The Dutch Left (1900-1914), part 3: The “Tribunist” Movement

Printer-friendly version

This article is the last part of a study on the history of the Dutch Left between 1900 and 1914. Having dealt with the difficulties in the emer­gence of a marxist current in the conditions of Holland at the beginning of the century and with the beginnings of what would become the Dutch Left (International Review, no.45), then with the fragility of the political organizations of the proletariat confronted with the permanent pressure of bourgeois ideology (IR, no.46), this part of the study looks at the birth of the ‘Tribunist' current until its exclusion from social democracy (the SDAP) by the latter's opportunist wing.

The birth of the Tribune movement

In October 1907 the radical marxists began to publish their own social democratic weekly. In charge of De Tribune here the future leaders of the Tribune organization: Wijnkoop, Ceton and van Ravesteyn, who had the unconditional support of the third Amsterdam section, the most revolutionary one in the party. Pannekoek and Gorter regularly contributed to it, providing some of the most theoretical and polemical texts. They were all inspired by the hope of the future revolution: historically it was the most favorable period ever, with the beginning of an economic crisis which they didn't yet analyze as the general crisis of capitalism.                                                                 

The orientation was already anti-parliamentarian: the workers' struggle should link up with the international struggle by freeing it of any parliamentary or national illusions. The aim was indeed:                                               

"Firstly, to unmask the real meaning of the treacherous maneuvers of bourgeois democracy in the realms of the right to vote and social transformation; and secondly, to give workers an idea of the real meaning of the international situa­tion and the class struggle abroad." (Gorier, Sociaal-democratie en revisionisme, 1909)

It is remarkable to note that this political line is very close to that of the future Bordiga current, with the proclamation of the political and theoretical struggle against bourgeois demo­cracy and the affirmation of internationalism (cf ICC pamphlet, The Communist Left of Italy, 1981). The essential difference however, and this was linked to the period, was the fact that the organized struggle of marxism against revisio­nism was seen to take place around a theoretical review, under the form of an opposition. It was very much later in the workers' movement that little by little the necessity was imposed to form an organized fraction, and not an opposition in the party. The Bolsheviks were the first to understand this, even though they too were late in doing so.

It is clear that the Tribunists would have found it extremely difficult to have had an organized activity, apart from in the sections-like that of Amsterdam - where they were in the majority. Driven out of the central organs by the revisionists, they conceived their struggle as essentially theoretical. The theoretical contributions of the marxist Tribunist current from 1907 to 1909 were in any case extremely important and decisive in the constitution of an international communist left.

But the political struggle - with the publication of De Tribune which made no concessions in its struggle against revisionism - very quickly hardened and soon posed the question of a split in the party. A drive to hunt out the Marxist ‘witches' was undertaken. In Rotterdam, the revisionist leaders dismissed the marxist editors from the local organ and that was just after the Arnhem Congress (1908) which had rejected Troelstra's proposition to ban De Tribune. After this, the process of banning other Marxist ­inspired local organs became generalized.

The crisis in the party was opened up; it was going to be pushed forward with Troelstra's pub­lic intervention against marxist positions in parliament in front of the bourgeois political parties.

a. The question of the period and the crisis

The confrontation with the Tribunists took place in the autumn of 1908 when Troelstra took up cer­tain positions in parliament: namely, he denied publicly the necessity for workers to understand the evolution of capitalism in a theoretical way, within a marxist framework; he maintained that there was "no need for abstract, logical theory" the class struggle. Finally, he defended the idea that "capitalism would, lead of itself to socialism" - without the necessity of a revolution         and therefore in a peaceful and automatic manner. It was tantamount to saying that socialism was no longer determined by the existence of the objective conditions of the crisis and the proletariat's maturation of consciousness; it became a simple religious belief. De Tribune responded to these affirmations in a very violent and biting manner against Troelstra, symbol of revisionism in the party:

"A practical politician of social democracy must also understand theory; he must know it and have the power to defend it. For a ‘ bourgeois' it is perhaps a heavy task, but the working class demands no less of its leaders. This knowledge, this socialist science, is certainly very often easier for a worker to understand than for a man coming out of the bourgeoisie. The worker can understand immediately from his own life what socialism means, whilst the bourgeois must first of all understand the theory; for example, what isn't yet clear for Troelstra, namely that the economic gap between the classes must always. widen ... If the possibility exists that the gap between the classes doesn't become deeper, then our socialism dissolves into a belief; certitude becomes passive hope. The workers are already awash with ‘hopes' and ‘beliefs'. They don't need socialism for that. The church also sup­ports them in the belief that all will be better in heaven and the brave liberals and democrats hope that it will be better soon." (Die Grundung der SDP)

