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Godesberg Program of the SPD (November 1959)

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In several countries of Europe the foundations of a new society have been laid under Social Democratic governments. Social security and the democratisation of the economy are being realised to an increasing extent.

These successes represent milestones on the march forward of the Labour movement which has demanded so many sacrifices. The emancipation of the workers helped to enlarge the freedom of all men. From a party of the working class the Social Democratic Party has become a party of the people. It is determined to put the forces unleashed by the industrial revolution and the advance of technology in all spheres of life to the service of freedom and justice for all. The social forces which built the capitalist world cannot tackle this task. Their historical record is one of impressive technical and economic advance, but also of destructive wars, mass unemployment, inflation which robbed people of their savings, and economic insecurity. The old forces are unable to oppose the brutal Communist challenge with a better programme for a new society, in which individual and political freedom is enhanced, and economic security and social justice guaranteed. This is why they cannot satisfy the claims for assistance and solidarity from the young states which are about to throw off the yoke of colonial exploitation, to shape their destinies in freedom and to insist on participation in the world’s wealth. These states are resisting the lure of Communism which is trying to draw them into its sphere of influence.

Communists are radical suppressors of freedom and violators of human rights and of the self-determination of individuals and peoples. The people in the countries under Communist domination are increasingly opposing the Communist regime. Even in those countries changes are taking place. Even there, the longing for freedom is growing which no system can wholly suppress in the long run. But the Communist rulers are fighting for their own survival. They are building up military and economic power for which their peoples have to pay the price and which represents an increasing threat to freedom.

Only the prospect of a society based on the fundamental values of democratic Socialism can offer the world new hope, a society resting on respect for human dignity, on freedom from want and fear, from war and oppression, which is built in co-operation with all men of good will.

This message is addressed to all men and women in this country as well as in other parts of the world.

In Germany Socialists are united in the Social Democratic Party which welcomes to its ranks all who accept the fundamental values and demands of Democratic Socialism.

Source: Basic Programme of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Bonn: the Social Democratic Party of Germany, 1959, p. 5-17, 20-22; reprinted in Jan Goldstein and John W. Boyer, eds, University of Chicago, Readings in Western Civilization, vol. 9, Twentieth-Century Europe, Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1987, pp. 419-25.

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