The humble beginnings of the International Council: the International Study Days in Brussels (1945)

The International Council has always been the most important governing body of the IYCW. As the democratic and representative representation of all national YCW’s, it has a rich history. Although the first official meeting was in Rome in 1957, the first initiatives towards an international, democratic and representative body were taken more than a decade earlier during the International Study Days in Brussels (1945). The IYCW-archives shed an invaluable light on the humble beginnings of the International Council.

The archive file contains a note made in preparation of the International Days with annotations from Jozef Cardijn (p.1-2). It concerned essential questions like ‘what should we discuss and who will attend?’. Among the topics to be discussed were mainly the establishment of an International Secretariat in Brussels and the basic principles of international collaboration. The second question was harder to answer than it seems nowadays; Canada and Luxemburg had already confirmed by telegram, the US will soon send one, the Netherlands, England, Scotland and Ireland will probably attend, shouldn’t Switzerland and Portugal also be alerted? Communication was quite the adventure…

Thanks to the archives, we know who eventually attended the Study Days: seven national delegations numbering a total of 36 persons (p.3-4). The program of the Study Days was also conserved (p.5-6). Before debating the foundation of an International YCW, each delegation was first asked to provide a brief overview on the situation of the young workers and the YCW in their respective countries. This reflects the goal of founding an international intermediate body without any ‘real’ (legal) power over the national YCW’s: ‘The IYCW is no super-JOC’.

This we know, because the archives contain two versions of the definitive report on the Study Days including one draft version annotated by Cardijn (7). Among other things, it reveals how in conclusion of the Study Days, Cardijn encouraged all in attendance to have confidence in the newly founded International Secretariat since ‘we build an International YCW, not only in mind, but in institution as well: it’s this that must create a unity of jocists, much stronger than all legal powers that we can attribute to it. The future of the YCW in all countries depends on this new institution; even more: the whole influence of the Church on the working-class.’ (8)

Consulting these archive-files feels like going back in time and attending the Study Days in person. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been there?

For questions and/or remarks concerning the archiving-process, please contact Sam Kuijken (Archivist responsible for the IYCW-archives at KADOC).


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