IF the American Secretary of State's Harvard speech brought new hope to a Europe struggling with deprivation and poten- tial collapse, the swiftness of the response made by Mr. Bevin and M. Bidault fans the hope into appreciably stronger flame. The results of this week's conversations at Paris are not fully known as this is written, but it is already clear that Britain and France are in substantial agreement on both principle and method. About the former, indeed, there could be no reasonable question. About the latter there could, and it speaks well for the resolution and good sense of the negotiators that they should have reached conclusions on this so soon. The main credit for that is due to M. Alphand, the head of the Economic Department at the French Foreign Office. His proposal is, briefly, that the European coun- tries should form the best estimate they can of their immediate needs and of the extent to which such needs can be supplied within the limits of the Continent, leaving it to the United States to see what she can do towards bridging the necessarily formid- able gap between the two totals. What is striking about M. Alphand's plan is that it makes no mention of Europe's greatest need, which is food. He desires that the position shall be ex- plored by four international committees under the four heads of coal, iron and steel, transport and agriculture. Provision will no doubt have to be made somewhere for the study of such neces- saries as timber, but there will be serious difficulty about that.
Food, of course, cannot be ignored. It is, in fact, the need that must be supplied first, for in Germany and some other coun- tries of Europe everything depends on it. To take Germany as the molt obvious illustration, for lack of food there is lack of coal, for lack of coal there is lack of steel, for lack of steel there is a lack of railway wagons, for lack of wagons coal cannot be shifted from the pitheads. To supply food on an adequate scale is to prime the pump and start a whole series of consequences which in twelve months might revolutionise production generally. For that is the essential necessity. It is by supplying Europe's pro- duction needs, not her consumption needs, that America can make her work of rescue effective. What Europe requires is not cargoes of coal from the United States, though for a short time that may indeed be necessary, but more and better machinery to enable miners in the different countries to bring to the surface the coal lying in vast quantity below the soil in many countries. What she wants is not more wheat and other foodstuffs, though for a time that cannot be dispensed with, but more tractors and more ploughs and more fertilisers to enable the fields of Europe to yield their maximum. The more Europe can express her needs from the producer's rather than from the consumer's point of view the better the impression likely to be made on the American public and the greater the probability that the help which America offers will be practically effective.
To say this is in a sense to run on too fast. America has not actually offered anything. What has happened is that the American Secretary of State, speaking at Harvard on June 5th, urged the nations of Europe to. work out a great programme of reconstruc- tion, promising that America would furnish financial assistance so far as might be practical. But it does not lie with Mr. Marshall to give financial pledges. Congress, not the President, still less the Secretary of State, is the master of the purse, and the recent action of Congress in drastically cutting down the appropriations the President asked for shows how resolute it always is in taking its own line in this field. Europe's first business is to convince the American public, for it is with them in the last analysis that the decision lies, that what is in question is not charity but a sound investment. That will not be easy. Europe disunited politically, underfed and ill-clothed, almost devoid of purchasing-power, can be made to look about as bad an investment as can be conceived. That, fortunately, is an illusion. The essentials of prosperity are still there. Destruction and devastation have been widespread, but the vast majority of the factories of Europe still stand, and the fields of Europe cannot be destroyed. Man-power, not over- abundant but adequate, exists, though its output is limited by under-feeding. Many raw materials are short, and not all the shortage can be made up in Europe itself, but if what is needed is forthcoming from overseas there is no reason why production shoUld not fairly rapidly work up towards pre-war level. But unless America can be convinced of that by rational demonstration and argument, America will have little temptation to send help that will merely stave off an inevitable collapse.
That being so, Europe's course is clear, and the nations of Western Europe, at any rate, are already taking it. Their response to Mr. Marshall is not merely gratitude but action. No time has been lost, no unfortunate differences of opinion are being allowed to cause delay. It is right and natural that Britain and France, which know their: owia minds in this matter, and find themselves of the same mind, should take the lead. We indeed would readily grant the primacy to France, both as a continental European Power and as a country in even greater need of help than we are. It is, of course, necessary to make every endeavour, as Mr. Bevin and M. Bidault are doing, to bring Russia into step. Russia's co- operation would be invaluable, but there can be no question of waiting for what Russia is apparently not willing to offer, and perhaps never may be. The choice she appears to be making must be entirely to her own detriment. Mr. Marshall has made it clear that any benefits America may see fit to offer will be available to every European country ready to join in a general response, Russia specifically included. Moscow's answer is a stream of abuse of the United States as attempting to impose a policy of its own on Europe through financial bribes. The obvious inference is that Russia means to hold aloof from any European plan. If so, the rest of Europe must be content to leave it at that, setting to work to restore its own prosperity with American help while Rutsia restores hers as best she may. What " the rest of Europe " may mean in such a case is a matter of interesting specu- lation. Poland and Yugoslavia and the rest of Russia's satellites will be placed in a strange dilemma, and it would be surprising if all of them reaffirmed their allegiance to a Russia which cannot help them as against an America which can. That is their own business primarily, but thelarger the area concerned in the united effort for reconstruction the better the prospects for such recon- struction will be, and the more easily will America be convinced that what is facing her is a genuinely practical proposition.
For the psychological aspects of the present situation' are as important as the material. The disease is desperate, and the remedy can only come from one source. There can be no ques- tion of submitting to an American dictatorship, financial or politi- cal, and nothing quite certainly is further from the minds of men like President Truman or Mr. Marshall or Mr. Hoover or Mr. Stassen. On the other hand, questionings and demurs and delays on this side would be fatal. Russia may quite possibly shape her strategy on those lines instead of presenting a point-blank refusal. The one can no more be tolerated than the other, even if it is based on plausible solicitude for the rights of the United Nations. This new chance is more immediately important than U.N.O. itself. Everything proposed and contemplated is in line with the aims of U.N.O. Every step likely to be taken can be fully co-ordinated with the machinery of U.N.O., particularly with the European Economic Commission, of which, incidentally, Russia is a member, and as active a member as she may choose to be. But if the busi- ness of co-ordination means delay it must be left till later. This is a tide in the affairs of men which must be taken at the flood. Mr. Marshall's speech constitutes at once a momentous offer and a searching challenge. Europe is required to demonstrate that it can help itself as a condition of the tender by America of help which no one else at all can tender. No particular method is pre- scribed. There is no talk of any form of federalism or any United Europe. This is primarily an economic problem. The one essen- tial, if unformulated, stipulation is that political fragmentation shall not militate against economic unity. That is why the Alphand plan, which may be as important to Europe as the Monnet plan to France, provides for international committees working on a European scale. Their purpose is to show how, with rational treat- ment and ade9uate assistance from America, Europe can be restored to a position which will make her once more a profitable market for American exports. America may reasonably ask to be shown that. With wise statesmanship here, and the new spirit which Mr. Marshall's words engender, she can be shown that.