German Industry and Trade Congress
- Since well before the Republic, Germany had boasted a network of corporate ties, sometimes labeled "organized capitalism." Industry formed two separate Spitzenverbande designed as loose cartels*—the Vereinigung der deutschen Arbeitgeberverbande (Union of German Employers), which focused on labor-management issues, and the RdI, which dealt with eco-nomic policy—each providing information to their members while serving as powerful lobbies. A national chamber-of-commerce network linked the associ-ations while maintaining its own influential entity, the DIHT. The general sec-retaries of all three groups often served as powerful representatives on behalf of big business.Established in 1861 as the Deutscher Handelstag, the congress expanded its name in May 1918 to more realistically reflect its constituency. During the Weimar era it served as the Spitzenverband for ninety-five chambers of industry and trade, twenty-eight chambers of trade, and the chambers of commerce of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck. Its importance in the 1920s might be measured by a Berlin* headquarters that employed more than five hundred individuals, many of whom taught at the capital's Handelshochschule. The DIHT—whose leading figures included Eduard Hamm,* Carl Bosch,* Carl Duisberg,* and Franz von Mendelssohn—was aligned loosely with the DDP and the DVP. An-timonopolistic and supportive of international trade, it promoted free trade and consistently fought import quotas, thus placing itself at odds with the protec-tionism of big agriculture and the Reichslandbund.* Likewise, it tended to back the Foreign Office's fulfillment policy.*Since the DIHT sought to reintegrate Germany into the world economy, many in the congress were willing to sacrifice cartels to gain a greater goal; exports, they reasoned, equalled jobs. But their counterparts in the RdI were uneasy with this policy, and such apprehension helped promote the formation of Paul Reusch's* Ruhrlade in 1927. When Gustav Krupp* replaced Duisberg as head of the RdI in 1931, the choice underscored a split between the free-trade DIHT and the increasingly protectionist Industrial League. Throughout his troubled chancellorship Heinrich Brüning* received support from the DIHT. The con-gress opposed both Osthilfe* and a rural debt moratorium established by Franz von Papen* to ease the crisis facing numerous Junker* estate owners.The most socially progressive of Germany's commercial organizations, the DIHT remained circumspect in the amount of social-welfare legislation it could support. Concerned principally with economic progress, it withheld judgment on Hitler's* appointment in early 1933: "Because we are a chamber of com-merce we judge the government according to what it does and does not do in the area of economic policy" (Abraham). But its organization became hostage to the NSDAP apparatus at the DIHT's fifty-third plenary congress of June 1933.REFERENCES:David Abraham, Collapse of the Weimar Republic; Nocken, "Corporatism and Pluralism"; Schafer, Deutsche Industrie- und Handelstag; Turner, German Big Busi-ness.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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