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Koos Vorrink Papers Found

At last the complete biography of Koos Vorrink can be written. A classic story: family has an old chest in the attic. When clearing the house relatives find an archive which turns out to belong to the prominent Social Democrat and party ideologist Koos Vorrink (1891 -1955). Researchers had to do without it until now; the archive was transferred to the IISH last summer.

Nothing more to be desired for workers
Vorrink was chairman of the Labour Party and its predecessor SDAP for more than twenty years (1934-1955). In that position he persistently tried to rid social democracy of its bright red feathers. Which is what makes him so topical now. Under Vorrinks leadership the party left the Marxist basis in 1937. Not the 'narrow class interests of the workers', but 'the general interest of the entire people's community' should be paramount. According to Vorrink most of the demands of the working class were met by 1935, the only thing left to fight for were old-age pensions.

The archive seems to be complete at first sight, there only seems little to be preserved from the 20s and 30s. Perhaps these documents were deliberately destroyed at the invasion of the Nazis in 1940. On the other hand, much is left from the war itself. Vorrink and his resistance group were involved in the Englandspiel, the complicated and highly publicized construction of double espionage. In 1943 he was taken prisoner. His notes smuggled out of prison, written on cigarette paper or toilet paper, contained detailed instructions for those who were still at liberty. He warned repeatedly against the traitor, Anton van der Waals; Vorrink never believed in his death (staged indeed by the Germans) from the start.

War continues
In 1948 Vorrink was the victim of a smear campaign by the Communists, who claimed that he was the coming man of the Nazis. In 1950 the Social Democratic newspaper Het Vrije Volk conversely stated that the communist resistance fighter Gerben Wagenaar had known all the time of the betrayal of the Englandspiel, but had deliberately not informed Vorrink c.s., with the intention to let as many social democrats rot as possible. Many documents in the archives pertain to these episodes.


Military Intervention in Indonesia
A dossier on Indonesia on the eve of the military intervention (1946-1947) offers a glimpse into The Hague and Batavia backroom politics. Former Prime Minister Willem Schermerhorn, in Batavia in 1947 as chairman of the General Committee for the Dutch East Indies, maintained some kind of written hotline with Vorrink.
On 21 July 1947, the day of the first military intervention, Schermerhorn writes "Now that the [Labour] Party bears responsibility for this military action, I think that in view of what is about to happen next, the Party is now in a position to put extremely stringent demands on the KVP (Catholic People's Party). To my conviction , the Labour Party could take this to the edge of blackmail-politics and would therewith be morally completely justified."

The archive of  Koos Vorrink measures 4 meters. The same estate also contains documents of Vorrinks daughter Irene (1918-1996), who was a minister in the Cabinet Den Uyl from 1973 to 1977, and who worked for a time as her father's secretary. Both archives can be accessed with the consent of the depositor (through the reading room of the IISH). As yet there is only a very preliminary description of the contents of the archives.
• Information: (Reading Room)
Koos Vorrink in the Biographical Dictionary of Socialism and Labour Movement (Biografisch Woordenboek van het Socialisme en de Arbeidersbeweging)

4 November 2014