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Social Democratic Party of Germany

Current SPD logo
The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD – Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) is the oldest political party of Germany still in existence and also one of the oldest in the world, celebrating its 140th anniversary in 2003. Rooted in the worker's movement, it is left-of-center and subscribes to social democracy.

The SPD is a member party of the Socialist International.

Members of the party who are younger than 35 are organized in the Jusos.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Current issues
3 Related articles
4 External link


The party considers itself to be founded on May 23, 1863, by Ferdinand Lassalle under the name Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein (ADAV, General German Worker's Association). In 1869, August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht founded the Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei (SDAP, Social Democratic Worker Party), which merged with the ADAV in 1875.

SPD election poster, 1932. Translation: "Against Papen, Hitler, Thälmann; List 2, Social Democrats"
After World War I, the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party of Germany became bitter rivals (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 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), although there remained a separate SPD in East Berlin. After the fall of the GDR in 1989, the SPD regained its status as a separate party in East Germany, then merging with its West-German counterpart.

Current issues

The SPD emerged as the winner in the September 1998 elections with 40.9% of the votes cast. Gerhard Schröder led the party to victory in 1998 on a moderate platform emphasizing the need to reduce unemployment. The SPD has a powerful base in the bigger cities and industrialized Bundesländer. Oskar Lafontaine, elected SPD chairman November 1995, resigned from his party and government positions in March, 1999. Schröder succeeded Lafontaine as party chairman. In the September 2002 elections, the SPD reached 38.5% of the national votes.

For many years the membership of 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, and by August 2003 the figure had dropped to 663,000.

Related articles

External link