From Cornell International Affairs Review VOL. 1 NO. 2
Cornell and the Marshall Plan (1947-1951)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Since his nomination as Cornell University’s twelfth President, Dr. David Skorton has made a “Marshall Plan for higher education” one of the cornerstones of his tenure. In his first Commencement Address on May 27, 2007, he said:
“The U.S. must provide leadership, as it did in the rebuilding of Europe after World War II. Sixty years ago… on June 5, 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, speaking at a Harvard Commencement, suggested the need for a massive program of aid and redevelopment for Europe that came to be known as the Marshall Plan. In his speech, General Marshall said: “Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.” And he stressed that the plan for European recovery had to be a joint one, involving the nations of Europe, rather than being imposed unilaterally by the U.S…. The result was unprecedented international cooperation that created what continues to be seen as an economic – and political – miracle… Over the years there have been many calls for new Marshall Plans to address various needs elsewhere in the world. But none of the plans of which I am aware has grasped the potential of universities, through comprehensive programs of teaching, research and outreach, to assist countries struggling to meet the needs of their citizens.”1
To be sure, there have been many calls for new Marshall Plans since 1947. As a matter of fact, the Marshall Plan idea has been subject to episodic appropriation down the years for projects as diverse as the “war on poverty” in American cities and Third World development projects and environmental clean-up... The Marshall Plan is interesting as a metaphor for directing foreign-policy discussions … It has come to signify a kind of bold American initiative [involving consultation and multilateralism, as opposed to imperialism].2 President Skorton is correct, however, when he claims the originality of his own plan, which focuses on higher education. Whatever the limits of analogies and comparisons, it may be interesting to go back to the period 1947-1951, to see what role Cornell played during the actual Marshall Plan.
The European Recovery Plan (ERP) was in operation from January 1948 and up to December 31, 1950 – which is not to say, of course, that the American aid to Europe started in 1947-48.3 While the range of its impact on the “miraculous recovery” of war-torn Europe is still a matter of debates among historians, there is no doubt whatsoever that the “Marshall Plan” was a huge political-psychological encouragement to Western Europe, and a major stimulus to its political integration through the economy, starting with Robert Schuman’s speech in Paris in 1950 proposing common European control over steel and coal. The Marshall’s proposal was revolutionary in that, from the very start, it required mutual cooperation among the sixteen countries that responded to the invitation to participate in the ERP program.4 They constrained themselves and joined together to improve the economic condition of almost 300 million people.
It is also obvious that the Plan has to be placed in the context of the Cold War. Although initially it was not Secretary Marshall’s intent to make the ERP an instrument in a war of ideologies between the Soviet Union and the United States,5 it was clearly aimed at demonstrating the superiority of a Weltanschauung over all the others. As Bruce Kuklik points it out,
[In the Americans’ view], a prosperous Europe, oriented by the folkways of American capitalism, would limit Soviet expansion… The export of American-style political economy would blunt it… [Besides], to gain support for its expensive and unglamorous courses of action such as the Marshall Plan, the Truman administration exaggerated the propensity of the Soviet Union, and Communist ideology in general, for military adventure.6
This view was not particularly that of right-wing cold warriors. An immigrant from Italy and a moderate liberal by American standards, Cornell professor Mario Einaudi7 wrote in 1951:
Communism opposes the reconstruction measures of post-war Europe because it realizes that the Marshall Plan and Schuman Plan aim to recover Europe’s independence and strength vis-à-vis the Soviet Union and at the same time to reconstruct Europe’s system in such a way as to eliminate some of the conditions which have led to communism…. [There is an] affinity between communism and bankruptcy and [an] incompatibility between communism and expansion and economic progress… Just as the Communists oppose the Marshall Plan because it stands for the modernization of Europe, so are they opposed to the Schuman Plan because it stands for the ideal of an open society… [Finally, they see it] as an obvious preparation forced upon [Western Europe, especially countries like France and Italy] by American imperialism.8
One has to add an important nuance: for Einaudi, the failure of the Marshall Plan could prepare the ground for a dictatorship of “the Communists” or “the Right.” In any case, the Marshall Plan and the re-militarization of Europe – including Germany – served the same goal: to create a New-Deal-like industrial democracy all around “the free world.”
