Born to Lose:
When the Left relies on foundations for money and the Democratic Party for political leadership
by Charlie Hinton
Before we called ourselves “activists,” we spoke of revolution - the complete overturning of things. Colonial subjects rose up against great powers. Subject peoples against racism and class. Women against male supremacy. Queers against heterosexual normality. The disabled for access.
Internationally, Africa and Asia overthrew colonial masters. Wars of national liberation won victory in Viet Nam, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Angola, Grenada, Nicaragua, and always, Cuba. Chile even elected a socialist president, who nationalized its copper and drove out Anaconda Copper Corporation. That was the last straw for Nixon and Kissinger. Chileans had to be saved from their own mistake. The counterrevolution began.
On September 11, 1973, the Chilean military, with the US Navy hovering offshore, overthrew the Allende government, replacing democratic socialism with military dictatorship and a series of economic policies that came to be known as “structural adjustment” and “neo-liberalism.” These race-to-the-bottom policies included the privatization of government owned enterprises, the reduction or elimination of public services, the plunder of natural resources, the destruction of trade unions, and the murder or imprisonment of union and human rights leaders.
World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies served this global counter offensive against revolutionary victories, orienting entire national economies towards export for global markets in the form of tourism, sweatshop labor, mining, logging, and fishing - selling off anything marketable, rather than producing goods and services for long suffering domestic populations. A huge transfer of wealth flowed upwards to the global elites, while the majority in more than 100 countries saw their natural environments ransacked and their dreams of social progress and economic security destoyed.
In this country black, brown, red, and yellow rose up against the privilege of the white. Civil rights laws passed after years of struggle against Jim Crow segregation. Abortion was made legal. We policed the police and fed the children. Peacemaker students rose up against warmaker parents. Make love, not war. Tune in and drop out.
The pissed off and fed up rebelled in Watts, Detroit, and Wounded Knee; Stonewall, Attica and Newark. Tanks rolled out with National Guard. The leaders killed or put in prison. This campaign of counter-revolutionary terror has a name we learned years later - Cointelpro.
Now it’s time for Ronald Reagan. Gun runners fly arms to the Nicaraguan contras and return with planeloads of cocaine and marijuana as payment, as the War on Drugs kicks into high gear. Neo-liberal economic policy arrives on our shores. We call it Reganomics. Cut taxes, then slash them.
Good old days gone forever. Free love commodified as pornography. Getting high on herb becomes genocide on crack. The movement decapitated, leaders incarcerated, a new class appears - the bought off, funded by a new and improved tool of control - the foundation.
Corporations become rich by exploiting workers, then the executives and stockholders who suck up the profits avoid taxes by sheltering their money into foundations - money that used to go to government in the form of taxes to pay for model cities programs and the war on poverty. This process transfers the money itself from the poor to the rich, and transfers who decides how it will be spent from elected public officials to foundation boards of directors, mostly wealthy people and highly paid professionals, thereby "privatizing" the money and the decision-making about its use.
The foundations in turn fund non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs,) groups that can become more dependent on money from wealthy benefactors than from their own constituents, so who are they going to please? We end up with foundations controlling the progressive agenda, determining which groups and which policy proposals make it and which don’t, who will play ball and who goes hungry.
All over the world, funders use grants to direct organizations away from an anti-capitalist framework and towards collaboration with elitist goals. Eighty percent of the infrastructure in Palestine is funded by international granting agencies, which stifle critiques of capitalism and try to normalize a free market economy. Foundations helped redirect the ANC in South Africa from communist to capitalist. In Haiti, the US stopped giving aid to the Aristide government, and started channeling money to NGOs to create a phony opposition that led to the overthrow of a democratic government, elected three times by huge majorities. In the US, foundations built up organizations like CORE to redirect the “black power” movement into a more docile mainstream opposition.
The Democratic Party
The Democratic Party serves as the political equivalent to foundations. While foundations function as gatekeepers to direct the action and keep it within prescribed parameters, the Democratic Party serves as a vampire to suck the Left dry of energy, money, hope and vision.
To become a leader in the Party, one must obey two rules. First, support Israel unconditionally. Second, defend capitalism, although it’s OK to soften slightly the harshness of the Republicans' naked, unregulated version. OK to preach slightly more equality and a slightly more equitable distribution of wealth - but more to prevent social unrest than to support the altruistic inclinations of the many sincere people who constitute the base of the Party.
The ruling elites fund Democrats as well as Republicans, with the same goals - to extend the power of the United States and protect ruling class interests at home and abroad. Opponents accuse Democrats of “flip flopping,” but it’s their function in the scheme of things. While they say they represent the “middle class,” their euphemism for ignoring workers, the unemployed, and the imprisoned, their greater purpose is to channel and co-opt dissent before it becomes a radical threat to the status quo. They won't fight for any policy that seriously challenges corporate profits, even the most obvious, like healthcare.
