In his recent travels, U.S. president William Clinton has been touting the 50-year-old European Recovery plan, better known as the Marshall Plan, as a model for peace and economic development. Under this scheme, the U.S. rulers provided $13 billion in loans between 1948 and 1951 to restart industry and rebuild the infrastructure of the war- torn capitalist countries in Europe. Far from advancing peace, the Marshall Plan was designed to codify Washington's hegemony over its imperialist rivals, stave off further revolutionary developments in Europe, and maximize economic pressure against the workers state in the Soviet Union.
Below we reprint major excerpts from an article that appeared in the July-August 1947 issue of Fourth International, a precursor to the Marxist magazine New International. In it the magazine's editors explain the real aims of the recently announced Marshall Plan. The entire article will be available in the upcoming Collected New International, to be published by Pathfinder Press in CD-ROM format. Copyright 408 Printing and Publishing. Reprinted with permission. Subheadings and footnotes are by the Militant.
The Marshall Plan represents the most finished and thought-out scheme of American imperialism to bend ruined and prostrate Europe to its needs, to exert further economic and political pressure to hem in Russia, and to realize hegemony of the continent. The Marshall Plan bases itself on the new relationship of forces and the new facts that have now come into sharp relief two years after the war: Not only America's military and industrial superiority vis-a-vis Russia, but the incurable disintegration of the British Empire and its inability to maintain the pretensions of a first-rate power; the helplessness of the European capitalist classes; the out-and-out bankruptcy of Europe; and the utopian character of the Potsdam(1) agreement.
Just as the Potsdam agreement represented the high point of collaboration between Washington and Moscow, so the Marshall Plan represents a high point of the break between these two world powers, and the scrapping of all the former pacts, in the first instance, the Potsdam agreement.
The Potsdam agreement along with the previous agreements at Teheran and Yalta, was an attempt to divide up in a business-like manner the spoils of war between the three major powers, the United States, England and Russia, and to parcel out the European continent along the same lines. The United States and England would run Western Europe through traditional economic penetration and imperialist methods of control. Eastern Europe would fall into the Kremlin's "sphere of influence." And Germany would be run as a joint military enterprise of the three powers, with a minor cut provided for the country cousin, France...
Everything went wrong with this strategy from the economic standpoint.
The attempt to rehabilitate the economies of England and France has failed. The huge $4 billion loan to England will be used up by the end of the year. Loans totaling almost $2 billion to France have likewise melted away. And instead of their economies showing improvement, they are both in acute crisis. They cannot revamp their internal economies, their colonial empires are in open revolt. Far from being able to take the lead in reorganizing and stabilizing capitalism in Europe, they have become the prime sources of its disorganization and disintegration.
Hopelessly bankrupt France greedily sucks every possible ounce of blood out of the Saar and its "colony on the Rhine," and bickers with England over its share of the plunder of Ruhr coal.(2) England, in control of the Ruhr, has kept this greatest industrial concentration of Europe in a state of economic anarchy. Ruhr coal production averages no more than half the pre-war level. Now England finds itself in such a bankrupt state that it cannot pay out any longer the necessary sums to maintain its military establishment in Germany.
The Kremlin's political methods are different, but its aims are identical with those of France and England - to plunder Germany. First, it proceeded to dismantle the plants in its zone and ship them bodily to Russia. This vampire policy was abandoned, not out of humanitarian considerations, but because it proved unprofitable. The machinery arrived damaged, or with essential parts missing, or Russia found it lacked the necessary skilled labor or personnel. Now it keeps the plants in its zone running full blast, but confiscates 50 to 70 per cent of all production and ships it to Russia - as reparations. Thus Germany, its living flesh torn from all sides by four ravenous wolves, is literally bleeding to death; and its death threatens to drag the rest of Europe down into the abyss, and endanger the existence of capitalism, on a world scale...
Two years after the signing of the Potsdam agreement, the United States finds itself further from its objective than it was after the war - of stabilizing European capitalism, converting it into a profitable preserve of American imperialism, and incorporating it into its assigned place in the projected American Empire. In addition, half of Europe, including half of Germany, is in the grip of the Kremlin. The Stalinist oligarchs have closed this vast region to Western capital, have aligned by main force all of the economies therein with their own and have first call on all its resources and raw materials.
