Press "Enter" to skip to content

Social democracy, a worker’s alliance, and its partial history

Democracy is the most realistic way for diverse peoples to resolve their differences, and share power, and heal social divisions and inequalities without violence or repression. - Condoleezza Rice

Social democracy is a political ideology that initially promoted in its early beginnings an evolutionary and peaceful transition of society from capitalism to socialism. In the second half of the 20th century, it resurfaced as a more moderate version of socialist doctrine, defending state regulation rather than state ownership, means of production, and extensive social welfare programs.
Based on 19th-century socialism and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ principles, social democracy shares common ideological roots with communism but avoids its militancy and totalitarianism. Social democracy was initially known as a revisionist because it stood for a change in fundamental Marxist doctrine to reject revolution to set up a socialist society.
The Social Democratic movement arose from the efforts of August Bebel, who with Wilhelm Liebknecht co-founded the Social Democratic Workers’ Party in 1869 and then united his party with the General Union of German Workers in 1875 to form what came to be called the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands). Bebel imbued social democracy with the belief that socialism must be installed through lawful means and not by force. After the election of two Social Democrats to the Reichstag in 1871, the party grew in political strength until in 1912 it became the largest party in the voting force, with 110 out of 397 seats in the Reichstag.
The success of the Social Democratic Party in Germany encouraged the spread of social democracy to other countries in Europe. After World War II, social democratic parties came to power in several Western European nations— for example, West Germany, Sweden, and Britain (in the Labor Party) — and laid the foundation for modern European social welfare programs. Although the various Social Democratic parties’ principles began to diverge a little, certain common fundamental principles arose. In addition to abandoning violence and revolution as tools of social change, social democracy increasingly adopted the goal of state regulation of businesses and industry as sufficient to promote economic growth and fair income.

Comments are closed.