A Third US Social Forum?

Tue, 2012-11-13 09:50

What’s been happening since the Detroit USSF

Many who attended the Detroit USSF have wondered when the next US Social Forum will be, and organizers are strategizing about how best to move forward from what many saw as a very successful US Social Forum in Detroit. Amid the excitement and energy of the immediate aftermath of Detroit’s USSF, there was also recognition that organizing the social forum takes a big toll on the people doing the work, especially local groups in Detroit. The National Planning Committee (NPC) met in the months following the USSF to consider whether another USSF should be planned and what such a gathering should look like. There is recognition that the Social Forum process is a tool for movement-building, and the discussions focused on how best to use this tool.

True to the model of organizing in the World Social Forum process, we want to be mindful and intentional about our work. In other words, holding another national gathering along the same lines as the Atlanta and Detroit forums should only be done if it contributes to our overall movement building goals. Many participants also insisted that the process should reflect the overall values of our movement and avoid burning out local organizing committees. NPC members assessed the costs and benefits of organizing a large national meeting, and have been developing their thinking about how best to move forward in this “political moment.” 

In January 2012, NPC organizers met in Detroit, where they decided to continue our movement-building work with an eye towards a national meeting of some sort in 2014. A plan for a 2013 gathering to follow the presidential elections was seen as a way to help build momentum in this direction. Over subsequent months, a “transition team” of NPC members met to develop ideas from the January meeting, including ideas for moving forward and for restructuring the National Planning Committee. The transition team put out this statement on the urgency of the political moment and the challenges to the USSF process (see below).

The People’s Movement Assembly process has continued to develop around goal of growing social movement as catalysts for change and building convergence between and among movements. The process requires slow and steady building where grassroots forces are consolidating toward justice, decolonization, and liberation. As a community governance and movement building process, the Peoples Movement Assembly has been tested and practiced over 200 times since 2006. Social Movement forces have organized assemblies to analyze conditions, synthesize political positions, and establish shared action plans across every front and many communities. Since the second US Social Forum in 2010, multiple groups have used the organizing process of the Peoples Movement Assemblies to launch PMAs in the South including Youth Assemblies, Preemptive Prosecution PMA, and regional assemblies, the Formerly Incarcerated PMA in February 2011, Detroit’s Assemblies in fall 2010 and early 2011, the PMA Southwest Organizing Tour in 2011, the Assembly to End Poverty, National Student Bill of Rights gatherings, the organizing & documentation tour in Fall 2011 ‘From Wall Street to the South,’ and the Queer Liberation PMA in January 2012. The PMA process in 2011 & 2012 has directly engaged over 3,000 people and advanced collaborative organizing efforts on many fronts. (See report on Southern Movement Assembly in this issue)

In addition, the USSF continues to maintain important connections with the World Social Forum process. NPC members, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign have been delegates to the International Council and have helped be liaisons between the USSF NPC and the international groups involved in the WSF. The March 2013 meeting will be a space for US groups to come together to develop statements and positions that will be brought to the 2013 World Social Forum in Tunis, Tunisia (March 23-28). A number of USSF participants also took part in the last WSF through the Detroit to Dakar delegation (Click here & Scroll down for February 2011 entries).

Currently, a number of USSF groups have been deeply involved in work to involve a delegation from the U.S. and Canada at the WSF Free Palestine in Porto Alegre, Brazil Nov. 28-Dec. 2. This historic meeting of activist groups from around the world to address the needs and concerns of Palestinians which have long been marginalized in inter-state politics is highly relevant to movement work in the United States. Divisions on the U.S. left over the issue of Palestine have complicated alliances in the past. Also, groups like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement are helping show the connections between issues such as mass incarceration and racism in U.S. institutions and the militarism and racism seen in the policies of states related to the Arab-Israeli conflict (For more information, see http://www.ussf2010.org/wsfpalestine).

NPC groups are preparing for another face-to-face meeting to assess the work that has been done to build on the two US Social Forums. We will consider how our work relates to the current political moment of intense crises that threaten both people’s livelihoods and the planet while also holding out new sources of hope as we witness the uprising of new actors and movements around the world. We will reflect on what we have learned from the USSF process and how we can maintain the good work that contributes to movement building while also expanding our capacities to reach more people and support more of the important struggles happening in grassroots communities around the country. A number of new observers will attend, and the meeting will consider ways to expand and restructure the NPC. We’ll report on all this in the next issue.

In this time of crisis, people need to believe that another world is indeed possible, and participants in the US Social Forum process are committed to continuing our work together to make that world a reality!