Hi Bob,

you asked:

>Heard on the tele tonight that one of the biggest 
>construction outfits in Germany is on the brink of 
>economic ruin. Over 50,000 jobs appear to be at 
>stake. Now why in Germany with reunification and 
>a huge building program does this kind of stuff drop 
>down like a bomb all of a sudden?

It's *because of* the hostile takeover of the GDR and it's *because of* the
huge investments in buildings accompanied by high property speculation and
speculation in dwellings and office buildings. Holzmann AG - second biggest
German construction concern - went bust with 30.000 jobs. Another 40.000
jobs at enterprises dependent on Holzmann AG are hardly to be saved.

But what is at stake is not only this joint-stock company and the jobs of
all the colleagues. Both the bankruptcy of Holzmann AG (and it's handling
by the German banks) and the so-called unfriendly bid by Britain based
Vodafone AirTouch to buy Mannesmann AG for DM,-- [that's
more than,-- svenska kronor or about Euro,--] mark another turning point in the specific history of
German capitalism also known as Rhenish Capitalism.

Mannesmann AG is based in Duesseldorf, and as it happens to be the town
where I am living I can assure you that this town and all of the Rhine and
Ruhr region is in a specific mood of turmoil.

Now Deutschland AG definitely entered the era of shareholder capitalism.
The socialdemoratic-green government - trapped by it's "politics of
globalization" - is condemned to excute this epochal change. And the labour
and trade union movement is still in the defensive. 

Add to this 
- unemployment figures of more than four million (i.e. a quote of nearly 10
per cent in the western parts and nearly 20 per cent in the East o Germany)
- the constant deterioration of welfare state institutions and payments
- the increasing spendings for new armaments and the reorganisation of the
WEU with ex-NATO-secretary Solana as its latest acquisition
- the xenophobic hostility in large sections of both the population and the
political class
then you have the not at all boringly ordinary European normality of 1999.

Not the best prospects at the eve of entering a new century of capitalism.

Hinrich Kuhls
Duesseldorf, Germany.

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