With the founding of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party at Eisenach in 1869, the leaders of the Saxon People’s Party took the decisive step towards establishing a socialist party in all of Germany. In its founding program the party calls, among other things, for radical change of the status quo, fundamental democratization, abolition of class privileges, economic liberation of workers, and universal, equal, direct and secret elections for all levels of government.

The Social Democratic Workers’ Party, Eisenach Program (August 8, 1869)


I. The Social Democratic Workers’ Party strives for the establishment of a free people’s state.

II. Each member of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party is committed to wholehearted engagement on behalf of the following principles:

1. The current political and social conditions are extremely unjust and thus have to be combated with the utmost energy.

2. The struggle for the liberation of the working class is not a struggle for class privileges and special rights, but for equal rights and obligations and for the abolition of class rule.

3. The economic dependency of workers on capitalists constitutes the basis of servitude in any form, and therefore the Social Democratic Party aims for each worker to get the full earnings from labor through a cooperative system; concomitant to this is the abolition of the current method of production (wage system).

4. Political freedom represents the most essential precondition for the economic liberation of the laboring classes. Consequently, the social question is inseparable from the political one; its solution is conditioned by the latter and is only possible in a democratic state.

5. Considering that the political and economic liberation of the working class is only possible if the working class fights together in unity, the Social Democratic Workers’ Party is adopting a unified organization, which nevertheless allows each individual member to exert an influence the general welfare.

6. Considering that the liberation of labor is neither a local nor a national but rather a social task, encompassing all countries with a modern [form of] society, the Social Democratic Workers’ Party regards itself, to the extent that the associational laws permit, as a branch of the International Workers’ Association and is affiliated with the efforts of that body.

III. The agitation of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party will target the following demands:

1. Granting of universal, equal, direct, and secret suffrage to all men aged twenty and over for elections to the [North German] parliament, the parliaments [Landtage] of the German states, the provincial and municipal assemblies, and any other representational bodies. The elected parliamentary deputies are to be granted adequate per diem pay.

2. Introduction of direct legislation (i.e., the right to make and reject proposals) by the people.

3. Abolition of all privileges attached to class, property, birth, and religious faith.

4. Establishment of a people’s militia in place of standing armies.

5. Separation of church from state and of schools from church.

6. Mandatory instruction in elementary schools and free instruction at all public educational institutes.

7. Independence of the courts; introduction of trial by jury and specific trades courts; introduction of public and oral court proceedings, as well as the administration of justice at no cost.

8. Abolition of all laws aimed against the press, associations, and labor unions; introduction of the standard workday; restriction of female labor and a ban on child labor.

9. Abolition of all indirect taxes[1] and introduction of one progressive income tax and inheritance tax.

10. State support of the cooperative system and state loans for free producers’ cooperatives subject to democratic guarantees.

[Numbers IV to XVIII deal with organizational questions.]

XIX. The party members commit themselves to found Social Democratic workers’ associations throughout the country on the basis of the party program.



[1] Meaning excise or consumer taxes.

Source: “Eisenacher Programm der Sozialdemokratie, 8. August 1869,” in Wilhelm Liebknecht, ed., Demokratisches Wochenblatt, vol. 2, no. 33, August 14, 1869, pp. 374–75; reprinted in Hans Fenske, ed., Der Weg zur Reichsgründung 18501870. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchsgesellschaft, 1977, pp. 405–07.

Translation: Erwin Fink