Perspectives of international cooperation support of an IALHI-project by the Erich Brost Foundation / Rüdiger Zimmermann. - [Electronic ed.]. - 14 Kb, Text
In: Acta / International Association of Labour History Institutions : XXXI annual conference Oslo, 7-9 September 2000. - Gent, 2000, S. 48 - 52
Electronic ed.: Bonn : FES Library, 2001

© Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

Aufsatz in deutscher Übersetzung


Perspectives of International Cooperation.
Support of an IALHI-Project by the Erich Brost Foundation

In 1996, Gerd Callesen from the Danish Arbejederbevaegelsens Bibliotek og Arkiv (ABA) submitted to the members of the International Association of Labour History Institutions the proposal to produce a bibliography of the Second International, the Labour and Socialist International and the Socialist International.

In addition, he proposed that the planned joint bibliography cover only publications from the year 1914 onwards since the pioneering work by Georges Haupt, La Deuxieme Internationale, 1889-1914: Etude critique des sources; Essai bibliographique, Paris 1964 represented a complete documentation of the period prior to the outbreak of World War I.

Moreover, in his first project paper Gerd Callesen proposed that the four largest institutions set up the nucleus of an inventory to be subsequently supplemented by the other IALHI-institutions. By involving a large number of research locations, international cooperation should be documented and useful food for thought and material presented to the researchers. The year 2001 was envisaged as the final date of publication. It was chosen, amongst other things, with a view to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the re-foundation of the Socialist International in Frankfurt/Main in 1951.

All members were invited to take part in the project. At various conferences, Gerd Callesen reported on the progress made with this interesting project. In addition, he drew up the editing guidelines for the project. At the 29th IALHI-Conference in Milan, a small working group assembled on the request of Gerd Callesen with the aim of discussing the results of his work.

In the meantime it had become obvious that to concentrate exclusively on the political associations of socialist parties was not really opportune. The various forms of international cooperation between labour athletes, labour choirs, friends of nature and teachers equally form part of the heritage of the International Labour Movement. The greatest extension of the project was realized by the small working group at the suggestion of Gerd Callesen when it decided to incorporate the associations of social-democratic and socialist parties at EU-level.

The working version of the bibliography, submitted at the end of 1999, listed 37 organizations which have published and are still publishing a little less than 200 periodical publications (excluding yearbooks and congress minutes). The number of recorded monographs was equivalent to a little under 1800 titles. Many periodicals appeared in no more than a few issues, some in a single issue. Some titles must be presumed to have got lost altogether. This applies especially to the latter years of the thirties.

None of the large institutions of the IALHI is anywhere near having a complete stock. It should be noted as a point of interest that the largest gaps do not occur with the „old„ publications. Rather it is the publications issued in the context of EU-cooperation in Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxemburg which have been collected in insufficient numbers by the national institutions.

In view of the large gaps in IALHI-libraries it therefore appeared to make sense not only to record the material in a joint bibliography, but to collect it in a cooperative filming project and to make it available at no great expense to all affiliated organizations and other users. In consequence, the Library of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung applied to the Erich Brost Foundation for funds to put on film the periodicals of the IALHI-project.

Who exactly is the donor for our project? Erich Brost was born in 1903 in Elbing in East Prussia. He was the publisher of the social-democratic „Danziger Volksstimme„ and member of the Danzig Parliament in the thirties. He had to leave Danzig in 1936 and emigrated because he was an outspoken opponent of National Socialism. As an emigrant, he earned his living in Poland, Finland, Sweden and finally in England. In 1948, he founded the „Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung„ (WAZ) which eventually became the newspaper with the largest number of subscribers in Germany. The foundation named after him was established one year after his death in 1996. It is the aim of this foundation to promote projects which will help to intensify German-Polish friendship and to bring Poland closer to the European Union.

The advisory board of the Erich Brost Foundation approved the IALHI-project of filming, in a cooperative effort, titles of periodicals in January 2000, and also provided the initial funding. As the „beneficiary„ of the project, the most recent member of the IALHI, the Polish Sejm Library´s Department of Social History Collection, is to receive free reading copies of all stock on film. The filming will take place under the control of the Library of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. All affiliated institutions which provide material for the cooperative filming project will also receive a reading copy of the title concerned.

