Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis (1846-1919) first Dutch socialist politician

Dutch politician Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis was born in Amsterdam in 1846. He studied theology and then became Lutheran preacher in Harlingen (Friesland), Beverwijk (near Amsterdam) and The Hague. Because of his socialist ideas he decided to retire from religious life in 1879.

He was introvert, but also stubborn and he stood for his ideas. During a freshmen's party, his friends took him to some prostitutes, as was usual among students. But Domela refused. He wanted to marry a virgin and thought that women had the right to ask the same of their future lovers.

Domela wanted to fight for the workers' rights and founded the first socialist movement of the Netherlands in 1879. 'Recht voor allen' (Justice for all) became the press organ of the Socialistische Bond (Socialist Union). He was sentenced to jail for insulting the king in an article, which in fact he hadn't written at all (although he shared the ideas expressed in it). He was released the following year.

Domela entered the Lower Chamber as the first Dutch socialist in 1888, also founding the Nationale Arbeidssecretariaat (NAS, National Workers' Secretary) to provide assistance to the working class of Dutch society. During the Socialist Union congress, many members weren't prepared to participate in the elections. Neither would they consider any other parliamentary actions, which caused a schisma in the young movement. A new party was founded, the Sociaal Democratische Arbeiders Partij (SDAP, Social Democratic Workers' Party), with Domela Nieuwenhuis as leader. Later, the other socialists would join this party again.

At the end of the 19th century, many of Domela's ideas were considered outrageous and almost criminal. None of his plans in parliament were actually realised: women's suffrage, equality between the sexes, improvement of workers' conditions, minimum wages, ending colonialism, higher salaries for teachers, banning child labour and many more of the socialist ideas that would find solid ground in the next century.

Domela Nieuwenhuis wasn't satisfied with politics. He always had anarchist feelings and believed that organisations as such were wrong. In 1897, he decided to leave the socialists and started to publish his own anarchist Vrije Socialist (Free Socialist). He refused to participate in any organisation and also did not want any assistance for that reason.

Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis passed away in 1919. Still immensely popular among the growing left-wing in the Netherlands, thousands of socialists gathered in Amsterdam to attend the funeral.

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