To conclude, “Das Erfurter Programm” presented many clauses in whichthe SPD believed to be necessary in order to progress with the movement towardsequal rights and obligations for everyone. It provided statements whichbenefitted those already in despair over previous procedures, along withprotection for those victimised by class rule. Additionally, every worker would also be entitled to a period ofthirty-six hours of rest every week. The truck system, an arrangement in whichemployees are paid in commodities rather than actual money, was also abolished.
Another important issue to be resolved is supervision. The SPD state that aReich labour department, district labour bureaus and chambers of labour are tosupervise industrial establishments, as well as the working conditions in thecity and countryside. Frequent investigations and regulations are to be takenplace in order to protect the working class members of society. The abolitionof laws governing domestics should be imminent, which in turn would result inthe equality of agricultural labourers and servants with the industrialworkers. The SPD also want the Reich government to play an active role when itcomes to workers insurance. They want the Reich to take over this system, withdecisive participation by the workers in its administration. In addition to the specific demands raised, the SPD also raisedsome issues about the protection of the working class. Within this, theintroduction of effective national and international worker protection laws areto be put into immediate effect.
The main principles in which these laws willtake action on include the fixation of a “normal” working day, which does notexceed 8 hours. Additionally, children under the age of fourteen are to beprohibited for employment, as well as night work. The beginning of the nationalGerman social welfare system occurred in the 1880s, whilst Bismarck was stillin power.
Social legislation was to take place to further the government’sdesire to erode support for socialism amongst workers, establishing a superiorityof the Prussian state over the churches. Three laws laid out the foundation ofthe system; Health Insurance Law, providing protection against loss of incomedue to potential illness; Accident Insurance Law, providing support to workersif they are injured on duty; and Old Age and Invalidity Law. Industries thatrequire night work for technical reasons or public welfare are exempt from thisdemand. Finally, the abolition of all indirect taxes, customs and othereconomic measures which sacrifice the interests of the community to those of a privilegedfew. Taxation will occur according to the size of the inheritance and thedegree of kindship. The constituenciesestablished in 1867 and 1871 were never altered to reflect population shifts,and rural areas thus retained a vastly disproportionate share of power as urbanizationprogressed.
Most legislative proposals were submitted to the Bundesratfirst and to the Reichstag only if they were approved by the upper house. TheReichstag’s ability to reject any bill seemed to make it an important reservoirof power. However in reality, the power of the lower housewas circumscribed by the government’sreliance on indirect taxes and by the parliament’s willingness to approve themilitary budget. The so called “Age of Enlightenment” which brought new conceptssuch as humanism and the rule of law as the mediator of personal and collectivegrievances. It wasn’t until this time where the victims of various crimes’rights were taken into account in the administration of justice, through ademand by the SPD in this Program.
There would be free administration of justiceand free legal assistance. The people themselves would elect the administrationof the law by judges, and there would also be compensation available forcriminals wrongly accused and sentenced. Additionally, free medical care alongwith midwifery and medicines would be provided. Before the First World War, approximately two-thirds of the Germanpopulation was Protestant, and one-third was Roman Catholic. The government ofthe German Democratic Republic, after forty years of Communist rule, encourageda state atheist view in which the majority of the German people should embrace.With this in mind, the SPD also wanted the Secularization of schools, withcompulsory attendance at the Volksschule. Within the Volksschulen, freeeducation, materials and meals were to be provided, and for those who attend highereducation institutions. After the Unification process of 1871, society was mainly maledominated, and this gave rise to the “Fatherland” and male issues such asmilitary prowess.
Many women signed up to the “Union of German FeministOrganisations” (BDF). It gave national direction to the proliferating women’sorganisations that had sprung up since the 1860s. Its members were workingtowards equality with men in many areas, such as education, financial opportunitiesand politics.
This was supported and made clear in another demand by the SPD. Theywanted the abolition of laws placing women at a significant disadvantage incomparison to men with regards to public or private law, as well as theabolition of laws that limit or suppress the freedom of opinion and restrictthe right of association or assembly. In 1866 Prussia proposed aLesser Germany, the main reason for the proposal being the election of a GermanParliament based on the universal male suffrage. Otto von Bismarck at the timewanted to gain support and sympathy from the national and liberal movement,however Austria and its allies rejected the proposal. This led to theAustro-Prussian war in the summer of 1866. This links on the next demand of theSPD in the Program, relating to the resolution of international disputes.
