Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Prof. J K Galbraith


Q: In your recent book, A Journey through Economic Time, you speak rather scathingly almost of people like yourself in the State Department that they were really bred virtually to be anti-Soviet. Can you tell me something about that ? Did that havanything to do with the emergence of the Cold War, this whole ethos?

A: To some extent yes. They, the Soviet - the old State Department hands were....

A: One has to say a word about the State Department in those days. In the years before the war, and during the war, the State Department was the haven of the well bred. A gentleman from a good family with an affluent wife could not work in the Department of Agriculture, or could not work in the Department of Labor, unless he was somewhat eccentric, but he could be in the foreign service, he could be in the State Department. So the State Department was a sort of aristocratic, moneyed enclave, giving rise to one of the most famous comments of FDR at the beginning of our entry into the war, where he said: "The best we can hope for the State Department in this war is neutrality." And in the aftermath, the State Department, the old hands there, had an exag - my view - an exaggerated reaction to the seeming Soviet threat. Since they disliked Communism they attributed the worst of instincts to the Russians, and against those of us who were, I think, arguing for a more moderate line, including General Clay, they were strongly suspicious that we were somehow too soft on the Russians.

Q: In '46 you've got Stalin's speech in February, you've got the Kennan telegram, you've got the Clifford and Elsey report, they all seem to be cases for the prosecution and very little else. Is that a correct reflection of the climate? Was the temperature really going to freezing point at a rapid rate?

A: Well one has - in 1946 one had two factors. One had the instrinsic anti-Communist attitudes that were very strong. But also, one must say that one had behaviour patterns by the Rus - by the Soviets that were difficult to deal with. A tendency to inward looking assertion that had, that did the most to inspire the cold warriors on our side. Do you follow me?


Q: What were the motives behind the Marshall Plan. What were the motives and how did they function?

A: Well the Marshall Plan, - the Marshall Plan began here at Harvard, where I happen to be speaking today, in the address by General Marshall at the commencement exercises, there's some thought that the full implications of that address and how it would be taken in Europe, were not realised at the time that he spoke, and a group of British, French economists, political leaders, immediately seized on this. And the primary purpose was compassionate, good willed. The notion that our former allies needed to have the help of the United States which was not touched by the war; for which the war was an employment phenomenon and an economic phenomenon that was favourable - needed to have help to get back to a normal, satisfactory life. And that was a more important attitude than anything growing out of an anti-Soviet feeling. They - that existed, and that had - was one of the reasons there was conservative support for the Marshall Plan. But primarily the Marshall Plan was an exercise in good will. Again, there was always some pattern of Soviet behaviour that helped those of us who were urging the Marshall Plan help this along. But I repeat again the major effort was one of good will, the certainty that a peaceful life required a prosperous Europe.

Q: Was there ever any serious intention that the Soviet Union could be part of the Marshall Plan?

A: No, I don't think so. There were those suggestions but by that time the sense of division, the sense of division in Europe, the attitudes that were cultivated by the Cold Warriors on our side and helped by the Soviet actions on their side, were already evident and any serious talk about the Soviets becoming part of the Marshall Plan was pure rhetoric.


A: There was talk that the - that eastern European countries and the Soviet bloc would be part of the Marshall Plan. Nobody should take that seriously. It wasn't at any time an effective possibility.

Q: Did the Marshall Plan actually work?

A: Now as to the Marshall Plan there's no question that this was one of the great exercises in economic history, economic policy. It worked. The main thing that the European countries needed at that time were financial resources to import the requisites of daily life and particularly the equipment, capital needed to restore their productive apparatus, and the Marshall Plan provided both. It also provided something which, in these free enterprise days, would be looked upon with disfavour, the requirement that the country come up with a plan, a design for the use of the Marshall Plan aid, and to see that that aid was usefully employed and that there was - that it was related to economic purpose. The Marshall Plan was a wonderful employment opportunity for some of the best economists in both the United States and Europe.

Q: Do you see it actually as part and parcel of the Cold War? Did it affect the Cold War, the Marshall Plan?

A: One has to reflect on whether the Marshall Plan helped or advanced or was neutral as regards to the Cold War. Oh, I think probably it contributed to the Cold War. This was not the primary intention of the United States, although that was the source of some relatively conservative support. But the Soviet Union, seeing the United States and seeing western Europe, engaged in this great co-operative effort, could only assume that there was some danger there. I think at this - in this respect it heightened adverse Soviet attitudes.