The Dutch left part 2 (1900/1914): Birth of a revolutionary current in Europe (1903/1907)

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In this issue of the International Review we are publishing the continuation of the history of the Dutch Left. This part of the article deals with the period from 1903 to 1907. The history of the Dutch Left is little known by people in general and for this reason, the work which we are publi­shing provides a documentation which should be of great value to our readers.

The history of the Dutch Left necessarily contains many specificities. Nevertheless, in order to understand it fully, we must never lose sight of the fact that it is an integral part of a general movement, that of the international working class. It is also necessary to situate it in the context of the period that is at a specific moment in the history of the workers' movement.

Two main points can be drawn out of this article: 1) the great difficulty the working class has in organizing itself as a distinct class and in creating its own organizations; 2) the fragility of these organizations, wracked as they are by crises periodically.

The first point is related to the very nature of the working class, which is what distinguishes it from every other class which has been called upon at certain moments in history to play a rev­olutionary role for the transformation of society. The political power of every other class has been based on their previously having won economic power. This is not at all the case for the prolet­ariat which has no economic power other than that of being completely dispossessed obliged to sell its labor power and to submit to exploitation for the benefit of others. As a class that is both revolutionary and exploited, the working class can only create its organizations on the basis of its consciousness of its immediate and historic interests spurred on by the oppression it suffers at the hands of the exploiting class.

The second point is related to the fact that its organizations, because they reflect the evol­ution of the balance of class forces in the stru­ggle, suffer constantly from the pressure of the ideology predominant in society, an ideology which is always that of the dominant class.

The appearance of revolutionary tendencies within the organizations of the working class has its source in the reaction to the inevitable pene­tration of bourgeois ideology into the class. The search for an organization for ever immune against this penetration, the search for a pure revolut­ionary organization, is as utopian as the search for a humanity that is totally invulnerable to the germs in the atmosphere. These are the polit­ics of the ostrich which hides its head in the sand so that it doesn't see the danger which is lying in wait for it. Revolutionaries shouldn't have any illusions about the existence of "perfect and infallible organizations." They know that only the struggle - a struggle that must be unceasing and intransigent against the influence of the bourgeoisie - is the sole guarantee that the organizations secreted by the class remain instruments on the road to revolution.

The extract printed here bears witness to this fierce struggle waged by the international revolutionary current of the proletariat at a given historic moment in a specific country.

A) The struggle against opportunism

As so often in the history of the workers' movement, the struggle for the defense of revolutionary principles was engaged at first on a practical terrain. The struggle against opport­unism in the Dutch party centered around two problems which today, with historical hindsight, might seem of little importance: the peasant question, and the school question.

The importance of the peasant question was obvious in a country like Holland, whose commercial capital invested in the colonies was accompanied by archaic social structures in the countryside. Apart from its stockbreeding sector, and although beginning to develop, Dutch agriculture remained backward, with a still large mass of equally backward peasants, espec­ially in Frisia, Troestra's ‘fief'. Alongside the peasants, a mass of landless farm workers hired out their labor power to peasants, land­lords and farmers. To attract the peasant vote, which sent a substantial proportion of the SDAP's deputies to parliament, in 1901 a modification was proposed to replace the abolition of the existing order through the socialization of the land, and therefore the abolition of private property, by a regulation of the "farm cont­ract". Worse still, from the standpoint of the socialist program, was the point devoted to the agricultural workers. Instead of linking up their struggle to that of the workers in the cities and emphasizing their common interests with the rest of the proletariat, the program proposed nothing less than to transform them into peasant freeholders:

"2. The provision of land and agricultural equipment at a fixed price for landless farm workers, to ensure them an autonomous existence."

These slogans launched by the Troelstra lead­ership were a clear affirmation of reformism, which proposed not to abolish, but to ameliorate capitalist society. As the Left of the party pointed out: "these two slogans are in contra­diction with society's development in a social­ist direction".

