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3. Beginnings of the labour movement. Extract from so called Erfurt Program of Social Democratic Party of Germany. Extract from so called Paris Program of Polish Socialist Party

I. Erfurt Program from 1891

The interests of the working class are the same in all countries with a capitalist mode of production. [...] The position of the worker in every country becomes increasingly dependent on the position of workers in other countries. The emancipation of the working class is thus a task in which the workers of all civilized countries are equally involved. [...]

Proceeding from these principles, the German Social Democratic Party demands, first of all:

  1. Universal, equal, and direct suffrage with secret ballot in all elections, for all citizens of the Reich over the age of twenty, without distinction of sex. [...]
  1. Abolition of all laws which limit or suppress the right of meeting and coalition.
  2. Abolition of all laws which place women, whether in a public or a private capacity, at a disadvantage as compared with men.
  3. Declaration that religion is a private affair. [...]
  4. Secularisation of schools. Compulsory attendance at the public national schools. Free education, free supply of educational materials, and free maintenance in the public schools, as well as in the higher educational institutions, for those boys and girls who, on account of their capacities, are considered fit for further education. [...]
  1. Free medical attendance, including midwifery, and free supply of medicines. Free burial. [...]

For the protection of the working classes, the Social Democratic Party of Germany demands to begin with:

  1. Fixing of a normal working day, which shall not exceed eight hours.
  2. Prohibition of the employment of children under fourteen.
  3. Prohibition of night work, except in those industries which, by their nature, require night work, from technical reasons, or for the public welfare.
  4. An unbroken rest of at least thirty-six hours in every week for every worker.

II. So called Paris Program of Polish Socialist Party from 1892

Polish Socialist Party, which believes that the realization of new forms of social interactions may take place only when the proletariat dispose sufficient political power, express today a clear program that can be realized. As a independent labour party, which is based on the collective action of the working people, will try to reach:

In terms of politics:

Independent democratic Republic based on the following principles:

  1. Direct universal and secret ballot
  1. Equal rights for all citizens, regardless of race, nationality, religion and gender
  2. Complete freedom of speech, press, meetings and associations.
  1. Free, compulsory, universal, and complete education; providing students with the means of maintenance by the State

In economic terms

Labour legislation:

  1. Eight-hour working day; fixed, 36-hour break each week
  2. Minimum wages
  3. Equal wages for men and women
  4. Prohibition of work by children under the age of 14; over the age of 14 reducing the work of immature (from 14 to 18 years) to six hours per day
  5. Prohibition of night work in principle
  6. Factory Hygiene
  7. National security in case of accidents, lack of work, illness, old age [...]
  1. Complete freedom of workers' collusion”
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Source: The Erfurt Program (1891), http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1891erfurt.html
So called Paris Program PPS, free translation of [w:] Chomicki G., Sliwa L. (2001). Wiek XIX teksty źródłowe. Wydawnictwo Literackie Krakow, pp. 254-255.


The deteriorating labour and living conditions of workers, mainly in large industrial cities, caused in this social group an increase of moods of discontent and resistance. Workers began to form associations and unions claiming the need for changes to legislation regarding large-scale industry which would improve the position of manual workers. All such movements were attacked by governments of European countries, which did not, however, inhibited their development. Aspirations of the labour movement are expresed among others in the Erfurt program passed at the congress of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1891 and so called Paris Program of the Polish Socialist Party from 1892.

Socialism – social and political ideology, which assumes building society in which divisions based on personal property would be abolished and interpersonal relations would be ruled by the principle of universal equality and justice.

Social legislation – any law for the protection of workers (e.g. in terms of working time, insurance and pensions, protected groups or persons).


  1. What causes of the development of labour parties are presented in the cited documents?
  2. What common political and economic demands are formulated in both documents?
  3. On the basis of the documents and your knowledge, think of means that workers could use in fight for their rights.

Display teacher's view to find the answers.

Description and Analysis

  1. The authors of the cited document tell about the need for joint speeches in order to protect workers' rights and create a political pressure that will force authorities to fulfil the demands of the workers.
  2. The authors of both documents demand political rights including: universal, equal and secret ballot for all citizens, equality of right for all citizens regardless of sex, origin or religion, freedom of speech, press, religion, universal and free education. In term of economic demands the authors list: eight-hour working day and 36-hour break each week, prohibition of work at night and work by children under age of 14, and ensuring health insurance.
  3. Workers could fight for their rights through strikes, demonstrations and propaganda prepared by labour parties and associations (leaflets, press, mass-meetings, and petitions to the government).

Geographical/Historical Context

During the nineteenth century workers became a large, solid social group. Their growing social awareness was accompanied by creation of first political parties that were formulating programs based initially on the idea of utopian socialism and then Marxism. Theories of socialist ideology are not included in school curricula designed for young people representing the target of these materials. But you should focus on the fight for workers social and political rights, because the workers achievement˛s regarding labour legislation and fundamental civil liberties are an integral part of modern democratic systems.

Among the demands included in the two cited programs of socialist parties, you should pay attention to the elements common for the struggle of workers in all countries:

  • Universal political rights;
  • Gender equality;
  • Separation of church and state;
  • Freedom of speech, press, and religion;
  • The right to assembly and to strike;
  • Social legislation: 8-hour working day, 36-hour break each week, national (social) insurance, accident insurance, lack of safety checks in plants, prohibition of the employment of children under age of 14, prohibition of working at night in branches of industry where it is not necessary.

All these demands were included in the programs cited in these materials. The Erfurt Program is one of the key policy documents of the German labor movement. The program, by Karl Kautsky and others, established in October 1891 at the congress of the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) became the foundation of the policy documents of many socialist and social-democratic parties in Europe. Its influence can be noticed also in the so-called Paris Program of Polish Socialist Party – the largest group that represented Polish labour movement.

The fight for equal rights for workers began to yield effects at the beginning of the twentieth century. Especially after World War I, the universal right to vote and laws regulating relations in the labour world began to be widely used in the countries of western and central Europe. Labor movement chose a different way in Russia where economically disadvantaged proletariat led to the overthrow of the Romanov empire, seizure of power by the Bolsheviks, and beginnings of building a state based on the principles of communism.


http://www.spd.de/start/portal – SPD official website.

http://www.sld.org.pl – official website of the Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, Polsih political party).

http://www.victorianweb.org/history/workers2.html – website dedicated to the workers in the nineteenth century England (and their political struggle) at the portal on culture, politics and everyday life during the Victorian era.