Henry Wallace's 1948 Presidential Campaign and the Future of Postwar Liberalism

By Thomas W. Devine | Go to book overview

4
WALL STREET IS IN THE SADDLE
Henry Wallace’s Critique of Containment

As the New Party’s fortunes appeared to be on the upswing, Wallace’s views, particularly on foreign policy, came under closer scrutiny. Since late 1947, the former vice president had been denouncing the Marshall Plan in particular as an imperialist plot hatched by Wall Street bankers. Wallace had initially supported Secretary of State George C. Marshall’s proposals for European aid, but when the Soviets refused to participate, he concluded that “warlords and moneychangers” had perverted the plan’s good intentions and planned to use it to divide Europe. Thereafter, Wallace sharpened his critique of the Truman administration’s “bipartisan reactionary war policy” while trying to place Soviet moves in the best possible light. Anything the Soviets did that might appear “aggressive,” Wallace maintained, was merely a defensive response to Washington’s relentless warmongering. While Truman “fabricated” a war scare and whipped up anticommunist hysteria at the bidding of Wall Street and the military, Wallace insisted that Moscow remained eager to establish peaceful coexistence if only U.S. officials would sit down and negotiate an “understanding.”1 Events during the first half of the new year—particularly the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet blockade of Berlin—undermined Wallace’s central argument that ending the Cold War required only a change of leadership in Washington. Regardless of who had initiated the conflict, it was now clear that both sides had a role in escalating it. Even many on the left who had at one time shared Wallace’s views on foreign policy grew uncomfortable with his labored justifications for what they considered unacceptable

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