by David Green
Over 15,000 people attended the second U.S. Social Forum which was held in Detroit from June 22-26. The theme of the event was “Another world is possible”—an implicit critique of the failure of neoliberal policies over the last thirty years. The forum began with a march from the intersection of Woodward and Warren Avenues (near the Wayne State University campus) to Cobo Hall (the convention center which served as the headquarters for the U.S. Social Forum). There were nightly plenaries as well as People’s Movement Assemblies designed to formulate demands, commitments, and a shared vision of an alternative to the present neoliberal paradigm.
Groups from all over the country presented over 1000 workshops on topics as diverse as American foreign policy, the economic crisis, global warming, and trade unionism. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) presented five workshops:
- A Permanent Jobs Program for the United States—DSA member Bill Barclay outlined a program designed to create four million new jobs per year for five years. The program specifically targets sectors of the labor force hit hardest by the Great Recession and pairs new jobs with work that needs to be done (e.g., construction of new schools, retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, child care, elder care). Finally, Bill described a means for paying for this $867 billion program through a modest tax on financial transactions.
- Reclaiming the Ivory Towers: Students Achieving Access and Affordability—Michigan State University YDS co-chair Allison Voglesong explained the social consequences of the student debt crisis as well as the potential benefits of free higher education achieved through public investment in colleges, universities, and vocational schools.
- Movement Building and the Atlanta Fighting Foreclosures Coalition—Atlanta DSA chair Milt Tambor presented a successful model for building a coalition to pressure big banks into renegotiating mortgages with homeowners at risk of foreclosure.
- WTF is Socialism Anyway?—YDS organizer Erik Rosenberg and YDS leaders Sean Monaghan and Amber Frost presented a brief introduction to socialism for young progressives.
- Socialism is the Alternative—DSAers Joe Schwartz and David Schweikart, Communist Party USA representative Libero Della Piana, Committees of Correspondence representative Carl Davidson, and Freedom Road representative Eric See discussed a vision for 21st century socialism, why it is still relevant, and how we can promote unity among socialist organizations. The room for this workshop had to be expanded to accommodate the large audience.
The U.S. Social Forum promoted art and culture. There were daily concerts and performances in Hart Plaza adjacent to Cobo Hall. There were screenings of movies—including Oliver Stone’s new film “South of the Border”—in the auditorium of the AFSCME Council 25 Building. The U.S. Social Forum even arranged guided labor history tours of Detroit.
Finally, the U.S. Social Forum was fun. There were innumerable opportunities to socialize. There was a “Leftist Lounge” party for progressives. DSA even hosted an “Ice Cream Socialist” on the last full day of the forum which over 80 people attended.
David Green is chair of the Detroit Area DSA.