Institutions alone cannot guarantee democracy

Political education can establish the preconditions under which solidarity can develop in a best-case scenario but to boost solidarity we need to stake out other paths

Jochen Dahm opens the second day of the congress "More equality" in Berlin, 29 November 2016 (Photo: FES / Julia Kneuse)

The Academy for Social Democracy is a program organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung that offers a space to discuss fundamental political issues. We asked Jochen Dahm, head of the Academy to map for our readers some points of interest in the work of the Academy on political education.


On the goals of the Academy for Social Democracy…

Our seminars, fora, books, conferences, the Summer University and all our other activities always revolve around the need to look beyond everyday issues. What is Social Democracy all about? What answers can it provide to the pressing questions today? We discuss these questions with interested people who are committed to and engaged with these issues. We want to inform and motivate people and provide them with orientation.

On the Academy’s team and the importance of political education…

I have been heading the Academy for more than a year and have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in a great team and to develop the Academy´s program in tandem with Christian Krell.  

Political education is our daily bread. Its importance is clear: institutions alone cannot guarantee Democracy. Or to put it more eloquently, in the words of Friedrich Ebert: Democracy needs Democrats.

On the key challenges of political education…

Currently, the most pressing political challenge concerns the question of how to cope with right-wing populism - in Germany, Europe, throughout the world and very specifically in our programs. One highlight of 2016 achieved in collaboration with a lot of colleagues at FES was the congress More Equality. The special challenge FES faces here is not only to carry out "flagship projects," but to ensure at the same time that seminars, fora, publications and the wide range of other programs on offer are not somehow neglected. That is crucial.

On political education for solidarity…

Politics and political education cannot "produce" solidarity by just pushing a button. It can only establish the preconditions under which solidarity can develop in a best-case scenario. But political education will only reach a fraction of society outside schools.

In my view, to boost solidarity we therefore need to stake out other paths. We need to combat mounting socio-economic inequality we are witnessing. We have to put in check those who are attempting to play off different groups in society against one another. Not only virtually, but on the ground where they are operating as well.

On upcoming projects and events by the Academy in 2017…

We will be helping to organise a big conference on the topic of digitalisation at the FES in 2017. The Summer University is a fixed element in our annual program, our seminars and fora, but also new publications like the reader Peace, Security and Social Democracy.

I am really looking forward to our lecture series on the topic of "inequality," which we will be addressing with Professor Frank Decker at the University of Bonn. It is going to be a packed and exciting year!


Questions by FES Connect. 

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