After the Marshall speech. the British and French called for a conference in Paris to formulate plans for the acceptance of US aid. Stalin thought that the offer was an attempt by the USA to interfere in the domestic affairs of the European states. So he sent Molotov to Paris to discuss details with British and the French. Stalin wanted the financial aid, but he didn’t like the joint programme idea made, so Molotov left the conference, in fear that the US would undermine the Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. The Eastern Europe didn’t attend because Stalin intervened in preventing them from attending the conference.
In the conference, they discussed about negotiations and that France wanted to ensure that their own economy had preference in receiving US aid over the economic needs of Bizonia. They were ready to consider the formation of a customs union so that it enabled France to control the West Germany economy. However, the British wished to safeguard their national sovereignty and were opposed to creating power supranational organisations.
They decided that:
- The Germany’s economic revival was declared essential, although it was to be carefully controlled to protect it’s neighbours.
- There was to be cooperation on the development of hydroelectric sources, pooling railway wagons, and the setting up of production targets for coal, agriculture, refined oil and steel.
- Although the 17 states promised to liberalise trade and France agreed to start negotiations for a customs union, these commitments were hedged around with qualifications aimed at protecting national independence.
Stalin’s reaction to the Marshall Aid
The Dollar imperialism is a term used by Molotov, the Foreign Minister, which is believed that USA was creating their own sphere of influence in the Western Europe through this plan.
Cominform was established in September 1947 to promote ideological unity among the Communist parties in Europe. All the Soviet bloc Communist parties joined, as did the French and Italian parties. Its main tasks were to complete the Sovietisation of the Soviet satellite states, to co-ordinate the activities of the Communist parties in both the Soviet bloc and throughout the world.
Comecon was founded in 1949 by USSR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The task they had was to integrate the economies of Eastern Europe with the USSR’s, but only existed initially in name. In 1959 the organisation was given more authority, and became better organised. There was no effective economic integration in the Soviet bloc until after 1959, the individual states broadly followed the Soviet pattern of economic development, which were:
- Agriculture was collectivised
- Centralised economies were established
- 5-year plans laid the foundations for large-scale industrialisation and the development of heavy industry.
Stalin responded to the Marshall Aid by declaring war on it and created a more divided and entrenched Europe. From this, it was then clear that the Iron Curtain was a reality. The Soviet had 3 methods of control:
- Politically – the incorporation of eastern Europe into the spheres of Soviet control, This was aided by the presence of the Red Army in the Eastern Europe.
They were no longer willing for Communist parties in each eastern European country to work with other parties. Coalitions were thought to be more acceptable to the west than just one Communist government. Stalin was no longer willing to be so accommodating.
The creation of Cominform was a response against the Marshall plan.
- Economic – the creation of Comecon
- Military – On-going presence of the Red Army in these countries in the eastern Europe.
These ideas setup by Stalin helped him to take over eastern Europe because most of the countries near the USSR were vulnerable against the Red Army. Since they were closer to USSR, they were helpful to provide security, and since they needed financial help, the Comecon would help them economically, hence, allowing Stalin to take over countries who seek for his aid.
The Takeover of Eastern Europe
- Poland – Stalin set up a provisional government of National Unity in June 1945 as Stalin couldn’t afford to have free elections as he believes he would suffer a loss in the election. The Soviets used terror to make up the electoral results of gaining 394 seats while the Polish Peasant Party gained 28 seats. The government were protesting, such as Mikolajsxyk, leader of exiled Government in London, who had urged USA and Britain to intervene in the problem, but Poland was in the Soviet sphere of influence, so nothing could be done.
- Romania – The Socialist Party agreed to amalgamate with the Communists and in November the voters were presented with an electoral bloc and the opposition joined. 80% of the vote were won. There weren’t any strong leaders that could oppose the Soviets, so it helped Stalin to consolidate their position more quickly than Poland.
- Bulgaria – Stalin urged the Bulgarian Communists to set up a Labour Party to have a broader base. In October elections to place, and the oppositions parties were winning over one-third of the total votes. Due to this, Stalin allowed the Communists to liquidate the oppositions. The Bulgarian Communists took the creation of Cominform as a cue for pressing on with its programme to nationalise industry, collectivising agriculture, which made a one-party state.
- Yugoslavia – The Communists Party won 90% of the votes in the election, and Tito was able to implement a smooth revolution based on the Stalinist model in the USSR.
- Czechoslovakia – The Communists won the vote by 38% and weren’t carried out without any violence or efforts by the Party to manipulate the vote. The Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk said he “returned as a lackey of the Soviet Government” which shows how powerless Jan was, even as a Foreign Minister.
- Hungary – Soviet influence was guaranteed through its dominating position on the Allied Control Commissions, the real governing force in Hungary. Stalin was able to insist on the Communist Party participating in the coalition government and controlling the vital Ministry of Interior. In Spring 1947, the most powerful opposition to the Communists was shattered when the leaders of the Smallholders’ Party, Bela Kocavcs, was arrested by the Soviet troops. In the August elections, they won 45% of the votes. Even though Hungary might retain some independence, it was increasingly being drawn into the Soviet bloc.