So, what was Cornell’s role in the reconstruction of Europe along these lines? At first sight, there was no obvious reason why this venerable Ivy League institution founded in Ithaca in 1865, and often described as the ivory tower par excellence, should be involved in any way. With the Hoover report revealing the tragic condition of hunger, unemployment, and homelessness under which many millions of people were still living, neither Harry Truman’s Address on October 24, 1947 (“World needs must be met”), nor General Marshall’s speech on “the requirements for the rehabilitation of Europe” mentioned universities, science and knowledge in general. That the reconstruction of laboratories and educational facilities, and the furnishing of equipment and libraries in the war-devastated countries were essential for lasting world peace was certainly not a reality that was ignored in memos and speeches. But the primary focus and rationale were elsewhere. Interestingly enough, “science” was initially re-introduced as an aspect of the Marshall Plan at the suggestion of the military-industrial complex, with Vannevar Bush, nicknamed “the patron saint of American science,”9 as a major exponent of the new policy.
On the other hand, a colossal effort like the Marshall Plan could not be accomplished without the support of universities, a key-element of the American society and of its influence/prestige abroad. It is impossible to even mention, within the limits of this article, all the individual contributions made by Cornellians to the reconstruction of Europe. Some were actually discreet, yet important on a symbolic level. For example, in her account of “Senior Year 1945-46,” a Cornell student did not omit the fact that
In the spring we ran a model U.N.O. and tried a Share-Your-Share Diet in the dormitories one meal per week to raise money to send food to Europe.10
Other initiatives in which Cornellians participated, such as the illustrious Salzburg Seminar,11 show that it was possible (though very difficult) to retain the idea of American-European academic cooperation while rejecting the Cold-War ideology and questioning some (not all) “American values.”
Here, I choose to emphasize what, in my view, were Cornell’s main contributions as an institution. Cornell was part of the adventure of the Marshall Plan as a forum of ideas, a provider of scientists and technical advisors, and finally an actor of the academic cooperation and the reconstruction of science in Europe after WWII.
Cornell as a Forum of Ideas
At least two Cornellians were directly involved in the design of the Marshall Plan. The first one was Edward Whiting Fox. The quintessential preppy WASP, Fox had earned his A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in historical geography from Harvard, where he was the student of Professor Francis O. Matthiessen.12 An Assistant Dean from 1941 to 1945 (and the father of future feminist, conservative historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese), he was appointed to the U.S. Department of State by President Franklin Roosevelt, and served as Assistant Secretary of State for policy analysis in the Truman administration from 1945 to the fall of 1946, when he joined the Department of History at Cornell. However, he stayed in touch with some people within the Truman administration. Fox’s assumptions about “trading nations” and “societies’ (un)openness”13 were somehow reflected in the Marshall Plan (a transatlantic approach of world business), although his personal influence shouldn’t be exaggerated.
Professor William I. Myers’s involvement is better-known. A famous agronomist, Myers had been Henry Morgenthau’s academic adviser when the illustrious statesman studied agriculture (and architecture) at Cornell, before he dropped in order to run a farm. When Morgenthau14 was made Governor of the Federal Farm Board, with the special task of establishing a comprehensive, reliable system of farm credit, Myers became his technical advisor, and he co-wrote the Emergency Farm Mortgage Act (1933). Fourteen years later, while Dean of the Cornell College of Agriculture (since 1943), Myers, whose idée fixe was “to foster an Americanized world agriculture,”15 was appointed a member of the Harriman Committee, along with Chester Davis of the Federal Reserve Board, William L. Batt, the head of the War Economics Board, and other so-called “business liberals.” They wanted to draft the ERP as an aid program that would go beyond relief and recovery to actually “reconstruct the economic base of Western Europe, with business practices more in line with US corporate models. [They] forwarded an initial set of findings and recommendations to Congress in December 1947 that acted as the basis for the drafting of a legislative aid package.” 16
Championing the Marshall Plan
Not only did Cornell provide ideas, frames, and figures. The University also served as a source of intellectual legitimization, especially with regards to the “Cold War” aspect of the plan. That was particularly true under acting President de Kiewiet17, whose tenure coincided with the first conflict of the Cold War, in Korea. We are struck today by the rhetorical restlessness of that time. While De Kiewiet spoke proudly of himself as “a scholar of the world,” he was praised by Chancellor Day as “a militant spokesman for educational leadership in combating communism.”
