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Social Democratic Party of Germany

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Social Democratic Party of Germany
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
LeaderNorbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken
Founded23 May 1863 (ADAV)
7 August 1869 (SDAP)
D-10911 Berlin
IdeologySocial democracy
Political positionCentre-left
European affiliationParty of European Socialists
International affiliationSocialist International
European Parliament groupProgressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (German Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands or SPD) is the oldest political party in Germany that still exists. It was created on 23 May 1863. Many people think that the SPD is one of the two most important political parties in modern-day Germany, with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

History[change | change source]

It was founded as the General German Workers Association (Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein) (ADAV) on May 23rd in 1863 in Leipzig. Founder was Ferdinand Lassalle. In 1875 the ADAV joined with the Social Democratic Workers' Party (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei) (SDAP), which was founded in 1869 in Eisenach by August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht.

The new name was the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands) (SAP).

In the autumn of 1890 it took its present name.

In the years between 1875 and 1890 it was made illegal by Otto von Bismarck. The Social democrats wanted to support the rights of workers.

In 1914 the SPD was split into two. Most members of the party supported the Kaiser and his plans for war. The other members formed the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland) (USPD). They were against the war.

After the monarchy fell, the SPD led some governments of the Weimar Republic.

Later the SPD was the only party in the Reichstag who voted against the Enabling Act,(Ermächtigungsgesetz) which allowed Hitler to become dictator.

Afterwards, the Nazis banned the SPD and arrested the leading Social Democrats. Many were sent to Nazi concentration camps. Others moved away to towns where they were not known. Friedrich Kellner, an organizer for the SPD in Mainz from 1920 to 1932, moved to Laubach. He wrote entries in a secret diary about the crimes of the Nazis.

After World War II, the SPD was reformed. In the GDR (East Germany) the Soviet Union forced the SPD to join with the communist party to make the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei). In Western Germany the SPD continued as the largest center-left party.

First chief of the SPD after WWII was Kurt Schumacher.

The SPD led some state governments in West Germany, but was always the leading opposition party in the Bundestag (federal parliament). Under its parliamentary party leader Herbert Wehner the SPD joined the federal government led by chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) with the CDU and the CSU in 1966. Party chief Willy Brandt became foreign secretary and vice chancellor.

In 1969 Willy Brandt became federal chancellor. The SPD lead a coalition government with the FDP as its partner. In 1974 Helmut Schmidt became chancellor.

In 1982 the SPD lost the power of government.

Between 1998 and 2005 the SPD led the government under chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Its partner this time was The Greens.

In November 2005 the SPD became the junior partner in a coalition with the CDU and CSU under Angela Merkel.

Programs[change | change source]

The SPD is traditionally the party of the workers in Germany. In 1959 the SPD adopted the Godesberger Programm, named after the town of Bad Godesburg in North Rhine-Westphalia. The SPD formally abandoned Marxism, and accepted the market economy (which means people and companies can make money and keep it themselves), but wanted to have a social balance (which means people would get help from the government if they had no job, were sick or too old to work, instead of relying on savings or charity). Companies might get subsidies to help keep people in work.

Many people thought that the government of Chancellor Schröder (1998 - 2005) changed the idea of social balance, making people rely more on savings or charity. The SPD lost a lot of members. Now there is a discussion in the SPD about new social balance policies.

Related pages[change | change source]

Further reading[change | change source]

  • Carl E. Schorske, German Social Democracy, 1905-1917: The Development of the Great Schism (Harvard University Press, 1955).
  • Vernon L. Lidtke, The Outlawed Party: Social Democracy in Germany, 1878-1890 (Princeton University Press, 1966).
  • Abraham J. Berlau, The German Social Democratic Party, 1914-1921 (Columbia University Press, 1949).
  • Erich Matthias The Downfall of the Old Social Democratic Party in 1933 pages 51–105 from Republic to Reich The Making of the Nazi Revolution Ten Essays edited by Hajo Holborn, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972).

Other websites[change | change source]

Preceded by
Socialist Workers' Party of Germany
German socialist parties
1890 — 1933
1947 — today
Succeeded by
still exists -