Proclamation of the Dutch revolution

Proclamation of the socialist revolution – a history

Inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the German Revolution of 1918, Troelstra made one of the moves that would guarantee him a place in parliamentary history: the proclamation of the socialist revolution in November 1918. There was already talk of possible revolutions in Great Britain and France. The poverty that resulted from the World War I, and the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 had struck the lower class hard (also in the Netherlands). And now there was unrest in the Netherlands as well. In military camp Harskamp soldiers had started a revolt, which spread to a dozen other camps. This had nothing to do with politics, but the Russian revolution the previous year had also started like this. And there was such unrest among the workers in Rotterdam that a strike was likely. On 5 November, Troelstra warned parliament for what might come. Right wing politicians also started thinking a revolution was unavoidable. On 9 November, the German emperor Wilhelm II abdicated (and fled to the neutral Netherlands), a sign of the crumbling hierarchy, upon which a revolution in Germany seemed imminent. The mayor of Rotterdam saw what might come and called a meeting with socialists to ensure that, in case of a revolution, essential facilities like gas and water plants were left alone. The government had a similar meeting. On 10 November, members of the SDAP who were at first sceptical now believed that a revolution was indeed possible.

The navy in Den Helder decided to disarm the sailors because there was too much unrest among them. The also socialist party RSC organised a meeting with mainly soldiers, who next marched on a military barracks to seek support, but were shot at, resulting in 3 dead and 18 wounded.

On the argument that the revolution would not stop at the border, Troelstra suggested that power be transferred to the SDAP. A program of changes was drawn, including women’s suffrage, an 8-hour working day, abolition of the Senate, nationalisation of appropriate companies and a state pension at the age of 60. But the party thought the time was not ripe and did not allow him to go any further—which he ignored.

On 11 November, Troelstra proclaimed the revolution, during a debate about the general Snijder’s suppression of the Harskamp revolt.


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