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Social Democracy is a political ideology emerging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from socialists in Northern Europe, especially in Germany. In contrast to revolutionary anarchists or communists, social democrats believed that the transition to a socialist society could be achieved through democratic evolutionary rather than through exclusively revolutionary means. Originally, German social democrats were criticized by Karl Marx in his Critique of the Gotha Programme of German Social Democracy, which criticized the "Lassallean worship of the state". In much of northern Europe, followers of German social democracy influenced other parties to call themselves "social democrats". In much of southern Europe, the dominant workers' parties became known as "socialist" parties, with some exceptions. However, despite the early criticism of social democracy from Karl Marx and his followers, later social democrats came to see themselves more and more as the inheritors of the Marxist tradition, particularly of the Second Internationale.

After the Bolshevik revolution, in all countries, there was a split between the social democrats and communists. In many cases, communists were expelled from social democratic parties.

During the early and mid-20th century, social democrats were in favor of stronger labor laws, nationalization of monopoly industries, and a strong welfare states. Over the course of the 20th century, most social democrats gradually distanced themselves from Marxism.

The main article for this category is Social democracy.

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