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WATCH: The Battle Against Climate Change by Paul Kingsnorth

WATCH: The Battle Against Climate Change by Paul Kingsnorth

Originally broadcasted by VPRO in 2018. © VPRO Backlight December 2018

Video Published April 26, 2019

 

 

Humanity has lost the battle against climate change. That is what Paul Kingsnorth thinks. The former environmental activist believes that we can´t stop climate change anymore. How should we live on knowing that climate change is a fact that can´t be denied anymore? A documentary that gives thinker and writer Paul Kingsnorth the time to explain how humanity still can be hopeful although the battle against climate change in his eyes has been lost.

Former environmental activist and writer Paul Kingsnorth has withdrawn to Ireland on a unspoilt part of the earth. You could say that he lives now at the end of the world. A portrait of an end-time thinker who nevertheless does not give up hope and continues to believe in the power of nature.

Thinker and writer Paul Kingsnorth stood early on the barricades as a conservationist. He resisted the insatiable hunger of the globalized world for more land, resources and things in England and on the other side of the world in Papa New Guinea. Kingsnorth was one of the leaders of the environmental movement and reached a large international audience with its passionate speeches. But at some point, he came to terms that he had to revisit his belief that humanity could save the world.

In his bundled essays “Confessions of a recovering environmentalist” (2017) he describes how some weak-kneed accountants of this world hollowed out the green movement from the inside and exchanged the barricades for ties and conference tables. Limiting CO2 emissions became the new gospel because it was measurable and countable. But according to Kingsnorth, that is an illusion. He thinks that in his victory rush, the green movement of today exchanges the remaining wild nature for a wind or solar panel farm. The battle is lost.

Kingsnorth withdrew with his family to the Irish countryside to live self-sufficient. He founded the “Dark Mountain Project” in which writers, poets and artists are looking for a different view of the end of the world, based on the connection between man and nature. He exchanged his clenched fist and protesting voice for an inner, literary search for the question of what makes us human and what our place is on this magical planet.

[Running time: 49:32]

Original titel: De aarde draait door

 

 

 

 

The Strategy of Malcolm X

Tactical Diversity

June 1, 2015

by Lorenzo Raymond

 

Malcolm X in Smethwick

 

Last month many of us celebrated the 90th birthday of the one of America’s greatest revolutionaries, El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, also known as Malcolm X.  That his birthday follows his assassination date (February 21) on the calendar seems appropriate this year, as Malcolm could be said to be resurrected these days:  from condemnations of US racism at the United Nations, to self-defense against cops in NYC, to Black rifle clubs in Texas, to mass rebellion in Baltimore, to a growing disillusionment with the two-party system and doctrinaire nonviolence in America, he has seldom seemed more relevant.

This is all the more remarkable given that the representation of Malcolm in popular media is more distorted than ever.  2015 opened with the Martin Luther King biopic Selma giving us the most forgettable (perhaps the only forgettable) portrayal of Malcolm X in cinema history.  In some ways, the muting of Malcolm was inevitable; an accurate depiction of the Muslim leader presented a danger of upstaging King in the movie the same way that he often upstaged King in real life.  But that isn’t any excuse for the distortion of Malcolm X’s politics and the role he played in the Black freedom struggle.

In the short scene in which he appears, Malcolm comes literally hat in hand to Coretta Scott King begging to address the protesters and be a part of the movement.  He appears to have arrived uninvited, crashing a party he has no real place in.  As he offers to scare the segregationists with an “alternative” to MLK’s nonviolence, he hints that this is actually just a bluff because his “eyes see in a new way.”  Everything about this scene is fundamentally wrong: Malcolm explained himself to Mrs. King after, not before, he gave his speech—a speech which he was invited to give by the director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s Selma Project.1  And when Malcolm spoke of offering an alternative to King’s pacifism, it was anything but a bluff.

Black Revolution, Whitewashed

The lodestar for recent portrayals of Malcolm is Manning Marable’s book Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.  While universally lauded by mainstream white critics, most responses from the Black Left were derisive.  This must be the only historical book of recent years to inspire not one, but two entire anthologies of hostile rebuttal: A Lie of Reinvention, edited by Jared Ball, and By Any Means Necessary, edited by a collective headed by Herb Boyd .  Some academic assessments were skeptical as well.  Joe Street observed in The Journal of American Studies that Marable’s version of Malcolm was “a more centrist, liberal figure” than had ever been depicted before, acting out the “palliative theme” of a Black nationalist who moved “beyond race,” and also beyond militancy.  Street noted that Marable was oddly “content to position Malcolm X as a far less revolutionary figure than his reputation might suggest.” 2

Ever since his death, liberals have attempted portray Malcolm as an ineffectual figure in the Black Freedom Movement.  In his 1965 review of The Autobiography of Malcom X, Bayard Rustin (once a radical, but by that time a Democratic Party operative), wrote that Malcolm was of primary interest as a “tragic victim of the ghetto,” who made for an inspiring study in self-improvement, yet  “had no program for attacking” racism.3  More recently this line manifests with Reverend James Cone who says that while “[Dr.] King was a political revolutionary…Malcolm was a cultural revolutionary. He did not change the social or political structures, but he changed how black people thought about themselves.” 4

As Angela Davis has noted, the ruling class could never hope to completely suppress Black nationalism in America, so it has settled for accepting cultural consciousness while burying revolutionary nationalism.   By the same token, accomodationists will celebrate Shabazz as a purely cultural figure, while marginalizing him as a political one.  In reality, Malcolm X was one of the most influential and effective political activists in US history.  The strategy of “by any means necessary” transcended the crude categories of nonviolence and violence, integration and separatism, pragmatism and revolution.  Considering that this paradigm was subsequently applied by the American Indian Movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the early LGBT movement, it should be acknowledged that Malcolm X popularized the strategy by which most American liberation struggles of the 1960s and 1970s advanced themselves.

Grassroots to the Messenger

One of the most bizarre charges leveled against Malcolm–repeated yet again in the Selma film–is that he never organized anything.  The Nation of Islam has many faults, but being disorganized isn’t one of them.  Even Marable’s biography of Malcolm acknowledges that he was largely responsible for the unprecedented (“more than tenfold”) growth of the NOI in the 1950s.  Marable also acknowledges that “Malcolm’s career as a national civil rights leader began late on the afternoon of April 26, 1957” when he led thousands of Harlemites to the 28th police precinct house to obtain medical treatment for a member of the NOI who’d been clubbed unconscious by officers.  It had been years since any black organization had the audacity to lead major protests against police brutality, and the Muslim leader immediately captured the imagination of African-Americans throughout the country.  5 He swiftly paid a personal price: less than a year later, while Malcolm was out of town, the NYPD attempted to invade his Queens residence under dubious pretenses.  One of the building’s occupants (it isn’t known who) injured a detective with a thrown bottle, and Betty Shabazz, along with several others, was charged with assaulting an officer.  Malcolm proceeded to coordinate a defiant and publicity-savvy legal defense that lead to the longest trial in Queens history, and saw his wife and neighbors exonerated.  Moments after the acquittal he stood on the courthouse steps and told his followers that “Any policeman who abuses you belongs in the cemetery.” 6

Before the 1960s had even arrived, Malcolm X’s militant stance was beginning to have a profound impact on the civil rights movement.  “King’s philosophy of non-violence in the cause of a largely undefined integrated society was being seriously challenged,” recalled one of MLK’s own advisors, Vincent Harding.  “In the north the deepest, broadest questions seemed to be coming from…the growing Nation of Islam and in its increasingly popular national representative, Malcolm X.  In the south, the message of non-violent resistance was challenged by the action of Robert F. Williams and his armed self-defense group in Monroe, North Carolina in 1959.” 7

In the wake of Selma there’s been a popular trend of praising King as a strategist, a characterization that calls for serious qualification; King consolidated the efforts of a network of activists that ranged from bold direct actionists such as James Bevel, Diane Nash and John Lewis (all recruited from the pacifist wing of SNCC), to cool-headed managers like Bayard Rustin; it was these people who drafted and initiated what is now marketed as Kingian strategy.  Likewise, Malcolm X’s political significance was to consolidate another spectrum of more militant grassroots organizers burning across the country in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  These included Mae Mallory, Robert F. Williams, Albert Cleage, Ethel Azalea Johnson, and a nationwide network of students known as the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM).

Even as Marable belittled Malcolm’s strategic contributions in his book, he acknowledged that “[Robert F.] Williams and other militants pushed organizations like the NAACP toward greater activism, pressuring both major political parties to adopt new legislation.”  Marable doesn’t tell us what Rob Williams’ biographer, Timothy Tyson does: Williams was dependent on support provided by Black radicals centered in Harlem, and “the most notable of Williams’ contacts among the Harlem nationalists was Malcolm X.” Malcolm featured the visiting Monroe leader regularly at his mosque, telling his congregation that “our brother here…is the only fighting man that we got and we have to help him.” This wasn’t just moral support:  Malcolm raised “money to buy military carbines, machine guns, and dynamite for the Monroe NAACP.”  8

Another organizer who inspired and collaborated in Malcolm’s strategy was Mae Mallory, a single mother who protested the de facto segregation of New York City public schools.  In 1958, she led Harlemites in a 162-day school boycott involving 10,000 parents, and won an open transfer program. An avowed revolutionary, Mallory visited Monroe to assist Rob Williams in defending a SNCC freedom ride, and wound up involved in an armed conflict with the Ku Klux Klan and local police. Framed on kidnapping charges after this incident, Mallory was in prison during 1964, when another school boycott took place in New York City; Malcolm took up her mantle by acting as a spokesperson for the walk-out (Mallory was later exonerated of the kidnapping). 9

 

Malcolm at NYC school boycott, 1964 

The first major Black Christian leader to partner with Malcolm X was the Congregationalist Reverend Albert Cleage. In the aftermath of the Birmingham campaign, Cleage helped organize Detroit’s Great Walk to Freedom—the largest civil rights demonstration prior to the March on Washington. But as historian Thomas Sugrue notes, after the spectacle of such marches was shattered by the massacring of four Black girls in Birmingham in September 1963, “Cleage came out forcefully against what he considered the polite and ultimately ineffective nonviolent tactics of civil rights protest.”  At an October 1963 meeting he denounced moral suasion and called for a “strategy of chaos” which would include acts of retaliation if necessary.  Soon Cleage organized pickets demanding inclusion of Blacks in apprentice training programs, where protesters carried signs reading “SCHOOL FOR ALL OR SCHOOL FOR NONE” and “EQUALITY OR CHAOS.” Cleage also planned a national conference of Black militants for that November and invited Malcolm to give the keynote address—the speech now known as “Message to the Grassroots.” 10

Cleage’s “strategy of chaos” (“We’ll get what we’re after or we’ll tear it up!”) was partly inspired by the escalation of the Birmingham campaign, which in turn was partly inspired by Malcolm X. MLK confidant Vincent Harding recalled that the lifeblood of the spring campaign was

young men and women who had heard the powerful voice and seen the piercing eyes of Malcolm X on their television screens…[Dr. King] realized that now they were at least potentially the children of Malcolm as well…they taunted the police, they broke out of the marching lines when faced with barricades of police and firemen; they did their own speedy end runs downtown…

By mid-May, white repression had “goaded an enraged group of blacks into a burning, car-smashing, police-battling response. In a sense,” Harding tells us, “this was the first of the period’s urban rebellions.” Rather than this deviation from nonviolence being a setback to the movement, it was the greatest breakthrough since the Montgomery Bus Boycott seven years earlier.

Young activists weren’t just listening to Malcolm X in the early sixties; some were also coordinating with him. Max Stanford, a student militant associated with SNCC and SDS, met with Malcolm in 1962 and asked him if he should join the NOI.  The Muslim leader was already privately frustrated with the conservatism of the sect and told Stanford he could do more for Black nationalism by organizing outside the Nation. Stanford joined with fellow students Wanda Marshall and Donald Freeman, as well as veteran organizer Ethel Azalea Johnson (a close comrade of Robert F. Williams) to form the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM).  While the group involved itself in reform movements, Stanford states that “RAM as an organization advocated guerilla warfare, mass rebellion and national black strikes…to create an independent black republic through socialist revolution.”  By the time of the Birmingham breakthrough, RAM had developed a partnership with maverick NAACP leader Cecil Moore and helped organize protests in North Philadelphia for African-American job opportunities. “RAM members circulated throughout the community with leaflets and bull horns, going door to door, talking to street gangs,” Stanford recalled. At a May 1963 protest against racial discrimination in the building trade sponsored by the Philadelphia NAACP, Stanford and RAM leader Stan Daniels organized militant pickets, which

blocked the workers, all whites, from entering the construction site. Within minutes the Philadelphia police formed a flying wedge and attacked the picket line. Singling out Daniels and Stanford, twenty police jumped them and they fought back until [beaten] unconscious.

Arrested for incitement to riot, Stanford called Malcolm for help.  The Muslim leader immediately began mobilizing people down the entire Northeast to support the Philadelphia movement “Within a week, 50,000 to 100,000 people participated in demonstrations that often turned into violent clashes between the masses and the police,” recalled Stanford. 11  On June 22, President Kennedy signed Executive Order 11114 mandating affirmative action in federally-funded construction projects.  White House sources admitted to the press that the president’s initiative was “partly in response to violence in Philadelphia.” Kennedy’s order was the prototype of the “Philadelphia Plan” which in turn became the foundation of all federal affirmative action on employment. 12

Free At Last

In March of 1964, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam and publicly expressed his solidarity with the general goals of the civil rights movement.  This was a pivotal moment in his life, and arguably, a pivotal moment in the history of the United States.  Discussing this “reinvention,” Manning Marable focuses on Malcolm’s desperation to obtain allies to protect himself from Elijah Muhammed, as well as Malcolm’s yearning to participate in a movement which he was supposedly estranged from. But Marable fails to acknowledge the yearnings which the movement felt for Malcolm X, as well as its increasing disillusionment—even in 1963—with Kingian nonviolence and liberalism.  In July of that year, Martin Luther King was bombarded with eggs in Harlem; King blamed the attack on Malcolm, but it was later revealed to have been organized by Black Christians outraged by King’s sacrifice of children’s safety in Birmingham.13  In November 1963, the rank-and-file of SNCC voted down a proposal to hold a memorial vigil for the assassinated President Kennedy, noting that JFK was not a genuine friend to the movement—a position echoing Malcolm’s argument that Kennedy’s neglect of human rights in the US contributed to an atmosphere of terror that led to his own death.  14  Perhaps most significantly, in February of 1964, Medgar Evers’ brother, Charles, took over the slain leader’s position as field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP, and made some of the most inflammatory declarations ever heard from a mainstream Black leader.  In a speech before an NAACP Freedom Fund banquet in Nashville, Evers went beyond self-defense to retaliatory violence:

I have the greatest respect for Martin Luther King, but non-violence won’t work in Mississippi…we made up our minds…that if a white man shoots at a Negro in Mississippi, we will shoot back…If they bomb a Negro church and kill our children, then we are going to bomb a white church and kill some of their children.  We have served notice in Mississippi…that before we’ll be slaves anymore we’ll die and go to our graves. 15

Journalist Charles Silberman wrote at the time: “the widespread admiration for Dr. King is mixed…with a good deal of resentment.  Lower-class Negroes do not want to be represented to the whites as nonviolent.”  Silberman also noted that Malcolm X’s popularity was growing, yet was ultimately “limited by the cultish restraints of the Black Muslim religion: Many Negroes who agreed with Malcolm’s attacks on whites were unwilling to join the Muslims.”  16 Malik el-Shabazz made his move toward the civil rights mainstream not out of crude desperation, but because he knew that Black America was ready for him. (There is evidence that much of the white Left was ready for him too: In December 1963, Bob Dylan publicly praised the militant wing of SNCC, contrasting them with the “respectable Negroes” who dominated the March on Washington.  Dylan then said—in his own version of Malcolm’s “chickens coming home to roost” remarks—that he could understand why a leftist would want to shoot President Kennedy. 17  Immediately after Malcolm’s death in 1965, another white protest singer, Phil Ochs, wrote the satire “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” where he chided moderates for not recognizing Malcolm’s heroism).  Two weeks after his transition out of the NOI, Malcolm staged his famous handshake with Martin Luther King.  This photo is sometimes presented as evidence of Malcolm capitulating to King’s nonviolent and (at the time) assimilationist path; in reality, it showed King, who had previously spurned the Muslim minister, being forced to accept Malcolm’s growing stature in the movement.

“Strategy of Chaos”

There is, needless to say, much that could be said about Malcolm X’s strategy in the final year of his life—his efforts toward a pan-African network, his proposals for the UN, his embrace of anti-capitalism, his dialogue with white radicals—but here we will focus on the three most misunderstood aspects: his attitude towards electoral politics, his attitude towards collective self-defense (“violence”), and his strategy towards other leaders in the freedom movement.

Marable’s book repeatedly claimed that “Malcolm came to believe that blacks could work within the system to improve their lives” He based this argument upon the way in which the older Malcolm would closely observe government events, as well as the support he lent to the struggle for the vote in the South.  But the younger Malcolm, who edited the NOI’s newspaper, had also closely observed American political events for years, and had been friendly with select Black politicians—even as he was advocating that Blacks permanently separate from the United States.  On the matter of voting rights, Malcolm made clear that this was a strategy of involving himself in reform only in order to raise Black people’s awareness of the system’s failures—not because he thought the system was particularly redeemable.  Indeed, Malcolm stated in March 1964 that he only supported reform because “every campaign for specific objectives can only heighten the political consciousness of the Negroes and intensify their identification against white society.” [emphasis added]  18  Supporting people’s right to vote is similar to supporting people’s right to eat greasy lunch counter food—it doesn’t mean you think it’s a good idea, much less the path to liberation.   Just as Ella Baker noted that her support of luncheonette sit-ins was about “more than a hamburger,” Malcolm’s support of ballot access was about much more than elections.  “Your dumb vote, your ignorant vote, your wasted vote,” Malcolm seethed in “The Ballot or the Bullet,” (the very speech Marable and co. claim shows el-Shabazz as an electioneer) –

Don’t be throwing out any ballots…keep your ballot in your pocket…always remember, if it doesn’t take senators and congressmen and presidential proclamations to give freedom to the white man, it is not necessary for legislation or proclamation or Supreme Court decisions to give freedom to the Black man.

Malcolm’s heart never changed on that issue; he wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that two years after his death, his one friend in the federal system, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., would be unconstitutionally stripped of his Congressional seat just at the point when he was in a position to initiate radical reform.  And though LBJ helped push the Civil Rights Act through three months after “The Ballot or the Bullet,” Malcolm still declined to encourage Blacks to vote in 1964 because he didn’t see any consistent enforcement of the new law. 19 While Malcolm saw symbolic and contingent value in the franchise, he had no illusions that there was anything worth voting for.  Indeed, this is the major point about the ballot made in the speech—which left the bullet, by default, as the primary tactic.  (Harold Cruse, writing in The New York Review of Books in 1969, noted that the true heir to Malcolm’s finalized strategy was Eldridge Cleaver, who was then openly supporting armed insurrection yet also keeping one foot in independent electoral politics, running as a protest candidate with the Peace and Freedom Party). 20

 

Malcolm’s agenda for 1964

Similar games are played when Marable and other liberals talk of Malcolm’s changing attitude toward armed resistance.  Once again, a selective reading of “The Ballot and the Bullet” is used, noting that Shabazz backs away from earlier remarks which seemed to imply that Blacks should form rifle clubs to seek retaliation against random whites.  But in the same speech, Malcolm also gives Blacks “a little briefing on guerrilla warfare because, before you know it” that strategy may have to be exercised against the government.  Malcolm believed the Black rebellions of 1964 might foreshadow such a war:

There’s new strategy coming in. It’ll be Molotov cocktails this month, hand grenades next month, and something else next month. It’ll be ballots, or it’ll be bullets. It’ll be liberty, or it will be death.

