US Post-War Society: Cold War and the Society of Plenty
|Département||Département d’histoire générale|
|Cours||The United States and Latin America: late 18th and 20th centuries|
- The Americas on the eve of independence
- The independence of the United States
- The U.S. Constitution and Early 19th Century Society
- The Haitian Revolution and its Impact in the Americas
- The independence of Latin American nations
- Latin America around 1850: societies, economies, policies
- The Northern and Southern United States circa 1850: immigration and slavery
- The American Civil War and Reconstruction: 1861 - 1877
- The (re)United States: 1877 - 1900
- Regimes of Order and Progress in Latin America: 1875 - 1910
- The Mexican Revolution: 1910 - 1940
- American society in the 1920s
- The Great Depression and the New Deal: 1929 - 1940
- From Big Stick Policy to Good Neighbor Policy
- Coups d'état and Latin American populisms
- The United States and World War II
- Latin America during the Second World War
- US Post-War Society: Cold War and the Society of Plenty
- The Cold War in Latin America and the Cuban Revolution
- The Civil Rights Movement in the United States
Until 2003, in Texas, after September 11, 2001, the Pledge of Allegiance was to be pronounced at the school: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation united under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Under the word "god" had been added in 1954 by a decision of Congress in the midst of nationalism that in religious matters the United States was different from the atheistic Soviet Union. During this period, children had to simulate Soviet nuclear attacks to prevent themselves from radioactive fallout.
We are going to look at the process that allowed the United States to get to this point as the United States emerged strengthened from the second world war with the development of the affluent society.
- 1 The United States and the Cold War
- 2 The American Society of Plenty
- 3 Annexes
- 4 References
The United States and the Cold War[edit | edit source]
When the United States launched its atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States thought it would end the war with Japan quickly, but also put the Soviets in an inferior position for the post-war negotiations.
Allied leaders at the conference. From left to right: Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin.
At the end of 1945, the United States was in a situation unlike that of other great nations, it had not been ravaged on its territory and its economy was booming; however, it was unable to impose liberalism on the Soviet Union, i.e., to demand free world trade, and to open the market to the U.S. economy so that it could dominate the market if necessary with the political and military help of Washington.
In 1946, the USSR refused to join the new financial institutions created by the United States, but also to promote loans and guarantee private institutions such as the World Bank, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund.
Through these institutions, the United States wants to guarantee its financial and commercial hegemony over the whole world, but the USSR refuses to join these institutions.
The fears that fuel the Cold War[edit | edit source]
Apart from that, the root causes of this Cold War lie in two great fears:
- Among the Soviets
It is the fear of encirclement by the capitalist powers that, in their view, justifies their advance to the West and their imposition of communist regimes on buffer states; these states had been created after the First World War to prevent the advance of the Soviet Union.
- Among Americans
It is the fear that the USSR represents a global threat to which the United States should respond with comprehensive military responses.
After the Second World War, the world is in a period of decompression, with European countries and Japan's economies in complete ruin. There is no longer a government in Japan and Germany, and in some countries such as Greece and China, there are civil wars and the adversaries in conflict are either supported by the United States or the Soviets. The British and French colonial empires were founded under the impetus of national liberation movements; nothing seems to hold any longer.
U.S. Internal Factors[edit | edit source]
In the United States itself, there are several factors that will heighten these fears:
- the fact that Roosevelt's successor, Truman, is not as agile as his predecessor.
- war industrialists have made huge profits and hope to continue to do so by producing and selling weapons.
- ideologically, there is also a long tradition of anti-socialist and anti-Bolshevik ideology dating back to the 1880s. During the war there was also strong anti-communist propaganda.
- fear that the misery in which much of the world found itself would encourage the rise of communist parties in these countries, particularly in France and Italy.
The most general idea is that the well-being of the United States depends on its continued economic growth linked to its conquests, which constitute new markets for its exports, but also for its supplies of raw materials. The United States sees anything that limits its plans for global expansion as an attack on its interests.
Doctrine Truman[edit | edit source]
In 1947, in order to justify U.S. aid to the Greek and Turkish governments, Truman formalized the Truman Doctrine to help people fight the totalitarianism that threatens the welfare of the United States.
