Social Democratic Party of Germany
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Social Democratic Party of Germany
Social Democratic Party of Germany

Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
LeaderAndrea Nahles
General SecretaryLars Klingbeil
Deputy Leaders
Founded23 May 1863 (155 years ago) (1863-05-23)
Merger ofADAV and SDAP
HeadquartersWilly-Brandt-Haus D-10911 Berlin, Germany
Student wing
Youth wingJusos
Women's wingAssociation of Social Democratic Women
Membership (December 2018)Decrease 437,754[1]
Political positionCentre-left[7]
European affiliationParty of European Socialists
International affiliationProgressive Alliance
European Parliament groupProgressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Colours     Red
State Parliaments
European Parliament
Ministers-president of states
Party flag
Flag of the Social Democratic Party of Germany

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (German: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands [zo'tsi?a:ldemo?k?a:t pata? 'dt?lants]), or SPD, is a social-democratic[2][3][4][5]political party in Germany.

Led by Andrea Nahles since 2018, the party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in Germany along with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The Social Democrats have 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 and 2017 federal elections. The party participates in 14 state governments and 7 of them are governed by SPD Minister-Presidents.

The SPD is a member of the Party of European Socialists and initiated the founding of the Progressive Alliance international for social-democratic parties on 22 May 2013[8][9][10] after criticising the Socialist International for its acceptance of authoritarian parties. Established in 1863, the SPD is by far 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 later 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 World War I, the Social Democrats voted in favor of war in 1914. In response to this and the Bolshevik Revolution, members of the left-wing and of the far-left of the SPD formed alternative parties, first the Spartacus League, then the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) while the more conservative faction was known as the Majority Social Democratic Party of Germany (MSPD). 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 and 1928-1930). Adolf Hitler prohibited the party in 1933 under the Enabling Act and party officials were imprisoned, killed or went into exile. In exile, the party used the name Sopade. The Social Democrats had been the only party to vote against the Enabling Act while the Communist Party was blocked from voting.

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 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 banned by West Germany's Federal Constitutional Court in 1956. Since 1949, the SPD has been one of the two major parties in the Federal Republic of Germany, 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. Shortly before the reunification of Germany in 1990, the East German Social Democratic Party merged into the West German SPD.

Party platform

The SPD was established as a Marxist party in 1875. However, the Social Democrats 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"[11] and the Godesberg Program of 1959 which aimed to broaden its voter base and move its political position toward the centre.[12] 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. However, with the Godesberg Program the party evolved from a socialist working-class party to a modern social-democratic party working within liberal capitalism.

Sigmar Gabriel, Vice Chancellor of Germany (2013-2018) and former chairman of the SPD

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 does not place a burden on future generations while eradicating budget deficits. In social policy, the Social Democrats stand for civil and political rights in an open society. In foreign policy, the party aims at ensuring global peace by balancing global interests with democratic means, thus European integration is one of the main priorities of the party. The 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 as well as environmentally sustainable growth.[13]

Internal factions

The SPD is mostly composed of members belonging to either of the two main wings, namely the Keynesian social democrats and Third Way moderate social democrats belonging to the Seeheimer Kreis. While the more moderate Seeheimer Kreis generally support the Agenda 2010 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 centrist 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 Left (Die Linke) in 2007.[14]

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).

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 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 and finally 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

Election results and governments since 1949

General German elections

The SPD, at times called SAPD, participated in general elections determining the members of parliament. For the elections until 1933, the parliament was called Reichstag, except of the one of 1919 which was called the National Assembly and after 1949 when it was called Bundestag. Note that changes in borders (1871, 1919, 1920, 1949, 1957 and 1990) varied the number of eligible voters whereas electoral laws also changed the ballot system (only constituencies until 1912, only party lists until 1949 and mixed system thereafter), the suffrage (women vote since 1919), the number of seats (fixed or flexible) and the length of the legislative period (three or four years). The list begins after the SPD was formed in 1875, when labour parties unified to only form the SPD (then SAPD, current name since 1890).

