Alexandros Kostopoulos (Αλέξανδρος Κωστόπουλος), Γέφυρες Συνεργασίας, Σχέδιο Μάρσαλ και Ελλάδα [Bridges of cooperation: the Marshall Plan and Greece]. Athens: Ikaros. 2017. Pp. 128. 24 illustrations, 4 tables. Paper €13.00.
On June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave a commencement address at Harvard University calling for a United States’ aid program to Europe, the European Recovery Program. Passed by Congress in March 1948, the program has come to be known as the Marshall Plan. Through that program, the United States sought to rebuild Greece, investing $946.4 million (between 1948–52), which was one of the highest per capita investments of all European countries. In Γέφυρες Συνεργασίας, Σχέδιο Μάρσαλ και Ελλάδα Ελλάδα [Bridges of cooperation: the Marshall Plan and Greece] Alexandros Kostopoulos commemorates the seventieth anniversary of the Marshall Plan. This slim book offers a plethora of information for the reader, in addition to a historical analysis of the challenges involving the use and distribution of funds. Kostopoulos incorporates recent historical research on the purpose of the Marshall Plan to show that U.S. interests went beyond that of simple Cold War polarities by seeking to encourage greater Western European connections and cooperation. In this way, Γέφυρες Συνεργασίας contributes to the historical debates on the nature and purpose of the Marshall Plan.
Kostopoulos organizes his book into three sections: one section includes commentaries by prominent individuals in Greece and the United States. A second section provides a historical overview of the wartime and immediate postwar situation in Greece, and a final section details the investments made in that country. The first section includes a general introduction by the author and six other commentaries by Greek and American politicians, dignitaries, and business leaders, such as Geoffrey R. Pyatt (U.S. Ambassador to Greece), Dennys Plessas-Leonidis (Lockheed Martin), and Marios Evriviades (Panteion University). Kostopoulos frames his introduction to the Marshall Plan within the context of the current Greek economic situation. As Greece is still grappling with the economic crisis triggered by the collapse of the United States housing market in 2007, Kostopoulos views the Marshall Plan as an inspiration for rebuilding Greece. His introduction speaks to current European leaders who advocate draconian economic policies that have pushed the Greek economy into further decline by encouraging them to be mindful of the spirit of the Marshall Plan as they make decisions regarding Greece’s economy. Kostopoulos implies that a modern-day Marshall Plan would lead to widespread growth, build new bridges of cooperation and create jobs for Greeks—a strategy that would place Greece on a new historical trajectory.
This theme is echoed to a large extent in the other short commentaries that follow. While most of the commentaries simply celebrate the success of the Marshall Plan and its legacy in postwar Greece, the Konstantinos Mitsotakis and Alexandros Filon commentaries highlight other significant historical factors. Former Prime Minister Mitsotakis revisits the wartime period, emphasizing the immediate impact of the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine. In no uncertain terms, Mitsotakis concludes that, “if Greece did not have the help of the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, Greece would have lost the Civil War” (14). Mitsotakis cautions that the populism—and leftist political propaganda—of the present should not cloud the manner in which the Marshall Plan is historically viewed. His comments push back against the revisionist historiography regarding the Greek Civil War and postwar period. Scholars, such as Mark Mazower (1991), refute the perception that the National Liberation Front and Greek People’s Army (EAM/ELAS) sought a communist overthrow, maintaining that the Civil War was caused primarily by the Germans and the British. American involvement was therefore seen as furthering British interests and ensuring that the conservative right maintained political power during the Cold War period. The Marshall Plan would then be seen as a tool to further these Western imperialist actions. Mitsotakis’s comments are important as he attempts to temper wholesale condemnation of the right during the Civil War. For Mitsotakis, communism did not offer a brighter future for the country; he argues that contemporary leftist politicians blindly disregard the consequences of communist rule in Eastern Europe when they castigate the Greek Right during the Civil War. They also employ contemporary populist rhetoric to color the events and personalities of that period. Indeed, atrocities were committed on both sides of the conflict, but Mitsotakis astutely—and, I think, rightfully—points out that the communist alternative held no benefit for Greece.