However, at the Hague Congress of 1905, under the pressure of the Left, and with the support of Kautsky who at the time held to a left-wing position on the agrarian question, these two points were struck from the Party's agrarian program. "It was marxism's first conflict, and its first victory. But also its only vic­tory".

The struggle against reformism was indeed only beginning, and entered a new stage with the debates in the Dutch parliament on the subsidies to be accorded to church schools. For obvious ideological reasons, the lay government wanted the state to support the church schools financ­ially. The marxist struggle against this maneuver of the liberal bourgeoisie had nothing in common with the anti-clericalism of the cont­emporary French radicals and socialists, which was above all a diversion. The support given to the various religious denominations in the Neth­erlands was essentially due to the rise of the class struggle, which provoked an ideological reaction from the liberal bourgeoisie in power[1]. Following the classic reasoning of the workers' movement of the time, the Left pointed out that: "with the upsurge of the proletarian class struggle, the liberals, always and every­where, look on religion as a necessary rampart for capitalism, and little by little abandon their resistance to religious schools".

Imagine the surprise of the marxists, grouped around the review Nieuwe Tijd, to see the revis­ionists come out openly in Parliament in favor of a vote for state support for the religious schools. Worse still, the social-democracy's Groningen Congress (1902) clearly abandoned the whole marxist combat against the grip of relig­ious ideology. In a country, where for histor­ical reasons religion weighed heavily in its triple form of Catholicism, Calvinism and Jud­aism, this was a veritable capitulation:

"The Congress...notes that the major part of the laboring class in the Netherlands demands a religious education for its children, and considers it undesirable to oppose this, since it is not for the social-democracy to break - because of theological disagreements - the economic unity of the working class against both religious and non-religious capitalists."

The argument used here - the unity of relig­ious and non-religious workers - presupposed the acceptance of the existing ideological and econ­omic order. Thus, "with this resolution, the party (took) the first step on the road to reformism; it (meant) a break with the revolut­ionary program, whose demand for the separat­ion of church and state certainly does not mean state money for religious schools". It is int­eresting to note that the Dutch Left had no int­ention of glorifying the ‘lay' school, whose pretended ‘neutrality' it denounced. It did not base its position on a choice, false from the marxist viewpoint, between ‘religious' and ‘lay' schools. Its aim was to stand resolutely on the terrain of the class struggle; this meant rej­ecting any collaboration, under any pretext, with any fraction of the bourgeoisie. The marx­ists' misgivings about the Party's revisionist orientation were to prove well-founded in the heat of the workers' struggle.

B) The 1903 transport strike

This strike was the most important social move­ment to stir the Dutch working class before WWI. It was to leave a deep mark on the proletariat, which felt betrayed by social democracy, and whose most militant fractions turned still more towards revolutionary syndicalism. From 1903 onwards, the split between marxism and revisionism was underway, with no possibility of turning back. In this sense, the 1903 strike marks the real beginning of the ‘Tribunist' movement as a revolutionary movement.

The transport strike was first of all a protest against conditions of exploitation that are hard to imagine today. The railwayman's living conditions were worthy of the period of capitalism's primitive accumulation during the 19th century[2]. In 1900, they worked 361 days a year. Moreover, a strong feeling of corporat­ism reduced the possibilities of a unified struggle, due to the divisions between different trades. The mechanics, engine drivers and perm­anent way workers all had their own unions. Each union could start strikes, without any of the others joining the struggle. The unions' careful protection of each other's trade specif­icity rose as a barrier against the mass unity of the workers over and above differences in qualification[3].

Against these conditions, there broke out on 31 January 1901 a wildcat strike, starting from the rank and file of the railwaymen, and not from the trade unions. It appeared as a mass strike: not only did it hit all the transport trades, it spread throughout the country. It was also a mass strike in starting, not on the basis of specific demands, but in solidarity with the workers of Amsterdam harbor who were out on strike. The transport workers refused to act as strike-breakers, and so blocked the bosses' attempts to move their goods by rail. This movement of solidarity, characteristic of mass strikes, then snowballed: the bakers and rolling stock engineers gave their support. but there is no doubt that the originality of the movement - which did not succeed in spreading to other sectors of the Dutch proletariat - lay in the creation of a strike committee, elected by the rank and file and not designated by the transport union and the SDAP, even if their members participated in it.