Election year Constituency votes Party list votes % of
overall votes (until 1912)
party list votes (as of 1919)
Overall seats won +/- Government
1877 493,447 9.1 (4th)
In opposition
1878 437,158 7.6 (5th)
Decrease 4 In opposition
1881 311,961 6.1 (7th)
Increase 4 In opposition
1884 549,990 9.7 (5th)
Increase 11 In opposition
1887 763,102 10.1 (5th)
Decrease 13 In opposition
1890 1,427,323 19.7 (1st)
Increase 24 In opposition
1893 1,786,738 23.3 (1st)
Increase 9 In opposition
1898 2,107,076 27.2 (1st)
Increase 12 In opposition
1903 3,010,771 31.7 (1st)
Increase 25 In opposition
1907 3,259,029 28.9 (1st)
Decrease 38 In opposition
1912 4,250,399 34.8 (1st)
Increase 67 In opposition
In coalition
In coalition
1919 11,509,048 37.9 (1st)
Increase 55 In coalition
1920 6,179,991 21.9 (1st)
Decrease 63 In opposition
In coalition
In opposition
In coalition
In opposition
May 1924 6,008,905 20.5 (1st)
Decrease 2 In opposition
December 1924 7,881,041 26.0 (1st)
Increase 31 In opposition
1928 9,152,979 29.8 (1st)
Increase 22 In coalition
1930 8,575,244 24.5 (1st)
Decrease 10 In opposition
July 1932 7,959,712 21.6 (2nd)
Decrease 10 In opposition
November 1932 7,247,901 20.4 (2nd)
Decrease 12 In opposition
March 1933 7,181,629 18.3 (2nd)
Decrease 1 In opposition
November 1933 Banned. National Socialist German Workers Party sole legal party.
1936 Banned. National Socialist German Workers Party sole legal party.
1938 Banned. National Socialist German Workers Party sole legal party.
1949 6,934,975 29.2 (2nd)
Increase 11 In opposition
1953 8,131,257 7,944,943 28.8 (2nd)
Increase 22 In opposition
1957 11,975,400 11,875,339 31.8 (2nd)
Increase 19 In opposition
1961 11,672,057 11,427,355 36.2 (2nd)
Increase 22 In opposition
1965 12,998,474 12,813,186 39.3 (2nd)
Increase 14 In coalition
1969 14,402,374 14,065,716 42.7 (2nd)
Increase 20 In coalition
1972 18,228,239 17,175,169 45.8 (1st)
Increase 5 In coalition
1976 16,471,321 16,099,019 42.6 (2nd)
Decrease 18 In coalition
1980 16,808,861 16,260,677 42.9 (2nd)
Increase 4 In coalition
1983 15,686,033 14,865,807 38.2 (2nd)
Decrease 26 In opposition
1987 14,787,953 14,025,763 37.0 (2nd)
Decrease 9 In opposition
1990 16,279,980 15,545,366 33.5 (2nd)
Increase 46 In opposition
1994 17,966,813 17,140,354 36.4 (2nd)
Increase 13 In opposition
1998 21,535,893 20,181,269 40.9 (1st)
Increase 43 In coalition
2002 20,059,967 18,484,560 38.5 (1st)[15]
Decrease 47 In coalition
2005 18,129,100 16,194,665 34.2 (2nd)
Decrease 29 In coalition
2009 12,077,437 9,988,843 23.0 (2nd)
Decrease 76 In opposition
2013 12,835,933 11,247,283 25.7 (2nd)
Increase 42 In coalition
2017 11,426,613 9,538,367 20.5 (2nd)
Decrease 40 In coalition

European Parliament

Election year No. of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
No. of
overall seats won
1979 11,370,045 40.8 (1st)
1984 9,296,417 37.4 (2nd)
Decrease 1
1989 10,525,728 37.3 (1st)
Decrease 2
1994 11,389,697 32.2 (1st)
Increase 10
1999 8,307,085 30.7 (2nd)
Decrease 7
2004 5,547,971 21.5 (2nd)
Decrease 10
2009 5,472,566 20.8 (2nd)
Steady 0
2014 7,999,955 27.2 (2nd)
Increase 4

State Parliaments (Länder)

