Truman Doctrine

Henry Wallace, Secretary of Commerce, favoured co-operation with the Soviet Union. In private he disagreed with Harry S. Truman about what he considered to be an aggressive foreign policy. Wallace went public about his fears at a meeting in New York City in September, 1946. As a result, Truman sacked Wallace from his administration.

Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman

On 12th March, 1947, Harry S. Truman, announced details to Congress of what eventually became known as the Truman Doctrine. In his speech he pledged American support for "free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures". This speech also included a request that Congress agree to give military and economic aid to Greece in its fight against communism. Truman asked for $400,000,000 for this aid programme. He also explained that he intended to send American military and economic advisers to countries whose political stability was threatened by communism.

Primary Sources

(1) Henry Wallace, speech in New York City (12th September, 1946)

I plead for an America vigorously dedicated to peace - just as I plead for opportunities for the next generation throughout the world to enjoy the abundance which now, more than ever before, is the birthright of men.

To achieve lasting peace, we must study in detail just how the Russian character was formed - by invasions of Tarters, Mongols, Germans, Poles, Swedes, and French; by the intervention of the British, French and Americans in Russian affairs from 1919 to 1921. Add to all this the tremendous emotional power with Marxism and Leninism gives to the Russian leaders - and then we can realize that we are reckoning with a force which cannot be handled successfully by a "Get tough with Russia" policy. "Getting tough" never bought anything real and lasting - whether for schoolyard bullies or businessmen or world powers. The tougher we get, the tougher the Russians will get.

We must not let our Russian policy be guided or influenced by those inside or outside the United States who want war with Russia.

(2) President Truman, speech to Congress (12th March, 1947)

At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is often not a free one. One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression.

The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio, fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedom. I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

(3) Andrei Vyshinsky, Soviet Union spokesman at the United Nations, speech (18th September, 1947)

The so-called Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan are particularly glaring examples of the manner in which the principles of the United Nations are violated, of the way in which the organization is ignored. This is clearly proved by the measures taken by the United States Government with regard to Greece and Turkey which ignore and bypass the United States as well as the measures proposed under the so-called Marshall Plan in Europe.

This policy conflicts sharply with the principles expressed by the General Assembly in its resolution of 11th December, 1946, which declares that relief supplies to other countries "should at no time be used as a political weapon". It is becoming more and more evident to everyone that the implementation of the Marshall Plan will mean placing European countries under the economic and political control of the United States.

The so-called Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan are particularly glaring examples of the way in which the principles of the United Nations are violated, of the way in which the Organisation is ignored. As is now clear, the Marshall Plan constitutes in essence merely a variant of the Truman Doctrine adapted to the conditions of postwar Europe. In bringing forward this plan, the United States Government apparently counted on the cooperation of the Governments of the United Kingdom and France to confront the European countries in need of relief with the necessity of renouncing their inalienable right to dispose of their economic resources and to plan their national economy in their own way. The United States also counted on making all these countries directly dependent on the interests of American monopolies, which are striving to avert the approaching depression by an accelerated export of commodities and capital to Europe.

It is becoming more and more evident to everyone that the implementation of the Marshall Plan will mean placing European countries under the economic and political control of the United States and direct interference by the latter in the internal affairs of those countries. Moreover, this plan is an attempt to split Europe into two camps and, with the help of the United Kingdom and France, to complete the formation of a bloc of several European countries hostile to the interests of the democratic countries of Eastern Europe and most particularly to the interests of the Soviet Union. An important feature of this Plan is the attempt to confront the - countries of Eastern Europe with a bloc of Western European States including Western Germany. The intention is to make use of Western Germany and German heavy industry (the Ruhr) as one of the most important economic bases for American expansion in Europe, in disregard of the national interests of the countries which suffered from German aggression.

(4) Izvestia, newspaper published in the Soviet Union (13th March, 1947)

Commenting on Truman's message to Congress, the New York Times proclaims the advent of the "age of American responsibility". Yet what is this responsibility but a smokescreen for expansion? The cry of saving Greece and Turkey from the expansion of the so-called "totalitarian states" is not new. Hitler used to refer to the Bolsheviks when he wanted to open the road for his own conquests. Now they want to take Greece and Turkey under their control, they raise a din about "totalitarian states".

(5) John Foster Dulles, speech (29th March, 1954)

The free nations want peace. However, peace is not had merely by wanting it. Peace has to be worked for and planned for. Sometimes it is necessary to take risks to win peace just as it necessary in war to take risks to win victory. The chances for peace are usually bettered by letting a potential aggressor know in advance where his aggression could lead him.

(6) George Kennan, Foreign Affairs Journal (July, 1957)

It is clear that the main element of any United States policy towards the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies. It is clear that the United states cannot expect in the foreseeable future to enjoy political intimacy with the Soviet regime. It must continue to regard the Soviet Union as a rival, not a partner, in the political arena.

(7) John Gates, The Story of an American Communist (1959)

Communists shared power with other parties. The Communists called these states "peoples' democracies" to distinguish them from the Soviet-model "dictatorship of the proletariat" and many Communist parties actually changed their name. Today when much attention is focused on the question of independent paths to socialism, as advocated by Tito in Yugoslavia and Gomulka in Poland, it is often overlooked that such ideas were officially condoned by Moscow between 1944 and 1947.

One year after Churchill's speech at Fulton, however, the lines became sharply drawn. The Truman Doctrine was launched for Greece and Turkey and to "contain Communism" everywhere; the Communists were ousted from the national unity governments of France and Italy (which they did not strongly resist, evidently preferring to go into opposition). In reply, the Communist Parties of the Soviet Union and of eight countries in Eastern and Western Europe set up the Communist Information Bureau, popularly called the Cominform. Coalition governments in Eastern Europe were broken up and the Communists proceeded to take over full power and establish "dictatorships of the proletariat." Against this background, American Communist Party policy became still more narrow and self-defeating. In opposing the cold war, we placed the entire blame on the Truman policy and we would not concede that any share in responsibility for the tensions could be attributed to the policies of Moscow and the Cominform. It is my opinion-which I know many readers will not share-that powerful, reactionary forces here at home were mainly respon¬sible for the cold war; they did not conceal their opposition to peaceful coexistence and their active hostility to socialism. What I could not bring myself to see in those days was the considerable responsibility on the part of Moscow as a result of wrong policies of Stalin (and if I ever saw it, I considered it my bounden duty not to say so).

As policy hardened in the international communist movement, the Foster group increased the pressure to make everyone toe the mark. The Daily Worker which reflected the coalition policies to which the Dennis group still tried to cling, was the target of attacks from Foster, Thompson and Davis.