Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Piet van Staveren

At times the struggle between the Dutch and Indonesians for independence was not entirely black and white. Sometimes Dutch young men, motivated by idealistic principles joined 'the enemy'. They remembered the recent Dutch struggle for independence against the Germans still too vividly.

Several years ago the Institute received the archive of the best known of these young men, Poncke Princen (1925-2002). Later, through the intervention of Joop Morriën, we also acquired the letters of Piet van Staveren (1925- ). As a communist, he had already protested sending military conscripts to Indonesia, but as a consequence of Minister van Maarsseveen's promise that these soldiers would not be used for fighting, he ended up with this group.

In July 1947, when the first major Dutch military campaign threatened, he joined the troops of the Indonesian Republic in Jogyakarta. There he made himself useful in the Republican Youth Movement - his experiences in the pre-war socialist AJC and the post-war communist ANJV being yet fresh in his mind.
He also had contacts in the SOBSI. Probably the fact that he had close ties with the Indonesian communists in Madiun was responsible for his ultimately being taken prisoner by the Hatta regime and then deported to the Netherlands. There he was subject to a prison sentence, which he served in Leeuwarden until 1955. As a result of this there were protests by Indonesian and Dutch communists. In 1984 he was interviewed in a VPRO radio documentary by Marion Bloem and Ivan Wolffers.

Besides the substantial amount of documentation and a few photos, the primary importance of the collection are the innumerable letters covering the 1946-1953 period (these also include a few original documents from Madiun from 1948). These not only show a convinced and optimistic communist idealist, but also provide direct information about an important episode in the struggle for Indonesian independence.


Amnesty demonstrations were not only organised from the Netherlands but also from Indonesia by sympathisers of Piet van Staveren in order to help get him released from the Special Prison in Leeuwarden, which was where he was kept as prisoner 81-3413. These cards were printed in Amsterdam, and were intended to be sent to lend him support. Cards sent by J. Abdullah from Semarang and from a "Pemuda Rakjat" (communist youth movement) department in Sumatra (as well as from others) were saved.

Text was taken from On the Waterfront - newsletter of the Friends of the IISH Issue 5 (pdf, 652 Kb).