The importance of a resource base for trying to organize is hard to overstate. Much of the reason so much of the ‘left’ (such as it is) is based on or around campuses is resources: who else has the time, the space (I mean literally, the rooms), the opportunities.
Well, there are other bases. The churches, for example. Much of the Central America solidarity movement in the 1980s was organized through churches. I guess much of the very early civil rights movement in the US was organized around churches.
Of course, liberal non-governmental organizations and political organizations have tremendous resources and can provide these on occasion for real movement work. The anti-globalization movement of the 1990s and the WSFs are related to this resource base.
Still another base, and perhaps the most potentially powerful, is still the unions. Even the small percentage of the workforce that is unionized provides tremendous resources to major national organizations with major infrastructures, whose principal political activity seems to be supporting parties who have more contempt for working people even than the union bureaucracy does.
Every once in a while one of these bases provides enough resources to start something that takes on a life and a momentum of its own. That is what happened with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty some 15 years ago now. Begun with a tiny bit of union funding to organize some anti-poverty actions, OCAP took on a life of its own — and indeed became very critical of the limited resistance being offered by these unions that have such potential power (see this interview for some of that critique). But while OCAP definitely has a life of its own, including a movement base and an absolutely crucial function, the resource base has been drained away from it, and OCAP has been forced, as radical groups seem frequently to be forced, to rely on the most tenuous resource base — small donations from activists and sympathetic people. Below is their latest appeal for help with sustainable funding…
OCAP AGAIN HAS ITS BACK TO THE WALL AND IS UNABLE TO PAY ITS ORGANIZERS:
An Appeal for Emergency Donations AND Sustaining Solidarity
A few months ago, OCAP issued a statement on a financial crisis that meant it could not pay its organizers and meet basic obligations around the running of its office. A generous response pulled us out of that crisis but, unfortunately, the level of regular, sustaining donations did not come up nearly enough. For that reason, we are again in a grim situation and our organizers have not been paid on time.
The number of calls we receive and respond to ie. the welfare, tenant, disability, immigration, essential service cutoff casework we do, the provincial offence tickets we fight and so on, have not decreased. OCAP is hated by those in power and those who prop them up because it starts with the needs of those it fights for. If the City tries to push poor street sellers out of Chinatown, we defend them regardless of the fact that this puts us on a collision course with avowed progressive Olivia Chow. If hotel workers ask for our help when their own union lets them down, we act without worrying too much about the enemies we make in the ranks of labour officialdom.
This is a time when the need for a serious poor peoples’ organization is greater than ever. The task of implementing the social and political agenda of the banks and corporations has been handed to those who are skilled in presenting a gentler image than that of the upfront reactionaries they’ve replaced. Dalton McGuinty promised change and gives us a low key brand of the same as before. David Miller talked of a new kind of Toronto but, under him, the social cleansing of the homeless by cops and City officials rivals anything Mel Lastman ever set in motion.
Our funding options are limited and it is to those who agree with the stands we take that we must turn. We don’t run a lavish operation. It takes a bit more than $4,500.00 a month to run our office. That’s one full-time and two part-time organizers, our rent, utilities, phone and supplies for community meals and meetings. Thanks to the great solidarity of CUPE 3903, our rent is covered. Small regular sustaining donations meet the cost of our phone bill. However, our organizers are still relying on the hit and miss one time donations that people send us. Those donations are always greatly appreciated, of course, (we certainly need some of them right now) but the real issue is to extend our base of regular donations.
OCAP’s struggle to create a model of resistance at the base has won it respect throughout Canada and even internationally. People organizing in many different places have been influenced by our work and we ask supporters everywhere to help us build the resources we must have to develop and win. Details on the fights we are taking up can be followed by going to our website at www.ocap.ca
Those who want to help sustain OCAP’s work can send us post dated cheques or call/email us for the simple details on how to arrange for regular direct deposit donations. Please act without delay. Ask friends and progressive organizations to come to our help and send all support you can to:
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty,
10 Britain Street,
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
10 Britain St. Toronto, ON M5A 1R6
416-925-6939 firstname.lastname@example.org www.ocap.ca