POST WAR WESTERN EUROPE

         After World War II, the United States could no longer retreat behind its oceanic barriers. It was
clear that the United States was the world’s leader. One European historian has gone to far as to say that
Europe’s value today is not as an innovator but as a museum and conservator of Western values.
Whatever, even before the end of the war, it was clear to the Americans and the British that economies
were no longer national but global. Thus it was necessary to take measure to avoid the economic
nationalism, trade restrictions (tariff barriers) and currency instability of the interwar years.

        1944- Bretton Woods Conference (New Hampshire) – 44 nations pledge to reduce tariff barriers
and work for stable currencies in the post-War era. However, once the War ended, nations were still
reluctant to part with preferential systems, trade restrictions and protectionism. By 1947, it was clear that
some sort of international trade agreement was necessary and 23 nations, led by the US, subscribed to the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). This became the foundation of post-War commerce.
GATT set rules to prevent discrimination in international trade, set up administrative procedures for
handling complaints and provided a framework for continuing negotiations. Bargaining sessions – rounds
– designed to lower tariffs and remove tariff barriers -- became part of the world’s economic landscape.
By 1997, ninety-seven countries were GATT subscribers. Remember the Soviet Union and its satellites
and Communist China were not part of this program at this writing (2001).

          Currency stability was harder to achieve. However two agencies were established in the 1950s to
help international financial settlements. The International Monetary Fund provided loans for
temporary balance of payment problems and The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
(World Bank) made long-term loans to governments for economic development or guaranteed the loans
made by private institutions. Both agencies function to this day and have played a large part in helping
Third World, Latin American and Eastern European nations. However, some nations often forget that
loans have to be paid back. Others manage to misuse the funding no matter how carefully it is monitored
by the donor. Still others blame their economic problems on the need to pay back these loans and meet the
criteria imposed on them by the World Bank and IMF.

         European Economic Integration became another goal of the post-War era. Many leaders
pressed for an end to nationalism and called for a United States of Europe. In 1948, a Council of Europe
was established with the hope that it might become a legislative body for a united Europe. However, the
British opposed any supranational body. (To this day the British are wary of integration into a United
Europe and/or supranational European programs). In 1948, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg
created a customs union called Benelux.
         By 1952, the visionary and practical French economist Jean Monnet had proposed a plan for
economic integration that was accepted by Italy, France, West Germany and the Benelux nations to create
the European Coal and Steel Community to assure access to important resources (also to prevent German
domination), and development of the resources. By 1957, the Treaty of Rome was signed which created a
large free trade area or customs unions the European Economic Community (EEC) or Common
Market. Its goal was full European economic integration and cooperation. The treaty called for the
         a. elimination of tariff barriers among the six nations
              b. the development of a common tariff with respect to the outside world
                  c. the harmonization of social and economic policies
                      d. the free movement of capital and labor. This provision made it possible for
                          migrant or ―guest workers‖ to move back ad forth without impediment to meet
                          the needs of the expanding economies.

Under a second treaty, the six nations agreed to coordinate non-military economic research.
        The Common Market has proven to be successful for Europe. It helped absorb a revived West
Germany into Europe and end the nasty rivalries that had exhausted the continent in the first half of the
century. Its influence spread to former European countries with which it has preferential trade
agreements. A value-added tax (VAT) imposed at the point of production by each member country
eliminated the need for indirect taxes (Tariffs).
        In 1967, the ECSC, the EEC and Euratom became a single European Community.

         Britain did not join the Common Market at the beginning. Instead in 1960, it formed a more
limited customs union (European Free Trade Association) with Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal,
Austria and Switzerland. The two groups learned to live together. The French under DeGaulle saw this as
unwanted competition and kept the British out of the Common Market when its economy was flagging in
the late 1960s. After he left the scene, Britain, Ireland and Denmark were admitted into the Common
Market and the Community enlarged. Today, twelve European nations belong to the Common Market or
European Community. To this day, the European Union as it is now called is primarily an economic one.
The Treaty on European Union (Maastricht) was signed which created the European Union. One of its
first goals was to create a single European currency The Euro. It has been accepted by eleven nations (not
GB) and is expected to be the single European currency by 2002. It happened)

        The enlarged European Community has provided problems and opportunities. When the world’s
economy skidded into recession in the 1973, the economic problems that ensued created tensions within
the community. A large food importer, Britain objected to the French and Italian policies that subsidized
farm prices keeping them artificially high. Free trade, to this day, is a goal that has yet to be met.
Countries still place quotas on agricultural imports. France places high tariffs on Italian wines and British
beef (even when it is safe). The enthusiasm for political unification has certainly dimmed.