This wasn’t mere sound and fury, it was conscious political pressure.  In this passage, Malcolm is referring specifically to a Black riot in Jacksonville, Florida which erupted out of the violent white repression of a sit-in campaign in March 1964.  That uprising, where the freedom movement did indeed first use Molotov cocktails, is known to have captured the White House’s attention at a time when the civil rights bill was facing the largest filibuster in US history.  Malcolm concludes the speech with an armed demand for reform:

You talk about a march on Washington in 1963, you haven’t seen anything. There’s some more going down in ’64. And this time they’re not going like they went last year…They’re not going with round-trip tickets. They’re going with one way tickets. And if they don’t want that non-nonviolent army going down there, tell them to bring the filibuster to a halt.

Tellingly, Martin Luther King began to faintly echo Malcolm’s rhetoric that spring.  Visions of violence now arose whenever King spoke of failure to enact the civil rights bill; If the legislation did not pass, King said in a Detroit speech, “I’m afraid our many pleas of nonviolence in fighting segregation will fall on deaf ears.”  Speaking during the filibuster, King warned that should the bill die, America would see a “dark night of social disruption.”  21

Mainstream scholars often try to paint Malcolm as a paper tiger in regards to the guerilla warfare proposal—a general without an army.  But in 1964 Malcolm quietly accepted the position of International Spokesperson in the Revolutionary Action Movement.  Robin DG Kelly notes that in this same year RAM established its definitive militant program:

The twelve-point program created by RAM called for the development of freedom schools…rifle clubs, black farmer cooperatives (not just for economic development but to keep “community and guerrilla forces going for a while”), and a liberation guerrilla army made up of youth and the unemployed. 22

RAM began implementing its program by actively promoting armed resistance within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  As Malcolm was delivering “The Ballot or the Bullet,” in Northern cities, Max Stanford and others in RAM headed to Greenwood, Mississippi to join the preparations for Freedom Summer.  RAM members taught African history in freedom schools and helped organize voter registration, but their main goal was, in the words of Georgia State University historian Akinyele Umoja, “to wage ideological struggle within the ranks of the SNCC field staff.”  In this mission, they were essentially coming to support working-class Southern Blacks of SNCC’s rank-and-file who were already beginning to organize an armed self-defense system for the Freedom Houses.  As Mississippi-born SNCC activist MacArthur Cotton recalled, ‘‘the majority of the local SNCC people didn’t have a problem with RAM,” adding that most of them believed ‘‘that other philosophy [nonviolence] was foreign.’’

Pacifists in SNCC eventually succeeded in purging the Malcolmites from the Mississippi project before the summer began, but the damage was done: the seeds of revolutionary armed defense and Black nationalism were planted in the organization.  In the face of right-wing terror and liberal inaction, the pragmatism of Malcolm and RAM’s strategy grew increasingly clear and kept many armed activists alive during Freedom Summer (in contrast to the murdered pacifists James Chaney, Andrew Goodwin, Michael Schwermer). 23 When the campaign ended and the Democratic National Convention continued to appease the Jim Crow delegation from Mississippi, making a mockery of the progressive SNCC delegates, few field workers saw any value in nonviolent martyrdom and liberal compromise at all.  By the fall, SNCC leaders were collaborating with Malcolm X on fundraising events, and cheering as he called for an American equivalent to the fearsome “Mau Mau” guerilla fighters of Kenya.24

 

Malcolm X addressing SNCC and the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party- December 24, 1964

Meanwhile, RAM continued to quietly work with street gangs across the country.  Years before the Black Panther Party emerged, RAM promoted the idea of Black youth as the “potential warriors of Black America.”  Working from a detailed strategy by Robert F. Williams, RAM considered the cities “ripe for sabotage.”  Max Stanford (known today as Muhammed Ahmed) recounted:

While Malcolm was in Africa, Harlem exploded. The para-military in Malcolm’s organization decided to join the rebellion and participated in armed self-defense actions against racist oppressive forces.  Masses of our people exploded in Rochester, New York.  The revolutionary Muslims (Malcolmites) engaged in armed struggle against the repressive forces there. Brooklyn CORE held a demonstration to protest police brutality. The demonstration precipitated a mass rebellion.  The Brooklyn RAM cadre went into revolutionary action.

Stanford wrote that by the time of the Watts Rebellion, “the theory of Robert F. Williams and Malcolm X had become materialist reality.” Malcolm was the spokesperson for a very real force of insurrection, not a paper tiger.  Indeed, its momentum was so unstoppable that even his assassination couldn’t slow it down. 25

No Sell Out

Finally, the relationships Malcolm sought with moderate civil rights organizations at the end of his life need to be clarified.  While Malcolm backed away from his previous habit of naming King and other mainstream leaders personally as Uncle Toms, tempering his critique with diplomacy, he still drew sharp lines between them and himself.  “[Martin Luther King, Jr.] is the foremost exponent of love who gets his head bashed in while he is preaching brotherhood,” he said in his last speech, “I go for that retaliation type of brotherhood.” 26  Sometimes if pushed a bit he would lose his decorum:  heckled by a pacifist in 1965, Malcolm at first said, “I’m not criticizing you or condemning you, but I’m questioning your tactics.”  But as the heckler turned nasty, Malcolm said what he really thought: “I think people who tell our people to be nonviolent are almost agents of the Ku Klux Klan.” 27 

Whenever Malcolm engaged with moderates, he let it be understood that his militancy was non-negotiable.  Contrary to Manning Marable’s characterization, Malcolm did not praise nonviolence in his speech at Selma, but instead ridiculed passive “house negroes” who were bought off by white favors.  In a contemporaneous interview, the Muslim leader elaborated “I don’t go for any organization — be it civil-rights or any other kind — that has to compromise with the power structure and has to rely on certain elements within the power structure for their financing, which puts them in a position to be influenced and controlled all over again by the power structure itself.”  28 This seemed to be a stab at, among others, Dr. King’s organizations, which were financed by foundations overseen by the Rockefeller, Ford, and RJ Reynolds families.   29

 

Malcolm in Selma, Feb 4, 1964

Malcolm’s call for a “Black united front” was a call for militants to unite together on militant terms, not to compromise unconditionally with moderates.  It was also an effort to establish a permanent peace among armed Black groups, and thereby prevent the kind of fratricidal warfare which, with the help of the FBI, contributed to his assassination (as well as to the ultimate dissolution of the Black Power movement in the early 1970s).  Manning Marable’s book wove a bizarre and Orientalist theory that Malcolm told his guards to stand down on the day of his murder because he had a death wish inspired by the martyrdom of the Shi’ite imam, Husayn ibn Ali, in 680. 30 But Malcolm’s aide Earl Grant spelled out years ago that the minister disarmed his bodyguards because he did not want “Black people killing Black people.”  31 Black people criticizing certain Black people, however, along with anyone else who held them back, was always a key part of Malcolm X’s strategy.

 

Malcolm X, c. 1964 “Anyone who stands in the way of your freedom is your enemy”

 

Notes:

  1. Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965, p. 578-579
  2. “Roundtable: Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” Journal of American Studies / Volume 47 / Issue 01 / February 2013, pp 23-47 (Cambridge University Press 2013) – http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021875812002605
  3. George Breitman, The Last Year of Malcolm X, p. 83-91
  4. Chris Hedges “Turning King’s Dream Into a Nightmare” – http://www.truthdig.com/report/page2/turning_kings_dream_into_a_nightmare_20100117
  5. Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, p. 123-128
  6. Marable, A Life of Reinvention, p. 150-153
  7. Vincent Harding, “So Much History, So Much Future: Martin Luther King and the Second Coming of America” – https://is.cuni.cz/studium/predmety/index.php?do=download&did=77732&kod=JMM606
  8. Timothy Tyson, Radio Free Dixie, p. 145 – https://books.google.com/books?id=kg_DEcj04ycC&q=malcolm+x#v=snippet&q=malcolm%20x&f=false
  9. Melissa F. Weiner, Power, Protest, and the Public Schools: Jewish and African American Struggles in New York City (Rutgers University Press, 2010) p. 51-66
  10. Thomas Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Civil Rights Movement in the North, p. 299-302
  11. Maxell C. Stanford, “Revolutionary Action Movement: A Case Study of an Urban Revolutionary Movement in Western Capitalist Society” (A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Atlanta University, May, 1986) – http://www.ulib.csuohio.edu/research/portals/blackpower/stanford.pdf
  12. Thomas J. Sugrue “Affirmative Action from Below: Civil Rights, the Building Trades, and the Politics of Inequality in the Urban North 1945-1969” Journal of American History, Vol. 91, No. 1, Jun., 2004 – http://africanamericanhistorysp2014.voices.wooster.edu/files/2014/03/Thomas_Sugrue_Affirmative_Action_from_Below.pdf
  13. Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire, p. 115
  14. Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire, p. 179
  15. Akinyele Umoja, We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement (NYU Press, 2013), 126
  16. Charles E. Silberman, Crisis in Black and White (Random House, 1964), p. 160
  17. http://folkmusic.about.com/od/bobdylan/a/Bob-Dylan-Quits-Politics.htm
  18. William W. Sale, From Civil Rights to Black Liberation (South End Press, 1994), p. 81
  19. http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/speeches/malcolm_x_ballot.html
  20. Harold Cruse, “The Fire This Time?” NYRB, May 8, 1969
  21. Nick Kotz, Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., And the Laws That Changed America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), 126-130
  22. Robin DG Kelly and Betsy Esche, “Black Like Mao: Red China and Black Revolution” Souls Vol. 1 #4 – http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ccbh/souls/vol1no4/vol1num4art1.pdf
  23. Akinyele Umoja, “From One Generation to the Next: Armed Self-Defense, Revolutionary Nationalism, and the Southern Black Freedom Struggle” Souls, Volume 15, Issue 3, 2013 – http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10999949.2013.838857#.VVtNZvlViko
  24. George Breitman, ed., Malcolm X Speaks; Selected Speeches and Statements, p. 107.
  25. Maxwell C. Stanford, “Revolutionary Action Movement: A Case Study of an Urban Revolutionary Movement in Western Capitalist Society” (A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Atlanta University, May, 1986) – http://www.ulib.csuohio.edu/research/portals/blackpower/stanford.pdf
  26. Barnard Bulletin, Feb 25, 1965 – https://digitalcollections.barnard.edu/object/bulletin-19650225/barnard-bulletin-february-25-1965
  27. George Breitman, ed., Malcolm X Speaks; Selected Speeches and Statements, p. 209
  28. Breitman, Malcolm X Speaks, p. 222
  29.  MLK was friends not only with Rockefeller, but with Libby Holman, heiress to the RJ Reynolds fortune.  Holman financed King’s first trip to India to study nonviolence in 1959 – https://swap.stanford.edu/20141218225538/http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/primarydocuments/Vol5/10Mar1959_JamesE.BristolToCorinneB.Johnson.pdf
  30. “Roundtable: Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” Journal of American Studies / Volume 47 / Issue 01 / February 2013, pp 23-47 (Cambridge University Press 2013) – http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021875812002605
  31. “The Covert War on Malcolm X” An episode of Like It Is with Gil Noble – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExQjM82uMiU

Check Yo’self: Activism is Not a Popularity Contest

Mickey Z.

