The Social Democratic Party of Germany (German: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands [zoˈtsi̯aːldemoˌkʁaːtɪʃə paɐ̯ˌtaɪ ˈdɔʏtʃlants]), or SPD, is a social-democratic political party in Germany.
Led by Andrea Nahles since 2018, the party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in Germany along with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The Social Democrats have governed at the federal level in Germany as part of a grand coalition with the CDU and the Christian Social Union (CSU) since December 2013 following the results of the 2013 and 2017 federal elections. The party participates in 14 state governments and 7 of them are governed by SPD Minister-Presidents.
The SPD is a member of the Party of European Socialists and initiated the founding of the Progressive Alliance international for social-democratic parties on 22 May 2013 after criticising the Socialist International for its acceptance of authoritarian parties. Established in 1863, the SPD is by far the oldest extant political party represented in the German Parliament and was one of the first Marxist-influenced parties in the world.
Social Democratic Party of Germany
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
|General Secretary||Lars Klingbeil|
|Founded||23 May 1863|
|Merger of||ADAV and SDAP|
|Headquarters||Willy-Brandt-Haus D-10911 Berlin, Germany|
|Women's wing||Association of Social Democratic Women|
|Membership (December 2018)||437,754|
|European affiliation||Party of European Socialists|
|International affiliation||Progressive Alliance|
|European Parliament group||Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats|
153 / 709
21 / 69
496 / 1,821
27 / 96
|Ministers-president of states|
7 / 16
The General German Workers' Association (Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein, ADAV) founded in 1863 and the Social Democratic Workers' Party (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, SDAP) founded in 1869 later merged in 1875 under the name Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, SAPD). From 1878 to 1890, any grouping or meeting that aimed at spreading socialist principles was banned under the Anti-Socialist Laws, but the party still gained support in elections. In 1890, when the ban was lifted and it could again present electoral lists the party adopted its current name. In the years leading up to World War I, the party remained ideologically radical in official principle, although many party officials tended to be moderate in everyday politics. By 1912, the party claimed the most votes of any German party.
Despite the agreement of the Second International to oppose World War I, the Social Democrats voted in favor of war in 1914. In response to this and the Bolshevik Revolution, members of the left-wing and of the far-left of the SPD formed alternative parties, first the Spartacus League, then the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) while the more conservative faction was known as the Majority Social Democratic Party of Germany (MSPD). After 1918, the SPD played an important role in the political system of the Weimar Republic, although it took part in coalition governments only in few years (1918–1921, 1923 and 1928–1930). Adolf Hitler prohibited the party in 1933 under the Enabling Act and party officials were imprisoned, killed or went into exile. In exile, the party used the name Sopade. The Social Democrats had been the only party to vote against the Enabling Act while the Communist Party was blocked from voting.
In 1945, the Allied occupants in the Western zones initially allowed four parties to be established, which led to the Christian Democratic Union, the Free Democratic Party, the Communist Party and the SPD being established. In the Soviet zone of occupation, the Soviets forced the Social Democrats to form a common party with the Communists (Socialist Unity Party of Germany or SED). In the Western zones, the Communist Party was later banned by West Germany's Federal Constitutional Court in 1956. Since 1949, the SPD has been one of the two major parties in the Federal Republic of Germany, with the other being the Christian Democratic Union. From 1969 to 1982 and 1998 to 2005, the Chancellors of Germany were Social Democrats whereas the other years the Chancellors were Christian Democrats. Shortly before the reunification of Germany in 1990, the East German Social Democratic Party merged into the West German SPD.
The SPD was established as a Marxist party in 1875. However, the Social Democrats underwent a major shift in policies reflected in the differences between the Heidelberg Program of 1925 which "called for the transformation of the capitalist system of private ownership of the means of production to social ownership" and the Godesberg Program of 1959 which aimed to broaden its voter base and move its political position toward the centre. After World War II, under the leadership of Kurt Schumacher the SPD re-established itself as a socialist party representing the interests of the working class and the trade unions. However, with the Godesberg Program the party evolved from a socialist working-class party to a modern social-democratic party working within liberal capitalism.
