The Steel Industry, 1939-1959: A Study in Competition and Planning

By Duncan Burn | Go to book overview
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Chapter I
THE IMPACT OF THE SECOND
WORLD WAR
1939-1945

In September 1939, war changed the problems of the steel- makers abruptly for the second time in a generation. From then until 1945 there was an interlude in the deliberate and concerted application of the policies propounded or foreshadowed in the May Report, except where they could be made to serve the different purposes of war. Investment plans which give lowest costs in the long run, and prices which encourage the best distribution of resources in the long run do not win wars. The contribution of the industry to victory falls outside the scope of this book. But inevitably, as in 1914-18, the activities of the war years, and the experience of organisation for war, influenced developments in the years which followed. The central organisation in the industry gained in substance, experience and prestige. New plant was called for, though not the plant that would have been put up in peace. There were changes in the relative costs and availability of raw materials, which in some degree persisted after the war and provoked changes in price policy which endured. Inevitably the financial strengths of firms and districts changed. These and analogous aspects of the war history form the main subject of this chapter. Mobilisation for war and the evolution of policy in the light of shifting and worsening conditions are traced briefly in the first section. It shows the growth of the central organisation in depth and breadth. It also explains why the reactions to the Second World War differed in important respects from the reactions to the first, and it puts in perspective some criticisms of the industry in these years which reflected pre-war controversy rather than wartime facts, and put an additional spice of malice and

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