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John Palmer


(Winter 1965)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.23, Winter 1965, p.33.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Economic Growth in the West
Angus Maddison
Allen & Unwin, 30s.

The remarkable growth of the continental West European economies in the two post-war decades has been frequently cited by the apologists of the new ‘planned’ and ‘crisis free’ capitalism as prime examples of the new order. It is clear, too, that the rate of economic expansion achieved within ‘the Six’ in 15 years, not interrupted by any serious dislocation, throws considerable light on the manner in which the managers – in both state and industry – of the new capitalism ensure a basis for reasonably stable growth.

Of course, as Mr Angus Maddison points out, the circumstances of the birth of the post-war miracle economies were of profound importance; the exhaustion or destruction of the existing capital structure demanding a vast replacement programme; almost unlimited capital aid and investment from the United States; and a regular flow of immigrant labour to hold down the rise in real wages – all of these laid the basis for the much vaunted European ‘Wirtschaftswunder.’

Two other factors are given special emphasis by Mr Maddison. Firstly, the role of the State in using fiscal and monetary devices to counteract the disruptive effect of the trade cycle and, secondly, the coming together of the State and private capital to establish ‘planning’ bodies. These latter, although more properly called ‘programming’ and ‘forecasting organisations, have contributed to the relative stability of Western Europe’s rate of growth. Of course, not being a socialist, Mr Maddison does not go into the failures of the working-class and trade-union leaderships to challenge the new order in Europe. No mention is made of the heading off of the workers’ initiatives in the immediate post-war period by the social-democratic and Stalinist leaderships. Similarly, no study is made of the present-day collaborationism of the Trade Union bureaucracies in maintaining ‘industrial peace.’

This latter factor looks like becoming increasingly important for the future stability and rate of growth of the West European economies, since some of the factors that were favourable in the past no longer have the same influence. European industrial costs are now starting to rise close to British and US levels as workers begin to exploit their advantage in a low unemployment situation.

In France, Belgium and Holland the rates of growth have been cut back quite sharply in an attempt to halt inflation. Even in the heart of the ‘miracle’ West Germany workers are now finding the battle for wage increases getting tougher while at the same time a new emphasis and sharpness is put on the employers’ campaign for more ‘productivity’ (read exploitation). This creates a new situation – and a more hopeful one for the Labour and socialist movements in Europe.

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