What we do
Het Actiefonds is independent and revolutionary. We are a fund for activism. Since 1968 we have been raising funds among individual donors to finance activists globally who share our vision of a just and sustainable society. These are the people who take the lead in resisting the injustices that the ruling order inflicts on those who are less powerful. People who believe that things can – and must – be different.
Bottom-up social change
We are convinced that real change is always initiated and realised bottom-up. Change happens when enough people exert enough pressure on the powers that be, just like big social transformations have always been realised through people power in defiance of the rich and mighty.
Our goal, therefore, is to support budding social movements. We give activists and social movements the financial means necessary to organise themselves, speak out and, ultimately, realise positive change. The combination of a global outlook with small-scale local action is typical of the unique way in which we work.
We believe whole-heartedly in the inspiring and transformative effects of peaceful direct action. This type of action makes us realise that alternatives to the status quo exist. It forces us to think about how we want to organise a different society. It enables people to make the unthinkable possible, to construct a vision of a better world and act on it. Direct action, as the immediate resistance against the ruling order, is indispensable for fanning the flames of hope. The Actiefonds therefore prefers supporting this type of concrete, direct action, wherever it is taking place.
The Actiefonds is critical and independent. This means that our income consists of the donations of individuals who support our vision and our goals. By not accepting money from governments, corporations or political parties, we are able to support, without compromise, activists who are critical of the ruling order and its established interests.
Do you agree with this vision? Consider becoming a donor! Thanks to your donations we are able to continue supporting social movements that are fighting for a better world.
Het Actiefonds was founded in 1968, as part of a broad social movement advocating a more fair global distribution of wealth.
It started with the so-called “Pleingroep” that resisted the then-government decision, in 1954 to lower taxes in order to stimulate consumption. This group rejected the tax cut and demanded that the government spend their tax money on poverty relief in what was then called the “Third World”.
This “Pleingroep”, taking their name from two-weekly demonstrations on The Hague’s central square (called Het Plein), at some point went so far as to calculate the amount they would save as a result of the tax cut, and attempted to give it back to the Ministry of Finance. It appeared, however, that paying taxes voluntarily was impossible…
Four years later, in 1958, the General Assembly of the United Nations asked rich countries to reserve one percent of their national product for the development of the “Third World”. The Pleingroep immediately heeded this call and sent their donations to Novib, which would go on to deposit it to the UN.
The X-Y campaign – 1968
This focus on freely giving money to the benefit of the deprived cohered in the 1968 call by the World Council of Churches to structurally donate for developmental aid. In the form of a “self-tax” individual Christians in developed countries were urged to give an amount corresponding to the difference between what their governments were actually spending and what they were supposed to spend on developmental aid. This campaign was called X minus Y, where X was the amount of money each government should be spending and Y the amount they really spent.
The difference – X minus Y – is what participants in the campaign were expected to donate. In the Netherlands it was Novib that led the action. The members of the former “Pleingroep” received a letter informing them that they were now part of the “X-Y action for a world tax”.
More support came quickly. Protestant churches joined the campaign, but also the Dutch Labour Party and the Dutch Liberal Democrats. The required amount up until 1972 was calculated and requested. Of the money that was thereby raised one half went to the UN and the other half was used to support projects in the “Third World”. The Mozambican liberation movement Frelimo, protestant students in Chile, and the Grandam movement in India which was fighting for a fairer distribution of land, were among the first to receive aid.
X-Y becomes an independent foundation – the seventies
In 1970 the X minus Y action changed course: the link between fund raising and government spending on developmental aid was dropped. The purpose of the campaign was now to raise awareness in the Netherlands and to directly support projects that for political reasons weren’t able to get subsidies elsewhere, including urgent and secret projects. The campaign became a full-fledged independent foundation (called simply X-Y), cut its ties with Novib and started focusing on structural change in developing countries. Liberation movements started receiving support, while the fund’s contribution to the UN was cancelled. X-Y would remain the name of the organisation for the next couple of decades, until it was changed to Het Actiefonds (‘The Action Fund’).
Projects in The Netherlands – the eighties
In the 1980’s X-Y decided that activists and social movements in the Netherlands would also be eligible for financial aid from the fund: the anti-nuclear energy movement and the squatting movement are examples. Towards the end of the decade X-Y started the successful campaign “Media for Resistance” with the aim of building support for the radio stations of resistance movements in El Salvador and Eritrea, among others.
New campaigns and initiatives – from the nineties until today
The scope of the X-Y campaigns continued to widen in the 1990’s. The campaign “Heineken out of Burma” had the purpose of getting the multinational beer brewing company out of the dictatorially ruled country and at the same time attracting new donors. Both goals were achieved: Heineken did leave and X-Y gained many new donors. Other campaigns carried out in the ‘90’s ranged from support for Kurdish autonomy, resistance against weapons deals with Indonesia, neoliberal policies in the Netherlands and support for sexual minorities globally.
In the new millennium new initiatives and campaigns were launched, such as the infamous “Bureau Zwart-Werk”, which was a job agency for “illegal” immigrants in order to raise awareness about the harsh living conditions of migrants in the Netherlands. Other actions included the protests against the legal obligation to carry identification at all times, while X-Y also became part of the anti-globalisation movement.
Ever more projects, ranging from anti-racism, feminism, environmental activism, the struggle for land rights, labour rights and other social rights, anywhere on the globe, are being supported.
50 year anniversary
Het Actiefonds celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018 and finally shed its old name, its old logo and its old website. From now on we are known as Het Actiefonds – The Action Fund – as this name directly expresses what we do, have done in the past, and will continue to do as long as necessary: to fund radical actions across the globe, and fight the status quo.