Henk Sneevliet - A Life in Documents

1907-1912: Social Democracy

Sneevliet, 1911 Hendricus Josephus Franciscus Marie Sneevliet (known as Henk) was born in Rotterdam on 13 May 1883 and died in Leusden on 13 April 1942. He was the son of Antonie Sneevliet, a cigar maker and later prison warder, and Hendrika Mackelenbergh. Three years after Henk Sneevliet's birth, his mother died of tuberculosis. He grew up with family in 's Hertogenbosch in the south of the Netherlands, and attended secondary school on a financial grant.

After finishing school, Sneevliet started working as an employee of the Staatsspoor, a state railway company, first in Zutphen in 1901 and afterwards in Zwolle in 1903. In Zutphen he became involved in the socialist movement and applied to become a member of the Sociaal-Democratische Arbeiders Partij [SDAP, Social-Democratic Workers' Party]. From 1907 to 1910 he was a member of the city council of Zwolle, as the first representative of the SDAP. In Zwolle he participated in an intellectual Marxist group and became acquainted with the well-known Dutch poetess and socialist Henriette Roland Holst, who was his political and spiritual guide and with whom he corresponded for many years. Sneevliet could quote some of her militant socialist poems from memory. In 1911 he was elected chairman of the Nederlandsche Vereeniging van Spoor- en Tramweg Personeel [NVSTP], a federation of rail and tramway workers. After a conflict with the Nederlandsch Verbond van Vakvereenigingen [NVV, Netherlands Federation of Trade Unions], with which the NVSTP was affiliated, concerning a seaman's strike that NVSTP supported, he resigned from the NVSTP in 1912. Sneevliet did not agree with the views of the NVV and SDAP on the strike and wrote opposition articles in the SDAP monthly. In April 1912 he left the SDAP.

Agenda for the Council Meeting of the city of Zwolle, 3 September 1907, with the inauguration of Henk Sneevliet as council member for the Dutch Social Democratic Labour Party (SDAP). With notes by Sneevliet. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 39 (pdf, 960Kb)

Draft of the budget of the city of Zwolle for the year 1908, with the signature of Henk Sneevliet. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 40 (pdf, 783Kb)

Letter from Henk Sneevliet, Director-in-Chief of the Nederlandsche Vereeniging van Spoor- en Tramweg Personeel [NVSTP, Federation of Rail and Tramway Workers], to A. Harms, 17-8-1908, on Sneevliet's work as member of the Arbitration Board of the Maatschappij tot Exploitatie Van Staatsspoorwegen [State Railway Company] concerning a fired employee. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 44 (pdf, 934Kb)

De Seingever [Transmitter], trade paper for Railway and Tramway Workers, edited by H. van Braambeek, H. Sneevliet, and D. Tissing; number 1, December 1912. De Seingever was an oppositional paper of the NVSTP. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 47 (pdf, 3.1Mb)

Group portrait of the Board of the Nederlandsche Vereeniging van Spoor en Tramwegpersoneel [Netherlands Union of Rail and Tramway Personnel], third person seated on the right is Henk Sneevliet. 1911.
Call number BG B13/115 (pdf, 499Kb)