Various columns in the Gazette have tried to describe the mission of the trade union movement. The present column studies the mission, that the Dutch trade union movement developed during the seventies of the last century. First, the then economic situation is analyzed, and the socio-cultural spirit of the time is sketched. The latter is illustrated with several characteristic biographies. Finally, the propaganda in industries and the then union actions are explained.
The actions of the trade union movement since 1965 can best be understood and judged, when some knowledge is available about the economic development in the Netherlands. It is described excellently in the book Economische geschiedenis van Nederland in de 20e eeuw (in short EgvN) by J. Luiten van Zanden and R.T. Griffiths1. In the present paragraph this profound and acute work will gratefully and frequently be consulted. The period 1945-1965 has already been described in a previous column about the trade union movement, and the interested reader may consult it, if desired. In EvgN it is stated, that after 1945 the trade union movement becomes more powerful than during the Interbellum. The coverage of the collective agreements (in short CAO) increases by a factor of 10.
Moreover, henceforth many CAO's are concluded at the branch level, and no longer for the separate professional groups, which has the consequence that the contracts are standardized and rationalized. Thus the competition on wage costs diminishes. Besides, the standardization is necessary for the controlled wage policy. The low wages are complemented by low prices, so that internationally the Netherlands is extremely competitive. However, the wage policy is artificial and therefore disturbs the labour market. Already since 1953 the wages surpass the agreements in the CAO's, especially in branches where the factor labour is scarce. EvgN calls this phenomenon a wage drift.
For several years it is attempted at the central level to differentiate the wage level, and to couple it to the rise of the labour productivity ap. But that attempt fails. In practice all wages are simply raised with the same percentage, also in the branches where the ap is stagnant. Then the trade unions use a strong branch, such as the metal industry, to set the trend for the wage develoment. EvgN calls this a wage leadership. The result is that in the end the wage level rises too fast, and causes inflation. See also the previous column. As far as the entrepreneurs can not pass on their higher wage costs to the consumers, by means of the product prices, their profit margin shrinks.
In other words, the labour income rate (in short LIR), which is defined as the ratio between the wage and the national income per capita of the professional population, increases. The wage-earners obtain a larger share of the national income. The trade unions can extort this, because the economy grows and prospers, so that there is hardly any unemployment. In the short term the increasing LIR is not yet a problem. It simply works up the consumer demand. However, the falling profits and capital efficiencies by necessity undermine the level of investments. Thus the equipment becomes scarce, and a shortage of productive capacity is created. The weak branches in the Dutch economy (textiles, clothes, shoes, straw-board, etcetery, later also the shipyards) become the first to be unprofitable. They begin to close during the late sixties, and during the seventies.
Thus since 1965 the employment in the industry decreases, in absolute numbers. In the beginning the loss of jobs is compensated by growth in the services sector, in the public sector, and by the construction industry. However, this creates a problem, because these branches have a lower ap than the industry, and therefore create less value. The industry must co-finance these branches, as it were. In the previous column it has already been concluded, that the profits are undermined since the wage waves of 1963 and 1964. But p.215 shows, that in fact the incomes from capital fall already since 1961. The figure is copied from that page. It is clear, that the stock-exchange quotations move downwards in a similar manner.
During this period of decay there is actually an exploitation of the investments from the fifties. As far as investments are made, they are often not expansions, but simply the mechanization in order to replace the expensive labour. Already in 1971 the national volume of investments begins to fall. The oil crisis of 1973 further affects the profits, because the energy costs rise. Thus during the seventies the unemployment in the Netherlands becomes structural. The figure 1 shows, that only the depression of 1981-1983 and the cabinets of Lubbers herald the recovery of the profits. After 1973 the cabinet Den Uyl tries to stabilize the employment by stimulating the level of consumption, and that works for a few years (see p.256 in EgvN). For the moment, the wage level is still protected by the corporatist structures, which have been established during the previous decades (such as the automatic price compensation, and various couplings of incomes).
However, it is exactly the rigidity of the wages, that creates a mass unemployment. It is true that the economy somewhat recovers in 1976, but that does not create new jobs, since the economy can structurally no longer be reconciled with the high wages. The unemployment is not caused by a lack of demand (conjuncture), but by the high costs and prices. A hallmark of the seventies is that the state tries to solve the economic problems (p.263). Employment is created in the quaternary (non-profit) sector, but that blocks the possible reduction of the costs (see p.232 and p.258). Therefore the investments continue their decline, whereas the public debt also rises. The state truly begins to execute an industrial policy at the micro-level, by means of subsidies and state participations. Nevertheless, a few years later big concerns such as OGEM, RSV and Heidemij fail.
