Anti Revolutionary Party

Anti Revolutionary Party

Infobox Dutch_Political_Party
party_name = Anti Revolutionary Party
party_logo =
party_wikicolourid = CDA
leader = Abraham Kuyper (1879-1905)
Theo Heemskerk (1905-1922)
Hendrikus Colijn (1922-1940)
Sjoerd Gerbrandy (1940-1945)
Jan Schouten (1945-1956)
Jelle Zijlstra (1956-1963)
Barend Biesheuvel (1963-1971)
Willem Aantjes (1971-1977)
foundation = 1879
Dissolved = 1980
merged in to the Christian Democratic Appeal
ideology = Christian Democracy
international = none
european = none
europarl = Christian Democratic Group
colours = none
headquarters = Kuyperhuis
Dr. Kuyperstraat 3 The Hague
website = none

The Anti Revolutionary Party (in Dutch: "Anti-Revolutionaire Partij", ARP) was a Dutch Protestant Christian democratic political party. The ARP is one of the predecessors of the Christian Democratic Appeal. Although after 1917 the party never received more than twenty percent of the vote, its influence was far greater.

Party history

History before 1879

The anti-revolutionary parliamentary caucus had existed since the 1840s. It represented orthodox tendencies within the Dutch Reformed Church. Under the leadership of Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer they became a real political force, which opposed the liberal tendencies within the Dutch Reformed Church and the liberal tendencies within Dutch politics. The three values of the anti-revolutionaries were "God, the Netherlands, and the House of Orange". At the time the anti-revolutionary ideal was a Protestant theocracy in which Catholics and Jews were second-class citizens.

An important issue was public education, which in the view of the anti-revolutionairies should be Protestant-Christian in nature. The anti-revolutionaries had ties with the April movement, which opposed the official re-establishment of Roman-Catholic bishoprics, and a mixed relationship with (liberal-)conservatives in the Tweede Kamer, who also opposed reforms to the social and political system but often on basis of a mix of liberal Protestantism and secular humanism. During the 1860s Groen van Prinsterer became more isolated from his conservative allies. He also began to reformulate his Protestant-Christian ideals, and began to plead for "souvereiniteit in eigen kring" (sphere sovereignty) instead of theocracy. This meant that instead of one Protestant-Christian society, Groen van Prinsterer wanted a Protestant society within a pluriform society. Orthodox Protestants would have their own churches, schools, papers, political parties and sport clubs. This laid the basis for pillarization, which was to dominate Dutch society between 1880 and 1960.

In 1864 Groen van Prinsterer began to correspond with a young Dutch Reformed theologian named Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper was heavily influenced by Groen van Prinsterer's ideals and began to put the latter's ideal of an orthodox Protestant society within Dutch society into practice.


On April 3, 1879 Abraham Kuyper founded the ARP, as part of the larger separate orthodox Protestant society within society. It was the first nationally organized political party in the Netherlands. An 1878 petition for equal payment for religious schools became one of the catalysts for the foundation of the political movement. In 1877 Kuyper had already written "Our Program" in which the political ideals of the ARP were written down (see below). Around the ARP the separate Protestant society began to grow: many Protestant schools were founded, a Protestant university (the Free University was founded in 1880), and a paper (De Standaard). In 1886 Kuyper broke free from the liberal Dutch Reformed Church (in Dutch: Nederlands-Hervormde Kerk) to founded the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands in 1892 (in Dutch: Gerformeerde Kerken Nederland).

The ARP had one practical political goal: equalization of payment between public and religious schools. It had one political strategy: the anti-thesis between religious and non-religious parties, which meant that he sought to break the cooperation between liberals and Catholics and to create an alliance between Catholics and Protestants.


In 1879 13 (out of 100) anti-revolutionaries were in the Tweede Kamer, although not all were member of the ARP. During the period 1879-1883 their number slowly grows, peaking at 19. After the 1884 election they have 21 members parliament. In 1886 they win their first seat in the Eerste Kamer.