The current party platform of the SPD espouses the goal of social democracy, which is seen as a vision of a societal arrangement in which freedom and social justice are paramount. According to the party platform, freedom, justice and social solidarity form the basis of social democracy. The coordinated social market economy should be strengthened and its output should be distributed fairly. The party sees that economic system as necessary in order to ensure the affluence of the entire population. The SPD also tries to protect the society's poor with a welfare state. Concurrently, it advocates a sustainable fiscal policy that does not place a burden on future generations while eradicating budget deficits. In social policy, the Social Democrats stand for civil and political rights in an open society. In foreign policy, the party aims at ensuring global peace by balancing global interests with democratic means, thus European integration is one of the main priorities of the party. The SPD supports economic regulations to limit potential losses for banks and people. They support a common European economic and financial policy and to prevent speculative bubbles as well as environmentally sustainable growth.
The SPD is mostly composed of members belonging to either of the two main wings, namely the Keynesian social democrats and Third Way moderate social democrats belonging to the Seeheimer Kreis. While the more moderate Seeheimer Kreis generally support the Agenda 2010 programs introduced by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the Keynesian social democrats continue to defend classical left-wing policies and the welfare state. The classical left-wing of the SPD claims that in recent years the welfare state has been curtailed through reform programs such as the Agenda 2010, Hartz IV and the more economic liberal stance of the SPD, which were endorsed by centrist social democrats. As a reaction to the Agenda 2010, there was in 2005 the ascension of an inner party dissident movement which led ultimately to the foundation of the new party Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative (Arbeit & soziale Gerechtigkeit – Die Wahlalternative, WASG). The WASG was later merged into The Left (Die Linke) in 2007.
Before World War II, as the main non-revolutionary left-wing party the Social Democrats fared best among non-Catholic workers as well as intellectuals favouring social progressive causes and increased economic equality. Led by Kurt Schumacher after World War II, the SPD initially opposed both the social market economy and Konrad Adenauer's drive towards Western integration fiercely, but after Schumacher's death it accepted the social market economy and Germany's position in the Western alliance in order to appeal to a broader range of voters. It still remains associated with the economic causes of unionised employees and working class voters. In the 1990s, the left and moderate wings of the party drifted apart, culminating in a secession of a significant number of party members which later joined the socialist party WASG, which later merged into The Left (Die Linke).
Geographically, much of the SPD's current-day support comes from large cities, especially of northern and western Germany and Berlin. The metropolitan area of the Ruhr Area, where coal mining and steel production were once the biggest sources of revenues, have provided a significant base for the SPD in the 20th century. In the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, the SPD has governed without interruption since 1949. In southern Germany, the SPD typically garners less support except in the largest cities. At the 2009 federal election, the party lost its only constituency in the entire state of Bavaria (in Munich). Small town and rural support comes especially from the traditionally Protestant areas of northern Germany and Brandenburg (with notable exceptions such as Western Pomerania where CDU leader Angela Merkel was re-elected in 2005) and a number of university towns. A striking example of the general pattern is the traditionally Catholic Emsland, where the Social Democrats generally gain a low percentage of votes, whereas the Reformed Protestant region of East Frisia directly to the north, with its strong traditional streak of Anti-Catholicism, is one of their strongest constituencies. Further south, the SPD also enjoys solid support in northern Hesse (Hans Eichel was mayor of Kassel, then Hesse's Minister-President and finally Finance Minister in the Schröder administration while Brigitte Zypries served as Justice Minister), parts of Palatinate (Kurt Beck was party leader until 7 September 2008) and the Saarland (political home of one-time candidate for federal chancellor Oskar Lafontaine, defected from the SPD in 2005).
