Social Democratic Party of Germany

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Template:Infobox German Political Party

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD – Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) is the second oldest political party of Germany still in existence and also one of the oldest and largest in the world, celebrating its 140th anniversary in 2003. Rooted in the workers' movement, it formerly was more explicitly socialist (and is still a member party of the Socialist International); more recently, under Gerhard Schrder's lead, it has adopted some tenets of neoliberalism while remaining committed to social democracy. Members of the party who are younger than 35 are organized in the Jusos.



The party considers itself to be founded on May 23, 1863, by Ferdinand Lassalle under the name Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein (ADAV, General German Workers' Association). In 1869, August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht founded the Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei (SDAP, Social Democratic Workers' Party of Germany), which merged with the ADAV in 1875. Otto von Bismarck had the party outlawed for its pro-revolution, anti-monarchy sentiments; but in 1892 it was legalized again. As social democrats could be elected as list-free candidates while the party was outlawed, it had continued to be a growing force in the parliament, becoming strongest party in 1912 (in imperial Germany, the parliamentary balance of forces had no influence on the formation of the cabinet). As a reaction to the prosecution, the Erfurt Program of 1891 was more radical than the Gotha Program, demanding socialisation; still, the revisionism of Bernstein and the increasing loyalty of the party establishment towards Emperor and Reich made it possible that the party under Bebel's successor Ebert supported the war credits. In the 1918 revolution, Ebert sided with the imperial army command against the councils of mainly social democratic workers and revolutionary soldiers, while they elected him head of the revolutionary government.

SPD election poster of 1932. "Against , , ; List 2, Social Democrats".
SPD election poster of 1932. "Against Papen, Hitler, Thlmann; List 2, Social Democrats".

Subsequently, the Social Democratic Party and the newly founded Communist Party of Germany (which consisted mostly of SPD defectors) became bitter rivals, not least because of the legacy of the German Revolution (see Weimar Republic). The leader of the Prussian government in Berlin, socialist Otto Braun was ousted by military coup on July 20, 1932 and the party was banned by the Nazis in 1933. It takes a certain pride in being the only party that voted against the 1933 Enabling Act.

The SPD was recreated after World War II. In West Germany, it was initially in the opposition, but led the federal government under Chancellors Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt from 1969 until 1982. In its 1959 Godesberg Program the SPD abandoned the concept of a class party and Marxist principles while continuing to stress social welfare programs. Although the SPD originally opposed West Germany's 1955 rearmament and entry into NATO, it now strongly supports German ties with the alliance.

In the Russian sector which later became East Germany, the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party of Germany were forced to merge to form the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). During the fall of Communist rule in 1989, the SPD was re-established as a separate party in East Germany and then merged with its West German counterpart upon reunification.

Current issues

Led by Gerhard Schrder on a moderate platform emphasizing the need to reduce unemployment, the SPD emerged as the strongest party in the September 1998 elections with 40.9% of the votes cast. Crucial for this success was the SPD's strong base in big cities and Bundeslnder with traditional industries. Forming a coalition government with the Green Party, the SPD thus returned to power for the first time since 1982.

Oskar Lafontaine, elected SPD chairman November 1995, and having joined the government as minister for economy and finance, resigned from his party and government positions in March 1999. Schrder succeeded Lafontaine as party chairman.

In the September 2002 elections, the SPD reached 38.5% of the national vote, barely ahead of the CDU/CSU, and was again able to form a government with the help of the Green Party. The European elections of 2004 were a disaster for the SPD, marking its worst result in a nationwide election after World War II with only 21.5% of the vote. Earlier the same year, leadership of the SPD had changed from chancellor Gerhard Schrder to Franz Mntefering in what was widely regarded as an attempt to deal with internal party opposition to the economic reform programs set in march by the federal government.

For many years, membership in the SPD has been declining. Down from a high of over 1 million in 1976, there were about 775,000 members at the time of the 1998 election victory, by August 2003 the figure had dropped to 663,000, and at the end of March 2005 there were less than 600,000 SPD members remaining.

In April 2005, party chairman Franz Mntefering publicly criticized excessive profiteering in Germany's free market economy and proposed stronger involvement of the federal state in order to promote economic justice. This triggered a debate that dominated the national news for several weeks, being the subject of front-page articles in almost all major periodicals as well as obtaining coverage on the main television news broadcasts on a near-daily basis. Mntefering's suggestions have been criticized by employer organizations and some economists, but have been met with popular support (75% approval in some opinion polls).

In January 2005, some SPD members left the party to found the Labour and Social Justice Party (WASG) in opposition to what they consider to be neoliberal leanings displayed by the SPD. By May 2005, several newspapers reported that former SPD chairman Oskar Lafontaine was planning to join the new party.

Leading members of the SPD before World War I

Interwar leaders of the SPD

Chairmen of the Social Democratic Party

German Chancellors from SPD

German Presidents from SPD

See also

External link

de:Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands el:Σοσιαλδημοκρατικό Κόμμα της Γερμανίας fr:Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands la:Socialis Democratico Factio Germaniae nl:Sociaal-Democratische Partij van Duitsland nds:SPD ja:ドイツ社会民主党 nb:Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands pl:Socjaldemokratyczna Partia Niemiec sr:Социјалдемократска партија Немачке fi:Sosiaalidemokraattinen puolue (Saksa) sv:Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands zh:德国社会民主党


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