But what was most important in the Tribunists denunciation of revisionism was the theoretical affirmation of the historic course of capitalism towards a world crisis. In this, the Dutch Left - except Pannekoek much later on - joined up with Rosa Luxemburg's position which she expressed in 1913:

"The so-called ‘prophecy' of Marx is also being fully realized in the sense that modern capita­lism's periods of development are growing shor­ter and shorter, that in general ‘crises' as a force of transition from strong production to weak production are still persisting and with the development of capitalism are becoming more prolonged and extensive, so that ills that were once limited locally are more and more becoming world-wide catastrophes."

These attacks against Troelstra's revisionist theories were considered by the majority of the SDAP to be no more than personal attacks. After this the revisionists forbade the selling of De Tribune at a public meeting where Troelstra was speaking, thus committing an extremely ser­ious deed in the history of the workers' movement and in contradiction with the freedom of criti­cism in a workers' party. This was the beginning of the process of the exclusion of marxist posi­tions, a process which was going to brutally accelerate in the years following 1909.

b. Gorter against Troelstra on the question of a proletarian ‘morality' (Dec. 1908)

During 1908, De Tribune published a collection of Gorter's major contributions on the vulgarization of marxism: Historic Materialism Explained To Workers. Taking the example of the 1903 strike, Gorter showed that the class struggle produced an authentic class morality which entered into contradiction with the ‘general' morality defended by the tennents of the existing order. The materialist conception, defended by Gorter, which undermined the fundamentals of any religious morality, was violently attacked in parliament by the Christian delegate Savornin Lohman on 19 and 20 November. In defending the unity of the nation, he accused social democracy of wanting to incite the war between the classes and thus intoxicate the working class with marxism.

Instead of making a bloc with Gorter in the face of attacks by a representative of this bourgeois conception, Troelstra launched into a diatribe against Gorter, whom he presented as non-representative of the party and a simple caricature of marxism. For him, morality wasn't determined by social relations; it was equally valid for the proletariat as for the bourgeoisie.

To support this he drew on the ambiguous concepts that Marx had used in the statutes of the Ist International: those of rights, duties and justice. But Troelstra, by deliberately confus­ing values common to mankind and the official morality which he presented as universal, transformed the morality of the class struggle - guid­ed by common interests and an activity aiming at victory - into a monstrosity. Gorter's material­ism was a pure appeal to murder and ended up in a vision of barbarism. According to him, Gorter, for example, would be against "a worker saving a capitalist's son from drowning". Troelstra's demagogy in this argument was identical to Lohman's, with whom he sided.

Gorter replied furiously, as was his style, as much against De Savornin as Troelstra, with a rapidly written pamphlet, published for the needs of the struggle: Class Morality: A Reply to  Savornin Lohman and Troelstra, Members of the  Second Chamber. After a period of political isolation, he threw himself into the struggle for the party.

Gorter focussed sharply on the person of Troelstra who "in reality, in the essence of what he's saying, has chosen the camp of the bourgeoi­sie". He also showed that Troelstra was betraying Marx's real thinking by using the ambiguous terms of the statutes of the Ist International. The correspondence between Marx and Engels, published some years later, gave a triumphant justification to Gorter's arguments. In a letter of 4 November 1884, Marx explained that he had been obliged to make some concessions to the Proudhonists: "I was obliged to include in the preamble to the statutes two phrases containing the words ‘duty' and ‘right' as well as ‘truth, morality and justice', but I placed them in such a way, that they could no harm".

At the same time, Gorter replied vigorously to the accusation that the morality of the proletariat meant attacking individual capitalists without any concern for human feelings. The morality of the proletariat was essentially a fighting morality which sought to defend its interests against the bourgeois class an economic category and not as a sum of individ­uals. It was a morality which aimed to abolish itself in a classless society, leaving in its place a real morality, that of humanity as a whole liberated from class society.

Following this polemic, a split became inev­itable. It was what Troelstra himself wanted, in order to rid the party of any critical mar­xist tendency. In a letter to Vliegen on 3 December he wrote: "The schism is there; the only recourse can be a split".