November 15, 2013

check-photo

Let me tell you about how hard I’ve worked to “convince” activists I’ve met via Occupy Wall Street that rejecting speciesism and embracing veganism/animal rights is a necessary and revolutionary choice. Never mind, you can probably imagine (or have already witnessed) how hard I’ve worked, how important this particular mission was/is to me (and the planet).

But that’s what it’s slowly become: a mission. And like most missions, it requires a hefty dose of ego to be sustained. Please allow me to explain…

After September 17, 2011, I saw so many new comrades getting it on so many levels, so many issues. Surely this was the fertile ground I’d been dreaming of.

Yeah, more than a few occupiers moved towards veganism partly or directly due to my influence but as I look around now—more than two years after Zuccotti Park—it seems almost all my radical comrades can do is throw pizza parties and make bacon jokes as they robotically repeat anti-vegan canards—all the while talking of “love” and “saving the world.”

“STOP THE MACHINE” OR HOW TO DEMORALIZE A MOVEMENT

About the author: John Murphy was the independent candidate for House of Representatives in the 16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania in 2006 and 2008. He is one of the founding members of the Pennsylvanian Ballot Access Coalition , working to change ballot access laws in Pennsylvania.

“The protest planned by “Stop the Machine” will do more to harm the progressive movement than advance it. The organizers have misunderstood the messages of Gandhi and King. They are trying to make resistance harmless and turn it into a circus sideshow. Both violent and nonviolent tactics are necessary to end the corporate ownership of our government.”

“STOP THE MACHINE” OR HOW TO DEMORALIZE A MOVEMENT

John A. Murphy

04.10.2011

Members of the liberal intelligentsia, the liberal elite, are often heard to say things like “violence begets violence” or “if you use violence against exploiters, you become like the exploiter”. Where they got such notions no one seems to know. They probably picked them up on sale at the same place where they got the ideas that the nonviolent antiwar demonstrations of the 60s and 70s had something to do with ending the Vietnam War or that the nonviolent demonstrations of Martin Luther King resulted in the civil rights legislation of the 60s. The same superstore of revised history also sells an interesting yarn about how the nonviolent demonstrations of Mohandas Gandhi brought about Indian independence. In any event the members of the liberal intelligentsia are the people who have “organized” the “Stop the Machine” demonstration and sleepover scheduled for Washington DC in October.

It is difficult to imagine how it could be said that a woman who blows out the brains of a man who is attempting to rape her is begetting more violence. If someone kicks an IDF soldier in the groin and disarms him, preventing him from murdering a Palestinian family, it is hard to imagine how it could be said that this violence has begotten more violence. Violence, of course, can beget many things. Violence, for example can beget slavery and submission as when a master beats a slave. Some slaves will ultimately fight back, in which case nonviolence will indeed beget more violence; but some slaves will submit the rest of their lives. Some will even create a religion or spirituality that attempts to make a virtue of their submission. Some will write and others repeat that their freedom must not come at the expense of others. Some will speak of the need to love their oppressors. As the Wall Street capitalists have shown us, violence can beget material wealth. Violence can beget a cessation of violence when someone fights off or kills an assailant. But to suggest that violence begets violence as a general rule is clearly absurd. [6]

Equally absurd is the notion that “if you use violence against exploiters, you become like they are”. There is nothing in the real world that lends any credence at all to such a notion but that generally does not stop the people who have taken nonviolence and turned it into the religious cult of anti-violence. Their flawed assertion is based on the equally flawed notion that all violence is the same. Again, it would be obscene to suggest that a woman who kills a man attempting to rape her becomes like a rapist. It is obscene to suggest that the Jews who fought back against their exterminators at Auschwitz and Treblinka became like the Nazis. [6]

The leaders of events like “Stop the Machine” also tell us that violence never accomplishes anything. The tens of millions of Africans killed in the slave trade would be surprised to learn that slavery is not the result of widespread violence. The millions of prisoners stuck in gulags here in the United States and elsewhere would be astounded to discover that they can walk away any time they want, that they are not held in place by violence. Working people have not handed over their wealth because they enjoy being impoverished. Women do not submit to rape just for the hell of it but because of the use or threat of violence. One reason why violence is used so often by those in power is because it works. It works very, very well. Violence, however, can work for liberation as well as for subjugation.

EXPOSING THE GANDHI-KING MYTH

The same people who preach the false gospel that “violence begets violence” tell us that the anti-Vietnam war protests of the 1960s and 1970s ended, or helped to end the war on the people of Southeast Asia. A simple trip into history reveals something quite a bit different. Four students were murdered in 1970 at Kent state University by the National Guard. After that incident the antiwar movement was gutted and slowed dramatically. In 1973 president Nixon ended the draft and with the same stroke of the pen ended what little remained of the antiwar movement but the war continued on for another two years. The Vietnam War came to an end because of superior violence used by the North Vietnamese regular Army against the United States Army. The United States was militarily defeated and that is why the Vietnam War ended.

Martin Luther King was a wonderful man who did much to call the nation’s attention to the Jim Crow laws and to have them abolished. His nonviolent demonstrations however had nothing to do with the policy changes, the civil rights legislation, of the 1960s. Those changes came about due to the violence in the streets by young African-Americans primarily the Panthers in the North and the Deacons in the South. But there was no way that the United States Congress would deal with people like Stokely Carmichael or H Rap Brown so they canonized Dr. King has the champion of civil rights. Even his campus supporters, originally called the “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee” knew that nonviolence would not achieve their ends so they changed their name to the “Student National Coordinating Committee”. Ralph Abernathy was sure to appear in Congress to take advantage of the most recent street violence. In that way, Martin Luther King can be said to have contributed to the civil rights legislation but certainly not his nonviolent demonstrations. [5]

Similarly, in India, the nonviolent demonstrations of Gandhi came at the end of a 100 year period of violent revolution. Even while Gandhi himself was leading nonviolent demonstrations, other revolutionaries were destroying the infrastructure in India. Great Britain was burdened by the cost of two world wars and simply was no longer able to deal with the destruction caused by the violence of the revolutionaries. Just as the United States used Martin Luther King, so also did Great Britain make use of Gandhi. The British press turned Gandhi into a saint but nonviolent demonstrations only caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Hindus and Muslims since he was added to the committee which ultimately determined the nature of Indian independence.

Nonviolence has never brought about any kind of significant policy change in the United States or anywhere else. There are even members of the liberal elite who will claim that it was the nonviolent boycotting of South Africa which ended, apartheid forgetting all about the violence of the ANC and in particular of Nelson Mandela, who was called a terrorist by the British and is now called a hero and patriot.

Given that nonviolent protests, in and of themselves, have never produced major policy changes, why will all of the big names in the liberal elite, from the ridiculous to the sublime, from Medea Benjamin to Bill Moyer, be attending the “Stop the Machine” charade on October 6 in DC? The answer is disturbingly simple. On the one hand most of these people have actually bought into the revised history of nonviolent demonstrations and secondly, with no intended cynicism, these folks simply miss the real feel-good experience they have gotten from previous outings in Washington. The junket planned by “Stop the Machine” promises to be a particularly superlative feel-good experience featuring not only a carnival atmosphere, complete with an exhibition of real live unemployed people, but with all the warmth and sense of false community created by a sleepover motif.

A FORMULA FOR FAILURE:
CREATING THE CULT OF ANTI-VIOLENCE

There is a formula for this type of spectacle. First there will be the usual concert and then the congregation will be assembled in orderly fashion, listening to a cast of speakers calling for an end to this or that while condemning some lethal government action. They will be carrying signs “demanding” the same thing. The singers will be enunciating, lyrically, the worthiness of the demonstrators’ agenda as well as the plight of the various victims they are here to “defend” and – typically – the whole thing is quietly disbanded with exhortations to the assembly to “keep working” on the matter and to please sign a petition and/or write letters to Congress people requesting that they alter their offending actions. [6]

The “Stop the World” jamboree not only promises to follow this formula but has gone to extreme limits to turn this into a fundamentalist religious service in honor of the deity of anti-violence. Yes, they have taken the simple tactic of nonviolence and turned it into the cult of anti-violence! The “Stop the Machine” website is downright frightening; it might have passed for a bit of fiction from George Orwell. Not only are these people suggesting that this demonstration be nonviolent, the attendees are required to take an oath to that effect! [1]

But that is only the beginning! To ensure that no one breaks the anti-violent rules of the “organizers” there will be special marshals carrying “peace cameras” [2] and attendees are encouraged to bring their own cameras with them so that they can snitch on their fellow demonstrators who might break away from the orthodox fundamentalism of this perversion of resistance. Those who dare depart from this orthodoxy are of course branded “agent provocateurs” [2]. Yet that is not the end of the nightmare. There is a request that members of the congregation undergo “nonviolence training” while all have been assured that the entire carnival has been choreographed with the police. This is serious. This stuff is right out of the “How to Build a Cult and Recruit Members” handbook.

MAKING RESISTANCE HARMLESS

The whole atmosphere of “Stop the Machine” is shrouded in a kind of magical thinking which has given rise to propositions such as:
• Thou shalt turn thy “anger at injustice into a positive, non-violent force”.
• Thou shalt “embrace an attitude, as conveyed through [thy] words, symbols and actions, of openness, friendliness, and respect toward all people encountered, including police officers and military personnel”.
• Thou shalt “agree to be obedient to the organizers” of the action or be cast into exterior darkness. [3] Of course there will be:
• No destruction or vandalism of non-sentient objects; • No running or other “threatening” motions; • No insulting or swearing; • No verbal or physical assaults on those who oppose or disagree with us (i.e., police) “even if they assault us.” [3]

Getting arrested is all part of the act – the brass ring, so to speak. The police have told the demonstrators precisely which laws they can break and the folks taking place in this modern day revival meeting have been told that everyone will get a warning prior to being arrested so that everyone knows what to do, on cue. Just as the people who participated in the Keystone pipeline demonstration a few weeks ago were given the opportunity to have their pictures taken with their respective arresting police officers,[4] the same photo ops will be given, free of charge, to the folks in the “Stop the Machine” entourage.

