A recent viral piece in New York magazine The profiling of the mysterious finances of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF) has resurfaced long-standing tensions over the organization’s lack of democratic accountability and financial transparency. In the article, it is revealed that BLMGNF received more than $90 million in donations prompted by the George Floyd uprising, in which millions sought ways to support the fight against racist police violence. Over $20 million of this transport is said to have been distributed to 30 grassroots organizations, although this has been disputed by local chapters who claim they received no resources. After Patrisse Cullors stepped down as the nonprofit’s executive director last spring following the public announcement of her home-buying spree, it’s unclear who is currently at the helm. BLMGNF, or who exactly is responsible for the remaining $60 million endowment.
These revelations come as black America is in crisis and the movement is at a crossroads after failing to win lasting gains against systemic racism and the beginning of a reactionary backlash. The scandal around the BLMGNF finally lays bare the limits of the leadership of nonprofits and NGOs in our struggle for liberation from capitalist oppression.
Opportunistic Origins, Motion Capture, and Wasted Revolution
BLMGNF is the umbrella organization for the official and unofficial network of Black Lives Matter chapters across the country. Launched in 2012 in response to the Trayvon Martin murder hashtag, BLMGNF became a non-profit organization following the very public deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and then Tamir Rice in 2014. BLMGNF has always existed as a as a highly decentralized network of affiliated chapters. and organizations, mostly fueled by grassroots activists, focused on racial justice. Even so, the limits of the leadership’s NGO approach and the danger of Democratic Party and corporate attempts to dilute the movement’s activism were apparent from the start. At its 2015 congress, no strategy, program or national demand was proposed for organizing.
The model of non-profit organization or NGO within social movements under capitalism poses serious problems in terms of methodology. The most serious systemic critique is that of “motion capture” – in which activists and their mission can be co-opted by their particular funders and priorities.
This problem has always plagued anti-racism organizations run by black people and funded by wealthy donors. During the civil rights movement, the NAACP shifted its focus from anti-black violence to educational desegregation due to its financial reliance on the Garland fund, despite the sentiments of black organizers at the time . At the height of the George Floyd protests, Campaign Zero, an affiliate of BLM, issued a series of demands under the hashtag #8CantWait – including demanding that officers give a warning before shooting and report the use of strength. This program was widely praised by corporations, billionaire celebrities and politicians, but in reality, these paltry measures were incredibly out of step with the urgent needs of the movement against racist police violence, such as disarming cops on patrol, cutting funding of the police to finance housing. , education and employment and the election of community oversight boards with the power to hire, fire and subpoena.
To avoid motion capture in the future, more sophisticated conversations will need to take place about fundraising, program and tactics. Organizations must have financial resources, but who should be allowed to donate, and who should not, to hold the organization accountable to the movement? What role does leadership play in the fight – and how can organizations fight for real change? The BLMGNF leadership’s unwavering refusal to equip the organization with the democratic apparatuses necessary to tackle these difficult issues has resulted in the capture of the organization, which, without an alternative leadership to take on the role of struggle, is a devastating blow to the movement.
At the same time, a local BLM chapter was organizing protests against neo-Nazis, the parent organization was holding a dance sponsored by UGG boots. BLMGNF leaders even tried to legally trademark the slogan “Black Lives Matter” in 2018, proving that the capitalist and opportunistic desire to monetize the struggle, enlarge personal profiles and profit from black death and the work of local organizers was evident from the start.
This is due to Black Lives Matter’s “leading” decentralization, its non-profit/NGO-like organizational model relying on corporate patronage and capitalist funding, as well as its proximity to the Democratic Party which has fact that the BLMGNF has completely failed to lead the way. in the struggle for black liberation at the height of the uprising.
With the whole nation watching, no analysis was offered to the masses about class society as the ancestor of oppression, how racism was created as an ideological justification to sanction economic exploitation, or how the most fundamental role of the police is to serve as the oppressive force of the state to encourage this exploitation. Capitalism and systemic racism have grown together. The BLMGNF, allied with corporations and the Billionaires Party, was structurally incapable of pointing to capitalism as the culprit, or offering the multiracial working class a program on how to fight back.
