The British state and capital accumulation 1945-51
This thesis examines the British state's international economic strategy in the postwar period of Attlee's governments 1945-51. It assesses the international political determinants of economic management in the Chancellorships of Dalton, Cripps, and Gaitskell. Special attention is paid to a critical examination of the orthodox interpretations of postwar British action which claim that the British state capitulated to American demands. The evidence of this thesis suggests that this claim is incorrect. The Labour government rejected a radical socialist solution to the economic problems facing Britain in 1945. To realise Labour's programme of domestic reconstruction the state required rapid accumulation which could only be achieved if Britain could reconstruct an adequate international payments system to facilitate trade and secure regular imports of essential commodities and raw materials. Although the postwar structure of production and trade left Western Europe heavily dependent on the economic resources of the United States, Britain had a strong bargaining position which rested on London's role as the primary financial centre and the UK's initial political and economic strength in relation to the other nations of Western Europe. Britain exploited these strengths to subvert the American objectives of world domination and ultimately coax the USA into accepting an Atlantic partnership to the mutual interest of each party. Whilst Britain's long-term objective was to re-establish sterling as a world currency, this objective should not be seen as simply serving US wishes or realising the interests of the City of London against 'national interests'. The objective was based on a material necessity, to overcome the primary barrier to accumulation which was the inappropriate structure of production and trade experienced in the dollar gap. Britain therefore used dollar aid to restructure trade, stimulate production, and reduce the dollar gap to gain some degree of independence from the United States.