Social Democratic Party of Germany

"SPD" redirects here. For other uses, see SPD (disambiguation).
Social Democratic Party of Germany
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
Abbreviation SPD
Chairman Sigmar Gabriel
Secretary-General Katarina Barley
Vice Chairpeople Hannelore Kraft
Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel
Olaf Scholz
Manuela Schwesig
Aydan Özoğuz
Founded 23 May 1863 (1863-05-23)
Merger of ADAV and SDAP
Headquarters Willy-Brandt-Haus
D-10911 Berlin
Newspaper "Vorwärts"
Student wing Socialist German Student Union (1946–1961), Juso-Hochschulgruppen (since 1973)
Youth wing Jusos
Women's wing Association of Social Democratic Women
Membership  (2015) Decrease 445,534[1]
Ideology Social democracy[2]
Political position Centre-left[3]
European affiliation Party of European Socialists
International affiliation Progressive Alliance,
Socialist International
European Parliament group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Colors Red
193 / 630
State Parliaments
558 / 1,857
European Parliament
27 / 96
Prime Ministers of States
9 / 16

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (German: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) is a social-democratic[4][5][6] political party in Germany. The party, led by Chairman Sigmar Gabriel since 2009, has become one of the two major contemporary political parties in Germany, along with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The SPD has governed at the federal level in Germany as part of a grand coalition with the CDU and the Christian Social Union (CSU) since December 2013 following the results of the 2013 federal election. The SPD participates in 14 state governments, nine of them governed by SPD Minister-Presidents.

The SPD is a member of the Party of European Socialists and of the Socialist International, and became a founding member of the Progressive Alliance on 22 May 2013.[7][8][9] Established in 1863, the SPD is the oldest extant political party represented in the German Parliament and was one of the first Marxist-influenced parties in the world.


Membership development after 1945

The General German Workers' Association (Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein, ADAV), founded in 1863, and the Social Democratic Workers' Party (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, SDAP), founded in 1869, merged in 1875, under the name Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, SAPD). From 1878 to 1890, any grouping or meeting that aimed at spreading socialist principles was banned under the Anti-Socialist Laws, but the party 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 – 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.

Party platform

The SPD was established as a Marxist 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",[10] and the Godesberg Program of 1959, which aimed to broaden its voter base and move its political position toward the centre.[11] 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 modern social-democratic party working within capitalism.

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 poor 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. SPD supports economic regulations to limit potential losses for banks and people. They support a common European economic and financial policy, and to prevent speculative bubbles. They support environmentally sustainable growth.[12]

Internal groupings

The SPD is mostly composed of members belonging to either of the two main wings: Keynesian social democrats and Third Way moderate social democrats belonging to the Seeheimer Kreis. While the moderate, Seeheimer Kreis social democrats strongly support the Agenda 2010 reformist programs introduced by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the Keynesian social democrats continue to defend classical left-wing policies and the welfare state. The classical left-wing of the SPD claims that in recent years the welfare state has been curtailed through reform programs such as the Agenda 2010, Hartz IV and the more economic liberal stance of the SPD, which were endorsed by right-wing social democrats. As a reaction to the Agenda 2010, there was in 2005 the ascension of an inner party dissident movement, which led ultimately to the foundation of the new party Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative (Arbeit & soziale Gerechtigkeit – Die Wahlalternative, WASG). The WASG was later merged into the party Die Linke ("The Left") 2007.[13]

Base of support

Social structure

Before World War II, as the main non-revolutionary left-wing party, the Social Democrats fared best among non-Catholic workers as well as intellectuals favouring social progressive causes and increased economic equality. Led by Kurt Schumacher after World War II, the SPD initially opposed both the social market economy and Konrad Adenauer's drive towards western integration fiercely, but after Schumacher's death, it accepted the social market economy and Germany's position in the Western alliance in order to appeal to a broader range of voters. It still remains associated with the economic causes of unionised employees and working class voters. In the 1990s, the left and moderate wings of the party drifted apart, culminating in a secession of a significant number of party members, which later joined the socialist party WASG, which later merged into The Left (Die Linke) party.

Geographic distribution

Geographically, much of the SPD's current-day support comes from large cities, especially of northern and western Germany and Berlin. The metropolitan area of the Ruhr Area, where coal mining and steel production were once the biggest sources of revenues, have provided a significant base for the SPD in the 20th century. In the state Free Hanseatic City of Bremen the SPD has governed without interruption since 1949. In southern Germany, the SPD typically garners less support except in the largest cities. At the 2009 federal election, the party lost its only constituency in the entire state of Bavaria (in Munich). Small town and rural support comes especially from the traditionally Protestant areas of northern Germany and Brandenburg (with notable exceptions such as Western Pomerania where CDU leader Angela Merkel was re-elected in 2005) and a number of university towns. A striking example of the general pattern is the traditionally Catholic Emsland, where the Social Democrats generally gain a low percentage of votes, whereas the Reformed Protestant region of East Frisia directly to the north, with its strong traditional streak of Anti-Catholicism, is one of their strongest constituencies. Further south, the SPD also enjoys solid support in northern Hesse (Hans Eichel was mayor of Kassel, then Hesse's minister president, then finance minister in the Schröder administration, while Brigitte Zypries served as Justice Minister), parts of Palatinate (Kurt Beck was party leader until 7 September 2008), and the Saarland (political home of one-time candidate for federal chancellor Oskar Lafontaine, defected from the SPD in 2005).

