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“Review – Revue 1971-1974” and “Annual Report 1975” of International Secretariat

by Heinz Gabathuler (Nov 25, 2017)

Review - Revue 1971-1974 and Annual Report 1975From the International Secretariat, I recently received its latest Annual Report. When I filed it to the Archives, I took the opportunity to look into older IS Annual Reports. I noticed that until the early 1970s there were no such documents – of course the IS regularly reported to ICM and IEC, but the Archives have no separate collection of reporting documents, apart from the ordinary mailings of the respective meetings. Then Theodor (Theddy) von Fellenberg took over the post of International Secretary from Ralph Hegnauer; the IS physically moved from Zurich to Bern (Theddy’s home town), later to Monti di Bodio, a mountain village in the South of Switzerland.

It was the time when a lot of progressive-minded folks all over the developed world were looking for alternatives to the civilised, urban lifestyle, and in Switzerland, it was the often abandoned mountain areas that attracted those seeking such opportunities. And Theddy was eager to bring up his children in a natural environment rather than in the city. There was no staff except for long term volunteers working for the IS (among them the later International Secretary Ramachandran Chandru Raghavan from India), with other co-ordinating structures operating relatively independent from the IS. It is hard to imagine that the international movement was able to operate with its administrative centre far away from any airport or even railway station, and even further away from potential funders – and this in the age before internet, and even before telefax. Communication went mainly by ordinary mail and landline telephone.

Development Graph In: Review - Revue 1971-1974

And Theddy’s International Secretariat issued the yellow booklet called Review – Revue 1971-1974. Revue is the French translation of Review - but the texts inside are all in English only. And despite the very ordinary layout (by mechanical typewriter!) they are far from being boring bureaucractic reports. Under the title Trends in the Movement we can read: "Any attempt to assess the result of four years work of such a complex and often contradictory body as SCI is bound to be incomplete and to a certain extent ambiguous." And under the title "Is SCI an Asian conern?", we discover sentences like: "The [Asian] volunteers, through mostly from university and middle-class background are too often under pressure of cast or class stigmas and compelled to fight first of all for a secured place in society." Theddy himself had started his career in SCI as a young man from a pretty priviledged background as a long term volunteer in India and Sri Lanka. Apart from intellectual self-reflection on SCI’s role in a changing world, the booklet also contains Volunteer Exchange Statistics, a list of International Seminars and Long Term Services (but not of Workcamps!), financial figures, addresses, and last not least a chronology of SCI’s history since 1920, culminating in a weird and wild graph entitled Development of SCI.

In spring 1976, Franco Perna who was based in Luxembourg took over the post of International Secretary from Theddy, and the International Secretariat, again with a new address in a new country (where by the way never ever an SCI branch has existed) published a modest small brochure entitled Annual Report of the Internat. Secretariat for 1975. Texts are shorter, more up to the point and less loaded with introspection, but the innovative spirit of the years after 1968 can still be felt: "Further progress for SCI depends on whether we succeed in maintaining an openness to new initiatives and ideas emerging in relation to countries and continents, without giving up the concern for every individual man and woman, and the commitment to tolerance and non-violent action, in a pursuit of justice and peace." Layout and communication channels may have radically changed in the past 40 years – but it seems to me that the main challenges to the movement have have not altered much...

Heinz Gabathuler, International Archives Coordinator

Reference:

After discovering these documents in the Archives box 40528, I slightly reorganised the files, giving Theddy’s brillant Review – Revue its own file number 40528.2.




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