The following section includes excerpts from the Dutch radical newspaper Recht Voor Allen (Justice for All), as well as the trade unionist paper De Werkmansbode (The Workman’s Messenger), revealing the importance of Marx’s inquiry in the Netherlands. The first text, the appeal for inquiry itself, has been reproduced in full, including all of the abridged questions: these were slightly edited by the author, Nieuwenhuis, in order to make the inquiry relevant to workers’ situations in the Netherlands. All excerpts have been translated into English by Riva Boutylkova.

Recht Voor Allen (Justice for All), 30 October 1880:

To the trade unions and workers’ associations in the Netherlands and to all workers who want to help us!

The state of the working classes is the subject of the greatest ignorance. Only now and then is the corner of the veil around this lifted. The government does not interfere at all and instead passes it by indifferently, giving the general saying: that is no government business. As if the wellbeing of the largest class, the majority of citizens, is not a necessary condition for the wellbeing of the country!

I want to try to obtain some information about this situation and therefore ask for accurate insights, because only with the cooperation of all the workers in the cities and in the country is it possible to conduct such an investigation. And yet the situation must first be known before we can determine the means of a cure. Therefore, I intend to carry out a survey of the condition of the workers in the Netherlands, and for this I urgently request the help of the workers.

To this end, I have prepared over 60 questions, which are numbered, and may I request that any answers are given the same number as the question. It is, of course, not necessary to answer all the questions, but the questions one can and will answer, should be filled in as clearly and precisely as possible. The name of the sender will in no case be disclosed, unless expressly permitted, but it should still be given to me, in order to be able to correspond with the participant if necessary.

Please send all replies to my address: Mr. F. DOMELA NIEUWENHUIS, Sundastraat 28, The Hague.

With confidence in your assistance and an urgent appeal for the cooperation of all those who are able to provide the necessary information, I hope to be able to collect data that will give the opportunity to truthfully disclose the situation of the working class.

  1. What is your trade?
  2. Are you employed by a capitalist or by an association? Name them.
  3. How many persons are there at work? What age and sex are they?
  4. At what age are children employed?
  5. How many supervisors and officials are there, who are not ordinary salaried employees?
  6. Are there any apprentices and how many?
  7. Does your patron only work for customers of the place, for the domestic market or for the foreign export?
  8. Is the workplace in the city or outside?
  9. Is your industrial work sufficient for you to live on, or do you do agricultural work on top of it?
  10. Do you work by hand or by machine?
  11. Is steam used as a motive force?
  12. Give a description of the technical part of your work, and the effort of it?
  13. Give a description of the workplace from a health point of view: ventilation, temperature, humidity, inhalation of dust, best rooms and cleanliness.
  14. Is there a health surveillance of the workplaces?
  15. Do any special diseases occur in your profession?
  16. Are the machines installed to prevent all accidents?
  17. How is the lighting?
  18. In case of fire, are there sufficient means of escape?
  19. How does your patron deal with the workers in case of accidents?
  20. For home working, describe the state of your workroom? Are you helped by others (wife and children)?
  21. How many hours do you work per day and per week?
  22. How many days off do you have?
  23. When are the meal breaks?
  24. Is the meal taken inside or outside the workplace? Regularly or not?
  25. Do you work during meal breaks?
  26. Is there nightwork?
  27. How long do children under 16 work?
  28. Are there schools for children in your profession?
  29. What regulations exist for tardiness?
  30. How is overtime dealt with?
  31. How much time do you lose going to and from the workplace?
  32. Are you hired by day, by week, by month?
  33. On what terms can you leave or be sent away?
  34. What is the penalty for breach of contract?
  35. Do you work for appointed times, or regularly throughout the year? If you work at appointed times, how do you live in between?
  36. Are you paid by timepieces or by the product?
  37. If you are paid for your time, is it by the hour or by the day?
  38. Is there extra pay for overtime?
  39. How is the piece rate determined?
  40. In the case of piecework, is quality used in order to reduce wages?
  41. How are you paid? How long is your employer’s credit for labour?
  42. Have you noticed that late payment often forces you to go to the Lombards [creditors] and get money at high interest? Or incur debts? Do you know of cases where workers lost their waged due to bankruptcy?
  43. Is the wage paid by employers or intermediaries?
  44. How high is your wage in money? How high is that of women and children?
  45. What was the highest wage in your workshop in the last month? And the lowest?
  46. How high is the highest wage for piecework? And the lowest?
  47. Are your wages paid entirely in cash or otherwise?
  48. What are the prices of: a) rent, repairs, insurance, purchase and maintenance of furniture, lighting, heating, water; b) food: bread, vegetables, potatoes, milk, eggs, butter, coffee, sugar, beef, tobacco, meat, fat; c) dress, bowassching, soap; d) other expenses such as: postage, school fees, paper, sheets, contributions; e) expenses caused by your company; f) tax.
  49. Give a weekly or annual budget of income and expenses.
  50. Have you noticed a greater increase in food than in wages?
  51. Report any change of wages in new times.
  52. Report wages in times of standstill. And in good times.
  53. Do you know about workers made redundant by the introduction of machines?
  54. Has the duration and fatigue of labour been increased or reduced by the development of machinery?
  55. Have you known ordinary workers who, at the age of 50, could retire and live on their earned money?
  56. On average, how long can a worker work in your profession?
  57. Are there resistance funds? Send the regulations of these.
  58. Have there ever been strikes and with what consequences?
  59. Do you know of any cases where workers are supported by the government against illegal acts and exploitation?
  60. Are there health insurance funds, funeral buses, etc. in your profession? Send the rules.
  61. Is accession voluntary or compulsory? Are they under the supervision of the patron?
  62. Are there cooperative associations in your profession? How do they operate? Do they use workers like the capitalists?
  63. What is the condition of the workers in your profession physically, mentally and morally?