The expansive state policy and the low interest rate (due to the oil dollars) have the consequence, that in the market of housing a speculative bubble develops. There is a boom in the granting of mortgages. Apparently it is still profitable to invest in real estate. Therefore the Kaleckian-Keynesian policy is partly asset-based3. However, the second oil crisis of 1979 also affects the consumer demand. This is partly caused by the collapse of the investment of oil dollars in the west (p.261 in EvgN). Henceforth the unemployment becomes horrible. This is clear from the graphs of unemployment in the column about economic time series. The lowering of the wages succeeds only under the cabinets of Lubbers. But these begin just in 1982.
It is obvious that the period of economic downturn at a high level of consumption is also a period of high inflation. Loyal readers will remember, that this theme has been discussed previously in the column about the demand side policy. There it is explained, that the employment u is logically related to the percentual rise gw of the wages. Real increases of the wage, that surpass the productivity ap, cause unemployment. Furthermore, it is argued there, that the inflation i is relevant for the employment. For, i reduces the real wage. However, a rising inflation (with ∂i/∂t > 0, where t is the time) can run up the unemployment, because she incites the trade unions to demand price compensation. This starts the wage-price spiral (wage-profit spiral may be a better term). This explains the unpredictable character of the Phillips curve gw(u).
Nevertheless, in 1973-1977 the cabinet Den Uyl still strongly relies on the Phillips curve. It refuses to apply austerity, for fear that this will lower the incomes, and thus also the employment (that is to say, u increases). The figure 1 even shows, that in 1975 the policy of the cabinet causes an additional fall of the profits. The inflation i(1975) reaches an absolute peak in that year with over 10%! People have difficulty in esimating the nominal value of labour. For a moment the workers are fooled by the money illusion, but soon they take the inflation into account. In the column about the Phillips curve it is explained, that in such a situation the Phillips curve can shift upwards. On p.221 in EvgN this phenomenon is indeed observed for the Netherlands. The Phillips curve for 1952-1970 is lower than the curve for 1971-1985. Your columnist has copied this behaviour in the figure 2.
Besides, the figure 2 shows, that the new Phillips curve is flatter than the old one. That is to say, even the lower wages merely lead to a limited reduction of the unemployment. The cause must obviously be sought in the worsened economic structure of the Netherlands. EvgN describes on p.218 that thus the power relations shift. The enterprises become so weak, that they frequently must ask the banks for additional credits. This stimulates banking. Moreover banking becomes stronger due to a wave of mergers, which concentrates the activities in the large banks. Incidentally, the whole industry is characterized by mergers and joint ventures, in an attempt to reduce the production costs by means of advantages of scale.
In France the economic prosperity of 1945-1975 is called the Trentes glorieuses. On p.221 of EgvN it is concluded, that apparently the Dutch prosperity between 1951 and 1973 is yet quite diverse. During the first ten years the low wages create a competitive strength and welfare. During the second decade this success is exploited. Furthermore, it must be mentioned, that the prosperity is often attributed to the financial stimulation by the state. This is called a Kaleckian-Keynesian policy to control the conjuncture. On p.238 of EgvN it is shown, that although the Dutch state has indeed applied this policy, it barely had any positive effects. Consider the expenditure stops of 1951 and 1957, which actually have increased the problems5. This is also important, because it gradually undermines the trust of the trade union movement in the state interventions.
The investments during the late sixties are usually depth investments, which replace the expensive labour by capital. It is a paradox, that in the short term they create extra employment, so that they increase the tension on the labour market. When since 1971 the investments begin to fall, this is a clear signal, that the Dutch economy spends too much. Due to the automatic price compensation of the wages the profits must pay the inflation. This is even true for the inflation, that begins since 1973 due to the rising oil prices. Even during the depression of 1975, when the national income decreases with 1.1%, the real wages continue to rise.
This becomes apparent from the pit in the figure 1, and is shown more clearly in the figure 3, which is copied from p.259 in EvgN. Note that the figure 3 is a continuation of the figure in the previous column about the trade union movement. However, in the figure 3 the wage sum is shown, as well as the inflation (your columnist assumes: of the consumer expenditures). During the seventies, due to the high wage level, even the strong industrial branches get into difficulty. Renowned metal industries fail. The construction industry suffers in 1980, when even the branch of housing collapses. The figure 3 shows, that only during the eighties the real wage begins to fall (gw < i).
The authors of Economische geschiedenis van Nederland in de 20e eeuw finish their book with an economic evaluation of the applied policy. Although (or because?) your columnist writes from a social-democratic perspective, he always tries to remain objective, free from political distortions. However, it does not hurt to repeat the political-economic conclusions of EvgN. The cabinet Den Uyl is fanatic in its policy of curbing the conjuncture (p.276 and further). During the recession of 1975 the minimum wage is increased with nominally 20%, and the benefits are also increased. In the state sector employment programs are launched. In that year the rate of collective expenditures (that is to say, the fraction of the collective expenditures in the national income) increases in a single shock from 53.7% to 59.8%! From this, 4% is added to the state expenditures, and 2% to the social benefits.
It results in a national deficit of 5.1%. Nevertheless, the boom of 1976 does not lead to a recovery of the employment. The cabinet Den Uyl begins to understand, that state interventions do not help. Nevertheless, it refuses to apply austerity, for ideological reasons. The rate of collective expenditure remains at its new high level. On p.279 in EvgN it is stated, that thus the policy of the cabinet Den Uyl has worsened the structural economic problems. This cabinet is followed by the cabinet Van Agt (1977-1981), which has a centre-right profile6. The cabinet does want to apply austerity, and presents this intention in the plan Bestek'81. At the time that policy is still politically controversial. However, in 1979 the second oil crisis begins, and this one merciless reveals the structural weaknesses of the Dutch economy.
Thus on p.280 of EgvN the policy of the cabinet Van Agt is called ideologically indeterminate. After ist appointment, the Dutch society must first be convinced, that the demand-side policy is damaging. A change must be made to a supply-side policy of cost control. The inculcation of this message is truly a gigantic task, because in the then political climate people hardly listen to each other. This division can only be imagined by those, who have personally experienced this period - although it is hoped that this column yet gives an impression. Even among christian-democrats the demand-side policy still has many adherents, also because it attracts the electorat. And when finally in 1980 the necessity becomes clear within the society, the tide can only be turned by means of drastic measures.
In 1981-1982 there is briefly a second cabinet Van Agt, now together with the social-democrats. That cabinet is politically totally paralyzed. In 1982 the budget deficit rises to 8.2%. The cabinet is succeeded by the centre-right cabinet Lubbers (1982-1986), and this acquires a growing social support for the supply-side policy. Moreover, it has written a coalition agreement, wherein it obliges itself to apply austerity. The cabinet Lubbers indeed succeeds in realizing its goals. The wages of the state officials are lowered, as well as the social benefits. The the collective burden is reduced. For the first time in decades the profits of the enterprises recover (see figure 1).
The prime minister Ruud Lubbers receives a general appreciation and authority for his work. This is obviously justified, although p.283 of EvgN notes, that the cabinet benefits from the global economic boom in 1984-1985. Moreover, the policy is a correction of the strong levelling in the previous decade, so that the inequality is again somewhat increased.
In the previous column about the trade union movement it is described that between 1945 and 1965 it tries to realize an order of labour. Now, in the remainder of the column the subsequent developments are analyzed, where notably the book De beheerste vakbeweging (In short Dbv) is consulted7. Immediately after 1945 the political elite still has a burning desire to establish an ideal state. The trade union movement sees itself as a defender of the general interest, which implies a full employment, social security, and an egalitarian income distribution. This ideal is almost the essence of the trade union movement. Most of the workers, who have only completed a primary education, see the trade union officials as fathers (p.285 in Dbv). In a previous column the trade union leader Jan Oudegeest is already cited, who in 1932 pleads in favour of the "ambition to emancipate the masses in a material, spiritual and moral sense"8.
This requires a social harmony. Therefore, after 1945 the trade union movement reduces the number of strikes to a minimum. It even believes that political strikes (against the government) are unacceptable, because they rebel against the democratic decisions. Furthermore, the propagation of the general interest implies, that the trade union movement no longer supports group interests. This can be observed among others in the effort to find the objectively best decisions. Therefore the trade union leaders attach much value to the opinion of scientists, such as those in the Centraal Planbureau (in short CPB). In the preceding paragraph it has already been remarked, that here they overestimate the performance of science. The economic predictions of the CPB rarely resemble reality. And the state intervention in the conjuncture do not bring the expected or hoped improvements.
Due to the absence of unemployment the wage level experiences a continuous upward pressure, which can not be curbed. This is perhaps the most important lesson of the then period, namely that apparently a full employment is impossible in a free market economy. Therefore the central wage demands of the trade union movement are always too low. Thus it turns out that for many reasons the ideal state can not be reconciled with the social reality. Gradually the political and economic leaders begin to understand, that the controlled wage policy must end. This is an awkward task, because after twenty years of central wage policy the entrepreneurs and trade union have unlearned to bargain freely. And the industry has structurally been adapted to a low wage level. The production processes are labour intensive. Here it becomes clear that a well-meant utopia can lead to abuse.
In any case, the trade union leaders begin to understand, that the workers are mainly stimulated by their material interests, say by the income motive. Therefore, henceforth the trade unions attach more weight to the group interests, to the detriment of the general interest. In the mentioned column it is explained that the sociologist Van Zuthem distinguishes between two functions, namely the emancipation and the correction. Emancipation implies that the trade union movement wants to integrate maximally in society. This is the course between 1945 and 1965. Correction implies, that the trade unions oppose the existing order. After 1965 it prefers the second function. In principle, the increased materialism of the unions is evidently positive, because it implies realism. However, care must be taken, that the enterprises are not ruined.
The figure 1 shows, that the durability of the enterprises does suffer. That is very sad, and the question is, how this comes about. It has just been concluded, that the harmony experiment has led to social abuses. Nevertheless, around 1965 a successful liberalization of the system is still possible. However, in practice the reform of the system is unsatisfactory. The trade union movement drifts into a conflict model, which reminds of the opposition by principle. Various causes can be mentioned, some coming from abroad, whereas others are typical for the Dutch situation. On p.381 and further in Dbv a fairly complete summary is given of the causes and circumstances. They are repeated here succinctly:
In the following text the development of the Nederlands Verbond van Vakverenigingen (Dutch Federation of Trade unions, in short NVV) is analyzed in particular, because it is the largest federation, and because your columnist disposes of pertinent information. The Nederlands Katholiek Vakverbond (Dutch Catholic Federation of Trade unions, in short NKV) is somewhat smaller. Still smaller is the protestant Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond (Christian National Federation of Trade unions, in short CNV). The three federations coordinate their policy in the Council of Deliberations. There the NKV and CNV are traditionally more conservative than the socialist NVV. However, after 1965 in the catholic pillar an identity crisis begins, which rigorously and radically changes the character of its organs9. Then the NKV becomes a federation, that is just as radical as the NVV. Your columnist is not familiar with this pillar, and therefore misses the insight to explain the reasons and motives for this revolution.
In the Netherlands New Left takes on many forms. In 1966 the Provo movement emerges, which is dominated by intellectual anarchists. At the same time the group Nieuw Links is formed, mainly by students, who want to seize power in the PvdA. The representatives of Nieuw Links indeed succeed in conquering vital positions. The party leader Joop den Uyl collaborates with them. Under Nieuw Links and Den Uyl the PvdA chooses in favour of a political polarization10. The influence of New Left in the trade union movement follows two channels. Firstly, the radical ideas appeal to some union officials. And secondly, radical scientists and students contact the unions, proposing to educate and form the union militants.
Thus the union officials and the academic teachers become somewhat interwoven. They meet at congresses and during union courses. Within the universities, faculties in sociology and andragogy (adult education) begin to study trade unions, and they publish their findings in handbooks, also for the common workers, and in journals. De beheerste vakbeweging is an example. The attention focuses on the metal industry, because she is essential for the economic production, and because her workers are very radical. The book Vakbondswerk moet je leren (in short Vmjl), also published during the seventies, is even completely devoted to the Algemene Nederlandse Metaalbewerkersbond (General Dutch Metalworkers Union, in short ANMB), which would later merge in the illustrious Industriebond (in short IB) NVV11.
In Vmjl a characteristic representative of this current is described, namely Stan Poppe. He joined the ANMB in 1947, and until 1973 is the head of the department of Research and Preparation in the IB. Already in 1961 Poppe states that the ANMB would have become too bureaucratic (p.424 in Vmjl). That hinders the spontaneity and the autonomy of the members. In 1970 Poppe adopts a radical standpoint (p.455 in Vmjl): "The society is much less meritorious than we used to think", this due to the exploitation, waste and lack of say. Necessary is "firstly, to make the often acquiescing workers more conscious of the need to demand more humane relations in the enterprise and in society. Especially by expressing and strengthening the emerging protests among workers in certain groups".
A hallmark of his philosophy is that the workers themselves do not understand their poor situation. Intellectuals must enter the enterprises in order to enlighten them. According to Poppe the propagation of material interests is less relevant than social change (p.469 in Vmjl). When the trade unions advocate a vision of society, then the workers will engage in actions, is his idea. Poppe hopes that the new man will emerge, just like many before him. He states (p.470): "In my opinion a starting point can be found by, after considering the social relations of today, determining which measures of humanity are violated most". He demands an intimate relation between the trade union movement and the social-democracy12.
In 1974 the IB NVV, led by the socialist A. Groenevelt, publishes the pamphlet Fijn is anders, about its view on society. Despite the turbulent times the pamphlet creates much excitation, also in the other NVV unions. On p.14 it is stated: "What the IB NVV wants, is a fundamental change of the present capitalist social structure, where the interests of some are presented as the general interest. The IB NVV prefers a socialist society, based on the democracy of labour". Again, on p.16: "A hallmark of our capitalist society is, that individuals in important positions try to keep everything the same and demand a huge income on top of it ...!" This actually implies that the democratic legitimacy of the government is questioned!
Another citation, on p.22: "Thus the capitalist education forms its pupils: one-sided, without insight in the whole; dependent and thus subjected; vulnerable and thus afraid of change and quick to resists those that want change ...". Nevertheless, Fijn is anders does not offer a blueprint for a new society. It is generally assumed, that the IB NVV has workers' self-management in mind. That supposition is based on a citation like (p.14): "Everybody has an equal right to lead as well as to choose leaders. This is true for society as a whole (government and parliament); this is also true for the parts, such as the enterprise".
The IB NVV has accepted the consequences of its credo Fijn is anders. On p.29 it says: "We no longer accept the partial responsibility for something, that we do not want: the capitalist society. (...) Therefore we also reject all decisions, that block our path to a new society. (...) When decisions do not please us, we have our hands free. (...) With a strike, with an occupation, or with any other instrument that emerges from the toolbox". During the seventies, the IB NVV has indeed abstained from any responsibility for a durable production. When enterprises are in danger of collapsing, it is expected that the state will maintain the employment. The union policy will become more realistic only at the end of the decade, when her members become the victim of mass unemployment.
Groenevelt is originally a metal worker with merely an education of primary school, as well as the Central Cadre School of the NVV. From his recent autobiography De lotgevallen van een crisiskind13 it becomes apparent, that he indeed did collaborate with Poppe, but is not intimately connected to the academic group of New Left. On p.201 he writes: "The loss of thousands of jobs at Werkspoor and Demka had deeply impressed me, and I no longer believed in a harmonious collaboration between capital and labour, a belief that had lived during the post-war years - also for me - and for years determined the actions of the trade union movement". In 1972 he blocked on behalf of the IB a central agreement, which then forced the NVV chairman Ter Heide to leave.
According to Groenevelt, Fijn is anders is a note of the union board itself (p.203 in Lotgevallen). Other NVV unions disliked a socialist signature. Even Den Uyl, yet a fanatic adherent of the demand-side policy, distanced himself from Fijn is anders. Groenevelt writes (p.206): "To be honest, that was a huge disappointment". He still supports the then wage struggle. Concerning the collapse of the shipyards he states (p.218): "The end of the story was the loss of a traditional branch, caused by failing directors, who were in constant conflict, and were unable to timely change their policy". Your columnist wants to add, that due to the then low profits the shipyards barely had any means to change policies.
On p.219 Groenevelt writes about the legal prohibiting of some strikes: "[The members] rejected the judicial verdict as a form of class justice, and in my heart I shared their feeling". Finally he admits (p.245): "Then for a few years I had to lead a union, that saw many, many members disappear in the unemployment and disability benefits and that significantly reduced the power of the union". In 1980 Groenevelt writes, together with the IB economist P. Vos, the note Doormodderen of durven, which proposes to give the industry financial injections (p.246). The price compensation may be abolished in exchange for the maintenance of employment. However, his own radicalized union does not want to follow him in his turn. In 1983 he leaves as chairman.
