In Whose Interest?
The Marshall Plan was doubtless a great and necessary contribution to the economic recovery of parts of Western Europe after the Second World War, but as Thomas Meaney makes clear, its main purpose, from the point of view of the US government, was to preserve the market dominance achieved by US industry during the war (LRB, 6 December 2018). Yet some part of the myth is retained by Meaney. The US was not ‘trying to infuse $13 billions’ worth of capital into Europe’. It was finding buyers for US goods and ensuring that when such goods were shipped the exporters would receive full payment for them in hard currency.After the war all the major industrial countries in Europe put in place similar schemes to promote their own export industries. Export credit agencies were established, issuing guarantees to exporters that payments from buyers in economies short of hard currency would be covered. The economic benefit of these orders was felt immediately, but in many cases the hard currency was not forthcoming and the agencies’ guarantees had to be made good. As a result, large nominal debts appeared, owed by the Third World to the Developed World, which were repeatedly rescheduled through the Paris Club, and eventually forgiven. In fact there had never been any genuine expectation that these debts would be repaid. Under the Marshall Plan, by contrast, the importing economies recovered quickly.
Isle of Skye
THE LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS, Letters to the editor, 3 January 2019