On request of postage, this item will be sent to all who request it. Any such request will be pleasant to me.

De Werkmansbode (The Workman’s Messenger), 06 November 1880:

A Great Work.

Mr. F. Domela Nieuwenhuis in The Hague has circulated a letter to the trade and workmen’s associations in the Netherlands, with no less than 63 questions about everything and anything related to life and work, the family and everything else of the workman.

The purpose of these questions is to receive answers from everyone who can provide them, but first and foremost from the workers themselves, who are best placed to provide them.

And what does Mr. Nieuwenhuis want to do with the answers? To collect and process them, to shed the desired light on the situation of the working classes, which is now obscure, to spread knowledge of that situation, about which the greatest ignorance currently reigns and without which it is not possible to make the desired improvements.

This work by Mr Nieuwenhuis deserves appreciation and, above all, cooperation. Without the latter, he cannot possibly deliver what he intends to. May there be no lack of this cooperation on the part of the workmen.

No one should be afraid to give answers. Mr Nieuwenhuis guarantees the confidentiality of the names of all those who send him answers, and one shouldn’t be discouraged by the effort. Everyone must only answer as many of the 63 questions as he is able to or as they think desirable and useful. If someone finds the formulation of answers a bit difficult for himself, he might find a friend or colleague who will lend him a helping hand.

The cooperation must be general and, if possible, extend not only to all branches of industry but also to all factories and workplaces; without that the survey, as Mr. N. calls his work, cannot be considered complete.

It is therefore not enough to leave this work to the management of his association, which usually does all things so well, but the cooperation of everyone is necessary in order to distribute the questions among other workmen and to incite and urge them to answer.

It would therefore perhaps be more effective if Mr Nieuwenhuis, instead of one, sent a hundred or more copies to each organization, with the encouragement or request to assist him in the general distribution.

In the meantime, may everyone do what he can to obtain the success which Mr. Nieuwenhuis’ work so amply deserves, especially in the interest of the working classes.

Copies of the paper containing the questions may be obtained free of charge from Mr F. Domela Nieuwenhuis, Sundastraat, The Hague.

B. H. Heldt

Recht Voor Allen, 06 November 1880:


With thanks we received from F. G. in Amsterdam 25 cents in stamps. He sent this in the hope that all subscribers to “Recht voor Allen” would follow his example, in order to cover the necessary expenses connected with the workers’ enquiry which was started in last week’s issue. He would like forms with questions to be made for this purpose as well as expense papers, because in that way the answers can be given more easily and they can be kept in a bound form later. Maybe this can be good, but we don’t see the immediate necessity of this.

Furthermore he points out the weight of sleeping quarters and dwellings, for which he insists on an accurate description of them. Especially his closing words are important to all of us: “This survey is of such importance that every honest and truthful and progressive worker must give it his full sympathy. All trade unions should feel called upon to deal with these very important questions before all other matters in their meetings, for each workplace, to make this work fruitful.

We are hoping that this call will not be in vain.

In addition to the address given by Mr. Domela Nieuwenhuis, the forms are also available from H. Gerhard, Binnen Brouwerstraat 30, Amsterdam.

Recht Voor Allen, 13 November 1880:

Statistics for Working Men.

The excellent idea of Mr. Domela Nieuwenhuis must be vigorously put into practice, but if this is left to the single workman, I fear little will come of it; the boards must therefore take the matter to heart and need to do comparatively little to do this.