In the 1888 election the ARP wins 31.4% of the vote and 27 seats. A confessional cabinet is formed led by the anti-revolutionary Aeneas baron Mackay: it combines anti-revolutionary and Catholic ministers, joined by two conservative independents. Because the liberals still control the Eerste Kamer many of the cabinet's proposals meet resistance there and the cabinet falls before the end of its four year term.

In the 1891 election the ARP loses 2% of its votes, but 6 of its seats. The confessional parties also lost their majority. A liberal cabinet, led by Van Tienhoven is formed. It proposed drastic changes to the census, which would result practically in universal male suffrage, proposed by minister Tak. The ARP is divided on the issue, Kuyper and a majority of the parliamentary party vote in favour of the law, while Alexander de Savorin-Lohman vehemently opposes it. Kuyper has tactical reasons to support enlarged franchise, these 'kleine luyden' (middle class) which would be allowed to vote, often supported the ARP, De Savorin-Lohman opposes the law because it would imply some form of popular sovereignty instead of divine sovereignty. In 1894 this results in a split between the ARP and the group around De Savorin-Lohman. Party discipline also plays a role in the conflict between Kuyper and De Savorin-Lohman: Kuyper, the party leader, favours strong party discipline, while De Savorin Lohman opposes strong parties. The split results in the foundation of the Free Anti Revolutionary Party in 1898, which would become the Christian Historical Union in 1904. With Savorin Lohman a group of prominent party politicians leaves the party, this includes many of its aristocratic members (who like De Savorin-Lohman have double names). The CHU continues its opposition against universal suffrage and is more anti-papist than the ARP.

In the 1894 elections the ARP loses almost half of its vote and six of its twenty-one seats. The Catholics break their alliance with the ARP and support a conservative cabinet. In the 1897 elections the ARP wins back some ground: it is supported by 26% of the electorate and wins seventeen seats. The group around De Savorin Lohman, wins 11% of the vote and six seats. A liberal cabinet is formed and the ARP is confined to opposition.

In 1901 the ARP wins a decisive victory. It wins 27.4% of the vote and twenty-three seats. A cabinet is formed out of the ARP, the Catholics and the group around De Savorin-Lohman, now called the Christian Historical Party. The cabinet is led by Kuyper. It is characterized by Kuypers' authoritarian leadership. He is the first person to formally lead the cabinet for four years. This can best be seen by the railway strike of 1903, in which Kuyper showed no mercy to the strikers and instead pushed several particular harsh anti-strike laws through parliament. After the Eerste Kamer, where there was a liberal majority, rejected Kuypers' law on higher education, which sought to bring equal titles for alumni of the Free University, which Kuyper himself founded, Kuyper calls new elections for the Eerste Kamer. With a confessional majority in the Eerste Kamer, the law is pushed through.

In the 1905 elections the ARP loses only 3% of vote, but eight seats, although it is able to strengthen its position in the Eerste Kamer. Kuyper, the party's leader, loses his own seat in Amsterdam to a progressive liberal. Theo Heemskerk leads the anti-revolutionary parliamentary party. A minority liberal cabinet is formed. Former anti-revolutionary MP Staalman leaves ARP and founds the Christian Democratic Party, which later become the Christian Democratic Union, which would play a minor role in the interbellum political landscape.

In a 1908 Kuyper returns to the Tweede Kamer. After crisis in the liberal cabinet Theo Heemskerk is given the chance to form a new cabinet. A minority confessional cabinet is formed. In the 1909 elections the ARP wins 3% of vote and twenty-five seats. The Heemskerk cabinet continues.

In 1912 Kuyper leaves national politics because of health reasons, and in 1913 he is elected into the Eerste Kamer. In the 1913 election the ARP loses 6% of the votes, but loses more than half of its seats and it is left with 11 seats. Another minority liberal cabinet is formed. The leadership of the ARP lies in the hands of less prominent politicians. Although a relatively small opposition party the ARP plays an important role in Dutch politics. The liberal minority cabinet, led by Cort van der Linden seeks to resolve two important issues in Dutch politics: the conflict over the equalization of payment for religious schools and universal suffrage. In the constitution change of 1918 both items are resolved. The ARP is given equal payment for religious schools, but it has to accept female suffrage and proportional representation.


