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Bill and Clara Jaeger speaking in 1979

Remarks at the MRA Centre at Tirley Garth, UK

Bill and Clara Jaeger were introduced by David Mills:

Bill comes from Stockport. It is about 30 miles from here and is where the industrial revolution began.  He went to study at university in London.  From there he has given the last 45 years of his life getting to know the labour and trade union leaders of the world.  I think it is true to say that he can walk into the offices of labour and trade union leaders in most countries around the world.  He knows them very well and they know and respect him.

Clara comes from America, Philadelphia. She is a writer, amongst other things. She was secretary to a very famous American writer called Theodore Dreiser and she has written a book called ‘Annie’ -  a terrific book - about the life of Bill’s mother, as a matter of fact.  She is now in the process of writing at least one more, possibly more than one in the future.  They have been in many parts of the world recently, but most recently in America.

I am always respectful of people like David and Jane, the Porteouses and others who come from Australia to help the battle in Europe. And I think one fact of life is that there is nothing in the world like the network of committed people in the work of MRA.

In every part of Africa, Asia, North America, the Arab world and Latin America, you have got individuals exactly like David and his wife who have given their lives to this battle. It is not organised. It is a commitment to a calling to remake the world.  I think it is quite unique and quite something.

I thought about this kind of point this morning - the dangerous state of our planet in 1979 and what can we do about it?  Because it looks to me as if we could be at the greatest period in history or we could destroy the world. It could be either. My own background is that I, like you, met this work when I was 20. I come from - as David said - a working class area. We lived on one English shilling a day for food. That was all we had. It was not very much. We had great poverty and hunger. It taught me then to see what was wrong because I saw people talking about economics and political life, but when they got into politics they so often forgot the people who put them there. There was something missing. Giving a speech and changing the problem didn’t quite happen. It wasn’t quite the same thing.

In my own home, my father’s parents were both German. Jaeger is a good German name and my mother’s were English.  My mother’s family were against my mother marrying my father because he had a German name during the time of the First World War.  That made my father very bitter - for 10 years my mother was not allowed to marry my father.

I grew up with very warm-hearted people but they never knew what to do with their feelings. So, there was always a battle. When I went to the university, in my mind I was trying to look for two things:- How can you build a better society? and Can people really live what they talk about? This was because I saw people saying one thing and doing the other.  That’s when I met this work of MRA. It taught me that, if you really care for your country and care for people, you have got to begin with yourself. That the fundamental problem is not economic, it is the human nature in people. You need the economic but, unless you get the right motive in people, things don’t get done right.  You cannot divide your public life from your private life. Too many people today do that.  I believe the home life of everybody, whether they are in politics, whether they are in industry, wherever they are, is fundamental to the way people live.

Those are some of the basic things.  I have made my calling, from when I was 20 really, to take on winning the ordinary man from my background to his proper destiny in the world. The ordinary man could be a re-maker of the world, if he has the right philosophy and the right way of life. That is what I gave my life. I have had to get to know the men in labour in every part of the world. I have to do my homework, and still do.  You have to know your stuff, to talk sense to people, then to relate to what you are doing.  I am more convinced of what I want to fight for in the world today than I have ever been in my life.

For instance, we had 20 people from MRA in Geneva in June. I always go every year because it is a meeting ground for the International Labour Organisation, where this year there were 1700 delegates. There were over 100 Labour Ministers, representing 131 countries and many of the bigger employers of the world as well as trade union men from every part of the world.  It is a good chance to meet people.

One large black man came to talk to me. I had seen him for several years. He was very involved in the troubles in Soweto two or three years ago when there was great suffering and I used to talk to him every day.  I had never had a “proper talk” with him. He was a bitter man. I did not know where he really stood. He runs all the black trade unions of South Africa outside the country. He lives in Dar Es-Salaam, where the Queen was this week, and his other block are in London. This time when we met he asked for a lunch, for a talk.  It was very interesting to talk with him because it tests what you believe in and what you have been doing. This is what he said to me over lunch: ‘We are very worried about our young men. Our young black men today in our part of the world only want to kill the white man. We don’t think that’s the best way. Can you help us to train our young men? I believe MRA can play a very great role at this period in Africa. I used to be a young man with William Nkomo’ (the film you may have seen about one of the great black fighters and organisers of South Africa, used to be a very strong bitter man and became a strong man with a bigger concept of change. This man used to be one of the young men with him) ‘but I never agreed with him. Now I realise he was right. Can you help us?’  

