Social liberal politics then and now

Christian Lindner and Andrea Nahles discussed the successes of the social liberal coalition

Christian Lindner and Andrea Nahles discussed the successes of the social liberal coalition


Social liberal politics then and now

Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Gerhart Baum


The German states are governed by thirteen different coalitions of parties. Not one of them is a social-liberal coalition. Is there any prospect at all of a new edition of the successful collaboration between the FDP and the SPD, 50 years after the first social-liberal coalition at the federal level in 1969? A discussion between Andrea Nahles, Christian Lindner, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, and Gerhart Baum was held on the occasion of this anniversary at the invitation of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The social-liberal coalition led by Chancellor Willy Brandt and Foreign Minister Walter Scheel left a permanent mark on the history of Germany. Both party leaders were impressed with the creative drive of the 1969 social-liberal coalition. Despite having only a narrow majority in the Bundestag, the Brandt/Scheel government had implemented important reforms.

The election of the social democrat Gustav Heinemann as federal president with the votes of the SPD and FDP pointed the way to the 1969 social-liberal coalition. This first change of government after twenty years of CDU-led federal governments brought about a change of politics. Using the slogan ‘Dare more democracy’, the SPD and FDP coalition partners took account of the upheavals and new beginnings of the late 1960s. They pushed along reforms and a process of modernization in the country with their forward-thinking policies.

‘Neue Ostpolitik was a precondition for the regained unity of our country in freedom.’

Christian Lindner, MdB

Alongside Ostpolitik, the central components of the social changes at the time were education policy, family law, and ecological modernisation – driven by a government that captured social moods and acted in a forward-thinking way. This collaboration did not last for ever. In 1982, the social-liberal coalition at the federal level broke up. There has not been another one since at the federal level, though there have been good social-liberal coalitions in the states. In the short term, that was not going to change, as Andrea Nahles noted: ‘As things stand, we are not suited to forming a coalition.’ But, she added, there still had to be cross-party dialogue. Christian Lindner identified two areas in which it would be possible to advance together politically: migration policy and the environment. Both parties, he said, were tolerant, cosmopolitan, and not prone to naive idealism.

Social liberal politics then and now:
50 years of social-liberal coalition - Read more about our event: