Open Letter to Jaap Sijmons, 16th September 2018
Dear Mr Sijmons,
in Anthroposophy worldwide 5/18 Peter Selg had written with reference to the reaffirmation that, if one: “wants to give members such an opportunity to vote and make decisions in future, this should be accompanied by a detailed account of the previous term of office and the work carried out personally during that time as well as with a clear description of what concrete tasks one will take on during the next period”. Your reaction to this in AWE 6/2018:“That’s a reasonable thought, but it comes a little late…”
Your answer surprises and also raises questions. Has no one in the governing bodies (Executive Council, Goetheanum Leadership, general secretaries and country representatives) had the idea that a full accountability report would be necessary and appropriate for the membership? Is it really necessary to point this out to all of you, given that wherever there is a vote in our world, people receive more or less comprehensive information so that they are able to form an opinion? The votes – also from you – asking for the extension of the term of office to be confirmed, because this is desired by the Goetheanum leadership, were by no means sufficient. The obvious expectation that one should agree without any involvement or information shows not only contempt of the members, but also an insult to their judgement.
Now you complain that Peter Selg’s suggestion was not made as early as November 2017. At that time nobody could have expected that there would be no accountability report!
But quite apart from the fact that a full accountability report and extensively detailed information should actually be a matter of course, there is always talk of you (the leadership bodies) feeling committed to the impulses of the Christmas Conference, as you reiterate in your article. This is not the only reason why you should be familiar with §10 of the statutes of the Christmas Conference Society, which according to the statutes the Society uses to pursues its tasks and aims: “Every year the Anthroposophical Society holds an ordinary annual meeting at the Goetheanum, at which the Board of Directors gives a full accountability report of its activities.”
What is one supposed to think then of the fact that your article has led to the public revelation that the need for an accountability report did not seem to have occurred to anyone within the management of the Society?
Perhaps it would be a good idea to schedule a workshop for the November meeting: “Theory and practice of the accountability report in the context of an enlightened membership capable of making its own decisions”. It would be advisable to study the annual accountability reports, since they were still common practice until the 1990s. The reports from the 70s and 80s for example could serve as working material.
2018 was the low point in this matter so far: Barely 10 minutes for the accountability report for the entire Executive Council – and the discussion about it was forgotten by the chairman of the meeting! (Note: The development towards an ever tighter time frame at General Meetings falls especially into Bodo von Plato and Paul Mackay’s term of office!)
Do you really think Peter Selg wasn’t listening to you properly? Apart from the question of whether it is appropriate for a general secretary to speak publicly about a colleague in such a controversial manner, the question also arises whether you have indeed always listened or read properly yourself? This becomes clear in two ways:
Firstly: In your laudation about Paul Mackay you mentioned that even three months after the General Assembly you “… aren’t quite sure what motivated so many members to vote against him [Paul Mackay] …”. Is it possible that you yourself had perhaps not listened properly to those who expressed their motives clearly and unambiguously? This also applies to your colleagues from the circle of general secretaries and representatives, who certainly also had their reservations. If internal communication is so bad that you had not heard of the motives of the Swiss Council members, you could well have made the effort to find out. But also various more recent events reported on in “Ein Nachrichtenblatt”, among others, as well as the motions submitted and not least the members’ votes at the General Assembly itself shed light on the reasons for not approving an extension of the term of office. On whose behalf are you actually speaking in your capacity as general secretary? Obviously not on behalf of the members, as became very clear again at the General Assembly, otherwise you would presumably have made efforts to find out and you would not have announced after 3 months that you still do not know the motives, showing that you obviously have no actual interest in knowing them.
Secondly, you continue to criticise:
“It seems like a dummy argument, as if pressure had been exerted by me or one of my colleagues saying that non-affirmation «would be the end of the anthroposophical cause in the world». Of course, that is not what I believe and it is not what I said either; nor can I remember any of my colleagues saying anything of the sort. It is nonsense, really, but it illustrates what I believe to have been the case, which is that Peter Selg – and possibly the entire Swiss Council – did not really listen to what I (and I believe I can say: most of the general secretaries) actually said.”
The very tone and manner in which you, as general secretary, express yourself about the members of the Swiss Council is in itself extremely embarrassing and would be unsuitable and inappropriate even if your criticism were right. The latter is not the case, however, because Peter Selg had written the following:
“In this respect [with regard to the judgement of the members] I was concerned not least by the vehement votes of some of the general secretaries and country representatives during the debate. I understood that they wanted to continue working with those colleagues, for reasons of friendship and high regard, and because they owe them a great deal of gratitude. But to me it felt like the members present were put under a lot of pressure and the impression was created that a non-confirmation would be the end of the anthroposophical cause in the world, the worst case of the anthroposophical movement.”
What you criticise has not been said! At least you lacked the necessary care in your alleged quotation and publicly denounced Peter Selg and his colleagues worldwide on the basis of this untruthful account. An oversight? Or was it deliberate? In any case an intolerable process for a representative of an anthroposophical society.
The impression described by Peter Selg, that inappropriate pressure – and above all pressure without rhyme or reason and devoid of any content – was put on the members in the question of the reaffirmation, can only be confirmed. You cannot seriously describe the unanimous wish of the vast majority of officials that they would like to continue working together, as “clear, reasonable arguments”. This common desire had indeed been expressed in a collectivist manner, underlined above all by a demonstrative show of unity whereby almost all the general secretaries and representatives went on stage and stood behind the Executive Council to express their collective desire for a further term in office of Bodo von Plato and Paul Mackay.
As members, we don’t really get to know what’s been going on and is going on behind the scenes. The undoubtedly restrained wording in the statement by the Swiss Council in Anthroposophy worldwide 6/18 suggests that this is only the tip of the iceberg with regard to this internal conflict:
“Given that this was a democratic endeavour, we have been deeply disturbed by the way we have been characterized both during and after the meeting … The pressure the Swiss Council, which has been blamed for the decision not to reaffirm has since been subjected to, is enormous and does not correspond in any way to what actually took place.”
When are you intending to resign?
With kind regards