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To conclude, “Das Erfurter Programm”
presented many clauses in which the SPD believed to be necessary in order to
progress with the movement towards equal rights and obligations for everyone. It
provided statements which benefitted those already in despair over previous procedures,
along with protection for those victimised by class rule.

Additionally, every worker would also
be entitled to a period of thirty-six hours of rest every week. The truck
system, an arrangement in which employees are paid in commodities rather than
actual money, was also abolished. Another important issue to be resolved is
supervision. The SPD state that a Reich labour department, district labour
bureaus and chambers of labour are to supervise industrial establishments, as
well as the working conditions in the city and countryside. Frequent investigations
and regulations are to be taken place in order to protect the working class
members of society. The abolition of laws governing domestics should be
imminent, which in turn would result in the equality of agricultural labourers
and servants with the industrial workers. The SPD also want the Reich
government to play an active role when it comes to workers insurance. They want
the Reich to take over this system, with decisive participation by the workers
in its administration.

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In addition to the specific demands raised,
the SPD also raised some issues about the protection of the working class. Within
this, the introduction of effective national and international worker
protection laws are to be put into immediate effect. The main principles in
which these laws will take action on include the fixation of a “normal” working
day, which does not exceed 8 hours. Additionally, children under the age of
fourteen are to be prohibited for employment, as well as night work. The
beginning of the national German social welfare system occurred in the 1880s,
whilst Bismarck was still in power. Social legislation was to take place to
further the government’s desire to erode support for socialism amongst workers,
establishing a superiority of the Prussian state over the churches. Three laws
laid out the foundation of the system; Health Insurance Law, providing
protection against loss of income due to potential illness; Accident Insurance
Law, providing support to workers if they are injured on duty; and Old Age and
Invalidity Law. Industries that require night work for technical reasons or
public welfare are exempt from this demand.

Finally, the abolition of all indirect
taxes, customs and other economic measures which sacrifice the interests of the
community to those of a privileged few. Taxation will occur according to the
size of the inheritance and the degree of kindship. The constituencies
established in 1867 and 1871 were never altered to reflect population shifts,
and rural areas thus retained a vastly disproportionate share of power as urbanization
progressed. The majority of legislative proposals were first passed by
the Bundesrat. In addition, the upper house would need an approval of the
proposal, and only then would it be passed onto the Reichstag. The Reichstag
was viewed as a great consumer of power, given that it had the capability of
rejecting any bill. Lower house was more restricted in terms of a standing position,
due to the government’s dependence on indirect taxes, as well as the endorsement
of the military budget by the parliament.

The so called “Age of Enlightenment” which
brought new concepts such as humanism and the rule of law as the mediator of
personal and collective grievances. It wasn’t until this time where the victims
of various crimes’ rights were taken into account in the administration of
justice, through a demand by the SPD in this Program. There would be free
administration of justice and free legal assistance. The people themselves
would elect the administration of the law by judges, and there would also be
compensation available for criminals wrongly accused and sentenced. Additionally,
free medical care along with midwifery and medicines would be provided.

Before the First World War,
approximately two-thirds of the German population was Protestant, and one-third
was Roman Catholic. The government of the German Democratic Republic, after forty
years of Communist rule, encouraged a 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, with compulsory attendance at the Volksschule.
Within the Volksschulen, free education, materials and meals were to be provided,
and for those who attend higher education institutions.

After the Unification
process of 1871, society was mainly male dominated, and this gave rise to the “Fatherland”
and male issues such as military prowess. Many women signed up to the “Union of
German Feminist Organisations” (BDF). It gave national direction to the
proliferating women’s organisations that had sprung up since the 1860s. Its
members were working towards equality with men in many areas, such as education,
financial opportunities and politics. This was supported and made clear in
another demand by the SPD. They wanted the abolition of laws placing women at a
significant disadvantage in comparison to men with regards to public or private
law, as well as the abolition of laws that limit or suppress the freedom of
opinion and restrict the right of association or assembly. (Young, Brigitte, 1999).

 In 1866 Prussia proposed a Lesser Germany, the
main reason for the proposal being the election of a German Parliament based on
the universal male suffrage. Otto von Bismarck at the time wanted to gain
support and sympathy from the national and liberal movement, however Austria
and its allies rejected the proposal. This led to the Austro-Prussian war in
the summer of 1866. This links on the next demand of the SPD in the Program,
relating to the resolution of international disputes. It stated that there is
to be a Militia in the place of the standing army, and a determination by the
popular assembly on questions of war and peace, with the settlement of
international disputes through negotiation. (Dunlap,
Thomas 1891, translated).

Within the Programme, there were a
number of specific demands which were set out in order for the SPD to achieve
the necessary goals. The first mentioned an agreement about universal suffrage,
in which a secret ballot is to be introduced in all elections for citizens of
the Reich who are over the age of twenty, regardless of sex. A legal
redistribution of electoral districts is to be put forward after every census,
before a proportional representation is introduced. Universal manhood suffrage
had been proposed because of Bismarck’s belief that the rural population would
vote for either the Conservative or Free Conservative parties. Female suffrage
had not been proposed because politics was considered a male preserve at the
time. The Progressives, a left-wing liberal party, were expected to do poorly
in the two-thirds of Germany that was rural in 1867. Bismarck had not counted
on new parties such as the Centre Party, a Roman
Catholic confessional party, or the SPD, both of
which began participating in imperial and Prussian elections in the early
1870s.
(Dunlap, Thomas 1891, translated).

This is where the SPD
(Social Democratic Party) plays a part. This party aimed to outline the
struggle of the working class, and give it a “conscious and unified form”. In
terms of the capitalist mode of production, the concerns by the other countries
of this procedure are all parallel. The liberation of the working class is a
main goal of the countries as a collective, one in which they all play an equal
part.  The SPD primarily wanted to abolish
the class rule and of classes themselves, over fighting for the creation of new
class rights. The SPD stood ground for equal rights and obligations for all
members of society, regardless of their sex or birth. It fought for equal
rights as a whole; not just oppression and exploitation of wage earners in
today’s society, but every aspect of it, whether it is directed against a
class, sex, race or party. (Dunlap,
Thomas 1891, translated).

In the case of the
struggle of the working class against capitalist exploitation, it is deemed as
largely a political struggle. In the absence of political rights, the working
class could not carry on with its development of an economic organisation.
Additionally, it means it cannot transfer means of production into the possession
of the community without first having obtained political power. (Dunlap, Thomas 1891, translated).

It is important to familiarise oneself with the
conflict behind the class struggle and what it really indicates. Class struggle
can take many different forms: direct violence, such as wars fought for
resources and cheap labour; indirect violence, such as deaths from poverty or
starvation. Additionally, political forms of class struggle exist; legally or
illegally lobbying or bribing government leaders for passage of desirable
partisan legislation including labour and consumer laws, tax codes and acts of
congress.

The economic development
of bourgeois society lead to the ruin of small businesses, based on private
ownership by the worker’s means of production. This separated the worker from his
means of production, turning him into a “propertyless proletarian”. The means
of production are monopolized by a number of capitalists, and along with that, displacement
of small businesses are overrun by colossal enterprises, a gigantic growth in
productivity of human labour. All the benefits of this outcome are monopolised
by capitalists, in other words what it means for the proletariat and deteriorating
middle class is an increase in insecurity of their existence, pressure, degradation
and exploitation. It brings about a bitter division between the bourgeoisie and
the proletariats, deeming this mode of production a main cause of class
antagonism amongst modern society. (Dunlap, Thomas 1891, translated).

It is important to
distinguish how the programme characterises the development of capitalism and
how it affected society. The sheer nature of the capitalist mode of production
distinguishes the gap between the propertied and the propertyless. The capitalist mode of production is
characterised by private ownership of the means
of production, extraction of surplus value by the owning class for the purpose
of capital
accumulation and wage-based labour. Gronow, Jukka. (2016)

The
German Social Democratic Party, founded in 1875, was a parliamentary party and supported
a moderate program of social and economic reform. It was nevertheless a
Marxist-influenced party. Although was an illegal party for many years, the
party grew and became the mass party of the German working class. In 1890, the
new Kaiser, Wilhelm II, asked for Bismarck’s resignation and dropped the anti­socialist
laws. The
Erfurt Program was adopted by
the Social Democratic
Party 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 legal
political participation rather than by revolutionary activity. In this essay I
shall highlight the key issues raise by the programme, along with contextual
references to the development of social democratic politics to support these
issues.

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