The X-Y campaign – 1968
In 1968 the World Council of Churches made an appeal. Individual Christians, and others, in developed countries were urged to donate money to the ‘Third World’ in the form of a ‘self-tax’. This amount was supposed to correspond 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. Future members received a letter informing them that they were going to be part of the ‘X-Y action for a world tax’.
More support came quickly. Protestant churches joined the campaign, as well as the Dutch Labour Party, the Dutch Liberal Democrats, and others. 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 (simply called 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’).
During the seventies Het Actiefonds thereby stopped being a regular charity and became a highly political organisation instead, independent of its religious roots, that aimed at realising the revolutionary ideals of those times by supporting fundamental change world-wide. This has been the goal of the Het Actiefonds ever since.
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 an (unofficial) 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 Het Actiefonds also became part of the anti-globalisation movement.
With the proliferation of new social movements 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.