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Godesberg Program of the SPD (November 1959)

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Religion and Church

Only mutual tolerance which respects the dignity of all men regardless of differences in belief and conviction, offers a sound basis for political and human co-operation in society.

Socialism is no substitute for religion. The Social Democratic Party respects churches and religious societies. It affirms their public and legal status, their special mission and their autonomy.

It is always ready to co-operate with the churches on the basis of a free partnership. It welcomes the fact that men are moved by their religious faith to acknowledge their social obligation and their responsibilities towards society.

Freedom of thought, of religion and of conscience, and freedom to preach the gospel must be protected. Any abuse of this freedom for partisan or anti-democratic ends cannot be tolerated.


Education must give an opportunity to all freely to develop their abilities and capacities. It must strengthen the will to resist the conformist tendencies of our time. Knowledge and the acquisition of traditional cultural values, and a thorough understanding of the formative forces in society, are essential to the development of independent thinking and free judgment.

School and university should bring up youth in a spirit of mutual respect. Youth should be taught to appreciate the values of freedom, independence and social responsibility as well as the ideals of democracy and international understanding. The aim should be to encourage tolerance, mutual understanding and solidarity in our society in which so many philosophical viewpoints and systems of value exist side by side. The curricula of schools should therefore pay proper attention to education for citizenship.

[ . . . ]

Our Way

The Socialist movement has an historic task. It began as a spontaneous moral protest of wage earners against the capitalist system. The tremendous development of the productive forces with the help of science and technology brought wealth and power to a small group of people, but only destitution and misery to the workers. To abolish the privileges of the ruling classes and to secure freedom, justice and prosperity for all was and remains the essence of the Socialist aim.

The working class had to rely on its own resources in its struggle. It acquired self-confidence by becoming conscious of its own position and by its determination to change this position by united action and the experience of success in its struggle.

Despite heavy setbacks and some errors the Labour movement succeeded in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in winning recognition for many of its demands. The proletarian who was once without protection and rights, who had to work sixteen hours a day for a starvation wage, achieved the eight-hour day, protection at work, insurance against unemployment, sickness, disability and destitution in old age. He achieved the prohibition of child labour and night work for women, the legal protection of youth and mothers, and holidays with pay. He successfully fought for the right to assemble and to form trade unions, the right to collective bargaining and to strike. He is about to obtain the right to co-determination. Once a mere object of exploitation, the worker now occupies the position of a citizen in the state with equal rights and obligations.

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