Party of Democratic Socialism

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For the PDS of India, see Party of Democratic Socialism (India).

  1. redirectTemplate:Politics of Germany

The Party of Democratic Socialism (Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus, PDS) is a left-wing socialist political party in Germany. It is the legal successor to the communist Socialist Unity Party (SED), which ruled East Germany until 1989. It plans to contest the upcoming federal elections in alliance with the western Germany-based Labor and Social Justice Party.



The grassroots democracy movement that forced the dismissal of East German head of state Erich Honecker in 1989 also empowered a younger generation of reform politicians in the SED who looked to Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union as their model for political change. Reformers from the party's "third tier", like authors Stefan Heym and Christa Wolf and human rights attorney Gregor Gysi rose to leadership, and by the end of 1989 the last hardline members of the party's Central Committee had resigned. A new name, "Party of Democratic Socialism," was adopted to distance the party from its communist past (only after a transitory period when it bore both names SED/PDS). By early 1990, the PDS was no longer a "Marxist-Leninist" party, though Marxist and communist minority factions continue to exist.

In federal elections

PDS logo - simple white capital 'PDS' against a slightly slanted red square

In the first all-German elections in 1990, the PDS gained only 2.4% of the nationwide vote, although one in ten voters in the east German states supported the post-communists. Since the standard 5% minimum quota was applied separately for the East and for the West in this election, the PDS entered the Bundestag with 17 deputies led by Gysi, a charismatic and articulate politician. In the 1994 election, in spite of the infamous "Red Socks" campaign by the ruling CDU against it, the party increased its vote to 4.4 percent, achieved plurality in a number of districts, and thus re-entered the Bundestag with an enlarged caucus of 30 deputies. In 1998, the party reached the high-water mark in its fortunes by electing 36 deputies with 5.1% of the national vote, thus clearing the critical 5% threshold for guaranteed proportional representation and full parliamentary status. The party's future seemed bright, but it suffered from a number of weaknesses, not the least of which was its dependence on Gysi, considered by supporters and critics alike as a super-star in German politics that stood in stark contrast to the very colorless general membership. Gysi's resignation in 2000 after losing a policy debate with party leftists soon spelled trouble for the PDS. In the 2002 election, the PDS vote sank back to 4.3% and they failed to gain a plurality in at least three single-member districts, which would have allowed it proportional representation in any case. Thus they were able to seat only the two deputies from those two districts where they had achieved a plurality, Petra Pau and Gesine Ltzsch.

After the 2002 debacle, the PDS adopted a new program and re-installed a respected moderate and long-time Gysi ally, Lothar Bisky, as chair. A renewed sense of self-confidence soon re-energized the party. In the 2004 elections to the European Parliament, the PDS won 6.1% of the vote nationwide, its highest total in a federal election. Its strength in the eastern German states continued to grow, where today it is the second-strongest party after the Christian Democrats. However its very low membership and voter support in the West (well below 2.5%) continues to plague the party on the national level.

Electoral alliance with the WASG

On 10 June, 2005, the leaderships of the PDS and the Labor and Social Justice Party (WASG) agreed to form an electoral alliance for the upcoming September federal elections. According to the agreement, the parties will not compete against one another in any district and will have a joint manifesto. This is expected to benefit both parties, because the PDS is strongest in the east of the country, while the WASG, a splinter group of leftist elements from the ruling Social Democratic Party, is based primarily in the west. Oskar Lafontaine, the former chairman of the Social Democratic Party, will be the coalition's lead candidate. It is not clear what name the alliance will use on the ballot: one suggestion has been "United Left/PDS".[1] (

At state and local government levels

The PDS is the junior partner to the Social Democratic Party in the coalition governments of two German states, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the capital Berlin. While costing both parties some support in both states, co-governing with the Social Democrats has burnished its reputation as a pragmatic, rather than ideological party. It remains strong in local government in eastern Germany, with more than 6,500 town councillors and 64 elected mayors. The party continues to win voters by emphasizing political competence, but also profits from growing dissatisfaction with high unemployment and cutbacks in health insurance, unemployment benefits, and workers' rights. The party has a youth wing, known as 'solid - die sozialistische jugend.


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es:Partido del Socialismo Democrtico (Alemania) fr:Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus ja:民主社会党 (ドイツ) no:Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus pl:Partia Demokratycznego Socjalizmu ru:Партия демократического социализма fi:Demokraattisen sosialismin puolue (Saksa) sv:Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus


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