Bibliography on Party Politics in The Netherlands, 1950-1962

Howard Mathews

Most students of the Dutch political scene since World War II have noted the lack of serious upheavals and crises in the Dutch political system. None of the issues which have faced the Dutch in this time period seem very important in comparison with happenings in other countries of the world in the tumultuous post-war period. In short, an overwhelming consensus has dominated Dutch politics and society, and notwithstanding the dominance of formally ideological parties, practical politics in Holland has been largely de-ideologized.

This situation accounts for the comparatively little "journalistic" interest in Dutch politics. World attention has not been focused to any appreciable extent on The Netherlands, and there has been little popular treatment of Dutch politics. Much of the existing literature on Holland thus attempts to "fill in" the Dutch column in terms of such things as local government and cabinet government for the sake of scholarly completeness rather than from intrinsic interest. But recently, social scientists have discovered that Holland is a very interesting case from the standpoint of "pluralism" and the relation of religion to the political and social system.

Although the literature on Dutch parties is quite scattered in English, altogether it comprises a fairly comprehensive overview of the Dutch party system, with some gaps in specific matters. No comprehensive account exits, but most facets of Dutch party life are covered. For a really detailed study of Dutch parties, however, one would need to use literature in the Dutch language. From references in English-speaking sources, it seems clear that the literature in Dutch is several times the size of the literature in English. Although we identified several works in German or French, these do not seem to add much to the English literature.

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Our literature search disclosed 111 documents that were relevant to party politics in The Netherlands. A total of 1876 pages was read and indexed from these documents. As shown by the table of code frequencies, the substantive topics seem to be covered fairly thoroughly. In light of the communal (verzuild) nature of Dutch society and politics, where each socio-religious group has its own party, it is not surprising that the "party composition" codes (3--) are overrepresented in relation to the others. Since each of these socio-religious groups (zuilen) has a well- defined view of life (levens be schouwing) and ideology, "party goals" (5-- codes) occupy an important place. The "political history of the party" code (140) is used frequently because the major parties have deep roots in Dutch history. "Interparty cooperation"(code 840) is prominent because in The Netherlands, all Government must be coalition government, as no party comes near to winning a majority of the seats in Parliament. "Religion" (code 730) has a high frequency because three of the five most important parties are based on religious groupings--Dutch Reformed, Calvinist, and Catholic. "Party competition" (code 830) is important because a shift of even one or two seats in a 150 seat Parliament can mean the difference between having the prime ministership or a post in the cabinet. "Ancillary" and "supportive organizations" (codes 460 and 380) are common because the parties are generally reflections of socio-religious ideological groupings which have separate organizations for labor unions, employees, farmers, associations, radio or television networks and newspaper and others.

Party code 269 was used 389 times for indexing general references to the system and to other parties. The relative frequency of this code reflects the incidence of discussions on parties in general or grouping of parties. It also shows the growing significance, during our time period (1950-1962), of so-called minor parties, which won increased representation in Parliament. These were the Political Reformed Party (Staatkundig Gereformeerde Party), a very right-wing Calvinist Party; the Reformed Political Union (Gereformeerde Politiek Verbond), a theocratic Calvinist Party; the Pacifist Socialist Party, a party of socialists dissatisfied by the Labor Partyís abandonment of Marxist and socialist principle and its endorsement of U. S. military dominance of Europe; the Farmerís Party, a right-wing party similar to the French Poujadists; and others. The frequency distribution of party codes in general seems to be directly related to the strength and importance of a party in the system. It should be noted, however, that a smaller party has about as many characteristics as a large one and therefore we know less about the smaller parties, such as the Christian Historical Union, the Peopleís Party for Freedom and Democracy (the Liberal Party) and the Anti-Revolutionary Party, than about the Catholic Peopleís Party and the Dutch Labor Party.

Some Observations on the State of the Literature

Certain underrepresented codes can be accounted for by the nature of Dutch politics. Even the Communist Party has made no attempt to overthrow the Government, perhaps following Marxís controversial dictum that in countries like England and Holland socialism could be established through constitutional channels. Likewise, in a society where secondary groups are monopolized by socio-religious ideological groups, the parties are the extension of the groups, rather than vice versa--thus the infrequency of "social activities" of the party (code 290). In other areas, infrequency of codes reflects real gaps in our knowledge. For instance, "party contributors" (code 310) is mentioned only once, accounting for very little information on how Dutch campaigns and parties are financed. Also, there is little information on "campaigns" alone (code 210). Very little is given about techniques such as canvassing, holding rallies, party propaganda (or rather agitation in Marxist terms). Thus, the less glamorous but critical "cogwheels of democracy," as Gosnell called it, are neglected.

The table of data quality codes shows that the authorsí ideology is predominantly centrist and their treatment generally objective. For foreigners the issues of Dutch politics do not seem to arouse feelings of relevance to personal political views, although Catholics are sympathetic to the idea of a Catholic political party. The ideologies of laissez-faire Liberalism and political Calvinism just do not arouse controversy, perhaps because as we noted, in Holland a process of de-ideologization has set in, and differences are mainly communal. It should be noted that about half of the documents were written by Dutchmen; and many of these are scholarly accounts.

The literature in English that we selected for the file contained little information on the organizational aspects of Dutch parties. Our consultants have pointedly noted, however, that the Dutch language literature--in Acta Politica, for example--does treat the partiesí characteristics and internal dynamics. We have missed this information due to lack of suitable language skills among researchers on the project. Our coding of the parties on variables dealing with their internal organization is therefore deficient.