Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Susan Green

World Politics

Cold War Within Cold War:
Struggle Over Markets Back Again

(6 March 1950)

From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 10, 6 March 1950, pp. 4 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

For some years after the war people were prone to forget all about that pesky problem, competition for world markets. So much of the world, depleted or destroyed by the ravages of the war, was out of the running, rebuilding and rehabilitating, that the United States and other undamaged countries could dispose of almost everything they had to sell.

During those years what we were reading about was how fast or how slow this, or that war-torn country was reaching the pre-war level of production, and hardly a word did we see about the hidden worry among the powers as to what would happen when England, France, even Germany and Japan, once more entered the international fight for markets.

Today there is a change, and what a change!

Most of the war-battered countries have reached or almost. reached the pre-war production levels, and some have surpassed them. Their products are now on the world market – a market so greatly restricted by the limited buying power of the masses of the world.

Now the newspapers report, in important front-page articles, on the clashes between “allies and friends,” about the surpluses each wants to dispose of in the other’s market, about the resulting demands for tariff restrictions, about attempts at embargo.

The Oil Battle

The discord between, the United States and Great Britain is most prominent, and more particularly has oil been poured on the troubled waters. England was all set to place a total embargo, throughout the sterling area, on dollar-oil, namely, on oil from United States companies. But the National Petroleum Council of this country kicked up a tremendous fuss. It upbraided the State Department for being a softy. Senator Connally, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, sided with the oil companies, proclaiming England’s plans as “an act of hostility to our economy.”

The stick in the hand of the Marshall Plan was brought into action, and England backed down. The embargo has gone into effect to the extent of only 4,000,000 tons a year of the 13,000,000 tons United States companies sold last year in the British markets, leaving 9,000,000 tons of dollar-oil that these markets will still take.

But the American oil companies are far from happy; they realize that with the end of the Marshall Plan in 1952, the English may see fit to extend the embargo. ‘The claim of the latter that its ‘embargo stems from its need to triose the dollar gap – a need admitted by the State Department, by ECA and even by the oil companies – is not considered weighty enough against the necessity of the oil companies to dispose of their own products.

There are surpluses of oil, dollar oil and sterling oil – though (millions of people suffer the hardships of winter with insufficient heating fuel.

In many other ways the renewed commercial rivalry between the United States and England shows itself. At the Commonwealth talks in Ceylon, England attempted to get the Asiatic countries to continue a cut of 25 per cent in dollar imports through 1950. Also the insistence of ECA that the European monetary agreement, which it is pressing the Marshall Plan nations to effect, be?not restrictive of trade is a manifestation of the same competition. Primarily ECA does not want African farm surpluses excluded from the West European market in favor of food produced in sterling areas.

Each Against All

England in turn raises its voice in protest against United States practices. It claims that this country will not receive imports on a competitive basis and cites the famous Seattle incident. British firms made “better than competitive” bids for the installation of electrical generating equipment, and England claims a type of embargo was used when its bids were turned down. It also points the finger of accusation at this country for restricting, in favor of the American product, the imports of butter from New Zealand and from Denmark, in both of which England is interested financially.

From a group of islands on the other side of the world, namely, Japan, American businessmen begin to feel the effects of competition. Manufacturers of artificial pearls, of textiles, of gloves, of sewing machines, of chinaware, complain about cheaper products from reviving Japanese industries.

American businessmen also look with worried eyes at the smoke reappearing from Germany’s industrial plant, anticipating that with less of a tax burden and with a lower standard of living for the workers, German capitalists will re-enter the world market on a very favorable basis.

Even that traditionally northern neighbor of the United States, Canada, gets hostile glances thrown its way. With mountains of potatoes going begging here, Canadian potatoes at prices below farm-support levels are definitely not wanted by American potato growers; they talk in terms of embargo. In this country there are also tremendous surpluses of dried eggs and dried milk, in fact $125,000,000 worth; in Canada there are surpluses of eggs too, and also of bacon.

Both countries begin to accumulate frightening stocks of wheat since the European countries get supplies from their own revived farming, from the East European markets, from Argentina. Canada would like to dispose of some of its surpluses in the more populous United States, on a competitive basis. Naturally the American farming industry can’t see things that way.

What Better Plan?

What better plan has anyone offered anywhere for the ending of capitalist anarchy than the socialist reconstruction of society? Is there any plan that goes to the root of the evil as does that to make the means of production the property of the working people, controlled by them, for the production of the things the world needs, breaking down the limits set by money and markets?

The Stalin regime of police terror offers no solution. To limit the production of consumer goods to a minimum in favor of production to maintain the power and to extend the world hegemony of the rulers; to make human beings expendable in slave-labor camps; to feed a whole nation into the bottomless maw of a bureaucracy – this is not what people think of if they want a better world.

Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 8 March 2023