Anarchy 66/Explaining Provo
From some other people on the Dutch ABC March here in April, I understand that you were interested in the Dutch anarchist Provo movement. There exist many misunderstandings even here in Holland about the Provos. It is very important to us that Provo gets more international influence. Some progress has already been made in this respect in France and Belgium, but we believe that there must be even greater opportunities for Provo to spread in England.
The Provo movement was started in April of last year by a few anarchist students and workers, some of whom had already worked with De Vrije (the Dutch equivalent of freedom); they saw, however, that the methods of the old anarchist movement were too isolated, too small, and too stupid. Do not forget that the anarchist movement here is, unlike in England I think, only the remainder of the big movement Holland once possessed. Provo understood that anarchist theory was very relevant to present society and that its impact should, therefore, be, basically, an immediate one. So we wanted to create a movement directed towards what we later called the “Provotariat”, i.e. the conglomeration of all students, artists, beatniks, mods, rockers, and so on, who are all already protesting in their own way, but not as yet politically conscious; to make them politically conscious was our task.
From April 1965 Provo has grown amazingly quickly. Our organisational principles are thoroughly anarchist: no hierarchy, only solidarity; no orders, only spontaneity; everyone who joined the movement changed it a little with his personality and new ideas. I think that it is this aspect that has made Provo so attractive to young people of all kinds.Provo is based upon two fundamental principles, a cultural and a political one. The cultural part is most evident in our “happenings”; which were, initially, the creative activity of some unengaged beatniks, but which are now a constant protest against authority. The police now suppress these activities as much as they can. The “happening” has another function, in our theories, contributed by the famous contemporary Dutch artist, Constant Nieuwenhuys, concerning the “New Babylon”—
The political side of Provo is reflected both in its monthly publication Provo and in the demonstrations which we organise. We feel ourselves very near to, almost a part of, the Dutch “New Left” ideas. We have contacts with the American “New Left” organisation, and I think there is a new left organisation in England also, with the Committee of 100 and the Anarchist Federation of Britain. We think these movements are linked to one anotherm, and the fact that they actually exist at all is indicative of the death of the antagonism between the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat, which have both melted into one big indifferent mass of unengaged people worrying only about their television and their second car. The only rebellious group left in the Welfare State is the “Provotariat”. Hence our “Appeal to the International Provotariat”.
|Amsterdam, May 1966||m. j. lindt|
Comments by Jim Huggon:
I have a few things to say concerning this article which was written in response to a request to the Provos to explain their position more fully.
The first thing is that I have written to them correcting their opinion of the Committee of 100 and the Anarchist Federation of Britain as part of the “New Left”. Both, I feel sure, would disown the description.
Secondly, I have told them that, at least in my opinion, there is little prospect of the Provo movement as such becoming a force over here because (a) It is to a large extent a reaction to a <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: neo-
Thirdly, it is, I think, true to say that the Provo movement on the continent, due perhaps to its new and very attractive ideology, has acted as a magnet to many totally destructive elements that have given the ordinary Dutchman a totally false impression of its real standpoint. In this article, indeed, the writer not only admits this, but also cites it as a basic objective to encourage such elements into its fold in order to change them, and make them ore politically aware. I am not sure, however, who changes who in the end.Finally I think the Provo movement has serious flaws in its logical basis; among these is its attitude to violence and non-