Center Party

Center Party

 

(Keskustapuolue), one of the largest bourgeois parties in Finland. Founded in 1906, the party was called the Union of the Rural Population of Finland from 1906 to 1908 and the Agrarian Party from 1908 to 1965.

The Center Party is primarily a party of the rural population. Its members include both small and large owners of farm and forest lands. Its program and ideological orientation (1968) are characterized by defense of private property and free enterprise, government support for agriculturalists, attempts to follow a “middle road” between capitalism and socialism, and an idealization of the peasant culture. The program documents of the Center Party were drawn up by S. Alkio, K. Kallio, and U. Kekkonen.

The Center Party is highly influential in Finnish politics; its members have been the presidents of the Finnish Republic for six out of 13 terms. After World War II (1939–45) it began playing a substantial role in the favorable development of Finnish-Soviet relations. The party’s leaders (1975) are J. Virolainen (party chairman), A. Karjalainen, M. Miettunen, and M. Im-monen. Its press organ is Suomenmaa.


Center Party

 

a bourgeois party in Germany from 1870 to 1933, founded by Catholic political figures on the eve of the unification of the country under Prussian hegemony.

In the early years of its existence, the Center Party expressed the particularist sentiments that were widespread in southern Germany. In the 1870’s the government, which wanted to put an end to the separatist movement, subjected the Catholic Church and its political arm, the Center Party, to severe persecution (seeKULTURKAMPF). In the late 1870’s, however, a rapprochement took place between the ruling circles and the Center Party, largely because the big landowners, who played the leading role in the party, had a vested interest in the protectionist import duties introduced by the government.

The rapid industrialization of the country strengthened the position of the big industrialists in the leadership of the Center Party. Thus, the party came to support the political course of German imperialism at the turn of the 20th century. After the November Revolution of 1918, the party’s leadership consisted solely of members of the industrial bourgeoisie. At the same time, the Center Party retained its mass base and adapted to new conditions; its left wing found support among, for example, the Christian and Catholic labor unions.

From 1919 to 1932 members of the Center Party served in the German government. Centrist chancellors included K. Fehrenbach (1920–21), J. Wirth (1921–22), W. Marx (1923–24, 1926–28), and H. Brüning (1930–32). During this period the Center Party reflected the attitudes of the wing of monopoly capital that wanted to retain the bourgeois parliamentary system. Along with the whole ruling camp, however, the Center Party evolved toward open reaction.

When the fascists attacked the republic in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, the Center Party’s leaders—including Brüning, F. von Papen, and the party’s chairman L. Kaas—supported the abolition of bourgeois democracy and thereby contributed to fascism’s rise to power. In March 1933, the votes of Center Party members of the Reichstag enabled Hitler to obtain emergency powers. The final result of this course of action was the self-dissolution of the party on July 5, 1933.

REFERENCES

Thälmann, E. “Tsentr—vedushchaia partiia germanskoi burzhuazii.” In the collection Krizis kapitalizma i tserkov’. Moscow, 1932.
Morsey, R. Die Deutsche Zentrumspartei. Düsseldorf, 1966.
Junker, D. Die Deutsche Zentrumspartei und Hitler 1932–1933. Stuttgart, 1969.
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