Ambassador Alexandros Filon reiterates similar historical points but places them in the wider political context of geopolitical interests and rivalries that existed in the eastern Mediterranean and that conditioned involvement in Greece. Emphasizing that Greece was the only European country to face a civil war at the end of World War II, Filon argues that this further destroyed the country and undermined governmental stability. He also underscores a theme that is present throughout other sections of the book: since the Civil War period, the administrative bodies in Athens lacked the necessary means to manage the massive funding given to Greece. Filon stresses that this was especially evident in the countryside, where a lack of communication and other political factors hindered the appropriate distribution of funds. While he does not take aim at specific politicians and shortcomings, Filon diplomatically defines the phrase “political factors” as administrative problems caused by poor communication and/or differing views of political priorities (25). As a result, American advisors began taking a greater role in channeling the funds as well as overseeing the implementation of programs themselves. This conclusion is debated by scholars who argue that foreign (primarily American) involvement in Greek affairs was the source of problems for Greece in the postwar period (i.e., Kofas 2003; Papandreou 1971; Roubatis 1989). The initial focus was on Greek politics, but it was expanded to include military and economic affairs as well. These scholars capitalize on statements made during the period to reinforce their perception. Most notably, Andreas Papandreou made the claim of American foreign interference during the years that he served as economic advisor to his father, George Papandreou, in the mid-1960s (Papandreou 1971).
Kostopoulos picks up Filon’s comments and addresses the argument of foreign interference in the second section of the book. Here, he provides an overview of the condition of Greece in the immediate postwar period as well as the transition from British to American assumption of Greek assistance and oversight. One of the key points that Kostopoulos raises is the role and responsibility of Greek politicians who “shaped the domestic landscape and established the rules for the political games of the following decades” (38). In so doing, he reinforces Filon’s underlying criticism of Greek politicians and carries it through the remainder of the book. He emphasizes that American administrators only intervened in Greek recovery efforts when concerns were raised regarding misdirected funds. Citing the administrative weakness of the Panayis Tsaldaris government, Kostopoulos maintains that this was the cause for American distrust of the Greek administration, prompting the formation of a Greek delegation that was sent to Washington D.C. to develop an overarching plan for Greece in conjunction with American officials.
Kostopoulos’s comments regarding Tsaldaris are not new; they are echoed by contemporary scholarship (Rossides 1998) and by U.S. politicians at the time, including Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, who called Tsaldaris a weak and silly man who had little practical sense about the limits of American support (cited in Rossides 1998, 21). James Warren (Chief Import Program Officer) also made reference to a report sent to Paul Porter (head of the Marshall Plan in Washington, D.C.) in November 1950, which characterized Greek politicians as preoccupied by “little things” and who “preferred to pass responsibility for difficult and unpopular decisions to the [American Mission for Aid to Greece]” (cited in Rossides 1998, 80). Both Kostopoulos and Filon could easily draw on these and numerous other sources to place the majority of the blame on the Greek politicians for their inability to absorb and effectively distribute Marshall aid funding. However, wholesale blame on Tsaldaris and other Greek administrators can only go so far. Ultimately, there is plenty of blame for the problems that emerged that can be attributed to both U.S. and Greek administrations. What Kostopoulos brings to the discussion is that Greek domestic weaknesses must be taken into account when assessing blame.
The third section of the book focuses on individual areas of investment and American assistance, detailing the location and scope of reconstruction, ranging from social programs to transportation and agriculture. This portion of the book (including fourteen subsections) provides a wealth of statistics and graphs for every sector of recovery. Within each subsection, a brief overview exists that provides a useful context for subsequent information. This is especially useful for understanding why certain reconstruction sectors faced greater challenges than others. One such sector was transportation and the rebuilding of a road network that was largely destroyed during the war. Kostopoulos states that American engineers and workers operated under the watchful eye of the Greek army since “the andartes, despite their defeat, continued to deploy landmines and to sabotage transportation vehicles” (Kostopoulos 86).