When the nonviolent offenders are taken giddily off to the hoosegow, there will be attorneys there to represent them and make sure they are properly charged; there will be other people to provide food; other people to provide any bail necessary and people who have been designated to provide transportation for those happy campers who have nonviolently chained themselves to the White House and paid the unspeakable price of being arrested for disorderly conduct. This should prove to be a real feel-good experience for the attendees and the vicarious who will watch at home on Democracy Now.

“STOP THE MACHINE” COLLUDES WITH THE CORPORATE OWNED GOVERNMENT

What makes this demonstration so dangerous is not just its mystical believe in the power of nonviolence but that the organizers have even restricted their concrete, nonviolent activities to limits sanctioned by the state (the police). This identifies the protesters as endeavoring to displace resistance with opposition thereby turning the left into nothing more than a variant of “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition”. This attempt at disarming the left, while attempting to pacify resistance, is the goal of the very system which “Stop the Machine” purports to be “resisting” and puts them in direct collusion with that system.

How did such an incredible state of affairs come to be? How is it that a demonstration will take place in Washington which has no measurable, hence achievable goals, no strategy, no direction, no vision, no mission and no discernible leadership? Did somebody deliberately start out by saying, in the fashion of the old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movies, “hey kids let’s put on a show”? Did they deliberately start out to put together an event which does literally everything wrong?

Even the very place itself is wrong! One of the statements the group makes is that it plans to “kick off a powerful and sustained nonviolent resistance to the corporate criminals that dominate our government”. If they are out to “resist” the “corporate criminals”, what are they doing in Washington? Why are they not on Wall Street? Washington, the government, is simply the collective hit man for the top 1,500 multinational corporations. If the corporate criminals are to be symbolically resisted by a protest in Washington, one might expect that the demonstration would at least take place on K Street.

A quick look at the qualifications of the organizers gives a clear indication as to how this pre-Halloween party has materialized in such a puerile fashion. Here is a list of qualifications, taken from the resumes of the “Stop the Machine” “organizers”:

• long-time community organizer and peace and justice activist • a full-time peace and justice activist who serves on national boards or committees • She dreams of a world where war is no more, • 30-plus years of activism • organized and participated in protests for health care, peace and economic justice • a longtime antiwar and social justice activist • anti-war advocate since being chased off the campus of Cal State Northridge, California in 1968 • proud member of Healthcare-NOW!
• Full time organizer and activist for 11 years.
• a proud loudmouthed feminist and rabble-rouser • a recovering attorney and full-time, rogue peace and justice activist • a licensed addictions and domestic violence counselor • more than 30 years’ experience of writing, speaking and advocacy across a broad range of issues around peace, justice and democracy[8]

Not one MBA in the group! In fact, if the organizers had been told that they should have an MBA or two on their planning committee, they probably would have objected to such a notion since, after all, MBAs work in the business world! Conflating the business world with the corporate dominance of government is a common mistake made by people employed in public service or who have spent their lives as mushroom covered “activists”! MBAs are trained in strategic planning and, just like everyone else in American society, they run the gamut from devotees of Ayn Rand to a variety of anti-capitalists and Marxists. In any event, with qualifications like the “organizers” boast, it is no wonder why “Stop the Machine” has no goals, no direction, no purpose, no leadership, no vision, no mission and no discernible leadership!

“Do your symbolic duty” the organizers tell the feel-good group of nonviolent revelers, “then you can devote yourself to the prefiguration of the revolutionary future society which you think will replace the present social order, having persuaded the multinational corporations to voluntarily abandon their control of our government through the sheer moral force of your arguments”. The participants in this demonstration, which is barely even the husk of opposition, are every bit as guilty of global violence as are the perpetrators themselves.

PACIFYING RESISTANCE

The purveyors of nonviolence always promise that the harsh realities of state power can be transcended by way of good feelings and purity of purpose rather than by the necessary violence required for self-defense. These anti-violent fundamentalists, with all the force of the medieval alchemists, tell us that the negativity of the modern corporate owned government will atrophy through defection and neglect once there is a sufficiently positive social vision to take its place.

Violence is neither morally good nor bad; it is simply a tactic. It is a most useful tactic when employed for purposes of self-defense and following the same criteria as set down for the conduct of just wars.[7] The multinational corporations which are controlling our government not only want the liberty of the American people but their lives as well. They would see to it that Americans have the lowest paid jobs possible, that that have no healthcare other than that which they can purchase, that they would have no free public education. In short they would foreclose on lives as well as houses. Those who do not see the threat posed by these multinational corporations as mortal and deserving of the most efficient and effective means of opposition must be living in an alternate universe or have deeply imbibed of the anti-violent fundamentalists’ Kool-Aid served up by people like the “Stop the Machine” “organizers” .

The “Stop the Machine” demonstration will have a major demoralizing effect on those in the left who are serious about resisting corporate fascism. It is reasonable that they will see this demonstration as just another symbolic gesture in a long line of failed nonviolent demonstrations stretching back nearly a half-century. False hopes combined with naïve ideas are the parents not only of demoralization and frustration but of resignation. The best possible outcome for this misadventure would be that it receives little or no press and that it is forgotten as quickly as possible so that others might model future resistance efforts on those exhibited by American trade unions in the early 20th century.

THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF NONVIOLENT OPPOSITION

The thought of nonviolent opposition to our corporate owned government is as ludicrous as nonviolent opposition to National Socialism itself. One of the smartest things the Nazis did was make it so that every step of the way it was in the Jews’ rational best interest not to violently resist. Many Jews had the hope – and this hope was cultivated by the Nazis – that if they played along, followed the rules laid down by those in power, that their lives would get no worse, that they would not be murdered.[6] They were even told by their own leaders not to violently resist getting an ID card or they might get killed; don’t violently resist the Nuremberg Laws or they might get killed; don’t violently resist getting into a cattle car or say might get killed; don’t violently resist getting into the showers or they might get killed.

There is something important to remember however, the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, including those who went on what they thought were suicide missions, had a higher rate of survival than those went nonviolently into the showers. Never forget that. The obligation of those who resist the corporate ownership of our government is not to be personally pure. “The obligation is to affect measurable change.” [6]

There will never be a group of nonviolent demonstrators who will force American corporations to give up their control of government by the sheer force of their moral argument.

Imagine that Ted Bundy is still alive and it is 1976 again. It would be difficult to comprehend that someone would seriously believe that they could sit down with Ted Bundy and talk him out of committing his gruesome murders and unspeakable obscenities. Again, imagine that the suave, urbane, erudite fictional character, Hannibal Lecter, could be real for a little while. Once more it would be difficult to comprehend that someone would seriously believe that they could talk some sense into Dr. Lecter. A few minutes into the conversation the good doctor would have already ordered the fava beans and Chianti and the anti-violence fundamentalist would be on the menu.

WHAT MUST BE DONE

What should a real resistance movement do to end the corporate control of our government which spreads war and misery on a global scale, sacrifices the economic well-being of its own people to that of corporate greed while eroding its citizens’ civil liberties? Would it organize nonviolent demonstrations? Would its members put together strongly worded protest signs? Would they write letters to the editor? Would they sign thousands of petitions to the President and the Congress? Would they vote for the lesser of two war criminals?

The type of action required is what is usually called guerrilla warfare or urban guerrilla warfare. This would entail organizing groups consisting of no more than 12 to 15 people. Appropriate targets would be identified; participants would do what is required and disappear into the night. While this type of political violence is called “terrorism” by the government, it must be understood that one person’s terrorist is another person’s patriot. Nelson Mandela comes to mind immediately. What is definitely not required is an attempt to attack the police or the military or even the CEOs and major stockholders of the top 1,500 corporations. The attack would be on the corporate property and so-called private property of those people.

Corporations make their major policy decisions taking into consideration a cost-benefit analysis performed on those policies. As long as it is cost-effective for corporations to own our government, they will continue to do so. The only way that corporations would relinquish their ownership of government would be when the cost of ownership becomes too high. It is the job of a resistance movement to change the balance of that ratio; to increase the cost by massive destruction of property. Unfortunately, the “Stop the Machine” organizers are more interested in discovering what kind of politics in which they can engage that will both allow them to posture as progressives and allow them to avoid incurring harm to themselves.

How long would Caterpillar continue selling their equipment to Israel so it can be used to destroy Palestinian homes once a resistance movement starts blowing up their machinery or some of their manufacturing plants?

How long would take corporate America to get the message if there were massive violent attacks against the corporate property and so-called personal property of the senior managers and major stockholders of the top 1500 US corporations?

*****
John Murphy was the independent candidate for House of Representatives in the 16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania in 2006 and 2008. He is one of the founding members of the Pennsylvanian Ballot Access Coalition , working to change ballot access laws in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at: johnamurphy.

[1] Stop the Machine! Create a New World!
http://october2011.org/statement
[2] Facebook Statement about Provocateurs http://october2011.org/blogs/margaret-flowers/facebook-statement-about-provocateurs

[3] Non-violence Guidelines and Principles http://october2011.org/pages/non-violence-guidelines-and-principles

[4] Daryl Hannah Arrested At Keystone XL Pipeline Protest http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/30/daryl-hannah-arrested-keystone-protest_n_942072.html

[5] Nonviolence: Its Histories and Myths Professor Michael Neumann, http://tamilnation.co/ideology/neuman_on_non_violence.htm

[6] Pacifism as Pathology
Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America Ward Churchill Introduction by Derrick Jensen AK Press,
2007

[7] Can Terrorism be Justified?
Tomis Kapitan
April 28, 2007
http://www.niu.edu/phil/~kapitan/pdf/CanTerrorismbeJustified.pdf

[8] “Stop the Machine”: About Us
http://october2011.org/about

My Jakarta: Sari, Ex-Activist

My Jakarta: Sari, Ex-Activist
Maria Yuniar | October 06, 2011

‘The Longer I Was Involved With the NGO, the More It Felt Like a Corporation’

Sari used to be an activist who would volunteer her time to campaign on environmental issues. For a while, she was actively involved in an international nongovernmental organization that was seeking to put the spotlight on issues that were important to her.

