740.5 MAP/1–2350: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom ( Holmes )1 to the Secretary of State

secret

373. Tomap.2 From EDECC.3 Believe numerous evidence of determined Communist intent organize strikes against unloading and transportation MDAP equipment and effort being put into organizing militant “defense of peace” groups requires positive consideration and action by appropriate US agencies. See pertinent cables from Rome, Paris, Brussels and others and, particularly, Rome’s 231 to Department.4

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Department’s circtel on information policy December 30, 3 a. m.,5 properly stresses positive policy based on broad objectives MDAP but also briefly indicates “Communist propaganda themes cannot be ignored.” Earlier ECC cables have also emphasized necessity keep strategy of MDAP information program positive and on broad basis but equally emphatically indicates our belief necessity of being on the ball at all times in the tactical handling of Communist propaganda. The present Communist peace campaign related to organization of strikes against MDAP shipments is an important case in point and if only noted with interest by US Government, instead of taking some counter steps, it can be detrimental basic understanding by Europeans of MDAP and NAT. We recognize that handling of strikes can only be done by governments and determined public but believe much can be done to avoid strikes altogether.

Some Embassy information and labor officers are actively working with and through government representatives and non-governmental leaders endeavoring provide non-Communist labor leaders, laborers themselves, and general public with persuasive information and educational material. However, Communist activity seems sufficiently important so that all appropriate Washington agencies, including Labor, should be working with Embassies to take timely measures to minimize its effectiveness. Excellent results for our side in Cherbourg indicate ground is favorable in most areas to defeat Communist program, but the ground should be plowed. This means positive action in Washington and in countries by country governments and Embassies. If we are to maintain initiative, must take action now.6

Sent Department 373, repeated Paris 110, Brussels 14, Rome 27; pouched other MDAP Embassies. [EDECC.]

Holmes
  1. During the temporary absence of Ambassador Lewis E. Douglas, Counselor of Embassy Julius C. Holmes was in charge of the Embassy in the United Kingdom.
  2. Designation for telegrams dealing with aspects of the Mutual Defense Assistance Program.
  3. Executive Director, European Coordinating Committee. The European Coordinating Committee (ECC), the European regional coordinating committee of the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, was composed of Ambassador Douglas as Chairman and Gen. Thomas T. Handy, Commander in Chief of United States Forces in Europe, and Ambassador W. Averell Harriman, Special Representative in Europe for the Economic Cooperation Administration.
  4. Telegram 231, January 20, from Rome, not printed, reported that the Embassy fully expected port strikes, possibly nationwide, on the occasion of the arrival of initial military shipments to Italy under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. (765.5 MAP/1–2050). During the first few months of 1950, the Embassies in Western Europe, particularly at Paris, Rome, Brussels, and The Hague, reported extensively on a Communist-directed propaganda campaign aimed at dock strikes, possibly accompanied by demonstrations and violence, against the shipment and unloading of the first installments of military supplies from the United States under MDAP. The Embassies indicated that the Communist-dominated World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) appeared to be playing an important role in organizing the campaign, and there were some reports that funds for the effort were coming from the Soviet Union. The first shipments of American military supplies under MDAP were unloaded in ports in France and Italy without significant incidents. Documentation on United States concern with the defense of Western Europe and on American military assistance through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is presented in vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Telegram 315, January 23, to London, not printed, repeated to Paris, Rome, Brussels, and The Hague, suggested that J. A. Oldenbroek, either in his capacity as Secretary General of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) or as head of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), or both, be consulted as to the most effective means of combating the anticipated Communist plans to disrupt the unloading of MDAP shipments in Western Europe. Assistance and advice to national and local non-Communist unions appeared to be appropriate and desirable (740.5 MAP/1–2350).

    Telegram 364, January 26, to London, not printed, repeated to Paris, Rome, and Brussels, stated that the Department of State agreed that the possible Communist-inspired strike situation had to be met by the governments and trade unions in each area and with the means at hand. The Department felt that a judgment as to what measures were likely to be effective must come in the first instance from the missions concerned rather than from Washington, and that positive action would also have to be taken primarily in the field (740.5 MAP/1–2350).