Wed, 23 December 2015
2016's New Years Revolution… Time To Lose Some Old Habits, Gain Some New Ones
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
The world view, class outlook and methods of nonprofit organizations have dominated the landscape of the US left for so long most of us are hardly aware of them. Movement elder Warren Mar, in this week's Black Agenda Report sheds some useful light on those matters in his indispensable article “Why Nonprofits Can't Lead the 99%” sketching some of the effects and outcomes of the of the nonprofit ground rules and mindset upon unions and community-based organizations.
Wherever the habits and world view of the nonprofit world came from, it wasn't the peoples movement.
Things were hard everywhere eighty years ago during the Great Depression. People were starving. Unions were often illegal, there was no minimum wage or social security, no anti-discrimination laws or unemployment insurance, and Jim Crow was the letter of the law. Still, people managed to organize, to fight the power and to win some important victories, pretty much without the kinds of single-issue organizations people nowadays regard as essential.
So where did that model come from? The single-issue organization seems to be a creature of the 1960s and 1970s, a kind of blocking response to a broad based movement on the part of elite funders. They know nobody's going to an anti-pollution meeting on Monday, a housing meeting on Tuesday, a school meeting on Wednesday, a police and prison meeting on Thursday and so on. And if all of them are in competition for the same funding dollars, so much the better.
Similarly, the nonprofit models of “movement” or advocacy organization led by self-selected, usually college educated executive directors, senior staff and self-perpetuating boards of directors with heavy representation from philanthropic funders are creations of funders, not of members or of a broad mass-based political movement.
If membership is defined in these sorts of organizations at all, it might consist of people who pay dues, or people who show up at meetings or just people on a mailing list. Rarely do members get access to anything like transparency on how funds are handled, or have the power to replace their shot calling directors and board members.
Truth is, the nonprofit model is anti-democratic, top-down and ideally suited to what Adolph Reed calls the broker type of leader, the unaccountable spokesperson purporting to be the mouthpiece of some united mass constituency with no real power over its alleged leader. Energetic and charismatic leaders of nonprofit organizations often sustain impressive mobilizations, at least over a short time, but they inevitably fall short on educating their members out of dependence on self-selected or funder-selected leaders (if they define members at all) and on expanding the base of their leadership. Nonprofit formations can make impressive use of Facebook and social media too, but these are mobilizing tools allowing you to communicate with other activists, those who already agree with you, not organizing tools one can use to identify potential leaders and win over audiences who don't already agree.
Dependence on the nonprofit model is all that Democratic party honchos desire from the left. They just need an election day mobilization. But if the vision of our movement extends to taking power, we have to train a broad base of people to wield power over their own organizations, and to contend for power over their lives, their economies, their communities with those who have that power now.
With only a week left in 2015, and a world still to win it's time for a new years revolution. It's time to drop the habits of the nonprofit world, time to raise up organizations accountable to well-defined memberships. It's time to focus on expanding our base not talking to other activists on Facebook, not on keeping the same few leaders out front of the same few hundred demonstrators. That's the difference between mobilizing and organizing.
For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and co-chair of the GA Green party. Reach him via email at brtuce.dixon(at0blackagendareport.com.
Wed, 23 December 2015
Single Payer Health Care Still More Popular Than Obamacare
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
“With every year, more and more companies and jobs are tied directly to the cash flow of the privatized system Obama created.”
Boosters for the Obama administration claim that his Affordable Care Act is a legacy that qualifies Obama for permanent residence in the pantheon of progressive domestic policy presidents, like Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Black Agenda Report takes the opposite position: that, in 2009, newly-elected President Obama set the cause of universal health care back many years with his surprise endorsement of a Republican health insurance plan, hatched in the bowels of the Heritage Foundation in the 1980s and championed by GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole in 1996 and Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney shortly thereafter. Obama’s bill was written by the health insurance and pharmaceutical corporations, and brutally imposed on the Left wing of the Democratic Party, whose members were threatened with loss of party campaign support if they resisted.
Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich was the last holdout for the so-called Public Option, a scaled down alternative to Obama’s corporate-based scheme that finally disappeared altogether – as did Rep. Kucinich’s seat in Congress, which was redistricted out from under him.
The White House justified its abandonment of Single Payer health care, claiming compromise was necessary in order to get Republican votes. But the Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress, and Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote.
As a consolation for the loss of the Public Option, Obama offered to create non-profit health insurance co-ops in the various states. However, more than half of these co-ops have gone out of business in an environment dominated by cut-throat health care capitalists.
“Majorities of Americans still support Single Payer health care.”
Our biggest concern seven years ago was that Obama was setting in concrete the corporate role in health care, planting the insurance and drug companies right smack in the middle of a multi-trillion dollar river of federal money – and that it would take decades to pry their profiteering hands loose. We still feel that way. With every year, more and more companies and jobs are tied directly to the cash flow of the privatized system Obama created. As Bruce Dixon has warned, conservative judges are increasingly likely to rule that rolling back corporate pillaging of health care would constitute an illegal “taking” and seizure of reasonably expected profits. Under Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership trade rules treaty, the corporations would win.
Therefore, it is encouraging that majorities of Americans still support Single Payer health care, in the form of Medicare for All. A new Kaiser Poll shows 58 percent of the public are in favor of Medicare for All, including 81 percent of Democrats. That’s only slightly below the high mark of Single Payer support in the months before new President Barack Obama announced that he wasn’t really talking about Single Payer when he used the term “universal coverage” – he meant universal payment to private corporations, under penalty of law. His plan, Obamacare, remains less popular than Medicare for All. Obama’s legacy is that he has made it far more difficult to dislodge the corporations from their parasitic role in U.S. health care.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.