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Sovereignty Trade-Offs between Politics and the Economy: The Deconcentration of IG Farben after 1945

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2022

Philipp Müller*
Affiliation:
Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract

The postwar deconcentration of IG Farben AG shows that the Allied military governments and their German counterparts were anything but united on the extent and form of sovereignty the Federal Republic of Germany should receive. The American plan to divide the corporate enterprise into a large number of individual companies aimed to establish a democratic state independent from the influence of domestic business. By contrast, West German government officials and the business community were convinced that the future sovereignty of the Federal Republic depended on the global competitiveness of large industrial conglomerates. To thwart the American deconcentration plans, they traded off one dimension of sovereignty against the other. Leading members of the West German government accepted delegating the negotiations over the future of IG Farben to business representatives, thereby sharing domestic sovereignty because the delegation promised to maintain a powerful German chemical industry that could support the trade balance of the future West German state. This development contributed to the emergence of a Federal Republic characterized by the close involvement of economic actors in political decision-making. It contained important elements of a post-democratic sovereignty, which is commonly used to describe the development of the late twentieth century.

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Article
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Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Central European History Society of the American Historical Association

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References

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7 Thomas J. Biersteker, “State, Sovereignty, and Territory,” in Handbook of International Relations, 2nd ed., ed. Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse, and Beth A. Simmons (London: Sage Publications, 2012), 245–72; Michael Zürn and Nicole Deitelhof, “Internationalization and the State. Sovereignty and the External Side of Modern Statehood,” in The Oxford Handbook of Transformations of the State, ed. Stephen Leibfried, Evelyne Huber, Matthew Lange, Frank Nullmeier, and John D. Stephens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 193–217.

8 Stephen Krasner, Sovereignty. Organized Hypocrisy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1999), 20–22.

9 For previous accounts of the deconcentation process, see Günther Schulz, “Die Entflechtungsmassnahmen und ihre wirtschaftliche Bedeutung,” in Kartelle und Kartellgesetzgebung in Praxis und Rechtsprechung vom 19. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart, ed. Hans Pohl (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1985), 201–28; Hans-Dieter Kreikamp, “Die Entflechtung der I.G. Farbenindustrie AG und die Gründung der Nachfolgegesellschaften,” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 25, no. 2 (1977): 220–52.

10 Kreikamp, “Die Entflechtung der I.G. Farbenindustrie AG und die Gründung der Nachfolgegesellschaften,” 220–52; Diethelm Prowe, “Economic Democracy in Post-World War II Germany: Corporatist Crisis Response 1945–1948,” Journal of Modern History 57, no. 3 (1985): 451–82; Werner Plumpe, Vom Plan zum Markt. Wirtschaftsverwaltung und Unternehmerverbände in der britischen Zone (Düsseldorf: Schwann, 1987).

11 Lisa Murach-Brand, Antitrust auf Deutsch. Der Einfluß der amerikanischen Alliierten auf das Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen (GWB) nach 1945 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004).

12 Djelic, Exporting the American Model, 104–05; Raymond G. Stokes, Divide and Prosper: The Heirs of I.G. Farben Under Allied Authority, 1945–1951 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 42–45; Volker Berghahn, Unternehmer und Politik in der Bundesrepublik (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1985), 88–92.

13 Melvyn P. Leffler, “The Emergence of an American Grand Strategy, 1945–1952,” The Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 1, Origins, ed. Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 67–89; Ludolf Herbst, Option für den Westen. Vom Marshall-Plan bis zum deutsch-französischen Vertrag (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag 1989): 44–48.

14 The deconcentration program, Dilley explained, should help to establish “a society of free enterprise in Germany … [because] … lasting political democracy is impossible unless accompanied by economic freedom.” See Charles Dilley, Objectives of the Decartelization Program, November 1947. Quoted in Djelic, Exporting the American Model, 163.

15 John Gerard Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” International Organization 36, no. 2 (1982): 379–415.