All these characteristics meant that the mass strike ceased to be a purely trade, economic strike; little by little, through its direct confrontation with the state it became politic­al. On 6 February, a decree of the Dutch gov­ernment's war ministry declared the mobilization of the army; it also created an organism, within which the Catholic and Protestant unions were active, to regroup the strike breakers. This bourgeois offensive culminated on 25 February with the proposition of a law against the strike: the strikers were threatened with imprisonment, and the government decided to set up a military transport company to break the strike.

But, worse than all the threats and govern­ment measures, the strike was undermined from the inside by Troelstra's SDAP. On 20 February, at a meeting representing 60,000 strikers, and which was not held in open session - unlike the strike committee - Troelstra proposed the creat­ion of a ‘Defense Committee' made up of differ­ent political and union organizations. This committee was composed of the NAS, and anarchist followers of Nieuwenhuis, the latter having committee was composed of Vliegen, a SDAP revision­ist, the transport boss Oudegeest, the NAS, and anarchist followers of Niewenhuis, the latter having refused to take part in such an organism. Its orientation was to prove damaging for the cond­uct of the proposed strike against the govern­ment's measures. Vliegen declared that the strike could not be called, because the liberal Kuyper government had not yet published its decrees. In fact, the attitude of this ‘Defense Committee', self-proclaimed by different organizations, and by the SDAP in particular, rapidly revealed itself as negative. Not only was the committee paralyzed by the opposition between Niewenhuis' libertarian followers; the overbear­ing weight of Troelstra, who although he had initiated the committee was not a member, meant that it remained an organism outside the strug­gle. Using the pretext of the struggle against "anarchist adventurism", Troelstra came out against a political strike: he claimed that if the workers were to decide on a political strike in reaction to the "scandalous laws", this would only make them worse in Parliament. This was written in the social democrat daily without any reference either to the Defense Committee or to the Party authorities. This act of indiscipline was clear proof that the revisionist leadership did not consider itself accountable, either to the workers or to the party militants. It acted autonomously, the better to place itself on the terrain of conciliation with the bourgeoisie. Through Pannekoek's pen, the Left vigorously criticized this behavior, which was the begin­ning of a long series of betrayals of the struggle: "Your flabby and hesitant conduct cannot but serve the possessing class and the government" wrote Pannekoek, against Troelstra.

This betrayal came out into the open during the second transport strike, in April. The government had carried the vote in favor of its anti-strike laws, forbidding all work stoppages in public transport. Instead of adopting an energetic attitude, the social-democrat leaders on the committee, such as Oudegeest, came out against a general strike to include all workers throughout Holland. And yet, at that very moment, strikes had broken out, creating a soc­ial context far more favorable to the class str­uggle than it had been in January/February: in Amsterdam the bargees, blacksmiths, roadworkers, navvies and the engineers were all out on strike, while the municipal workers had walked out in sympathy.

In spite of everything, the general strike was called, under pressure from the rank and file. Its initial weakness lay in the fact that the railway workers' meetings were held in sec­ret, and were therefore closed to workers from other trades. Despite the occupation of the stations and tracks by the army, which should have developed the spreading of the strike, it failed to become general. The movement to ext­end the struggle was nonetheless spontaneous: in Utrecht and Amsterdam, the engineers and masons joined the solidarity movement. Neither the presence of the army, nor the threat of five years prison for ‘agitators' and two for strikers, provided for by the new laws, were enough to cool the ardor of the striking workers, who since January had experienced "the joy of the struggle".