From a Divided to a United Germany
1969 – Social Democratic Party (left-center) take over from Christian Democratic Party (right-center).
The SD’s remain in power until 1982. Willie Brandt as Chancellor practiced a policy known as
OSTPOLITIK ―opening to the East.‖ He won a Nobel Prize for his attempts at opening and normalizing
relations between the Two Germanys. In 1974m succeeded by Helmut Schmidt, a rather colorless
technocrat, who did lower Germany’s deficit. He was succeeded in 1982 by Helmut Kohl (Christian
Democrat) who presided over German unification and then was faced with the problems that inheriting
this badly managed, backward (compared to modern West Germany – think BMW and MB). Kohl had to
raise taxes to deal with the problems of unemployment and discontent in the Eastern sector. Kohl was
Chancellor until recently when he was voted out of office and succeeded by Gerhard Schroeder who is
most left (social welfare) leaning.

More on Mrs. Thatcher
She did not manage to resolve the Irish problem. She did send the British Navy to the Falkland Islands
(owned by GB, small underpopulated islands where sheep herding is the ―growth‖ industry and off the
coast of Argentina) when Argentina attempted to take control. Argentina backed down and the sheep are
again grazing in peace. Still strategically important because of placement in Southern Hemisphere.
Thatcher was a hard-liner (rigid in its stand against Communism) like Ronald Reagan when it came to
the Soviets and built up Britain’s military and made Britain a ―world police officer.‖ She tried to undo
parts of the social welfare system and the strength of Britain’s trade unions. The social welfare system
was contributing to inflation. Attempts at tax reform ended her reign in 1992.
France under the Socialists
1981, Francois Mitterand, a Socialist, is elected president. Tries wage and price controls (never a good
idea-- he should have learned from the Age of Robespierre). He increased minimum wage; expanded
social benefits; give workers five weeks of paid vacation; a 39 hour work week (its 30-35 now) and
soaked the rich with higher taxes. He nationalized the banks and many key industries: steel, space and
electronics, insurance. This policy lasted only three years and Mitterand was forced to retrench and turn
the economy back to Free Enterprise. France did not prosper particularly during the Mitterand years
(through 1995) and a conservative Jacques Chirac was elected president in 1995. France still has a
problem with its social welfare policies. In addition, there are problems with the antagonism toward the
blacks from its former African colonies that have come to France in search of economic opportunity.
France still resents the North Africans who came at the time of the independence movement there. Who
says racism is dead in Europe?

Italy: The Survivor
Scandals and more post-War governments than anyone can count; Italy somehow manages to survive. As
long as Italy has pasta and wine (and tourism), it will survive (Mrs. Goodman’s opinion.).

         By the late 1980s it was evident that the Eastern European states would shake the yoke of
Communist domination and come into their own. This has created new challenges for Europe as they try
to integrate nations such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into European affairs. Who shall be
admitted to NATO? Who shall be left out? High unemployment remains a problem. Can the social
welfare state continue to exist; even in the Scandinavian countries, the social welfare state is not without
its problems. The programs –health care, day care, shortened work weeks, long vacations, free schooling
from pre-K through post-doctorate -- are hard to pay for without heavy taxation. What about Europe’s
backward nations: Albania, Rumania, Bulgaria? And then –seemingly now and forever, the Balkans.
         How should Europe (Continental although England shares in this but not so heavy-handedly),
handle its ―guest worker‖ problem. This refers to the immigrants from Southern Europe and Turkey and
the former colonies in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, who come to work (cheaply) mainly in Germany
but also in France and elsewhere, when these nations have high unemployment rates and cannot afford (or
choose not to) extend benefits to these foreigners.

In 1968, the youth activism that began early in the 1960s reached its peak as college-university age
students around the world launched protests to protest just about everything. In the US it was the Vietnam
War. In France, where the protests were especially violent, 10 million workers joined the students partly
to show support and partly to voice their own grievances against a state that did not seem to be supplying
them with the quality of life and benefits they thought they deserved. The students wanted changed in an
antiquated (physically and philosophically) university system. The universities were overcrowded,
technologically in another century and teachers generally not present – you learned the material from
mimeographed books of their lectures – and submitted to an oral examination (one question) at the end of
the semester. By and large these were protests by a post-War generation against an older one that they felt
had not given them a better world.

                            INTELLECTUAL AND SOCIAL CURRENTS
        Although science and technology had expanded rapidly in the 1870-1914 period, its growth and
pervasive influence grew exponentially in the years following 1919. More scientists than ever were at
work; over 85 percent of all scientists who had ever lived were at work in our own age.
        Areas of scientific growth and triumph
        Medicine and public health
                The sulfa drugs and penicillin for infection; hormone therapies; vaccines; transplants;
psychiatric drugs
        Medical challenges: Cancer, AIDS
        Quality of life
                Radio, film, television, computers, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers,
microwave ovens, airplanes; jet airplanes; jets; jumbo jets; frozen foods; consumer electronics; telephones
from ―long distance with operator assist‖ to ―long distance direct dial‖ to cellular technology (how the
Europeans love their cell phones!).
                Peaceful use of atomic power
                         Radiation therapies
                         Nuclear energy (65 percent of France’s energy is nuclear)

                Military applications
                Problem today: With the breakup of the Soviet Union, who has the uranium and who is in
charge of the nuclear warheads left behind in the satellites and the Soviet Republics.

