ROMAN CATHOLISM AND SOCIALISM
SOCIAL HISTORY OF EINDHOVEN 1885 - 1946
EINDHOVEN AT THE END OF THE 19TH CENTURY
In 1885 a socialist for the first time appeared on the market place of Eindhoven. This member of the 'Sociaal-Democratische Bond' (Social-Democratic Association) however was chased away from the market place, when he tried to preach his ideas about socialism.
Eindhoven, a city in the southern part of the Netherlands, was still a very small town in those days. It counted scarcely 4500 inhabitants. Together with the surrounding communities Eindhoven had about 20.000 inhabitants in 1885. The main means of subsistence were found in textile-industry and the manufactoring of cigars. The Philips Incasdescent Lamp / Glow Lamp Factories, which were founded in 1891, had only 600 workers in 1900.
As appears from 'De Arbeidsenquête 1890-1892' (the Labour Relations Inquiry of 1890-1892) the conditions of the workers were poor: low wages, bad labour-conditions and a the widespread phenomenon of women- and child-labour in Eindhoven. Besides this, bad housing conditions and truck-system were frequently.
The first group of labourers that manifested themselves regularly were those of the cigar-makers. In 1888 they founded their first organization in Eindhoven: 'De Tabaksplant' (The Tobacco-plant), which only existed a couple of years. After four years this organization was transferred into a branch of the 'Nederlandsch-Belgische Internationale Sigarenmakers- en Tabaksbewerkersbond' (Dutch-Belgian International Association of Cigar-makers and Tobacco-workers). Also this organization lasted only a couple of years. One of the first members was the roman catholic cigar-maker Hannes van Glabbeek.
The Dutch Social-Democratic Workers Party
In 1894 the 'Sociaaldemokratische Arbeiderspartij' (Social-Democratic Workers Party) was founded in the city of Zwolle in the province of Overijssel. Among the twelve founders was Henri Hubert van Kol, born in Eindhoven. He financially may have been supporting the propagandist-activities of the socialists in the southern part of the Netherlands. In the year mentioned the socialist Hendrik Spiekman from the province of Groningen was appointed Social-Democratic propagandist in the province of Noord-Brabant. During his many journeys he frequently visited Eindhoven. Here he met the woodworker Hendrik Rooijmans, who regularly bought his 'Volkstribuun' ('People's Tribune'). As a consequence of the intense opposition Spiekman was obliged to cease his propaganda-activities in Brabant in 1896.
Meanwhile a 'R.-K. Volksbond' (Roman catholic People's Association) was founded in Eindhoven in the end of 1895. This was partly a result of (and reaction to) Spiekman's activities.
It was the first serious initiative of the roman catholic clergy to improve the bad conditions of the working class. The papal encyclical letter 'Rerum Novarum' of 1891 had been their inspiration. Principal goal of this association however was: "The maintainance of roman catholic principles among the workers, and fighting socialism".
Christian Workers Association 'De Eendracht'
The roman catholic Hendrik Rooijmans was very critical towards this Roman catholic People's Association and he wrote about it in 'The People's Tribune'. He gained support for his critics from the cigar-maker Hannes van Glabbeek, who together with a couple of supporters, separated from the Roman catholic Tobacco-Guild in 1897. They seceded from the Roman catholic People's Association and founded once again a branch of the socialist Cigarmakers Association. Later in that year Hendrik Rooijmans also separated from the Roman catholic People's Association, together with a number of supporters. They founded their Christian Workers Association 'De Eendracht'. This organisation really aimed at improving conditions of the workers.
The local press, 'De Meierijsche Courant' ('The Bailiwick Newspaper') and the 'Peel- en Kempenbode' ('The Messenger of Peel and Campina') combatted this new undenominatonal organization, which was said to be socialistic. The very conservative roman catholic clergy too had its share in this combat. Only the social roman catholic priest Lambert Poell, chaplain in the village of Woensel, had a somewhat differentiated approach.
'Eindhoven Forward' and the Philips Brothers
Almost in the same period of time a number of progressive inhabitants of Eindhoven, mainly entrepreneurs, united in 1898. They founded a new organization on an unsectarian basis too, 'Eindhoven Vooruit' (Eindhoven Forward). The acitivities of this organization also involved over politics and supported progressive candidates in the elections for the national Parliament and local councils. This tolerant and liberal organisation however got a counterpart: the very roman catholic 'Leo-vereniging' (Pope Leo-Association), under the leadership of the conservative roman catholic baron Van Wijnbergen.
