Fascism, socialism and the polder model

The polder model is a typically Dutch phenomenon. It brought together groups with very different political ideologies. Based on this different ideology, the polder model is each interpreted in its own way. Van de Boom and Bos shed light on the reception of the Dutch polder model by fascists and socialists (social democrats).


  • Fascism
  • Plurality against fascism
  • Socialism
  • Dutch features



The NSB disrupted the stable situation in the Netherlands in the 1930s. They showed that the nation was a more powerful bond than class. Pillarization was the main object of disgust. This pillarization meant intransigence in public and a willingness to compromise behind the scenes. Fascism turned against both the irreconcilable and the pragmatic, because they did not consider pluralism in itself legitimate.

The government immediately labeled the NSB as dangerous. The ‘newcomers’ were a political undercurrent that sought an alternative to pillarization. They pursued more or less the same thing as the fascists: the unity of the nation. Many of their ideas and fears were similar. The difference, however, was that, unlike fascism, they did respect democracy and democratic values. The followers of this movement varied from left to right.

Plurality against fascism

What most anti-fascists have in common is the idea that differences of opinion should be respected. This is somewhat remarkable because they all saw pluralism as something undesirable. But it still had to be possible. They called spiritual freedom a typical Dutch value. Heavy-handed revolutionary equalization was certainly not part of this. Spiritual freedom was thus chosen over national unity. The Netherlands introduced pluralism against fascism: particularism, pragmatism, advocacy and compromise: the polder model.


Wim Kok is the personification of the polder model. Under his leadership, the arch-rivals liberals and social democrats worked together. The years after 1945 were an important moment, if not the most important moment, in the development of the Dutch polder model. During the reconstruction, institutions were formed within which organized consultation would take place between employers and employees (the social partners). The Social Democrats were involved in this from the start. But the Second World War, as well as the occupation and liberation, were certainly not decisive. The SDAP, for example, came to similar conclusions as early as 1939. There were no longer any real calls for class struggle at that time.

Dutch features

Historian Rüter mentions that the workers’ movement was pillarized as a typical Dutch characteristic. What was striking was the presence of Dutch characteristics among the socialists in particular. This is because socialism is originally an international and anti-national movement. Apparently things had developed slightly differently in the Netherlands. The Dutch socialist characteristics were rather a sense of freedom, realism, tolerance and civility. But this was of course not the only branch of socialism. There was also the barricade model. The so-called barricade socialists really chose a different path. They were the example of anti-civil indecency. They also expressed this in their poetry, which was full of glorification of violence against those in power and of utopianism. But they are often unfairly ignored. Their goal was to stir up contradictions in society. They first had success with this in 1895. There have been several cases of riots and violence, such as the Eel riot in the Jordaan and an attempted murder of a police commissioner. It was only the branch of the Social Democrats that ultimately contributed to perfecting the polder model.

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