16 In this respect, the former assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice, Thurman Arnold, argued that the nineteenth-century notion of sovereignty should no longer stand in the way of the necessities of the twentieth century. See Thurman Arnold, “The Preservation of Competition,” in The Future of Democratic Capitalism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1950), 1–14.

17 Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change,” 393–96.

18 Djelic, Exporting the American Model, 107–11; Anthony J. Nicholls, Freedom with Responsibility. The Social Market Economy in German 1918-1963 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1994), 206–33.

19 Ralf Ptak, Vom Ordoliberalismus zur Sozialen Marktwirtschaft. Stationen des Neoliberalismus in Deutschland (Opladen: Leske + Budrich, 2004), 174–81.

20 Abelshauser and Kopper emphasize the slow and hesitant rapprochement of the West German parties to ordoliberal suggestions in the postwar years. Werner Abelshauser and Christopher Kopper, “Ordnungspolitik der sichtbaren Hand,” in Das Bundeswirtschaftsministerium in der Ära der Sozialen Marktwirtschaft. Der deutsche Weg in die Wirtschaftspolitik, ed. Werner Abelshauser (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2016), 25–26.

21 Antrag des Ausschusses für Wirtschaft. Betr. Dekartellisierung, Frankfurt/Main April 27, 1948 (Drucksache Nr. 285), in Wirtschaftsrat des Vereinigten Wirtschaftsgebiets. Drucksachen 1948, 506–07. See also Berghahn, Unternehmer und Politik in der Bundesrepublik, 105.

22 Ludwig Erhard, letter to Hermann Pünder, September 9, 1948, in Akten zur Vorgeschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1945–1949, vol. 4, ed. Hans-Dieter Kreikamp and Bernd Steger (Munich and Vienna: Oldenbourg, 1983), 768, reference 9. German quotations are reproduced in English translation. All translations are my own.

23 Document no. 90 (32. Direktorialsitzung in Frankfurt, October 5, 1948), in Akten zur Vorgeschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1945–1949, vol. 4, 839.

24 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. IG Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.8. Bemerkungen an den Verwaltungsrat des Vereinigten Wirtschaftsgebiets zum BICO Memo (48) vom 5.8.1948, August 25, 1948, 7.

25 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. Entflechtung IG Farben C4/31.8. Note about the first joint meeting of FARDIP-BIFCO, February 3, 1949, 8.

26 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. I.G. Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.8. Bemerkungen an den Verwaltungsrat des Vereinigten Wirtschaftsgebiets zum BICO-Memo vom 5.8.1948, August 25, 1948.

27 Document No. 81 (27. Direktorialsitzung in Frankfurt, August 30, 1948), in Akten zur Vorgeschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1945–1949, vol. 4, 767–68.

28 Previous accounts have wrongly assumed that the chairman of FARDIP was Gustav Brecht. See Kreikamp, “Die Entflechtung der I.G. Farbenindustrie AG und die Gründung der Nachfolgegesellschaften,” 224; Sebastian Brünger, Geschichte und Gewinn. Der Umgang deutscher Konzerne mit ihrer NS-Vergangenheit (Göttingen: Wallstein 2017), 99.

29 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. IG Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.9. Hermann Bücher, An das Bipartite Control Office, December 14. 1949.

30 Johannes Bähr and Christopher Kopper, Industrie, Politik, Gesellschaft. Der BDI und seine Vorgänger 1919–1990 (Göttingen: Wallstein 2019), 72.

31 Stokes, Divide and Prosper, 157.

32 Firmenarchiv AEG-Telefunken 1.2.060 A 5180. Hermann Bücher, letter to Eysten Berg, April 3, 1950.

33 On the chemical industry in the prewar period, see Gottfried Plumpe, Die I. G. Farbenindustrie AG. Wirtschaft, Technik und Politik 1904–1945 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1990), 40–57; Heinrich Hartmann, Organisation und Geschäft. Unternehmensorganisationen in Frankreich und Deutschland 1890–1914 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010), 288–89.

