Vereniging Gemeenschappelijk Grondbezit (GGB) [Association for Communal Land Ownership] was founded by the Dutch writer and pioneer Frederik van Eeden in 1901. Its aim was to promote communal ownership and use of the means of production.
At the beginning of 2016 an important addition to the archives of GGB was made available. It includes documents from the early years of the association: minutes of meetings of members and the board and annual reports for the period 1910-1931, and also hundreds of letters and postcards from the same period.
The documents relating to De Ploeg [The Plough] are particularly interesting. The small village of Best in the province of North Brabant was home to the first settlement to be established by the Coöperatieve Productie- & Verbruiksvereeniging De Ploeg [The Plough Production and Consumer Cooperative Association] in 1919. The second settlement, the Coöperatieve Weverij en Textielwarenhandel De Ploeg [The Plough Weaving and Textile Trade Cooperative], was opened in 1923 in Bergeijk, also in North Brabant. In 1934 the Bergeijk branch took over the buildings and their contents from the Van Galen Foundation, which for several years had run an unprofitable retirement and convalescent home for vegetarians.
Later, the architect Gerrit Rietveld would design a completely new factory complex for The Plough in Bergeijk, in collaboration with the landscape architect Mien Ruys, who designed a park-like setting for the project. In the 1950s and ’60s The Plough’s beautiful fabric designs would serve as a model for the ideal of Goed Wonen [Good Living].
Back to the beginning. In 1918 the GGB conducted a survey among those sympathetic to its cause. Ferdinand Wilhelm van Malsen was one of many who completed and returned the questionnaire. Van Malsen was a member of the colony in Best, but at that time he worked in the Nieuwland colony near Nijmegen. Writing on 31 December 1918 he described his ideal as follows: “The Prod. Association will be a training ground for workers; it will help them to become independently producing workers and comrades. It is among them that the process of major non-violent world revolution will crystalize, once the ‘every man for himself’ idea has yielded to the idea of ‘one for all’ in the heart of every worker.
Deze archiefaanvulling biedt ook materiaal voor onderzoek naar andere kleine lokale bij de GGB aangesloten bedrijven. Zo was in Groningen aan het Damsterdiep de Tabak- en Sigarenfabriek ‘De Pionier’ gevestigd. In het archief zit een oproep aan de leden op om naar de jaarvergadering te komen in ‘De Droge Kroeg’ in februari 1921. Wel een sigaar, geen jenever, het parool was ‘één voor allen’. The archives of GGB offer an insight into labour-related social movements of the past.