Jan. 11, 2021

Bookclub No. 1: The Revolution Will Not Be Funded Pt. 1 Book Notes

Bookclub No. 1: The Revolution Will Not Be Funded Pt. 1 Book Notes

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex Discussion Outline

Part 1

Terms and Definitions:

Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC)-

  • A system of relationships between the state, the owning classes, foundations, and non-profit social service and social justice organizations 

Academic Industrial Complex (AIC)-

  • Institutionalized education/ role of universities in both maintaining status quos and furthering farms caused by capitalism, heteropatriarchy, and white supremacy 

Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) & Military Industrial Complex (MIC)-

  • Both huge concepts, but these industrial complexes gained power during the 70’s and 80’s to enforce neoliberal ideals. Both are systems of aggression (and normalization of that aggression with white people in the US) and economic structures, to maintain elite, US, dominance in all spheres of life. Both complexes rely on the exploitation of marginalized groups both domestically and internationally.


  • “Form of capitalism that has dominated transnational economic systems since the early 1970’s”
  • A strange contradiction (started in the Reagan/Thatcher era) - that calls for lack of gvt involvement (usually in social services: education, healthcare, basic human rights, etc), but props up the PIC and MIC to maintain this status quo. 

General Notes:

Forward & Introduction

  • INCITE Women of Color Against Violence 
    • Began in 2000 with purpose of supporting a movement of feminist of color organizing against all forms of violvnece from interpersonal to state violence 
    • Were initially successful with securing foundation support 
    • Became skeptical of such support when grant promise was retracted after foundation did not  agree with political views of INCITE
    • “Social justice organizations do not always need the foundation support they think they do: 
    • Goal of book: hopes to continue a conversation about how to think beyond state-proctored models like the non-profit system for organizing political projects for social change 
    • Goal no. 2: provide a space for social justice organizers and activists to begin thinking of ways to build movements that either do not rely on primarily on the non-profit model or position themselves differently within this system 
  • History of non-profit system 
    • Were created to exist in perpetuity and support charitable giving in order to shield their earnings from taxation
    • Foundations are tas shelters so corporations can avoid taxes and descendants could receive their inheritance without paying estate taxes 
    • Tax Reform Act imposed 4%rule which was changed to 6% that they must spend of their net investment each year 
      • Decolonizing Wealth Project  crew is lobbying for 10% currently  
    • Nearly half a trillion dollars in assets are held by foundations, but they only give around 35 billion of that away. There are likely close to 850,000 nonprofits in existence 


The Political Logic of the NPIC - Dylan Rodríguez


  • Overall thoughts: 


    • Point 1: The NPIC feeds the PIC and enables ‘vicious forms of state repression.”
    • Point 2: The NPIC upholds and pushes an ideal of ‘white’ or ‘multicultural freedoms’ through idealization of reform and not radical infrastructural change. 
      • Co-opt language from radical movements into the ‘mainstream’ 
      • Sets the ‘tone’ for what is acceptable social action.
      • Profits off the criminalization of more ‘radical’ political activities.
      • Bureaucratization of social change and dissent. 
        • Hierarchical Structures
        • ‘Professionalism’
      • Money - ‘the very existence of many social justice organizations has often come to rest more on the effectiveness of professional (and amateur) grant writers than on skilled -- much less ‘radical’ political educators and organizers.’
        • $ comes from foundations → acting as major decision makers in our society, but have very little oversight. 
        • Foundations are the ones that ‘set the tone for what is acceptable’ by financially backing those actions (often less ‘extreme’ because foundations profit off of the current infrastructure.)
    • “The NPIC thus serves as the medium through which the state continues to exert a fundamental dominance over the political intercourse of the US Left, as well as US Civil society more generally.”
    • POINT 3: The NPIC has fundamentally changed the way most social activists think about going about praxis.
    • Solutions:
      • “Organized, under-organized, and ad hoc movements of imprisoned, homeless, and undocumented people, as well as activists committed to working beneath and relatively autonomous of the NPIC’s Political apparatus, may well embody the beginnings of an alternative US-based praxis that displaces the NPIC’s apparent domination of political discourse and possbility.’

In the Shadow of the Shadow State - Ruth Wilson Gilmore


  • Writer Ruth Wilson Gilmore - Gilmore is a professor within CUNY and founder of the group Critical Resistance. She has written extensively about the PIC and Place in regards to the African Diaspora. 


    • Intro of Essay:Organized philanthropy is playing a significant role in this age of tottering social standards, crumbling religious sanctions, perverse race attitudes, and selfish and ulterior motives.” - Ira De A. Reid, 1944
      • Reid Made the following points (Dependency and Accommodation for donors):
        • 1. Reformist and Radical Black groups became dependent on foundation gifts (as opposed to membership dues). 
        • 2. These foundations and groups reinforced the structures they were trying to teardown through this relationship. 


  • Point of Essay:


      • Answer - Is there a NPIC?, How did it come into being? How is it powerful?
      • Solutions/suggestions - How orgs. Can think about donors and themselves. 
        • “We are able to achieve non-reformist reforms on the road to liberation.”


