Rebuilding Europe: Western Europe, America, and Postwar Reconstruction

By David W. Ellwood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
The Road to the Marshall Plan

THE IMMEDIATE BACKGROUND

Everyone, it turned out, had a plan. The Twentieth Century Fund had a plan, Republican Presidential aspirant Harold Stassen had a plan, former President Hoover had one, as did the leading Republican Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, and a prominent Democrat, Senator Pepper. In April and May Walter Lippman in the Washington Post demanded abandonment of the piecemeal aid policies of the past in favour of 'a comprehensive recovery plan agreed to by the Europeans themselves and used to support the "unification of Europe".' 1

The State Department hinted it had done some planning in a speech by the Under Secretary of State, Acheson, in Mississippi in early May. This listed the grim developments in the world since the war and suggested that existing aid programmes would cover only half the gap between America's imports from abroad and her exports to the rest of the world in the coming years. United States exports had quadrupled since 1939, said Acheson, and needed to be much higher if the means could be found to pay for them in the countries of Europe and Asia most threatened by disaster. In these areas of the globe 'emergency assistance' was required urgently, needed in building stability, promoting freedom and democracy, 'fostering liberal trading policies, and . . . strengthening the authority of the United Nations'. In his concluding remarks, Acheson, one of the key 'wise men' of Washington's foreign policy élite in these years, re-emphasised the fundamental American faith in the economic bases of freedom and democracy:

Not only do human beings and nations exist in narrow economic margins, but also human dignity, human freedom, and democratic institutions.

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