I would like to point out that the management of each trade union is trying to find someone to distribute and collect the list and to ask questions; in places where there is no trade union, the workmen’s association does this. If the person appointed is a diligent man, he will probably succeed in getting the list, in whole or in part, properly initiated by the persons concerned.

Possibly, and this would be highly desirable and useful, the workers’ statisticians thus formed will then be able to unite to form a permanent bureau for workers’ statistics, which will send their statements annually or, preferably, quarterly to a general secretary, and will hold an annual meeting that will discuss the means for the statistics to increasingly serve their purpose of giving an overview of the situation proven by figures.

And if associations and not individuals can spare a small annual contribution, this goal can be achieved: the contribution need not be large, because most depends on the zeal and suitability of the correspondents.

The great importance of good statistics to the labour movement demands swift implementation.

Amsterdam, Nov. ‘80 J. A. F.

De Werkmansbode, 25 December 1880:

A subscriber reports the following:

In the Supplement to your Magazine of November 20th, I read the questions posed by Mr. F. Domela Nieuwenhuis, with the purpose of “shedding the desired light on the situation of the working class, to spread knowledge of that situation, without which it will not be possible to make the desired improvements successfully.” While reading these questions, it seemed to me as if I had come across them earlier in another language. I had doubts about this impression, since I had read in various newspapers - this one included - the fact that Mr. Nieuwenhuis had compiled the collection of questions. To be sure, I searched among various papers and soon found a document entitled: “Publication de la Revue Socialiste. Enquête Ouvrière.” It contains a questionnaire of 101 questions. I put it next to Mr. Nieuwenhuis’ questions and the resemblance proved striking. The first question in the questionnaire reads: Quel est votre métier? Mr. N. asks: What is your trade? Question two: Est ce que I’atelier dans lequel vous travaillez appartient à un capitaliste ou à une compagnie d’actionnaires? Donnez les noms des capitalistes employeurs ou des directeurs de la compagnie? At Mr. N.: Are you employed by a capitalist or by an association? Name them. Questions three and four of the questionnaire are summed up in one with Mr. N. This is also the case with others. Some are not found with him. E.g. no. 101: Observations générales. This explains the difference and the number of the 63 questions of Mr. N. and the 101 of the questionnaire. Whoever wants to make further enquiries should consult the “Revue Socialiste” which, according to its own statement, also has an agent in this country in Mr. de Graaf, publisher in Haarlem. Would Mr. Lécluse, in St. Cloud, the editor of the “Revue” or Mr. Dervaux, its publisher in Paris, have given a somewhat extensive translation of the questions posed by Mr. Nieuwenhuis? If so, it would have been only decent to name Mr Nieuwenhuis as the author. Or would the reverse be more likely? I leave the decision to the reader and limit myself to these two remarks: (1) that, according to the cover, the French document was printed in 25,000 copies and is sent among others to all who ask for it and (2) that, although it does not contain a date, it appeared in print quite some time before “the questions from Mr Nieuwenhuis.”

De Werkmansbode, 01 January 1881:

Dear Editor!

Your subscriber must be very happy with his discovery of the questions I distributed to you in order to report them in your magazine; to me they hardly seem worthy of mention. I have never given it up as my work and have never claimed credit for it, but have tried, following the example of others in France and Germany, to carry out a survey, not because I enjoyed it so much - I have more work than I can manage alone - but simply because no one else was doing it. If someone, for example, is willing to take over my task, I will gladly send him all the documents, which cause a mountain of work, the results of which are impossible to draw up for the time being.

I had already been thinking about such questions for a long time and had already asked some of them when the Enquête ouvrière appeared in the Revue Socialiste. I greeted it with joy, especially as there was enough material in those 101 questions to make something out of them for us. This is what I did and that is how the questions came out into the world. So little did I make a secret of it, that I showed the French questions to people with whom I came into contact, in order to make them an example for us. The cooperation I receive from all sides proves that it has been received in good taste.

It interests me very little where something good comes from, but more so that if it is good, I can use it to my advantage, since I apply the principle: je prends mon bien ou je le trouve (I take the good where I find it). If the writer thinks that I am gaining special honour by this, then he is wrong, I only wanted to know about the situation of the working class. Also, the most important part of the work is not the questions, but the processing of the answers.

You will oblige me with the posting of these rules about the discovery of your subscriber.


F. Domela Nieuwenhuis.

The Hague, 27 Dec. ’80


Recht Voor Allen

Recht Voor Allen (‘Justice for All’) was a Dutch radical newspaper.