Itstated that there is to be a Militia in the place of the standing army, and adetermination by the popular assembly on questions of war and peace, with thesettlement of international disputes through negotiation. Within the Programme, there were a number of specific demandswhich were set out in order for the SPD to achieve the necessary goals. Thefirst mentioned an agreement about universal suffrage, in which a secret ballotis to be introduced in all elections for citizens of the Reich who are over theage of twenty, regardless of sex.
A legal redistribution of electoral districtsis to be put forward after every census, before a proportional representationis introduced. Universal manhood suffrage had been proposed because ofBismarck’s belief that the rural population would vote for either theConservative or Free Conservative parties. Female suffrage had not beenproposed because politics was considered a male preserve at the time.
TheProgressives, a left-wing liberal party, were expected to do poorly in thetwo-thirds of Germany that was rural in 1867. Bismarck had not counted on newparties such as the Centre Party, a RomanCatholic confessional party, or the SPD, both ofwhich began participating in imperial and Prussian elections in the early1870s. This is where the SPD (Social Democratic Party)plays a part.
Their task is to shape the struggle of the working class, givingit a conscious and unified form. This in turn will highlight the inherentnecessity of its goals. In terms of the capitalist mode of production, theinterests are all the same in all countries under this method of production.The emancipation of the working class is a task in which the workers of allcivilised countries are involved equally. The SPD took this into account, andtook action in being one with the class-conscious workers of all countries. Itprimarily wanted to abolish the class rule and of classes themselves, overfighting for the creation of new class rights.
The SPD stood ground for equalrights and obligations for all members of society, regardless of their sex orbirth. It fought for equal rights as a whole; not just oppression andexploitation of wage earners in today’s society, but every aspect of it,whether it is directed against a class, sex, race or party. In the case of the struggle of the working classagainst capitalist exploitation, it is deemed as largely a political struggle.In the absence of political rights, the working class could not carry on withits development of an economic organisation. Additionally, it means it cannottransfer means of production into the possession of the community without firsthaving obtained political power.
It is important to familiarise oneself with theconflict behind the class struggle and what it really entails. Class strugglecan take many different forms: direct violence, such as wars fought forresources and cheap labour; indirect violence, such as deaths from poverty orstarvation. Additionally, political forms of class struggle exist; legally orillegally lobbying or bribing government leaders for passage of desirablepartisan legislation including labour and consumer laws, tax codes and acts ofcongress. The economic development of bourgeois society leadto the ruin of small businesses, based on private ownership by the worker’smeans of production. This separated the worker from his means of production,turning him into a “propertyless proletarian”. The means of production aremonopolized by a number of capitalists, and along with that, displacement ofsmall businesses are overrun by colossal enterprises, a gigantic growth inproductivity of human labour. All the benefits of this outcome are monopolisedby capitalists, in other words what it means for the proletariat and deterioratingmiddle class is an increase in insecurity of their existence, pressure, degradationand exploitation. It brings about a bitter division between the bourgeoisie andthe proletariats, deeming this mode of production a main cause of classantagonism amongst modern society.
It is important to distinguish how the programmecharacterises the development of capitalism and how it affected society. Thesheer nature of the capitalist mode of production distinguishes the gap betweenthe propertied and the propertyless. The capitalist mode of production is characterised by private ownership of the meansof production, extraction of surplus value by the owning class for the purposeof capitalaccumulation and wage-based labour.The German SocialDemocratic Party, founded in 1875, was a parliamentary party and advocated amoderate program of social and economic reform.
It was nevertheless aMarxist-influenced party. Although was an illegal party for many years, theparty grew and became the mass party of the German working class. In 1890, thenew Kaiser, Wilhelm II, asked for Bismarck’s resignation and dropped the antisocialistlaws. TheErfurt Program was adopted bythe Social DemocraticParty of Germany during the SPD congress at Erfurt in 1891.
The program declared the imminent death of capitalism and the necessity of socialist ownership of the means of production. The party intended to pursue these goals through legalpolitical participation rather than by revolutionary activity. In this essay Ishall highlight the key issues raise by the programme, along with contextualreferences to the development of social democratic politics to support theseissues.