‘You Too Can Be Like Us’ - Selling The Marshall Plan

David Ellwood shows how the US fought for the people of Europe with an Americanised vision of their future.

When, in the summer of 1947, the European countries signed on for the Marshall Plan (officially known as the European Recovery Program, ERP), each of them accepted a clause which allowed for the dissemination within their borders of ‘information and news’ on the workings of the plan itself. From these premises, barely noticed at the time, there sprang the greatest international propaganda operation ever seen in peacetime.

The United States, enjoying one of the most pragmatically creative phases of its modern foreign policy history, had invented with the ERP a new method for projecting its power into Europe. What started out as ‘a suggestion’ by Secretary of State George Marshall to jump-start Europe’s ailing post-war reconstruction process, then speedily evolved into a wide-ranging effort to modernise Europe’s industries, markets, unions and economic control mechanisms. The means used were dollar loans and grants, technical assistance, ‘Missions’ in each country and as much advice and exhortation as the Marshall Plan technocrats thought they could get away with.

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