The workers' impetus and fervor were broken by the decisions taken by the social-democratic leaders of the ‘Defense Committee', which claim­ed to be directing the struggle. On the 9th of April, Vliegen forced the decision to halt the strike movement. Faced with the transport work­ers' fury and incredulity, the Committee disapp­eared. At a mass meeting, the workers shouted down Vliegen with cries of "He's betrayed us!". Even the Left was prevented from speaking: the workers made no distinction between marxists and revisionists, and Roland-Holst's speech was met with the cry of "Strike!". The attitude of the revisionist leaders was thus to provoke a long-lasting rejection by the Dutch working class of the whole social-democracy, including its marx­ist wing, to the profit of anarcho-syndicalism.

The 1903 transport strike did not have purely ‘Dutch' roots; it marked a turning point in the European class struggle. It broke out as a spontaneous mass strike, becoming a conscious force capable of pushing back the bourgeoisie politically, and giving the workers an unquestionable feeling of victory. But its failure was that of a general strike launched by the unions and parties.

This strike fell within a whole historical period marked by a combination of political and economic strikes, and culminating in the Russian revolutionary movement of 1905. As Rosa Luxem­burg emphasized, "only in a revolutionary situ­ation, with the development of the proletariat's political action, does the full dimension of the mass strike's importance and extent appear". Rosa Luxemburg, in her polemic against the revisionists, demonstrated better than anyone except Pannekoek the struggle's homogeneity, that is to say, an identical and simultaneous phenomenon at the turn of the century spreading throughout Europe, including Holland, and as far as the American continent:

"In 1900, according to the American comrades, the mass strike of the Pennsylvanian miners did more for the spread of socialist ideas than ten years of agitation; again in 1900 came the mass strike of the Austrian miners, in 1902 that of the miners in France, in 1902 again a strike paralyzed the whole productive apparatus of Barcelona, in solidarity with the engineers' struggle, while, still in 1902, a mass strike in Sweden demonstrated for universal suffrage; similarly in Belgium during the same year, while more than 200,000 farm workers throughout eastern Galicia struck in defense of the right to form trade unions; in January and April 1903, two mass strikes by Dutch railwaymen, in 1904 a mass strike by rail workers in Hungary, in 1904 strikes and demonstrations in Italy, to protest against the massacres in Sardinia, in January 1905, mass strike by the Ruhr miners, in October 1905, strik­es and demonstrations in Prague and the surround­ing regions (more than 100,000 workers) for universal suffrage in the Galician regional parlia­ment, in November 1905 mass strikes and demonstrat­ions throughout Austria for universal suffrage in the Imperial Council, in 1905 once again a mass strike of Italian farm workers, and still in 1905, a mass strike of the Italian railway workers..."

By preparing the political confrontation with the state, the mass strike poses the question of the revolution. Not only does it demonstrate the "revolutionary energy" and the "proletarian instinct" of the working masses - as Gorter emphasized after the 1903 strike - it profoundly altered the whole situation at the turn of the century:

"We have every reason to think that we have now embarked on a period of struggles, where what is at stake is the state's power and institutions; com­bats that may, through all kinds of difficulties, last for decades, whose length cannot yet be fore­seen, but which will very probably in the short term usher in a fundamental change in favor of the proletariat in the balance of class forces, if not its seizure of power in Western Europe."

These remarks by Kautsky in his book The Road to Power were to be taken up by the Dutch left against Kautsky and his supporters in the Neth­erlands, such as Troelstra and Vleigen. The 1903 strike did indeed pose the question of ‘reform or revolution', and inevitably led, within the SDAP, to a confrontation with the reformists, who were betraying not only the Party's revolutionary spirit, but the immediate struggle as well.

