Provo: Amsterdam's Anarchist Revolt

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Provo staged political and cultural interventions into the symbolic and everyday spaces of Holland from 1962 - 1967. In this first book-length English-language study of their history, Kempton narrates the rise and fall of Provo from early Dutch "happenings" staged in 1962 to the "Death of Provo" in 1967.

Provo is a legendary movement whose creative energy, successes and failures helped shape the the anarchism that we practice and love today. And while the effects of legends often drift in and out of our everyday lives, they frequently pass unanalyzed. This book brings the history of Provo to the fore so that we can make the connections between the past and present, as well as take note of substantial differences between their historical moment and ours... (from the foreward)

The Provos gained world prominence through its protests at the royal wedding of Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Claus von Amsberg. The Dutch Royal Family was unpopular at the time, and Claus von Amsberg was thought to be unacceptable to many Dutch people because of his Hitlerjugend membership during World War II. The engagement was announced in June, and in July the Provos threw anti-monarchist pamphlets from a bridge into the royal boat.

In the run-up to the wedding Provo made up a fake speech, in which Queen Juliana declared she'd become anarchist and was negotiating a transition of power with Provo. The White Rumour Plan was put into action, as part of which wild rumours were spread in Amsterdam, including that the Provos were preparing to dump LSD in the city water supply. These rumours led the authorities to request 25,000 troops to help guard the parade route.

Dressed as ordinary citizens, the Provos managed to sneak sugar and nitrate smoke bombs past the police. The first bombs went off just behind the palace as the procession started. Unable to identify the Provos, the police overreacted and the wedding turned into a public relations disaster. In the week after the wedding, the police attacked and beat patrons of a photo exhibition documenting police violence at the royal wedding. Following these events a number of well-known writers and intellectuals started requesting an independent investigation into police behaviour.

Table of Contents


publisher's foreword

provo map of amsterdam

author's introduction

  1. amsterdam, the magic center (1961-1965)
  2. the prophet of magic amsterdam: robert jasper grootveld
  3. the birth of provo (may-july 1965)
  4. the state is provoked! (july 1965-march 1966)
  5. the finest hour of the dutch republic (march 10, 1966)
  6. the two dimensions of police brutality: amsterdam under seige (march 19-june 13, 1966)
  7. the monster of amsterdam (june 14, 1966)
  8. aftermath of the battle: the gradual decline and death of provo (june 15, 1966-may 14, 1967)

appendix 1: new babylon

appendix 2: provo and the situationists

appendix 3: dada influences

appendix 4: anarchist antecedents in amsterdam

appendix 5: provos in belgium and the provinces

appendix 6: the kabouters (1970)

appendix 7: sartre's concept of the fused group (analytical applications to revolutionary groups of the 1960s)

appendix 8: some comments on a recent critique of the provos

annotated general bibliography