But she eventually became disillusioned with NGOs, fearing that too much of their money was being spent on staff,?and the issues on which they campaigned could be too easily determined by the whims of donors.

Sari — who has chosen not to give her real name — tells My Jakarta how greenwashing is changing the shape of activism in Indonesia.

Why did you first volunteer with a nongovernmental organization?

It was in 2008, during college. Back then, to finish an assignment, my lecturer urged me to gather information from an organization working on the issue I was writing about — the environment. I decided my report would be on the topic ‘what have environmental organizations done for the earth.’ That led me to become a volunteer for an international NGO that campaigned on the environment.

What did you do as an activist?

I was involved in projects on climate change. As volunteers, we tried to raise public awareness about the issue. We informed people about how the climate was changing and the impact that was having. It was exciting, and I didn’t feel like leaving the NGO even after I completed my report. But then, something ended my desire to volunteer for the organization.

What stopped you?

After being involved for a while, something started to bug me. I realized that there were many conflicts of interest in the NGO I was involved in. This happened in other NGOs as well. I sensed that the NGO was no longer working the way it was supposed to work. The longer I was involved with the NGO, the more it felt like a corporation.

Day by day, it became more profit-oriented and relaxed its idealism. It became less critical, and didn’t put effort into an issue unless it was attractive to potential donors. By the time I realized this, I’d graduated from university, so I decided to find a permanent job instead. My heart just couldn’t stay committed to volunteer activities anymore.

Can you provide any examples of wrongdoing?

When there were concerns about the palm oil industry in Indonesia, many environmental NGOs made it their No. 1 focus, because people would pay attention to it and the NGO could raise a lot of money from it. The same goes with climate change. The issue continues, but the NGOs stopped campaigning on it when the public stopped talking about it.

But isn’t that understandable, given NGOs need money for their campaigns?

That’s true, they do. There are NGOs that declare that they pay their workers from donations. But I know that sometimes more donor money is spent on human resources than actual campaigning, when it should be the other way around. The NGO I used to be a part of claimed that it didn’t have any relationships with corporations. But in reality, it maintained connections with companies that would give it donations when the NGO pursued certain issues. In my opinion, those weren’t independent donations but more like greenwash from the companies.

What’s greenwash?

It is when a party that is the cause of a particular problem gives a donation to an organization that tries to fix the problem. For example, a cigarette company that has destroyed the marine ecosystem, they’d give a certain percentage of their profit to help revive that ecosystem.

Can anything be done to help NGOs stay true to their objectives?

NGOs should only hire people aged between 17 and the early 20s, because people at that age are still pure and eager to express themselves without any conflict of interest. They’re still idealistic and naive.

What message do you have for those concerned about a social or environmental issue?

Anyone who wants to make a change can always start with him or herself, because you won’t be politicized and what you do is actually more concrete than shouting on the roads. I don’t mean to offend anyone who wants to get involved in volunteering with NGOs, but it’s hard to find a ‘clean’ NGO. I think if people seek to get involved in working on a social issue, it will teach you some priceless lessons in life.

Sari was talking to Maria Yuniar.

http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/myjakarta/my-jakarta-sari-ex-activist/469775

Revolution: The Commercial by Cindy Sheehan and Gregory Vickrey

Revolution: The Commercial
by Cindy Sheehan & Gregory Vickrey

Cue the

.

Enter Activist: I really enjoy hanging out with a close-knit group of friends at Saturday rallies that end before dinner, and posting a bunch of articles and commentary on Facebook and Twitter so friends can ‘like’ them. It makes me feel like I am doing my part, and appreciate solidarity.

Music turns

.

Activist: But I began to experience a sense of emptiness when I realized that feeling self-important didn’t really change much on this planet. In fact, things seem to be getting worse no matter who is in office, no matter which huge organization I join, and no matter how many petitions I sign and share and send.

Music

.

Voice: Reality dawns.

Activist: So at the last Saturday rally, I took a chance and separated from my friends. I approached one of the more aggressive presenters who spoke truth-to-power and seemed an expert on, well, actual action. I told her I do my part, and nothing changes. I asked: what’s wrong?

Expert: You are suffering the effects of Clicktivism.

Voice: Clicktivism is a disease, epidemic in nature, that drives us away from reality and into a land of fairy tales and lollipops where everything is “successful” when we get 50,000 signatures, or 2000 people socialize for 3 hours, or 500 pictures of “actions” are put up on a progressive website. Humane, meaningful responses to difficult life conditions (war, climate change, poverty) are usurped by symbolism and marketing emails and educational campaigns, often to the point where the potential for cure is lost. Ecocide, perpetual war, and massive loss of life often result.

Cue the

.

Voice: But now there’s Revolution.

Expert:

rids the sufferers of clicktivism of indulgent
.

Activist: With

, I now see reality for what it is; I see
the
that are
; I see my
the pavement and disrupting the rapacious system today, tomorrow, and every day.

Voice: When

. When using
, avoiding
.

. Tear

http://cindysheehanssoapbox.blogspot.com/2011/05/revolution-commercial-by-cindy-sheehan.html

Clive Hamilton: a new brand of environmental radicalism

22 February 2011

by Clive Hamilton

Never has an effective environment movement been more necessary. In fact it is the only force standing between us and massive climate disruption. While environmentalism has had some very substantial successes, all of the gains are now jeopardised.

The difficulty and importance of the global warming campaign is many times greater than every other struggle. Eliminating carbon pollution requires a wholesale industrial restructuring and defeat of the most powerful industry coalition ever assembled. The ruthlessness of big carbon is known to all those who have watched the “greenhouse mafia” at work. Its influence is apparent in the draconian laws against climate protests passed in Victoria, urged by Martin Ferguson and under consideration in other states.

When I think about the state of environmentalism in Australia I keep coming back to the events of May 3, 2009, because what happened on that day encapsulates the impotence of the environment movement in this country.

The Rudd government’s emissions trading policy?—?the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme?—?had been coming under heavy attack from everyone concerned about climate change both for its feeble targets and the obscene giveaways to the worst polluters. But the government sensed that the environment movement could be split.

After a high-pressure meeting in Canberra, in which the government dangled the carrot of a 25% cut in Australia’s emissions, the Southern Cross Climate Coalition?—?comprising the ACF, WWF, the Climate Institute, ACOSS, and ACTU?—?agreed to support the government’s scheme.

How could major environment groups back a scheme that was so compromised and inadequate to the task?—?a scheme that handed out billions of dollars to coal-fired power plants, endorsed a strong future for the coal industry, allowed offshore compliance and would deliver, according to Treasury, no reductions in Australia’s emissions until 2035? All this was agreed by the ACF, WWF and the Climate Institute in exchange for a hypothetical 25% cut in emissions that Blind Freddy could see was never going to be delivered.

I think there are three reasons that explain how these groups could support such a travesty.

First, like most Australians some environmentalists find it hard to accept what the climate scientists are really saying. They do not believe, in their hearts, that things could be as bad as the science indicates. Like all of us, they are prone to filter the science to rob it of its sting, to engage in wishful thinking, and to cling to false hopes.

The second reason is the spread of incrementalism. The tension between radicalism and gradualism has defined progressive politics for two centuries, but the victory of free-market ideology in the 1980s saw political radicalism pushed to the very fringes. As the main parties converged on neoliberalism, many NGOs abandoned their interest in a different type of society and came to believe that incremental change to the existing system was the only path.

The third reason for the failure of mainstream environmentalism lies in the professionalisation of environmental activism over the past two decades. Within the main political parties professionalisation has seen a sharp decline in party membership and the rise of a “political class” of career politicians, staffers, spin doctors and apparatchiks. Mass parties have gone and patronage has replaced ideological difference.

Some environmental NGOs have conformed to this new landscape. The “political class” have become the new targets of their activities. To get to them NGOs have felt the need to employ all of the techniques of lobbying and media management that industry groups have perfected. So they become dominated by people with lobbying and media skills, and the conservative political outlook that goes with it.

In other words, they become insiders, remote from their members (or like the Climate Institute with no members at all yet treated as part of the environment movement) and whose attention is focused overwhelmingly on powerful political players and journalists. And as they become more distant from their members they pay more and more attention to their big donors, rarely known for their radicalism.

As insiders they are subject to all of the pressures and inducements the powerful can mobilise. They can have access to ministers, be consulted, and see their opinions reported in the press. In short, they can become “players”. It’s intoxicating.

These three forces?—?the penchant for wishful thinking, political incrementalism and the professionalisation of NGOs?—?came together to enable ACF, WWF and the Climate Institute to endorse a policy that, as a response to the gargantuan threat of global warming, was a mockery. Yet the government could now say “major environment groups back our plan”.

In contrast to the capitulation of those groups, it is important to point out that Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and several smaller groups did not succumb to the pressures and could see with clarity that the deal was hopelessly compromised.

Because of the failure of the big groups?—?either because (such as ACF) they have become conservative, or because the old campaigning methods have run out of steam?—?new, grassroots organisations have sprung up in recent times. For example, Climate Action Groups, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Rising Tide are trying to reinvent activism, and more power to them.

***

It is perhaps no surprise that the most obviously political segment of the environment movement, the Australian Greens, should have been most implacably opposed to the milksop responses to the climate crisis put forward by the main parties.

The Greens’ genuine radicalism?—?based on a willingness to confront the full facts of climate science and a deep understanding of how power works in this country?—?separates them from the incrementalism and opportunism that dominates segments of the environment movement. That is why the Greens rejected the CPRS as an utterly inadequate response. The barrage of attacks on the Greens for that decision reflects outrage at the party’s refusal to go along with the power structure, to play the game whose rules are set by the established order.

The most committed defenders of the established order are also those who most fear the Greens?—?the “greenhouse mafia”, the right-wing ideologists of the Liberal Party, and their apologists in the media. The editorial offices of The Australian are a hot spot of Greens’ hatred, but we should at least thank editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell for declaring so candidly that his paper wants to see the Greens “destroyed”.

