[Marxism] Nonprofit careerism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 27 15:24:48 MST 2004

Counterpunch, December 27, 2004
How Nonprofit Careerism Derailed the "Revolution"
Greens and Greenbacks


My good friend Lisa Goldrosen is a veteran of many left causes. Lisa has 
spent her entire adult life working in various coop endeavors. She has a 
wonderful collection of buttons and posters from back when America rose 
from the slumber of the Eisenhower years. She has buttons from the early 
days of the clean-up of the Hudson River ­ Pete Seeger's precursor to 
Greenpeace. More are from the early Civil Rights Movement. Others are from 
the anti-Vietnam War effort and the SDS era on campus. She has one anti-war 
poster that could be recycled as is and still be useful today.

Lisa has arranged them all in a wonderful historic collage. She regularly 
uses it to give history lessons to young radicals here in Oregon. Someone 
always asks, "Why didn't I ever hear about this in school?"

Being a 60s activist myself, having grown up in Flint -- steeped in the 
history of the Labor Movement, a Civil Rights activist at fourteen, a UAW 
member at eighteen and a draft resister/ Conscientious Objector/anti-war 
activist later -- I always enjoy my discussions with Lisa.

Recently, she put my frustrations with the current state of activism in 
full perspective.

The Three-legged Stool of Counterrevolution

Lisa notes, "The Revolution was derailed by three things: the end of the 
draft; Roe v. Wade and the rise of the nonprofit sector. Once the children 
of privilege were no longer subject to any personal pain, it was over. It 
was a brilliant strategy by predatory capitalism."

While I'm not sure if Revolution, or even Reform, was/is inevitable, I 
agree. Once the draft and the possibility that middle-to-upper class kids 
would be sent to fight Imperial Wars was over, it's easy to see how the 
bottom fell out of the anti-war movement. Recent Imperial Wars, fought 
predominantly with "volunteers," are just as heinous as Vietnam, but with 
few highly-educated, comfortable kids' lives being on the line, we have yet 
to see anything approaching the across-the-board, massive opposition that 
Vietnam engendered. (Astonishingly, this very year during yet another 
ill-fated Imperial misadventure, we saw the "Peace" Movement line up 
vociferously behind a proudly-stated "I'll hunt 'em down and kill 'em" 
warmonger for president!)

Same with Roe v Wade. A whole lot of steam went out of progressive social 
efforts once this same socioeconomic group could gain access to affordable, 
legal abortion. (It appears to be the sole bottom line litmus test still 
applied to the Democratic Party.) Remove the pain and the rulers gain.

It really did become -- remove the personal pain from these me firsters and 
the hiccup of resistance vanishes. I already felt that way about these two 
issues. But, Lisa's expansion of the concept to include the rise of the 
"Nonprofit Sector" put the final piece of the puzzle in place.

Nonprofit Careerism

Back there in Eisenhower days, an educated, middle class American youth 
could look forward to a future laid out lockstep towards either a position 
in the "Private Sector" (read: corporate drone) or in the "Public Sector" 
(read: political hack).

Those who got too far out there protesting the War or Racism or any other 
outrage soon found themselves with a blot on the resume. Not to worry; soon 
corporate America set up the "third" leg of the stool. The entire domain of 
nonprofit institutions (arts, culture, environment, etc.) found and 
embraced a collective identity as the "Nonprofit Sector" sometime in the 
early 1970s. Ludicrously, their self-declared title has recently become 
"The Independent Sector."

Prior to that time, most of these types of organizations, were for-profit 
entities. With the advent of tax incentives, a plethora of corporate-funded 
grant-making foundations arose as companies morphed from private to 
nonprofit to take advantage of the tax rules. For example: In 1930, only a 
quarter of hospitals were nonprofit, about 35% government run and another 
40% were private for-profits. By 1970, over half were nonprofit and just 
12% privately owned.

Entire college programs have sprung up, such as Wayne State University's 
Nonprofit Sector Studies Program (NPSS). The NPSS mission sates, "The 
nation's fastest growing sector needs administrators, policy makers, 
program managers, and advocates who will guide them into the future"

According to The NonProfit Times survey, the mean salaries for top 
nonprofit employees for 2003 were:

     Executive director/CEO/president- $88,749
     Chief financial officer- $60,675
     Program director- $52,253
     Planned giving officer- $62,019
     Development director- $55,807
     Major gifts officer- $56,850
     Chief of direct marketing- $52,812
     Director of volunteers- $35,267
     Webmaster- $38,498
     Chief of technology- $58,595.

Lisa is correct. People could have their little impact antiauthority flings 
as a college youth and still have a well-compensated career as one of those 
administrators, etc. And corporate America could continue its depredations 
and whitewash its impacts by sending out an army of increasingly 
ineffective nonprofit professionals.

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/donnelly12272004.html

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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