This makes you realise what the issues are.  We will see him again in September when he comes to the Trade Union Congress and we will see his men in London. But that is a very important thing for Africa.

Then I thought of the other issues of the world - energy, inflation, unemployment, the SALT agreement between America and Russia.  Labour in many parts of the world has lost its soul, lost its purpose. In Britain it has become so materialistic, it has lost its way. How do we help the present government in Britain, which is very radical to my mind?  Whether it is right or wrong in all it does, it is trying to put right what has so far been going very wrong. Many of the Labour Party agree with what is being done today, even though they don’t say so and it is not a question of parties. It is a question of what has to be done for the sake of the country and these are the issues.

I also thought of the other things.  In the whole of the world there are about 151 countries in the UN. There are only 26 that you can call democratic. All the rest are some form of dictatorship, military or political.  Britain, and now Germany and France, Italy and Australia are very much at the heart of that. But it is not many. 26 out of 151.

There are 8 hundred million in the world living in acute poverty. There are 3 hundred million jobs which need to be found by 1990. You have got 52 million children in different countries between 7 and 15 having to work, which is an awful thing.   Child labour is very wrong. Another fact for you: Toynbee the historian said that, of the 19 civilisations in the world, 17 collapsed because of the internal moral problems. And we could collapse the same way.

We have just spent 5 months in Washington and other parts of America and I saw a lot of the people that matter. We were in touch with 28 of the Congressmen, about 10 or more of the Senate, a lot of the people - 70 or 80 of the people who run America, and we were in many parts of America.  Of course, in Geneva we have met a lot of the Labour Ministers and trade union leaders. I have not heard more talk of war since 1939 or talks of coups and counter-coups and the fears of war. I saw one of the 2 or 3 top military men in America. He said, ‘We do not know in America at all how to handle Israel.’ He was interested that MRA deals with the Arab world. He said ‘We are afraid of a coup in Turkey. We are afraid of a coup in Saudi Arabia - like Iran. What happens then to the oil of the western world? We cannot go on living like we are now - whether we want to or not, we can’t’. He said to me ‘What can we do?’  I have found so many people talking about all these fears of coups and counter-coups

On the other hand, I haven’t heard more talk of the hope of a concept like MRA since 1939. I found in every country, everybody I talk to, wondered if democracy would survive in Europe.  So many men I talked to, of the bigger men, have begun to realise that giving money to the Third World, the 4th world, to Europe, to any world, does not solve the problems. You must go deeper than that and, to make democracy work, it has got to have a moral and a spiritual basis at the heart of it. Without that, it does not work.  I have met so many saying that is what they now believe. That is the point of MRA. We have got to have all the economic ways to do things right, the social things, and the legislation. You have got to have all that. But unless you have got a concept like MRA in men’s attitudes, the other things do not work.

Kissinger, who was Nixon’s top man, a very able man, he said in Washington that he was asked ‘Is time on our side in the modern world or not?’ He said in technology, social and economic affairs that time is on our side. But the point is ‘do we have the will to make them work?’  He said, ‘The real issue in the next 5 years in the Americas, in Europe, Asia and Africa, is do we have the will to make work what we know we should do?’  Now that is the point of MRA. How do you capture the will of people to do something. If you have got the will you can do something. If you don’t, it won’t work.

Then I thought of a different thing altogether:- In the Marxist world as well, they have lost their way. Marxism has failed really in the Soviet [Union]. And I gather from some of the dissidents and people I have talked to that there is a danger of a great unrest coming into Eastern Europe. Even this week you saw that the Czechs and the Hungarians have increased some of their prices by 50%.  They have now got inflation and that may very much affect Poland.  You have got something dangerous there.

And the top Marxist philosopher in France, Levy, the top Jewish philosopher, said in a book he has written, from the angle of Marxism, he said ‘God is dead. Marx is dead. And we are not feeling so well ourselves.’ You see that again shows the relevance of MRA - that you can offer something to the Marxist world. Can we do it now? Can we talk intelligently to those men? Because you see here in Britain you have got a lot of sheer hypocrisy. If I may say what I mean - take the other week, in all the papers here. Moss Evans, of the Transport Workers, attacked the government bills and stuff like that. But you know he had never even read the bills up till that moment. It was sheer blah-blah-blah, but the papers all carried it.  People are not honest. Giving a political speech and being genuine aren’t always the same thing, and we have got to bring something quite new.

