Cartels as a Form of Concentration in Industry: The Example of the International Dyestuffs Cartel from 1927 to 1939

  • Harm G. Schröter
Part of the German Yearbook on Business History 1988 book series (BUSINESS, volume 1988)


Concentration in the economy is one of those fundamental themes which need to be taken up periodically, and are. A similar process is evident in the writing of economic history.1 Helmut Arndt and Günter Ollenburg defined concentration as “a concentration of economic forces”.2 This definition was adopted by historians3 and it also forms the basis of this article. That cartelisation is closely related to concentration is stressed by all sides, but even the views on the nature of the relation diverge. Wolfram Fischer saw the degree of cartelisation between the wars as furthering concentration.4 Hans-Heinrich Barnikel also saw “cartels in all their variety and with all their surrogate forms” in one of their variants as a form of concentration.5 Hans Otto Lenel pointed out that cartels generally increase concentration.6 But from the Marxist view Helga Nussbaum reaches a conclusion that is in some ways the opposite: the merger of existing companies is prevented, while the companies in the cartel show above-average growth.7 These statements are to be examined in this article, using the dyestuffs cartel as an example. However, the main focus will be somewhat different: Lenel and Nussbaum see cartelisation and concentration as two different things, while describing one set of causes and effects. Their considerations are based on concentration of ownership, while in this article the cartel is examined as a concentration of market power, as in the above definitions. From the perspective of the buyer the concentration of market power could certainly seem the most important and relativise the differences that persisted, no matter what they were.


World Export Imperial Chemical Industry Cartel Agreement International Cartel British Firm 
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    In 1978 Hans Pohl and Wilhelm Treue published a collected volume, Die Konzentration in der deutschen Wirtschaft seit dem 19. Jahrhundert, Supplement 11 to the Zeitschrift für Untemeh-mensgeschichte, and in 1985 another collected volume, edited by H. Pohl, appeared, Kartelle und Kartellgesetzgebung in Praxis und Rechtsprechung vom 19. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. In 1986 a separate section at the 9th International Congress of Economic Historians was devoted to this subject.Google Scholar
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    Similar provisional agreements, generally to test the partner in practice, were used as a preliminary to more comprehensive cartel agreements in several cases. The German and French partners in the potash industry, who dominated the world market, “tested” each other particularly intensively. In 1924 they concluded a one-year agreement for the United States and Sweden, and in 1925 a one-year agreement for the world market. The real contract was not signed until 1926 (Schröter, H.G., Die internationale Kaliwirtschaft 1918 bis 1939, Kassel 1985, pp. 35–41).Google Scholar
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  112. 113.
    After the exchange the IG had 49.0% of ACNA, and 51.01% of Bianchi, while Montecatini held the rest in both cases. On ACNA see Schröter, V., Weltmarkt, pp. 428–430.Google Scholar
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    Immediately after it came into force this agreement was used to exert pressure in the negotiations with the Polish companies, since they bought their pre-products mainly from the Three Party Cartel itself or from Aussig.Google Scholar
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    Interestingly, the Soviet Union did not approach the cartel, either, to request compensation payments for refraining from exporting, although it was quite successful with this in other fields, see Schröter, H.G., Kaliwirtschaft, pp. 53–57.Google Scholar
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    Japan, China and the areas under Japanese influence, such as Korea, Manchuria, Formosa and so on, and Hong Kong as well.Google Scholar
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    Letter of 16 April 1929, HÖ 303.Google Scholar
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    Confidential memorandum to certain members of the Central Committee of IG Farben and to Professor Bosch, Professor Duisberg and Dr. v. Weinberg of 26 January 1933, p. 18, HÖ 110.Google Scholar
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    A full, if brief account is in Schröter, V., Weltmarkt, p. 310f.Google Scholar
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    In retrospect Kugler said: “The above agreements achieved a substantially complete regulation of competition in the China market, particularly in indigo, the most important single manufacturing type”, (p. 35).Google Scholar
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    Confidential report of 26 January 1933, p. 18, HÖ 110.Google Scholar
  132. 133.
    Strictly confidential report from IG Farben, signed by V. Schnitzler/Krüger, to a senior official in the Reich Ministry of Economics, Dr. Schlotterer, on 3 August 1940, reprinted in Eichholtz, D., Die IG Farben — Friedensplanung, in: Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte 1966, Part III, pp. 280ff.Google Scholar
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    Internal memorandum from the Dyestuffs Division Management of IG Farben to Dr. Struss, p. 1,12 March 1934, HÖ 1094.Google Scholar
  134. 135.
    Tammens gives 61% (P. 33), but that may be quantities. Since his figure is given without reference figures — there are big differences between values and quantities — and without a year or source, it is not very helpful.Google Scholar
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  136. 137.
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  137. 138.
    Kugler, p. 34 (p. 33 on Tammen’s figure of 88%), see Note 135.Google Scholar
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    They have deliberately been excluded here, but we can take the following as an example: the agreement of 1931 with Mitsui Bussan on sulphur black on the Chinese market was not prolonged in 1933 at the request of the Japanese. As a result, sulphur black was released in 1937 in the China Six Party Agreement as well. 140 For a summary see Schröter, V., Weltmarkt, pp. 341–346.Google Scholar
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    Bürgin, pp. 253 and 256f.Google Scholar
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    Nussbaum, International Cartels, p. 139.Google Scholar
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    Dr. ter-Meer was a member of the Management Board of IG Farben.Google Scholar
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    Lenel, Ursachen, p. 229. His statement (p. 230) that small companies were basically inferior to large companies in the cartel, since competition was shifted from production and sales to organisation and legal disputes does not, however, apply to the dyestuffs cartels. But an account of how the disputes were fought out would be beyond the scope of this article.Google Scholar
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    Some contracts remained formally in force and others, especially in the German occupied territories, continued to be effective right through the war.Google Scholar

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© Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte e. V., Köln 1990

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  • Harm G. Schröter

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