State Parliament Election year No. of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
Seats Government
No. ± Position
Baden-Württemberg 2016 679,872 12.7 (4th) Decrease
Decrease 16 Decrease 4th Opposition
Bavaria 2018 1,317,942 9.7 (5th) Decrease
Decrease 20 Decrease 5th Opposition
Berlin 2016 352,369 21.6 (1st) Decrease
Decrease 10 Steady 1st SPD-Left-Greens
Brandenburg 2014 315,177 31.9 (1st) Decrease
Decrease 1 Steady 1st SPD-Left
Bremen 2015 383,509 23.9 (1st) Decrease
Decrease 7 Steady 1st SPD-Greens
Hamburg 2015 1,611,274 45.6 (1st) Decrease
Decrease 4 Steady 1st SPD-Greens
Hesse 2018 570,166 19.8 (3rd) Decrease
Decrease 8 Decrease 3rd Opposition
Lower Saxony 2017 1,413,990 36.9 (1st) Increase
Increase 6 Increase 1st SPD-CDU
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 2016 246,393 30.6 (1st) Decrease
Decrease 2 Steady 1st SPD-CDU
North Rhine-Westphalia 2017 2,649,205 31.2 (2nd) Decrease
Decrease 30 Decrease 2nd Opposition
Rhineland-Palatinate 2016 771,848 36.2 (1st) Increase
Decrease 3 Steady 1st SPD-FDP-Greens
Saarland 2017 157,841 29.6 (2nd) Decrease
Steady 0 Steady 2nd CDU-SPD
Saxony 2014 202,374 12.4 (3rd) Increase
Increase 4 Steady 3rd CDU-SPD
Saxony-Anhalt 2016 119,377 10.6 (4th) Decrease
Decrease 15 Decrease 4th CDU-SPD-Greens
Schleswig-Holstein 2017 400,635 27.2 (2nd) Decrease
Decrease 1 Steady 2nd Opposition
Thuringia 2014 116,889 12.4 (3rd) Decrease
Decrease 6 Steady 3rd Left-SPD-Greens

Leadership of the Social Democratic Party

The party is led by the Leader of the Social Democratic Party. He/she is supported by six Deputy Leaders and the party executive.

The current leader is Andrea Nahles. The current Deputy Leaders are Manuela Schwesig, Ralf Stegner, Olaf Scholz, Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, Natascha Kohnen and Maria Luise "Malu" Dreyer.

As Germany is a federal republic, each of Germany's states have their own SPD party at the state level.

The current leaders of the SPD state parties are the following:

See also


  1. ^ "SPD verliert Mitglieder". JUNGE Freiheit. Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ a b Nordsieck, Wolfram (2017). "Germany". Parties and Elections in Europe.
  3. ^ a b Merkel, Wolfgang; Petring, Alexander; Henkes, Christian; Egle, Christoph (2008). Social Democracy in Power: the capacity to reform. London: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-43820-9.
  4. ^ a b Almeida, Dimitri (2012). The Impact of European Integration on Political Parties: Beyond the Permissive Consensus. CRC Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-136-34039-0. Retrieved 2013.
  5. ^ a b 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 2013.
  6. ^ Christian Krell (2009). Sozialdemokratie und Europa: Die Europapolitik von SPD, Labour Party und Parti Socialiste. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften/Springer-Verlag.
  7. ^ "Greek debt crisis: Violence in Athens ahead of Germany vote". BBC News Online. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  8. ^ "Progressive Alliance: Sozialdemokraten gründen weltweites Netzwerk". Der Spiegel. Hamburg, Germany. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 2015.
  9. ^ "Sozialdemokratie: "Progressive Alliance" gegründet". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 2015.
  10. ^ "Sozialistische Internationale hat ausgedient: SPD gründet "Progressive Alliance"". 22 May 2013. Retrieved 2015.
  11. ^ Brustein, William (1996). Logic of Evil: The Social Origins of the Nazi Party 1925-1933. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. p. 131.
  12. ^ Cooper, Alice Holmes. Paradoxes of Peace: German Peace Movements since 1945. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. p. 85.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 October 2012. Retrieved 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Nils Schnelle (2007). Die WASG - Von der Gründung bis zur geplanten Fusion mit der Linkspartei. Munich.
  15. ^ "Schroeder wins second term". Retrieved 17 October 2018.

Further reading

  • Orlow, Dietrich. Common Destiny: A Comparative History of the Dutch, French, and German Social Democratic Parties, 1945-1969 (2000) online.
  • 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).
  • Berlau, Abraham. German Social Democratic Party, 1914-1921 (Columbia University Press, 1949).
  • Maxwell, John Allen. "Social Democracy in a Divided Germany: Kurt Schumacher and the German Question, 1945-1952." Ph.D dissertation, West Virginia University, Department of History, Morgantown, West Virginia, 1969.
  • McAdams, A. James. "Germany Divided: From the Wall to Reunification." Princeton University Press, 1992 and 1993.
  • 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).
  • Eric D. Weitz, Creating German Communism, 1890-1990: From Popular Protests to Socialist State. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.
  • David Priestand, Red Flag: A History of Communism," New York: Grove Press, 2009.

External links

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