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Godesberg Program of the SPD (November 1959)

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All privileged access to educational institutions must be abolished. Talent and achievement should be the sole criteria of advancement.

Freedom and justice cannot be guaranteed by institutions alone. Technology and organisation are exerting a growing influence on all areas of life. This creates new dependencies which threaten freedom. Only diversity in economic, social and cultural life can stimulate the creative powers of the individual without which man’s mind is paralysed.

Freedom and democracy are only thinkable in an industrial society if a constantly growing number of people develop a social consciousness and are ready to help shoulder responsibility. A decisive means to this end is political education in its widest sense. It is an essential objective of all educational efforts in our time.

The Order of the State

The Social Democratic Party of Germany lives and works in the whole of Germany. It stands by the Basic Law of the German Federal Republic. In accordance with the Basic Law it strives for German unity in freedom.

The division of Germany is a threat to peace. To end this division is a vital interest of the German people.

Not until Germany is reunited, will the whole people be able freely to determine the content and form of the state and society.

Man’s life, his dignity and his conscience take precedence over the state. Every citizen must respect the convictions of his fellow men. It is the duty of the state to protect freedom of faith and freedom of conscience.

The state should create the conditions in which the individual may freely develop his personality, responsible to himself but conscious of his obligations to society. Established fundamental rights do not only protect the freedom of the individual in relation to the state; they should also be regarded as social rights which constitute the basis of the state.

The social function of the state is to provide social security for its citizens to enable everyone to be responsible for shaping his own life freely and to further the development of a free society.

The state becomes a truly civilised state (Kulturstaat) through the fusion of the democratic idea with the ideas of social security and the rule of law. It depends for its content on the forces prevalent in society, and its task is to serve the creative spirit of man.

The Social Democratic Party affirms its adherence to democracy. In a democracy the power of the state is derived from the people and the government is always responsible to Parliament whose confidence it must possess. In a democracy the rights of the minority as well as the rights of the majority must be respected; government and opposition have different tasks of equal importance; both share in the responsibility for the state.

The Social Democratic Party aims to win the support of the majority of the people by competing under equal conditions with other democratic parties in order to build a society and a state that accord with the essential demands of democratic Socialism.

Legislature, executive and judiciary should operate separately and it is the duty of each to serve the public interest. The existence of three levels of authority–Federal, State, and Local – ensures the distribution of power, strengthens freedom and through co-determination and co-responsibility gives the citizen manifold access to democratic institutions. Free local communities are vital to a living democracy. The Social Democratic Party therefore supports the principles of local self-government which must be extended and given adequate financial support.

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