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Godesberg Program of the SPD (November 1959)

After the SPD suffered election defeats by Konrad Adenauer’s CDU in 1953 and 1957, there was a growing awareness within the SPD that attracting new strata of voters would have to involve a fundamental reform of the party’s goals and program. The economic successes of the 1950s, which derived from a social market economy based on private property, and the emergence of a new middle class made the socialist positions of the SPD seem obsolete. In foreign policy, its demand for reunification on neutral terms could no longer command a majority given the FRG’s firm integration into the Western community.

The Godesberg Program of November 1959 represented a fundamental change of course from the “party of the working class to a party of the people” – the SPD no longer stood for socialism of the Marxist variety. Private property and free market principles were acknowledged, and the role of the state was limited to general tasks involving planning and guidance. The program was rounded out by the affirmation of the importance of national defense and socio-political demands, such as co-determination in the workplace, equality for women, and improved educational opportunities.

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Socialists aim to establish a society in which every individual can develop his personality and as a responsible member of the community, take part in the political, economic and cultural life of mankind.

Freedom and justice are interdependent, since the dignity of man rests on his claim to individual responsibility just as much as on his acknowledgement of the right of others to develop their personality and, as equal partners, help shape society.

Freedom, justice and solidarity, which are everyone’s obligation towards his neighbours and spring from our common humanity, are the fundamental values of Socialism.

Democratic Socialism, which in Europe is rooted in Christian ethics, humanism and classical philosophy, does not proclaim ultimate truths – not because of any lack of understanding for or indifference to philosophical or religious truths, but out of respect for the individual’s choice in these matters of conscience in which neither the state nor any political party should be allowed to interfere.

The Social Democratic Party is the party of freedom of thought. It is a community of men holding different beliefs and ideas. Their agreement is based on the moral principles and political aims they have in common. The Social Democratic Party strives for a way of life in accordance with these principles. Socialism is a constant task – to fight for freedom and justice, to preserve them and to live up to them.

Basic Demands for a Society Worthy of Man

From the acceptance of Democratic Socialism follow certain basic demands which must be fulfilled in a society worthy of man.

All peoples must submit to the rule of international law backed by adequate executive power. War must be ruled out as a means of policy.

All peoples must have equal opportunities to share in the world’s wealth. Developing countries have a claim to the help of other peoples.

We are fighting for democracy. Democracy must become the universal form of state organisation and way of life because it is founded on respect for the dignity of man and his individual responsibility.

We resist every dictatorship, every form of totalitarian or authoritarian rule because they violate human dignity, destroy man’s freedom and the rule of law. Socialism can be realised only through democracy and democracy can only be fulfilled through Socialism.

Communists have no right to invoke Socialist traditions. In fact, they have falsified Socialist ideas. Socialists are struggling for the realisation of freedom and justice while Communists exploit the conflicts in society to establish the dictatorship of their party.

In the democratic state, every form of power must be subject to public control. The interest of the individual must be subordinated to the interest of the community. Democracy, social security and individual freedom are endangered by an economic and social system in which striving for profit and power are the distinguishing features. Democratic Socialism therefore aspires after a new economic and social order.

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