The SPD, at times called SAPD, participated in general elections determining the members of parliament. For the elections until 1933, the parliament was called Reichstag, except of the one of 1919 which was called the National Assembly and after 1949 when it was called Bundestag. Note that changes in borders (1871, 1919, 1920, 1949, 1957 and 1990) varied the number of eligible voters whereas electoral laws also changed the ballot system (only constituencies until 1912, only party lists until 1949 and mixed system thereafter), the suffrage (women vote since 1919), the number of seats (fixed or flexible) and the length of the legislative period (three or four years). The list begins after the SPD was formed in 1875, when labour parties unified to only form the SPD (then SAPD, current name since 1890).
|Election year||Constituency votes||Party list votes||% of
overall votes (until 1912)
party list votes (as of 1919)
|Overall seats won||+/–||Government|
13 / 397
9 / 397
13 / 397
24 / 397
11 / 397
35 / 397
44 / 397
56 / 397
81 / 397
43 / 397
110 / 397
165 / 423
102 / 459
|May 1924||6,008,905||20.5 (1st)||
100 / 472
|December 1924||7,881,041||26.0 (1st)||
131 / 493
153 / 491
143 / 577
|July 1932||7,959,712||21.6 (2nd)||
133 / 608
|November 1932||7,247,901||20.4 (2nd)||
121 / 584
|March 1933||7,181,629||18.3 (2nd)||
120 / 667
|November 1933||Banned. National Socialist German Workers Party sole legal party.|
|1936||Banned. National Socialist German Workers Party sole legal party.|
|1938||Banned. National Socialist German Workers Party sole legal party.|
131 / 402
162 / 509
181 / 519
203 / 521
217 / 518
237 / 518
242 / 518
224 / 518
228 / 519
202 / 520
193 / 519
239 / 662
252 / 672
298 / 669
251 / 603
222 / 614
146 / 622
193 / 630
153 / 709
|Election year||No. of
overall seats won
33 / 81
32 / 81
30 / 81
40 / 99
33 / 99
23 / 99
23 / 99
27 / 96
|State Parliament||Election year||No. of
19 / 138
22 / 205
38 / 160
30 / 88
36 / 83
58 / 121
29 / 137
|Lower Saxony||2017||1,413,990||36.9 (1st)||
55 / 137
28 / 71
|North Rhine-Westphalia||2017||2,649,205||31.2 (2nd)||
69 / 199
39 / 101
17 / 51
18 / 126
11 / 87
21 / 73
12 / 91
The party is led by the Leader of the Social Democratic Party. He/she is supported by six Deputy Leaders and the party executive.
As Germany is a federal republic, each of Germany's states have their own SPD party at the state level.
The current leaders of the SPD state parties are the following:
19 / 143
22 / 205
38 / 160
30 / 88
|Bremen||Sascha Karolin Aulepp||
30 / 83
58 / 121
37 / 110
|Lower Saxony||Stephan Weil||
55 / 137
26 / 71
|North Rhine-Westphalia||Sebastian Hartmann||
69 / 199
39 / 101
17 / 51
18 / 126
11 / 87
21 / 73
13 / 91
Albert Osswald (16 May 1919 – 15 August 1996) was a German politician (SPD). He served as the 3rd Minister President of the state of Hessen from 1969 to 1976 and as the 27th President of the Bundesrat in 1975/76.Alfred Kubel
Alfred Kubel (25 May 1909 in Braunschweig – 22 May 1999 in Bad Pyrmont) was a German politician; in his later career, he was a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.In 1928, after attending Middle School, Kubel became an industrial clerk. He had, in 1925, joined a trade union and the Internationaler Sozialistischer Kampfbund, a left-wing political party, and in 1933 he became active in resistance to the Nazis. Kubel was arrested in 1937 and was convicted to a one-year prison term for preparation of high treason. He was drafted into the Volkssturm, a branch of the military, in 1944, and deserted soon thereafter.
In May 1946, after having joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany, Kubel was appointed prime minister of Braunschweig by the British occupation forces; he held this position until the state was merged into Lower Saxony in November 1946. From 1951 to 1955 and from 1957 to 1970, he had various cabinet-level positions in the government of Lower Saxony. As minister, he also served on the Volkswagen Group's advisory board from 1965 to 1970.Kubel was Minister President of Lower Saxony from 1970 to 1976; as such, he served as President of the Bundesrat in 1974/75.Björn Engholm
Björn Engholm (born 9 November 1939) is a Lübeck born German SPD politician. He was Minister-President of Schleswig-Holstein from 1988 to 1993 and leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany between 1991 and 1993.
