Wilfried Mausbach. Zwischen Morgenthau und Marshall: Das wirtschaftspolitische Deutschlandkonzept der USA 1944-1947. Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1996. 438 pp. DM 78.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-7700-1878-9.
Reviewed by Diethelm Prowe (Department of History, Carleton College)
Published on H-German (November, 1997)
The subtitle of this excellent Cologne dissertation may be a bit misleading. Wilfried Mausbach does not deal with the economic policy of the United States military government or American conceptions of the reconstruction of the German economy along socialist/capitalist or economic planning/free-market lines. "Economic policy conception" together with the main title refers to the ways in which U.S. policy-makers proposed to stop potential German aggression and to restabilize the international political and economic order by means of economic policy toward Germany as they moved from the conceptions of the Morgenthau Plan to those of the Marshall Plan. The book is a contribution to the literature on postwar U.S. foreign policy and the origins of the Cold War in Europe and appears almost simultaneously with the most recent principal American revisionist work in that subject area, Carolyn W. Eisenberg's Drawing the Line: The American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944-1949 (New York, 1996), which is already listed in the bibliography.
Like Eisenberg's work, Mausbach's analysis is based on a significantly broadened primary research base. In fact, the archival bases of the two books largely overlap--with the addition of British and Labour records in Eisenberg's and German archival collections in Mausbach's. Remarkably it is Mausbach who provides the reader with an excellent up-to-date summary of the debates on U.S. policy and the origins of the Cold War, while Eisenberg tries to set a "mood" with a rather sentimental introduction, "Private Polowsky's Oath," which reveals her own revisionist proclivities without positioning her work explicitly in the debate. Though he leans toward the national-security theorists, Mausbach places his work outside any of the major interpretative models (p. 20). He emphasizes instead a research base which allows him to look at decision-making levels and institutions in Washington, U.S. agencies abroad (including the military government), and inter-Allied relations. He stresses in particular the Federal Economic Administration (FEA), where much of the actual reparations policy was elaborated and rationalized. In contrast to most revisionists, he largely ignores private interests in the U.S.
The most innovative and interesting aspect of Mausbach's book is the particular perspective through which he reexamines the largely familiar story of the transformation of American policy from the harshly reformist Morgenthau/JCS 1067 line (Mausbach avoids judgmental terms like "vindictive") to the Marshall Plan. He focuses on reparations in the broad sense (dismantlement as well as deliveries from current production) as the key question that served to define the fundamental American policy conception vis-a-vis Germany, European reconstruction, and international security. The centrality of this subject was only natural since it had been the critical problem of interwar international economic and political stability. Eager to learn the lessons of Versailles, the wartime planners in the State Department initially rejected reparations altogether. But under pressure from the wartime Allies and from Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, reparations quickly became an intrinsic part of all postwar planning. Policy makers, Mausbach argues, did not conceive of reparations primarily as a penalty or restitution, as the victorious powers at Versailles had done without regard to the consequences for the international economic system. Instead they viewed reparations as a tool of an international and American security policy. This, in the author's view, held also for the Morgenthau Plan and became its most enduring influence on American policy. Reparations were to serve as a way to restructure the German economy for the sake of international stability. The debate over the form and level of reparations was therefore over their goal--whether they were to be primarily a tool for economic disarmament to preclude Germany from starting another war or whether they were to transform the German economy to make it most useful for an economic recovery of the rest of Europe. These two goals favored different forms of reparations. Economic disarmament meant that reparations would take the form of dismantling of industrial plants and capital stock, while reparations from current production of raw materials and machinery might best serve European recovery. In both scenarios the Soviet Union was still obviously included. The Cold War did not enter these considerations until later.
In this context Mausbach argues that the Morgenthau Plan was never designed as a scheme to de-industrialize Germany and turn it into an agrarian nation with the corollary of a demographic catastrophe. Such notions were voiced by Morgenthau personally, but never became part of the policy associated with his plan, which was shaped primarily by Harry Dexter White. In contrast to the prevailing view, Mausbach goes even one step further to claim that the essential motivation of the plan was always security policy rather than hostility to German reconstruction or vengeful insistence on harsh treatment for Germany (p. 63). What made the Morgenthau Plan so offensive to the earlier planners was that it insisted on reparations through dismantlement rather than current production which, they believed, threatened a European recovery for which German resources would be vital.