In general, conservatives understand environmentalism better than most environmentalists. They see it as a profound threat to the structure of the world they are committed to?—?the world of free-market capitalism, limited government, unlimited consumption, and the subordination of nature.

Against this, much of the environment movement has no real political understanding of the world. They mistake the superficial argy-bargy dished up by the daily news media for political analysis, and do not truly comprehend the forces they are ranged against. They see environmentalism as merely wiping away the blemishes on the prevailing system, rather than challenging it. And until environmentalism fully grasps its historic mission, it will continue to be found wanting in its greatest test.

So we urgently need a new environmental radicalism; one built firmly on a full confrontation with climate science and its meaning; one that understands the need to defeat big carbon rather than seek a detente with it; one that resists pressure to conform to the prevailing political structure.

We need a new environmental radicalism made up of those willing to put their bodies on the line; because no one ever achieved radical social change by being respectable.

This is an extract of a speech delivered at the Sustainable Living Festival as part of the debate Environmentalism is Failing.

http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/02/22/hamilton-we-need-a-new-brand-of-environmental-radicalism/

Do Capitalists Fund Revolutions?

Readings for the Social Forum: The Counter-Insurgent Function of Non-Profits

By Michael Barker

To date capitalists have financially supported two types of revolution: they have funded the neoliberal revolution to “take the risk out of democracy”,[1] and they have supported/hijacked popular revolutions (or in some cases manufactured ‘revolutions’) in countries of geostrategic importance (i.e. in counties where regime change is beneficial to transnational capitalism).[2] The former neoliberal revolution has, of course, been funded by a hoard of right wing philanthropists intent on neutralising progressive forces within society, while the latter ‘democratic revolutions’ are funded by an assortment of ‘bipartisan’ quasi-nongovernmental organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and private institutions like George Soros’ Open Society Institute].

The underlying mechanisms by which capitalists hijack popular revolutions has been outlined in William I. Robinson’s seminal book, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (1996), which examines elite interventions in four countries – Chile, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and Haiti.[3] Robinson hypothesized that as a result of the public backlash (in the 1970s) against the US government’s repressive and covert foreign policies, foreign policy making elites elected to put a greater emphasis on overt means of overthrowing ‘problematic’ governments through the strategic manipulation of civil society. In 1984, this ‘democratic’ thinking was institutionalised with the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy, an organisation that acts as the coordinating body for better funded ‘democracy promoting’ organisations like US Agency for International Development and the Central Intelligence Agency. Robinson observes that:

“…the understanding on the part of US policymakers that power ultimately rests in civil society, and that state power is intimately linked to a given correlation of forces in civil society, has helped shape the contours of the new political intervention. Unlike earlier US interventionism, the new intervention focuses much more intensely on civil society itself, in contrast to formal government structures, in intervened countries. The purpose of ‘democracy promotion’ is not to suppress but to penetrate and conquer civil society in intervened countries, that is, the complex of ‘private’ organizations such as political parties, trade unions, the media, and so forth, and from therein, integrate subordinate classes and national groups into a hegemonic transnational social order… This function of civil society as an arena for exercising domination runs counter to conventional (particularly pluralist) thinking on the matter, which holds that civil society is a buffer between state domination and groups in society, and that class and group domination is diluted as civil society develops.”[4]

Thus it is not too surprising that Robinson should conclude that the primary goal of ‘democracy promoting’ groups, like the NED, is the promotion of polyarchy or low-intensity democracy over more substantive forms of democratic governance.[5] Here it is useful to turn to Barry Gills, Joen Rocamora, and Richard Wilson’s (1993) work which provides a useful description of low-intensity democracy, they observe that:

“Low Intensity Democracy is designed to promote stability. However, it is usually accompanied by neoliberal economic policies to restore economic growth. This usually accentuates economic hardship for the less privileged and deepens the short-term structural effects of economic crisis as the economy opens further to the competitive winds of the world market and global capital. The pains of economic adjustment are supposed to be temporary, preparing the society to proceed to a higher stage of development. The temporary economic suffering of the majority is further supposed to be balanced by the benefits of a freer democratic political culture. But unfortunately for them, the poor and dispossessed cannot eat votes! In such circumstances, Low Intensity Democracy may ‘work’ in the short term, primarily as a strategy to reduce political tension, but is fragile in the long term, due to its inability to redress fundamental political and economic problems.”[6]

So while capitalists appear happy to fund the neoliberal ‘revolution’, or geostrategic revolutions that promote low-intensity democracy, the one revolution that capitalists will not bankroll will be the revolution at home, that is, here in our Western (low-intensity) democracies: a point that is forcefully argued in INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence’s (2007) book The Revolution Will Not Be Funded. Of course, liberal-minded capitalists do support efforts to ‘depose’ radical neoconservatives, as demonstrated by liberal attempts to oust Bush’s regime by the Soros-backed Americans Coming Together coalition.[7] But as in NED-backed strategic ‘revolutions,’ the results of such campaigns are only ever likely to promote low-intensity democracy, thereby ensuring the replacement of one (business-led) elite with another one (in the US’s case with the Democrats).

So the question remains: can progressive activists work towards creating a more equitable (and participatory) world using funding derived from those very groups within society that stand to lose most from such revolutionary changes? The obvious answer to this question is no. Yet, if this is the case, why are so many progressive (sometimes even radical) groups accepting funding from major liberal foundations (which, after all, were created by some of Americas most successful capitalists)?

Several reasons may help explain this contradictory situation. Firstly, it is well known that progressive groups are often underfunded, and their staff overworked, thus there is every likelihood that many groups and activists that receive support from liberal foundations have never even considered the problems associated with such funding.[8] If this is the case then hopefully their exposure to the arguments presented in this article will help more activists begin to rethink their unhealthy relations with their funders’.

On the other hand, it seems likely that many progressive groups understand that the broader goals and aspirations of liberal foundations are incompatible with their own more radical visions for the future; yet, despite recognizing this dissonance between their ambitions, it would seem that many progressive organizations believe that they can beat the foundations at their own game and trick them into funding projects that will promote a truly progressive social change. Here it is interesting to note that paradoxically some radical groups do in fact receive funding from liberal foundations. And like those progressive groups that attempt to trick the foundations, many of these groups argue that will take money from anyone willing to give it so long as it comes with no strings attached. These final two positions are held by numerous activist organizations, and are also highly problematic. This is case because if we can agree that it is unlikely that liberal foundations will fund the much needed societal changes that will bring about their own demise, why do they continue funding such progressive activists?

Despite the monumental importance of this question to progressive activists worldwide, judging by the number of articles dealing with it in the alternative media very little importance appears to have been attached to discussing this question and investigating means of cultivating funding sources that are geared towards the promotion of radical social change. Fortunately though, in addition to INCITE!’s aforementioned book, which has helped break the unstated taboo surrounding the discussion of activist funding, another critical exception was provided in the June 2007 edition of the academic journal Critical Sociology. The editors of this path breaking issue of Critical Sociology don’t beat around that bush and point out that:

“The critical study of foundations is not a subfield in any academic discipline; it is not even an organized interdisciplinary grouping. This, along with concerns about personal defunding, limits its output, especially as compared to that of the many well-endowed centers for the uncritical study of foundations.”[9]

Despite the dearth of critical inquiry into the historical influence of liberal foundations on the evolution of democracy, in the past few years a handful of books have endeavoured to provide a critical overview of the insidious anti-radicalising activities of liberal philanthropists. Thus the rest of this article will provide a brief review of some of this important work, however, before doing this I will briefly outline what I mean by progressive social change (that is, the type of social change that liberal foundations are loathe to fund).

Why do capitalists fund progressive activism?

Why Progressive Social Change?

With the growth of popular progressive social movements during the 1960s in the US (and elsewhere), the global populace became increasingly aware of the criminal nature of many of their government’s activities (both at home and abroad) which fueled increasing popular resistance to US imperialism. This in turn led influential scholars, working under the remit of the Trilateral Commission (a group founded by liberal philanthropists, see note [50]), to controversially conclude (in 1975) that the increasing radicalism of the world’s citizens stemmed from an “excess of democracy” which could only be quelled “by a greater degree of moderation in democracy”.[10] This elitist diagnosis makes sense when one considers Carole Pateman’s (1989) observation that the dominant political and economic elites in the US posited that true democracy rested “not on the participation of the people, but on their nonparticipation.”[11] However, contrary to the Trilateral Commission’s desire to promote low-intensity democracy on a global scale, Gills, Rocamora, and Wilson (1993) suggest that:

“Democracy requires more than mere maintenance of formal ‘liberties’. [In
fact, they argue that t]he only way to advance democracy in the Third World, or anywhere else, is to increase the democratic content of formal democratic institutions through profound social reform. Without substantial social reform and redistribution of economic assets, representative institutions – no matter how ‘democratic’ in form – will simply mirror the undemocratic power relations of society. Democracy requires a change in the balance of forces in society. Concentration of economic power in the hands of a small elite is a structural obstacle to democracy. It must be displaced if democracy is to emerge.”[12]

In essence, one of the most important steps activists can take to help bring about truly progressive social change is to encourage the development of a politically active citizenry – that is, a public that participates in democratic processes, but not necessarily those promoted by the government. Furthermore, it is also vitally important that groups promoting more participatory forms of democracy do so in a manner consistent with the participatory principles they believe in. (For a major critique of ‘progressive’ activism in the US see Dana Fisher’s (2006) Activism, Inc.: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling Progressive Politics in America. Similarly, also see my recent article Hijacking Human Rights: A Critical Examination of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Branch and their Links to the ‘Democracy’ Establishment.