C) The opposition within the Party (1903-1907)

The opposition within the Party was to be all the more vigorous, in that the consequences of the defeat of the strike, sabotaged by the Troelstra-Vliegen leadership, were a disaster for the workers' movement. About 40,000 workers were fired for strike action. The membership of the NAS, despite its militant position in the struggle and its opposition to Vliegen, fell from 8,000 in 1903 to 6,000 in 1904. Troelstra's SDAP, now with a reputation for treason, also suffered a considerable drop in membership: from 6,500 members at the end of 1902, to 5,600 at the end of 1903. By contrast, a sign of the reflux or even demoralization at the end of the strike could be seen in the rapid growth of the religious unions. Politically, the most combat­ive union movement, the NAS, which could have become the SDAP's economic organization, drew closer to the anarchist positions of Niewenhuis. The fall in membership continued until the app­earance of the Tribunist movement, which inc­reasingly influenced it. By contrast, in 1905 the socialist unions linked to the SDAP created their own central union federation: the NVV (Confederation of Trade Unions of the Nether­lands). Strongly influenced by H. Polak's ref­ormist diamond workers' union, it quickly became the major union federation in the country. Right from the start, the NVV refused to help spread the struggle in the building industry; in the years that followed, it adopted the same attitude of holding back and avoiding solidarity with striking workers.

Faced with the development of reformism in the party, and its weakening as a workers' party, the marxists at first adopted a moderate attitude. Not only did they hesitate to form a determined fraction to conquer the leadership of the party, but their attacks on Troelstra remained extremely cautious. Although Troelstra had actively betrayed the strike, they still hesitated to talk of treason. When the balance sheet of the transport strike was discussed at the SDAP's 9th Congress at the end of 1903, Gorter spoke in measured terms. While insisting that he was "an opponent of the Troelstra lead­ership, not only in this strike, but also in other important matters", he hesitated to speak of the betrayal of the leadership:

"Naturally, there is no question of betrayal, but of the weakness of Troelstra's political conceptions, and of his constant wavering."

The 1903 Congress of Enscheden did not have the salutary effect that the marxists of the Nieuwe Tijd had hoped for. Although Troelstra had to give up the editorship of Het Volk ("The People"), to be replaced by Tak, Gorter was forced to shake his hand in the name of "solid­arity" and "unity" in the Party against the "common enemy" outside. He managed to get it believed that Gorter and his partisans were attacking him personally, not politically. Complaining that there were those who wanted to deprive him of his leadership responsibilities, he raised the question of confidence. Instead of appearing as one of the elements most respon­sible for the opportunist orientation of the Party, he posed as a victim, and thus obtained the ‘confidence' of the party as a whole. In this way the revisionist leadership avoided a discussion of vital questions of principle and tactic in the class struggle. Although it was completely isolated, the marxist minority didn't capitulate and resolutely carried on fighting. From 1905 to 1907, the marxist current found itself confronted with a vigorous counter­offensive by the revisionists.

1. The Consequences of the Utrecht Congress 1905

The parliamentary fraction, which was the real leadership of the party, went further and further in collaborating with the bourgeoisie. In 1905, during the elections for the provincial states, the revisionists raised the question of supporting the liberals against the Kuyper government, which had broken the transport strike. The Left, like the Left in other parties, did not refuse, during the course of the elections, to support liberal candidates who took a stand in favor of universal suffrage against property-based electoral rights. It adopted a resolution in this sense during the 1905 Hague Congress:

"(the party) declares that during elections it will only support candidates who stand for univers­al suffrage."

But for the marxists, there could be no question of turning this tactical and temporary support into a principle. Contrary to what Troelstra wished, it wasn't at all a matter of calling workers to vote for "liberals of any stripe", just because they were anti-clerical. From a class standpoint, the fight wasn't against a particular capitalist party but against capital­ism as a totality. In order to avoid any conf­usion about the petty bourgeois and small peas­ant elements, the workers had to be clear about their true identity:

"On every occasion the party must show the workers that their enemies sit on the left side of parliament just as much as on the right."

But instead of respecting the resolutions of the Congress, the party leadership, the parliamentary fraction and the socialist daily Het Volk left socialist electors free to vote for any liberal candidate who seemed to be all right. Although firm on positions which had been class­ical ones within the workers' movement, the marxists found themselves isolated from the working masses. Troelstra played on this as much as he could.