The resulting deemphasis of reparations from current production, which conflicted with the Yalta agreements, was not, as the author shows, the result of a hardening of the U.S. position toward the Soviets, as revisionists have argued (Eisenberg no longer makes this argument, however). Rather, it was a step toward compromise among American policy makers. This compromise was then "objectified" in social science terms by the FEA, whose studies concluded that reparations would be the best tool to restructure German industry gradually by carefully-controlled dismantlement and limitation of new industrial expansion with the goal of reducing war potential without endangering European recovery. Mausbach sees the first Level-of-Industry Plan of 1946 as the peak of this conception--an extraordinary experiment in the restructuring of a country's economy to assure international balance and security. It was also a last major compromise between the U.S. and Soviet positions.
While the revisionists--most recently Eisenberg--attribute the breakdown of that U.S.-Soviet understanding to the American unwillingness to yield to even the most reasonable Soviet requests for badly needed resources from German reparations because of U.S. capitalist greed and anti-Communism, Mausbach compellingly argues the reverse. It was the frustrating experience of Soviet demands, exaggerated security concerns, political oppression in East-Central Europe, and Moscow's unwillingness to reveal the formidable quantity of machinery, goods, and (forced) labor already taken from their zone that spoiled the atmosphere. While Americans and Soviets still agreed, for different reasons, that German production should increase, Moscow's sizable demands for reparations from current production endangered the U.S. conception of restructuring the German economy. The most intractable obstacle in the way of a Soviet-American compromise on the reparations question and German economic unity generally, Mausbach finds, were the Soviet Mixed Companies--plants owned jointly by German and Soviet authorities, which supplied the Soviet Union directly. This important factor is rarely even mentioned by revisionists. The reparations dispute itself, then, did not lead to the end of U.S.-Soviet cooperation and the ultimate American abandonment of their economic restructuring conception; rather Soviet demands and authoritarian actions in Central and Eastern Europe did. As the Communists moved to increase their influence in the western zones and made plans for the expansion of the Communist-controlled Socialist Unity Party (SED) to the West, Washington was no longer willing to subsidize the consolidation of Soviet rule through reparations.
In the summer of 1947, the Marshall Plan and the second Level-of-Industry Plan (which created the foundation for the former in western Germany) sealed the abandonment of the postwar economic restructuring conception that had linked security with reparations. In his final chapter on those two plans, which were built on the assumption of at least a temporary division of Germany, Mausbach confirms the established view that the Marshall Plan would have been unthinkable without the Western fear of Soviet expansion and that the plan aimed to stabilize at least Western Europe on a democratic free-market basis. This new conception still married security to economic transformation, although the restructuring schemes were not as dramatic as those during the first two postwar years. Here Mausbach might have drawn the parallels to the earlier conception a bit further. He does reemphasize the security issue when he cites Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson's argument that "the Soviet demand for reparations from current German production constituted a serious threat to the American social system" and therefore to American security (p. 373). But even for resolute anti-Communists, security from a potential German threat remained a goal. The Marshall Plan conception must be seen in the context of NATO's aim--what Wolfram Hanrieder calls the "dual containment" of the Soviet Union and Germany. And as Michael Hogan, Volker Berghahn, Charles Maier and others have argued, the "Americanization" of the European and German economies, which was ultimately driven most powerfully by the Marshall Plan, entailed considerable economic "restructuring" as well. The marriage of economic restructuring and security thus remained, but reparations-through-dismantlement were turned into subsidization from Marshall Plan funds.
One can only wish this interesting study a wide readership in this country not only among students of postwar American policy toward Germany, but also of the origins of the Cold War.
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Diethelm Prowe. Review of Mausbach, Wilfried, Zwischen Morgenthau und Marshall: Das wirtschaftspolitische Deutschlandkonzept der USA 1944-1947.
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