Michael Albert is an influential theorist of progressive politics, and he has written at (inspiring) length about transitionary strategies for promoting participatory democracy in both his classic book Parecon: Life After Capitalism (2003), and more recently in Realizing Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism (2006). Simply put, Albert (2006) observes that:

“A truly democratic community insures that the general public has the opportunity for meaningful and constructive participation in the formation of social policy.” However, there is no single answer to determining the best way of creating a participatory society, and so he rightly notes that Parecon (which is short for participatory economics) “doesn’t itself answer visionary questions bearing on race, gender, polity, and other social concerns, [but] it is at least compatible with and even, in some cases, perhaps necessary for, doing so.”[13]

Finally, I would argue that in order to move towards a new participatory world order it is vitally important that progressive activists engage in radical critiques of society. Undertaking such radical actions may be problematic for some activists, because unfortunately the word radical is often used by the corporate media as a derogatory term for all manner of activists (whether they are radical or not). Yet this hijacking of the term perhaps makes it an even more crucial take that progressives work to reclaim this word as their own, so they can inject it back into their own work and analyses. Indeed, Robert Jensen’s (2004) excellent book Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream reminds us that:

“…the origins of the word – radical, [comes] from the Latin radicalis, meaning ‘root.’ Radical analysis goes to the root of an issue or problem. Typically that means that while challenging the specific manifestations of a problem, radicals also analyse the ideological and institutional components as well as challenge the unstated assumptions and conventional wisdom that obscure the deeper roots. Often it means realizing that what is taken as an aberration or deviation from a system is actually the predictable and/or intended result of a system.”[14]

The Liberal Foundations of Social Change

Now that I have briefly outlined why progressive social change is so important, it is useful to examine why liberal philanthropy – which has been institutionalised within liberal foundations – arose in the first place. Here it is useful to quote Nicolas Guilhot (2007) who neatly outlines the ideological reasons lying behind liberal philanthropy. He observes that in the face of the violent labor wars of the late 19th century that “directly threatened the economic interests of the philanthropists”, liberal philanthropists realized:

“… that social reform was unavoidable, [and instead] chose to invest in the definition and scientific treatment of the ‘social questions’ of their time: urbanization, education, housing, public hygiene, the “Negro problem,” etc. Far from being resistant to social change, the philanthropists promoted reformist solutions that did not threaten the capitalistic nature of the social order but constituted a ‘private alternative to socialism’”[15]

Andrea Smith (2007) notes that:

“From their inception, [liberal] foundations focused on research and dissemination of information designed ostensibly to ameliorate social issues-in a manner, how¬ever, that did not challenge capitalism. For instance, in 1913, Colorado miners went on strike against Colorado Fuel and Iron, an enterprise of which 40 percent was owned by Rockefeller. Eventually, this strike erupted into open warfare, with the Colorado militia murdering several strikers during the Ludlow Massacre of April 20, 1914. During that same time, Jerome Greene, the Rockefeller Foundation secretary, identified research and information to quiet social and political unrest as a founda¬tion priority. The rationale behind this strategy was that while individual workers deserved social relief, organized workers in the form of unions were a threat to soci¬ety. So the Rockefeller Foundation heavily advertised its relief work for individual workers while at the same time promoting a pro-Rockefeller spin to the massacre.”[16]

Writing in 1966, Carroll Quigley – who happened to be one of Bill Clinton’s mentors – [17] elaborates on the motivations driving the philanthropic colonisation of progressive social change:

“More than fifty years ago [circa 1914] the Morgan firm decided to infiltrate the Left-wing political movements in the United States. This was relatively easy to do, since these groups were starved for funds and eager for a voice to reach the people. Wall Street supplied both. The purpose was not to destroy, dominate, or take over but was really threefold: (1) to keep informed about the thinking of Left-wing or liberal groups; (2) to provide them with a mouthpiece so that they could ‘blow off steam,’ and (3) to have a final veto on their publicity and possibly on their actions, if they ever went ‘radical.’ There was nothing really new about this decision, since other financiers had talked about it and even attempted it earlier. What made it decisively important this time was the combination of its adoption by the dominant Wall Street financier, at a time when tax policy was driving all financiers to seek tax-exempt refuges for their fortunes, and at a time when the ultimate in Left-wing radicalism was about to appear under the banner of the Third International.”[18]

One of the most important books exploring the detrimental influence of liberal foundations on social change was Robert Arnove’s Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism (1980). In the introduction to this edited collection Arnove notes that:

“A central thesis [of this book] is that foundations like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford have a corrosive influence on a democratic society; they represent relatively unregulated and unaccountable concentrations of power and wealth which buy talent, promote causes, and, in effect, establish an agenda of what merits society’s attention. They serve as ‘cooling-out’ agencies, delaying and preventing more radical, structural change. They help maintain an economic and political order, international in scope, which benefits the ruling-class interests of philanthropists and philanthropoids – a system which, as the various chapters document, has worked against the interests of minorities, the working class, and Third World peoples.”[19]

With the aid of Nadine Pinede, Arnove (2007) recently updated this critique noting that, while the Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford foundations’ “are considered to be among the most progressive in the sense of being forward looking and reform-minded”, they are also “among the most controversial and influential of all the foundations”.[20] Indeed, as Edward H. Berman demonstrated in his book The Influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations on American Foreign Policy: The Ideology of Philanthropy (1983), the activities of all three of these foundations are closely entwined with those of US foreign policy elites. This subject has also been covered in some depth in Frances Stonor Saunders (1999) book Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War. She notes that:

“During the height of the Cold War, the US government committed vast resources to a secret programme of cultural propaganda in western Europe. A central feature of this pro¬gramme was to advance the claim that it did not exist. It was managed, in great secrecy, by America’s espionage arm, the Central Intelligence Agency. The centrepiece of this covert cam¬paign was the Congress for Cultural Freedom [which received massive support from the Ford Foundation and was] run by CIA agent Michael Josselson from 1950 till 1967. Its achieve¬ments – not least its duration – were considerable. At its peak, the Congress for Cultural Freedom had offices in thirty-five countries, employed dozens of personnel, published over twenty prestige magazines, held art exhibitions, owned a news and features service, organized high-profile international con¬ferences, and rewarded musicians and artists with prizes and public performances. Its mission was to nudge the intelligentsia of western Europe away from its lingering fascination with Marxism and Communism towards a view more accommo¬dating of ‘the American way’.”[21]

So given the elitist history of liberal foundations it is not surprising that Arnove and Pinede (2007) note that although the Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford foundations’ “claim to attack the root causes of the ills of humanity, they essentially engage in ameliorative practices to maintain social and economic systems that generate the very inequalities and injustices they wish to correct.”[22] Indeed they conclude that although the past few decades these foundations have adopted a “more progressive, if not radical, rhetoric and approaches to community building” that gives a “voice to those who have been disadvantaged by the workings of an increasingly global capitalist economy, they remain ultimately elitist and technocratic institutions.”[23]

Based on the knowledge of these critiques, it is then supremely ironic that progressive activists tend to underestimate the influence of liberal philanthropists, while simultaneously acknowledging the fundamental role played by conservative philanthropists in promoting neoliberal policies. Indeed, contrary to popular beliefs amongst progressives, much evidence supports the contention that liberal philanthropists and their foundations have been very influential in shaping the contours of American (and global) civil society, actively influencing social change through a process alternatively referred to as either channelling [24] or co-option.[25]

“Co-optation [being] a process through which the policy orientations of leaders are influenced and their organizational activities channeled. It blends the leader’s interests with those of an external organization. In the process, ethnic leaders and their organizations become active in the state-run interorganizational system; they become participants in the decision-making process as advisors or committee members. By becoming somewhat of an insider the co-opted leader is likely to identify with the organization and its objectives. The leader’s point of view is shaped through the personal ties formed with authorities and functionaries of the external organization.”[26]

The critical issue of the cooption of progressive groups by liberal foundations has also been examined in Joan Roelofs seminal book Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism. In summary, Roelofs (2007) argues that:

“…the pluralist model of civil society obscures the extensive collaboration among the resource-providing elites and the dependent state of most grassroots organizations. While the latter may negotiate with foundations over details, and even win some concessions, capitalist hegemony (including its imperial perquisites) cannot be questioned without severe organizational penalties. By and large, it is the funders who are calling the tune. This would be more obvious if there were sufficient publicized investigations of this vast and important domain. That the subject is ‘off-limits’ for both academics and journalists is compelling evidence of enormous power.”[27]

SNCC training Freedom School leaders for Mississippi Freedom Summer

Defanging the Threat of Civil Rights

The 1960s civil rights movement was the first documented social movement that received substantial financial backing from philanthropic foundations.[28] As might be expected, liberal foundation support went almost entirely to moderate professional movement organizations like, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and their Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Urban League, and foundations also helped launch President Kennedy’s Voter Education Project.[29] In the last case, foundation support for the Voter Education Project was arranged by the Kennedy administration, who wanted to dissipate black support of sit-in protests while simultaneously obtaining the votes of more African-Americans, a constituency that helped Kennedy win the 1960 election.[30]

One example of the type of indirect pressure facing social movements reliant on foundation support can be seen by examining Martin Luther King, Jr.’s activities as his campaigning became more controversial in the years just prior to his assassination. On 18 February 1967, King held a strategy meeting where he said he wanted to take a more active stance in opposing the Vietnam War: noting that he was willing to break with the Johnson administration even if the Southern Christian Leadership Conference lost some financial support (despite it already being in a weak financial position, with contributions some 40 percent less than the previous year). In this case, it seems, King was referring to the potential loss of foundation support as, after his first speech against the war a week later (on 25 February), he again voiced his concerns that his new position would jeopardize an important Ford Foundation grant.[31]

Thus, by providing selective support of activist groups during the 1960s, liberal foundations promoted such groups’ independence from their unpaid constituents working in the grassroots, facilitating movement professionalization and institutionalization. This allowed foundations “to direct dissent into legitimate channels and limit goals to ameliorative rather than radical change”[32] , in the process promoting a “narrowing and taming of the potential for broad dissent”.[33] Herbert Haines (1988) supports this point and argues that the increasing militancy of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Congress for Racial Equality meant most foundation funding was directed to groups who expressed themselves through more moderate actions.[34] He referred to this as the “radical flank effect” – a process which described the way in which funding increased for nonmilitant or moderate groups (reliant on institutional tactics) as confrontational direct action protests increased.[35] As Jack Walker (1983) concludes, in his study of the influence of foundations on interest groups, the reasoning behind such an interventionist strategy is simple. He argues that “[f]oundation officials believed that the long run stability of the representative policy making system could be assured only if legitimate organizational channels could be provided for the frustration and anger being expressed in protests and outbreaks of political violence.”[36]