The Democratic Party pretends to represent African-Americans and certainly uses their votes to win elections, yet the Party leadership refused to support Congressional Black Caucus challenges to vote counts in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004 - challenges that, if successful, would have given the presidency to Democrats.
John Kerry conned the party base into donating more than $100,000,000 of the almost $300,000,000 he received in 2004, under the pretense he would stand up to Bush and fight to be president. He saved $15,000,000 of that money to challenge contested elections, then refused to join those demanding an investigation in Ohio.
He betrayed the majority of the base who were trapped into voting for him, because he was "the lesser of two evils" or “there is no alternative.” By nominating a pro-war candidate, then actively fighting to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot, the Democratic leadership assured that the almost 50% of the country who opposed the war in Iraq had no viable electoral means to express their opposition. And they’re preparing to repeat the same thing in 2008, by marginalizing Dennis Kucinich, the one true anti-war candidate.
The Democrats share with the Republicans the common goal of projecting U.S. hegemony and maintaining the stability of the capitalist class structure worldwide. This bi-partisan foreign and security policy supports undemocratic regimes in many countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, and refuses to defend the democratically elected president of Haiti, who was overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup in February 2004.
The price of protecting U.S. hegemony in the world is war. The U.S. has declared war on the world, and not vice versa, in a grab to control oil supplies, natural resources, and impose corporate/IMF/World Bank driven class structures that support international elites and condemn the majority of the world's people to lives of indescribable squalor. Some call it "global apartheid."
As local and indigenous peoples organize to defend their land, cultures, and resources, U.S. forces continue to attack mercilessly (often through mercenary and proxy forces). They imprison, torture, assassinate leaders, and ally with undemocratic, totalitarian governments in country after country. The CIA and other intelligence agencies support warlords and drug kingpins that rape and pillage as part of "bi-partisan" U.S. foreign policy.
Although at times the Democratic base opposes these policies, the leadership steers the "bi-partisan" course of imperial conquest. A “bi-partisan” mandate got us the Patriot Act, got us into Iraq, and a “bi-partisan” agreement to prevent judicial filibusters in the Senate has guaranteed a reactionary Supreme Court for at least a generation. Even “good” Democrats are powerless in this situation.
The Democratic Party leadership serves as a reminder to those who continually opt for the "lesser of two evils." Not only have we compromised our principles, but we’ve ended up with the greater of two evils anyway.
What to Do? How do we rekindle the revolutionary spirit of the 1960’s and 70’s that has been repressed by military coups abroad and Cointelpro at home, bought off by foundations, and co-opted by the Democratic Party?
First, identify what kind of government we live under. Is it really a democracy? Stop pretending, if the answer is no, and act like our lives depend on it. Stop giving Democrats time and money. They are the Great Deceivers. Stop stabbing ourselves in the back. Stop funding our own defeat and irrelevancy. Find the courage, the will, the organization, and the funding to build a new movement.
Fight white, male, heterosexual, and “American” supremacy as we fight capitalism.
Some see working on a grassroots level as most important, others electoral politics. If one wants to work in the electoral arena, in California we could join together the 3 small parties on the left with independents and left Democrats to form a Green Labor Party for Peace and Freedom. Find a way to unite, possibly by dividing up the offices and supporting each others candidates. Take ourselves seriously enough to work together for the sake of the future. Think BIG and think SMART. Always maintain our humanity.
Ultimately, electoral politics will not be enough, if the experiences of Chile and Haiti (and our own country) mean anything. We voted lesser of evils in the last presidential cycles, and what has it gotten us - 8 years of George Bush, a fascist Supreme Court, a losing imperialist war in Iraq, a pillaged environment, and a wrecked economy.
Are we going to keep repeating this history? Are we like a battered partner who just can’t find the ability to make a break with the abuse and strike out independently? It will take a visionary, radical, and militant movement to make any significant change, one might say revolutionary.
What does it mean to be a revolutionary in the 21st century? How do we factor climate change and environment into the mix of class, race, gender, ability, religion, and history? Native American traditional teachers integrate land, politics, and spiritual practice into one belief system, based on de-commodifying the earth. Malcolm X said, “Anyone who wants to follow me and my movement has got to be ready to go to jail, to the hospital, and/or to the cemetery.” Do we care that much?
The wise ones learn to live well without wanting material excess. They share and give back from what they receive; shift behavior out of Species Survival Imperative. What family are we talking about when we speak of family values? Nuclear radiation does not understand national boundaries, nor "good" and "bad" or "transitioning" neighborhoods.
Change, or the shorelines will flood and the fields become toast. Get beyond “me” and “mine.” Cooperate out of mutual self interest.
Capitalism, built on competition and winners and losers, impedes this unity, this ability to cooperate. The future depends on the transformation of capitalism into a more egalitarian, locally-based, self sustaining economic model, call it what you will. Otherwise, like lemmings rushing off the cliff, we will all lose.