The preceding text sketches a picture of the manner, in which the trade union movement is sometimes carried away by the utopian idealism, that characterizes the critical spirit of society. Another example is the Voedingsbond NVV (food) led by C. Schelling, who published his biography already in 1984, together with a co-author14. Schelling has also merely completed primary school, later followed up by the Central Cadre School. His book expresses such an atmosphere of hate, that it can not be rhetorical. On p.74 Schelling says: "The PvdA is the physiotherapist of capitalism. The ruling system is supported. Labour remains subjected to capital, still. (...) Bread and games. TROS, Veronica and Studio Sport [TV stations EB]. In spite of the social decline, the growing proletariat, in its new forms, does not take the initiative".
On p.112 it says: "In the western market-economy the social contract is overgrown with the monopolies of the multinational powers, which have woven their tight networks with minute meshes, even in the stable of the farmer, the purse of the worker, the stomach of the consumer. They dominate everywhere, almost invisibly". And (p.159): "While conquering the world, the capitalist growth system is a permanent process of war. In its crisis phase that economy transforms into a war industry. The weapons must be sold. And used".
Schelling also accuses the judges of class justice (p.69-71): "The positions of power decide. The property of the rich matters. (...) The judges collaborate with this system. A judge, who imposes a cooling-off period of twenty days, does not know what he brings about. He does not know the background information, the socio-psychological process. (...) They join the side of power. Workers do not have a court and judges. (...) [Judges] belong to that class, and there they stand". He accepts civil rebellion: "A government, although democratically elected, honourable on the throne, can act undemocratically. So badly that it must not be allowed". This is a remarkable difference of opinion in comparison with the social-democrat Gerhard Schröder, who supports a procedural consensus with regard to the exercise of power. Schröder calls this constitutional patriottism.
On p.96 Schelling proposes an alternative: "In my view it would be wise to construct a totally different system of production. We need smaller communities of production, where useful things are made, not all the superfluous products, that are propagated by advertising". And on p.213: "The key is: work will be voluntary. Voluntary jobs, that is a lever for breaking open this economy". Schelling has expressed this radical views as chairman of the VB NVV. When in 1979 the FNV chairman Wim Kok wants to exchange the price compensation in favour of the conservation of employment, Schelling is among his fiercest opponents. This episode has made history as the almost-agreement. In 1982, three years and many unemployed later, Kok does succeed. In 1984 Schelling leaves.
The present paragraph copies information mainly from the book Vakbondswerk moet je leren (in short Vmjl). In the post-war model of harmony the trade union movement itself is barely active in the enterprises. The bargaining all takes place at the central level. And the participation of workers is completely delegated to the works council (in short OR). According to the personal socialism the worker himself is responsible15. This is also the time, when the human relations movement enters the personnel departments, as a side effect of the Marshall aid (p.394 in Vmjl). In this atmosphere of harmony the conflicts of interest are easily reconciled, in the manner that was traditionally envisaged by the social-democrats and the catholics. Then the trade union movement merely has the function to emancipate the workers. The trade unions do appoint trusted representatives in the enterprises, but their task is mainly the acquisition of members.
When in 1959 the roman-red coalitions led by Drees are replaced by centre-right cabinets, the controlled wage policy is gradually liberalized. Otherwise the forces of the markets would create an underhand circuit. Then the unions must again start bargaining in the enterprises. Capitalism is accepted as a system16. Chapter IV of Vmjl describes this reform for the ANMB. In 1962 this union decides to initiate the propaganda in industries (bedrijven-werk). In this way the union hopes to be present in the enterprise, besides the works council. The ideal is to establish a member-group of the enterprise (in short BLG) in each enterprise. They must become sources of information for the salaried union officials, who henceforth negotiate about the contracts. The mentioned Poppe is an architect of the propaganda in industries, together with Herman Wallenburg.