The United States has already sunk over $21 billion into Europe through governmental loans, property credits, World Bank and International Monetary loans, plus relief. As mentioned before, England and France have all but used up their huge loans with no noticeable improvement in their positions. They again stand on the verge of a catastrophic crisis. Italy's position is even more desperate. As for Germany, it is worse off today than at the war's end. So phenomenally successful have the Allies been in their policies of "de-industrialization" and destruction, that they are now even forced to import food into Germany at their own expense, to prevent the whole structure from collapsing underneath. Under American tutelage, Western Europe is in such a state of disorganization, demoralization and decay, and such a source of losses rather than profits, that cynical Congressmen have dubbed the whole affair as "Operation Rathole."
Under the whip of stern necessity, the gang of arrogant generals and cocky industrialists who have undertaken to teach the Europeans "our way of life," have been forced to take stock and seriously ask themselves the question: Where do we go from here? Two years sufficed to teach even them, that saber-rattling, threats, denunciation of Russia was insufficient to guarantee their hegemony. Despite the big loans, Europe was in danger of collapsing, with all the incalculable political consequences that that would involve.
Face to face with this mounting threat to its rule - not only in Europe but also in Asia ! - the American masters sat down to appraise the situation and attempt to think, for a change. The result is - the Marshall Plan.
The Marshall Plan recognizes in effect the new reality; that Europe is partitioned in two with the eastern half withdrawn from the capitalist world market. There is no way, right now, for the United States to breach this iron curtain, short of war. Secondly, the plan to restore Europe through the instrumentality of Britain and France, and on the basis of a crushed Germany, has failed. Therefore the whole old policy is to be scrapped and all the old estimates must be revamped. The Potsdam scheme is to be junked, in toto. Wall Street now proposes to rebuild Germany. The financial magazines talk of rebuilding it to 75 per cent of its pre-war level. They plan to send their engineers, financial experts, and production planners into Western Germany, provide it with capital loans, machinery, raw materials, food and credit; raise coal production to its pre- war level, rebuild partially its steel industry, and get the productive machinery moving again. A revived Western Germany can then proceed to pump life blood into the sclerotic veins of the rest of Europe. By means of this sharp reorientation, American imperialism hopes to eventually see daylight ahead and convert Europe into a profitable undertaking for the Wall Street banks. This is the whole sum and substance of the Marshall Plan, from its economic side. Everything else said about it falls into the domain of technique, diplomatic bunk and window-dressing.
Can Wall Street put the plan across? After all, this very same question of Germany has divided the powers for three decades. For the past two years, France and England have been unable to reach an agreement on the far more modest plan to restore the Ruhr coal mines. But the very weakness of these two powers and their pathetic dependence upon the colossus across the sea - the only solvent imperialist power in the world -means that finally Wall Street will have its way and will push through the plan. France will have to give up its dream of being first claimant in robbing Germany's coal and uniting it with the iron ore of Lorraine to build up French steel as the center of the new European economy. England will be forced to cede its exclusive control over the Ruhr to the Wall Street banks, and content itself with a more modest role in the projected new Germany. John Bull's hope at the war's end to rebuild the Ruhr under its own hegemony, with France in the position of a junior partner, has gone up in smoke. Both "allies" are being unceremoniously elbowed aside by the American overlords. All England and France can now hope to do is blackmail Wall Street to give them additional loans and other concessions and emoluments, in return for faithfully carrying through the terms of the Marshall Plan...
It is apparent that the Marshall Plan is the most logical and sensible plan of action yet devised by American imperialism to realize its imperial aims. Not only that; but the plan was launched with a diabolical disingenuousness. Big hearted Uncle Sam, full of good will and humanitarian sentiments towards his less fortunate kin folk, came forward and said simply: "Stop fighting, boys. Get together. Figure out how you can pool your resources and what you can do to help yourselves. I will undertake to make up the difference and help you out with some loans. Let's all put our shoulders to the wheel, go to work and give the people some security." What could be more altruistic and sensible than that?