In his Commencement speech on June 14, 1948, he drew a parallel between the current situation and the Greek-Persian War: “If the Persians had defeated the Greeks, it is certain that the great flow of ideas which produced the modern democratic spirit would have dried at its source.”18 Chapter 4 of his 1948-49 report to the Cornell Board of Trustees19 was entitled “No communists as teachers,” chapter 10 was entitled “Freedom must be defended” and emphasized “the responsibility of higher education for the protection of our American Way of Life.”
When U.S. President Truman proclaimed the existence of a state of national emergency due to the war in Korea (which had begun in June 1950, and whose escalation would lead to the end of the ERP), Cornell Vice-President Theodore P. Wright was named Chair of a “Defense Coordinating Council,” whose meetings seem to have been particularly bellicose in tone. On Sept. 11, 1950, for instance, the council reflected on “the need to identifying clearly and consistently what it is that the U.S. and the United Nations are defending and fighting for.” Attached to the minutes of another meeting held on Dec. 19, 1950 is a list of the existing or planned research centers that could “obtain support in the University’s National Defense Effort,” such as Aerial Photography, Air Safety, Animal Virus Diseases, Nuclear Tactics, Rockets and Rocket Fuel, but also Foreign Languages and Social Sciences.20 It does not come as a surprise, then, that this Cold War University President publicly supported a bold statement by the American Committee on United Europe.
According to the authors, the Marshall Plan had prevented the Communists from seizing power in Western Europe. Now, they asked that the U.S. Government “[send] to Western Europe additional forces” and “encourage the French plan for building an unified European Army to fight under Eisenhower’s command.”21
The Office of the President was not the only source of legitimization of the U.S. foreign policy. One can mention, for example, the participation of Solomon Cady Hollister, Dean of the College of Engineering, in a Scientific Advisory Committee whose public report claimed, “We must be prepared… to assume leadership of many kinds in a world torn apart” (Dec. 18, 1950); or the fact that the earliest example of an official history of the Marshall Plan was published by the Cornell University Press, under the auspices of the Governmental Affairs Institute” in Washington, DC.22
Attacking the Marshall Plan
At the same time, Cornell’s Presidents tried their best to support academic freedom and free speech. It was especially difficult during the McCarthy Era (as witnessed by what happened on other campuses such as Berkeley), when President Malott, a businessman and a self-defined “extremely conservative person” was “caught in the middle of a passionate debate, trying to please the Board of Trustees, who did not wish to see the University face a lot of negative publicity,” while preserving the quality of scholarship,23 and even “the essence of the institution.”24
In the case of the Marshall Plan, the opposition on Cornell campus came from two different parts. There was the traditional opposition from the part of “isolationists.” One of the most vocal opponents to interventionism in Cornell was Curtis P. Nettels, who taught American history since 1945. Nettels affirmed that “the federal government is not an agency for dispensing charity to foreign lands” (Wall Street Journal, November 18, 1947), that the Marshall Plan was nothing more than “the idea of the New Deal, applied to foreign affairs” (Ithaca Journal, Sept. 26, 1947), that it disproportionately favored Europe at the expenses of the rest of the world (“Latin-American people do not like the message that Europe comes first,” Ithaca Journal, April 21, 1948); in a final shot, he claimed that his opposition to any “super State” made him at odds with “the imperialist school” (Senate public hearing, May 17, 1949). But Nettels’ views were generally regarded as unconvincing, and the American aid to Western Europe was utterly popular.25
Then, a specifically-aimed furor inflamed Cornell, which spread nationally. It had to do with the reconstruction of science in Germany and Austria, and started with the rumor (?) that anti-Nazis were dismissed and Nazis promoted in U.S.-sponsored scientific institutes in Germany. Clarence G. Lasby has found a letter dated February 28, 1947, sent by a Cornell physicist to a colleague in the University of Chicago.