The doctrine is prettier than reality, because the BLG's rarely form spontaneously. Therefore, after 1964 the ANMB appoints industrial propagandists, a predecessor of the present organizers, who in the enterprises try to install trusted representatives (at the time called industrial contact men). In 1967 significant progress is made (at least on paper, see p.430!). Then an economic downturn begins, which leads to the radicalization of officials such as Groenevelt. Now the ANMB also instructs its members to form a fraction within the OR. Thus the union wants to increase her influence on the personnel policies. The OR members must report to their BLG. When Fijn is anders is published in 1974, the (now) IB again loses its interest in personnel policies (p.517). The union becomes an opponent by principle.
Notably the trusted representatives are amenable to demands to change society, such as done by Poppe. The ANMB indeed distances itself from the OR as an institute, because it would be too accomodating. Thus the critical spirit of society and the standpoint of the union create a struggle for competence between the OR members and the trusted representatives. Incidentally, the union members are not enthusiastic about the class doctrine of the ANMB, and prefer the propagation of material interests. The self-management by workers is not their biggest desire. Poppe calls this an encapsulation and a negative apathy, just like Van den Doel (p.469, 503, 531). The formation and courses, supplied by the union, are an important instrument for stimulating the awakening. There Poppe and his congenials propagate the sociological find of the experienced-based learning, albeit with inconstant success (p.494). That is a collective process, and a turning away from personalism17.
Immediately after the Second Worldwar many wild strikes occur in the Netherlands, partly initiated by the federation EVC and by Leninist agitation. But after these turbulent early years the factor labour is quite peaceful, also in comparison with neighbouring states. A single exception is the large strike of 1960 in the construction branch. The cause is typical for the then mental attitude, namely a controversy about the actual rise of the labour productivity ap. The period after 1970 is infested with conflicts, and strikes become a regularity. The figure 4 shows that then the number of working days per year, lost due to actions, rises with sometimes a factor of 10 with respect to the preceding decades. It has already been mentioned, that this must be attributed to the increasing individualism, the willingness to take risks, and the desire te engage in social revolutions. The present paragraph sketches that the trade union actions become more aggressive.
Perhaps the most important problem of the trade union movement is, that the controlled wage policy causes a wage drift. Thanks to the full employment the separate enterprises offer wages, that are above the (regulated) wages in the collective agreements (CAO's). That undermines the reason of existence of the unions. An additional irritation of the unions is, that state agencies such as the CPB structurally underestimate the economic growth (p.156, 176 in Dbv). The scientific predictions are not particularly reliable. Therefore during the fifties the wage level, which is proposed in the SER and agreed upon in the StAr, lags behind the increasing welfare19. During the sixties the productivity ap is undermined somewaht by the reduction of the working-hours, which in 1960 still is 48 hours. Now the growth rate of the wages surpasses the productivity (gw > gap). In this manner the black wages are whitened.
Due to the liberalization of the wage policy the trade unions gain influence at the cost of their federation. For, the central consultations become less important. It has just been shown that therefore the unions initiate the propaganda in the industries. After 1965 the shifting balance of power regularly causes frictions between the federation and her unions. Since the big industries are more productive than the shopkeepers and small entrepreneurs (in short MKB), a wage drift occurs, which is difficult to bear for the MKB (p.209). For instance, in 1965 Philips initiates the automatic price compensation. The trade unions are enthusiastic, but it will soon become an unbearable burden for the economy. Apparently the learning process of the free wage formation is still in its infancy. Although there is discord in the SER and the StAr, 1967, 1968 and 1969 are still calm years20.
In 1969 the three federations do organize a large demonstration against the increase of the value-added tax (in short BTW). The NVV is even willing to strike. This is a tipping point, because it would be a political strike. In the preceding decades the political strike has always been rejected, because it attacks a democratically made decision (p.271, 343). The trade union movement also demands a further expansion of the public goods, for the first time against the will of the employers and the centre-right parties (p.279). In 1969 the enterprise Werkspoor is occupied, which is strictly speaking an offence. A symptom is also a wild strike in the industry of straw-board, caused by the agitation of an action committee, led by the Leninist Meis. Although (or because?) the branch is dying, the entrepreneurs soon accept the wage demands of the strikers. The unions experience this as a loss of face.
