Service Civil International
Spotlight on SCI History: SCI under attack - the Daily Telegraph affair
by Heinz Gabathuler (Feb 24, 2013)
In my last spotlight I have reported the difficulties SCI encountered in authoritarian South East Asian countries when it wanted to register a new sub-office. But political contestation due to its pacifist ideology has also affected SCI under comparably liberal political circumstances.
The Annual Report of IVS
gives account for the years
In the early 1980s the Cold War was still going on, and social movements demanding peace and disarmament were strong in most Western countries. On January 3, 1984, the British newspaper Daily Telegraph reported that two Conservative Members of Parliament had officially asked for a Government investigation into the use of public money by IVS, SCI's British branch.
It was alleged that IVS had supported anti-nuclear demonstrations by training activists in non-violence, thus "misusing" taxpayers' money, destined for harmless purposes such as international youth exchange, for political purposes which were definitely not in line with the policies of Margaret Thatcher's Government.
IVS' General Secretary Nigel Watt immediately reacted with a public statement correcting the "inaccurate statements and misleading innuendos" about the SCI branch and its peace work, clarifying that public money had always been used for the purpose for which it had been granted, and the contested non-violence trainings were not for political activists but mere preparation for workcamp participants.
Neverthelsess several newspapers took the story up and started a polemic against IVS - the tabloid "Daily Express" shouted "Let's stop this fraud" (on public money), and a local paper from Leicester where IVS' headquarters were based at that time, insisted that despite the denials, "it seems that some of their [IVS'] efforts were in sympathy with, if not support for, some of the anti-nuclear projects", and consequently asked for Inquiry. It was the time when the political climate was poisoned by anti-communist paranoia, and inquisition equaled "sympathy" for protesters with something close to high treason. The fact that the pro-communist newspaper "Morning Star" itself reported the affair in a more friendly manner, for sure, didn't help IVS to get rid of the image of uniting with the enemy...
(Documentation occasionally found in the International Archives of SCI: SCIIA 30318.1)