Gastarbeiter and uneven capital accumulation

Chris Burford 100423.2040 at
Thu Aug 8 15:04:00 MDT 1996

To Marxism cc Barkley Rosser.


     Before people get too worked up explaining
the different performances of WE and EE economies
by the access of WE capitalists to gastarbeiters from
Turkey and other poorer countries, let me note that
the USSR had gastarbeiters from North Korea and Vietnam,
sent apparently as payment for "fraternal assistance"
rendered by the USSR.  It is my understanding that the
Vietnamese in particular experienced racism and other
unpleasant stuff.
     If my response to Chris Burford did not get
through:  yes, German capital exploits foreign workers,
but that is not sufficient to explain the differential
in FRG and GDR economic performances.

and the response to Chris which he had perhaps
intended to copy to the l'st:

     Did the presence of Turkish and other gastarbieters
make things easier for the FRG capitalists?  Yes.  Does
German capital exploit Turkish workers?  Yes.  Was it the
presence of the gastarbeiters of all types that explains
why per capita GDP in the FRG was three times that in the
GDR at unification?  Extremely unlikely, although they
certainly added a few percentage points.


OK. We are narrowing the issues down. I assume BTW that
you write in general from the point of view of someone who
believes socialism has to take on board the competitive market
in commodities.

We can agree that Marshall Aid gave W Germany a start, which
E Germany did not have. Also did not the Soviet Union insist on
some reparations in the early years.

On my hypothesis about the role of migrant workers coming to
the great concentrations of capital, I accept your data that
North Koreans and Vietnamese went to East Germany and Russia,
but I would need to be convinced it was in the numbers that
gastarbeiter went to West Germany, migrants from Francophone Africa
to France, West Indians to England, and Hispanics to the USA,
plus peasants flooding into the cities of the far east.

Your concession that " they
certainly added a few percentage points" is all that is needed.
It is not about the arithmetical addition of a few percentage points.
It is about the geometric effect on the iterative processes of
a dynamic capitalist economy year upon year able to pull ahead by
a few percentage points. In particular instead of juddering to
a halt as the capitalist cycle reaches its peak, to be able to go
on for those few months longer each cycle, to swing down less in
the troughs, to linger a little less time in the troughs before
the upswing starts again, to swing up quicker and stronger.

To have a sinusoidal curve that looks more like a series of mmmmm
than a series of uuuuu.

A few percentage points year upon year is exactly what we are looking
for to help explain the unequal accumulation of capital on a global

And let me emphasise I am not wanting to gloss over all the
features of imperialist exploitation and oppression that exist, and
the remains of neo-colonialism, but they too do not add up enough IMO
to explain the discrepancies. When the Christian charities
campaign for abolition of international debts, this begs the
question in a potentially patronising way as to how those
debts accumulated, and whether they would accumulate again
if the debts were cancelled.

How can we take this further? It will be difficult totally to prove
whether one factor is primary over another, but could I invite you
Barkley to put in rank order the three biggest factors that
you think explains the greater material wealth of West Germany by
comparison with East Germany, at unification.

Chris Burford

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