Henk Sneevliet - A Life in Documents

1913-1917: Indonesia

Henk Sneevliet In 1913, Sneevliet left the Netherlands for the Dutch East Indies after securing a job as a journalist with Het Soerabajasch Handelsblad. After a short stay in Surabaya , from 1913 to 1917 he was employed as secretary of the Handelsvereeniging Semarang [Trading Association Semarang]. In Semarang he was soon immersed again in trade union activities and socialist politics and became active in the struggle against Dutch colonial rule. In April 1914 Sneevliet became editor of the paper of the Vereeniging van Spoor en Tram-Personeel [The Federation of Rail and Tramway Personnel, VSTP], De Volharding [Persistence], and became the driving force behind it. In May of that year he established the first Marxist party in colonial Asia, the Indische Sociaal-Democratische Vereeniging [Indies Social Democratic Association, ISDV], that would later (in May 1920) become the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI); Sneevliet was chairman of the ISDV until 1918. To gain access to the Indonesian masses, Sneevliet tried to let the ISDV cooperate with the first Indonesian nationalist mass movement, the Sarekat Islam (SI).

"Testimonial of Change of Actual Place of Residence", issued by the Municipality of Blaricum in connection with Sneevliet's future settlement in Surabaya, Indonesia. 1913. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 54 (pdf, 1.3Mb)

"Documents of Admission to Java and Madura," in the name of H.J.F.M. Sneevliet, journalist; arrived at Tandjong Priok, Indonesia, on 23 March 1913 on the steamer D. van Twist. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 55 (pdf, 2.3Mb)

Letter of appointment issued by the Handelsvereeniging Semarang, Java [Trading Association Semarang], 29 May 1913. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 56 (pdf, 1.8Mb)

Visiting card of Henk Sneevliet, secretary of the Handelsveereniging Semarang, Java [Trading Association Semarang]. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 57 (pdf, 349Kb)

Letter from Henk Sneevliet to F.M. Wibaut, 17-12-1914.
In this letter to the prominent Dutch Social Democrat F.M. Wibaut, Sneevliet criticized the line of the SDAP [Dutch Social Democratic Labour Party] regarding the nationalist Indische Partij (Indies Party) and its successor Vereeniging Insulinde [Association Insulinde]. Sneevliet pleaded for tactical political cooperation with Insulinde. He also stated that the SDAP paid too little attention to the Indonesian nationalist mass movement Sarekat Islam. (Dutch text)
F.M. Wibaut Papers, inv.no. 33 (pdf, 3.2Mb)

Printed brochure with the constitution of the ISDV [Indies Social Democratic Association], put into effect on 2 August 1914. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 75 (pdf, 1.3Mb)

Press card in the name of Henk Sneevliet, representative of the Dutch progressive paper Groene Amsterdammer, for the colonial exhibition in Semarang on 5 August 1914. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 60 (pdf, 544Kb)

Letter from Henk Sneevliet to the Chief Inspector State Railway, Java, 12-9-1914; Sneevliet wrote the letter as the editor of De Volharding, organ of the Dutch East Indies VSTP [Union of Rail and Tramway Personnel], arguing with Chief Inspector M.H. Damme about freedom for trade unions and the right of assembly. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 65 (pdf, 958Kb)

Certificate of membership in the ISDV [Indies Social democratic association] in the name of H. Sneevliet. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 74 (pdf, 577Kb)

Book of letters sent by Henk Sneevliet, 1915-1917; sent to the Board of the ISDV [Indies Social Democratic Association]. The first letter in this book was sent to the Executive Committee of the ISDV, 21-3-1915, in which are discussions of problems in the first stage of constructing a propaganda organization, the collaboration with the Indies nationalist movement Insulinde, and the formation of ISDV branches. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 53 (pdf, 3.6Mb)

Poster to announce a meeting of the Indies political party Vereeniging Insulinde to discuss the necessity of freedom of speech in the Netherlands Indies, with speaker Henk Sneevliet. 7 July 1915. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 71 (pdf, 845Kb)

Copy of a typed letter from Henk Sneevliet to Darna Koesoema, 26-7-1915.
Sneevliet had a very good relationship with the Indonesian radical nationalist Darna Koesoema, who advocated close cooperation with the nationalist parties Insulinde, the Sarekat Islam, and the ISDV [Indies Social Democratic Association]. Sneevliet supported Darna, who collaborated on Sneevliet's actions against restrictions on the press in the Netherlands Indies. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 49 (pdf, 1.2Mb)

Letter from the Dutch social democrat Sam Koperberg to Henk Sneevliet, 26-9-1915.
In this letter, Koperberg, a supporter of the moderate social democratic opposition in the ISDV [Indies Social Democratic Association], strongly criticized Sneevliet about his forcing an "independent"" organ of the ISDV. (Dutch text)
Henk Sneevliet Papers, inv.no. 50 (pdf, 2.4Mb)

Henk Sneevliet in his study at Semarang, 1917.
Call number BG A13/77 (pdf, 514Kb)

From left to right: Pam, Betsy Sneevliet-Brouwer, Pim and Henk Sneevliet. Semarang 1917.
Call number BG A13/54 (pdf, 316Kb)