This doctrine is in addition to the policy of containment formulated by George Kennan; it promotes the idea that the United States will confront the Soviet Union with an inflexible force wherever the USSR encroaches on interests and a world of peace and stability.
National Security Act[edit | edit source]
The American Congress passes the National Security Act, which adapts certain American institutions to the Cold War.
A unified Department of Defense was created and the National Security Council, which coordinates U.S. foreign and military policies and advises the president, was also established. At the same time, the CIA was created.
The development of McCarthyism: 1947 - 1962[edit | edit source]
This cold war is being played out outside, but it may also be played out inside the United States. Almost all the victims United States are innocent.
However, it was not he who created the post-war hysteria, but Truman, a Democrat, who started the crusade because he was worried about the growing membership of the Communist Party of America, which has about 80,000 members.
A series of strikes in industries are well followed and protest against the numerous layoffs and the end of overtime as we moved from a war economy to a peace economy generating strikes to protest against the decrease in real wages.
Truman demanded an assessment of the loyalty of members of the federal government. The victory of Mao Tse tong in China, which proclaimed the People's Republic of China in 1949, will only accentuate this suspicion, as the People's Republic of China will not be recognized until 1979 by the United States.
The outbreak of cases of transmission of confidential documents to the USSR will allow McCarthy to accuse the government of being infested with communists. He felt that the anti-communist argument would give the Republicans a political advantage.
In creating a sense of fear and internal enemy, everyone plays along, and Congress approves a Homeland Security Act that makes it illegal for anyone to contribute to the establishment of a totalitarian dictatorship ordering all members of communist organizations to register with the government.
These people are excluded from certain positions and their passports are seized in order to prevent them from travelling, and Truman evicts certain elements.
In 1954, North Korean troops entered South Korean territory; Truman ordered U.S. intervention approved by the Security Council, but approved because of the absence of the USSR, which protested China's lack of permanent membership by practicing the "empty chair policy".
A couple of scientists, the Rosenbergs, are arrested for having "supposedly" transmitted information about the atomic bomb to the Soviets during the war. Even though there was a protest movement they were executed in the electric chair.
In the same year 1953, after twenty years of Democratic presidency, a Republican, military hero, Dwight Eisenhower became president with Richard Nixon as vice-president, at that time American WASP nationalism and McCarthyism were in full swing.
It was then that in 1954, Eisenhower added a "nation under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance that children must do under the American flag. It was also at this time that Congress passed a 265-2 vote in favor of a law banning the Communist Party Reinforcing the need for loyalty among federal employees, to lose one's job as a public servant a simple whistle-blower was all that was needed, no evidence was required and no recourse was available.
In a case where the United States is very legalistic, it does not protect the accused by law.
McCarthy is challenged when he tries to denounce the penetration of the army by the communists.
The Soviet Union is in full expansion, it is also exploring its first H-bomb. At the same time, Moscow established the Warsaw Defence Pact in 1955, which was a response to the NATO pact established by the United States in 1949. The repression of the Soviet invasion reinforced this, as did the first intercontinental missile launch and the sending of the world's first Sputnik satellite into the atmosphere in 1957.
Even if the USSR does not directly threaten the United States, this is enough to justify the Truman policy.
The American Society of Plenty[edit | edit source]
These are years of fear, of enormous inner control, but at the same time, they are years of abundance. At this time, the United States is probably establishing, for the first time in human history, a society of abundance.
What is curious is that usually the mobilization of the population against an internal enemy takes place in a period of economic crisis and against a group that leads the popular fury and does not question the system.
Causes and characteristics[edit | edit source]
En 1945, the United States entered a period of economic boom that would consolidate its domestic hierarchy and last 25 years.
At that time, Americans did not know that it would last, and many still feared a return to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Anti-communism will consolidate interventionist nationalism and justify to the public that the United States is sending its boys to war outside the United States. With this anticommunist rhetoric, young men were still being sent to fight outside the United States.
This boom is based first and foremost on the building and automobile construction and the arms industry. It is going to benefit the Americans at ¾.
When you compare with other countries there is always the birth boom at the end of a war. What is interesting in the United States is that it will last until the 1960s. This will be reflected in the construction industry with the building of houses and schools. At the same time, factories, supermarkets, and airports are being built. A large part of these constructions are in new areas called "suburban" areas with villa zones.