34 A general study on entrepreneurial functionaries in German-speaking countries does not exist. For the French context, see Patrick Fridenson, “Introduction,” in Les Permanents Patronaux. Éléments Pour l'Histoire de l'Organisation du Patronat en France Dans la Première Moitié du XXe Siècle, ed. Olivier Dard and Gilles Richard (Metz: Centre de recherche histoire et civilisation de l'Université de Metz, 2005), 5–23; Danièle Fraboulet, “Les Permanents Patronaux,” in Dictionnaire Historique des Patrons Français, ed. Jean-Claude Daumas (Paris: Flammarion, 2010), 1077–82.

35 Mark Blyth, “Structures Do Not Come with an Instruction Sheet: Interests, Ideas and Progress in Political Science,” Perspectives on Politics 1, no. 4 (2003): 695–706; Suzanne Berger, “Introduction,” in Organizing Interests in Western Europe: Pluralism, Corporatism, and the Transformation of Politics, ed. Suzanne Berger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 1–26.

36 Gerald D. Feldman, “Wirtschaftsverbände und Wirtschaftsmacht. Zur Entwicklung der Interessenverbände in der deutschen Stahl-, Eisen- und Maschinenindustrie,” in Vom Weltkrieg zur Weltwirtschaftskrise. Studien zur deutschen Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte 1914–1932, ed. Gerald D. Feldman (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1984), 131–60; Hans-Peter Ullmann, Interessenverbände in Deutschland (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1988), 133–44.

37 Bähr and Kopper, Industrie, Politik, Gesellschaft, 55–56; Louis P. Lochner, Die Mächtigen und der Tyrann. Die deutsche Industrie von Hitler bis Adenauer (Darmstadt: Schneekluth, 1955), 83.

38 Philipp Müller, Zeit der Unterhändler. Koordinierter Kapitalismus in Deutschland und Frankreich zwischen 1920 und 1950 (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2019), 56–58.

39 Hermann Bücher, “Betrachtungen über die neuen industriellen Organisationen der Wirtschaft,” in Die Mitteldeutsche Industrie. Mitteilungsblatt des Verbandes Mitteldeutscher Industrieller, April 15, 1927.

40 When Bücher left his post as managing director of the Reich Association of German Industry to become a member of the board of AEG, he summarized his work by saying that he had “shown that it is possible to be a business representative vis-à-vis the state authorities and the rest of the economy without forgetting the interests of the whole of the nation.” See Geschäftliche Mitteilungen für die Mitglieder des Reichsverbandes der Deutschen Industrie Nr. 9, 7. Jahrgang 1925 (April 9, 1925), 64.

41 “For this reason I am of the opinion that the state must only take over the political leadership of the people, and that it must delegate as much of its tasks as possible to bodies of self-management…. If these management bodies, for their part, do not behave as the most naked representatives of interests, but rather try to find a balance between the special interests and the interests of the whole, then … a body should automatically emerge from these representatives which is able to overlook the conditions and the duties and effects of economic activity in a much clearer way … than a systematically ordered official apparatus can.” See Hermann Bücher, “Grundlagen der Wirtschafts- und Handelspolitik,” in Veröffentlichungen des Reichsverbandes der Deutschen Industrie 25 (May 1925): 22.

42 Firmenarchiv AEG Telefunken 1.2.060 A5099. Hermann Bücher, letter to Rudolf Wissel, March 4, 1947.

43 Firmenarchiv AEG Telefunken 1.2.060 A 5098. Hermann Bücher, letter to Julius Meckel, February 2, 1947.

44 Firmenarchiv AEG Telefunken 1.2.060 A5083-2. Hermann Bücher, letter to Hans von Raumer, March 12, 1947.

45 Hermann Bücher, “Diskussionsrede auf der Mitglieder-Versammlung des Reichsverbandes der Deutschen Industrie am 3. und 4. September 1926 in Dresden,” in Veröffentlichungen des Reichsverbandes der Deutschen Industrie 32 (September 1926): 70.

