So how have challenges to capitalism been funded and what have been the results of such challenges in the long run? The initial grand system changing challengers like Proudhon, Blanqui, Saint Simon, Marx and the like all hailed from the middle or upper classes and either survived on donations from the wealthy or conducted businesses themselves which were at variance with what they preached. Consequently they did not get very far. The Paris commune of 1872 was the first socialist Government to come to power and it lasted just two months because it did not have the funds to withstand the onslaught of the Capitalist French State which it had displaced. The Bolsheviks, who brought about the revolution in Russia, learnt their lessons from the failure of the Paris Commune and immediately took control of the state apparatus even though they were in a minority at the time of the October Revolution in 1917. Prior to that the Bolsheviks depended on individual donations from wealthy sympathisers and robberies, kidnappings and various other skullduggery to garner funds. However, to remain in control of the State apparatus they initiated an authoritarian system which was far removed from the ideal of proletarian freedom that they had initially spoken about. In fact the Soviet Union deteriorated into a State Capitalist system within a decade of the revolution. Most socialist revolutions following this were also flawed by the use of force and dubious funds.
The less said about the more passive brand of social reformers the better. Not just the modern ones like Vivekananda and Gandhi, but even people like the Buddha were all supported in their endeavours by well heeled power brokers of their day and so in the end were never able to challenge the systems of power which they ostensibly set out to change. Thoreau, who is feted by anarchists the world over for his advocacy of individual and small community freedom used to depend on the income from a pencil factory and mine in which he exploited his his employees to provide him with income to pursue his anarchist dreams. Anarchists like Kropotkin, Bakunin and Tolstoy were all princes or well to do people and anyway they were mainly theoreticians with limited activist programmes.
Then there is the trade union movement. Initially it fought its battles with the contributions of the workers and that remained the trade unions' main source of funds. When initial gains were made and job security gained in the organised industries and services these trade unions became restricted to themselves instead of using their funds to further trade unionism in the unorganised sector. Currently capitalism has reinvented itself in such a way that production and services can be outsourced at the drop of a hat and the power of trade unions in the organised sector and so their finances are on the wane. The unorganised sector remains as weak as ever and is dependent on doles and philanthropy.
Since I have found that our own mobilisation work among the Bhils requires funding from capitalist sources and so is circumscribed by it in many ways I have been reading up on how various so called great social reformers and revolutionaries have funded their work and have found that in every case they have had capitalist funding in one way or the other and so in the end have not been able to mount the challenge to capitalism that they initially proclaimed as their goal.
In 1993 it became clear that the KMCS could not continue on ad hoc funding anymore given its spreading work. There was a debate within the organisation as to how to garner funds. While I advocated doing consultancies and accessing grant funds through the NGO Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra which we had registered earlier, others demurred and said that we should try for donations from individuals who felt that our work was worthwhile. I let the others have their way and left to pursue my own work elsewhere funded by consultancies for such dubious organisations as the World Bank and various US Foundations. Eventually the donation route did not yield much and DGVK had to be used for accessing grant funding. We have been able to retain some amount of independence and a radical programme because we access only minimal funding and still rely greatly on the voluntary contributions of time and labour of the Bhil members of the KMCS. However, even so our work is quite far from being a challenge to Capitalism because the members of the KMCS today are reconciled to making a place for themselves in the prevailing capitalist system rather than fight it to accord with the intellectual predilections of some of their activist colleagues!! Moreover, those in the KMCS who had objected to accessing grant funding now ask me to garner funds for them despite my telling them that the sources of these funds are dubious in ideological terms!!
The Aam Aadmi Party has provided a new model where they have garnered online donations and voluntary contributions of time and labour from ordinary people. They succeeded in coming to power in Delhi with a landslide victory on the back of these. But whether they will be able to sustain this model in the face of attacks from the State and Capitalists remains to be seen. However, since Arvind Kejriwal seems to think that he has single handedly brought about the AAP miracle there are already signs of his megalomania written large on the way the AAP is operating in Delhi!! There are many movements, some totally anarchist, others socialist and yet others a mixture of the two which are afoot across the world against capitalism but as far as I can see none of them are anywhere close to posing a serious challenge to the dominance of capitalism and the main reason is the lack of funding.
There are a lot of people writing all over the place that with the coming of the internet there is the possibility of challenging capitalism through decentralised mass action but this is so much poppycock. The internet is not only controlled by capitalists and the State but it and all communications generally are diligently monitored by their intelligence agencies. The other day I did an internet search for flights from Indore to Ahmedabad on Google. After that I have been continually getting adds in Gmail and in Facebook offering great deals for Indore to Ahmdebad flights!! That is the level of surveillance that is taking place and so the prospects of a challenge to capitalism are indeed dim.