Engholm was educated at University of Hamburg. He was elected Minister-President of Schleswig-Holstein in 1988, in the wake of the Barschel affair/Waterkantgate: he had been spied on and was a victim of severe defamation (HIV infection, tax evasion, etc.) by the Barschel campaign. The Social Democrats won an impressive 54.2% (up almost 10%) and gained an absolute majority for the first time ever. Engholm served as President of the Bundesrat in 1988/89.
While Engholm was popular with the electorate, he was forced to resign as party leader and Minister-President in 1993 after discrepancies surfaced over the testimonies he gave in the Barschel affair (Schubladenaffäre, drawer affair). A party official had paid DM 50.000 (kept in a kitchen drawer) to the spy of the Barschel affair to keep the espionage a secret for several weeks, to reveal the scandal on election weekend with a bigger impact and then present Engholm as a victim.
He was succeeded by Rudolf Scharping as party chairman and by Heide Simonis as Minister-President.
His wife is since 1964 the painter Barbara Engholm (born 1940); they have two daughters.Dietrich Stobbe
Dietrich Stobbe (25 March 1938 – 19 February 2011) was a German politician from Weepers, East Prussia. He served as Mayor of West Berlin from 2 May 1977 till 23 January 1981. From 1 November 1978 till 31 October 1979 he was also President of the Bundesrat.Stobbe was born in Weepers, and was a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
He died in Berlin on 19 February 2011 at the age of 72 after long illness.Georg-August Zinn
Georg August Zinn (27 May 1901 – 27 March 1976) was a German lawyer and a politician of the SPD. He was a member of the Bundestag from 1949-1951, the 2nd Minister-President of Hesse from 1950 to 1969 and served as the 5th and 16th President of the Bundesrat in 1953/54 and 1964/65.
Zinn was two times married. His second wife was Dr. Christa Zinn (1927-2002). Three sons are still living, Karl Georg Zinn (born 1939, economist), Dr. Georg-Christian Zinn and Dr. Philip-André Zinn.
He was born in Frankfurt and died in Frankfurt.Georg Leber
Georg Leber (7 October 1920 – 21 August 2012) was a German Trades Union leader and a politician in the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).Heinz Kühn
Heinz Kühn (18 February 1912 – 12 March 1992) was a German Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician and the 5th Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia between 8 December 1966 and 20 September 1978. He was born and died in Cologne.Henning Voscherau
Henning Voscherau (13 August 1941 – 24 August 2016) was a German politician who was a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. He was the First Mayor of his home city of Hamburg from 1988 to 1997, serving as President of the Bundesrat from 1990 to 1991.Hinrich Wilhelm Kopf
Hinrich Wilhelm Kopf (6 May 1893 – 21 December 1961) was a German politician (SPD). He joined the SPD in 1919. He served as Prime Minister of the short-lived State of Hanover in 1946 and then as Minister President of Lower Saxony from 1946 to 1955 and from 1959 to 1961. He served as the third President of the Bundesrat from 7 September 1951 to 6 September 1952.
Kopf was born in Neuenkirchen, Hanover, and died in Göttingen.Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (German: Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, USPD) was a short-lived political party in Germany during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. The organization was established in 1917 as the result of a split of left wing members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The organization attempted to chart a centrist course between electorally oriented revisionism on the one hand and bolshevism on the other. The organization was terminated in 1931 through merger with the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAPD).Jürgen Schmude
Jürgen Dieter Paul Schmude (born 9 June 1936) is a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. He was born in Insterburg, East Prussia, Germany, (now Chernyakhovsk, Russia).
