Twenty thousand movement organizers and activists from diverse organizations and fronts of struggle across the United States, Canada, and the world are expected to converge at the second United States Social Forum (USSF) in Detroit, Michigan, from June 22 to June 26, 2010.
A virtual “ground zero” for the global economic meltdown and social destruction wreaking havoc throughout our communities, Detroit and Michigan are today a battleground around concrete political questions about whom the U.S. government is going to serve. The questions of whether people are going to have housing, water, and schools, and of nationalization of auto and health care, are immediate and real there.
Just like the people of Detroit, Michigan, and the whole United States, participants in the U.S. Social Forum are going to be grappling with the question, "which way forward?" Can we address the needs of those who no longer have a place in the economic system without also taking on the struggle against corporate power and control in society, and for a government that acts in the interest of its people?
The U.S. Social Forum presents the revolutionaries involved in it with a “teachable moment,” an opportunity to grapple with what it will take to coalesce the scattered struggles represented there along that crucial political edge.
Some Social Forum History
The beginning of the Social Forum process and the first World Social Forum (WSF) in 2001were preceded by a number of struggles that threatened “business as usual” for the international meetings of the managers of international capitalism. Among the most noted were the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 and the Battle in Seattle to protest the convocation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999. The call for the first WSF went out to fighters who were protesting global capitalism to gather in January 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and present an alternative to the corporate and political representatives of capital meeting at the same time in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum.
The slogan of the World Social Forum, “Another world is possible,” reflects the attempts of its participants, not only to protest global capitalism – its exploitation, its oppression, its wars, its destruction of society and nature, and its neoliberal policies – but also to envision an alternative future. Activists and organizations from continents around the world responded to the call. From its convening in 2001 to 2009, the WSF has been held in Latin America, Asia, and Africa and has grown from 15,000 to well over 100,000 participants at its gathering in Belem, Brazil.
The WSF International Council asked grassroots activists and organizers in the United States to bring the Social Forum to the United States. The first USSF was organized in Atlanta, Georgia in the summer of 2007. Several years of education and organizing insured that organizations of low-income workers representing the cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity of the U.S. working class were at the table and, most importantly, in the leadership of the process.
Fifteen thousand participants from 1,000 organizations, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam, and internationally from 68 countries were present. The slogan of the U.S. Social Forum, “Another world is possible; Another U.S. is necessary,” reflects the understanding that reconstructing the world to meet human needs isn’t possible without a vision of and fight for a fundamentally different United States, given the strategic place the United States occupies in the global political economy.
The second USSF will be held in Detroit under new conditions of deepening economic and social crisis and growing political instability. The addition of “A New Detroit is Underway” to this year’s slogans points toward the developing social motion and political awakening that is beginning in Detroit and the Rust Belt, and the choices facing workers across the United States.
The economic and social struggles developing today in the United States are part of an emerging, objectively revolutionary process. Many of those struggles will be represented in the Social Forum process, and thousands of those participating will be searching for answers to questions about the road ahead. Armed with an understanding of history and the class forces in conflict today, these emerging revolutionaries can become part of an independent political force that is conscious of its class interests and has the capacity to act on these interests to construct a new cooperative and egalitarian society.
This historic moment
The late 20th century and early 21st century have seen major structural shifts in the global capitalist economy, the rise of neoliberal policies, increasing war, and ecological destruction. The content of the economic revolution is the reorganization of the economy around the new electronic tools and technology that are labor-replacing, thus driving millions of workers in the United States and globally into permanent unemployment and low-wage contingent jobs. This leap in the economy is the basis for the soaring poverty, dispossession, and social destruction throughout the world.
During the same decades, the global political environment has shifted as the Cold War ended. In this context, the World Social Forum process was seen by anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist activists and organizations as a place where they could gather, dialogue, network, and strategize.
The work of these activists and organizations over the last several decades has been grounded in objective struggles for basic necessities – food, water, housing, health care, education, jobs and wages, clean air, and more – and to be free from police violence and state terror. These struggles, defensive rather than offensive, are in response to the rollback of the reforms of the 20th century as the capitalist economic system contracts and moves toward crisis.
Today’s ongoing practical struggles confront the deepening economic crisis of global capitalism, polarization of absolute wealth and poverty, and the growing section of society that is unemployed, poor, and dispossessed. The economic disruption in society and the inability of millions of people to secure the essentials of life are forcing them, their organizations, and movements into a political struggle against the capitalist state that bails out Wall Street and the corporations, but not the people.
The USSF and tasks of revolutionaries
A perspective of a section of those participating in the U.S. Social Forum is that neoliberal policies can be rolled back, Keynesianism and the welfare state can be restored, and capitalism can be reformed. For others the answer is the abolition of global capitalism in all its forms and a transformative process for construction of a socialist economy and society on the path to communism.
As the crisis of capitalism intensifies, more and more people begin to see that the fight ahead of us in this period is different than that in earlier periods in the United States and globally. Increasing political instability and polarization, and the growing fight of those dispossessed by capitalism presents an opportunity to propagandize, agitate, and educate so that the scattered mass struggles can be transformed into a class struggle for political power. That is going to require that revolutionaries deepen class-consciousness, the vision of communism, and political strategy for the path to power.
Concrete struggles for human needs are the vehicle that can change society if people are armed with the understanding that the crisis of global capitalism is systemic; that revolution is the historic project of our times; and that communism, a cooperative society based in the abundance that electronic-based production makes possible, is the next stage of human history.
For more information on the USSF, visit their web page at www.ussf2010.org
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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