Policy Planning Staff Files

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs ( Thorp ) to the Secretary of State

top secret

Subject: NSC Report No. 7, The Position of the United States with Respect to Soviet-Directed World Communism.1

Most of the recommendations in this National Security Council report deserve our support. There is one general theme missing, however, that I consider of the highest importance.

The writers of the report have stressed the measures to be taken to combat the activities of the Communists themselves. The report gives little or no attention to the problem of attacking Communism at its roots, by eliminating the evils for which many Europeans consider Communism the cure. What I find missing is the necessary stress on positive measures directed toward building a democratic alternative.

It seems quite clear to me that Communism has grown in Western Europe not simply through the activities of Soviet inspired and guided leaders, but as a result of more fundamental causes. The Balkan states represented in substantial degree the Marxist concept of monopoly—capitalism with wide class differentials. The growth of Communism in Western countries is a symptom that there has been, and is, something wrong in these countries, and that it is so wrong that people seeking remedies have accepted even the intellectual dishonesty and disregard for human rights that Communism—like Fascism—represents. If this is true, it is not enough simply to cut off the heads of Communists wherever they appear. One must go to the root of the matter, creating conditions which are satisfactory enough so that Communism will not exert the strong appeal which it now exerts in much of Europe.

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Two conditions are necessary before Europe will be able to free itself of this disease. One is an economic and political system that works well enough to satisfy the legitimate needs and aspirations of the great majority of the population in each country. The second is a burning faith in and enthusiasm for democratic institutions that are consistent with, although not necessarily identical with, our own democratic institutions.

Communism feeds on unemployment and economic distress. The European Recovery Program is designed to bring about substantial improvement in the economic health of Europe, and support for this Program should continue to be an integral part of our overall foreign policy. I believe that our interest in it goes, however, much further than simply seeing that the funds available are used as efficiently as possible and distributed where they will achieve the greatest good. We want to see Europe a functioning economic organism with as full employment and as high a standard of living as possible. This calls for a reduction in nationalism, and we should interest ourselves intimately in the details of Europe’s recovery and developing integration and we should throw all our weight behind plans that make economic sense for an integrated Europe, and against economic measures that tend to be disruptive or to favor small groups at the expense of others.

Communism also feeds on political frustration. There is wide-spread distrust of politicians and of political democracy in many countries in Western Europe. We obviously cannot interfere in the political institutions of these countries but I believe we should give support to political parties that offer Europeans a positive program suited to Europe’s political needs and development, rather than looking for parties and individuals who seem to represent most exactly the political and economic ideology that has been successful in America. In effect, this may mean support of the moderate Socialist parties of Europe.

Building enthusiasm, after or concurrently with economic and political measures, requires an aggressive ideological campaign whose goal should be the raising of a flag of human freedom that all European parties except the authoritatively minded could rally around. We ourselves must show that Democracy can work, and our campaign should stress the way it does work, at its best. (This has obvious implications for our own internal policy, in demonstrating by our own example that the Communist charges of instability, exploitation, and discrimination are untrue.) We need to wage a much bigger and more imaginative propaganda campaign than we are now doing, to arouse the enthusiasm of Europeans for the democratic institutions which constitute the main modern alternative to Communism. If we are to rob Communism of its attraction as a panacea for Europe’s economic [Page 559] and social ills, then we must support and publicize with every means at our disposal the effective working out of our democratic alternative.

As an example, we must convince European workingmen that our labor movement is vital, vigorous and effective. At the moment, it is probably the strongest in the world. A number of our best labor leaders should be enlisted in going to Europe and boasting of their achievements in the United States, instead of allowing the picture of American labor to be built up from the debates on the Taft-Hartley Act.

Related to the above are my thoughts about the report’s proposal of measures to “suppress the Communist menace in the United States” and abroad. It seems clear to me that a positive program such as that suggested above will be attacking the disease and make much less necessary the suppression of Communist activities. Furthermore, I think there is a very real question concerning how successful a program of suppression is likely to be in any case. Measures to exclude Communists from Government positions and from jobs in any strategic industry are certainly desirable. So are measures to publicize the Communist affiliations and sympathies of all persons demonstrated to have them. But if suppression means to put all Communists in jail, I think the measure will defeat itself, as J. Edgar Hoover2 has suggested. It is much better to leave Communists enough civil liberties so that they stay out in the open and can be identified than to drive them under ground. This means, for example, that freedom of speech, of assembly and of the press should probably not be denied to Communists, but it does not at all mean that Communists should be recognized as political parties, given time on the air as political parties, allocated newsprint where newsprint is under allocation, or in any other way treated as a desirable expression of a minority opinion. A program of discouragement that denies to Communists all of the positive aids that political parties receive in this country but allows them to exist above ground where their activities can be identified without denying the basic freedoms for which our Democracy has always stood, seems to me a more feasible treatment of Communists both in this country and abroad than the program implied by the term “suppress” in this report. We must avoid any appearances of behaving like a “police state”.

Following the same general line of reasoning as my first major point, I question the definition used on page 6, paragraph b3, where the recommendation is made that we support the Western Union as “an anti-Communist association of states”. I think it would lead to much more effective action if in our thinking and our actions we considered the Western Union and, in fact, the whole United States effort as being [Page 560] pro-Democratic rather than anti-Communist. Pro-Democratic of course implies anti-Communist, but it goes far further in suggesting that emphasis be placed upon a constructive alternative to Communism.

On page 7, paragraph 5, I have some question as to how far we should rehabilitate the arms industry of non-Communist nations where their conquest might leave such war potential resources in the hands of the Russians, rather than continuing ourselves as the major arsenal of Democracy and attempting to stress the economic rehabilitation of non-armament industries in Western Europe particularly. This has a political as well as a military aspect. To the extent that other countries expend their scarce economic resources (fuel, power, manpower, raw materials) on armaments production they will have proportionately less to devote to civilian production, and their dependence on us for assistance in the form of civilian goods will be thereby increased and prolonged. I think it will be politically easier and make better military sense for us to look toward a time when these countries are economically independent (exclusive of their war industries) and when we provide the armaments, rather than looking toward a long continuing economic dependence on us for both civilian and military supplies.

On page 8, paragraph 9, I think it is clear from my first major point that a vigorous and effective ideological campaign should be given a much larger part in our anti-Communist effort than seems to be implied in this report.

  1. March 30, p. 545
  2. Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.