Within the trade union movement the attitude towards the actions of radical members changes. During the Cold War the unions generally combat wild strikes, which are often caused by Leninist agitation. Leninists, that make political propaganda within the unions, are expelled. However, after 1969 the union boards do not dare this any more (p.394)21. In 1970 wild strikes begin in the shipyards in Rotterdam and by the dockworkers (p.363). Here the Leninists also initially lead the strikes, among others the action committee Arbeidersmacht (! worker's power). The unions negotiate with the entrepreneurs, but subsequently the OR rejects the final result. Moreover, the dockworkers harshly criticize their union.
In this chaotic situation the enterprises are willing to make significant concessions, although (or because) also the shipyards are dying. The trade unions conclude that apparently their demands are too low. They decide to henceforth make their own demands excessive, in order to push back the action committees (p.412, 417 in Dbv)22. In 1970 the NVV indeed organizes its first political strike since 1945, directed against a wage control measure (namely, a wage stop) of the cabinet De Jong. The NKV and CNV join them. The die is cast.
During the seventies the conclusion of central agreements rarely succeeds. In the book Sociale wrijving (in short Sw) by A.F. van Zweeden it is described that more and more the state must mediate in order to solve wage conflicts23. An option is to offer an expansion of the public sector. The trade union movement also demands, that the wage policy is integrated in the income policy. The state must be willing to intervene in the profits and the capital efficiency. On the other hand, the entrepreneurs and trade unions increasingly attempt to solve their conflicts by shifting costs to the state (p.39 in Sw)24. For, in the eyes of the then trade union movement (notably the powerful industry unions) the state is merely the servant of capital. In 1977 the unions strike, because the entrepreneurs want to abolish the price compensation (wage indexation). The shops and small entrepreneurs almost collapse under the weight of their wage costs (p.87).
Despite the rising unemployment the trade unions agree to wage moderation only in exchange for a further skimming of the profits, as well as central state planning with participation of the unions (p.47 and further; p.106). They hope to stabilize the employment by means of centrally managed investments. Those agreements of restructuring and investments are called job agreements (in short apo's). When apo's are absent, the IB NVV and IB NKV refuse any cooperation. This is called the distance model. This is a political demand as well, which surpasses the direct furthering of interests (p.90, 133). It is obvious that the entrepreneurs reject this infringement on their freedom to manage. The problem is that in this manner the state policy is partly controlled by the trade union movement. This is an erosion of the parliamentary democracy25. The IB CNV does remain cooperative (p.155).
This is also the moment, when the industries begin to abuse the disability benefits as a luxurious unemployment benefit (p.99, 179). The politicians connive at this practice, or are too divided to intervene. This pushes the public expenses even further upwards. Even at the end of the seventies the unions accept wage moderation at most as a real stabilization, and not as a wage decrease. It is a hallmark of the then tunnel vision, that Van Zweeden labels proposals to decouple the benefits as almost indecent (p.182). Incidentally, at the time the social atmosphere is so sick, that many reasonable solutions are blocked. Around 1980 the arguments of Van Zweeden and Messing are full of confusion and despair. Only after the depression around 1982 men such as Kok and Lubbers can end the impasse.
When the role of the trade union movement in the period between 1965 and 1985 is studied, a sense of sadness must inevitably appear. At the time the trade union movement is undoubtedly a part of the problems, and not of the solutions. The same statement can be made with regard of the social-democracy in the Netherlands. Sure, the situation of the Dutch economy was akward, due to the preceding period of forced harmony, and due to the global developments. However, the actions of the organized labour movement have really made the situation worse. The collapse of several branches has been accelerated, and perhaps in some cases needlessly started. In retrospect it is surprising, that nevertheless the trade unions got so much support. Apparently massive actions are not a guarantee for a wise and healthy course.
Nowadays both the trade union movement and the PvdA acknowledge, that their then policy was unsound. To be fair, that was already clear in 1965, but apparently this learning process was still necessary. Until today the PvdA finds it difficult to criticize her then leaders, perhaps because they represent the social-democratic vision of man. A party is a value community. The mass psychology stresses the need for a political leader (power seeker), who is the face of the party and her values. Therefore it is argued that the intentions were good, also those of the less successful party leaders.
After 1945 the Netherlands has had a full employment for many decades. Even now all political parties present this as a goal in their programs. Nevertheless, it must be concluded, that the absence of unemployment is exceptional, and not reconcilable with a stable economy. This conclusion makes the employment programs during the seventies a bit tragic. Your columnist will not endeavour to mention a level of unemployment, that does stabilize the economy. Those interested can again consult the column about the NAIRU .