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New Left Review I/105, September-October 1977

Vassilis Droucopoulos

West German Expansionism

Günter Minnerup’s recent article on West Germany (nlr 99) is to be welcomed as a study of the economic and political transformations that have taken place in what is now the most powerful eec country. Minnerup, however, neglects a key aspect of these changes: the growth in West German foreign investments. This communication may do something to supplement nlr’s discussion in this respect; its aim is to document the very striking economic changes which, inevitably, will change Bonn’s role in international affairs within the capitalist and imperialist world. To put the issue in its starkest light: in 1976 West German investment overseas exceeded, for the first time since the war, total foreign investment in West Germany (see Table 1). Until now, the West German and Japanese economies have been contrasted to the us and uk ones. The former showed a much higher rate of internal investment and their international success rested upon their export of their own manufactures. The two major ‘Anglo-Saxon’ economies, by contrast, are dominated by banking and finance capital that invests abroad directly, and by large international firms which also export their investments rather than finished products. It now seems, however, that West Germany is moving closer to the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ model, if it can be called that; partly because the strength of its currency allows it to, but also because this very strength obliges West German companies to protect their overseas markets by making use of the now often much cheaper labour to be found outside the borders of the Bundesrepublik. [1] Estimates by the Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft for 1976 show West Germany leading the big Western industrial nations (usa, France, Italy, Japan and uk) in the ‘labour cost per hour in manufacturing industry’ league table—again, for the first time.

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