There were, however, reactions within the party. Despite the events of 1903, the party was far from having succumbed to revisionism; it was still capable of proletarian reactions against Troelstra's parliamentary fraction. The Hague Congress of 1905, no doubt under the pres­sure of the revolutionary events taking place in Russia, nominated a new directing committee of the party, this time composed of a majority of marxists, including Gorter. Opposition then grew between the new committee and Troelstra's parliamentary fraction. The latter wanted to support the new liberal government in order to "push it along the road of reform". For the directing committee, based around the Nieuwe Tijd group, this was out of the question. The real issue was to develop an agitation against the limitation of the right to strike, no matter what the government, liberal or clerical. Once again, Troelstra violated party discipline, by taking up a position which condemned workers' agitation. On 9 March 1906, in front of the bourgeois parliamentarians, he openly disclaimed the actions taken by the workers and supported by the party, despite the fact that he was a member of the directing committee.

This conflict posed a vital question in the workers' movement: was it the parliamentary fraction or the directing committee, elected by the party, which determined the policy of the organization? It was a question of whether the party was in the service of an uncontrolled group of parliamentarians conducting a policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie, or whether the activities of this group were to be tightly controlled by the decisions taken at the Con­gress. This conflict over influence and decision-making wasn't unique to Holland. In Germany, for example, Rosa Luxemburg had to fight against the parliamentary leadership[4]. The problem of the real leadership of the party was the problem of preserving its revolutionary character. In Russia, after 1905, when the Bolsheviks had deputies in the Duma, their parl­iamentary fraction was tightly controlled by the central committee; and it wasn't at all accid­ental that it was one of the few who in August 1914 voted against war credits.

This opposition between Troelstra and the directing committee was to pose the real underlying question: reform or revolution. In a pamphlet which he brought out before the Utrecht Congress, Troelstra attacked the new party lead­ership, pretending as usual that he was being attacked personally, that the new marxist Cent­rale was "doctrinaire" and "dogmatic". Present­ing himself as the ‘innocent' victim of persec­ution by the Gorter group, he could not however hide what really lay at the root of his think­ing: that the SDAP should be a national party and not an internationalist one. The party had to make compromises with the small and big bourgeoisie: not only did it have to take acc­ount of the petty-bourgeois prejudices existing within the proletariat - "the religious and partly petty-bourgeois character of the prolet­ariat" - but it also had to make this reformist orientation more acceptable. Troelstra didn't hesitate to resort to anti-intellectual dema­gogy: the marxists were "ultra-infantile" and wanted to transform the party into a "propaganda club". The marxist dream had to be countered with the ‘solid' reality of parliament:

"Will the party float above the heads of the real workers, basing itself on a dream-proletariat or, as it has done since the beginning of its existence and its activity, in parliament and in the municipal councils, will it penetrate ever-more deeply into the real life of our people?"

Thus for Troelstra, the only possible life for the proletariat - which, what's more, he willfully mixed up with other ‘popular' strata - took place not in the class struggle but in parliament.

To achieve his goals - making the party a purely parliamentary Dutch national party - Troelstra proposed nothing less than the elimin­ation of the marxist leadership, the reorganization of the party giving full powers to the parliamentary fraction, which up to then had according to the statutes only two representat­ives on the directing committee. The executive of the party committee, elected by the milit­ants, was to be replaced by the ‘executive' of the parliamentary fraction; the latter - accord­ing to him - "represents the party - not offic­ially, but in fact, in parliament and in pract­ical policies". The aim was in fact to estab­lish a veritable dictatorship of the revisionist fraction; it wanted nothing less than to direct all the organs of the party in order to deprive the Left of any freedom of criticism.

A whole skilful campaign waged by Troelstra, Vliegen and Schaper among the militants allowed them to pose as victims of a witch-hunt not against revisionism but against themselves personally. They did it so well that a resolut­ion adopted at the Utrecht Congress proposed to limit freedom of discussion and criticism in the party:

"(Considering) that the unity of the party is necessarily under threat, the Congress deplores this abuse of the freedom to criticize, which in our party is something beyond doubt, and imposes on all comrades the need to keep criticism within such limits that comrades respect the dignity and unity of the party."

