For years, politicians and commentators have said that their policies are just like the Marshall Plan, officially called the European Recovery Program (E.R.P.), in order to tout their polices as positive.
Just a few examples: Al Gore called for a “global Marshall Plan” to combat global warming in 1993; writers for the Worldwatch Institute called a “Marshall Plan” to advance human security and control terrorism; history professor Charles Maier called for a “Marshall Plan” for Germany; and UNCTAD having a 62 page report describing how a “Marshall Plan” could be developed for the world’s poorest countries. Even Jeffrey Sachs, the economist who is known by environmentalists for opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, touted his vision for “shock therapy” in Russia, which hurt many Russians after it was implemented in 1995, as based on the Marshall Plan . Another great example of this is Naomi Klein’s argument that George W. Bush’s Iraq reconstruction plan was the “anti-Marshall plan.”  This article aims to set the record straight about the Marshall Plan and to assess if it is right to invoke it today.
The view expressed by Jeffrey Sachs is a clear example of the common view of the Marshall Plan. This plan, which was simply the allocation of $2.6 billion for Europe “to reconstruct its infrastructure and industry after the Second World War” was described by Sachs as showing “how a modest amount of monetary infusion created a base for [Europe’s] economic recovery to take hold.” 
A White House “fact sheet” follows this view declaring that “as Europe emerged from the devastation of World War II, the United States implemented the Marshall Plan … in 1948 to provide $11 billion  in economic support to rebuild European economies.”
However, the reality is very different.
Learning the whole story and truth about the Marshall Plan is important. This article aims to contribute to that story and open up new ways of understanding what the Plan was really about.
In September 1950, in one of his speeches defending the US bombing and intervention in Korea to uphold the “rule of force,” Harry S. Truman declared that “in 1948, the Marshall plan checked the danger of communist subversion in Europe; and since that time it has brought the [so-called] free nations more closely together in a strong economic framework.”
What Truman said brings another side to the plan itself: that it had an ideological goal of fighting “communism.” As William Blum describes, a portion of the plan was used to finance the rivals of the French Communists, the Socialist Party; send in AFL experts to subvert the Communist Party’s union dominance; supply arms and money from Corsican gangs to break up Communist strikes; burn Communist Party offices to the ground; send in a psychological warfare team, and so on. 
Blum also writes that the plan helped finance the corruption of Italy’s 1948 elections and that covert operations agency was set up using the money from the Plan “which later molded into the CIA.” 
Chris Harman alludes to this when he writes that within weeks of the plan’s announcement, parties in France and Italy, prompted by the US, forced the Communists out of their governments. 
This is what could be called the dark side of the Marshall Plan, something that no one ever talks about. The CIA connection to the Marshall Plan itself was no accident.
George Kennan, who helped form many policies in the early Cold War, said in 1948 that “the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and the CIA’s covert operations were … part of [an] interlocking … grand strategy against Stalin” while the money the CIA got from the Marshall Plan “would finance a network of false fronts,” helping to create underground political groups in Soviet-allied countries of East Europe. 
The covert nature of the Marshall Plan brings one back to Truman’s point: that the plan itself was ideological. There is no doubt that this is true. After all, a battle of ideologies created the plan itself. 
The political nature of this plan was not only to keep communists out of the cabinets of Italy and France, goals which were mainly executed through covert means, but that the plan was, as then-Secretary of State Dean Acheson put it, “a matter of national self-interest.” 
Even though the plan was originally offered to all of Europe, W.W. Rostow, an economist who worked on the plan, says that it was “part of an ‘offensive which aimed ‘to strengthen the area outside Stalin’s grasp.'” 
While the Marshall Plan had ideological goals grounded in anti-communism, it also had an economic aim. Not surprisingly, this aim was tied to the ideological goals.
In West Germany, the US government used the plan to create a capitalist system that was meant to be successful rather than offering easy and fast new markets, with the idea that “Europe’s market economy would thrive and socialism would be drained of its appeal.” 
The creation of this system is connected to another goal: building up markets for American exports, which George Marshall, who the plan is named after, expressed in a State Department bulletin in early 1948: “it is idly to think that a Europe left to its own efforts … would remain open to American business in the same way that we have known it in the past.” 
This is no surprise since the majority of the Marshall Plan’s funds “provided, went to purchase goods, mainly manufactured or produced in the United States,” which would no doubt benefit the US economy.
The Truman Administration went to great lengths to sell this to the corporate community: liaison officers of Truman promised the power corporate business lobby, the National Association of Manufacturers, that the program would be run on “sound business principles” while counteracting the “European trend toward socialism;” Paul Hoffman, the President of the Studebaker Corporation was appointed by Truman to administer the Plan, and he made American industrialists happy when he spoke about the supposed merits of America’s capitalist system. 
Despite this, the “positively uncapitalist” policies of the West German government including direct job creation by the state and strong labor unions were tolerated, while the US government “imposed a moratorium on foreign investment so that war-battered German companies would not be forced to compete before they had recovered” which enraged the business community. 
However, this was an anomaly, and did not go against the interlocking economic and ideological aims of the Marshall Plan.
There is one more aspect that must be examined: the reaction to this plan at the time it began, especially among the states involved and the activist community. In the United States, despite the fact that so-called “isolationists” opposed the plan, leading GOP politicians supported it, since it after all firmly established US hegemony over the so-called “West” and purportedly brought economic benefits to the domestic economy. 
Among the peace movement and activist community, there were difficulties for opponents of a “two-bloc world” who felt that they needed to support the Plan but with certain reservations. 
While the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) supported the plan, the Catholic Worker opposed it, saying it violated the “Christian concept of charity” and also represented an attempt to “take advantage of people’s destitution.” 
Interestingly, the United World Federalists supported the plan, but they said it was inadequate if it was the only action that the U.S. took.  Social critic and pacifist Dwight MacDonald noted at the time that the Plan was like the WPA because,
U.S. capitalism must give relief to the European peoples for the same reasons it had to give a dole to its own citizens in 1935: politically, to short-circuit revolution; economically, to enable the market to absorb goods [and in both cases] communists are the feared leaders of the revolution. 
A.J. Muste, another pacifist, took a more moderate position, saying that “objectively considered … [the] ERP [European Recovery Program/Marshall Plan] is a means of buying support for the United States in its power-struggle with Russia” but that this Plan provided, as Wittner summarizes Muste’s views, “valuable assistance to some of these countries … that could be obtained no other way” and as a result it was a “bitter dilemma.” 
Albert Einstein, when asked by former Secretary of State Henry Stimson to support the Plan, said no, since in his view, the plan was a “political scheme directed against the Russian bloc and … may serve to aggravate existing tensions.”  Henry Wallace, the former Vice-President and failed Progressive Party candidate, took an even stronger stance, arguing that the Plan was the “Martial Plan” and that he saw it as “an instrument of the cold war against Russia.” 
What was the Soviet reaction to this Plan, which originally would have encompassed Soviet satellite countries in Eastern Europe? According to Chalmers Johnson, the Soviets began setting up their own satellites “largely because it could not compete with the largesse of the United States’ Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of war-torn Europe.” 
Additionally, as the US (and the West) was trying to enact its ideological and economic aims through covert and overt means, Stalin was “taking similar measures to clamp down on potential dissent in Russian-occupied Eastern Europe.” 
A fifty-eight page report by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which has the Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley as the chair of their board of Trustees, a board “filled with a number of business-friendly folks,” sheds some light on the Soviet reaction to the Marshall Plan. Mainly, pages 9-10 are analyzed for this article. The report argues that Stalin and fellow members of the Soviet leadership “viewed themselves as relatively vulnerable, well aware that their country was much weaker in industrial and military capability than the United States.”
