** war and social upheaval: The Cold War country trends France World War II economic recovery








Cold War France: World War II Economic Recovery


Figure 1.--Here French children receive cans of milk from America after World War II in 1946. Notice the two boys wearing rompers. The press caption read, "Children of employes of French fashion houses gets cans of milk sent by New York fashion houses. Robert Louis Dupug of the Paris Office Professional Art and Creat hands large can to Chabntel Coquet, age 3, whose panties are losing elevation." The photograph was dated July 2, 1946.

The great hardships of the German occupation continued into the immediate post-War era. One of the principal problems confronting France after World War II was rebuilding the country's shattered economy. Unlike Germany and the German occupied East, however, war damage was relatively limited. The quick collapse of the French Army (June 1940) and the German Army (August 1944) meantg that a wide swath of the country was untouched physically by the War. That is not to say there ws not significant damage. The Allies had targeted industrial plants supporting the Germn war effort such as Renault truck plants. Port citities supporting the U-boat effort were also targetted. A major dislocation was the agricultural economy. The most serious damage came from the Allied Transportation Plan designed to cut off German troops manning the Atlantic Wall in preparation for D-Day, bridges and railway infrastructures were a shables. Another report suggests that 1.2 million buildings were destroyed or damaged. [Asselain, p. 108.] Repairing the damage took several years. Because of of price and marketing controls as well as German seizures, many farmers withdrew from the market, chosing to reduce planting and acerage tilled. This meant serious harvest shortfalls in 1943-45. [Mouré, pp. 272-73.] This was something easily rectified. Farm infrastructure and farmers were not damaged and killed. Once farmers were able to obtain reasonable prices for their harvests. The industrial recovery was more difficult. France negotiated a treaty with the United States cancelled a large part of its still unpaid World War I debt, a sum amounting to some $2 billion. The arrangement was known as the Blum-Byrnes agreement (accord Blum-Byrnes) (1946). The agreement was negotiated by Secretary of State James F. Byrnes and representatives of the French government Léon Blum and Jean Monnet. Industrial reconstruction began even before the war ended (1945). French economic recovery was promoted by a baby boom which began even durung the German occupation (1942). We are not sure just why it began during the German occupation, I don't think this was the case for most other countries. The Provisional Government (PG) led by Charles de Gaulle and composed of communists, socialists and Gaullists, took many bold steps. We are not sure about the economic consequences of many of these actions. The PG nationalized key economic sectors (energy, air transport, savings banks, insurance companies ) and large corporations (such as Renault). They also created a Social Security system and works councils and set up a welfare system. he Commissariat général du Plan was created to begin national economic planning (1946). Jean Monnet is put in charge. The First Plan was the Plan de modernisation et d’équipement (1947-52). This focused on key economic activities (energy, steel, cement, transport, and agriculture equipment). Up to this time, French agriculture was largely unmechanized. The Second Plan had broader aims, dealing with housing construction, urban development, scientific research, manufacturing industries (1954-57). [Asselain, p. 112.] The Communist Party had gained great prestige during the War as a result of their role in the Resistance. The economic plight of the people created more support for the Party which in national multiparty elections ganered as much as 23 percent of the vote, making it one of the country's principal political parties and participated in various goverments.

