International: Strange Bedfellows

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After four years and $43 billion of Lend-Lease, Americans were realizing that money does not buy love. Last week's debate on the $4,400,000,000 U.S. loan in the British House of Commons showed deep British bitterness at what were called harsh U.S. terms. Britons accepted the terms because the alternative of no loan seemed worse. But they did not like it.

Said Chancellor of the Exchequer Hugh Dalton: "The great amount of debt we bring out of the war is indeed a strange reward for all we in this island did and suffered." Ernest Bevin frankly compared the U.S. to "a money lender." Raged Conservative Robert Boothby: "This is our economic Munich." Laborite Norman Smith chimed in that the U.S. was treating Britain as a defeated enemy forced to accept the victor's terms.

Tory Leader Winston Churchill asked his followers to abstain from voting, but 71 Conservatives insisted on voting against the bill. They were joined by a number of Laborites, including vitriolic Jennie Lee, wife of Housing Minister Aneurin Bevan, and redheaded Barbara Castle, parliamentary secretary to Sir Stafford Cripps.

Economics had made strange bedfellows; neither Empire-minded diehards nor planned-economy socialists wanted to accept a loan which would limit Britain's economic independence by tying her to the vagaries of U.S. capitalism. (On the related issue of ratification of the Bretton Woods monetary agreements, the House vote was 314 for to 50 against.) Britons who reluctantly favored the loan said that it is sound only if the U.S. maintains full employment and buys enough goods from other nations to make it safe for them to reduce trade barriers. The thoughtful London Observer, in one of the few friendly editorials that appeared in Britain, said that the loan would produce just such an expansionist economy, ended: "We may well wonder in five years' time what all the bother over accepting the agreement was about."

Neither the U.S. negotiators nor the American people thought of the British loan as a bargaining victory; but when Congress takes up the British loan there would surely be remarks that matched in bitterness the tone of the House of Commons debate. Nevertheless, though an anti-British bloc on Capitol Hill was sharpening its axes last week, the loan's prospects of congressional approval looked good.