The 1918 elections provide a decisive test for the party, the party wins two additional seats. The three confessional parties wins 50 seats. The confessional parties form a new cabinet, led by the Catholic Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck. The ARP supplies three ministers and former prime-minister Theo Heemskerk becomes minister of Justice. A group of concerned anti-revolutionaries, led by Gerrit Kersten, founded the Political Reformed Party, which opposed universal suffrage and cooperation with the Catholics. The electorate of the ARP changes in the interbellum, the difference between lower class Protestants who vote ARP and middle class Protestant Protestants who vote CHU begins to disappear, instead religious differences between the Dutch Reformed Church (CHU) and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (ARP) become more important.

In the 1922 elections former minister of war Hendrikus Colijn becomes the leader of the ARP. He emphasized defense and fiscal conservatism as core issues of the party. With him the ARP gets sixteen seats in the Tweede Kamer and fifteen in the Eerste Kamer. He becomes minister of Finance in the second cabinet of Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck. He leads the party in the 1925 elections and loses three seats. The ARP continues to govern with Jan Donner as minister of Justice. After the 1929 elections, in which the ARP loses another seat. The confessional parties continue to govern.

In the 1930s with the growing international political and economic crisis, the ARP begins to regain its popularity, under the leadership of Colijn. In 1933 the ARP wins two seats and Colijn forms of a broad cabinet comprising of the RKSP, CHU, ARP, LSP and VDB. Jan Schouten leads the party's parliamentary party. Between 1933 and 1939 Colijn leads several parliamentary and extra-parliamentary cabinets with changing composition, although the CHU, ARP and RKSP continue to form the core of the cabinet. Colijn keeps to classical economic policies, refuses to devaluate the guilder and is unable to resolve the economic crisis. In 1937 the ARP wins three seats and reaches a historic seventeen seats. Colijn continues to govern. In 1939 his fifth cabinet falls and Colijn is succeeded by Dirk Jan de Geer. Pieter Gerbrandy joins the cabinet without support of his parliamentary party.

In the Second World War members of the ARP play a role in both the governments in exile, of which many were led by Pieter Gerbrandy and the resistance movements. The resistance paper Trouw was founded by ARP'ers. Many future ARP MPs began their political career in the Dutch resistance.


After the Second World War the ARP returned to Dutch politics. The anti-revolutionary Jo Meynen was minister of War, without support of his parliamentary party though.

In the 1946 elections Jan Schouten led the party. It lost four seats. During the formation in became clear that the ARP could not govern: it was heavily opposed to decolonization of the Dutch Indies. It saw the Dutch colonial empire as one of the conditions for continued wealth and power for the Netherlands. The social-democrats and the Catholics did favour decolonization, under heavy pressure of the United States. For six years the ARP was relatively isolated. In 1948 a theological conflict within the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands led to a break between the Reformed Church and the Reformed Churches (liberated). This also had political repercussions, Reformed Political Alliance was set up by members of the liberated churches. They were unable to win seats until 1959. The party remained stable in the 1948 elections and remained in opposition.

After the 1952 elections the ARP returned to the cabinet, which was consisted out of the confessional ARP, CHU, KVP and the social-democratic PvdA, led by the social-democrat Drees. Jelle Zijlstra became minister of economic affairs. In the 1956 elections in which Jelle Zijlstra becomes political leader the ARP kept its 10% of the vote, but due to the expansion of the Tweede Kamer it got 15 seats. A conflict between the PvdA and the KVP causes the early downfall of the cabinet. The ARP remains part of the care-taker cabinet led by Louis Beel. In the 1959 elections the ARP loses another seat. It continues to be part of the cabinet, now led by Jan de Quay. The three confessional parties are joined by the conservative liberal VVD. After the 1963 elections the cabinet continues, now led by Victor Marijnen. The new anti-revolutionary leader Barend Biesheuvel becomes Minister of Agriculture. In 1965 this cabinet falls over a conflict between the liberals and the confessionals. The PvdA joins the ARP and the KVP in a new cabinet, led by Jo Cals. This cabinet falls after one year, over conflict between the KVP and PvdA over government spending. The ARP joins the PvdA on its plea for more government spending. A care-taker government is formed by KVP and ARP. It is led by former ARP-leader Jelle Zijlstra. In the 1967 election campaign the ARP, CHU and KVP declare that will continue to govern together. This leads to considerable conflict with the KVP, which also spills over the ARP. The younger generation wants to govern with the PvdA. The ARP wins two seats, but the KVP loses eight seats. A new liberal/confessional cabinet is formed. Biesheuvel does not enter government but instead chooses to remain in parliament.