Do you say what you mean? Or do you bluff? Let me tell you, in Geneva in June, I was quite shaken. I have talked with a lot of Ministers of Labour. I heard them speak publicly - colossal feelings about South Africa and about other things, and about Rhodesia. When I talked with them at lunch I found that they had not believed what they had said publicly. They said the opposite privately but publicly they were afraid of what their party would say, what the Russian bloc would say, and what others would say.  They just gave the line. It was not what they felt in their own hearts. I was amazed by that. One of the men, the Minister from Kenya, made a colossal attack on Rhodesia and South Africa, publicly - most bitter. I wondered what had gone wrong with him. At lunch his first words were, ‘How much better things are in those countries’. So many people are afraid of what other people may think.

I will tell you about another senior man who represents Chief Buthelezi in Europe. He came to see me on my last day. He said that the top man who had been behind that man in the speech he gave, had been to him to say ‘If you need money, you want to get money from the sources I get my money from. The Russians give me all the money that I need.’ He is the top man for all the trade unions in the whole of Africa. Well now how can you be genuine if you are being governed by things like that? You have to learn to say ‘no’ to drink, to women, to men, to money and it is not just ordinary people. It is the cabinet minister who has to learn to say ‘no’ to money, to women, to pressure, to these kind of things.  Many of them don’t and they are controlled by that. If you read in the papers about what these men say in their public things and then you know they don’t mean what they have said but you repeat, you are a chump. You can go and talk about what you have read, but the men who said it don’t mean it!   You have got to learn you see how to diagnose what people say, and to be able to read the thing correctly.

MRA, because you start with yourself, makes you honest.  The deepest thing I learnt I suppose from Dr Buchman when I began in this work was, he said ‘You have got to face the truth about yourself and about your own nation.’  If you face that, then you can see things clearly. Then you can learn to evaluate things clearly. Then you know why people say what they are saying.  To read men and to read the leadership correctly is part of the life and death of the modern world.

One other thing, if I may just say again. We had the deeper work of MRA.  We get many of these government delegates, union and management leaders up to Caux from the ILO meeting.  One man was one of the top men of Egypt. He had come sent by President Sadat to meet secretly with the Israelis. He told me that. I had a long talk with him on the bus up to Caux.  Publicly in Caux he said, ‘Before 1973 any peace initiative between Egypt and Israel would have been impossible. In 1973 a few months after President Sadat had a major talk with’ - he said - ‘one of the main leaders of MRA’ - I don’t yet know who - ‘made the difference to him and that is why he went to Israel.’ That was said publicly by this man, who had been Deputy Minister of Labour. I can say it because it was said publicly but it is a thing to observe.

Then Joe [Hodgson] and I had time with one of the top Israelis, who did not know that we knew this man from Egypt and told us of the talks he had been having. This is the kind of work you can do off the record, not with the press but privately, to help people to find what they are meant to be finding.  You have got to be able to win the trust of people.

There is nothing in the world really more interesting that MRA on that level, because it is worthwhile.

Just one other example of my points: A man named PP Narayan, the head of 17 million workers now, the head of all the Free Trade Unions, the President of the ICFTU, from Malaysia. We met him first in 1948 in California and he comes to the ILO and we see him every year.  He has made an arrangement with us. Once every June he comes and has guidance with us in Geneva, to go over the next year’s work.  You have to be ready to do something for a year. He comes to plan and we take enough time with him. Again, for your interest, he is a Hindu but two years ago he came to me and said, ‘What can I read?’  I gave him one of Peter Howard’s books to read on Africa. Next day he said, ‘Can I buy a copy of every book Peter Howard wrote?’  I gave him all the books and among them there was that book ‘The Story of Effective Statesmanship’. It is about the life of St Paul. It is a book that Peter and Paul Campbell wrote about St Paul.  He came back to me next day - remember he is a Hindu - and he said, ‘That’s the best book I have read in my life. Can I have 20 copies to send to Mrs. Gandhi, George Meeny and other people in the world like that?’   This year he said, ‘What book can I read now?’ He gave us tea, and we discussed various ideas. Then we had guidance with him and part of what he wrote down was, ‘You don’t have to hate the man you disagree with.’