46 “As long as the most important affairs of the state fail because of personal vanity and because of the position of the individual not before his God and before his fatherland, but before the [political] party, as long as this is the case, we cannot take any step forward economically. Everything that we want to consider and create in serious work is prevented by the irresponsibility of the party.” See Hermann Bücher, „Grundlagen der Wirtschafts- und Handelspolitik,” in Veröffentlichungen des Reichsverbandes der Deutschen Industrie 25 (May 1925): 21.

47 In their discussions on the structural changes of capitalism, business representatives of the 1920 were aware of the fact that these ideas were difficult to explain to the public. Still, members of the board of the Reich Association of German Industry like Clemens Lammers explained: “As a private industrialist, I, like Mr. Buecher, deny public control of cartels because … it is exposed to all the dangers and fluctuations of … politics. Private cartels should … not be subject to the state or any other public body composed of politicians, scientists, workers’ representatives, etc.” Protokoll der Jahrestagung des Deutsch-Französischen Studienkomitees in Paris vom 12.-14. Juni 1931, 14. Politisches Archiv Auswärtiges Amt R 70540.

48 Bayer-Archiv Leverkusen. IG Farben Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.8. Anweisungen des Bipartite Control-Office an den Zweizonen-I.G.Farben Aufteilungsausschuss, August 5, 1948, 2.

49 “Bico wants FARDIP to continue the previous work of IG-Farben-Control in the same spirit, in the spirit of Control Council Law No. 9, and imagines a deconcentration in about 75 plants of the Bizone.” See Bemerkungen an den Verwaltungsrat des Vereinigten Wirtschaftsgebiets zum BICO Memo (48) vom 5.8.1948, August 25, 1948, 4. The literature on the subject mentions fifty independent units as the Allied target. See Kreikamp, “Die Entflechtung der I.G. Farbenindustrie AG und die Gründung der Nachfolgegesellschaften,” 223.

50 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. Entflechtung IG Farben C4/31.9. Hermann Bücher, An den Vorsitzenden des Verwaltungsrats des Vereinigten Wirtschaftsgebiets, February 9, 1949.

51 See the correspondence between Hermann Bücher and W. Becker in the summer of 1949. Firmenarchiv AEG Telefunken 1.2.060 A 5180.

52 The individual responsibilities of the FARDIP members are summarized in a document titled “Distribution of Work Among the Members of the I.G. Farben Dispersal Panel,” Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. IG Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.14.

53 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. IG Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.15. Bücher's draft memorandum, May 24, 1949. See also Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.10. Minutes of the 17th meeting of FARDIP on May 18–19, 1949.

54 A similar strategy can be observed in the efforts of other industrial corporations to prevent deconcentration. See Clemens Reichel, Vom Verbund zum Konzern. Die Metallgesellschaft AG 1945–1975 (Darmstadt: Hessisches Wirtschaftsarchiv 2008), 115.

55 Firmenarchiv AEG Telefunken 1.2.060 A 5180. Hermann Bücher, letter to Wilhelm Kalle, January 10, 1950.

56 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.10. Minutes of the 57th meeting of FARDIP (April 27, 1950), 3–4.

57 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen 4C/31.16. Grundlinien eines Gesamtplans zur Entflechtung der I.G. Farbenindustrie AG si.A. See also Kreikamp, “Die Entflechtung der I.G. Farbenindustrie AG und die Gründung der Nachfolgegesellschaften,” 225.

58 Plumpe, Die I. G. Farbenindustrie AG, 131–44.

59 Grundlinien eines Gesamtplans zur Entflechtung der IG Farbenindustrie AG, 24.

60 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.10. Minutes of the 63rd meeting of FARDIP, July 6–7, 1950.