Election results

Federal Parliament (Bundestag)

Election year # of
constituency votes
# of
party list votes
% of
party list votes
# of
overall seats won
+/– Govt?
1949 6,934,975 29.2
131 / 402
First Opposition
1953 8,131,257 7,944,943 28.8
162 / 509
Increase 22 First Opposition
1957 11,975,400 11,875,339 31.8
181 / 519
Increase 19 First Opposition
1961 11,672,057 11,427,355 36.2
203 / 521
Increase 22 First Opposition
1965 12,998,474 12,813,186 39.3
217 / 518
Increase 14 Junior in Govt Coalition with the CDU/CSU
1969 14,402,374 14,065,716 42.7
237 / 518
Increase 20 Leading Govt coalition with the FDP
1972 18,228,239 17,175,169 45.8
242 / 518
Increase 5 Leading Govt coalition with the FDP
1976 16,471,321 16,099,019 42.6
224 / 518
Decrease 18 Leading Govt coalition with the FDP
1980 16,808,861 16,260,677 42.9
228 / 519
Increase 4 Leading Govt coalition with the FDP
First Opposition (from 1982)
1983 15,686,033 14,865,807 38.2
202 / 520
Decrease 26 First Opposition
1987 14,787,953 14,025,763 37.0
193 / 519
Decrease 9 First Opposition
1990 16,279,980 15,545,366 33.5
239 / 662
Increase 46 First Opposition
1994 17,966,813 17,140,354 36.4
252 / 672
Increase 13 First Opposition
1998 21,535,893 20,181,269 40.9
298 / 669
Increase 43 Leading Govt coalition with the Greens
2002 20,059,967 18,484,560 38.5
251 / 603
Decrease 47 Leading Govt coalition with the Greens
2005 18,129,100 16,194,665 34.2
222 / 614
Decrease 29 Junior in Govt Coalition with the CDU/CSU
2009 12,077,437 9,988,843 23.0
146 / 622
Decrease 76 First Opposition
2013 12,835,933 11,247,283 25.7
193 / 631
Increase 42 Junior in Govt Coalition with the CDU/CSU

European Parliament

Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
1979 11,370,045 40.8 (#1)
33 / 81
1984 9,296,417 37.4 (#2)
32 / 81
Decrease 1
1989 10,525,728 37.3 (#1)
30 / 81
Decrease 2
1994 11,389,697 32.2 (#1)
40 / 99
Increase 10
1999 8,307,085 30.7 (#2)
33 / 99
Decrease 7
2004 5,547,971 21.5 (#2)
23 / 99
Decrease 10
2009 5,472,566 20.8 (#2)
23 / 99
Steady 0
2014 7,999,955 27.2 (#2)
27 / 96
Increase 4

See also


  1. "Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) – Parteiprofil". Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  2. Wolfram Nordsieck. "Parties and Elections in Europe". Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  3. "Greek debt crisis: Violence in Athens ahead of Germany vote". BBC News. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  4. Merkel, Wolfgang; Alexander Petring; Christian Henkes; Christoph Egle (2008). Social Democracy in Power: the capacity to reform. London: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-43820-9.
  5. Dimitri Almeida (2012). The Impact of European Integration on Political Parties: Beyond the Permissive Consensus. CRC Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-136-34039-0. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  6. Ashley Lavelle (2013). The Death of Social Democracy: Political Consequences in the 21st Century. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-4094-9872-8. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  7. SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg, Germany (22 May 2013). "Progressive Alliance: Sozialdemokraten gründen weltweites Netzwerk". SPIEGEL ONLINE. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  8. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung GmbH (22 May 2013). "Sozialdemokratie: "Progressive Alliance" gegründet". FAZ.NET. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  9. n-tv Nachrichtenfernsehen (22 May 2013). "Sozialistische Internationale hat ausgedient: SPD gründet "Progressive Alliance"". Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  10. Brustein, William. Logic of Evil: The Social Origins of the Nazi Party 1925–1933. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996. p. 131.
  11. Cooper, Alice Holmes. Paradoxes of Peace: German Peace Movements since 1945. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1996. p. 85
  12. Nils Schnelle: Die WASG – Von der Gründung bis zur geplanten Fusion mit der Linkspartei, Munich 2007.

Further reading

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