The NGO sector: The Trojan horse of capitalism

The NGO sector: The Trojan horse of capitalism

There is very little theory out there about the issue of the NGO sector and the way it affects the social struggle. This is a translated version of a pamphlet written by "Crn Blok" - an anarchist group from Macedonia, where all dissent is being suffocated by a large number of various NGOs and their army of full-time professional "freedom fighters".

There is a good reason why we, anarchists, would pay some attention to the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) sector, principally because the general public considers this "third sector" as a tool for democratisation of society, and even worse, as an alternative to the struggle against centralized authority, oppression, poverty and all the other collective misfortunes of the people. To us, this is yet another of the great deceptions of capitalism that serve to keep the illusion of choice and freedom alive. That thing about the elections - that they'd be illegal if they could really change anything - applies to the NGO sector as well, which, beside being tolerated and even encouraged by every government, is still believed to be a mechanism for struggle against the injustice, an antipode of the government and a platform for participation in the political discourse.

In opposition, we believe it has a very different role: to become a mediator between the government and the people, thus suppressing people's anger; to convert the potential uncontrollable dissent into a calm, peaceful, legal, controlled, institutionalized and completely harmless discontent; to support capitalism, by creating a good image for the corporations and by propagating the ruling ideology; and finally, to create an illusion of struggling for a change.

The need to write a pamphlet like this one stems from our own great problem of constantly having to deal with the NGOs and their continuous efforts to institutionalize every single form of dissent we manage to organise in Macedonia, thus condemning all our efforts to a definite failure. We are aware, though, that the impact of the NGOs on the social struggle elsewhere, especially in the western countries, is different than here, and probably of a lesser scale. But although our conclusions in this text are largely based on our experiences here in Macedonia and wider in the Balkans, we believe that the general statements about the role of the NGOs on a global scale apply in every region.

The pamphlet has been issued by the anarchist group "Crn Blok" based in Skopje, Macedonia. (

The NGO sector - the Trojan horse of capitalism.pdf216.09 KB


Oct 30 2013 13:01

Thanks for this. I am trying to put together some critical thoughts on charity as a capitalist social form in general and this will be very helpful.

Joseph Kay
Oct 30 2013 13:30

Yeah this looks good, thanks. Have bookmarked and will try and read through it when I get a chance. At a time when political party and trade union membership has been falling steadily, NGOs have been growing, so developing a good understanding and critique is important.

Serge Forward
Oct 30 2013 13:39

Agreed, this looks really interesting, will read it later.

I've often thought that NGOs could do with a swift kick up their righteous jacksy. From my experience, charities and such like tend to have piss poor labour practices and often treat their own workers like shit. They generally do this on the basis that employees should make sacrifices in the name of charidee or 'the cause'.

Oct 30 2013 14:50

I haven't read it, but there's also the book "The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex".

Oct 31 2013 11:21

Still like Negri's characterisation of NGOs as "the mendicant orders of Empire".

Understandable that this critique should come from ex-Stalinist regions where the ideology of "civil society" was given such importance - NGOs would of course see themselves as the vanguard of civil society. Particularly in a region like parts of FRY where international interests, whether state bodies of the EU or US, or more private initiatives like Soros's foundation, etc, have strong incentives (and hence budgets) to meddle in the name of "regional stability".

Nov 26 2013 17:24

Macedonia is not ex-Stalinist, but ex-Titoist region. Little difference, but of really great importance for understanding past and present.

Dec 26 2013 10:53

This subject is quite interesting, but I think before any further is written it might be useful to deliniate between the tactics that NGO's use - the sector is broader than suggested in the above post. I see a huge difference between organisations like Comic Relief and Oxfam who generally seem to be supporting individual actions to redistribute wealth and more forward thinking organisations who I believe are directly tackling the root issues in a similar way that anarchist organisations aim to (but just funded). I see organisations whose campaign targets show that there is some good analysis of the state/corporatism as a positive influence on anarchist goals and different from the previously mentioned NGO's which support individual action. In recent weeks a good example of this could be Greenpeace's save the arctic banner drops at the Grand Prix and Real Madrid press conference.
If anyone is planning on writing something longer about this I would be interested in hearing 1) a delineation between different types of NGO/ campaigning organisation 2) if it is still believed that all NGO's are damaging then a broader justiciation.

Dec 27 2013 12:36

Must agree with the general drift of the arguments put forward in this pamphlet which apply just as much to the UK as anywhere else. The ideological role of NGO's, including the reformist campaigning ones like Greenpeace, is fundamentally supportive to the maintenance of the present global capitalist system and many others are operationally an integrated part of the corporative state apparatus and need to be viewed that way, even by those who may end up working for them as opposed to some other state or private enterprise. Such an awareness however doesn't necessarily get us very far in our day to day activity as individual workers and consumers in this society when the possibilities for collective class based struggle are not permanently open to us and compromises with both the state and NGO's are often unavoidable. The pamphlet perhaps places too much emphasis on an individual attitude of rebellion and overemphasises the practical results of much small scale 'direct action' in it's attempt to sharply contrast the ineffectiveness of NGO campaigning?

Mar 14 2016 22:58

This was awesome, thanks a bunch!