The Godesberg Program (German: Godesberger Programm) was the party program outline of the political course of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). It was ratified on 15 November 1959, at an SPD party convention in the town of Bad Godesberg, which is today part of Bonn.
The Godesberg program represented a fundamental change in the orientation and goals of the SPD. It rejected the goal of replacing capitalism, adopting a commitment to reform capitalism, and adopted a "people's" party orientation that appealed to ethical considerations and ejected its class-based orientation. Bad Godesberg rejected nationalization as a major principle of socialism.
The Godesberg program was also notable because the party abandoned and rejected Marxist theories of materialism and class struggle. In adopting the Godesberg Program, the SPD dropped its hostility to capitalism, which had long been the core of party ideology, and sought to move beyond its old working class base to embrace the full spectrum of potential voters, adopting a political ideology grounded in ethical appeals.
Labor unions had abandoned the old demands for nationalization and instead cooperated increasingly with industry, achieving labor representation on corporate boards and increases in wages and benefits. The SPD, after losing national elections in 1953 and 1957, thus moved toward an American-style image-driven electoral strategy that stressed personalities, specifically Berlin mayor Willy Brandt. As it prepared for elections in 1961, it proved necessary as well in 1960 to drop opposition to rearmament and to accept NATO.
The Godesberg Program was superseded in 1989 by the Berlin Program, resolved on the 20th of December 1989 at a party congress in Berlin.
- Sheri Berman (May 2008). "Understanding Social Democracy" (PDF). Retrieved 13 July 2015.
The ultimate outcome was a full reconsideration of the SPD's course in German politics, the famed Bad Godesberg program. Essentially, it committed the SPD to the two main pillars of a modern social democratic program - a people's party strategy and a commitment to reform capitalism rather than destroy it. In particular, Bad Godesberg proclaimed that the party 'no longer considered nationalization the major principle of a socialist economy but only one of several (and then only the last) means of controlling economic concentration and power'.
- Henry Ashby Turner, The two Germanies since 1945 (1987) p. 80-82
- Godesberg Program in English (PDF) German History Documents. Retrieved July 6, 2010
- Godesberg Program Retrieved July 6, 2010 (in German)
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