61 Peter Hüttenberger, “Wirtschaftsordnung und Interessenpolitik in der Kartellgesetzgebung der Bundesrepublik 1949–1957,” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 24, no. 3 (1976): 287–307; Berghahn, Unternehmer und Politik in der Bundesrepublik, 154–56; Nicholls, Freedom with Responsibility, 327–28.

62 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.10. Minutes of the 44th meeting of FARDIP December 21, 1949, 2. See also Bemerkungen zum gegenwärtigen Stand des Entwurfs eines deutschen Kartellgesetzes (Wettbewerbsgesetz), November 29, 1949. Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. IG Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.9.

63 Bayer Archiv Leverkusen. Entflechtung FARDIP C4/31.10. Minutes of the 52nd meeting of FARDIP, March 16, 1950, 1–3.

64 For the subsequent negotiations among government, business federations, and parties, see Hüttenberger, “Wirtschaftsordnung und Interessenpolitik in der Kartellgesetzgebung der Bundesrepublik 1949–1957”; Gerd Hardach, “Wettbewerbspolitik in der Sozialen Marktwirtschaft,” in Das Bundeswirtschaftsministerium in der Ära der Sozialen Marktwirtschaft, 191–264.

65 For the establishment of the Federal Constitutional Court as a body to limit popular sovereignty, see Jan Werner Müller, Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), 146–52. For the general fear to fall back into the traps of Weimar's democracy, see Sebastian Ullrich, Der Weimar-Komplex. Das Scheitern der ersten deutschen Demokratie und die politische Kultur der frühen Bundesrepublik 1945–1959 (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2009).

66 Hermann J. Abs, “Konrad Adenauer und die Wirtschaftspolitik der fünfziger Jahre,” in Konrad Adenauer und seine Zeit. Politik und Persönlichkeit des ersten Bundeskanzlers, ed. Dieter Blumenwitz (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1976), 235. See Frank Bösch, Die Adenauer-CDU. Aufstieg und Krise einer Erfolgspartei 1945–1949 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2001), 250–67.

67 Abs, “Konrad Adenauer und die Wirtschaftspolitik der fünfziger Jahre,” 244.

68 Sylvie Lefèvre, Les Relations Economiques Franco-Allemandes de 1945 à 1955. De l'Occupation à la Cooperation (Paris: Comité pour l'histoire économique et financière de la France, 1998), 168; Martial Libera, Un Rêve de Puissance. La France et le Contrôle de l’Économie Allemande (1942–1949) (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2012), 535.

69 The responsible Secretary of State in the French Ministry of Economic Affairs declared: “Our goal vis-à-vis IG Farben is to establish a network of industrial and commercial relations between IG Farben and French industry in order to secure a lasting French influence in this area.” See Jean Filippi, letter to unknown recipient, July 22, 1948. Archives du ministère des affaires étrangères. Affaires allemandes et autrichiennes (1950–1955), 234.

70 Archives du ministère des affaires étrangères. Affaires allemandes et autrichiennes (1944–1949) 98. Compte rendu sommaire de la 15ème réunion du Groupe de déconcentration industrielle et de décartellisation à Francfort le 25.5.1950.

71 Kreikamp, “Die Entflechtung der I.G. Farbenindustrie AG und die Gründung der Nachfolgegesellschaften,” 237.

72 Former members of the American Decartelization Branch expressed their deep frustration over this outcome and held the traditional relationships within the international business community responsible for sabotaging their efforts. Above all, see James Stewart Martin, All Honorable Men (Little Brown: Boston, 1950).

73 Werner Abelshauser, “BASF Since Its Refounding in 1952,” in German Industry and Global Enterprise: BASF: The History of a Company, ed. Werner Abelshauser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 455.

74 Crouch, Colin, Post-Democracy (Cambridge and Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2004), 4244Google Scholar; Streeck, Wolgang, Gekaufte Zeit. Die vertagte Krise des demokratischen Kapitalismus (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2013), 51Google Scholar.

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