[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.]
Are NGOs fit for the purpose of advocacy and campaigning?
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 →