In other areas, namely public health, industrialization, and agriculture, great strides were made without cause for concern. For example, nearly all of the Greek hospitals and health services benefited from Marshall Plan funding. For the industrial sector, a significant expansion of factories and industrial output occurred and, within a short space of time, Greece was in a position to export manufactured goods such as cement and textile materials. One of the most significant improvements came in the agricultural sector, where Greece was quickly able to recover its prewar agricultural output and even surpass it. By 1953, many agricultural products—such as rice, cotton, and citrus fruits—reached surplus levels and could then be exported. American technology and modernized approaches to agriculture were the key to this incredible surge in agricultural production. A final mention should be given to the impact of social assistance on the Greek people. Kostopoulos states that nearly half of Marshall Plan funding was used to help 700,000 refugees in 1948–49 and over two million destitute individuals between 1948–50.
Without delving too deeply into historical debates, Kostopoulos takes aim at critics of the Marshall Plan in his conclusion. Albeit short, this section is tightly written and is one of the most analytical parts of the book. Here, Kostopoulos clearly asserts that Marshall Plan funding was the singular catalyst for Greece’s economic recovery. He also responds to scholarly and political perceptions of American imperialism by stressing that the Marshall Plan aimed for cooperation between all European countries first and, then, for cooperation with the United States. In this way, he considers the Marshall Plan as laying the groundwork for European integration leading to today’s European Union. Kostopoulos categorically rejects the American imperialist argument (i.e., Kofas 2003; Papandreou 1971; Roubatis 1989) and builds upon the argument made by Filon in the introduction. At the end of his commentary, Filon mentions the research conducted by the Historical Archives of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Η Ελλάδα στο μεταίχμιο ενός νέου κόσμου (2002) [Greece at the crossroads of a new world], to show that European economic cooperation was a fundamental goal of the Marshall Plan. Η Ελλάδα uses recently declassified documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs archives to make a compelling case that Marshall aid funding served many purposes, including that of fostering Western European economic cooperation and not simply furthering American imperialist interests. In this way, Kostopoulos helps push the historical debate further, moving it beyond a simplistic, Cold War understanding of Marshall aid funding.
Overall, Γέφυρες Συνεργασίας, Σχέδιο Μάρσαλ και Ελλάδα is an excellent book that provides both statistical information and critical analysis of the Marshall Plan. Kostopoulos expertly accounts for the successes and challenges associated with such a windfall of investment. He highlights the domestic factors that hindered the smooth implementation of Marshall Plan funding and assesses the specific actions taken in each of the fourteen sectors under examination. This is a notable book that will be consulted in the years to come. It would have been ideal if this book were published on the sixtieth anniversary of the Marshall Plan so that European politicians and economists could have consulted it in their deliberations regarding the Greek economic crisis.
Katerina Lagos is Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento and the Director of the CSUS Hellenic Studies Program and Hellenic Studies Center. She has written on the Metaxas dictatorship, Greek Jewry, and minorities in interwar Greece. Currently, Katerina is coediting an anthology, entitled Revisiting a Contested Past: The Greek Military Dictatorship, 1967-74, to be published in 2020.
Historical Archives of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2002. Η Ελλάδα στο μεταίχμιο ενός νέου κόσμου. Ψυχρός πόλεμος, δόγμα Truman, σχέδιο Marshall: Μέσα από διπλωματικά και ιστορικά έγγραφα: 1948-1951 [Greece at the crossroads of a new world. The Cold War, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan: Through diplomatic and historical documents: 1948-1951], edited by Photeine Konstantopoulou. Athens: Kastaniotis Publishers.
Kofas, Jon. 2003. Under the Eagle’s Claw: Exceptionalism in Postwar U.S.-Greek Relations. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Press.
Mazower, Mark. 1993. Inside Hitler’s Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Papandreou, Andreas. 1971. Democracy at Gunpoint: The Greek Front. London: Deutsche.
Rossides, Eugene, ed. 1998. The Truman Doctrine of Aid to Greece: A Fifty-Year Retrospective. Washington D.C. and New York: The Academy of Political Science and the American Hellenic Institute Foundation.
Roubatis, Yiannis. 1989. Tangled Webs: The U.S. in Greece, 1947-1967. New York: Pella.