Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation is a German political foundation closely associated with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Much of it's work is concerned with policy research, however it is also active internationally as a lobby group, promoting, amongst other things, trade unions and international co-operation between Social Democrat interest groups in Europe and North America. It also provides funding for a variety of projects internationally as well as scholarships for students studying in Germany.

The Foundation

The foundation was formed in 1925 as the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES / English - Friedrich Ebert Foundation) under the name of Friedrich Ebert, an SPD politician who was the first President of the Weimar Republic of Germany (1919-1933). The original aims were given as encouraging political and social education, providing university scholarships for selected German students and the somewhat vague aim of "contributing to international understanding and co-operation". The party was banned by the Nazi's prior to the second World War, but re-emerged with the new Federal Republic in 1949. [1]

The foundation's operations are extensive, as of 2002 it employed over 500 staff in it's German offices in Bonn and Berlin as well as operating a number of offices in foreign countries including the U.S, Britain, Israel, South Africa, Yemen, Nepal and many others. In addition to the offices it is active to a greater or lesser extent in over 100 countries and has a budget of approximately 110 million Euros (2002). Around half of this budget is spent on international programs, with the remainder going towards it's domestic (i.e. German) activities which include distributing grants to students of German universities, convening a number of conferences and discussion forums on political issues and maintaining it's extensive library and archiving services on the international and German labour movements. [2]


Although the foundation is legally distinct from the SPD, it's work is closely linked to the party. As it is almost entirely publicly funded some have criticised it, along with the other political foundations in German such as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (associated with the CDU), for being used as a loophole by the political parties to receive public funds it would not otherwise be entitled to under the German electoral regulations. Under this argument the foundation is seen as having involvement in programs that directly or indirectly benefit the SPD, not just through policy research but in promoting particular ideological positions that the party stands for.

This is evident in the foundation's strong involvement with German trade unions, but a more particular criticism is levelled at it - and the other German foundations - concerning its international development programs. Here the foundation is seen as a channel for grants to like minded political organisations in foreign countries with the FES particularly involved in promoting socialist parties in Africa throughout the 1970s. The Federal government's foreign assistance budget was often channelled through political foundations such as the FES during the Cold War and the FES was particularly important under the Brandt government (1969-1974) and the grand coalition of 1966-1969 (where Brandt served as foreign minister) with the advent of "Ostpolitik" that is, the normalization of relations with the German Democratic Republic and Eastern Europe through closer trade relations and development aid. [3]

Others have taken this argument further and accused the FES of being involved in some sort of thinly disguised promotion of German Imperialism [4], where under the banner of promoting democracy, the foundation funds opposition groups in developing countries with a view to gaining influence with them should they come to power - for example in Spain under the dictatorship of Franco where the FES funded reformist socialist groups or the NCA in present day Zimbabwe. This argument however, is generally confined to those of a radical political persuasion or, on occasion, supporters of the ruling party in the particular country. 4

Funding recipients

External Links

  1. ^Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, "Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Website", Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
  2. ^Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, "Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Website", Friedrich Ebert Stiftung - Facts
  3. ^Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, "Funding of Party Overseas Activities", Ace Project, December 5, 2001.
  4. ^ Slaughter & Marsden &th October 2000 World Socialist Web siteZimbabwe: Promotion of the MDC by middle class radicals politically disarms the working class (Accessed 31st May 2007).