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The Militant, 30 March 1946

Nol Bose

A Dutch Worker’s Letter to Militant

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 13, 30 March 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


(We recently received the following interesting letter to the readers of The Militant from a Dutch revolutionist.)

Dear Friends:

I know The Militant is a genuine workers’ paper, and rather than give you an extensive report about the developments of our organization, I prefer to write you some glimpses of the life of the workers in Holland.

Holland is not a very important country. To tell you the truth, you often hear curses about its bad climate, its petty-bourgeois conditions, its smallness and sectarianism. We are envious of you American workers, who live in a nice big country, which is the heart of the world. But we do not forget that you, too, must toil for your daily bread, just as we have to do.

We always knew that your country is a nicer one than ours. But we know that you cannot enjoy its beauty, as you must pass your days in a mill, a workshop, the mines and the docks, just as we do. We know that you live in the big towns, which are prisons of stones heaped upon stones. We know that we can find you. in the worst, darkest, most unhealthy parts of these cities, just as it would be easy for you to discover in which parts of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, etc., the Dutch workers are living.

But, you might ask me:

“Why do you complain about petty-bourgeois conditions in Holland? As you tell us yourself, the Dutch workers are the same as We, and for heaven’s sake we are no sectarians and petty bourgeois! We learned the importance of discipline, of united struggle of our class, right in the workshops where you can find us together by the tens of thousands. We can fight, as we showed in the past months. And we are sure that the Dutch workers know how to fight too.”

And you are right! But you should not forget that the Dutch bourgeoisie did not exploit only us. It lived also upon the misery of the people of Indonesia, and thanks to that, was able to assure a rather big part of the workers a better standard of living than the great mass.

Labor Aristocracy

And this labor aristocracy, as we used to call them, printed their stamp on the labor movement in Holland for many years. Even the revolutionary sections of the Dutch workers suffered from sectarian, petty-bourgeois tendencies; They possessed their own “revolutionary” trade unions, had too little interest in the workers’ problems outside of Holland, and thought the revolution was a thing you need not fight for irreconcilably and with all your energy.

The war was a very dirty and vile thing. We damn it and warn the workers not to fight again for the interests of the imperialist oppressors, “democratic” or otherwise. But nevertheless, its good side was that all over the world the workers and exploited colonial peoples are awakening now, And it made an end to the self-sufficiency of Holland. The dikes around “the little isle of welfare” were destroyed, in the literal and the figurative sense of the word.

The people of Indonesia broke their chains and are fighting now against the parasitic Dutch colonial oppressors. “I get fear around my heart,” said the Dutch “socialist” Prime Minister Schermerhorn, in connection with the courageous fight of the Indonesian masses. He spoke in the name of the bourgeoisie. They are all afraid, to lose their dividends, their enormous profits, their privileged position.

The sympathy of the Dutch workers, on the other hand, is entirely on the side of the Indonesians. The war put an end to the patience of our brothers in the colonies. It destroyed at the same time a good deal of the reformist illusions of the Dutch laborers. And that is a good thing!

Holland may not be a very important country. But the fight of the Indonesian masses made it an important one! For the Dutch proletarian parties showed the working class of the whole world what they have to expect from their parties if “their” imperialism is in a crisis. And then I must say to you that our party, the Revolutionary Communist Party of the Fourth International, is the only one in Holland which fights for the entire freedom of Indonesia. Perhaps you think! “It is far from here and we cannot check on his words. He is a party patriot and maybe he boasts about his party.” But I tell you the truth. And I shall cite the words of the Stalinist leader Koenen (at the same time secretary of the United Committee of Trade Unions—EVC) on the congress of the Dutch Communist Party, reported in the Stalinist paper De Waarheid of January 10, 1946:

“It is of no use for the communists (Stalinists) in the EVC to hide their faces because they think to serve thus the unity in the trade unions. On the contrary, when doing so they render the Eenheidsvakcentrale a very bad service, as Trotskyist elements try to make themselves master of the movement, make an eager use of it. IT IS THOSE ESPECIALLY, THE SO-CALLED REVOLUTIONAIRE COMMUNISTISCHE PARTIJ, WHO TRY TO PULL THE WORKERS OF THE EVC OVER TO A MASS STRIKE IN THE INTEREST OF INDONESIA.’”

Yes, we do so, and it is our duty! The Stalinist leaders warn against us, as THEY don’t want to fight for Indonesia. Paul de Groot, the general secretary of the CPN wrote in De Waarheid on October 9, 1945:

Stalinist Betrayal

“The unity and the cooperation with Holland create the only conditions for the freedom and the political and economic development of the Indonesian people. We, communists, withdrew in 1937 our former slogan ‘Free Indonesia From Holland Now!’ as the Japanese menace made necessary the unity of Holland and Indonesia. This we maintain. Therefore in the interest of the safety of the bond between Holland and Indonesia, we act with so much force and firmness for the execution of the promises made to Indonesia. Holland is weak, it does not possess a considerable army nor a navy nor an air force of such importance that it could make its influence felt to others. All depends on a courageous and wise statemanship.”

This is the language of the bourgeoisie which is too weak to smash the Indonesian revolution and now says: “We must make concessions, else we lose Indonesia.” I am sure the Stalinist leaders in America use other words in relation to Indonesia. Why not? If their bourgeoisie is in danger they, can always change their terminology. They learned to change for many, many years ...

Learn from US!

You will believe that if the Stalinist leaders speak thus, the Social-Democrats do it in the same way. And the other groups, the centrists (those who use a revolutionary language to hide their opportunist purposes), like “de Vlam” and the ultra-left like “Spartacus,” have “principled” objections against our slogan: “Free Indonesia From Holland Now!” and do nothing, nothing to help our colored brothers against the imperialists. I repeat: We and we only are fighting for the total independence of Indonesia.

American workers, learn from this! Only the parties of the Fourth International are real fighting parties against the oppressors. In America, the Stalinists, Social-Democrats, “ultra-left” bawlers and centrists will betray you too at the decisive moment. Your place is in the Socialist Workers Party!


Nol Bose

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