That’s a very profound point.  I find in Britain a lot of people who are Labour won’t even speak to a Conservative. A lot of people who are Conservative regard the Labour as something outside this world. How do you change them both?  In Geneva, when the Egyptian Minister spoke, a lot of the Arabs walked out. When some of the South Africans, the white ones, were in the gallery, one of the black men supported by the Russians wanted them to leave. When the Chileans spoke, some wanted to go – and so it goes on. One of the friends I know is a top-level black trade union woman from South Africa. One of the wrong men with the wrong ideology said to her, ‘You are black on the outside but you are white on the inside.’ Which I think is an awful thing to say. It means that in the modern world you get to the point where you get such a division that people don’t talk to each other anymore.

I think in a dictatorship that is possible but in a democracy you are meant to listen to the man who may think opposite to you. In the same way as in a team-meeting, I don’t think we always have to agree with each other. We say what we think. I think that is part of the new thing that we have to give to the modern world.  That was the thing that PP Narayan said - ‘Only a God-guided, disciplined group will have any answer to the materialistic atheism of communism.’ He talked about the fact that you had to be really 100% in what you do. He also talked about the spirit of God which can undo what the materialist forces have done the wrong way.

Just to give one point, because I don’t want to give you too many things, but one other thing from Angola. The brother here of our friend Nosley was with us last year in Geneva.  You know Angola is a communist country in many ways.  He said to me one day, ‘There is one of the leaders of Angola who wants to have a talk’. So, I went with your brother to talk to him.  This was last year. This man said, ‘What we need in Angola now is character’. We had a good talk and he came up to Caux. He was the director of the international side of the Labour Department of Angola and a committed Marxist. He looked round Caux and wanted to see who was there and what they were thinking about.  We saw him again privately outside the orbit of people last November.   This time we had lunch with him, with all his friends at the next table. He was a little braver by this time and asked a lot of questions. He is a man of idealism. Many of the Marxists also can be men of idealism, but it is a question of how to help them to make it work. That is the purpose of MRA. I said to him, ‘How do you keep your idealism?’ ‘Oh’ he said, ‘three things: Every day I analyse what I should be doing. Every day I try to listen to my conscience, and every day I want the peace of the world and peace in my own heart.’ And those things he gained with the talk from Nosley’s brother a year ago. Now he has asked me to take him an English grammar book to study when we see him again in November. But you see the future of a whole nation is at stake there.

I can only add that we met with the leadership with Joe of the PLO, we met with SWAPO. We met between us with Mugabe's men and with Nkomo’s men. But the point I would make is, unless you have a concept like MRA you cannot talk to all these different people. You have to have something that they respect where you are not against people and yet you don’t compromise. You are for the biggest concept that you can believe in.  I would say that is really what MRA is all about.

And I would say the other thing is how to build the teamwork to get the best out of other people. That is the point of teamwork. It is not [reluctantly] having to work with somebody. It is how to get the best out of them.  I believe that MRA is meant to be the moral conscience for the whole of the world. A lot of these men we talk to, you know that they know what they should be doing.  They are not always doing it!  But they know it and you don’t have to give a talk at all. They know - ‘aaah! Honesty!’ We are meant to be the moral conscience for the world.

And lastly I feel Britain is meant to give something to the world. It may be the period in history where, together with Europe, we could give something to the world - something that is for the east and the west and something that can satisfy something in a man’s heart. I think we might be at the point where we have to decide what to do with our lives on that basis.

I took on that calling when I was 20 and I have never gone back on that. I have made mistakes. I have had to learn things but I have never gone back on my calling. There is no saying where it may take you. But, my golly, we might build a better world.

Bill and I are very different, as you can tell I guess, but I fell in love with Bill - actually I wanted to marry him for 5 years and he never asked me. So, I had to go through an awful lot of change.

