The Marshall Plan or “A way to escape from communism in Europe”

theMarshallPlan_875In 1947, after WWII, Europe was devastated because of the war. The US, whose president Harry S. Truman agreed to help some European countries “to keep the international economy afloat, to support certain regimes, and to promote America´s export industries” through a program named European Recovery Program (ERC), took advantage of that. That help was mainly focused on finances, money. Money that some Americans were not happy to deliver all around a continent that was too far away from them to care about. Or so they thought in principle…

First country that was benefited of that help was Greece, which was struggling against Communist influence coming from the Soviet Union. The US helped the precarious Greek financial system in an attempt to excerpt more influence than the Soviets but got lots of critics in their own territory: “The losers where population as a whole, who were denied the competitive process produced by cheap imports, suffered from the resulting inflation, and were the universal victims of the ultimate “dégringolade””. (Johnson)[1] It was clear than US external financial aid need a “stronger” reason to act than just helping precarious economies.

In the meantime, it was pretty clear than Western Europe countries need help. Most of its factories had been bombed or looted. Many Europeans could not find work, and many turned to the black market and theft in order to survive. Millions of people were starving due to lack of trade at that post wartime. To make things worse, the winter of 1946-47 was the bitterest in several centuries, with below-zero temperatures and record-breaking snow. The weather severely damaged crops and froze rivers, cutting off water trasportation and causing a fuel shortage. In Britain, people could use electricity only a few hours each day, and food rations were even lower than during the war. (Gerald A. Daner)[2]

In June 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall proposed that the United States provide aid to all European nations that needed it, saying that this move was directed “not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.” (Johnson) Even tough the nations receiving aid had to remove trade barriers which, at the end, resulted in lots of cheap exports for US products into Europe, that idea proposed by Marshall was received with lots of critics from many people that did not want to give US money away as what they thought were just humanitarian reasons. Congress debated the Marshall Plan for several months.

Then, in February 1948, Soviet tanks invaded Czechoslovakia and took over the country. This invasion and the blockade than the Russian government implemented on Berlin was the impulse that the US Congress needed to finally approve the Marshall Plan. They finally became aware that Europe probably could not resist communism influence without strong, stable governments. US money should help in order to gain influence in those regions.

Image243The plan was indeed a great success both economically and politically. Nutrition improved and industry grew. By 1952, Western Europe was flourishing, and Communist parties had lost much of their appeal to voters. The European Recovery Program was directed mainly to Britain, France, Germany, and Italy. Most of the railroads were rebuilt; the factories and farms subsidized and international trade reborn. This gesture of generosity, which cost the American people between ten and fifteen billion dollars, was slightly dimmed by the need to convince Congress that it was a plan of resistance to the Soviet Union’s takeover of eastern Europe. (Cooke)[3]

More than sixty years ago, the reminiscent of Marshall Plan are clearly shown in Western Europe. America expanded his economy overseas after that and nowadays it seems impossible to find any country where there is not a single US company operating there. On the contrary, communism is a political theory doomed to ruin and just have some influence in autocratic governments like Cuba or Venezuela.

[1] From A History of the American People (Paul Johnson)

[2] Adapted from The Americans (various authors)

[3] From America (Alistair Cooke)

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Publicado el 21 junio, 2014 en Historia y etiquetado en , , , . Guarda el enlace permanente. Deja un comentario.

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