Two or three items: The Nazi scientist deal. You heard the Cornell story: plenty of outside pressure behind appointing a man who turns out OK. Was chief of a big German industrial lab, has friends here. Worked in a concentration camp, head shaved, wearing prison dress, since 1943 on electronics research. Or so the Gestapo thought. He seems to be an anti-Nazi [in fact, the War Department sought a position for him at Cornell, because he was much too outspoken and disliked by his colleagues in Germany, LF] …Cornell may appoint him on a trial basis.26
An infringement to the sacrosanct hiring practices within the academy, with pressures by the Federal Government, had re-ignited the debate on Germany’s post-war reconstruction! In the April 1948 issue of the Bulletin of American Scientists, Cornell physics professor and antinuclear activist, Philip Morrison, wrote that “German scientists worked for the cause of Himmler and Auschwitz, for the burners of books and the takers of hostages.”27 This provoked an outraged response from Max von Laue, Nobel Prize in Physics 1914, who had courageously opposed the Nazis and their Deutsche Physik (like few others, indeed), and yet had been interned in England almost one entire year (1945-46). For him, “the good Germany” was entitled to monetary and scientific support.
In short, there were also attacks against and controversies about the post-war efforts to reconstruct Western Europe according to American standards. And yet, dissensus was rare: most U.S. citizens still held optimistic views of Western Europe, despite the Holocaust; besides, “political apathy was the price many students [and faculty members] paid for becoming integrated at Cornell.”28
Cornell as a Provider of Scientists and Technical Advisors
Another way for Cornell to be part of “the Marshall Plan” was, of course, to provide Western Europe with knowledge, techniques, and technicians (about 15,000 U.S. specialists and consultants served in Western Europe in the direct implementation of the national programs created by the Marshall Plan). Cornell proved a leader in three fields in particular: agri-business, virology/bacteriology, and statistics applied to business.
Agricultural Engineering and Agri-business
Agriculture was a major concern for the Marshall planners. In a statement in December 1948, U.S. President Truman said, “I know of no one factor more important to the future peace of the world than food. The work the F.A.O. [the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization] does, or leaves undone, will have a great bearing on the history of the world.” Besides the fact that needs must be met with regards to sufficient nutrition and food security, there was this common-sense idea that “a hungry man is an angry man,” hence a potential Communist. And thirdly, what was at stake was the standardization of the harvest procedures, the merchandizing, and the consumption habits, that would benefit the American farmers and the American agri-business.
That is why the U.S. Department of Agriculture asked Cornell, as a land-grant university located in a rural county, “to make available various resources of your institution not only to committees and groups in your area,” but abroad (April 19, 1950). While the Chairman of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO made sure that Cornell would be part of the program “Food and People,”29 many Cornell faculty members were employed as consultants, such as Max E. Brunk, Agricultural Economics (1947-1982), an expert in mechanization, pre-packaging and merchandizing, who worked with the supermarket industry30. Graduate students were encouraged to serve abroad (in the case of Cornell, most of them went to Asia, where Cornell professor Harry H. Love was a prominent figure). Official announcements for the College of Agriculture indicated that The international situation is such that the Federal Government provides opportunities in foreign service for qualified graduate of the College of Agriculture. They may be in either the Office of Foreign Agricultural relations in the department of Agriculture or in the Department of State.
Virology and Bacteriology
To mention but two names: in 1951, chemistry Professor John R. Johnson served for a year in West Germany as special consultant to the U.S. State Department. He had already contributed to the anti-malarial program, and was a consultant to the Penicillin Program between 1941 and 1945. Alice C. Evans served as a dairy bacteriologist for the United States Department of Agriculture and for the United States Public Health Service, but she was also frequently solicited by European colleagues. An unanswered request from a Czech scientist in 1949 shows the difficulties of working across the iron curtain, with people from countries whose authorities had declined to be part of the Marshall Plan, under Soviet pressure31.
Statistics Applied to Business
A remarkable study published in January 2005 has pointed out the major role played by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the reconstruction of Europe:
BLS was not only capable of using its statistical measures to identify problems of inefficiency, but also could instruct Europeans in the most modern American industrial practices. Surveys discussed in technological literature and, more directly, plan-organized plant visits supplemented BLS instruction in statistical measurement. 32
Among the statisticians was William Duane Evans, who would teach in the new School of Industrial and Labor Relations along with other ex-“Marshall planners.”33
W. Duane Evans, Chief of the BLS Office of Labor Economics, was appointed adviser to the Anglo-American Council on Productivity. Evans oversaw the work of James Silberman, Chief of Productivity and Technology Development, and his colleague Kenneth Van Auken. Silberman and Van Auken were sent to England and then to France in May 1948, shortly after passage of the European Recovery Program. Their assignment was to investigate industrial production in each country. After visiting 35 factories in 5 or 6 industries in England, Silberman pinpointed inefficiency in production management as the major problem.
