Icon of social democracy
Van der Goes van Naters contributed to the renewal of the Dutch social democratic movement in the 1930s. In the first postwar years, he was the parliamentary party leader of the Dutch Labour party Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA), during the turbulent years of reconstruction and decolonization. The latter issue led to his downfall, after which he never managed to get a ministerial post or any other high political position. Nevertheless he was described as the ‘icon of social democracy’ at the end of his long life.
Constructing his own image
In order to investigate what this reputation is based on, this biography explores four entangled research themes that played an important role in Van der Goes' life: his work as a politician, his education as a jurist, the different places where he developed his ideas and where he practised politics (parliament, various committees, the social democratic movement, transnational networks) and the way he presented himself. Van der Goes van Naters appeared to be someone who carefully shaped and constructed his image: in interviews, by writing an autobiography and by selecting and compiling his political archive.
Fighting for an equal and just society
Although Van der Goes van Naters represented the interests of the working class, his intellectual view of society and politics was often at odds with the views of the average party member. Moreover, the principle of ‘aristo-democracy’ he advocated, was not very consistent with the social democratic value of equality. Nevertheless, Van der Goes van Naters appealed to people’s imaginations and at the end of his life he acted as the conscience of the Dutch social democrats. While the party embraced the ‘Third Way’ during the 1990s, he continued to point out to his party members the traditional social democratic values: fighting for an equal and just society.