This is going to generate the boom in automobile construction, which requires a densification of transport networks between housing and consumption centres. It is an economy and a society based on the car that is being formed with drive-in theatres as its symbol.
It is also the boom in military spending, which quadrupled between 1949 and 1954, and has continued to rise ever since. A large part of the military budget is used to fund research and the production of increasingly sophisticated weapons in line with the Cold War's globalisation - the so-called "arms race", which was mainly launched with the Soviet Union.
In the United States, the war industry is privately owned, but depends on contracts with the federal government. This is why the arms industries have a vested interest in applying the Monroe doctrine to the whole world by creating a sense of insecurity.
It is also worth noting the invention of the transistor in 1947 which led to the electronic revolution leading to the automation of many industries; there is a consequent decrease in industrial employment and a new wave of concentration of production which is materialized by mergers by large corporations that have financial and technological power that will acquire other subsidiary industries to assemble them in large consortiums where a central industry will acquire all the subsidiaries that will allow it to manufacture the final products.
We are in the fourth wave of concentration, the first and the end of the 19th century, the 1920s, the New Deal and the post-war period; we have reached a situation of unprecedented concentration of industrial capital.
This concentration also manifests itself in capitalism, where the AFL and the CIO merge into an anti-communist trade union movement. At the same time, the number of union members is not increasing. The new jobs created are mostly for "white collar" workers and for sectors where there is not a strong trade unionist tradition.
At the same time, there is a movement of concentration in agriculture with an ever-increasing mechanisation of all agricultural production processes thanks to technological development, machinery, the use of pesticides and fertilisers that allow for huge productions and a new movement of concentration.
It is interesting to see that agricultural productivity has doubled in 15 years and at the same time the number of families making a living from agriculture has halved.
In the southern United States, this will drive out 4 million Americans, mostly blacks and sharecroppers, who will be chased away to northern cities and California.
Birth of the symbols of America's affluent society[edit | edit source]
It is in these years that the great symbols of the American society of abundance were born with television, it is also the beginning of symbols such as Macdonald, Barbie, Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley.
Presley in the 1950s really shocked WASP circles since he was inspired by black circles and was subjectively contorted.
The ¾ of Americans enjoying the affluent society[edit | edit source]
The vast majority are white middle-class people, many of whom will leave the east coast to migrate to the sun-belt; these regions are gradually industrialising, thanks in particular to the development of air conditioning, which allows work in factories.
In these regions, the arms industry, aeronautics, oil extraction and agribusiness are developing.
Middle class women are completely challenged since they had been integrated into the industrial workforce. The idea is to follow salaried work while being in conflict with a traditionalist value system.
The white middle classes are the big winners not only because they are the ones working in the expanding sectors and regions, but also because they are the ones benefiting from federal programs.
The Federal Housing Administration provides mortgages to finance real estate purchases, but these insurances "do not accept the poor, non-whites, Jews, and other racially disharmonious groups.
Federal investments are also being made in the highway system, which are increasing 38-fold. At the same time, public transport and railways were completely abandoned, and until the end of the 1960s there was no construction of social housing for the poor.
The ¼ of Americans in Poverty[edit | edit source]
They are mostly elderly or children, the majority are single women who are widowed or divorced, 70 per cent live in cities and 30 per cent in smaller, more rural communities.
In 1953, Congress decided to eliminate Indian reservations. It was the Indian termination policy that removed federal assistance to reserves, encouraging Native Americans to abandon their reserves in exchange for the payment of meager bonuses that swelled the miserable population of the cities.
They are also the urban poor and Puerto Rican immigrants, especially Mexicans, as well as sharecroppers and migrant workers.
Until the early 1960s, the United States did not care about the poor; it was Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson who arrived after Kennedy's assassination and launched the war against poverty which, unfortunately, was to be curbed very dramatically because of the Vietnam War. However, this aid bore fruit, poverty was reduced and 25% of pollution classified as poor fell to 11% in 1973.
Annexes[edit | edit source]
- “International Monetary Fund.” International Organization, vol. 1, no. 1, 1947, pp. 124–125. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2703527.
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