Farmers' Revolt

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The Farmers' Revolt, also known as the Achterhoek Uprising, was a series of protests and violent clashes that occurred in the eastern Netherlands, particularly in the Achterhoek region, from 1977 to 1979. The revolt was a consequence of the Dutch government's Development Plan of 1975, which expanded urban infrastructure and built settlements for refugees of the East Indies Crisis, which led to perceived social and economic disruptions in rural Dutch communities.


The East Indies Crisis and the influx of refugees

The East Indies Crisis, which began in the early 1960s, led to a significant influx of refugees into the Netherlands fleeing from Soenda. These refugees were accommodated primarily in the Randstad region. However, by the 1970s, it became increasingly clear that the area's infrastructure was nearing its maximum capacity, needing a new strategic approach by the Dutch government.

Upon assuming office as Prime Minister in 1974, Koen Haverman proposed the expansion of urban infrastructure into the Eastern Netherlands, which was predominantly agricultural. He saw the strategy not only as a short-term response to the refugee crisis, but also a long-term plan to revitalize regions that had suffered developmental stagnation since the Great War. The plan, he claimed, would "level the economic playing field across the eastern provinces."

Although generally popular, this proposal was met with significant resistance and concern from the local farming communities. The farmers perceived the government's plan as a direct threat to their livelihoods and traditional way of life.

The Development Plan of 1975

The Development Plan of 1975 (Dutch: Het ontwikkelings plan van 1975) was approved and launched in 1975, aiming to alleviate the population pressures in the Randstad, effectively manage the resettlement of over a million refugees, and rebalance socio-economic disparity between the western and eastern regions of the Netherlands.

This extensive plan included a wide range of projects: from housing developments and infrastructure upgrades, to the decentralization of government offices, creation of new job opportunities in the east, land acquisitions, and investment in educational institutions.

Eminent domain and land disputes

A controversial aspect of the development plan was the acquisition of land in the eastern provinces. Throughout 1975-1977, the Dutch government exercised eminent domain to seize land for development, with the provision of compensating the landowners and farmers at a price determined by independent assessments.

However, this process became a source of contention, primarily due to a perceived discrepancy between the actual value of the land and the compensation offered by the government. Farmers felt that the compensation they received did not reflect the true value of their land, nor did it account for potential future earnings, especially after tariff reductions with Zeylan decreased agricultural commodity prices.

Farmers and landowners began to demand fairer compensation, but the government was slow to respond to these calls. This led to the belief that the government was deliberately shortchanging the farmers on compensation, leading to further frustration and anger.

The revolt

Week of Barricades (August 1979)

Week of Barricades was the name given to the most violent week, also called the Achterhoek opstand. It was during this week when no progress was achieved; the farmers turned from simple civil disobedience towards full-on disobedience. Farmers made barricades on major roads and highways and paralyzed transportation in the eastern Netherlands, which was planned to last for 2 days, but unexpectedly extended indefinitely. Government buildings in the eastern provinces were stormed by farmers and occupied. This was carried out by the radicals within the farmer's protest movement. The situation only stabilized after the government finally authorized the use of deadly force to remove the barricades and free the government buildings and the hostages.

Wednesday (8th of August)

On the 8th of August 1979, a group of radicalized farmers, tired by the lack of concessions by the government in regards to land sales, stormed the police station in 's-Heerenberg. The police station at the time was lightly guarded and while tensions had been high, nobody had suspected that this would happen.

Thus the cops were surprised and taken off guard, which resulted in the capture of the station and the looting of the munitions. This in turn had another effect in that the farmers were becoming better and better armed, it resulted in the taking of the city of 's-Heerenberg a city that would be at the center of the week of barricades.

The news of what was transpiring in 's-Heerenberg and the Achterhoek in general reached Den Haag. It was here that Prime Minister Koen Haverman, with the consent of the emergency cabinet, ordered the military to take action. It was a controversial decision even at the time, for the military, even after being reduced due to demobilization and taking in a lower amount of conscripts, was still considered a massive effective fighting force. A force that had an intentional knowledge and tendency to be ruthless. It was hoped that this would be lessened due to it being in the homeland.

Friday (10th of August)

After the order had been given the military (Krijgsmacht), commanded by Kapitein-Generaal Klaas Donkervoort, a veteran of the East Indies Crisis, who had commanded numerous units and was a man that Soenda was accused of committing crimes against humanity. Kapitein-Generaal Donkervoort ordered the 5th Limburgse Jagers Brigade stationed in Arnhem and the 18th Pantser brigade to roll out. These were units where much of their upper echelons were EIC veterans.

Weekend van bloed

The deployment of these two brigades happened rapidly, the units where in heavy armour and could easily be deployed. They easily dispatched the barricades along the road but once they reached 's-Heerenberg the trouble started. It appeared that the radicals had entrenched themselves and what followed was a weekend full of blood, where they had to forcefully take them out of their houses.

See also