  • The NPIC


    • Military Industrial Complex (MIC) - Wide-scale connection btw military and the warface industry that detrimines the course of economic devo. And political decision making of the country. 
      • Many of the tech. We take for granted were developed by the US military. 
      • Politicians (esp. 80’s onward) wouldn’t have come to prominence w/out the MIC. 
    • Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) - Although doesn’t have the $ in it like the MIC, it is held up and perpetuated by social policy and laws. Is incredibly destructive to communities and the economy within those communities. 
    • Both the MIC and PIC normalize -> naturalize aggression and violence. 
      • Additionally, both get an ‘economy’ pass with ‘anti-state state actors’ (usually conservative politicians) and will be funded instead of public services. 
      • On top of that, these politicians generally want to divert funding from public services into MIC/PIC and figure the volunteer sector will help the people they ‘abandoned’ 
      • This is where the NPIC comes in….
    • There has been an “increased responsibility on the part of nonprofits to deliver direct services to those in need of them.”
    • The abandonment of citizens, “encouraged the formation of new groups that [...] were designed solely to get contracts and the jobs that came with them.”
    • Antistate state actors like NP because of their ‘efficiency’
      • NP’s - stuck is a weird catch-22 of helping people (to a certain level) but are unable to advocate for structural changes by law. 
      • “Organized Philanthropy” seems like a way for NP’s to have independence from gov’t - WRONG
      • The NPIC also encourages grassroot mvts to incorporate -> which is often not the best for social change/reform
    • The NPIC is all of the connections, economic dependencies, and social norms. 
  • What can we do?
    • Take the $ and run
    • Take from various resources
    • Bottom up funding → membership dues, resource pooling, 
    • Short, mid, and long term goals
    • Planning, action (people carrying out the action MUST be reasonably protected from repercussions - largely financial), and information dissemination/rhetoric 
      • OUTCOME rather than the organization must be the purpose for existence

Form the Black Awakening in Capitalist America - Robert Allen

Writer - Robert L. Allen -an American activist, writer, and Adjunct Professor of African-American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

  • GREAT History of foundations co-opting the civil rights movement.  
    • Good reminder of how important it is to understand, know, and challenges social histories 
  • Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) creater to concretise its interest in electoral politics 
  • Move from grassroots funded mvts during the 1960’s/70’s to foundation funded. 
  • Foundations funded (largely white led organizations) civil rights leaders and co-opted SOME of the black liberation mvt. 
    • Arguably changed the entire narrative of what action was ‘acceptable’
  • Moved the action/praxis away from more socialist ideals (BIG STRUCTURAL REFORMS) to Black Capitalism.
    • Changed the narrative of what a ‘win’ and ‘success’ is → to fit within the capitalist system and white civil society. 
    • Started making more ‘radical’ action less popular and look more threatening. 
  • Created a sense that you need to work with the system through reforms.
    • Ex: Teach classes on Black history, learn skills in canvassing, interviewing, and recording community conversations `
  • “ The mere fact that there are any genuinely black-controlled educational institutions guarantees that if they are to work, they must work in the interest of continued white domination of every facet of black life”  
  • The ideal of success ‘transferred the apparatus of oppression’ into SOME black people’s hands (usually highly educated, middle class, etc individuals) and left the working class and poor people still oppressed.
  • How does this translate into NPIC of today?
    • You still see the ‘deradicalization’ of NP’s goals and missions to fit a foundation’s desires and wants.
  • Black Capitalist=Jay-Z (4:44) https://www.gq.com/story/jay-z-444-review


Democratizing American Philanthropy - Christine Ahn

Writer - Christine Ahn - Founder and Director of Women Cross DMZ


  • Overview: Talks about how foundations through NP’s → advance an elitist agenda.
  • “But this reasoning is based on the inherent falsehood that scarcity - rather than inequality - is at the root of these persisting social and economic problems.” 
  • “...the same reliance on the generosity of the wealthy poses grave threats to democracy because it assumes that foundation grants rather than orgaizing and political power will lead to social change 
  • 65000 private foundations in US, but are undemocratic and unaccountable to the public and governed by a few wealthy people 
  • Charitable giving is slowly growing, but at what rate? 
    • Piecemeal voluntary efforts as opposed to widespread systematic change.
  • Noblesse oblige - idea that the rich/privileged are obliged to help those ‘less fortunate.’ BUT this gives more power to the wealthy. 
  • NP’s/social justice orgs. MUST understand that foundations are established for private donor’s gain.
    • “...foundation giving largely benefits the wealthy since most money goes to heritage institutions. 
    • “Foundations are made partly with dollars which were it not for charitable deductions allowed by tax laws, would have become puc funds to be allocated through the governmental process under the controlling power of the electorate as a whole”
      • → stolen money that should have been taxed.
      • → largely run by white, middle-aged, and upper class men (however, white women are starting to take more ground) - probably never see a working class person on BOD.
      • Trustees are often paid 
        • These people benefit from the current system. Why wouldn’t they want to perpetuate it?
      • Foundation ‘payouts’ are laughably low and are making money. “STINGY” 
      • Research shows they can afford to do larger payouts and still keep much of their wealth. They often want to grow / keep the majority of their wealth 
      • Conservative Phil. is MUCH bigger and more successful than ‘liberal’ phil.
      • Examples! 
    • Long Term Plan / Conclusion 
      • Foundations should pay out more of their assets 
      • Need to be more closely regulated by government 
      • Acknowledge how the wealth was gained (Yours, Mine, Ours)