Economic History Workshop | "Nationalization as Anti-Trust Policy in the Post-War Anti-Fascist Moment"
“Nationalization as Anti-Trust Policy: The Post-War Anti-Fascist Moment in France, Britain and West-Germany, 1944-51”
Liane Hewitt, Ph.D. Candidate, Princeton University
This meeting will be held via Zoom. Registration is required to attend. To register, visit:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing a unique link to join the meeting. If there is a pre-circulated paper, it will be distributed to those who registered approximately one-week prior to the workshop.
This dissertation asks how international cartels became rejected after the Second World as the private scaffolding for organizing European capitalism and international order. After 1918, a broad consensus of actors (governments, politicians, legal and economic experts, and sectors of socialists, labour and consumer groups) boosted cartels as a near-panacea for stabilizing chaotic markets, securing the fragile peace and building a common market that could hold its own against American Fordist mass-production and distribution. This chapter argues that the sweeping nationalization reforms enacted at the end of WW2 by Britain and France, under the Attlee Labour government and the Resistance-controlled Constituent Assembly respectively, should be seen as pivotal episodes in Western Europe’s anti-cartel turn. This interpretation brings together two traditionally separate historiographies: the first on the post-war social-democratic moment and the construction of national welfare states, and a more technical literature on post-1945 decartelization. The chapter suggests that governments and activists justified nationalization as an anti-trust policy to defeat the anti-democratic, perhaps even fascistic power of private big-business over the state and national economic life. The organized Left had proposed comprehensive nationalization reforms since the end of WW1. But it was not until the anti-fascist and Liberation moment swept Britain and France in the wake of the victory of 1944-45 that governments took control of the commanding heights of their economies: notably credit, energy (gas, coal), transport, and iron and steel (in Britain, only). The chapter will conclude by briefly considering alternative national solutions to the cartel problem after 1945, which did not involve state nationalizations in Scandinavia and West Germany. American occupation and a weaker post-war anti-fascist moment in these countries may hold the key to explaining why they did not take the nationalization as anti-trust policy route.