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Political Principles of the Social Democratic Party (May 1946)

Issued a few weeks after the merger of the SPD and the KPD in the Soviet occupation zone, the political principles of the SPD from May 1946 reflect the anti-Communist stance of Kurt Schumacher, the leading SPD politician in the western zones. Like the party’s founding appeal, which had been published nearly a year earlier, the 1946 principles advocated a Socialist economic system with far-reaching state guidance and control. They also called for the nationalization of mineral resources and key industries. At the same time, however, these principles also emphasized the unity of socialism and democracy and sharply rejected “totalitarian thinking and behavior,” and in this way took clear aim at developments in East Germany. The SPD’s concluding declaration of support for German unification and European integration further underscored its position.

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In the period between the two World Wars, the forces of high capitalism and reaction attempted everywhere to escape the socialist consequences of democracy. They were able to succeed in Germany because of the country’s economic, historical, and intellectual circumstances.

In the Third Reich, the destruction of the political power of the working class threw democracy off course, and the lack of democratic decision-making and control served as the critical precondition for the European catastrophe. The failure of the German bourgeoisie and of that segment of the workers’ movement that did not recognize the value of democracy to class politics constitutes the guilt of the German people.

The Third Reich fomented conflict among nations with the very same methods it had used to violently suppress class conflicts within the country. The inevitable result of the dictatorship was war, which led to total military and political collapse and to the destruction of the existing foundations of economic, political, and cultural life. These foundations have thus been rendered useless for the construction of a new Germany. In economic terms, what was once an immense concentration of vast production capacities has given way to paralysis, to dissolution. Conditions have emerged under which no class, no people, no form of economy can exist.

The German people are isolated in the world and must bear the consequences of the National Socialist war of conquest and of the war crimes committed against the oppressed peoples.

In light of all this, the Social Democratic Party sees its mission as bringing all of Germany’s democratic forces together under the banner of socialism. It is not only political power relations that must be changed but their economic foundations as well. Only a complete transformation can give the German people economic and social opportunities and guarantee peace and freedom.

Socialism and Self-Administration

Present-day Germany is no longer in a position to endure a private-capitalistic economy geared toward profit, and it can no longer afford to pay profits based on exploitation, capital dividends, or economic rents. Existing ownership structures no longer reflect either social conditions or social needs. They have become the greatest obstacle to recovery and progress.

The needs of all people must be met by the existing large-scale private ownership of the means of production and the potential aggregate output of the German national economy. A just social order must replace current conditions, under which the great majority has lost everything and a minority has grown wealthier.

Social Democracy seeks a socialist economy based on planned direction and collective decision making. The collective good must be the only decisive factor in determining the scope, direction, and distribution of production. An increase in the means of production and the output of consumer goods is the precondition for the necessary integration of Germany into the web of international economic relations.

The means of production can be nationalized in different ways and in different forms. In socialism, there is no single way, no bondage, no dictated “barracks socialism,” no uniformity. There is no socialist society without the most diverse types of enterprises and forms of production. Socialism calls for as much economic self-administration as possible, with the most vigorous participation of workers and consumers.

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