Kabouters (meaning gnomes in English) were a Dutch anarchist group in the 1970s. It was founded by Roel van Duijn and one of its objectives was to set up an alternative society based on Van Duyn’s ideas as stated in his book,“De boodschap van een wijze Kabouter” (The Message of a Wise Kabouter). Van Duyn for some time worked at an organic farm and asked the farmer if they were going to get a harvester. “No,” the farmer responded “Noisy machines chase away the kabouters, and we need them to keep our plants healthy.” That is why Van Duyn used this image.
The Kabouters were an offshoot of Provo’s environmental White Plans and they proposed “Groene Plannen” (“Green Plans”), such as Roel van Duijn’s idea to have plants growing in boxes on top of cars and, if possible, to have the automobiles drive on sunken roadways so that pedestrians would only see a procession of moving greenery. Van Duyn actually introduced this plan as a motion before the Amsterdam City Council.
The Kabouters were primarily from Amsterdam but were also active in about 35 Dutch cities. At the peak of the movement’s activity, around June 1970, about 500 people were attending the weekly open meetings, where plans and policies were discussed. A year later membership had dwindled to 20 people. The Amsterdam movement published 12 issues of the “Kabouterkrant” (Kabouter Newspaper) in 1970.
The Kabouters attracted international attention when in June 1970 they won 5 of the 45 seats on the Amsterdam Gemeenteraad (City Council), as well two seats each on councils in The Hague and Leeuwarden and one seat apiece in Arnhem, Alkmaar and Leiden. Their leader in Amsterdam was Roel van Duijn, who was actually being reelected to the single seat in the City Council originally won by the Provos in 1966.
The Kabouters had to decide whether to participate as a party in the national parliamentary elections, in May 1971 and the movement was divided on this issue. Many Kabouters felt that the electoral process was not anarchist and consequently they entered the elections divided, and lost. There was also disagreement among the five Kabouter members on the Amsterdam City Council. Two of them advocated the legalization of marijuana and smoked it even during sessions. Van Duyn disagreed with their tactic and also felt that it was not an important issue. These same two people threw a stink bomb during a City Council meeting, forcing the chamber to adjourn for an hour.
The Kabouters most famous activity was squatting empty buildings. Such liberation of unused empty buildings from speculative absentee landlords was supported by Dutch public opinion. The Kabouters also operated many stores, alternative clothing factories, farms.