The split at the Deventer Congress (13-14 February 1909)

In order to eliminate the Tribunists and their review, the revisionist leaders proposed a referendum to examine the question of suppressing the De Tribune review at an extraordinary cong­ress. The party committee was hesitant about and even opposed to such an extraordinary mea­sures. Troelstra went over the committee's head and through a referendum obtained the two-thirds vote needed to convoke a congress. It thus became apparent that the great majority of the SDAP was gangrenous with revisionism; it was even more revisionist at the base than at the summit.

Furthermore, the marxist elements who had come out of Nieuwe Tijd and had collaborated with De Tribune capitulated to Troelstra. Dur­ing a conference held on 31 January, to which the main Tribunist editors weren't even invited, Roland-Holst and Wibaut declared that they were ready to quit the editorship of their review in order to run a future weekly supplement (Het Weekblad) of Het Volk, the SDAP daily. The new publication would be free of any marxist criti­que of revisionism. Instead of solidarising with their comrades in struggle, they made an oath of allegiance to Troelstra, declaring themselves in favor of "a common work of loyal party comradeship", trying to take refuge in a centrist attitude of conciliation between the right and the marxist left. In the marxist movement in Holland, Roland-Holst constantly maintained this attitude.

The Tribunists didn't fail to reproach Roland-Holst for this capitulation; it was an attitude that only made more certain the split that the revisionists wanted.

It's true that, for its part, the marxist minority was far from homogeneous about taking the struggle inside the SDAP to its ultimate conclusion. Wijnkoop, van Ravesteyn and Ceton, who constituted the real organizing head of the minority, had already resolved on a split before the Congress, in order to keep De Tribune going. Gorter, on the other hand, who wasn't formally on the editorial board, was much more reserved. He distrusted this triad's impetuo­sity and did not want to precipitate a split. He hoped that Wijnkoop would moderate his posi­tion and that the Tribunists would stay in the party, even at the price of accepting the sup­pression of De Tribune if they failed to stop this at the Deventer Congress:

"I have continually said against the editorial board of Tribune: we must do everything we can to draw others towards us, but if this fails - after we've fought to the end and all our efforts have failed - then we'll have to yield." (Letter to Kautsky, 16 February 1909)

In fact, at the Extraordinary Congress at Deventer, the Tribunists fought bitterly for two days and in extremely difficult conditions. Often interrupted by Troelstra who systemati­cally used an anti-‘intellectual' demagogy, with his irony about the ‘professors of De Tribune', often encountering the laughing incomprehension of the Congress, they stayed on the offensive. They fought to maintain the revolutionary essence of the party, the "salt of the party" in Gorter's phrase. Without free­dom for a marxist critique of opportunism - a freedom which did exist in the big parties, such as the German - you were suppressing the possibility of "awakening revolutionary consc­iousness". More than any other, Gorter was able to express at the Congress the revolutio­nary conviction of the Tribunists: a decisive period was opening up, a period of menacing war and of revolution in Germany, which would draw Holland into the ferment:

"Internationally, the period is very important. An international war threatens. Then the German proletariat would make the insurrection, and Holland would have to choose its colors; so the party should rejoice that it has in it men who put the revolutionary side of our struggle at the forefront."

Aware that the SDAP was sinking fast, Gorter concluded at the end of the Congress with a vib­rant appeal for the regroupment of revolutiona­ries around De Tribune: "Come and join us round De,Tribune ; don't let the boat go under!" This appeal was not however an invitation to split and set up a new party. Gorter was still convinced of the necessity to stay in the party - otherwise the Tribunists would lose any poss­ibility of developing: "Our strength in the party can increase; our strength outside the party can never grow".

But this battle to remain within the party failed. The splitting process was irreversible given the decisions taken by the Congress majority.

The Congress decided overwhelmingly - 209 mandates against 88, and 15 blanks - to suppress De Tribune and replace it with a weekly run mainly by Roland-Holst. But, above all, it ex­cluded from the party the three editors of Tribune: Wijnkoop, van Ravesteyn and Ceton. In the view of the revisionists, it was necessary to cut off the organizing ‘head', to separate the ‘leaders' from the mass of Tribunist sympathizers in the party.

This maneuver failed. After the shock of the exclusion of these spokesmen for Tribunism, in the sections the militants got back on their feet and solidarised with the three editors. Very quickly, what until then had been an infor­mal tendency became an organized group. Immediately after the Congress - proof that the Tribunists had envisaged this possibility before the split - a permanent organization commission was formed to regroup the Tribunist tendency. Members of the group Nieuwe Tijd, including Gorter, ended up joining the commission. Gorter, after six weeks of doubts and hesitations, fin­ally resolved to commit himself wholeheartedly to working with the expelled Tribunists. How­ever, Gorter warned against the foundation of a second party on a purely voluntarist basis.

