Reflecting on the 2010 US Social Forum: Video Excerpts

The US Social Forum is the largest gathering of social movement
forces in the United States. In 2007, the first US Social Forum was
held in Atlanta. That meeting led to the formation of a number of
national networks that brought together people of color-led social
justice organizations. Over the last few years several of those groups
National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Day Labor Organizing
Network
, Jobs with Justice, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, the
Pushback Network, and Right to the City – came together to form the
Inter-Alliance Dialogue.

These promising moves towards ever-increasing levels of organization
and a newfound openness to explicitly left politics meant the 2010 US
Social Forum was an exciting place to be. For the first time explicitly
left organizations like ourselves (FRSO/OSCL) and the League of Revolutionaries for a New America (LRNA) welcomed onto the USSF
national planning committee. Our emphasis on left refoundation work made
the US Social Forum a natural fit.

With the decision to hold the next U.S. Social Forum at ground zero of
economic crisis, Detroit was chosen as the location. Capitalism had
abandoned Detroit. The city’s infrastructure was in shambles.
In many ways, modern-day Detroit is what the results of neoliberal policies looks like.
Yet, in spite of widespread poverty and injustice, alternatives like urban gardens and
farms, the Boggs Center, and other grassroots struggles were springing
up. Three days of the forum were planned — the first on local
struggles, the second on political economy, and the third on
alternatives.

The plenary that this footage is excerpted from was part of the third
day and was focused on current examples of visionary and pre-figurative
work. All of the speakers are working to build alternatives now
that prove, in microcosm, that the world we want to build is possible.
All who spoke are involved in concrete programs as well as developing a
theoretical basis for action. They present both models and theories of
hope for a different future.

While a date for the next U.S. Social Forum has not been set, this
posting, we hope, will move us towards that next good meeting.

Highlights:

Sendolo Diaminah, speaking from his experiences with People’s Durham
in North Carolina, talked about building pre-figurative, democratic
alternatives on the local level. In Durham this group is looking at how
we, as a movement, can shift from resistance fights to building new
forms of power and new systems of governance. Sendolo cites a theory of
municipal socialism, laid out in an article entitled “New Kids on the
Historic Bloc,”
that lays out a possible path for those most oppressed
by capitalism to experiment with what it looks like to govern. People’s
Durham is attempting to build this model which brings together
resistance organizations, independent survival institutions, and local
electoral work. Their work of this past year focused on countering the
neoliberal attack on the public sector through fights to transform
public education.

Jihan Gearon of the Indigenous Environmental Network spoke about her
experience growing up on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction on a
Navajo reservation in Arizona, an experience shared by many indigenous
communities around the world. In mammy ways this experience of being
economically dependent on one’s own cultural destruction is one that
indigenous people’s may feel more acutely but which we all face under
capitalism. Jihan shared how IEN is taking the lead in challenging
false solutions to the climate crisis, like “clean coal,” nuclear power,
or carbon markets and fighting for what’s truly needed instead of
fighting for what’s “politically realistic”.

Rob Witherell who works with the United Steel Workers spoke about the
worker cooperatives of Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain, which
built the fourth largest appliance producer in Europe from a small
community school. “To build a business that puts people ahead of
profits – pretty radical notion.” (This was mainly filmed from the room
monitor.)

Daniel Tygel, Executive Secretary of Brazilian Solidarity Economy
talked about the necessity of combining denunciation of the system,
resistance, and building alternatives. “We must be able to show that
another economy is possible but more than that, another society is
possible. We must build a framework of happiness.”

Amenothep Zambrano, executive secretary of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America spoke about the burgeoning bloc in Latin America and the Caribbean that is attempting to challenge US hegemony and create an alternative to the capitalist system. He said the principles directing ALBA – solidarity, cooperation, complentarity, equity and justice – are diametrically opposed to those driving neoliberalism, and that in order to resolve the multiple crises we are facing we must change property relations, creating a more fair distribution of wealth. We cannot expect to solve these crises through capitalism.

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