Schmude was a member of the German Parliament, the Bundestag, from 1969 to 1994. From 1978 to 1981 he was Federal German Minister for Education and Science and later Federal Minister of Justice from 1981 to 1982, then briefly Minister of the Interior in 1982. He is married and has two children.Klaus Schütz
Klaus Schütz (17 September 1926 – 29 November 2012) was a German politician of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).Käte Strobel
Käte Strobel (23 July 1907 – 26 March 1996) was a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
Born in Nuremberg, from 1923 to 1938 Käte Müller worked in the office of agricultural organisations in Bavaria. In 1928, she married Hans Strobel, who in 1934 was arrested for planning high treason against the Nazis. He was released from Dachau concentration camp in 1937.
Käte Strobel joined the SPD in 1925, being part of the party's leadership from 1958 to 1971 while from 1949 to 1972 being a member of the German Bundestag. She also served 27 February 1958 to 26 January 1967 in the European Parliament, where she became the leader of the Socialist Group from 1964 to 1967 (to this day, the only female leader other than Pauline Green) and from 1972 to 1978 in the city council of Nuremberg.
In West Germany's government, under Kurt Georg Kiesinger she led the Department of Health (from 1966 to 1969 Federal Ministry of Health) which from 1969 to 1972, with Willy Brandt as chancellor, was expanded to Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.
She promoted sex education by having her department publish a Sexualkundeatlas book and the movie Helga which depicted all stages of pregnancy. This was considered breaking a taboo.Her home town Nuremberg made her an honorary citizen in 1980, and named a street near the central station after her. She died in Nuremberg at age 88.List of Social Democratic Party of Germany members
A list of politicians and notable members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y ZMajority Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Majority Social Democratic Party of Germany (German: Mehrheitssozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, MSPD) was the name officially used by the Social Democratic Party of Germany during the period 1917-1922. This differentiated it from the more left wing Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (German: Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, USPD). Nevertheless they were often simply called the SPD.Old Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Old Social Democratic Party of Germany (German: Alte Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands), known as the Old Social Democratic Party of Saxony (German: Alte Sozialdemokratische Partei Sachsens) until 1927, was a political party in Germany. The party was a splinter group of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in Saxony, and had nationalistic tendencies. Whilst the party failed to become a mass party, it played a significant role in state politics in Saxony during the latter half of the 1920s. A leader of the party, Max Heldt, served as Minister-President of Saxony 1926-1929. Wilhelm Buck was the chairman of the party.Udo Bullmann
Udo Bullmann (born 8 June 1956) is a German politician and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Germany. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, part of the Party of European Socialists.Walter Behrendt
Walter Behrendt (September 18, 1914 in Dortmund – July 23, 1997 in Dortmund) was a German politician of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and president of the European parliament (1971–1973).
Behrendt was trained as a merchant and accountant. He took part in World War II and afterwards worked as clerk in an industrial firm. In 1954 he became a contributor to the company journal of Hoesch-Westfalenhütte AG in Dortmund. Behrendt joined SPD in 1932 being a member of the Socialist Working Youth (Sozialistische Arbeiterjugend). From 1945–1947 he was chairman of the regional Socialist Youth for Dortmund, Lünen and Castrop-Rauxel. He was chairman of the SPD branch in Dortmund-Altenderne in 1951/52 and in Dortmund from 1952 to 1955.
From 1952 until his death Behrendt was municipal councillor in Dortmund. In 1957 he was elected member of the Bundestag (electoral constituency: Dortmund III) and remained in office until 1976. Between 1961 and 1967 he was assistant chairman of the Labour Committee. Additionally, Behrendt was member of the European Parliament from 1967 to 1977 where he served as vice-president (1969–71, 1973–77) and president (1971–73). He was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto in 1973.Behrendt was also member of the supervisory board of Dortmunder Stadtwerke AG and Dortmunder Hafen und Eisenbahn AG.Young Socialists in the SPD
Working Group of Young Socialists in the SPD (German: Arbeitsgemeinschaft der JungsozialistInnen in der SPD, Jusos) is the youth organisation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
In 2011, there were nearly 52,000 people listed as members of the Jusos.
European Parliament group: Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
|Leaders in the |
|Heads of government|
Political parties in Germany until the end of World War I
Political parties in Germany in the Weimar Republic (1918–1933)