In the 1971 elections the ARP loses two seats, and its confessional allies (KVP and CHU) lose seven and three seats respectively. They get competition from the leftwing christian PPR, which is formed by former KVP'ers joined by some prominent anti-revolutionaries, including Bas de Gaay Fortman, son of Wilhelm de Gaay Fortman, one of the party's ministers. The liberal/confessional cabinet loses its majority. A new government is formed comprising of liberals and confessionals, now joined by moderate social-democrats, who left the "radicalizing" PvdA. This cabinet is led by Barend Biesheuvel. Willem Aantjes becomes the chair of the party's parliamentary party. Under his leadership the ARP fashions itself a new leftwing "radical evangelical" image, while the CHU retains its conservative image. The cabinet does not hold long: the moderate social-democrats are unable to agree with budget cuts, and the cabinet falls. In the subsequent elections the ARP wins one seat. After long coalition talks several prominent anti-revolutionaries, including Wilhelm de Gaay Fortman, join the progressive cabinet led by Joop den Uyl. The cabinet is ridden with conflicts between the confessional politicians and the progressive politicians.


Meanwhile a process of merger has started between the KVP, ARP and CHU. In 1974 they found a federation called the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA). In the formation of a common Christian-democratic identity anti-revolutionary Aantjes plays a decisive role: he orients the party towards the sermon on the Mount where Christ says that Christians should clothe the naked and feed the hungry. In the 1977 elections they campaign together under the name of the CDA. Some prominent anti-revolutionaries, like Aantjes did not agree the CDA/VVD cabinet that is formed after the elections, and wanted to continue with the PvdA, politically they support the cabinet however. A group of these anti-revolutionaries leaves the CDA in 1981 to found the left-wing Christian Evangelical People's Party.

The power of anti-revolutionaries within the CDA is still large. The current prime minister of the Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende comes from an anti-revolutionary family. His colleague Piet Hein Donner comes from a prominent anti-revolutionary family, who also brought forth minister Jan Donner.


The ARP derived its name "Anti Revolutionary Party" from its opposition to the ideals of the "liberal" French Revolution (and certainly against those of marxists). The label "conservative" was already taken by a parliamentary group of monarchists and colonialists, who fell from favour during the late 1800s. In its early years the terms anti-revolutionary and Christian-historical were used interchangeable. With the split between the ARP and the Christian Historical Union the terms began to gain their own separate meanings.

Ideology & Issues

The ARP started out as an orthodox Protestant party, heavily opposed to the ideals of the French revolution. Against the revolution, they put the Bible: instead of liberty, it favoured divine providence, instead of equality it favoured hierarchy and instead of brotherhood it favoured sovereignty in its own circle. Its ideals could be summed up in the trio "God, the Netherlands and the House of Orange". For most of its history it had this conservative Protestant image. In the 1960s and 1970s the party began to create a more leftwing "radical evangelical" image.


The ARP was a confessional Protestant party which based its politics on the bible and opposed the concept of popular sovereignty.

The concept of sphere sovereignty was very important for the party. It wanted to create an independent Protestant society within the Dutch society, with its own schools, papers, hospitals etc. It sought equal government finances for its own institutions. Societies should care for their own, therefore they opposed a large role for the state in social-economic policy.

The ARP saw an important role for the state in upholding the values of the Dutch people. It was socially conservative: it opposed co-education, mandatory vaccination, divorce, pornography, euthanasia, abortion etc. It also favoured the death penalty

The Netherlands

The party can be seen as rather nationalist. It favoured a strong defense to retain Dutch neutrality. It opposed decolonization. It saw the colonies in Indonesia, as vital for the continued wealth and influence for the Dutch people. It also wanted to enlighten the native population with Christian values.