In a typescript report entitled “Survey of French Productivity,” James Silberman wrote:
The unwillingness of plant managements to visit other French plants, or be visited themselves (to guard their secrets of production), is wholly different and less effective than the free exchange of ideas found in American plants.34
Cornell and the Academic Cooperation
In this last section, I would like to show that the Cornell’s participation to academic cooperation and reconstruction of science in Europe did not limit itself to “the Marshall Plan” stricto sensu.
Participation in international organizations
In April 1945, delegates of 32 United Nations and of 19 educational organizations urged that the San Francisco Conference pledge itself to establish an International Agency for Education. And yet, already in the same year, the Institute of Teachers College at Columbia University had already abandoned the idea:
What the world needs more than common textbooks, common curricula and courses of study, or even an International Agency for Education with the grandiose functions which are proposed for it, is a change of spirit and a readiness to put forward the same efforts and to make the same sacrifices for the constructive but less spectacular daily tasks of peace as for the waging of destructive wars.
Based on the assumption that “the role of colleges and universities is international understanding,” Cornell joined the movement to create an International Organization of Universities in 1949. The university also gave its support to the Commission for International Educational Reconstruction (CIER), mostly funded by the Carnegie Corporation (1946-48). Finally, it worked with the UNESCO, whose headquarters were in Paris, like those of the ECA. 35
The Fulbright Program
The emphasis was also on student and teacher exchanges within the Fulbright Program. This U.S. government sponsored program was created in 1946 and named after its initiator, Democratic Senator James Fulbright (1905-1995). A former President of the University of Arkansas (1939-41), Fulbright was an ardent supporter of the Marshall Plan, someone who opposed McCarthyism and “the arrogance of power.” The Fulbright Program had the advantage to be based on real reciprocity, joint decision-making, and joint-funding. “The wisdom of this emerged when the steady progress made towards real reciprocity proved the program’s best defense against attacks on it as the intellectual phase of the so-called imperialism of the Marshall Plan,” according to Richard F. Goodings.36
However, though the ECA placed funds at the disposal of the national Fulbright Commissions, the Fulbright Program cannot be dissociated from the ERP. Richard Pells has written that it was “a sort of cultural Marshall Plan” whose “relationship… to the Cold War in Europe was underscored in 1948 when Congress provided a more comprehensive framework for America’s cultural diplomacy.”37 By 1948 the first Fulbright scholars traveled abroad. During our period, the program was particularly successful in Great Britain (in 1949 alone, 257 American professors and students went to the U.K. and 237 Britons to the U.S.A.) and, to a certain extent, the Scandinavian countries. One of the first Cornell students to be granted a Fulbright was John W. Reps, who went to the London School of Economics in 1950-51 and was hired as a professor of city and regional planning at Cornell in 1952.
Work with private foundations
For research abroad, one major source of financing was the Rockefeller Foundation,38 to which Cornell was relatively close via Dean Myers, a member of its board of trustees of the Foundation. This foundation assumed the difficult task of reconstructing the physical sciences in Germany, a controversial issue as I already noticed. “On the one hand, German researchers complained about isolation, and economic deprivation of their scientific community.
On the other hand, officers of the foundation were appalled by the unrepentant opportunism of some of those who applied for grants,” and a campaign developed at Cornell and then on some other American campuses, against the insufficient denazification of German and Austrian science. In April 1946, Myers accompanied John D. Rockefeller III on a tour through Germany and Austria to see how to reach the right balance.
Our article shows that Cornell’s involvement in the Marshall Plan was manifold. In comparison, President Skorton’s own “Marshall Plan” is both limited (thematically) and unlimited (geographically) in scope. If implemented, it may share similarities with its prestigious model. That is why Cornellians must know the history of their university – one of these “new diplomatic actors” on the rise – in order to build its future, far from any provincialism, and with the duties of privilege in mind.
The author would like to express his gratitude to the following persons: Elaine Engst, University Archivist, and his colleagues in RMC; Steven L. Kaplan, Goldwin Smith Professor of History, Patrizia Sione, Associate Archivist in the Catherwood Library, and CIAR, especially its President Gracielle Cabungcal, and Vice-President Luis-François de Lencquesaing, who speaks so eloquently of “le rôle historique de l’université américaine dans la conception, la mise en place et la critique des foreign policy initiatives.”