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(Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, Social Democratic Party of Germany)

Early history (before 1933)

Founded in 1869 as a political party committed to social upheaval, it was Germany's most popular party by 1890. Despite its goal of international socialism, the increasingly pragmatic leadership under Bernstein and others accepted the outbreak of World War I and supported it as a necessary evil. In 1917, those of its members who opposed the war founded the Independent Socialist Party (Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, USPD), which merged with the Communist Party in 1920. After the collapse of the Empire in 1918, the SPD did more than any other party to establish a democracy instead of a socialist republic. The SPD remained the most popular party throughout most of the Weimar Republic, and provided its first President in Ebert. It was the only party to vote against the Enabling Law of 1933, but by then the SPD on its own was too weak to foil it. Subsequently, the SPD was banned and many members were persecuted, though some managed to escape abroad.

Contemporary history (after 1945)

After World War II, in Eastern Germany the SPD was forced to merge with the Communist Party in 1946, a measure that eliminated an independent socialist party. In Western Germany, the SPD narrowly lost the 1949 election, and spent the following twenty years in opposition to the CDU. In 1955 it transformed itself from a workers' party to one that aimed at representing all sections of the population. The first SPD government under Brandt made a profound impact upon German society through its new approach to the German question (Ostpolitik), its social policies, and its liberalization of German society. Under Schmidt, the SPD continued in government until 1982, when the defection of the Liberal Party (FDP) deprived the government of its majority at national level.

In 1990 it became the principal party to govern at the state level, which enabled it also to control the second chamber of the German parliament, the Bundesrat. Ironically, its prominence at the state level made it difficult for the central party to rein in the powerful party barons and present a unified front against the CDU. In 1998 one of the most outspoken state leaders, Schröder, was selected to challenge Kohl. The SPD won the general elections of that year, and formed a coalition with the Green Party. Unlike the first SPD government headed by Brandt, the SPD's election victory was not accompanied by any major ideological shift. Instead, the SPD sought to occupy firmly the electoral centre ground, through moderate policies of fiscal, pension, and health service reform.In Schröder's second period of office, however, the party was internally split on Schröder's labour market reforms. The party had lost most state elections of the previous years, and in 2005 it narrowly lost the federal elections. The SPD continued in government in a grand coalition with the CDU.http://www.spd.deThe official website of the SPD.

Subjects: Literature — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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