The Revolution Will Not Be Funded (But it will be fun)
I’m writing this from the bus to Ottawa, which left Montreal at 8 AM this morning. I’m on my way to Carleton for my PhD orientation. Can’t believe it was only a week or so ago that I was finishing my MA thesis…wow. In fact, just last Friday Svetla and I celebrated my handing in my final draft of my thesis to the Graduate office and Svetla mailing her 5 kilos of immigration documents.
Last night we had two visitors arrive from my hometown, Courtenay: Jim and his daughter, Lisa. Jim is a draft-dodger who left Berkley in 1969 to come to Canada. He had come earlier to avoid the draft for the Vietnam war, but after just a few weeks in exciting Nanaimo, he jetted back to Berkley where he preferred to live undercover as an activist. That worked until he and his partner got pregnant and they realized that on an income of $145 per month they didn’t have enough money to pay the BIRTH FEE of $1500 that was charged back then in the USA. Reminds me of a story that could go in Michael Moore’s new film, Sicko.
Anyway, after a few glasses of red wine we got to talking last night – me about documentaries on “the scene” at Berkeley in the 60s in films like Berkeley in the Sixties, and Jim about, well, him being there. He was discussing the People’s Park and how it went from a group of idealists taking over some green space and declaring it “the people’s” to battles with developers, and finally the disconnected academics stepping in with a “solution” of fencing off half the park for both parties. Eventually the flower-power people left – many for Canada – and the drug dealers moved in.
The story of the People’s Park in Berkeley got me thinking about sustained resistance. Recently, there’s been a smattering of volunteer-based groups and orgs waning here in Montreal, and we’ve had some epistemological troubles ourselves at überculture. Sustaining and keeping vibrant resistance activities and spaces is indeed a difficult task, one that requires not only dedication and energy, but creative methods to keep things fresh and people’s involvement relevant and vibrant.
A new book has come out on this very topic, and I’ve just started poking around in it. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex is a collection of essays from various individuals and groups from the non-profit sector in the USA. The book is a treatise on sustained activism and why groups should avoid the foundation trap. They argue that reliance on major structural financing such as foundation grants, ultimately serves the powers that be, and is a way of “managing” resistance and radical fermentation.
The book is published by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and they describe in the introduction why they put the publication together. After finding out they had been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, they began feverishly planning two huge projects/campaigns. Somewhere in the beginning stages however, Ford pulled the plug when they found out the group was taking a pro-Palestinian stance and there grant was withdrawn. But they didn’t give up – they worked hard and raised the money needed from fundraising events like houseparties and individual donations. In the end they realized that being dependent on the foundation money was extremely problematic.
Indeed it seems that many groups and orgs sink or swim depending on majory structural funding, and as we’ve seen in überculture, grassroots fundraising is difficult at best. So, what to take from this? I guess I’ll have to finish the book…