In 2000 the IISH received nearly two hundred letters that the well-known socialist and anarchist leader Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis (1846-1919) had written to the Twente labour leader Gerrit Bennink (1858-1927).
Bennink and Domela met in 1880. That year Domela published an appeal in Recht voor Allen (the periodical of his Sociaal Democratische Bond, SDB) to take part in a large survey he intended to organize about conditions among Dutch workers. Bennink supplied the answers for the other workers in the metal and textile industries and began a lively correspondence with Domela. Bennink initially belonged to the Algemeen Nederlandsch Werkliedenverbond ['Dutch Workers' League'] (ANWV) and hoped to introduce this union's programme in Twente's textile industry. Bennink published his views first in De Werkmansbode (the periodical of the ANWV) and from September 1882 in his series 'Brieven uit Twenthe', which appeared in Recht voor Allen.
In August 1886 Bennink founded an SDB chapter in Hengelo and served as the chairman. In the spring of 1887 he became involved in a trial of the 'exploiters'. After the authorities and innkeepers obstructed the SDB Congress in Hengelo around Christmas 1886, Bennink called the factory-owner Stork 'the most refined exploiter of his people' and was sentenced to ten days imprisonment.
In 1889 at a national demonstration for the Labour Act in The Hague, Bennink called Twente a slave state. In 1891 he co-founded the Twente SDB weekly Recht door Zee. Bennink did not, however, follow Domela along the path to anarchism. When a faction of the SDB that supported the parliamentary process broke away in 1894 and became the Sociaal Democratische Arbeiderspartij ['Social Democratic Workers' Party'] (SDAP), he was unable to take sides. While he did not want to be permanently disloyal to his spiritual father, he believed in parliamentary procedure and supported universal suffrage. No longer affiliated with any party, he served on the Hengelo municipal council and the Overijssel Provincial States for several years.
More information in the inventory.