The Marshall Plan

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The Marshall Plan

INTRODUCTION It had become clear by 1947 that Europe faced extraordinary recovery problems after World War II. The Marshall Plan, offered by U.S. President Harry S. Truman's secretary of state, General George Marshall, was a grant of resources conditional upon the development by the Europeans of a coordinated recovery plan to use those resources efficiently. As originally proposed, the plan included nations in the Soviet sphere, but the offer was declined by those nations on orders from Joseph Stalin. The participating European nations created the Committee on European Economic Cooperation (CEEC), which was a great success. With U.S.$12 billion of direct aid, Western European recovered quickly; by 1951 every CEEC nation had higher industrial production than during their best interwar years. Eventually the CEEC became the Organization on European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), and today it is known as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of which the United States is a member.

The Marshall Plan was a striking accomplishment with far-reaching positive effects. This experience of successful international economic cooperation led to a tradition of foreign aid given every year by the United States and other developed nations. Furthermore, cooperating Europeans seized the opportunity to integrate economically: in 1953 the European Coal-Steel Community (ECSC) was created, and in 1958 the ECSC partners signed the Treaty of Rome, which produced the European Economic Community (EEC)—now the European Union. All these alignments were outcomes of the Marshall Plan. Marshall's words to the U.S. Congress on June 30, 1947 reveal his thinking. ∎

In considering the requirements for the rehabilitation of Europe the physical loss of life, the visible destruction of cities, factories, mines, and railroads was correctly estimated, but it has become obvious during recent months that this visible destruction was probably less serious than the dislocation of the entire fabric of European economy. For the past 10 years conditions have been highly abnormal. The feverish maintenance of the war effort engulfed all aspects of national economics. Machinery has fallen into disrepair or is entirely obsolete. Under the arbitrary and destructive Nazi rule, virtually every possible enterprise was geared into the German war machine. Long-standing commercial ties, private institutions, banks, insurance companies and shipping companies disappeared, through the loss of capital, absorption through nationalization or by simple destruction. In many countries, confidence in the local currency has been severely shaken. The breakdown of the business structure of Europe during the war was complete. Recovery has been seriously retarded by the fact that 2 years after the close of hostilities a peace settlement with Germany and Austria has not been agreed upon. But even given a more prompt solution of these difficult problems, the rehabilitation of the economic structure of Europe quite evidently will require a much longer time and greater effort than had been foreseen.

There is a phase of this matter which is both interesting and serious. The farmer has always produced the foodstuffs to exchange with the city dweller for the other necessities of life. This division of labor is the basis of modern civilization. At the present time it is threatened with breakdown. The town and city industries are not producing adequate goods to exchange with the food-producing farmer. Raw materials and fuel are in short supply. Machinery is lacking or worn out. The farmer or the peasant cannot find the goods for sale which he desires to purchase. So the sale of his farm produce for money which he cannot use seems to him unprofitable transaction. He, therefore, has withdrawn many fields from crop cultivation and is using them for grazing. He feeds more grain to stock and finds for himself and his family an ample supply of food, however short he may be on clothing and the other ordinary gadgets of civilization. Meanwhile people in the cities are short of food and fuel. So the governments are forced to use their foreign money and credits to procure these necessities abroad. This process exhausts funds which are urgently needed for reconstruction. Thus a very serious situation is rapidly developing which bodes no good for the world. The modern system of the division of labor upon which the exchange of products is based is in danger of breaking down.

The truth of the matter is that Europe's requirements for the next 3 or 4 years of foreign food and other essential products—principally from America—are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help, or face economic, social, and political deterioration of a very grave character.

The remedy lies in breaking the vicious circle and restoring the confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole. The manufacturer and the farmer throughout wide areas must be able and willing to exchange their products for currencies the continuing value of which is not open to question. . .

It is already evident that, before the United States Government can proceed much further in its efforts to alleviate the situation and help start the European world on its way to recovery, there must be some agreement among the countries of Europe as to the requirements of the situation and the part those countries themselves will take in order to give proper effect to whatever action might be undertaken by this Government. It would be neither fitting nor efficacious for this Government to undertake to draw up unilaterally a program designed to place Europe on its feet economically. This is the business of the Europeans. The initiative, I think, must come from Europe. The role of this country should consist of friendly aid in the drafting of a European program so far as it may be practical for us to do so. The program should be a joint one, agreed to by a number, if not all European nations.

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The Marshall Plan

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