It has been a fantastic life together. I just thought I would say that because it is so interesting to live, not doing what you think you want to do, but being led by God. It has crossed my will so much because I have got a very strong emotional American nature. I have always, when things get difficult or anything happens I don’t want to do, I do listen to God. Then he says ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do this’ and I have obeyed for better or for worse, well - for better! - it has led me into a tremendous adventure.

I was thinking, we were asked when we were in the States, to go and speak at one of the universities, and Bill gave this kind of talk that he has just given.  I was wondering what to say. I just had a clear thought to make two points. One was about my mother and the other was about the 4 absolute standards.  There were 80 kids there and I told them that I was the kind of personality that, when I sensed my mother wanted me to do something, I automatically did the opposite because I couldn’t bear to have her will on me. Didn’t make any difference whether it made sense or not. And then it was my mother being changed, and apologising, that got me to listen.

Then I told them about the 4 absolute standards, and this room full of kids. They wrote them down. Absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness and absolute love. I said, as a wild young girl who had run away from home and defied everything, I had actually gone over those standards.  Because they were absolutes I was able to face the truth about myself. A lot of them came up to me afterwards and said, ‘We have got mothers like that!’ and they wanted to talk.  They also wanted to find out what those different standards meant. I was very grateful to be able to use it.

Then we went on to Minneapolis after Washington. I don’t know if you know Steve Dickinson, but he has opened up a home there with his wife.  We had quite a gathering of people who had just begun to hear about MRA. A lot of them of course had never even been together before, so we had an evening of discussing world affairs that you have heard about.  We also talked a lot about family life and about bitterness and division between people. At the end of the time - there was a mixture of races there - we said ‘Well let’s be quiet and see if we get any thoughts’ and every single person had very interesting thoughts. They had never done this before. We went all the way round and each person said something. There was a Chinese girl there and her family were on the mainland. Her guidance was ‘I say now that we must break the cycle of bitterness if the world is to survive and it starts in my own heart’.

Then I was thinking about the way we do live.  I have been 40 years in this life. In the old days I used to try so hard to change people by convincing them of MRA and of course it never worked. I feel now that what speaks is what we put into practice every day in a perfectly natural way with everyone we meet.  It isn’t to have a point of view that we are right because we are identified with MRA and you need to learn, but to give the impression that we are learning all the time. To give my convictions and my commitment but I don’t have the whole truth in a formula. I think the secret of winning anybody is to ask questions and see what they are really thinking about and what they care about, what they are afraid of, what they are ashamed of and who they find difficult. Listening to people, to be sure there are no barriers in my own life.  I went through all this thing which I think is very deep in human nature of wanting to please people, of wanting people to like me, of sort of trying to do ‘the MRA thing’ because, if you are in MRA, you want to be good at it - that kind of temptation. Of course, all that stuff is wrong and off-putting, and has nothing to do with God. 
I just thought I would say that. Not a jargon.

And then I was thinking about my own country, America, these days. We are very disturbed about President Carter and I don’t quite know what is going on in his mind. I have an awful feeling that Mrs. Carter is a very strong-willed lady and that is not helpful unless you are aware of it. I was thinking of one of the Governors of one of the States who said that what he would do about the energy crisis is that he would have a combination of North American countries - which means Canada, the USA and Mexico and see if they really worked together. Mexico has just discovered all this oil. Of course, Canada has oil and the States have some but Carter has never mentioned this. The embarrassing thing is that Carter went down to Mexico a little while ago and, because we have always looked down on Mexico and even fought a war with them, really treated them like dirt and ignored them, taken a lot of their territory - because Texas and California all belonged to Mexico at one point - well they are not going to listen to us now. We need their oil. But unless you have an ideology like MRA and go there and say ‘sorry’ and understand why they hate your guts, you are not going to get very far. These are some of the things we are thinking through over in the States now.

I wasn’t that much with Bill this last while in Washington but I think the Senate and House are very open, because they have gone through such hell with Vietnam and Watergate, and now this thing over the Middle East and oil.  They know they have to find something. One of them said to us, you may have heard - you know we have had a time in our world work when the Americans, ourselves and the rest of the world didn’t always see eye to eye, but I think this was a valuable thing to happen. I think it has taught us all a lot. But one of the Senators said, ‘Where was the majesty of MRA at the time of our greatest need?’

With special thanks to Ginny Wigan for her transcription, and Lyria Normington for her editing and correction.



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