Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A little media on the Social Forum

by Barbara Clancy

Here's some good questions asked and answered about the seemingly "controlled chaos" of the US Social Forum, by Mark Engler in this article in Yes! Hat tip to Erin Polgreen of The Media Consortium.

Engler writes:

Whenever the social forum speaks of itself as the future of the U.S. Left, vexing issues arise: Can any coherent political program emerge from an amorphous, multi-issue assembly? Can we formulate a vision of the Left without more serious participation from key progressive constituencies such as organized labor? Can the collection of radicals and community-based organizations that are present here become a political force with mainstream reach, or are they too self-marginalizing? The answers are not easy to come by, and non-starry-eyed attendees can easily grow wary in contemplating such imposing matters.

Where the social forum thrives, in contrast, is in smaller moments, free of grand pretense. Walking the halls and seeing a seemingly endless stream of organizers, urban gardeners, filmmakers, human rights workers, energetic students, and community activists can be subtly uplifting. Occasionally, the conversations generated within this collection of people can be transcendent.

But the "only connect" the Forum offers is not just a matter of inspiration, but action. Engler points out the 2007 forum saw the founding of the Domestic Workers Alliance, which recently passed a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in New York State and is at work to expand this victory nationwide. Concrete action and solid organizing--most of it by people overlooked by both the media and the big non-profit organizations--came out of Atlanta, and will assuredly come out of Detroit, too. The synergy between food security and urban agriculture groups at a Saturday presentation, for instance, shows that Detroit community activists are very aware of how their work is part of the widest movements against racism and for popular democracy and human rights, and are not shy about holding more mainstream allies accountable for their own relationships with class, race, and corporate domination.

As Engler says, "at the US Social Forum, as in everyday political life, you can find plenty of things to feel cynical about. But you can also find people in whose presence it is a privilege to be. Those who leave motivated by that all-too-uncommon experience will rarely regret the effort taken to find it." The forum was a great place for democracy and governance activists to be--a big thank you to our members who helped get us and our message there this year!

No comments: