Non-Profits: Tethered to the System, Not to the People

Why NonProfits Can’t Lead the 99%

[A seasoned movement elder examines what happens left organizations are led exclusively by college-educated professionals answerable to self-perpetuating boards and philanthropic funders, what happens when union leaderships free themselves from their memberships, and when community organizations become government contractors.  Only membership supported and membership-driven organizations, he suggests, can actually lead the 99%.”]

Why NonProfits Can’t Lead the 99%
by Warren Marr

Warren Mar has written a provocative piece on the role of Community Based Organizations and Worker Centers in the working class movement. He explores controversial issues of the funding and democratic control of these organizations which have filled a vacuum in organizing particularly among immigrant workers.

The author entered community and labor organizing in the late 60’s and early 70’s during the second resurgence of a left alternative to capitalism. Many new left activists entered the labor movement during this time, hoping that American Unions would finally represent the entire working class, and not only those workers under a specific work place contract.

Even at its peak in 1953 the AFL-CIO unions only represented 33% of American workers. This year coincided with continuing legal Jim Crow segregation in the South, excluding African Americans from unions, and years of Asian and Latino exclusion from unions on the West Coast. Therefore the 33% reflected on longingly by union old-timers may have represented a majority of white males concentrated in heavy industry and the skilled construction trades of the Midwest and Northeast. This was the geographic concentration of the majority of union members during the height of the AFL-CIO. Not until the late 60’s and early 70’s when public sector unions were formed and – and public sector civil service jobs were integrated – did large numbers of women and minorities become card-carrying AFL-CIO union members even in the most liberal of northern cities. Continue reading

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

US: “The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats”

Counterpunch, Weekend Edition March 15-17, 2013

Paid to Lose

by JOHN STAUBER

A major concentration of the "Progressive Movement" -- the makeover of imperialism from Bush to Obama

A major concentration of the “Progressive Movement” — the makeover of imperialism from Bush to Obama

There is good news in the Boston Globe today for the managers, development directors, visionaries, political hacks and propaganda flacks who run “the Progressive Movement.”   More easy-to-earn and easy-to-hide soft money, millions of dollars,  will be flowing to them from super rich Democrats and business corporations.  It will come clean, pressed and laundered through Organizing for Action, the latest incarnation of the Obama Money Machine which has recently morphed into a “nonpartisan non-profit corporation” that will  ‘‘strengthen the progressive movement and train our next generation of leaders.’’

Does this information concern you?  If not, you need to get out of the propaganda bubble of your Progressive Movement echo chamber and think.  Think hard.  Think about fundamental, radical, democratic, social and economic change, who might bring it about and how.  Ask yourself if the the rich elite, the 1%, are going to fund that.   Leave The Nation and Mother Jones on the shelf;  turn off Ed Schultz, Rachel Madow and Chris Hayes;  don’t open that barrage of email missives from Alternet, Media Matters, MoveOn, and the other think tanks;  and get your head out of the liberal blogosphere for a couple days.  Clear your mind and consider this:

The self-labeled Progressive Movement that has arisen over the past decade is primarily one big propaganda campaign serving the political interests of the the Democratic Party’s richest one-percent who created it.  The funders and owners of the Progressive Movement get richer and richer off Wall Street and the corporate system.  But they happen to be Democrats, cultural and social liberals who can’t stomach Republican policies, and so after bruising electoral defeats a decade ago they decided to buy a movement, one just like the Republicans, a copy.

The Progressive Movement that exists today is their success story.  The Democratic elite created  a mirror image of the type of astroturf front groups and think tanks long ago invented, funded and promoted by the Reaganites and the Koch brothers.  The liberal elite own the Progressive Movement.  Organizing for Action, the “non-partisan” slush fund to train the new leaders of the Progressive Movement is just the latest big money ploy to consolidate their control and keep the feed flowing into the trough.

The professional Progressive Movement that we see reflected in the pages of The Nation magazine, in the online marketing and campaigning of MoveOn and in the speeches of Van Jones, is primarily a political public relations creation of America’s richest corporate elite, the so-called 1%, who happen to bleed Blue because they have some degree of social and environmental consciousness, and don’t bleed Red.  But they are just as committed as the right to the overall corporate status quo, the maintenance of the American Empire, and the monopoly of the rich over the political process that serves their economic interests. Continue reading