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What They Don't Tell You About Leftist Delegations

by Che Guevara Sunday, Apr. 05, 2009 at 10:24 AM

Know before you go.

Many leftist organizations, especially those who sponsor or engage in work in other countries offer special programs that they refer to as “delegations.”  These organizations range from Central America solidarity organizations to spiritual community organizations.  Going on a delegation can bring you in contact with many people and situations that you would never encounter by being a simple tourist or by traveling on business.  This aspect of participating in a delegation can be rewarding.  However, there is a dark side to the delegation gimmick and this essay seeks to make leftists aware of this dark side.  My intention is not to discourage participation in delegations.  On the contrary, my intention is to make volunteers more knowledgeable about the process they are participating in.  I feel compelled to do this because I believe most delegations are handled in a deceitful and manipulative way.  If you are aware of this beforehand, you will be better prepared to put your experiences into perspective and to better understand the people who are responsible for you when you are in a foreign land under their control.

I have been on several delegations with both solidarity organizations and spiritual organizations.  I have seen the delegation process both as participant and as an insider within an organization that offers delegations.  What I have learned is not very pleasant.  For the most part, these delegations are volunteer examples of the classic “bait and switch” technique used by unethical businesses.

When you read the information provided to you by an organization sponsoring delegations you will invariably read  about how the delegation is a learning experience and how you will be brought in contact with real people suffering sad realities.  This is true, but not in the way you will perceive it.  Yes, it will be a learning experience.  Everything in life is a learning experience.  Just walking down the street is a learning experience.  Only  in this case, you will learn exactly what it is that the sponsoring organization wants you to learn.  For example, you will not be free to experience the reality in your destination country exactly as it really is.  Instead, you will be herded together as a delegation and led through a sequence of short encounters with preselected individuals who will repeat scripts they have repeated dozens of times before.  They will do this not because they want to educate you, but because you are there and they need your time occupied for the length of your stay.

Now, at first this sounds silly, but it is not.  If you understand the real reason that delegations exist, then the fact that everyone you meet on the delegation has met you to while away your time will come as no surprise.  The key to understanding the delegation gimmick is this: delegations are about money and only money.  That's the whole truth.  The only reason these organizations provide the “opportunity” to participate in a delegation is that delegations are big money earners.  If the sponsoring organization could just debit your bank account at will, there would be no delegations.

OK, so you've agreed to go on a delegation.  You will be told either to pay for your own transportation directly or you will be told that your transportation is included in the fee you pay for the delegation.  Whether the fee included transportation or not, it will definitely include the cost of meals and lodging.  One particular Central America solidarity organization also requires that you provide them with some large figure that they call your “spending money.”  Now, here is what will happen with this money.

You will find out that your lodging is cramped.  Other delegates will be crammed into the same room you are staying in.  The room will probably be in one of the worst hotels available.  It was chosen not for your security but for price.  Consequently, your lodging will be incredibly cheap for the sponsoring organization.  This cheap lodging price will not be reflected in the fee you pay for the delegation.  You may imagine that you are paying about $30 dollars per night for lodging, but you are really paying about $5.00 per night for lodging.   As for food, an attempt will be made to skip some meals along the way.  When food is provided, it will be inadequate and you will be pressured to consume as little as possible.  The reason for this is that all of the money that can be shaved off of your fee will be divided between the sponsoring organization and the groups you visit in the foreign country.  The goal is to progressively switch those funds you think you paid for food and lodging with nothing.  The consequence is a large sum of unspent money which will then be appropriated by the sponsoring organization.

I mentioned that one Central America solidarity group also wants you to hand over a few hundred dollars in spending money.  That money, you will be told, is to be held by your group leader.  At the end of the delegation, you will expect to get that money back because, rather than spending the “spending money” they took from you, you spent additional money you had in your pocket.  Of course, you could have asked your group's leader to give you some of that spending money, but he or she would have told you that is would be better to hold it for later in case some unexpected necessary expense presented itself.  That being the case, you spent money money you never thought you'd need to spend.  At the end of the delegation, you will be asked to donate that mandatory spending money, now held by your group leader, over to one of the organizations you are visiting in the foreign country.  When you say, “actually, I need that spending money I lent you and did not use”, they will tell you, “We were so sure you would agree to donate it that we already gave it to them.”  Put simply, they will steal your spending money.  They intended to steal it all along.  You were deceived.

Silly Meal Tickets in El Salvador

If you are the typical leftist, you dream that when visiting these organizations overseas, you might find some meaningful way to participate in their mission.  Perhaps you imagine that by making these contacts, you will have the opportunity to help out directly, in person, someday.  For the most part, this is exactly what the sponsoring organization does not want to see happen.  All they want is your money.  If you directly participate, you take away from them the opportunities you are funding.  You see, the members and officers of your sponsoring organization want to do these very same things you are dreaming about and the whole purpose of dragging you down there is to extract enough money from you to pay for THEIR dream of directly assisting these causes THEMSELVES.  For the sponsoring organization, you are nothing more than a meal ticket.  The same thing hold true for the individuals and organizations you meet when in the field.

Now that you know this, you can go on delegations and control the situation in a way that prevents your sponsor from exploiting you.  Here are my tips for taking full advantage of the experience of going on a delegation.

  1. Find  out where your delegation will be  lodging you.  Use the Internet to find a better hotel nearby. Book reservations at the better hotel and just kiss the lodging part of your fee goodbye. When you arrive, take a look at your room and tell the sponsors, “Are you fucking kidding me? I'm not going to stay in this dump!”  Tell them that you're getting a room somewhere else.  (Alternatively, say nothing and slip out in the evening to go to your better hotel).  Ask them what time everyone is meeting up in the morning and then go to your better hotel and stay there.
  2. When you go to a restaurant with the group, order whatever you want to eat and then offer to pay the difference above the average cost of a meal.
  3. Before you go, do some research.  Make a list of the organizations or individuals you would like to meet while you're in the foreign country.  Contact them.  Tell them you'll be in the country on a delegation and arrange to meet them.  Leave your delegation when things get boring and visit the organization you really want to meet with.
  4. Whenever possible, talk with people you are not introduced to.
  5. If you are single and looking, go out to a club some night whether your sponsors like it or not. If they decide to kick you off the delegation for it, who cares?  You already have your own hotel room and you probably have your return tickets.  You might form a friendship with a local person and that will give you a reason to come back again in the future (without a delegation).  In my case, doing this led to marriage.
  6. Consider the fee to be your donation to the organization.  That's all they really care about anyway.  If you can let them keep all of the fee while not getting in their hair, they probably won't care.
  7. Remember that organization you picked yourself (number 3 above)?  That is the organization you want to engage, in person, in the future.  After all, if they met with you and you have something to offer them, they will let you know.  Unlike the organizations you are assigned by the delegation to see, you are not a piece of meat they are processing.
  8. Finally, and this is essential to pulling this off, when some whining politically correct android from the sponsoring organization tell you that she would rather see you donate all this additional money you are spending to her organization, just tell her to “fuck off” and don't feel bad about it.  After all, she is part of a deception to extract money from you for her future use.  In fact, a part of all of the individual fees paid for her trip. You owe her nothing.

Have fun!
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