Hardships

Hitler had with Stalin's aid launched War (1939). But in fact he saw East as providing the resources he needed to secure victory. This is very clear in Mein Kampf nearly two decades earlier. As the war played out, however, it would be primarily the occupied West that would be the mainstay of the German war effort, especially France. The Germans through various mechanisms exploited France to support the War effort. As a result, vast quantities of consumer goods and food flowerd from France to the Reich. This required a strict rationing program in France and the ration levels were progresively lowered as the War increasingly went against German. There was some war damage in 1940, but mostly in northern France. Not only was there rationing, but as the Red Army stopped the Germans before Moscow and it became clear that the War would be an extended slugfest, the Germans began conscripting French and other Western workers for war work in the Reich. The quick collapse of the French Army (June 1940) and the German Army (August 1944) meaning that a wide swath of the country was untouched physically by the War. That is not to say there was not significant damaged. Until 1944 there was relatively little war damage during the occupation, except for the ports from which German U-boats operated. This changed as D-Day approached. Not only were beache defenses bombed, but the transport lines, especially the rail lines from the Reich supplying the beach defenses. Then after D-Day there was more more more war damahe, but mostly in Normandy. After the Allied breakout from the D-Day lodgement (August 1944), the Germans for the most prt withdrew behind the defenses oif the West Wall. The great hardships of the German occupation continued into the immediate post-War era. The most immediate problem was food. German occupation policies had affected the farm economy and it woulf take time to recovery. It was not just a matter of food shipments to the Reich. The farm economy was adversely affected in many ways.

The Economy

One of the principal problems confronting France after World War II was rebuilding the country's shattered economy. Unlike Germany and the German occupied East, however, war damage was relatively limited. The Allies had targheted industrial plants supporting the German war effort such as Renault truck plants. Port citities supporting the U-boat effort were also targetted.

Transport

The most serious damage came from the Allied Transportation Plan designed to cut off German troops manning the Atlantic Wall in preparation for D-Day, bridges and railway infrastructures were a shables. The French railway system if not destroyed was shattered. This created serious problems as France began to revuild the ecomomy. Farmers had troublr getting their produce to market and obtaining the supplies they needed likecfertilizer and frm equipment.

Agriculture

A major dislocation was the agricultural economy. Another report suggests that 1.2 million buildings were destroyed or damaged. [Asselain, p. 108.] Repairing the damage took several years. Because of of price and marketing controls as well as German seizures, many farmers withdrew from the market, chosing to reduce planting and acerage tilled. This meant serious harvest shortfalls in 1943-45. [Mouré, pp. 272-73.] This was something easily rectified, but would take time. Farm infrastructure and farmers were not damaged and killed. Once farmers were able to obtain reasonable prices for their harvests and the transport system restored they could begin to fuvction eddicently gin.

Industry

The industrial recovery was more difficult. France negotiated a treaty with the United States cancelled a large part of its still unpaid World War I debt, a sum amounting to some $2 billion. The arrangement was known as the Blum-Byrnes agreement (accord Blum-Byrnes) (1946). The agreement was negotiated by Secretary of State James F. Byrnes and representatives of the French government Léon Blum and Jean Monnet. Industrial reconstruction began even before the war ended (1945). French economic recovery was promoted by a baby boom which began even durung the German occupation (1942). We are not sure just why it began during the German occupation, I don't think this was the case for most other countries.

Provisional Government (PG)

The Provisional Government (PG) led by World War II hero Charles de Gaulle was compsed of and composed of communists, socialists and Gaullists--what the French called tripartisme. The PG took many bold steps. We are not sure about the economic consequences of many of these actions. The PG nationalized key economic sectors (energy, air transport, savings banks, insurance companies ) and large corporations (such as Renault). They also created a Social Security system and works councils and set up a welfare system. The Commissariat général du Plan was created to begin national economic planning (1946). Jean Monnet is put in charge. The First Plan was the Plan de modernisation et d’équipement (1947-52). This focused on key economic activities (energy, steel, cement, transport, and agriculture equipment). Up to this time, French agriculture was largely unmechanized. The Second Plan had broader aims, dealing with housing construction, urban development, scientific research, manufacturing industries (1954-57). [Asselain, p. 112.]

Child Care Programs

Getting the economy fuctioning again was no easy matter. As a result there was no instant recovery after the War. And this includd the agricultural sector. And the socialist actions taken by the PG hardly incouraged a revival of free market activity. Foo was a spcial problem. nd of course the children and elderly were the two populations most at risk. The Government saw to it that no one starved. There were, however, food shortages and proper nutrition was a problem. The PG ininiatd some domestic food programs. The United States as in World War I provided food assistance. We note groups of at risk children being invuted to countries where the food situation was better. We see small groups being hosted in both Britain and Sweden.

