The Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) is Germany's oldest political party, established in 1875, in the German Parliament. The SPD governed at the federal level in a grand coalition with the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union from 2005 until 27 October 2009. The SPD conceded defeat in the federal election of September 2009, with its share of votes having dropped from 34.2% to 23%, compared to 2005, and became the largest opposition party represented in the Bundestag. The party participates in ten state governments, of which seven are governed by SPD Minister-Presidents. The SPD is a full member party of the Party of European Socialists and the Socialist International. It was also one of the first Marxist-influenced parties in the world.
The General German Workingmens' Society (1863) and the Social Democratic Workers' Party (founded 1869), merged in 1875, under the name Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei. From 1878 to 1890 the party was banned, but it still gained support in elections. In 1890, when the ban was lifted and it could again present electoral lists, the party adopted its current name. In the years leading up to World War I, the party remained ideologically radical in official principle, although many party officials tended to be moderate in everyday politics. By 1912, the party claimed the most votes of any German party.
Despite the agreement of the Second International to oppose the First World War, the SPD voted in favor of war in 1914. In response to this and the Bolshevik Revolution, members of the left and of the far-left of the SPD formed alternative parties, first the Spartacus League, then the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany and later the Communist Party of Germany. After 1918 the SPD played an important role in the political system of the Weimar Republic, although it took part in coalition governments only in few years (1918–1921, 1923, 1928–1930). Adolf Hitler prohibited the party in 1933 under the Enabling Act - some party officials were imprisoned, killed or went into exile. In exile, the party used the name Sopade.
In 1945, the allied occupants in the Western zones initially allowed four parties to be established, which led to the Christian Democratic Union, the Free Democratic Party, the Communist Party of Germany, and the SPD being established. In the Soviet Zone of Occupation, the Soviets forced the Social Democrats to form a common party with the Communists (Socialist Unity Party of Germany or SED). In the Western zones, the Communist Party was later (1956) banned by West Germany's Federal Constitutional Court. Since 1949, in the Federal Republic of Germany, the SPD has been one of the two major parties, with the other being the Christian Democratic Union. From 1969 to 1982 and 1998 to 2005 the Chancellors of Germany were Social Democrats whereas the other years the Chancellors were Christian Democrats.
The SPD was established as a socialist party in 1875. However, the SPD underwent a major shift in policies reflected in the differences between the Heidelberg Program of 1925, which "called for the transformation of the capitalist system of private ownership of the means of production to social ownership", and the Godesberg Program of 1959, which aimed to broaden its voter base and move its political position toward the centre. After World War II, under the leadership of Kurt Schumacher, the SPD re-established itself as a socialist party, representing the interests of the working class and the trade unions. With the Godesberg Program of 1959, however, the party evolved from a socialist working-class party to a social-democratic party.
The current party platform of the SPD espouses the goal of social democracy, which is seen as a vision of a societal arrangement in which freedom and social justice are paramount. According to the party platform, freedom, justice, and social solidarity, form the basis of social democracy. The coordinated social market economy should be strengthened, and its output should be distributed fairly. The party sees that economic system as necessary in order to ensure the affluence of the entire population. The SPD also tries to protect the society's disadvantaged with a welfare state. Concurrently, it advocates a sustainable fiscal policy that doesn't place a burden on future generations while eradicating budget deficits. In social policy, the SPD stands for civil and political rights in an open society. In foreign policy, the SPD aims at ensuring global peace by balancing global interests with democratic means. Thus, European integration is one of the main priorities of the SPD.
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