While a policy of confrontation with the West would not be in their interest, the Marshall Plan seemed to change the views of the USSR’s leadership, which negatively reacted to the Marshall Plan, mainly out of fear of their own “vulnerability to American economic power” and they viewed the plan not only as “an attempt to use economic aid not only to consolidate a Western European bloc, but also to undermine recently-won … Soviet gains in Eastern Europe.”
The report argues that “political and economic conditions in postwar Europe compelled each side to design policies which were largely defensive, but had the unfortunate consequence of provoking conflict with the other,” which does not take into account the aggressive position of the US.
As concerned citizens and historians recognizing the real aims of the Third World, we must make sure to not follow the Communist charge during the Cold War, that “the United States used the Marshall Plan for rebuilding war-torn Europe and subsequent economic aid programs to advance the interests of American companies and to keep the Third World dependent on the First.” 
While this charge has some truth to it, the fact that the Marshall Plan was in part about helping American companies, it is going too far to say that it alone is about keeping the “Third World” dependent on richer countries. Such a logic of domination, as ecofeminist theorist Karen Warren calls it, is much more complicated and intricate than just one program or a set of programs. Just like the horrid Tuskegee experiment, which has become “an infamous illustration of institutionalized racism and exploitation in the United States” is seen by many “as a metaphor for racism in medical research,” the Marshall Plan is a specific historical event.
To invoke the Marshall Plan to explain any policy proposed, enacted or being executed is foolish and idiotic. The plan was situated in a specific Cold War context and had certain motives. It happened once and cannot happen again. Some aspects of history can repeat themselves, but it is literally impossible to have the same exact circumstances repeating themselves over and over again.
In the end, this article hopefully shines a light on the truth about the Marshall Plan, and provides a basis to criticize those that invoke the Marshall Plan to make their policies look beneficial.
 Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. 313-4. Picador: New York, 2007.
 Ibid, 432, 442.
 The amount of money spent on the Plan seems to differ from source to source. Howard Zinn says it was $16 billion, the White House “fact sheet” says it was $11 billion, and Naomi Klein says it was $2.6 billion. Likely these numbers are different because some converted the amount of money into today’s U.S. dollars. Around $13 billion seems to be the correct figure: “Although Truman cut the request to $17 billion, the plan still met with strong opposition and after much filibustering, Congress approved $12.4 billion.”
 Blum, William. Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. 127. Common Courage Press: Monroe, Maine, 2000. Another book on this topic is The CIA and the Marshall Plan.
 Harman, Chris. A People’s History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Third Edition). 544. Verso: New York, 2008.
 Weiner, Tim. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. 32-33. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2008.
 Klein, 318.
 Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1492- Present (5th edition). 438. HarperCollins: New York, 2003.
 Klein, 217. William O. Kellogg in his book, Barron’s American History: the Easy Way writes that the Plan, “provided one example of a “counter force” to the Soviets since capitalist or socialist prosperity in Eastern Europe reduced the attractiveness of communism as an economic system” (282).
 Noam Chomsky has argued in the past that the Marshall Plan, which he considers an “export-promotion operation for American business” was a failure and that military spending “was seen as the engine that could drive economic growth after the wartime boom ended, and prevent the U.S. from slipping back into a depression” (page 39 of Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky). Whether this is correct, I am not sure, but what is clear, is that people who talk about the Marshall Plan do not tell the whole story.
 Wittner, Lawrence S. Rebels Against War: The American Peace Movement, 1941-1960. 184. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969.
 Selfa, Lance. The Democrats: A Critical History. 54. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2008.
 Wittner, 183.
 Ibid, 185.
 Ibid, 184-5.
 Johnson, Chalmers. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Reprint with introduction written in 2004, originally published in 2000). 22. Henry Holt & Company: New York, 2004.
 Harman, 545.
 Johnson, 194.
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