2. The New Revisionist Course (1906-1907)

There could be no doubt that this resolution was a veritable sword of Damocles hanging over the head of the marxists, with the aim of terrorizing them and, if possible, making them capitul­ate to revisionism. After the Congress, Troelstra was able to threaten Gorter openly:

"if Gorter talks once more about a ‘rapproche­ment with bourgeois democracy', the sting in this assertion will be removed by the Resolution."

This triumph of revisionist diktats cleared the way for a revision of the marxist program of the party. A commission for revising the prog­ram was formed in contempt of the party's rules of functioning: the party committee which decided to nominate the commission did so without a mandate from the Congress, the only organ with the authority to decide to revise the prog­ram. The commission, under the influence of the revisionists, proposed nothing less than changing the marxist conditions for joining the party: if the party was to be based on Marx's system, it was not necessary to accept the underlying materialist philosophy in order to join it. The door was thus open to non-marxist, religious and even bourgeois elements.

The Haarlem Congress of 1907 merely confirmed the triumph of revisionism. The few marxists who were on the commission served merely as a cover for it, hardly making their voice heard. Out of the Congress came a declaration situating the party in the centre, between marxism and revisionism: "The program can be neither orthodox marxist nor revisionist nor a compromise between the two orientations". As for marxism as represented by Gorter, Pannekoek and Roland-Holst, it could only be a matter of "private opinion".

The defeat marxism suffered at this Congress was such that neither Pannekoek nor Van der Gies could distribute their own pamphlets against the party leadership. A Congress resolution, adopt­ed unanimously, made things even harder than the Utrecht Congress: the right to criticize was suspended in the name of the ‘unity of the party'. Party democracy was openly trampled underfoot with the agreement of the great major­ity of its members, who hoped for an end to what they saw as "mere personal quarrels".

For the marxists, a very small minority, the choice was between capitulation and combat: they chose combat, to fight for the old marxist orientation of the party. They thus founded their own review De Tribune ("The Tribune"), which would give a name to the marxist current.


[1] In France on the other hand, the bourgeois­ie - in order to combat the development of the workers' and socialist movement - through its ‘radical-socialist' faction, used the anti­clerical card to the utmost. It thus hoped, given the ‘popularity' of anti-clericalism in the workers' milieu, to lead socialism away from its own terrain.

[2] It wasn't rare to find workers working six days a week, more than 14 hours a day. On the inhuman conditions of the transport workers and the development of the Dutch workers' movement in this period, see De Spoorwegstakingen van 1903 - Een spiegel der arbeidersbeweging in Nederland ("The railway strikes in 1903 - a mirror of the workers' movement in Holland"), a study by AJC Ruter, Leiden, 1935, re-published, in the 70s, but with no precise date, by SUN reprints, Nijmegen.

[3] These craft unions, a vestige of the artis­an period of the workers' movement, were prog­ressively replaced by industrial unions. The latter regrouped all the workers in an indust­rial branch, whatever crafts they had. The development of the mass strike at the beginning of the century would however show that, in the open struggle against capital, organizing by industrial branches had been superseded by the massive organization of the workers of all branches. The idea of ‘One Big Union' propagat­ed by the American IWW would quickly be shown to be inadequate, since it foresaw only an economic struggle in this or that branch, whereas the mass strike tended to become political, through the confrontation of a whole class, and not just some of its parts, with the state.

[4] Rosa Luxemburg was able to pose the real under­lying question: reform or revolution. Thus she could write: "...what counts above all is the gen­eral organization of our agitation and our press in order to lead the toiling masses to rely more and more on their own forces and autonomous action and no longer to consider the parliamentary strug­gle as the central axis of political life." From the revolutionary point of view, it was vital to "warn the conscious working class against the per­nicious illusion that it's possible to artificial­ly reanimate democracy and the bourgeois opposit­ion in parliament by moderating and watering down the social democratic class struggle." (Sachsische Arbeiteizeitung 5-6 December 1904).

Heritage of the Communist Left: 

Development of proletarian consciousness and organisation: