The Cuban embassy delivered a greeting, as did comrades from sister parties: the Communist party of Belgium, the German Communist Party, the Communist Party of Greece, the Communist Party of Luxembourg and the Communist Party of Turkey.
These parties also participated in a seminar which took place before the celebratory event with the theme: Party building in the period after the counterrevolution: lessons from our experiences and perspectives for the future. We appreciate the support and solidarity of our comrades from abroad and hold proletarian internationalism in high regard.
Below comrades can read the brochure that our Central Committee prepared. It contains a short history of our party and the communist movement in the Netherlands.
Thirty years NCPN (1992-2022)
Armed with lessons from the past, fighting for the future
Central Committee of the NCPN
Thirty years ago, on 14 November 1992, the founding of the New Communist Party of the Netherlands (NCPN) took place. The NCPN was founded as the communist party of the Netherlands. The party that, as the vanguard of the working class, organises working people in the struggle to overthrow capitalism and build socialism. The NCPN bases its work on the scientific and revolutionary theory of communism. Its founders are Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who published the Manifesto of the Communist Party in 1848, as the first party programme of a communist party, namely the internationally organised Communist League. The theory was then further developed by Lenin during the period of imperialism, i.e. the period of monopoly capitalism.
Our party was founded during a period of deep crisis in the Dutch and international communist movement. But despite our limited forces, we communists have never been absent from the struggle, carrying out and supporting countless campaigns: for the incomes and rights of the working class, against policies that dismantle social rights and achievements, for peace and international solidarity, for emancipation of disadvantaged groups, for the rights of young people, for environmental protection, for a better society. With our struggle, day after day, we contribute to the regrouping of the Dutch labour movement and the building of the communist party of the Netherlands, the NCPN. We see this reflected in the current quantitative and qualitative growth of the party.
Capitalism is increasingly running up against its limits. Globally, the working class is increasingly facing poverty, exploitation and war. While the development of technology and science offers opportunities for people to live better lives, meet more needs and have more leisure time, we see working-class people having to sacrifice more and more. We are working ever longer and harder, while having to make do with less. A small group of capitalists, the owners of the big monopolies, are getting richer and richer on the backs of the working class whose labour produces all the wealth. For the interests of the monopolies, which compete among themselves over markets, raw materials, transport routes and spheres of influence, people are pitted against each other in bloody imperialist interventions and wars, such as now in Ukraine. It is becoming clear to more and more people that the capitalist system cannot offer prospects. The struggle for a different society is desperately needed.
Knowledge of the history of our party and of the labour movement is an important weapon in the struggle. The struggle against the decline and policies of dismantling rights and achievements of successive Dutch governments and the European Union, and by extension, the struggle for overthrowing capitalism and building a better society. Therefore, the decisions and resolutions of the 7th Congress of the NCPN emphasise the importance of studying the history of the Dutch and international labour movement in general, the communist movement in particular. With the lessons of the past, we can better fight for a future free of poverty, war, discrimination and exploitation; for socialism.
This text by the Central Committee of the NCPN gives a very brief overview of our history. The text covers the entire history of the Dutch communist movement, because the 30-year history of the NCPN cannot be separated from the history of its predecessors. Needless to say, the text is incomplete. It names only a few milestones and certain lessons we can draw from that history for our struggle today. The aim, on the one hand, is to make especially the younger generations familiar with our history and certain lessons we can draw from it. But on the other hand, the piece mainly serves as a starting point for further study. So this is certainly not a 'final' assessment of history, but only a starting point for studying our history more comprehensively.
In that context, the party is making efforts to research our history, including by conducting interviews with older comrades and writing articles. We will continue this work in the coming period. All people who have knowledge or experiences from the CPN, HOC, VCN or NCPN we call on to share them with the party. Together with Communist Youth Movement of the Netherlands (CJB), we will also continue the study of the history of the CJB and its predecessors.
2. History of the formation of the CPN
The historic origins of our party reach far into the past. The NCPN stems from the history and tradition of the revolutionary workers’ movement in the Netherlands. In that tradition stands the Dutch branch of the Communist League. And the Dutch branch of the International Workers’ Association (also known as the First International) which was founded in 1869 after the ship carpenters’ strike in Amsterdam. The Social-Democratic Association that founded in 1878. The Social-Democratic Bond (SDB) founded in 1881 as the first Dutch political party of the working class, that set socialism as its goal. The Social-Democratic Labour Party (SDAP) in 1894, within which the Marxist wing organised itself around the weekly De Tribune from 1907. In 1909, the Tribunists were expelled by the reformist wing and the Social-Democratic Party (SDP) was formed.
In 1917, the Great Socialist October Revolution took place in Russia. There, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, the working class managed to take power and began building a different society, without exploitation of one man by another. The October Revolution gave a huge boost to the development of the revolutionary workers’ movement worldwide. Following this development, the SDP renamed itself Communist Party Holland (CPH) and later Communist Party of the Netherlands (CPN). In 1919, the CPH joined the Communist International (also called Third International or Comintern).
This part of our historic origins up to the formation of the CPN, is a historical process in which the labour movement develops and matures. A process in which the labour movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries overcomes various anarchist and other left-radicalist tendencies that weakened the movement. A process in which the early 20th century sees a split between the communist movement and reformist social democracy. Social democracy, which time and again betrayed the working people, supporting measures that harmed workers’ rights and incomes and supporting imperialist interventions and wars. A split that was necessary as the development of imperialism provided and provides a constant breeding ground for reformism within the labour movement.
The common thread or the ‘red line’ in this history and tradition from which the NCPN emerges is the tireless fight against injustice and for a better world. From the very beginning, the Dutch communist movement fought for the rights and incomes of the working class in the Netherlands, but also for independence from the colonies, for equality of women and minorities, for universal suffrage and democratic rights, for free education, etc.
3. Communists in the 1920s and 1930s
In the 1920s and 1930s, the CPN was at the forefront of the struggles of the labour movement. The political-ideological unity of the CPN was strengthened and the party experienced massive growth. At the time, the party played an indispensable role in the labour movement’s struggle against the effects of the severe capitalist economic crisis of the 1930s.
In the run-up to World War II, the CPN fought against rising fascism and the coming imperialist war, for peace and international solidarity. Starting in 1933, for instance, Dutch communists helped set up escape routes from Germany for members of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and others who had to flee persecution by the fascist regime. This was done as part of the International Red Aid set up by the Comintern. From 1936, hundreds of Dutch communists also participated in the International Brigades organised by the Comintern to help the progressive forces in the anti-fascist struggle during the Spanish Civil War.
4. The communist resistance
During the German invasion, the Dutch government fled to London. Through the Queen, the population and local authorities were called upon by the government to cooperate in "maintaining order and peace". This while the fascist occupier severely oppressed the population and entire population groups were persecuted.
The CPN, on the other hand, decided to start working illegally immediately, on the day of capitulation. The party had already prepared for this. The party played a leading role in the resistance. With the distribution of the illegal party newspaper De Waarheid, to inform the population, give them hope and organise them in the resistance. With helping people in hiding. With sabotage activities and liquidations of collaborators and Nazis who posed a threat to the resistance, because it was precisely the communists in the resistance who were much involved in the most dangerous activities like these. But even with organising strikes and open protests. For instance, the CPN was the driving force behind the February Strike in 1941, the mass resistance action of Dutch workers in solidarity with persecuted Jews and people of Jewish origin, but also in opposition to the repression and the measures of the Nazi occupiers dismantling rights and achievements.
The Nazis pulled out all the stops to persecute communists, and were helped by the Dutch government and the secret service, which had prepared the information it had gathered about the CPN for the occupying forces. Thousands of CPN members were executed, sacrificing their lives in this fight against fascism, for freedom and socialism.
5. CPN after the war
After the war, the CPN had high standing among the population. For some time, De Waarheid was even the largest newspaper. It owed this partly to its heroic role in the resistance, but mainly to its political character as a party that organised people in the struggle for socialism. Many people joined the party. At the same time, the party was also hugely weakened in many ways. It is estimated that over two-thirds of the pre-war cadre was killed in the struggle against the fascist occupiers. While the CPN had lost many skilled and experienced cadres, there was an influx of new people, weakening the ideological and political level of the party. Moreover, there was an influx of people from the middle layers, which also changed the composition of the party.
Immediately after the war, the CPN faced an attempt from within to liquidate the party and merge it into a ‘broader’ organisation. This opportunistic attack was repelled. The CPN remained a communist party, regrouped and managed to play an important role as vanguard in the development of the class struggle in the post-war period.
In the first postwar decades, the class-oriented Unity Trade Union Confederation (EVC), affiliated to the World Federation of Trade Union (WFTU), played an important role in the class struggle. Through its struggle, the working class managed to force significant rights and improvements in living standards.
In this, the CPN always attached great importance to the struggle for emancipation of working-class women. The class-oriented Dutch Women’s Movement (NVB) played an important role in this struggle. Moreover, the CPN fought for emancipation of minorities, against discrimination based on origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other grounds.
6. Fight against colonialism and imperialism
While all other parties supported Dutch colonialism, the CPN organised the resistance of the Dutch working class against the colonial policy of the bourgeois government. For instance, against the imperialist military intervention in Indonesia from 1945 onwards. It called on the working class to refuse to enlist, organised strikes and mass demonstrations against the deployment and the so-called ‘police action’. Refusers faced long prison sentences, and demonstrators were shot with live ammunition during protests. At the same time, the CPN also ensured that certain cadres did deploy so that they could do political work among soldiers against the colonial war, and some soldiers defected to the Indonesian side.
In the following decades too, the CPN always took the lead in the fight against imperialism. Communists organised countless solidarity actions for peoples suffering under colonialism, occupation, economic blockade or under fascist or apartheid regimes. The CPN organised the struggle against imperialist wars and interventions, and against imperialist alliances such as NATO.
7. Rise of Eurocommunism
In the post-war period, the international communist movement faced the rise of Eurocommunism. This was an opportunist and reformist movement, which resulted in communist parties forming alliances with social-democratic and other bourgeois parties, participating or seeking participation in bourgeois governments. In fact, Eurocommunism was a revival of the old social democratic view that it is possible to deal with capitalism through reforms, without revolutionary overthrow of capitalist property and the bourgeois state. It led to parties ceasing to be revolutionary parties and being transformed into social democratic parties, disbanded or marginalised.
The causes for the appearance of this reformist current in the international communist movement have to do, among others, with factors mentioned earlier, such as the huge loss of skilled and experienced cadre during World War II and the change in the composition of communist parties. But also more generally with the complex social and economic developments in the post-war period. Developments in the strategy of communist parties (even before and during the war) also play a role in this, as do weaknesses in ideological work, such as the inability of the of the CPN to systematically provide all members with training in Marxist-Leninist theory after the 1960s. Developments in socialist countries were also influential, such as the decisions of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union embracing the parliamentary path to socialism. Further research is certainly needed to get a more concrete picture of the causes of the rise of Eurocommunism.
Although certain elements of this reformist movement influenced the CPN’s postwar strategy, the party managed to resist this trend in the 1950s and 1960s. This was not without controversy. An early expression of the rise of this reformist trend and the struggle against it can be found in the late 1950s, during a period of fierce repression and anti-communist attacks on the CPN. During this period, a right-opportunist group emerged within the party. This included members of the Central Committee, the Lower House faction and the EVC leadership. The political conflict primarily concerned the relationship between the party and mass organisations, especially the EVC, as well as democratic centralism as the party’s organising principle. Underlying this were deeper political-ideological differences. This eventually led to a split. The opportunist group first founded its own party (the so-called Socialist Workers Party, SWP) and later merged into a social democratic party (the Pacifist Socialist Party, PSP). As it turned out later, the Internal Security Service played an important role in inflaming internal tensions in the late 1950s and setting up the SWP. Through its support for opportunism, the bourgeoisie tried to weaken the communist party’s clout in our country.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the party thus managed to repel such attacks from within. During the 1970s, however, the influence of Eurocommunism increased sharply. At the 26th Congress in January 1978, it was decided to form a new party programme. The party leadership, in which the reformist trend had gained influence, used this as a starting point to question the party’s principles. A draft programme on a Eurocommunist line was ready in 1981. In it, Marxism-Leninism was dismissed as ‘rigid’ and ‘dogmatic’, while democratic centralism was rejected in order to embrace ‘plurality’.
As part of that ‘plurality’, all sorts of so-called ‘horizontal consultations’ were set up, which united specific groups within the party, such as those interested in women’s emancipation, environment, etc. These functioned not as commissions acting according to collectively taken decisions and under the leadership of the Central Committee, but as horizontal, unelected bodies acting autonomously.
The ‘innovators’, as the reformists called themselves, thus directed the gradual abolition of democratic centralism and Marxism-Leninism. In essence, then, they were ‘destroyers’ who wanted to dissolve the CPN as a communist party.