Some of the progressive members of 'Eindhoven Forward' were the protestant incasdescent lampmakers Anton and Gerard Philips and their roman catholic grand cousins and soap-manufacturers Louis and Eduard Redelé. The roman catholic chairman of the Workers Association 'De Eendracht', Hendrik Rooijmans, mentioned before, and the roman catholic teacher Matheus van de Ven were members as well. The latter was a member of the Social-Democratic Workers Party. He contributed to the socialist periodical 'De Sociaaldemokraat' ('The Social-Democrat').
Eduard Redelé was the most talented member of the new organization. In his youth he wrote poetry and corresponded with well-known poets as Frederik van Eeden. He wrote articles in local newspapers and became one of the regular contributors to the monthly magazine 'Eindhoven Vooruit'. In his articles he proved to be very tolerant and socially moved. This to such an extend that publication of his 'Brieven aan Godefriedus Janssens' ('Letters to Godefriedus Janssens'), which was a popular explanation of Marxism, in 'Eindhoven Vooruit', eventually had to be cutt off. This mentioned paper wished to remain strictly impartial.
'The Union'. The Eindhoven Magazine of the Christian Workers Association
In March 1900 Hendrik Rooijmans published a pamphlet called 'De opkomende arbeidersbeweging te Eindhoven' ('The rise of the Workers' Movement in Eindhoven'). In writing this brochure he most likely had the assistance of Eduard Redelé and Matheus van de Ven. The latter had been dismissed by his roman catholic schoolboard because of his membership of 'Eindhoven Vooruit' and his liberal ideas. In december 1900 the three of them started their own monthly paper: 'De Eendracht. Orgaan van Christelijke Werkliedenvereeniging De Eendracht' ('The Union. Magazine of the Christian Workers Association The Union') Eduard Redelé was the most important contributor of 'De Eendracht'. In his monthly magazine he tried to demonstrate that it was possible to be both roman catholic and socialist. This provoked a storm of protest: roman catholic entrepreneurs, clergymen and journalists all over the province of Brabant vigourously opposed to him. Eduard Redelé however vividly defended his views both by sending letters to the editors of the antagonist roman catholic newspapers and through his own editorial articles in 'De Eendracht'.
Jan Jansen, a young roman catholic and socialist employee of the Philips Incasdescent Lamp Factories, who came from the western part of the province of Brabant, strongly supported this conception. Already in 1903 he accomodated both the editorial board and the administration of the magazine 'De Eendracht'. One year later he himself published a pamphlet, entitled 'De Sociaal-Democratie, en Waarom en hoe zij bestreden wordt' ('The Social-Democracy. Why and how it is antagonised'). His main view was the idea that is was possible to unite roman catholicism and socialism.
His pamphlet was read by a roman catholic priest from the town of Breda, dr. Jan van den Brink. He tried to get into touch with the Eindhoven socialist. At the end of 1904 De Eendracht already published a brochure written by this priest, entitled 'De Groote Vraag' ('The Great Question'). Once again a storm of protests rose in the roman catholic province of Brabant. A roman catholic priest who pronounced for socialism! A wave of publicity caused numerous reprints of his booklet.
Socialist Cooperation and the Philips Brothers
In the year 1902 the Eindhoven roman catholic socialists founded their own bakery and co-operative stores, called 'Helpt Elkander' ('Help Each Other'). This was one of the initiatives of Hendrik Rooijmans and it was realised with the help of Eduard Redelé and the Philips brothers! Despite the opposition and fierce reactions the manager, Hendrik Rooijmans, succeeded in building this organization into a strong basis of Eindhoven socialism.
In the meantime the monthly 'De Eendracht' had gained more subscribers. Apart from Eduard Redelé Jan Jansen and Matheus van de Ven were regular collaborators. The latter had moved to Wormerveer in the province of North-Holland. In 1902 Eduard Redelé joined the 'Sociaal-Democratische Arbeiderspartij' (Social-Democratic Workers Party). Both Jansen and Van de Ven preceded him. Hendrik Rooijmans followed in 1904.
In their magazine 'De Eendracht' Eduard Redelé published his series 'Godsdienst en Socialisme' ('Religion and Socialism'), which was a consequent defence of the idea of the goiing together of roman catholicism and socialism. He developped a peculiar form of christian-socialism: a socialism based upon christianity, rejecting both materialism and class-struggle. was idealistic and aimed at real improvement of the conditions of the working class. This christian-socialism had to endure lots of criticism, not only from roman catholic circles.
