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Manipulating hegemony : British Labour and the Marshall Plan

By Rhiannon Vickers


This study examines the impact of the Marshall Plan on the British Labour\ud government and the trade union movement. It argues that the British government\ud was able to 'manage' relations with the US in terms of limiting unwanted US\ud influence, while restructuring relations with its domestic support base. in this\ud way, the British government was able to play what Putnam has referred to as a\ud two-level game, satisfying demands at both the national and international levels.\ud The Marshall Plan provides evidence of how, as Putnam explains, 'central\ud decision-makers strive to reconcile domestic and international imperatives\ud simultaneously'. By drawing on TUC archives it shows how the government and\ud the leadership of the TUC used the Marshall Plan to realign the unions and\ud increase their control over the labour movement.\ud The study rejects arguments that the Labour government was forced to change its\ud policies because of the Marshall Plan. Instead it shows that the Labour\ud government used American pressure to persuade its own constituents of the value\ud of its policies. The government and trade union leaderships were able control\ud those on the left through an anti-communist campaign while removing\ud communists from positions of authority. Through its role in the establishment of\ud an anti-communist, pro-Marshall Plan international trade union body, the British\ud Trades Union Congress weakened the left's source of external support. The\ud establishment of a network of pro-Marshall Plan organisations such as the\ud European Recovery Programme Trade Union Advisory Committee and the\ud Anglo-American Council on Productivity, helped the trade union leadership to\ud delineate the parameters of debate and to assure the longer-term marginalisation\ud of the far left

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