The absence of visible, accountable, and militant leadership has allowed unapproved replacements within the Democratic Party and corporate America to run on behalf of the movement and ultimately cloud its message. This waste of the revolutionary potential of the Floyd uprisings led to BLM10 – local chapters that went public to voice their disagreements with the national leadership over the lack of internal democratic structures, financial transparency, or organizational and political coherence.
This disconnect between the BLMGNF’s shortcomings and the movement’s needs has also led Ferguson activists like Tory Russell and parents of victims of police brutality like Michael Brown Sr., Samaria Rice, and Lisa Simpson to openly speak out against the organization. Certainly, these criticisms are justified: the Global Network’s shadowy network of donors, nepotistic payments of big dollars to consulting firms, and overpriced real estate purchases have angered and distrusted black workers and activists in the movement. What’s more, the negative attention has also fueled reactionary right-wing backlash – exactly when a revival of uprisings in the streets and workplaces is desperately needed.
The reactionary game abused
Even as the pandemic has confined many Americans to their homes, police killings have continued almost unabated — virtually unabated before the 2020 summer of protest. In 2021, there were only 15 days when police killed no one, totaling more than 1,100 deaths by the end of the year. Federal policing reform bills like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act have stalled in the Senate due to Democrats’ adamant defiance of calls to end the filibuster.
President Biden has led the Democratic Party in a shameless undermining of the movement, pledging hundreds of millions of dollars more to policing than Trump, and all but abandoning his campaign promise to create a National Police Oversight Commission. Black Democratic mayors like Eric Adams in New York, Bruce Harrell in Seattle, London Breed in San Francisco and Lori Lightfoot in Chicago have all followed dutifully, championing pro-police rhetoric and policies that will target black communities. The ramifications of these political betrayals culminated in the latest high-profile murder by police: Amir Locke, a 22-year-old black man killed in a no-hit raid as he slept, much like Breonna Taylor. The fact that Locke was assassinated in Minneapolis, the same city as George Floyd and under the same Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey, who lied about banning such raids to get re-elected, should come as no surprise.
Working to reduce public progress in consciousness and feeling of support for black liberation achieved during the Floyd uprisings has become a bipartisan affair, as the GOP engages in a wanton culture war to lead the backlash. reactionary to BLM. More than 16 GOP-led states have taken steps to ban books dealing with racial or LGBTQ issues, while states like Florida have gone even further: introducing a bill that will allow parents to sue schools. in court for critical race theory.
In addition to more than 400 bills in more than 40 states aimed at restricting the right to vote, 34 states have proposed 81 bills aimed at restricting the right to protest. The main objective of all of this is to undermine the confidence of black people and young people in their historical knowledge of the ability of the working class to influence societal change through the use of movements.
Teachable moment: what are the lessons?
For many young people, the Floyd uprisings, united under the cry of “Black Lives Matter,” was the defining social movement of their generation. More than 20 million people protested in one form or another; the protests have taken on international proportions and even galvanized the #ENDSARS movement in Nigeria. Unfortunately, at this point, the regrettable lack of material concessions from the uprisings compels real lessons to be learned.
To advance the Black liberation movement, key lessons will need to be learned by movement activists and organizers: No trust can be placed in nonprofit leaderships that rely on capitalist funding, the Democratic Party, or the courts. . Our social movements should be used to build, on a revolutionary political basis, solidarity among the multiracial working class around a program beneficial to the black masses, rather than to draw closer to the political establishment, to elevate a class of thugs or trying to make capitalism more “woke”.
A final, and in some ways most important, lesson is the value of combative leadership in movements. Weak leadership that seeks glorification from the mainstream media and corporate America or collaborating with inactive politicians and their parties can only end in disaster. A responsible and militant leadership that draws its strength from the movement will be needed to show the way out of the crisis to the black, poor and oppressed working class with a program of combat demands.