        Science and technology have always been driving forces:
                Think: COPERNICAN REVOLUTION
                 DARWINIAN EVOLUTION
                 EINSTEINIAN PHYSICS (Relativity leading to relativism)

Europe’s main contribution to post-War philosophy is known as EXISTENTIALISM. Its best known
proponents are French: Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone deBeauvoir and Albert Camus. Sartre was its primary
spokesperson. The existentialists reflected a troubled civilization disturbed by war and oppression,
threatened by both materialism and the possibilities of atomic annihilation. They saw the limitations of
the power of human reason in a world where the individual could be crushed by the power of technology.
In a hostile world, they argued that human beings had to make choices on their own. Human beings were
―condemned to be free.‖ They had to be committed to both belief and action, even though aware that
individual human action could not change the world. The philosophy emphasized the anguish of human
existence, the frailty of reason, and the fragility of human institutions. It stressed the need to reassert and
redefined human freedom. (It is difficult to understand. But then it is French!)

The Creative Arts
After World War II the locus of the creative arts shifted to the United States. Exceptions are the Beatles
and the Rolling Stones, Italian cinema of Fellini and the French films of the ―nouvelle vague‖ (new
wave), which were widely hailed in the US because of their lack of constraints and explicit content. What
is key, however, was the pervasive influence of Freudian theory on the arts in the later part of the 20th
century. True, James Joyce (Irish) and Marcel Proust (French) had written novels in the stream of
consciousness style prior to World War I. After the First World War, Virginia Woolf (British) continued
along these lines except from a woman’s perspective. After WWII, in the post-modern era, the ―post
moderns‖—playwrights Harold Pinter, Eugene Ionesco and Samuel Beckett – mixed fantasy and reality,
blurring the border between the two. The postmoderns rejected traditional ideas of structure seeing in
literature no need for a beginning, a middle or an end (like some of the writing you turn in!)

The Women’s Liberation Movement
The modern women’s movement (if there was a prior women’s ―movement‖as such got its start in the
liberalism of the post-Napoleonic period. It originated in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century
with the Seneca Falls (NY) movement headed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In 1848,
they declared a declaration of independence for women, demanding the right to vote, equal compensation
for work, legal equality and expanded educational opportunities. This was a middle class movement. It
differs from previous attempts by women for greater equality and opportunity in that it was an organized,
financed movement. This while Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympe deGouge made strong cases for the
women’s cause, arguing for equality in education, work and political opportunities they were lone voices
of protest. Of greater impact was John Stuart Mill’s treatise on the rights of women (1859) written with
his daughter in law. From the US the movement spread abroad where it was carried on by the British
suffragettes, also middle class. This was a vocal, often violent movement. British women won the right to
vote right after WWI. Other objectives went unrealized although the war and technology, inventions that
made a women’s work at home easier and also created a niche for them in the workplace – the type
writer. In the post-war period women saw new educational and professional opportunities open to them,
although most women opted for traditional roles of wife and mother. This was only natural since the
upheaval of the first war had created a desire to go back to traditional institutions. Women did experience
greater freedom -–in the 20s, they bobbed their hair, shortened their skirts, and smoked and drank in
public. Also important to the liberation of women was the practice of birth control, which now was aided
by mechanical devices. WWII saw more women enter the workplace – many working in factories at
―men’s jobs.‖ No one was spared from involvement in the war. Although women returned to the home
after the war, many – again middle class, educated – were not altogether content.
         The militant contemporary phase of the movement began in the US in the mid-1960s, a sequel to
the civil rights movement. The women’s movement was inspired by the writings of the French feminist
Simone de Beauvoir whose The Second Sex appeared in France in 1949. DeBeauvoir contended that
because the forces of social tradition are controlled by men, women have been relegated to a secondary
place in the world. She argues that despite considerable change in their social status, women of her time
were still prevented from becoming individuals in their own right. Marriage was still expected to be
women’s common destiny, with their identity defined in relation to their husbands. Women, she argued,
were caught in a psychological trap of secondary status and therefore lacked confidence and creativity in
their work.
         The movement caught on in Europe and has now spread throughout the world with varying
degrees of success. The more blatant forms of legal discrimination have been eliminated; women occupy
or have occupied positions of power in politics and industry throughout Europe. They have experienced
biological freedom thanks to birth control and legalized abortion. Changing social patterns have also
given women greater sexual freedom. Many women feel that they still have not broken through the ―glass
ceiling.‖ Time will tell if women will get everything that they think they want.

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