To of agricultural labourers and servants with the

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. Most legislative proposals were submitted to the Bundesrat
first and to the Reichstag only if they were approved by the upper house. The
Reichstag’s ability to reject any bill seemed to make it an important reservoir
of power. However in reality, the power of the lower house
was circumscribed by the government’s
reliance on indirect taxes and by the parliament’s willingness to approve the
military budget.

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.

 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.

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.

This is where the SPD (Social Democratic Party)
plays a part. Their task is to shape the struggle of the working class, giving
it a conscious and unified form. This in turn will highlight the inherent
necessity of its goals. In terms of the capitalist mode of production, the
interests 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 all
civilised countries are involved equally. The SPD took this into account, and
took action in being one with the class-conscious workers of all countries. It
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.

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.

It is important to familiarise oneself with the
conflict behind the class struggle and what it really entails. 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.  

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.

The German Social
Democratic Party, founded in 1875, was a parliamentary party and advocated 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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