Although a strong influence throughout the nineteenth and first third of the twentieth century, liberal thinking was eclipsed for the long period that lasted from the middle of the 1930s to the end of the 1970s |1.|.
Yet during the 1920s financial markets had seemed irreversibly almighty. The 1929 crash and the long ensuing crisis made it necessary for governments to strictly monitor financial and banking activities.
During this withdrawal of free trade prevalence (from the 1930s in North and South America and after the Second World War in Europe) various policies involving strong government intervention in the economy came to hold sway. This was true of the USA under Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, and 30 years later under the J.F. Kennedy and L.B. Johnson administrations. It was true of France with the Front populaire, of Britain during the 1930s and just after the Second World War under Beveridge (advised by J.M. Keynes) and under subsequent Labour governments. After the Second World War, it was also true of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries. Keynesianism, whether of the social democratic, ’socialist’ or social-Christian variety, dominated economic thinking.
After WWII, private companies had been nationalised in Central and Eastern European countries before they were labelled ’popular democracies’ and controlled by Moscow.
In a number of key Third World countries, developmentalist, nationalist and even socialist policies came to the fore, as in China after the 1949 revolution. Anti-communist regimes in the Third World, such as the ones in South Korea and Taiwan, carried out radical agrarian reforms and built a strong government-controlled industrial sector. This is the central (and well-hidden) reason for the economic ’miracle’ that took place in those two ’tiger’ economies. The policies that created the past successes of South Korea and Taiwan stand in stark contrast to neo-liberal prescriptions |2.| . This point cannot be over-emphasised.
The eclipse of liberalism came about as a result of the prolonged economic crisis that began with the Wall Street crash in 1929, and as a result of the victory of fascism and Nazism and their subsequent defeat at the hands of the masses (strikes and armed Resistance) and of the Allied forces (USA, USSR, Britain, France). The War and the defeat of fascism opened the way to significant political and social changes in the world. These began with concessions to the working class, the crisis of the colonial empires and the liberation struggles of dominated Third World peoples. To this can be added the relative success of industrialisation by import-substitution in Latin America, the economic dynamism of India after it won independence from Britain in 1947, of Algeria after it won independence from France in 1962 to the 1970s, and of Egypt under Nasser in the 1950s and 1960s There was also economic progress in the so-called socialist countries (Eastern Europe after the War and the USSR from the 1930s onwards).
This period shows a number of striking features. Firstly, a large number of private companies came under public control (’nationalisations’), beginning in both Western and Eastern Europe in the wake of the victory over the Nazis and extending into the Third World until the mid-1970s. Secondly, social-welfare systems were set up and expanded as part of what became known as the Welfare State (from Roosevelt’s New Deal to policies implemented in several Third World countries such as Mexico in the 1930s, under Lazaro Cardenas). Thirdly, the economic model in place was ’Fordist’, in that it involved the development of mass consumption of durable goods in the industrialised countries. Fourthly, a social compromise was reached in these countries between the leadership of the labour movement (parties and trade unions) and ’their’ capitalist class. This compromise took the form of agreements contributing to social harmony. These features arose and prospered in a context of sustained growth - in the developed capitalist countries, the Third World and the so-called socialist countries.
These wide-ranging political and economic developments also included a world-wide renewal of non-dogmatic Marxism. In the developed capitalist countries we saw the publication of the works of Ernest Mandel, Paul Sweezy, Paul Baran, André Gunder Frank, to name but a few. In Cuba, after the revolutionary victory on 1 January 1959, came the works of Ernesto Che Guevara in the 1960s. In Eastern Europe, Kuron and Modzelewsky in the Poland of the 1960s, Karel Kosik, Rudolf Bahro, and others - gave the foundation to a non-dogmatic Marxism that emerged in opposition to the fossilised Stalinist system.
It is also worth noting the emergence of the Marxist-influenced dependency school of thought in Latin America (Theotonio Dos Santos, Rui Mauro Marini, Fernando Henrique Cardoso). Finally, there was the work of Samir Amin on de-linking.
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