Old Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Old Social Democratic Party of Germany , known as the Old Social Democratic Party of Saxony until 1927, was a political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. The party was a splinter group of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

 (SPD) in Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

, and had nationalistic
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 tendencies. Whilst the party failed to become a mass party, it played a significant role in regional politics in Saxony during the latter half of the 1920s. A leader of the party, Max Heldt, served as Minister-President of Saxony 1926-1929. Wilhelm Buck
Wilhelm Buck
Wilhelm Buck was a German politician and representative of the Social Democratic Party and the splinter party, Old Social Democratic Party of Germany. From 5 May 1920 to 21 March 1923 he was minister-president of the Free State of Saxony.-References:...

 was the chairman of the party.

Background to the split

Between 1924 and 1926 Saxony had been ruled by a coalition of SPD and two liberal parties. The coalition government became unpopular amongst the SPD ranks, and the grassroots of the party revolted against the government participation. The leftist sector of the Saxony SPD preferred a 'Red' coalition of the SPD and the Communist Party of Germany
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

. The SPD conference in Saxony in 1924 had called for the cooperation with the regional government to be terminated, but a significant number of deputies in the Landtag
A Landtag is a representative assembly or parliament in German-speaking countries with some legislative authority.- Name :...

 disobeyed the decision. From November 1924, expulsions of the dissident deputies started. In response, the expelled Landtag regional deputies formed a party of their own, the 'Old Social Democratic Party'. The Old Social Democratic Party issued a press release in April 1926, stating the programmatic goals of the party. The party was formally constituted on June 6, 1926. The dispute between the leftwing of SPD and the rightist parliamentarian wing (which formed the 'Old Social Democratic Party') in Saxony was labelled the Sachsenkonflikt.

In the summer of 1926 all members of the Old Social Democratic Party were purged from the SPD mass organizations, such as the Socialist Workers Youth.

The party started a newspaper of their own, Der Volkstaat.

Drift towards nationalism

The 'Old Social Democratic Party' expressed a shift in ideological discourse, downplaying class struggle
Class struggle
Class struggle is the active expression of a class conflict looked at from any kind of socialist perspective. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote "The [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle"....

 for bourgeois ideas of citizenship. Soon after the foundation of the party, it began redefining itself, from viewing itself as the moderate wing of the German Social Democracy to a 'proletarian nationalist' ideological position (in contrast to the 'internationalist' and 'anti-state' SPD). The Volkstaat editor Ernst Niekisch
Ernst Niekisch
Ernst Niekisch was a German politician. Initially associated with mainstream left-wing politics he later became a Prominent exponent of National Bolshevism.-Bavaria:...

 (later a prominent National Bolshevik
National Bolshevism
National Bolshevism is a political movement that claims to combine elements of nationalism and Bolshevism. It is often anti-capitalist in tone, and sympathetic towards certain nationalist forms of communism and socialism...

), whose influence within the party grew, was the architect of this process.

Niekisch's national revolutionary line was supported by Heldt, but others in the party leadership (Wilhelm Buck and Karl Bethke) opposed it.

The party was labelled as 'social fascist
Social fascism
Social fascism was a theory supported by the Communist International during the early 1930s, which believed that social democracy was a variant of fascism because, in addition to a shared corporatist economic model, it stood in the way of a complete and final transition to communism...

' by the communist press. Possibly, this was the first time this term was used in communist discourse.

The party was joined by August Winning (former Over-President of East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

), who had been expelled from the SPD for involvement in the Kapp Putsch
Kapp Putsch
The Kapp Putsch — or more accurately the Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch — was a 1920 coup attempt during the German Revolution of 1918–1919 aimed at overthrowing the Weimar Republic...

. Through the recruitment of Winning, the party hoped to expand its influence to other parts of Germany.

1926 election

Ahead of the October 1926 Saxony Landtag election, the party received a significant support amongst trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

ists in eastern Saxony (Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

Bautzen is a hill-top town in eastern Saxony, Germany, and administrative centre of the eponymous district. It is located on the Spree River. As of 2008, its population is 41,161...

), which had been the stronghold of the SPD rightwing before the split. The party got 4.2% of the votes in Saxony, and won four seats in the assembly. The party continued to form part of the coalition government until the elections of 1929.

In the fall of 1927 the paramilitary organization Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold
Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold
The Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold was a Social Democratic paramilitary force formed during the Weimar Republic in 1924....

expelled all members belonging to the Old Social Democratic Party, accusing the party of seeking alliances with fascists. At this stage the party began distancing itself from its bourgeois coalition partners, criticizing them from a nationalist angle. It began seeking cooperation with nationalist groups, such as the Stahlhelm
Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten
The Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten also known in short form as Der Stahlhelm was one of the many paramilitary organizations that arose after the defeat of World War I in the Weimar Republic...

 and Junge Deutsche Orden. The National Socialist newspaper Völkischer Beobachter
Völkischer Beobachter
The Völkischer Beobachter was the newspaper of the National Socialist German Workers' Party from 1920. It first appeared weekly, then daily from February 8, 1923...

began writing positively about the positions of the Old Social Democratic Party. However, Völkischer Beobachter expressed concerns regarding the name of the party (which sought to identify with the Marxist roots of the SPD) and the position of the Old Social Democratic Party towards the Jewish population (which the National Socialists found too vague).

1928, 1929 and 1930 elections

The new, 'national revolutionary' profile proved to be a non-starter for the electoral work of the party. For example, Niekisch's national revolutionary line had alienated the trade unionists in the textile industry, whom initially had supported the party. With their departure from the party, it lost whatever influence in the labour movement it once had. The party got 65,573 votes in the 1928 Reichtag election, but no seats. 35,000 of the votes had come from Saxony. After the election a new party programme was adopted, without any of the 'national revolutionary' references.

After the 1929 Landtag election in Saxony, the NSDAP demanded that the party (and the German Democratic Party) be excluded from the government. Wilhelm Bünger complied with this demand and left the Old Social Democratic Party out of the governing coalition. However, this decision was soon reverted and the Old Social Democratic Party politician Georg Elsner was reinstated as Minister of Employment and Welfare.

The party failed to win any seat in the 1930 Saxony Landtag election.


The party disintegrated in the early 1930s. The radical nationalists of the party joined the NSDAP. The remains of the party, people from the party who had not fully renounced Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, merged back into the SPD in July 1932.
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