The ARP favoured monarchy, and saw the House of Orange as historically and religiously linked to the Dutch people. It opposed changes to Dutch political system, it wanted to retain bicameralism, opposed popular referendums etc. Its commitment to universal suffrage was only tactical the ARP expected that it would be able to gain more seats this way. Principally it wanted Householder Franchise where fathers of each family would vote for his family.

The party was fiscally conservative: the Dutch government should be like a good father: it should not spend more than it got through taxes.

Christian Radicalism

In the 1960s and 1970s the party became more leftwing on many issues. Social justice became an important ideal of the party, both nationally, where it began to favour a stronger welfare state, and internationally, where development aid became an important issue.


In this table the election results of the ARP in Tweede Kamer and Eerste Kamer elections is represented, as well as the party's political leadership: the fractievoorzitter, is the chair of the parliamentary party and the lijsttrekker is the party's top candidate in the general election, these posts are normally taken by the party's leader. If the party is in government, a high ranking minister, often the prime minister can also be party leader. If the high ranking minister is the Prime Minister, this can be seen by the "PM" behind his name. If he is in the cabinet without support of his party his is listed as "independent". The party's membership is also presented in this figure.

Municipal and Provincial Government

The party was particularly strong in rural municipal and provincial governments. Especially in Friesland, Overijssel, Zeeland and the Veluwe the party was particularly strong.


The electorate of the ARP has seen three decisive shifts, especially in its relation with the CHU, the other Protestant party. Although dates are given here, the changes were gradual
*Between 1879 and 1917 the ARP appealed to "kleine luyden" (Dutch for the little people), the middle class, farmers, and workers, as a confessional party that favoured universal suffrage.
*Between 1917 and 1967 the ARP appealed to members of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.
*Between 1967 and 1977, in the time of secularization and depillarization the party was able to appeal to younger generations, as the more leftwing confessional party.


National Organization

The party's national secretariat was long housed in the Kuyper House in The Hague. It now houses the national secretariat of the CDA

Linked organisations

The party published the magazine "Nederlandse Gedachten" ("Dutch Thoughts"). Its youth organization was the Anti-Revolutionaire Jongeren Studieclubs (Anti-Revolutionary Youth Studyclubs). Its scientific institute was the Dr. A. Kuyper foundation.

International organisations

Internationally the ARP was a relatively isolated party. In the European Parliament its members sat in the Christian Democratic faction.

Pillarized organisations

The party had close ties to many Protestant organizations, such as the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, the Protestant broadcaster NCRV, the employers' organization NCW, the trade union CNV, and the paper De Standaard and after the Second World War, the Trouw. Together these organizations formed the Protestant pillar.

Relationships to other parties

Because of the philosophy of anti-thesis it has strong links with the Catholic parties (General League/RKSP/KVP and the CHU. In the period 1879 to 1917 it saw the liberal LU as its main opponent. After 1917 it saw the social democratic SDAP as its main opponent, and it formed several governments with liberals.

After the Second World War, the ARP became more isolated because of its position on the decolonization of the Dutch Indies. After Indonesia became independent, it joined the PvdA, KVP and the CHU in the cabinet. Links with the KVP were exceptionally good and it governed with the KVP and either the CHU and the PvdA. After the 1960s calls to govern with the PvdA became stronger.

International Comparison

Internationally the ARP was very similar to the Scandinavian Christian Democratic parties (such as the Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and the Finnish Christian Democrats), that are all socially and fiscally conservative, with a social heart. All have their roots in orthodox tendencies within the national church. In its conservative policies the ARP also shared similarities with the UK Conservatives and the US Republicans.

Further reading

* "Changing Procedures and Changing Strategies in Dutch Coalition Building" by Hans Daalder In: Legislative Studies Quarterly Vol. 11, No. 4 (Nov., 1986), pp. 507-531.
* "Conservatism in the Netherlands" by Hermann von der Dunk In: Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 741-763 .

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