We, Junge Liberale, are Germany’s liberal youth organisation – and the only and official youth organisation of the Free Democratic Party. It hasn’t always been that way. In fact, Junge Liberale were only founded back in 1980. Prior to that the German Young Democrats (Deutsche Jungdemokraten) were the main point of contact for all young people believing in liberal values who wanted to contribute to the FDP.
While the German Young Democrats were a suitable place for young people of liberal views to call home during the first years after their establishment, this changed drastically as they evolved into a new direction in the 1960s. Eventually, they understood themselves as a decisively left-wing youth organization. Supported by Germany’s Liberal Student Association (Liberaler Studentenverband Deutschlands), they initially aimed to make the FDP a “social-liberal reform party”. After they then explicitly refused to support the FDP during their electoral campaigns in the 1970s, more and more young liberals decided that they did not feel represented by their youth organisation anymore.
The radical leftwards-shift of the German Young Democrats led to the formation of numerous grassroot initiatives by young people in 1974, aiming to support the FDP not just in general, but through constructive criticism. Finally, in 1980, these youth initiatives merged and founded the federal union of Young Liberals, which later on turned into the official Youth Organization of the FDP, Junge Liberale.
In the following years, Junge Liberale made themselves a name as the “Spike in the flesh of the FDP”, as they, in contrast to the German Young Democrats, were interested in actively supporting the liberal cause in electoral campaigns, but also demanded the right to criticise political content from the FDP whenever this seemed necessary. They repeatedly raised pressure and brought up critical subjects with regards to domestic- and legal policy, for instance during the major electronic eavesdropping operation, against which they took a fierce position.
The founding history of Junge Liberale is more than an historical anecdote for us. Until today, it remains a source of our drive and reminds us that it is crucial to maintain sufficient programmatic and organisational independence, but at the same time to uphold adequate relations to our mother party, so that our programmatic demands are taken as seriously as they should be.