It was in fact the SDAP's publication, on 13 March, of the party referendum approving the decisions at Deventer, which pushed the excluded comrades to form a second party. By 3712 votes against 1340, the SDAP confirmed the expulsion of the whole editorial board of Tribune.

In the meantime, on 10 March, before this definitive announcement of expulsion was known, Gorter and Wijnkoop had gone to Brussels. They were met by three members of the Bureau of the Socialist International - Huysmans, Vandervelde and Anseele, all known to belong to the right - which resided in the Belgian capital. The aim of the meeting was to resolve the ‘Dutch' ques­tion'. Contrary to their fears, Gorter and Wijnkoop got a lot of understanding from the BSI; it was indignant about the expulsions dec­ided at Deventer, and tried to obtain the rein­tegration of the excluded members as the free expression of marxism within the SDAP. To act as a mediator, Huysmans, the secretary of the Bureau, went to Holland to obtain the following decisions from the SDAP:

-- annulment of the Deventer exclusions

-- the acceptance of one of the excluded editors in the new weekly run by Roland-Holst

-- the recognition of the right of expression for the marxist minority.

On all these points, the leading organs of the SDAP seemed to be shaken by Huysmans opinions, put forward on 15 March. But the day before, 14 March, in Amsterdam, had been held the Founding Congress of the Tribunist party, which took the name SDP (Social Democratic Party). Its foundation had thus been decided on by its members without even waiting for the results of the BSI's negotiations with the SDAP. The latter, though aware of the discus­sions since 10 March, had confirmed the exclusions on 13 March.

Thus the SDP was- born in a situation of extreme confusion. It was a small party of 419 members divided into nine sections. Its pro­gram was that of the old party prior to 1906, before the revisionist modifications.

Wijnkoop was nominated by the Congress as party president, because of his organizational capacities. Gorter became a member of the SDP leadership. But his organizational weight was too weak to counteract the personal, ambitious policies of Wijnkoop, who was ready to sacrifice any possibility of unity on the altar of ‘his' group. Such a policy was only too convenient for the revisionist majority of the SDAP who wanted a definitive split with the marxist current.

For all these reasons, the BSI's efforts to put an end to the split failed. An Extraordi­nary Congress urgently convoked for 21 March, a week after the Founding Congress, rejected by a majority Huysman's proposal to return to the SDAP. Gorter, along with a few of the SDAP old guard, was in favor. He judged the attitude of Wijnkoop to be particularly irresponsible, denouncing him in private as being "opinionated without limits". He was so demoralized at this point that he even momentarily considered leav­ing the SDP. However, the rejection by the BSI and the SDAP of the conditions for the reinte­gration of the Tribunist militants made him dec­ide to commit himself fully to the activity of the new party.

The Congress of 21 March, despite Wijnkoop's far from clear attitude, had in fact left the door open to a reintegration into the new party. A Congress resolution expressed the majority's desire to maintain a single party in Holland; therefore the Congress put forward the condit­ions that would allow the Tribunists to carry on their marxist critique and activity within the SDAP, if they were accepted:

"(the Congress) wishes there to be a single social democratic party in Holland and charges the Party committee, in the interests of unity, to give itself the full power to dissolve the SDP as soon as:

-- the SDAP, through a referendum, cancels the exclusion of the three editors;

-- the SDAP recognizes in a clearly formulated resolution the freedom of all its members or any group of members, openly, in any form, writ­ten and oral, to proclaim the principles consigned in the program and to express their criticisms."

The rejection of these conditions, which appeared as an ultimatum, by the BSI and the SDAP, created a new situation in the International: in one country there were two socialist parties, both claiming adherence to the IInd Internatio­nal. This situation was an exceptional one in the IInd International. Even in Russia, after the split between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, the two fractions remained adher­ents of the same party: the Social Democratic Labor Party of Russia. But in Holland, it pro­ved politically impossible to remain members of the same party; and neither the revisionist majority nor the Tribunist minority had the will to do so.

It was however very clear for the marxist militants of the SDP that their party was a party of the International. The split was a local one, not a split with the IInd International.

