The Gotha and Erfurt Programs
Excerpts from the Original Electronic Text at the web site of the Hanover Historical Texts Project .

From its inception in 1875, Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) was divided at first between non-Marxists and Marxists and later between "orthodox" and "revisionist" Marxists. The following two party programs reflect those divisions. The Gotha Program of 1875 largely reproduced the demands of one of the non-Marxist socialist parties that had just merged into the SPD. (Notice that it calls for the creation of "socialistic productive associations" not for nationalization of the means of production.) By the time of the Erfurt Program in 1891, the SPD had become Marxist. It was predicated on orthodox Marxist assumptions (reflected in the excerpt below) and called for sweeping radical change (such as the nationalization of the economy). While the orthodox Marxist outlook of the Erfurt Program remained in theory and rhetoric the guiding principle of the SPD, the majority within the Party became increasingly "revisionist" in practice. Together with the German labor unions, the SPD came to embrace a moderate, democratic, evolutionary approach to socialism. By 1914, the SPD had become the single largest political party in the German Reichstag.

The Gotha Program

[1] Labor is the source of all wealth, and of all civilization; and since it is only through society that generally productive labor is possible, the whole product of labor, where there is a general obligation to work, belongs to society, - that is, to all its members, by equal right, to each according to his reasonable needs.

[2] In the society of today the means of production are a monopoly of the capitalistic class; the dependence of the working classes which results from this is the cause of misery and of servitude in all its forms.

[3] The emancipation of labor requires the conversion of the means of production into the common property of society and the social regulation of all labor and its application for the general good, together with the just distribution of the product of labor.

[4] The emancipation of labor must be the work of the laboring class itself, opposed to which all other classes are reactionary groups.

[5] Proceeding from these principles, the socialist labor party of Germany endeavors by every lawful means to bring about a free state and a socialistic society, to effect the destruction of the iron law of wages by doing away with the system of wage labor, to abolish exploitation of every kind, and to extinguish all social and political inequality.

[6] The socialist labor party of Germany, although for the time being confining its activity within national bounds, is fully conscious of the international character of the labor movement, and is resolved to meet all the obligations which this lays upon the laborer, in order to bring the brotherhood of all mankind to a full realization.

[7] The Socialist labor party of Germany, in order to prepare the way for the solution of the social question, demands the establishment of socialistic productive associations; with the support of the state and under the democratic control of the working people. These productive associations, for both industry and agriculture, are to be created to such an extent that the socialistic organization of all labor may result therefrom.

[8] [In addition to the demand for universal suffrage for all above twenty years of age, secret ballot, freedom of the press, free and compulsory education, etc.,] the socialist labor party of Germany demands the following reforms in the present social organization: (1) the greatest possible extension of political rights and freedom in the sense of the above-mentioned demands; (2) a single progressive income tax, both state and local, instead of all the existing taxes, especially the indirect ones, which weigh heavily upon the people; (3) unlimited right of association; (4) a (619) normal working day corresponding with the needs of society, and the prohibition of work on Sunday; (5) prohibition of child labor and all forms of labor by women which are dangerous to health or morality; (6) laws for the protection of the life and health of workmen, sanitary control of workmen's houses, inspection of mines, factories, workshops, and domestic industries by officials chosen by the workmen themselves, and an effective system of enforcement of the same; (7) regulation of prison labor.

The Erfurt Program

[1] The economic development of industrial society tends inevitably to the ruin of small industries, which are based upon the workman's private ownership of the means of production. It separates him from these means of production and converts him into a destitute member of the proletariat, whilst a comparatively small number of capitalists and great landowners obtain a monopoly of the means of production.

[2] Hand in hand with this growing monopoly goes the destruction of these scattered small industries by industries of colossal growth, the development of the tool into the machine, and a gigantic increase in the productiveness of human labor. But all the advantages of this revolution are monopolized by the capitalist and great landowners. To the proletariat and to the rapidly sinking middle classes, the small tradesmen of the towns and the peasants, it brings an increasing uncertainty of existence, increasing misery, oppression, servitude, degradation, and exploitation.

[3] Ever greater grows the mass of the proletariat, ever vaster the army of the unemployed, ever sharper the contrast between oppressors and oppressed, ever fiercer that war of classes between bourgeoisie and proletariat which divides modern society into two hostile camps and is the common characteristic of ever industrial country.

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