Communist Party

The Communist Party had gained great prestige during the War as a result of their role in the Resistance. The economic plight of the people created more support for the Party which in national multiparty elections ganered as much as 23 percent of the vote, making it one of the country's principal political parties and participated in various goverments. Party membership rached 0.5 milliom voters, a huge increase from its pre-Popular Front membership of a mere 30,000. In the first post-war elections for the unicameral interim Constituent National Assembly (October 1945). made the PCF the single largest politicl party in France with 26 percent of the vote and 159 seats in the Assembly. It was led by Maurice Thorez who proudly stated his devotion to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. The diificulties assocated with economic recovery resulted in widespread popular disatisfaction which Thorez and the Communists attempted to use to their advantage.

Strikes and Labor Violence (1947)

Disatisfaction with economic and wage stagnation turned violent in 1947 and took on an insurectionist one far beyond wage demands. Some view it as a The strikes in France in 1947 were a series a protest to Western capitalism in general. At the time many French viters had highly idealized ideas about living and working conditions in the Soviet Union, largely based on the role of the Red Amy in smashing the Wehrmacht. The strikes began at France's largest Renault factory which ironically had been nationlized by the PG. The Renault strike was a spontaneous event. The Communist Party which controlled many unions, decided to join the strike. The result was the May Crisis and ended tripartisme with Communist particiption in government. Labor violence continued and took on a blantntly political tone. The peak of the strikes became essentially a general strike (September). The Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers' Parties (Cominform), a kind of revived Cominform) became involved attacked the Marshall Plan that the United States was offering to help revive the economy. At the peak there were an estimated 3 million strikers. Over 23 million working days were lost to strikes in 1947, a huge increae over the 0.4 million working days lost in 1946. This was the formulae for the Cimmunists seizing power throughout Eastern Europe. The difference was that inFrance you did not have a NKVD-controlld police force and the Soviet Red Army to assist. ThevPG remaoned in control. One impact was that the Confédération générale du travail (General Confederation of Labour, CGT) divided into a Communist influnced minority nd a pro-Atlantic-creating Workers' Force (FO) majority. The Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) was a force created after liberation (Decmber 1944). The first time that they were used in force was to supress the violnt ction od the strikrs (November-December 1947). The CRS was deployed by the Minister of the Interior Jules Moch (SFIO) .

American Relief Effort

France has some of the richest agricultural land in the world. American food relief to France was important during World War I. France was basically self-suffient in food, bur conscription of farm workers and the flood of refugees had create a food shortage. World War II was different. France fell to the Germans in the first year of the War (June 1940). There was thus, unlike World War I, no way for America to get food aid to the French. Food shortages developed in France during the German occupation because the Germans were seizing so much of French food production and shipping it to the Reich. This did not change until D-Day (June 1940) and the liberation of France (August 1944). It would take some time for the French economy, incluing agriculture, to recover. The situation was not as bad as in the East, but it was bad. The livestock heard had been depleted and even poultry was, if not rare, also badly depleted. Tanks and troops had traversed France from the Normanfy am Mediteranean beaches to the borders of the Reich. Luckily for the French, the Germans were anxious to get back home and the Allied soldiers, unlke the German solkdiers, were well provisioned. Even so many farmers suffered from the passage of the troops. France would be the third most important recipent of Lend Lease aidfter Britain nd the Soviet Union, some $3.2 billion. Most of this was military equipment but included was important amounts of food. Not all the aid was Government food shipments. France would receive the first Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe (CARE) packages that played such an important role in saving the Germans from starvation. The begenning of Heifer Interntionl began repopulting Europeam livestock heards.

Sources

Asselain, Jean-Charles. Histoire économique de la France du XVIIIe siècle à nos jours.

Mouré, Kenneth. "Food rationing and the black market in France (1940-1944)," French History (2010) Vol. 24, No. 2.






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Created: 9:24 PM 5/28/2013
Last updated: 5:36 PM 3/24/2021