Up until the First World War

Up until the first world war, when it was to gain a growing audience in the proletariat, the SDP was ‘crossing the desert'. It remained a small party without much influence in the Dutch proletariat: a few hundred militants against several thousand in Troelstra's SDAP. Its numerical growth was very slow and limited, despite its militant spirit: at the time of the split, the SDP had 408 militants; in 1914, 525. The number of subscribers to De Tribune was limited and fluctuating: 900 at the time of the Deventer Congress; 1400 in May 1909 and 1266 in 1914. Because of its limited audience, the SDP was never a parliamentary party - it became one at the end of the war; its participation in elections was always a debacle. At the June 1909 elections, it obtained 1.5% of the votes in each district. Even Gorter, reputed to be the best orator in the party, the only one able to arouse the workers' enthusiasm, met with a resounding failure: pushed to be an election candidate in1913, in Amsterdam and the industrial town of Enschede, he won 196 votes for the SDP as against 5325 for the SDAP in the latter town. But even if it participated in elections, this wasn't the real terrain of the SDP, in contrast to the SDAP which had become completely bogged down in it.

Reduced to the size of a small cohort, the SDP - owing to the unfavorable conditions in which the Deventer split had taken place - was unable to rally to its side the youth organization, which had traditionally held its ground actively and radically in the struggle against capitalism and war. The youth organization De Zaaier (‘The Sower'), which had been created in 1901, wanted to remain autonomous: its sections were free to attach themselves to one or the other of the parties. When, in 1911, the SDAP created its own youth organization, essentially to counteract the anti-militarist activity of Zaaier, the latter broke up. The few remaining militants (about 100) nevertheless refused to follow the SDP, despite the common orientation.

Despite the party's theoretical solidity, there was a risk that the SDP would slide into sectarianism. The party's links with the industrial proletariat had become distended since the split. Less than half its members worked in factories or workshops; a considerable part was made up of employees and teachers. The summit of the party - at least until 1911 - was composed of intellectuals, solid theoreticians but - except for Gorter - often sectarian and doctrinaire. This leadership of teachers was tending to transform the SDP into a sect.

The struggle against sectarianism within the  SDP was posed from the beginning. In May 1909 Mannoury - one of the leaders of the party and a future Stalinist chief - declared that the SDP was the one and only socialist party, since the SDAP had become a bourgeois party. Gorter, the one who had fought most bitterly against Troelstra, vigorously opposed this conception, at first as a minority; he showed that, although revisionism did lead towards the bourgeois camp, the SDAP was above all an opportunist party within the proletarian camp. This position had direct implications at the level of propaganda and agitation in the class. It was in fact possible to fight alongside the SDAP, whenever the latter still defended a class position, without making the slightest theoretical concessions to it.           

‘Sect or party?', this was the question Gorter            posed very clearly in front of the whole party in November 1910. The question was whether the to associate itself with a petition for universal suffrage launched by the SDAP. The SDP, like all the socialist parties of that time, was fighting for universal suffrage. The central question was therefore the class analysis of the SDAP, but also the struggle against sectarian inaction during political battles. At the beginning, only a small minority, led by Gorter, supported the idea of the petition and agitation for universal suffrage. It needed all Gorter's weight for a small majority to emerge in favor of common activity with the SDAP. Gorter showed the danger of a tactic of non-participation, which ran the risk of pushing the party into total isolation. Towards the SDAP, which was certainly "not a true party" but "a conglomeration, a mass trooped together under a band of demagogues", the tactic had to be that of a ‘hornet' stinging it in the right direction. This attitude was finally that of the party until the war, when the SDAP crossed the Rubicon by voting for war credits.

The evolution of the SDAP in fact confirmed the validity of the combat which the Tribunists had waged against the revisionists since the beginning. The latter were being progressively drawn into the ideology and state apparatus of the bourgeoisie. In 1913, the SDAP pronounced itself in favor of military mobilization in case of war, and Troelstra openly proclaimed adherence to nationalism and militarism: "We must do our duty" he wrote in the SDAP daily.

Strengthened by its electoral success in 1913, the SDAP, which had won 18 seats, declared that it was ready to accept ministerial posts in the new liberal government. The participation in a bourgeois government would have meant the total abandonment of the remaining proletarian principles by Troelstra's party. However, there was a last, weak proletarian reaction within the party: at its Congress in Zwolle, against Troelstra's advice, there was a small majority (375 against 320) against ministerial participation. It's true that the agitation against participation carried out by the SDP - in the form of an open letter written by Gorter and addressed to the Congress - was not unconnected to this reaction, even though the letter wasn't made known to the Congress.

