from the American bourgeoisie. What he has here is NOT a strategy for defeating Stalinism. All he is saying is that without the revival of Europe it is impossible to defeat Stalinism; that is, that no strategy is possible under these conditions.

This policy makes the American capitalist class the decisive social force in combatting Stalinism and therefore tends to transform the proletariat in all countries into a critical democratic, although “oppositionist,” wing of American imperialism. If the proletariat alone can combat Stalinism, then the American capitalist class alone can strengthen the proletariat! Of course, the bourgeoisie must be prodded a bit!

But again, Judd has two eyes. As he blinks out of his left eye he sees a different world.

“Do we accept the alleged humanitarian declarations of the bill or its proud boasts that it will RECONSTRUCT EUROPE AND BRING PEACE AND ORDER? We know that this is cant and hypocrisy. Nor do we have the slightest confidence in the ability of this act to accomplish what it, claims it will accomplish. Thus we would wish to signify by our vote, no confidence in the government of the American capitalist class, no trust in its proposals, NO FAITH IN ITS ABILITY TO MAINTAIN PEACE OR RESURRECT THE EUROPE IT HELPED DESTROY.” (LA statement, May 17, my emphasis.)

But if Europe must be reconstructed by American imperialism lest Stalinism conquer AND if American imperialism CANNOT reconstruct Europe, what has happened to the grand “strategy” for defeating Stalinism? Judd’s left eye sees the victory of Stalinism as guaranteed and therefore the impossibility of any program for defeating it. Thus his boast “we say modestly (!) that perhaps no other publication has posed the threatening catastrophe as clearly as Labor Action.” Judd simply cannot decide once and for all whether the victory of Stalinism is inevitable or whether it can be stopped by the American capitalist class. He would vote for the Marshall Plan or ERP just like Goldman if his vote were decisive. But we might ask, “Didn’t you just say that the existing government cannot restore European economy?”

An inmate of a lunatic asylum was found in his cell stark naked except for a silk top hat. When asked why he had taken off all his clothes he replied: “Nobody ever visits me anyhow.” But, the questioner continued, why are you wearing the silk top hat? “You can always hope for the best,” he replied as he proceeded to vote for the Marshall Plan.

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