Europe Debates Nationalization

Courtesy Reuters

SINCE the end of the war, a large part of European industry has been either nationalized or earmarked for nationalization. The process has not been uniform and the degree of nationalization varies from country to country, but there is no mistaking the trend.

In some countries -- Czechoslovakia, Jugoslavia, Poland, Bulgaria and Rumania, for instance -- practically all industries employing more than a few men are nationalized. Finance, insurance, mining and heavy industry have been nationalized in the Russian zone in Germany, and it is likely that a similar if more limited measure of socialization will be introduced in the British zone. The German coal owners of the Ruhr have already been expropriated and it is not likely that the mines will be returned to private control. The Governments of Austria and Hungary, after some hesitation, have decided to nationalize finance, insurance and heavy industry -- partly in the hope that this transfer of ownership will frustrate Russian demands for reparations. In western Europe the trend toward nationalization is more hesitant, but in France and Holland the central bank has been nationalized and the socialization of heavy industry is under discussion. In addition, the French Government has nationalized mining, public utilities, civil aviation and insurance. Finally, on the western fringe, in Great Britain, the Bank of England, civil aviation and the coal mines are already nationalized and the transfer of transport, public utilities and important sections of the iron and steel industry to public ownership may be completed within the lifetime of the present Parliament.

It is tempting to explain this European trend in a single formula. Since nationalization has gone much further in the lands bordering on Russia (with the exception of Finland), and appears to diminish as Russian occupation ceases and Russian influence declines, it is easy to argue that the Soviet Union has simply imposed its own economic pattern on Europe. But this explanation does not fit all the facts -- for example, that already before the war

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