April 24, 1992
Desmond T., General Service TrusteeThis material has been reproduced from presentations made at the 42 General Service Conference. References to historical facts ought to be considered the point of view of the writer and may or may not be actual fact:
There are a number of points to be made about the Service Structure of AA historically. This will be a review for many of us, but I think it will be helpful to put the current suggestions into perspective.
You will recall that the Alcoholic Foundation was founded roughly three years after Bill and Bob met in Akron. That would put it about May of 1938. The Foundation was set up with Trustees. the reason for setting up that Trust was that it would allow tax-free contributions to AA. The Alcoholic Foundation, as you know, subsequently became the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was determined that the Foundation could do about anything it wanted to within the field of alcoholism or alcohol except lobby for prohibition. It had more non-alcoholic (Class A) trustees than alcoholic (Class B) trustees. Bill was not one of the original trustees, however, Dr. Bob was. Some years later, in connection with the development of the Big Book, Works Publishing, Inc. was formed. You will recall the story of Henry P., going around New York selling shares for $25.00 in this stock company. The reason for publishing the Big Book was too get money, which would enable AA to employ full-time workers to set up a General Service headquarters for our society.
At the famous Union Club dinner a few years later, the A.A. Foundation expected to get large donations from about 75 invited guests of John D. Rockefeller. Instead, his son, Nelson, told the group that Alcoholics Anonymous should be self-supporting and it needed only the good will of those invited. This was a severe blow to Bill, who had envisioned the contributions of these people being the "seed money" for the Alcoholic Foundation. Shortly after that, the dinner guests were solicited for small [?] contributions of about $3,000 which was put in a Foundation.
Funds were put into the Foundation for the first time in 1939. Bill was allotted $30.00 a week to live on. [An average worker earned about $10 weekly at this time.] A few years after the dinner, Bill was able to write Rm. Rockefeller and his friends that AA no longer needed any more funds from them. As Bill tells us, the royalties from the Big Book were giving Dr. Bob and him the help they needed and the AA groups had begun to pick up the load of supporting the headquarters office.
In 1940, AA Works Publishing was incorporated. It was clear that the AA books belonged to our society itself and so, at that time, the Foundation took over the stock of Works Publishing and accordingly was made owner of the Big Book. In "AA Comes Of Age," Bill goes on to say that the time between 1945 and 1950 was one of immense strain.
The Fellowship had to deal with problems of money, anonymity and the issues of the succession and permanence of Alcoholics Anonymous. Regarding this latter issue, Bill makes the point that the main link between our World Services and AA itself had been Dr. Bob, the secretarial staff and Bill. Trustees were scarcely known at all. Trustees had the authority over our Services. Yet they had no moral authority or visibility among the members of the Fellowship. That key problem needed to be solved. It was subsequently solved through the Conference Structure. The important point here is the connection between the authority over services and the need to have that authority reciprocated on the part of the Fellowship. The Conference also was to provide a visible connection for the Trustees within the Fellowship. The Trustees, however, did not feel the same urgency Bill felt. Bill goes on to say, "Typically alcoholic, I became very excited, and turned the passive resistance of my fellow workers into solid oppositions.
A serious rift developed between me and the alcoholic members of the Board. As the months went by the situation became worse and worse. With much reason, they resented my sledgehammer tactics and my continued violence. As the tempest increased, so did my blistering memorandums to the Board. One of them was an amazing composition. Following a long plea for an elected AA Conference and other reforms, and after having pointed out that the Trustees had all the authority there was, with no responsibility to anyone, even to Dr. Bob and me, I finished the memo with this astonishing sentence: 'When I was in law school, the largest book I studied was one on Trusts. I must say, gentlemen, that it was mostly a long melancholy account of the malfeasance's and misfeasance's of board of trustees.' I had written this to a group of the best friends I had in the world, people who had devoted themselves to AA and to me without stint. Obviously I was on a dry bender of the worst possible sort." (AA Comes of Age, page 210) In '48, Bill set out on the road to talk to the groups about the possibility of elected Conference to which the Board of Trustees could eventually become accountable.
Bill goes on to say, "Had it not been for our non-alcoholic friends on the Board, I doubt if the impasse could ever have been resolved...the two men who ultimately saved the situation were Mr. Leonard Harrison and Mr. Bernard Smith...Bernard Smith has a remarkable faculty for persuasion and negotiation. Moreover, his ideas about a Conference had already taken a deeper hold than any of us realized. After the air had cleared somewhat, he took up the task of convincing the Trustees Committee on the Conference. Following only two meetings he put this question to the committee: Shall we set up this Conference for Delegates, or shall we forget about it? To my astonishment the committee unanimously said, 'Let's give the Conference a try.' It seemed like a miracle." (AA Comes of Age, page 212)
I should point out, as many of you probably know already, Bernard Smith brought into his law firm a young man, many years later, whose name is Michael Alexander. The Conference accordingly was established to link AA's groups with Service and to link Service with AA's Trustees. As we know, the General Service Board is the chief service arm of the Conference. That Conference represents the conscience of AA worldwide, to which our Trustees become directly accountable. The first General Service Conference was held in 1951.
The following charts depict the early organizational structure. The charts in 1952 and 1955 show a rather simple structure. After the writing of the Concepts, we see another visualization of the service structure in 1967. In this later diagram, the AAWS has been interposed between the General Service Board and the service structure. That continues today.
As a result of that structural arrangement, the General Service Board over the past few years has not been able to exercise this fiduciary responsibility of efficient financial and administrative oversight of the service structure. To remedy that situation, the Board took a series of actions including the establishment of audit and policy committees. These actions ultimately led to the personnel changes of the past twelve months. It now recommends the General Service Board establish a direct reporting relationship with the service structure of AA through the General Manager.