NGOs’ Corporate/Foundation Mission–to Divert and Blunt Radical Movements–is Losing Sway

webready-Marcha-Revoluncionaria[The REVOLUTIONARY FRONTLINES blog focuses attention on revolutionaries and especially on revolutionary struggles that challenge the capitalist-imperialist world system and all reactionaries.  Revolutionaries work within a broad range of struggles as they gather and develop revolutionary forces.  Some such struggles are reform struggles, which are often engaged in debates between REFORMISTS, who seek to contain these movements in reforming the capitalist system, and REVOLUTIONARIES, who promote the growth of revolutionary forces to overturn capitalist state power and establish socialism.  In the debates over these directions and goals, NGOs have come to play a major role.

For many years, Maoist revolutionaries and many others have exposed the corporate and government project to put revolutionary grassroots organizers on the payroll, and turn them all into single-issue reformist policy wonks and advocates.  The corporate project aims  and acts to block multi-issue, internationalist advocacy and anti-systemic revolutionary organizing.  It is a project called NGO-ism (Non-Government-Organization) or, domestically, non-profit-organizing (NPOs), which ties the careers of organizers to limited reformist goals, for which they receive conditional funding (blocking revolutionary political organizing, and rewarding only limited reform and electoral objectives).

The funding for these projects (now millions of NGOs and NPOs, worldwide) comes directly from  corporate foundations, which hold a tight leash on NGO advocates and organizers.  Many such NGOs claim to have “democratic accountability,” but in times of increasing mass discontent and rebellion, there is a wide, ever-growing programmatic gap between the reforms sought by corporate NGOs, and the sentiments and demands on the grassroots level.  So the NGO “project” is not only criticized and opposed by revolutionaries, but also by the purported “base”of the NGOs. And now, corporations and foundations are subjecting their vast project to a kind of “quality control” in which they measure their effectiveness in stemming the opposition to capitalism and imperialism.

At the start of the largely NGO World Social Forum, convening last week in Tunisia, the Guardian (UK) newspaper carried an interesting assessment of the loss of credibility, and effectiveness, of NGOs.  Though it takes some reading between the lines, and through the language of reform claims and hype, this becomes clear:  A lot has been invested by the bourgeoisie in these tools of reform and counter insurgency.  Serving two masters, that of financial corporate accountabilty, and of populist “democratic” credibility, has already proven to be a most difficult–indeed, impossible–challenge for the NGOs and NPOs, and for their World Social Forum.  — Frontlines ed.]

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Are NGOs fit for the purpose of advocacy and campaigning?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development-professionals-network/2013/mar/26/world-social-forum-ngos-fit-for-purpose

As the World Social Forum begins, Jude Howell asks whether reliance on state funding has cost NGOs their independence

by Jude Howell, The Guardian, Tuesday 26 March 2013

The World Social Forum, which begins in Tunis today, is an important reminder of the pivotal role civil society organisations have often played in major social and political transformation.

The anti-slavery movement played a crucial part in bringing about legislation to end slavery in the 19th century. Across the world, the trade union movement has been the lynchpin behind achieving basic labour rights and improvements in working conditions. The anti-apartheid movement brought about the downfall of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1990s, while the women’s movement in different historical periods and contexts achieved landmark breakthroughs in law to push for gender equality.

Of course, not all movements achieve their objectives; nor can success be attributed solely to them – alliances with different economic and political interests, as well as getting the general public and media on board have also been crucial. Civil society and NGOs have long been key to challenging systems that would favour the few over the many, and give a voice to the voiceless – but is this the case today? Are they still fit for that purpose? Continue reading

China’s migrants and the desperate struggle for survival

[“Civil society” activists examine the barriers to their “underground” influence and the effect of their activism among migrant workers in the post-socialist, capitalist China.  —  Frontlines ed.]

China: The view from the ground

The self-organising efforts of migrant workers and rights activists across China offer a vital insight into the nature and future of modern Chinese society, says Hsiao-Hung Pai.

The experience of migrant workers in China, who number well over 200 million in this society of 1.2 billion, is a vital route to understanding the nature of present-day Chinese society. Migrants are the most marginalised and unorganised group of workers in China. Many feel that they are like scattered sand (san sha), a phrase that evokes their lack of collective strength and power to change things. In face of unpaid wages and all levels of abuses by companies, they often find themselves fighting their battles alone – and even when they take their bosses to court, this rarely ends in victory.

An example of such protest is an incident in Yunnan province, in China’s southwest, where the tourism company Xinhua Shizhaizi owed 8 million yuan to 500 migrant workers for a construction project. They were helpless but were determined to fight to the end, even though no institutions and no media would come to their aid. Eventually, thirteen children of these migrants joined their parents and held up signs in front of the public – “I want to eat, to go to school, to drink milk, to eat cookies” – as part of their demand that the developer pay the wages owed to their parents.

It was a sign of how desperate and isolated the workers were that their children had to protest on their behalf on the streets. But, as so often, the developers could count on their political connections to avoid responsibility, migrant andworkers were left with nowhere to turn to. Continue reading

Local community and class struggles in South Africa pose challenges to revolutionaries

Protest and Repression in South Africa

from Counterpunch by PATRICK BOND, July 17, 2012

Durban, South Africa.

The recent surge of unconnected community protests across South Africa confirms the country’s profound social, economic and environmental contradictions. But if activists fall before a new hail of police bullets, or if they lack an overarching political strategy, won’t their demonstrations simply pop up and quickly fall back down again – deserving the curse-words ‘popcorn protests’ – as they run out of steam, or worse, get channelled by opportunists into a new round of xenophobic attacks?

It’s been a hot winter, and we’re just halfway through July (the Centre for Civil Society’s Social Protest Observatory keeps tabs: http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za). Consider evidence from just the past two weeks, for example, in Johannesburg’s distant Orange Farm township south of Soweto, where residents rose up against city councillors and national electricity officials because of the unaffordable $250 installation charged for hated prepayment (i.e. self-disconnection) meters, not to mention a 130% increase in electricity prices since 2008.

Nearby, in Boksburg’s Holomisa shack settlement, 50 activists were arrested after blocking roads with burning tyres. Likewise, in the port city of East London’s Egoli township, house allocation controversies led to a brief uprising, and down the coast, high-profile Port Elizabeth road barricade protests again broke out over failing services in Walmer township.

Near the Botswana border close to Northwest Province’s Morokweng village, a dozen residents angry about inadequate state services were arrested for arson, public violence and malicious damage to school property, following months of frustrated non-violent protest; while in the provincial capital of Mahikeng, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate began an investigation into a death on July 4: “The deceased was allegedly shot and run over by a police vehicle during a service delivery protest in the area.” Continue reading

India: Student Group challenges “civil society” activists: “Whatever Happened to the ‘Other Binayaks’?”

Civil Society’s Failure to Stand by the People Targeted by the Indian State

by the DSU (Democratic Student Union of Jawaharlal Nehru University)

The Indian ‘civil society’ –constituted by the articulate section of the middle class and representing a wide spectrum of ideological affiliations– has been shocked by the recent conviction of Dr. Binayak Sen. There have been vocal protests all over the country against the unfair implication of Dr. Sen in charges under the draconian UAPA as well as Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act, and the recent court verdict handing him a life imprisonment. For the so-called civil society, the defense of Dr. Sen stems from his untiring service to the people as a highly respected and socially committed medical practitioner who have spent an entire lifetime amongst one of the most marginalised and exploited sections of India – the adivasis of undivided Bastar. He took up the responsibility of fighting for the democratic rights of prisoners –including the Maoist political prisoners– imprisoned in the jails of Chhattisgarh, and demanded that the state provided them with all the rights they are entitled to, including the right to a fair trial and timely medical treatment. Continue reading