Exporting the American Model: The Post-War Transformation of European Business

By Marie-Laure A. Djelic | Go to book overview

9
European Labor and Productivity Between All-Out War and Active Participation

We refuse to hand over the working class of our country, tied hand and foot, to international capitalism and its strategies.

CGT-FO Congress ( October 1952)

The speech of the American Secretary of State George Marshall at Harvard in June 1947 had helped to crystallize, we argued, a division of the world already in the making. This division scarred the European continent for more than forty years. The demarcation line between a communist and a 'free' Europe coincided with the border setting apart European countries participating in the Marshall scheme from those that did not. This geopolitical split also had a significant impact on the internal political balance of power within a number of 'free' European countries. In France and in Italy, Communist Party members were ousted from governing coalitions in 1947 in anticipation of the launching of the American assistance scheme. Communist parties settled in the opposition denouncing and resisting, sometimes quite violently, American involvement in Western Europe and the Marshall plan. In both countries, communist parties had close links with national labor movements. A significant share of labor therefore also came to systematically oppose transformations on the industrial scene having something to do with the Marshall plan or having clear American origins. Such systematic resistance was in the end highly political and little could be done to tone it down. Members of the cross- national modernizing network, in fact, generally chose to try and bypass communist actors rather than counter them. Both in France and in Italy, members of the American administration set out to identify and help--or even to create--labor groups with whom they could work and cooperate.

In West Germany, communist influence was much less of an issue on the national scene. The geopolitical division of the world had led to the creation of two German countries out of the former German Reich. In the western territories of Germany, soon to become the Federal Republic of Germany, the geopolitical division reduced communist influence and contributed to uniting the labor movement. In the geopolitical confrontation, West German labor clearly took sides against the communist bloc. This did not mean, however that labor organizations accepted and supported unreservedly American involvement in European and West German economic affairs. They joined forces in

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