It was agreed by the Co-ordination Committee of the IALHI not to contract out the actual filming to a commercial firm. The process of filming will be handled in a manner both international and decentralized. The matrix copies of the films will be kept in the Library of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bonn. The microfilms are to be distributed by the Microfilm Archives of the German Language Press (MFA). The MFA is a public-interest organization which operates on a cooperative basis. It is also a non-profit institution. Any profits which might be made will be reinvested in new film productions. The MFA has its main office in Dortmund. The managing directors are, as a rule, close to the Labour Movement. Its last but one director Kurt Koszyk, for example, published a bibliography of the Press of German Social Democracy.

Normally, the MFA distributes only German-language titles or titles which have been published in Germany. Nevertheless, it has declared itself willing to also distribute all international titles which will be put on film as part of the IALHI-project. At the next IALHI-conference in Stockholm, the Library will present a small catalogue listing the titles concerned. Orders may then be placed with the Dortmund office on the basis of that catalogue.

The current basic price for a film reel is DM 59 per reel (some 25 euro). For technical reasons, each new title needs to be filmed on a separate reel.

In the year 2000, the Library of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, in cooperation with other archives and libraries, already put some material on film. Moreover, a Dutch company filmed all those titles which were completely preserved in the International Institute of Social History (IISG) in Amsterdam. The ABA in Copenhagen has also begun to film the issues which are complete. In the meantime, colleagues from the IISG have moved incomplete material from Amsterdam to Bonn. On the basis of the documentation by Gerd Callesen we are now attempting in Bonn to produce microfilm titles in as complete a form as possible. But the fact that many titles of periodicals will remain incomplete is gradually emerging.

In connection with filming the Asian Socialist Conference, which was closely aligned to the Socialist International, we conducted an interesting test on whether international search appeals have any impact. The material of the Asian Socialist Conference is to a large extent completely preserved in Amsterdam. We have attempted to get hold of the missing issues by appealing through the European discussion list Labnet and the American discussion list H-Labor. The response was more than limited in scale. Christ Coates from North London University was able to make available one issue from the TUC Collections. After lengthy database research, we found other missing issues in the database of the Hoover Institution on Peace, Revolution and War in Stanford, California. Our Californian IALHI-member generously made available copies of missing issues on our request. But not a single missing issue was found outside the circle of IALHI-affiliates. I think this result speaks for itself.

To organize the relatively small filming project has so far required considerably more time and effort than we originally allowed for in Bonn, even though our Library is experienced with these types of projects. But we do believe that it is well worth the effort.

Once Gerd Callesen´s work has been published as a book, we in the Library of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung intend to remain in charge of the project. As of the year 2001, we will transfer the bibliography into a database and make it available via the Internet. Supplementary information and new publications can thus be added as required. It will be possible to order individual articles via the Internet once this process has been completed. Similarly, it will be feasible to dispatch material in digitalized form via the Internet.

The project I have presented carries with it all the advantages of international cooperation. Many institutions are profiting. I am convinced that the future of the International Association of Labour History Institutions will be based, amongst other things, on this very concrete form of practical cooperation.

I am, however, equally convinced that not all the avenues available for international cooperation have as yet been explored by such projects. The era of digitalization also creates a new challenge to institutions which collect material on the Labour Movement. Important periodicals which are rare and threatened by decomposition need to be digitalized and made available through the Web.This process offers the unique opportunity of radically improving access to the material concerned. Indices and lists of contents can be stored in databases. A great deal of search work will consequently become superfluous.

Yet organizations close to us are increasingly publishing their material exclusively via the worldwide web. Such material needs to be collected if we wish to do our job properly. It is imperative to develop norms and standards in order to ensure effective long-term preservation. In many cases the corresponding copyright problems have not been settled either. With the concepts currently drawn up by the State authorities in Germany, I do not see proper attention being paid to the electronic publications of political parties and trade unions. These tasks are anything but trivial.

Unfortunately, the producers of electronic literature do not appear to be very conscious of the necessity of preserving it electronically „for eternity„. But I believe that this is not really very surprising. Even in the past, we had to live with the fact that the publishers of literature of the Labour Movement themselves showed little regard for the value of their publications. In this respect, the old tasks are probably not so radically different from the new ones. We are simply using different media.

No institution in this world can get anywhere near a complete collection of electronic literature by political parties, trade unions, civil-rights groups and other emancipatory movements. Perhaps the key to international cooperation consists in each national institution securing its electronic sources and then making them available at the international level. It appears that we need to do both in future: to secure old sources conventionally by means of cooperative projects and to secure the new sources by international agreements.

Our filming project offers a good opportunity to reflect on both of these functions.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | März 2001