Socialist eastern Europe stands to be left out in the cold under the Marshall Plan
In my last article I discussed the Marshall plan in relation to Western European social-ism. This week I want to examine it in the light of Eastern socialism. Two recent speeches at the United Nations--the first by Jan Masaryk of Czechoslovakia and the other by Oscar Lange of Poland--provide an excellent point of departure, for they sum up most cogently the feelings of the non-Communist left in Central and Eastern Europe.
Officially Jan Masaryk belongs to no party, but I do not think it arbitrary to class him among those progressive Europeans who accept the fact that the future pattern of their countries includes a larger measure of Socialist Planning. In Masaryk a flair for epigrams and a curious blend of Slavic wit and Latin charm at times create the impression that he takes a rather light approach to world problems. But when be spoke at the Gen-eral Assembly, he was in deadly earnest.
Oscar Lange is a long-standing member of the Polish Socialist Party and a distinguished economist. His address was one of the most penetrating analyses of Europe's economic tragedy the U.N. delegates have heard; it even won qualified praise from Willard L. Thorp, American representative on the Economic Commission. It will be said, of course, that Lange, like Masaryk, speaks for the Kremlin. But I am convinced that were he still a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, totally divorced from politics, he would have said exactly the same things.
Masaryk and Lange agreed that Europe is already firmly committed In the direction of socialism and will resist any attempt to force it back into the pre-war mold. With polite but ironic regret that his words might send shivers up the spines of certain countries which have flourished under rugged individualism, Masaryk declared that "nationalization of important parts of industry has become the irretrievable program of Europe to-day."
Lange built a remarkable case for socialist planning by comparing the achievements of his own country since the war's end with the proposals of the Paris conference. Taking the first recommendation of the sixteen-nation report, on the production effort, he pointed out that the index of Polish industrial production in the first six months of this year was 95 per cent of the pre-war monthly average. Moreover, Poland's increased coal output is contributing greatly to general European recovery. In regard to the rec-ommendations on internal financial stability, he indicated that Poland has already attained the goals set by the Paris conference: prices have been stabilized and the Polish treasury shows a surplus for this year. As for economic cooperation among the participating countries, he revealed that although Polish trade with the Soviet Union is higher than ever before, it represents only 43 per cent of total exports, 57 per cent going to other countries. With hard facts and figures he demolished the arguments of the Western bloc-builders. Lange's speech should be reprinted in full and distributed among all those who prefer peace without a number to World War III. Paraphrasing Litvinov's historic sentence about the indivisibility of peace, the Polish spokesman warned his listeners that "prosperity, too, is indivisible."
A survey of what has happened since the Marshall plan was first proposed shows that Lange was not simply talking for effect. Negotiations to revive trade between East and West have been going on as steadily as if the famous "iron" curtain were really made of paper. Nor is it only the small countries which are seeking such trade; since August one of the major partners in the democratic crusade, Great Britain, has been carefully reexamining its commercial ties with other nations in the hope of securing an export market in the Balkans. Britain is desperately anxious to obtain from Eastern Europe raw materials, poultry, cheese, and other dairy products which it has been forced until now to import from distant colonies and dominions. And despite all the verbal warfare at Flushing Meadow, the Labor government is at this moment preparing to reopen negotiations for a trade agreement with Russia, This was Sir Stafford Cripps's first act as Britain's new "economic czar."
European recovery would have made far more rapid progress by now had the economic problem not been treated as a football in a contest between opposing power blocs. It ought rightly, Lange said, to have been the task of the United Nations from the start. He paid special homage to the work of the Economic and Social Council. Most of the talk in the U.N. corridors these days revolves about the failures of the world organization, and it was a refreshing change to listen to the Polish delegate's constructive examination of the work that has been accomplished. The press and radio have continuously played up the clash and bluster of the Security Council meetings and paid little, attention to the problems handled by the Economic and Social Council in the past twelve months. It has, for example, prepared a scrupulously detailed report on economic conditions in Europe, including proposals for meeting the most urgent needs. The U.N., through the work of its specialized agencies, might become the fulcrum of the reconstruction effort. But the Economic Council and all its allied agencies were deliberately bypassed in the Marshall plan. Assurances that Secretary General lie would be kept informed of decisions reached at the Paris conference did nothing to change the unilateral character of the American proposal.
Leaving aside its political implications, Lange believes that from the strict viewpoint of effective aid the report of the Paris conference has many pitfalls. Most of the foreign capital investments will be concentrated in Western Europe, among sixteen nations which constitute no economic entity. Only a United Europe will ever know peace, reconstruction, and prosperity. The present form and intention of the Marshall plan cannot satisfy any genuine Socialist whether he lives in the East or the West.