THE NETHERLANDS: Sewer Socialist

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Willem Drees is the kind of Socialist the Reds denounce as a "Sewer Socialist." They are right in a way, for Drees would rather give his people sewers today than promise a proletarian heaven in 1984. Starting 39 years ago as a Socialist councilman in The Hague, Drees ascended the ladder to power, reform by reform—always carefully administered, of course, and with a thrifty eye on the budget. In World War II, Drees was imprisoned in Buchenwald for a year, then served as a member of the underground directorate which the Dutch, with stolid inspiration, called the Board of Reliable Men.

In Holland's first postwar cabinet, as Social Affairs Minister, Reliable Man Drees became Vadertje (Little Father) Drees, for under his paternalistic hand the government voted children's allowances, homes for the aged, jobs for disabled workers—the good works of plodding sewer socialism. In 1948 Drees, a freethinker who belongs to no church, moved into the Premier's big, sober room at No. 4, Plain 1813, The Hague, to head a coalition of Catholics and Socialists.

Last week, Drees's sewer socialism faced the test as 94% of Holland's electorate (voting is compulsory) queued up quietly to choose the 100 members of the all-important Second Chamber (Lower House) of Parliament. Public-opinion polls had predicted little change: the Catholics would retain the No. 1 spot, the Socialists would, as usual, be close behind. But when the returns were in, Papa Drees had pulled a Harry Truman—though unlike Truman, he was as surprised as anyone else.

For the first time in The Netherlands' history, the Socialists became the leading party. They got 29% of 5,335,064 votes cast and picked up three seats for a total of 30 in the Second Chamber. The Catholics dropped three seats, to 30, and took second place (28.7%) in the popular vote. One explanation: the bishops this time had failed to come out clearly in favor of the big Catholic People's Party, as they had in previous postwar elections. The Communists lost two of their eight Chamber mates. Cried Little Father Drees, headed for another term in office: "A great day for democratic socialism."