West-European capitalism is so insolvent and helpless that no sooner was Marshall's speech delivered, then Bevin,(3) like a gang foreman, lined up in single file all of the European statesmen with their food bowls extended. The London Economist observed wryly that "Western Europe now has what is virtually a standing economic committee for answering and briefing Mr. Marshall." The organ of the British banks speaks of the 16 countries participating in the Paris Conference as the "Marshall countries." Grasping, greedy, perfidious Uncle Shylock was thus permitted to step out on the European stage donned in the trappings of a kindly, down-to-earth gentleman attempting to bring a semblance of order and sanity into Europe's shattered, crazy- quilt economy; to unify its efforts, and supplement the lacks with goods and loans. It is not too difficult to imagine that this project must have aroused considerable hope amongst the European peoples. "Possibly this offers a way out of the blind alley," must have reasoned the weary, hungry Europeans.
The Kremlin bureaucracy is so bereft of any program for Europe that the mere announcement of the Marshall Plan was sufficient to drive it into a corner. What a commentary on the black reactionary character of the Stalinist regime, and its lack of all perspective, that it flatfootedly put itself in opposition to any attempt to unify the European economy. As against Wall Street's plan to organize Europe under its hegemony and for its benefits, the Kremlin proposed-what? Nothing! No plan, no perspective, no hope for the peoples of Europe. Nothing...
What are the prospects for the Marshall Plan? Once the Wall Street tycoons overcome the opposition of the European capitalists, blackjack Congress to vote the necessary funds, and the plan actually gets into operation, its initial success is entirely possible within certain strictly defined limits. By pouring several billion dollars into Western Germany, and abrogating the Potsdam rules, the Ruhr can be partially revived; with coal, steel, machinery, railroad equipment, etc. again provided Western Europe. If nothing more, at least a semblance of international exchange can be restored, and the living standards of the masses raised to levels, which while remaining very low as compared even with pre-war days, would nevertheless be an improvement over the present.
In contrast, there is little prospect for significant growth of East-Europe's industries or impressive revival, of its agriculture, and the betterment of its standard of living. Despite the wholesale looting and exaction of reparations from Eastern Europe, Russia's Five Year Plan is progressing poorly. Industrial areas that were occupied by the Nazi armies are producing less than 50 per cent of pre- war levels, and the targets in the main sectors are not being attained.
For many, many years, Russia will be unable to supply the countries under its domination with their main needs: machinery, manufactured goods, farming equipment, fertilizer, credits and loans. Even Eastern Germany, whose industries - in contrast to the enforced idleness of Western Germany - are going full blast, faces a dismal future.
Not only because Russia steals the greater part of the production, but because the stockpiles of existing raw materials are disappearing and Russia lacks a surplus of raw materials which it can ship in sufficient quantities into Germany.
It is clear that even a mildly revived Western Europe will exert a murderous economic pressure upon Stalin's European domain. The East-European peoples will blame Stalin and his bloody regime for depriving them of preferred Western loans, the possibility of integrating their primarily agricultural economies with the industries of the West and thus bettering their living standards...
Can the Marshall Plan afford Europe a new period of stabilization, and therefore a mitigation of the class conflicts which are again on the rise in France and Italy? The very opposite results are far more likely. Even before the Marshall Plan is a going proposition, the Wall Street bourbons have forced the Communist parties out of the Italian and French cabinets. One can imagine how ruthlessly they will wield the dollars in an attempt to blackmail the masses and force them behind authoritarian governments. But the European masses, who have demonstrated so unmistakably that they wish to rid themselves of the scourge of capitalism, will resist, we may be sure, both the mailed fist and the blandishments of dollar diplomacy.
1. The heads of state and foreign ministers of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union met in July 1945 in Potsdam, outside Berlin, following the German regime's surrender in World War II. The discussions there took up the continued war against Tokyo and the division of Europe among the victors. This included initial agreements on extracting reparations from Germany and the other defeated countries.
2. Saarland and the Ruhr valley are coal-rich industrial areas in western Germany, bordering France.
3. Ernest Bevin was foreign minister of Labour government in Britain, 1945-51. He helped lay groundwork for NATO military alliance.
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