Was the Marshall Plan or the development of the EEC/EU the main reason for West European prosperity after 1945?

When the United States did not see the post-Second World War era as initial solution to the world economy, the Bretton Woods system, adequate by itself for its different purposes, adopted the intervention policy. Truman Doctrine was put first on the table and maintained for some time in Greece and Turkey. Particularly for Turkey it was based on military assistance. Europe’s economic situation was very critical, since Europe’s economy had been destroyed and it needed to rise to a self-sufficient level in coal and agriculture again, to the achievement by the countries of Europe of a healthy economy independent of extraordinary outside assistance. It was feared that otherwise there would be revolution, economic, political, and social disintegration, and this would have immediate effects on the U.S. domestic economy. Therefore, it can be said that the Marshal Plan had a big effect on the West European prosperity after 1945.

 Successively the Truman Doctrine and The European Development Program started to stand against the communist threat by strengthening Western Europe economically. The content of this program, the Marshall Plan or the European Recovery Program was declared to the world in the “Harvard Speech” of the United States Secretary of State George Marshall on 5 July 1947. The United States’ 80th Congress ratified the Foreign Assistance Act of Public Law 472 on April 3, 1948 and The Organization for European Economic Cooperation was founded in April 1948.

 The Paris Conference, known as The Sixteen Powers Conference, was gathered in July 1948, after an unsuccessful attempt to get the Soviet Union to join, to fix the recipient countries’ needs and a cumulative 18 billion dollar was accepted as assistance. With this conference, the Marshall Plan was expanded to nineteen to include Britain, France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, Denmark, Holland, Greece, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Trieste, Canada, and Turkey. The urgent and critical nature of the situation was stressed. The Committee of European Economic Cooperation was founded at this conference and it prepared a report and presented it to the U.S. government on September 22 outlining a four-year program for economic recovery in the participating countries. Initially, the Marshall Plan put three conditions in the implementation: a cost ceiling of 18,000 billion dollar (it counted 13 million in practice), a time limit of four years, and a definite objective of reconstruction in the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible cost to the United States. It was mainly in three forms of direct aid grants (on condition of use in approved areas) and loans (on condition of beginning to pay from 1952), indirect aid (to regulate trade), and technical assistance. 

 Although it is regarded as an instrument of American foreign policy, with reference to the Cold War, it was fundamentally an economic enterprise with the aim of pursuing specific economic tasks and to reaching specific economic goals. For what it did, was to lay a firm basis from which the European nations could generate their own economic momentum and reach a point of self-sustaining economic growth. The determined aim was to increase the economic activities to a gratifying level without unusual foreign assistance as soon as possible and provide its permanence. The U.S. was in agreement that these targets could not be reached without American aid.

 In other words, it was seen as an exportation a version of capitalism modeled on the United States to Europe, enslaving Europe to American capital, and it was thought that truly American-style mass consumption would not come to Europe for at least another decade if there was no Plan. The architects of the Marshall Plan did not see their role as redefining capitalism so much as selling it. Actually, in a sense the Marshall Plan defined the divide between East and West…by defining the East-West conflict as a choice between plan and market. The Second World War turned the United States into a superpower in world affairs and it signaled the shift in the American public opinion away from isolationism. With the high level of public support for the Marshall Plan and with the perceived success of the Plan and other American policies, the American public was supportive of the foreign aid proposals and policies initiated by its political leaders.

 To sum up, the Marshall Plan should be regarded as a “naive” application of foreign aid which contained the nuclei of all of the later aid programs related to their sources, forms and channels. It was conceived in the extraordinary post-war circumstances with a transfer of a huge amount of public resources in the form of grants to a large extent under a definite plan. The Plan was the first of its kind in world history, except for war times; in one way, its importance stems from this. In another way, it was of pivotal significance in crystallizing the East-West conflict in Europe, as a fuller elaboration of the Truman Doctrine and a design to erect an economic and political bloc to contain Soviet expansion and to curb the influence of the Communist parties in the West European countries, as a big step to construct the Cold War policy. The plan contributed the development of European prosperity by adopting capital view of economy. Thanks to plan, the plan, European nations could produce their own economic momentum and reach a point of self-sustaining economic growth.


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