Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Senators and the Marshall Plan

The conventional wisdom on the Marshall Plan is that it 'sought to ward off the threat of communism in Western Europe and to ensure that the post-war American economy was not sent into recession by unfavourable economic conditions' (Young & Kent, p. 74) I can now say, with reasonable assurance, that if there was any truth to the second half of this proposition, it wasn't evident to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1948. Over the course of 24 days, the committee listened to testimony from 95 witnesses and accepted 74 written statements into the record. I have yet to find the first witness who would support this view.

To the contrary: Calvin Hoover, 'a distinguished American academic economist' (Wallace) of the era, went to considerable length to debunk the ressionary theory in what is virtually its only mention in 1,466 pages of testimony before the committee. The United States, Dr. Hoover concluded, 'could easily consume much more in the form of goods and services than we are currently able to produce. There can be no question, therefore, but that the goods we furnish Europe must come out of our own potential standard of living and not out of some mythical surplus. This answers both the argument about ERP providing a market for our surplus goods and the ERP as a means of preventing a depression in the United States. These are both spurious arguments, [which] have been used with some effect by the Russians as propaganda against us.' (US Senate, pp. 843-4)

And to even greater effect, I tentatively conclude, in shaping the way our textbook writers now present the genesis of the Marshall Plan!


US Senate (1948), European Recovery Program: Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations (Washington: Government Printing Office).

Wallace, W.V. (1967), untitled review, Soviet Studies, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 537-8.

Young, John, & John Kent (2004), International Relations Since 1945 (Oxford: Oxford Univ Press).


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