May 13, 1883|
|Died||April 13, 1942
Amersfoort concentration camp
Hendricus Josephus Franciscus Marie Sneevliet, known as Henk Sneevliet or by the pseudonym "Maring" (1883 - 1942), was a Dutch Communist, who was active in both the Netherlands and the Dutch East-Indies. As a functionary of the Communist International, Sneevliet helped to guide the formation of the Communist Party of China in 1921. He took part in the Communist resistance against the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, for which he was executed by the Germans in April 1942.
Hendricus "Henk" Sneevliet was born May 13, 1883 in Rotterdam, Netherlands and grew up in 's-Hertogenbosch. He was the son of Anthonie Sneevliet, a cigar maker, and the former Henrica J.W. van Mackelenbergh.
After finishing his education in 1900, Sneevliet moved to Zutphen and working for the Dutch railways. He became a member of the Social Democratic Workers Party (SDAP) as well as the Netherlands Association of Railway and Tramway Employees (NV) in 1902. From 1906, Sneevliet was active for the SDAP in Zwolle, where he became the first social democrat city council member in the elections of 1907.
Sneevliet was very active in the NV and was elected to the union's executive committee in 1906. In 1909 he was tapped as vice-chairman of the union and named as editor-in-chief of the union's official journal. He became chairman of the union in 1911.
Sneevliet, as a committed socialist and militant trade unionist, was strongly supportive of an international seamen's strike which was called in 1911 and was disgruntled by the failure of his union and political party to support the campaign. As a result he resigned from both organizations, joining instead the more radical Social Democratic Party of the Netherlands (forerunner of the Dutch Communist Party) and writing for the Marxist magazine De Nieuwe Tijd (The New Time). Sneevliet's alienation strengthened him in his decision to leave the Netherlands for the Dutch East Indies.
Dutch East Indies
Sneevliet lived in the Dutch East Indies (roughly equal to present day Indonesia) from 1913 until 1918, where he quickly became active in the struggle against Dutch colonial rule. In 1914, he was a co-founder of the Indies Social Democratic Association (ISDV), in which both Dutch and Indonesian people were active.
He also returned to union work, becoming a member of the Vereeniging van Spoor- en Tramwegpersoneel, a railway union which was unique in having both Dutch and Indonesian members. Thanks to his experience as a union leader, he soon managed to turn this still fairly moderate union into a more modern and aggressive union, with a majority of Indonesian members. This union later formed the base for the Indonesian communist movement.
ISDV was strictly anti-capitalist and agitated against the Dutch colonial regime and the privileged Indonesian elites. This led to much resistance against the ISDV and Sneevliet himself, from conservative circles and from the more moderate SDAP. In 1916 therefore he left the SDAP and joined the SDP, the predecessor of the Communist Party of Holland (CPH, later Communist Party of the Netherlands).
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Sneevliet's radicalism gained enough support amongst both the Indonesian population as well as Dutch soldiers and especially sailors that the Dutch authorities got nervous. Sneevliet was therefore forced to leave the Dutch East Indies in 1918. ISDV was repressed by the Dutch colonial authorities.
Back in the Netherlands, Sneevliet became active in the fledgling Communist movement, becoming a salaried official of the party's National Labor Secretariat (NAS) and helping to organize a major transportation strike in 1920.
The same year he was also present at the 2nd World Congress of the Comintern in Moscow as a representative of the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI), which was the successor to Sneevliet's ISDV. There Sneevliet — using the pseudonym Maring — was elected a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International.
V.I. Lenin was impressed enough by him to send him as a Comintern representative to China, to aid in the formation of Communist Party of China. Sneevliet lived in China from 1921 to 1923 and was present at the founding congress of the Communist Party of China in July 1921. In addition to the pseudonym Maring, Sneevliet used the names Martin, Philips, and Sentot during this period.
Early in 1924 Sneevliet returned to Moscow, his tenure as a Comintern representative to China at an end.
Back in the Netherlands
Sneevliet returned to the Netherlands from Moscow in 1924 to assume the position of secretary of the NAS. He joined the executive committee of the Communist Party of Holland in 1925 but the two years were marked by worsening factional relations between Sneevliet and his co-thinkers and the bulk of the CPH leadership. The denouement came in 1927, when Sneevliet broke all ties with the CPH and the Comintern.
In 1929 Sneevliet formed a new political party, the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP). This organization concentrated on national issues, gaining some successes in organizing the unemployed movement, strike actions, and the struggle against the rise of fascism.
He remained interested in Indonesian affairs and in 1933 was sentenced to five months imprisonment for his solidarity actions for the Dutch and Indonesian sailors who took part in the mutiny on "De Zeven Provinciën", which was put down by an air bombardment in which twenty-three sailors were killed and which at the time aroused considerable passions in the Dutch public opinion. That same year, while still imprisoned, Sneevliet was elected a member of the Lower House of parliament, a position in which he remained until 1937.
In August 1933 the RSP signed the "Declaration of the Four" in August 1933 along with the International Communist League, led by Leon Trotsky, the OSP and the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany. This declaration was intended as a step towards a new 4th International of revolutionary socialist parties.
In 1938 Sneevliet and the RSP ultimately refused to join this new international organization, however, thereby breaking with the Trotskyist movement. Instead the RSP became a part of the International Bureau of Revolutionary Socialist Unity along with the Independent Labour Party (Britain) and the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) of Spain.
The worsening political climate both abroad and nationally and the constant struggle against both the Stalinist and social democratic parties, as well as government interference, took a heavy toll on Sneevliet and his small organization, however. When war broke out on May 10, 1940, Sneevliet immediately dissolved the RSAP.
Some months later with Willem Dolleman and Ab Menist, he founded a resistance group against the German occupation, the Marx-Lenin-Luxemburg-Front (MLL-Front). This was largely engaged in producing propaganda for socialism and opposing the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and as such was heavily involved with the February strike of 1941.
As a known Communist, Sneevliet had to go into hiding even before he started his resistance activities. In the underground he edited a clandestine newspaper called Spartakus and took part in other activities. For two years he managed to keep out of the hands of the Nazis, but in April 1942 they finally arrested him and the rest of the MLL-Front leadership. Their execution took place in the Amersfoort KZ on April 12, 1942. It was reported that they went to their deaths singing "The Internationale."
- John E. Lunn, "Hendricus Josephus Franciscus Marie 'Henk" Sneevliet," in A. Thomas Lane (ed.), Biographical Dictionary of European Labor Leaders: Volume 2, M-Z. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995; pp. 909-910.
- Branko Lazitch with Milorad M. Drachkovitch (eds.), Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern. New, Revised, and Expanded Edition. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1986; pg.436.
- The RSP later became the Revolutionair Socialistische Arbeiders Partij (RSAP) after fusing with the Independent Socialist Party (OSP), which had earlier formed under the stewardship of Jacques de Kadt and Piet J. Schmidt.
- "Declaration of the Four". Marxists.org. August 26, 1933. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
- Philippe Bourrinet, "The Marx-Lenin-Luxemburg Front", extract from Philippe Bourrinet, Dutch and German Communist Left on the Le Bataille socialiste website (accessed 2008-08-13)
- "Sal Santen. The Lubitz TrotskyanaNet, 2009" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-02-20.
- Henk Sneevliet Archive at marxists.org
- Dutch language biography of Henk Sneevliet
- Generals Without Troops: Dutch Trotskyism during the Occupation, Revolutionary History, Vol.1 No.4, Winter 1988-89
- Mohamed Hassan: Comparison of Henk Sneevliet's revolutionary work in 1920s Indonesia with the current situation in Gaza