A Look Back: The Revolution Will Not Be Funded

South End Press, 2007

by M:A.M.A.

Emphatic OMG Ya’ll! If you are an “activist”, “advocate”, critic of both, or even interested in schools or prisons or Palestine–you must read this book. Radical feminists of color from INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence created The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex to challenge your brain, and the capitalist system we all live within. Be warned this book will extract emotion from a rock due to its warp-speed, fresh and clean analysis! Published in 2007, this anthology deserves a look back, re-read, or even an initial reflection, so welcome this book into your circle with great thought and love.

The book is a compilation of essays from expert academics, seasoned activists, and global popular historians that offer movement builders a critical analysis, language, and framework to dissect the extent to which the non-profit—the loved and hated 501(c)(3)—advances the capitalist agenda. Power systems exist everywhere—patriarchy, racism, classism, homophobia—this book offers a light on the pathway to dismantle—ism of in do-gooder landscapes.

Say what?! Revisit the idea of the “Military Industrial Complex” with Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a concept birthed from former president Eisenhower in 1961. He said that the intricate connection between the military and the industry of war would completely direct our economy and our political decisions to the detriment of society. Fast-forward 50 years and here we are with 60% of our national budget going to the military, while we continue to close schools.

So what does the “Non-profit Industrial Complex” mean? Dylan Rodriguez defines the NPIC as “a set of symbiotic relationships that link political and financial technologies of the state and owning class control with surveillance over public political ideology…”. Dang, this gives a new meaning to ‘they are watching you’. But this is not a conspiracy theory: it’s banks, bankers, big heads, and the bailout-ed defining and monitoring your activism through foundations. Rodriguez and Gilmore both argue that the NPIC is like the silent twin to the Prison Industrial Complex. Although the Prison Industrial Complex ”overtly represses dissent”, the NPIC “functions as an alibi” in the shadow of the state (Andrea Smith, Introduction). It’s like we don’t even know we’re doing the bidding of corporations.

Who cares? A lot of rich people. Here we are reminded that charities have existed for around 140 years to deal with social welfare and super rich people got really excited about it in the 1900’s when they figured out it’s an awesome tax haven. When a rich person dies, 50 % of their “large estate” goes to the government through estate taxes, or that person can create a foundation to avoid it. The Rockafellers and Carnegies started their foundations in 1910 and 1911—two of the first. From there the shit just blew up. By 1955 philanthropy grew to $7.7 BILLION—and despite minor regulatory efforts on foundations—by 1998 it was $175 BILLION of capital caught in foundations.

Today, foundations have assets over $500 BILLION funding over 837,000 non-profits (and that is not counting churches). Foundations are required to spend 5% of their worth annually, but depend on non-profits for charitable giving because those donations are tax deductable. That 5% of expense can also include operating costs or paying members of the board of trustees. This kind of system ensures that the rich stay rich.

You should read this book not because it’s filled with crazy statistics, but because it has theories about why this happened, what its doing to the movement, and how activists are responding.

Highlights From The Text:

Within a few months the Ford Foundation could apparently view its grant to the Cleveland CORE as a qualified success. There was no rebellion in Cleveland in the summer of 1967, and in November, Carl Stokes became the first Negro mayor of a major American city—a fact which temporarily eased tensions in the ghetto. – Robert Allen, Black Awakening in Capitalist America [1969]

Many white led social justice non-profits proclaim, in everything from their mission statements to their funding proposals, that they are committed to improving the social and economic conditions of the oppressed communities in which they operate. But alongside these proclamations exist a persisting hierarchy and circulation of capital within the social justice movement. Significantly the manner in which that capital is circulated among social justice groups, once the wealthy do decide to make charitable gift to the movement, is often ignored or grossly understated by white leaders within the progressive philanthropy movement. – Tiffany Lethabo King & Ewuare Osayande, the filth on philanthropy

Inevitably the young organizer takes a hard look at how his or her, [their] organization does business and questions the deeper strength of an organization that depends on foundation grants for its survival, that hires a development director to raise funds so that others can turn their attention to ‘real’ work, and that adopts management systems which are foreign, if not alien, to the values and skill-sets of the base. – Eric Tang, Non-profits and Autonomous Grassroots

Truth be told, the relationship between NGOs and the communities in which they work are not always negative; nor do they all work the same way. Some are strategically linked, and even directed by the revolutionary movements themselves. Often serve as a mechanism through which resources may be funneled to autonomous organizations of tens of thousands. – Burrowes, Cousins, Rojas, and Ije Ude, on our own terms: ten years of radical community building with Sista II Sista

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded is not going to give you the happy ending, the nicely packaged conclusion nor a singular solution to the complex system of funding programs, ideas, or “movement building” in capitalist America. The role of foundations in our communities has major repercussions with the lack of public dollars to sustain our systems. In Metro Detroit, 19 grant makers issued over $36 million to 89 grantees in 2010 alone, just for education. The largest granteur being GM, followed by the Skillman Foundation. It’s up to you—is this generous and necessary during economic hardship? Or a threat to an open and transparent democracy? Or both? Hot damn—don’t we all have something to talk about.

Read, resist, repeat.

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