Even with prominent socialist ideologists such as Anton Pannekoek, Eduard Redelé had to discuss the nature of socialism and its relation with religion.
At the end of 1904 the Workers Association De Eendracht was abolished. Their magazine got a new subtitle: 'Socialistisch, niet-materialistisch Volksblad'('Socialist, non-materialist People's Magazine').
The Eindhoven Branch of the Social-Democrat Workers Party
In 1903 the great railway strikes demonstrated existing social relations. In Eindhoven manifestations of protest had occured too. The 'Eendracht'-organization published a pamphlet of Eduard Redelé: 'De Aprilstaking tegenover een jong Sociaal-Democraat beoordeeld' ('The April-Strike judged towards a young Social-Democrat'). In the periode 1903-1904 several prominent socialists visited Eindhoven to deliver a lecture: J.H. Schaper, P.J. Troelstra and H.H. van Kol.
After a failure to establish a branch of the 'Sociaal-Democratische Arbeiderspartij' (SDAP, Social-Democrat Workers Party) in 1901, now, in November 1904, the Eindhoven branch of the SDAP was founded. Eduard Redelé became chairman, Jan Jansen first secretary. The branch started with twenty members. All kinds of prominent socialists came to visit Eindhoven. Among them were: the famous writer Henriëtte Roland Holst, David Wijnkoop and Hendrik Spiekman.
The magazine 'De Eendracht' did not succeed in getting sufficient subscribers. Limited financial resources compelled the Eindhoven roman catholic socialists to ask for help of the SDAP. The party now saw an opportunity to transform the christian-socialist Eindhoven magazine into a mere party-paper. This however did not occur until 1907. In this year Eduard Redelé, the chief-editor, sufferd from severe overstrain. His christian-socialism was consistently rejected by a condemning Roman roman catholic Church. At the same time he regularly clashed with his sceptical SDAP. In the same year 'De Eendracht' became party-organ of the Social-Democratic Workers Party in Noord-Brabant. His former collegue Jan Jansen was the main editor.
More Socialists from Holland in Eindhoven
In the meantime Eindhoven socialists had their own magazine, 'De Eendracht', their own bakery and co-operative stores 'Helpt Elkander', and a branch of the socialist party. In 1906 the 'Nederlandsch Verbond van Vakvereenigingen' (Dutch Association of Trade-Unions) was founded as well as the 'Eindhovensche Bestuurdersbond' (Eindhoven Association of Trade-Unionmembers). One year later the cooperation supported the striking cigar-makers during the great strike in which no less than 2800 Eindhoven cigar-makers were locked out by their employers.
More and more socialists came to Eindhoven, mainly because of the vaste expansion of Philips Incasdescent Lamp Factories. The new-comers did not have as propriate feeling for the relations in Eindhoven and the majority among them did not sympathise with the existing christian-socialism. They critisised the cooperation, which, in their view, was not enough socialistic. The most important of the newly arrived socialists was G.J.A. Smit, a high employee at the Philips works. He drew hard conclusions about Eindhoven roman catholic socialists in general and about their co-operative stores in particular. Together with J. ten Napel, who also came from the Northwest of Holland he succeeded in setting both Jansen and Rooijmans against himself.
Despite of all this the co-operative stores flourished. Besides the bakery and the stores a couple of houses were built and a club-building was erected. A socialist brass band was founded, as well as a library, a theatrical company, a walking- and cycling-club, etc.
Roman catholics against the Eindhoven socialists
Apart from internal criticism the original Eindhoven socialists were consistently criticsized by the roman catholic clergy. In the meantime Jan Jansen was the most important leader of Eindhoven roman catholic socialists. At Easter 1906 a parish-priest refused him the communion. This fact led to Jansen's correspondence with the Bishop of Bois-le-Duc. According to the Bishop Eindhoven roman catholics either had to abide socialism or they would be expelled from the Church.
A few years after the roman catholic priest Jan van den Brink became a member of the socialist party, the Capuchin monk father Coelestinus (H.J. van Vorst) became a socialist too.
For a short time he was active in Eindhoven. He delivered lectures, wrote articles in 'De Eendracht', debated with roman catholic prominents and wrote a pamphlet, which was published by the Eindhoven socialists in 1908: 'Christendom en Sociaal-Democratie' ('Christianity and Social-Democracy'). His way of acting resulted in a new series of protests by roman catholic prominents. As a consequence of his booklet a pamphlet against socialism was published in Eindhoven. This brochure, written by the Eindhoven chaplain M. Nabuurs, was entitled 'Het Eindhovensch Socialisme' ('Eindhoven Socialism').
Still Jan Jansen was the main editor of 'De Eendracht'. He published a reaction to the chaplain's pamphlet. In his magazine, which appeared twice a month now, he had his own column 'Brieven van Janus Zorgvliet' ('Letters from Careless Janus') in which he humorously mocked at local situations and promoted socialist alternatives.
In 1908 'De Eendracht' was placed on the list of forbidden lecture by the Roman catholic church: the Index. In those days the magazine had about 400 subscribers. In the same year the SDAP had appointed a socialist propagandist for the province of Noord-brabant. This man was A.F. Muller. He came from Arnhem and settled in the wooltown of Tilburg. After a year he succeeded in putting Jansen aside and getting editorship and administration of 'De Eendracht'. The typical Eindhoven character of het magazine got lost more and more. Instead of the hamonious way of operating now the conflict-model was used by the socialists.
This also happened also inside the Eindhoven branch of the SDAP. The original Eindhoven socialists Jansen and Rooijmans counted less. Socialists who came from Holland took over the prominent positions in the Eindhoven branch of the party. They disposed of the traditional harmonious way of handling things and introduced the harsh conflict-model. In the year 1910 internal conflicts came to an outburst. Both Jansen and Rooijmans were almost completely shifted aside now.
In 1911 'De Eendracht'-magazine was no longer published. A new socialist paper was made, called 'De Strijd' ('The Struggle'). This new magazine of Brabants SDAP-branches was led from the town of Breda. The change of the title of the paper is characteristic for the new way of thinking of the socialists. No more harmony, according to the local Eindhoven christian-socialism, but fighting and socialism of the national Social-Democrats prevailed.
A strike against the Philips company
The good relations between the socialists in Eindhoven and the Philips brothers became more difficult. Nearly all the socialists from Holland, who were working at the Philips company in Eindhoven, were members of the (socialist) 'Algemene Metaalbewerkersbond' (General Dutch Metal-workers Association). Growing presumptuous because of the increasing number of members of their association they fought a number of small conflicts at the company. By the end of 1911 they claimed a collective contract and they faced a big conflict with the Philips Company. A strike, which eventually led to a lock out and a great defeat for the metalworkers' association was the result. Consequently a lot of socialist Philips-employees left Eindhoven at the beginning of 1912.
Because of this a great part of the 'Holland'-staff of the Eindhoven socialist branch disappeared. And again the Eindhoven-born socialists gained more influence. Jansen and Rooijmans once more became active and prominent members. The hamonious way of dealing with things returned too. In the meantime however the characteristics of Eindhoven socialisme had almost completely disappeared. The party-branch developed more and more as one of many socialist branches in the Netherlands. The only characteristic which remained was the plea in favour of a growing together of socialism and roman catholicism, which could be regularly be observed in Eindhoven. Lots of articles in 'De Strijd' were about that theme. The attitude of the Roman roman catholic Church towards the socialists however remained absolutely negative.
The struggle for universal suffrage
The Eindhoven branch of the SDAP now used their energy for trying to obtain universal suffrage, as did all the socialist branches of the party. They interfered less with the socialist magazine 'De Strijd'. Trade-Union-activities became more and more important. In 1912 J. Westerhof was appointed propagandist of the Dutch association of trade-unions in Eindhoven. As a consequence of this the number of trade-union-members increased.
Although the Netherlands were not belligerent, the Great War caused all kinds of shortage and unemployment in Eindhoven. The SDAP was accepted more and more because of the great success the party had at the elections of 1913. In Eindhoven as well socialists were asked to participate in Relief Committees and Funds for the unemployed. In 1917 universal suffrage for men was realised in the Netherlands. As a consequence of this different groups of roman catholics in Eindhoven united to be strong against the socialist party.
In November 1918 the national leader of the SDAP, Troelstra, was said to have made an attempt at seizing power. As a result of this alleged 'revolution' activities in favor of queen, gouvernment and country and against the socialists were undertaken in Eindhoven and other places. Once again strong feelings of opposition against the socialists rose among the organised roman catholics. The Philips Company nevertheless realised in their factories one of the great desires of the socialists: their eight-hour-day. They did so, before it was prescribed by law. The relation between the company and the socialists improved.
In 1919 the local SDAP participated in the elections for the councils of the Eindhoven communities. For the first time in their history socialists entered the local councils of Eindhoven, Gestel, Strijp, Stratum and Woensel. They only failed in doing so in the rural community of Tongelre. A plan existed to unify these communities into one big community. The Eindhoven socialists strongly supported this idea. In 1920 the new community 'Groot Eindhoven' (Greater Eindhoven) was realised. In the following elections the socialists won only three of the twenty-nine seats in the city council. Nevertheless parliamentary periode of Eindhoven socialists had begun. Andries de Jong became leader of the socialists in the council. He was born in the nothern province of Friesland but had already worked for about ten years at the co-operative stores 'Helpt Elkander'. Jan Jansen and Hendrik Rooijmans were elected too. The latter however did nog accept his seat in the city council.
Decline of het socialist cooperation
By far the largest of socialist organizations in Eindhoven was the co-operation 'Helpt Elkander'. The number of members was still increasing. Between 1902 and 1920 it rose from 30 members to about 700! In 1916 an important expansion of the bakery and stores was realised. This was made possible by a mortgage of the Philips company. A year after this a housing-society 'Goed Wonen' ('Good Housing') was founded by the co-operation. This organization however did not succeed and eventually was abolished in 1927. From 1918 'Helpt Elkander' was confronted with competitors. The Philips Company founded their own co-operative stores 'Etos'. This initiative led to alienation between Hendrik Rooijmans on one side and the Philips brothers and their socialist employee Jan Jansen on the other side. Rooijmans came into conflict with them and did not accept his seat in the town council. In 1921 he left Eindhoven.
Socialist party and the trade union
The SDAP-branch grew from 25 members to 216 between 1904 and 1920. In 1933 a pre-war peak was reached: 348 members. The Dutch association of trade-unions grew as well. In 1920 there were 884 members in Eindhoven. In 1933 their pre-war peak was reached: 3493 members. Moreover the organised roman catholic workers were three times as big. The growth mainly was a consequence of the growth of the city of Eindhoven. In the period between 1920 and 1946 the total number of inhabitants tripled: from 45.000 to 125.000.
In the year 1931 the SDAP in Eindhoven had their best result: they obtained no less than 18.9 percent at the local council elections. This was an equivalent for eight seats in the city council. The roman catholic party had 24 seats. In spite of this good result, the socialists did not succeed in getting a seat in the council of the mayor and aldermen of Eindhoven. Before the Second World War the RKSP (Roman roman catholic Stateparty) remained the dominant factor in town. During the Interbellum the politics of the Eindhoven socialists, who did not distinguish themselves anymore from those of other socialist branches in the country, remained almost completely without results. This would become different after the War.
Roman catholics and socialists
The Relation between religion and socialism did not change in the thirties either. Only after the Second World War the situation changed. In 1946 the 'Partij van de Arbeid' (Labourparty) took the place of the old SDAP. The roman catholic Bishops this time did not forbid to vote for this new social-democratic party. Jan Jansen, the prominent Eindhoven socialist who, in spite of his ex-communication, had remained a roman catholic, celebrated his 50-year wedding in a roman catholic mass. After his death, ten years later, he even got a religious funeral. Eventually the new relation in which roman catholicism accepted socialism became reality. It was this relation which Eindhoven christian-socialists had aimed at since 1900..
The above text is a very brief summary of a Ph.D.-thesis by
dr. Henk Giebels:
Katholicisme en socialisme. Het zelfbeeld van de Eindhovens christen-socialisten in het spanningsveld tussen traditie en moderniteit 1885-1920
(Ph.D.-thesis Brabant Roman Catholic University of Tilburg; The Netherlands) Tilburg 1994.
Published by the 'Stichting Zuidelijk Historisch Contact' in Tilburg: Vol. no. 99 of the Series:
' Bijdragen tot de Geschiedenis van het Zuiden van Nederland' ('Contributions to the History of the Southern part of the Netherlands'; Bibliography, Register and a Summary in English;
ISBN 90-70641-49-6-geb.; 584 pp. + XXXI pp.; Illustrated. (This study describes and explains the relation between Roman catholicism and Socialism in Eindhoven from 1885 till 1920 (1946)