The SDP's activity wasn't limited to the critique of the SDAP. It was essentially grounded in the class struggle, in economic struggles and in action against war:

-- the international resurgence of class struggles after 1910 favorised the activity of the party, giving it enthusiasm and confidence. Its militants participated with those of the NAS in the struggles of the Amsterdam masons in 1909 and 1910, in defiance of the SDAP which the workers judged as a ‘state party'. In 1910, the party formed with the NAS an ‘Agitation Committee against High Living Costs'. Thus began a long joint activity with the revolutionary syndicalists, which helped the SDP develop its influence in the Dutch proletariat before and during the war. This joint activity had the consequence of progressively reducing the weight of anarchist elements within the small union and of developing a receptivity to revolutionary marxist positions.

It was obvious for the SDP that the IInd International remained a living body for the international proletariat and that it had not at all rea­ched a state of 'bankruptcy. The bankruptcy of Troelstra's SDAP was not at all that of the International. For the SDP, the ‘model' party was still, as it was for the Bolsheviks, the German social democracy, with which it had close links. Gorter, as a member of the SDP leadership, was in regular correspondence with Kautsky, at least until 1911, when the left broke with the Kautskyist centre. Pannekoek, who had been living in Germany since 1906 and had been a member of the SDP since the split, was also a member of the Bremen section of the SPD, after hav­ing taught at the party school.

To become a section of the International, the SDP had promptly applied to the BSI. Gorter and Wijnkoop were mandated to explain to the BSI the reasons for the split, basing themselves on rep­orts specially drawn up for the purpose. The request for the new party to be accepted as a full section was the object of a conflict between a left represented by Singer (SPD) and Vaillant, and a right whose spokesman was the Austrian Adler. By a small majority the SDP's application was rejected: Adler's resolution against accep­tance got 16 votes, Singer's 11. Thus, on 7 November 1909, through this vote, the SDP was de facto excluded from the international workers' movement, by a BSI majority which had taken up the cause of revisionism.

The SDP nevertheless had the unconditional sup­port of the Bolshevik Left, Lenin - who had made contact with Gorter before the BSI - indignantly condemned the BSI's decision. For him there was no doubt that the revisionists were responsible for the split. "(the BSI) has adopted a forma­list decision and, clearly taking the side of the opportunists, has placed the responsibility for the split with the marxists." He unreservedly approved the Tribunists for not accepting the suspension of De Tribune. Like them, he con­demned the centrism of Roland-Holst "who has unfortunately shown a dreary spirit of concilia­tion."

Thus there began between the SDP and the Bolsheviks a community of action which was to become closer and closer. In part thanks to the Russian left, the SDP was finally accepted in 1910 as a full section of the International. Granted one mandate against the SDAP's 7, it was able to participate in the work at the interna­tional Congresses at Copenhagen in 1910 and Bale in 1912.

Thus, despite the maneuvers of the revisio­nists, the SDP was fully integrated into the international workers' movement. Its struggle for the defense of revolutionary principles would be carried out conjointly with the inter­national left, particularly the German left.

The political struggle against the threatened war was a constant activity of the SDP. It particip­ated very actively in the Bale Congress of 1912, a Congress whose central issue was the threat of war. The SDP, like other parties, proposed it­self in favor of protest strikes in case war broke out. This amendment, which was rejected, took care to distinguish itself from the idea of the ‘general strike' launched by the anarchists. Unfortunately, following the ban on debates at the Congress, the speech that Gorter had prep­ared against pacifism wasn't read. The revolu­tionary voice of the SDP wasn't heard in the International, while the pacifist Jaures held forth from the Tribune.


On the eve of the war, the SDP - after a crisis of sectarian isolation - had undeniably developed an activity in the Dutch proletariat which was not without its fruits. The SDAP's evolution to­wards ‘ministerialism' - ie participation in bour­geois governments, its acceptance of ‘national defense' had incontestably confirmed the analyses of the marxist current. But given the very unfavorable conditions of the Deventer split, this current remained very weak numerically: the revo­lutionary current was hidden behind a revisionist current in full numerical and electoral expansion.

In such a small party, the political orienta­tion remained partly determined by the weight of personalities. The theoretical clarity of a Gorter and his active support were vital in the face of the organizational ambitions and lack of principles of people like Wijnkoop and Ravesteyn. This opposition was pregnant with a new split.

However, the strength and echo of the Dutch marxist current went beyond the narrow confines of little Holland. It was in the International and alongside the German left that Dutch marxism contributed decisively to the birth of the com­munist left. This contribution was less organizational than theoretical, and was determined by the work of Pannekoek in Germany. This was at once a strength and a weakness of the Dutch ‘Tribunists'.


Development of proletarian consciousness and organisation: