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New Left Review I/17, Winter 1962

Ian Campbell

The Oil Cartel

Empire of Oil and World Crisis in Oil: Harvey O’Connor. Monthly Press Review, New York. $5.00 and $7.50 372 pp. and 432 pp.

These two books can best be regarded as practically two volumes of the same work. In “Empire of Oil”, first published in 1955 and now reprinted, Harvey O’Connor, a former editor and research worker of the American Oil Workers’ Union, traces the rise of the great international oil cartel of seven Companies. [*] The International Oil Cartel as listed by Mr. O’Connor on page 1 of “World Crisis in Oil”: “World Crisis in Oil” deals with the impact of the cartel on the oil-producing countries of Latin America and the Middle East, and was first published this year. The theme of the second work is therefore the same as the first, but there are nonetheless significant changes in emphasis. In 1955 the power of the cartel was at its height: it controlled over 90 per cent of all oil produced in the West outside the US itself; it was unchallenged in the control of markets in the great consuming countries of western Europe and their dependencies. It had, with the help of CIA, just brought down a government in Iran which had dared to nationalize its oil industry and, with a pliant government in power, was busy re-establishing the western commercial way of life in the oil fields. Harvey O’Connor, an American radical who has attracted the witch-hunters’ attentions and who knows what the inside of a federal gaol is like, saw only gloom when he surveyed the oil scene in 1955, with the cartel companies in an almost impregnable position, subject only to occasional sniping from small US companies limited to domestic fields and markets, and excluded by the cartel from access to the lusher hunting grounds abroad.

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Ian Campbell, ‘The Oil Cartel’, NLR I/17: £3

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