8. The liquidation of the CPN and the struggle of HOC and VCN
After democratic centralism was demolished by the ‘destroyers’ with their horizontal methods, communists in the CPN formed the Horizontal Consultation of Communists (HOC) in 1982 to oppose the organised attempt by the majority in the party leadership to transform the party. The HOC worked within the CPN and, among other things, published the newspaper Manifest, warning party members of the course the party was taking. It should be noted that there were also major political-ideological divisions within the HOC. More generally, this period was marked by major divisions in the communist movement, fuelled by reformist forces, governments (including through the secret services) and the press.
At an extraordinary Congress in three weekends of February 1984, a fierce internal struggle played out after which the new reformist party programme was laid down. The CPN thus formally distanced itself from Marxism-Leninism. The party essentially ceased to be a communist party. It increasingly oriented itself towards intensive cooperation with other, opportunist parties. It became clear that efforts were being made to liquidate the party in order to merge it into a supposedly ‘broader’, essentially social-democratic, party. During that Congress, on 25 February, part of the HOC formed the League of Communists in the Netherlands (VCN), which formally became a separate political party on 2-3 November 1985.
In 1986, the CPN lost its seats in parliament. It was actively argued from within the CPN party leadership that a communist party was no longer necessary, that the CPN should merge into a so-called ‘broader’ party. In 1990, existing parliamentary and extra-parliamentary cooperation with bourgeois, ‘progressive’ parties was formalised by the formation of the GreenLeft party. On 15 June 1991, the CPN was dissolved. Many members followed the decision to join GreenLeft. Others joined the SP. But there were also regional groups of CPN members, who disagreed with the party’s dissolution and did not want to join parties like GreenLeft or SP, which essentially had a social democratic character. However, the dissolution of the CPN made it legally impossible to continue that party and these groups were banned from continuing to use the name CPN.
9. Foundation of NCPN and ideological struggle in the first years
On the initiative of the VCN, the people who saw the importance of a communist party were reunited on 14 November 1992 by founding the NCPN. This involved the VCN, with HOC and Manifest, the groups of ex-CPN members from Groningen and Brabant, and other individuals. The NCPN was essentially a relaunch of the CPN, but as a communist party. Manifest became the newspaper of the NCPN.
The party was formally founded with the name 'New Communist Party-NCPN', as the use of the name Communist Party of the Netherlands, which the NCPN is, was legally barred at the time.
The NCPN was founded at a time of great confusion. Counter-revolutions were taking place in a series of countries where socialism had been built. Political-ideological unity in the NCPN was still very weak. It was a great ideological struggle to build the NCPN on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. For part of the party, the term ‘New’ in the name of the NCPN also had political significance.
Soon after the 1st Congress, attacks on Marxism-Leninism were already launched. Again the formation of groups outside the party leadership, played a detrimental role. Manifest was also the subject of a struggle about the orientation of the party. A reformist and party-hostile group had gathered around the editors of Manifest at the time, oriented towards Eurocommunist parties. At the end of 1994, the editors resigned from working for Manifest, putting the survival of Manifest and therefore the party at stake. An emergency editorial board continued to publish Manifest. Not long after, the party’s survival was put at stake by a group of left-wing radicals. The 1996 Congress restored the situation in the party and stabilised the progress of Manifest.
For all these years, Manifest offered a communist view of developments in the world, in the Netherlands and in the labour movement. This contrasts with the bourgeois media. Manifest was and is therefore indispensable for members and sympathisers of the party and for the Dutch working class.
An important step was the 3rd Congress in 1999. There, the first chapter for a party programme was laid down, entitled: ‘the ideological basis, principles and foundations of the New Communist Party-NCPN’. Despite all kinds of weaknesses and despite the failure at the time to complete the process of forming a party programme, it is of the utmost importance that our party succeeded in founding the party on the basis of Marxism-Leninism in a difficult period in the first years after its foundation.
10. NCPN and the international communist movement
Of great importance in rebuilding the party was its continued involvement in the international communist movement. Our party maintained contacts with sister organisations and attended international meetings of communist parties and events of sister organisations. This was indispensable for understanding the crisis the labour movement was in internationally and what steps could help to get out of it. They helped us understand complex current developments in the world on the basis of Marxism-Leninism.
In 2006, the NCPN took the initiative to organise an international conference together with sister organisations from Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg. These international conferences have been held annually since then. They have helped our party gain insight into all kinds of issues by exchanging knowledge and struggle experiences with comrades from neighbouring countries. In 2015, the conference in Groningen was combined with a demonstration. It became the first mass communist demonstration in a long time, with the presence of communists from a range of countries.
The NCPN has organised and supported numerous solidarity actions in its 30 years of existence. For solidarity with peoples suffering from imperialist interventions and wars. Including countless solidarity actions for Cuba, which has been facing the criminal blockade of the US for decades. But also protest actions against the persecution of communists in other countries.
11. Re-establishment of CJB
In 2003, the party took the initiative for the second re-establishment of the CJB as the Communist Youth Movement of the Netherlands. The CJB stands in the tradition of De Zaaier, which would later be called Communist Youth League (CJB) (1901-1938), the organised youth of the communist resistance (1940-1945), the General Dutch Youth League (ANJV) in the decades after World War II, and the Communist Youth League (CJB), which was re-established by the VCN in the 1980s.
The creation of the Communist Youth Movement was a major decision. The CJB organised and supported countless campaigns for the rights and interests of young working-class workers, students and pupils. Many dozens of young people were introduced to revolutionary theory through the CJB. The CJB thus contributed to the formation of new generations of communists. The party has supported and prioritised the development of the CJB. This has contributed to the growth of the CJB, which in turn contributes significantly to strengthening the party.
12. Regroupment of the labour movement and the party
Despite our limited forces, we have never been absent from the struggle. Over the past 30 years, the party supported countless actions by trade unions and action committees against demolition policies and for the rights and incomes of the working class. As communists, we have always been involved in actions against discrimination against women and minorities, as well as actions for environmental protection. Councillors of the NCPN have worked tirelessly in all these 30 years to stand up for the rights and interests of working-class people.
Strengthening the labour movement is of utmost importance in this world where contradictions are ever increasing. This task is dialectically linked to the building of the communist party. A milestone in party building is the recent 7th Congress held in May this year. Leading up to that Congress, important steps were taken in regrouping our party, with activation of party branches and improvement in the functioning of leading bodies. The Congress took important steps in strengthening the political-ideological unity of the party through the discussion and adoption of Congress resolutions. The extensive Congress documents analyse the current situation in the world, in the Netherlands and in the labour movement, and formulate tasks for the party.
13. Lessons from the past
The history of the international and Dutch labour and communist movements, offers valuable lessons for today's struggles. For instance, history shows:
- The indispensable role of the communist party in the struggle against decline and policies that dismantle of rights and achievements, for a better society. For only the communists can consistently wage the struggle for the interests of the working class because they are fighting for the overthrow of capitalism, for the construction of socialism.
- The importance of a communist party rooted in the working class, especially in workplaces, but also in neighbourhoods, in educational institutions and associations. This should also be reflected in the composition of the party.
- That the development of the labour movement in the Netherlands is linked to international developments. The NCPN is an inseparable part of the international communist movement. Strengthening the NCPN goes hand in hand with strengthening our international activity.
- That the struggle against capitalism is inseparable from the struggle against opportunism of every kind (from left-wing radicalism to reformism). For the opportunist currents are an expression of the influence of the capitalist class and petty bourgeoisie in the labour movement and the communist movement.
- The importance of ideological work, of study and inner-party education, to understand developments correctly, to develop the right strategy and tactics in the class struggle and to combat opportunism.
- The importance of the party newspaper Manifest, to understand developments in the world and organise the struggle collectively.
14. Fight for a better future
The NCPN continues the struggle for socialism. We are fighting for a world free from poverty, discrimination, war, complete environmental degradation and exploitation. We are fighting for a society where the means of production are owned by the entire population. Not the profits of the big monopolies, but the needs of the people will then determine how the economy and society are organised. Thus, the economy can be centrally planned based on what the population needs.
We conduct this struggle for socialism with deep respect for all communists who have gone before us. Especially those who sacrificed their lives in the fight against injustice, for a better world. In particular also those communists who found the courage to continue the struggle during the difficult period of counterrevolutions and the crisis in the communist movement. We continue to draw inspiration from the heroic Paris Commune, the first proletarian revolution that took place in 1871. But also the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 and the building of socialism in the USSR and other countries.
We will study the history of the international and Dutch communist movement and labour movement and draw lessons that enrich theory, because our daily practice and struggle for people’s rights and incomes is dialectically linked to the scientific and revolutionary theory of communism – dialectical and historical materialism, Marxist political economy and revolutionary strategy for class struggle.
Armed with lessons from the past, we fight to build the party, fight for a better future, for socialism-communism!