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‘Capitalism is killing us’

U.S. Social Forum meets in Detroit June 22-26

Published May 27, 2010 8:40 PM

Momentum is growing internationally for the United States Social Forum to be held June 22-26 in Detroit. Tens of thousands of progressive activists are expected to attend.

According to the USSF website, the days-long event is a movement-building process. “It is not a conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples’ solutions to the economic and ecological crisis. The USSF is [an] important step in our struggle to build a powerful multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and changes history.” (www.ussf2010.org)

Adele Nieves, communications coordinator for the USSF, told Workers World that over 1,000 workshops are scheduled and numerous demonstrations are being planned. Cultural contributions will be a central focus, with artists such as Dead Prez scheduled to perform. There will also be a tent city, tables for literature, grassroots food vendors, people’s movement assemblies and much more, including various art venues where progressive and revolutionary artists such as Antonio Guerrero of the Cuban Five will have their work displayed. The opening march on June 22 will have organizational contingents from all over the world.

The USSF grew out of the World Social Forum; the first USSF was held in Atlanta in 2007. Detroit was chosen as the site for the 2010 USSF because it is considered ground zero of the current capitalist economic crisis with record levels of foreclosures, evictions, utility shutoffs, unemployment and police terror. Detroit also has a long history of progressive and revolutionary struggle, which the organizations participating in the USSF are intent on building on to bring a better world into birth.

A wide range of labor-focused groups, including unions, coalitions, federations and workers’ centers such as the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, AFSCME Council 25, UAW Region 1A and South Eastern Michigan Jobs With Justice, have been working for months to build labor’s presence at the USSF. Approximately 70 labor-themed workshops on a wide variety of topics will be held, and labor will have a large presence at the opening march on June 22.

Focus on struggle, solidarity

“It’s impressive how many unions have picked up on the activities at the USSF. Because of the economic and social crisis we’re in it’s important that labor step up and fight back. Being part of mass movements is a better strategy for labor than simply relying on politicians. Right now jobs and unemployment are critical to what’s going on and will be a major focus of labor at the USSF. Labor needs to push hard on elected officials to create more jobs,” said Reggie McGhee, USSF Detroit Labor Committee co-chair.

The Labor Committee will be joining the USSF’s Faith and Spirituality Committee and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs for a protest at Chase Bank on June 25 in downtown Detroit. Chase is being targeted for its funding of R.J. Reynolds through loans and other means. Reynolds is currently waging war on the Farm Labor Organizing Committee because of its attempt to unionize tobacco workers in North Carolina. Another focus of the Chase protest is to demand that the bank agree to a two-year moratorium on all mortgage foreclosures.

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice and the Bail Out the People Movement are also sponsoring fightback workshops during the USSF.

Youth and students are a central component of the USSF and many of their organizations will be participating. One such group is the revolutionary, socialist-oriented Fight Imperialism, Stand Together or FIST. (See fistyouth.wordpress.com.)

“FIST will be co-hosting a workshop along with the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal on building a new youth organization in defense of Mumia. An entire decade of youth has grown up without mass consciousness about the implications of Mumia’s case, and we are organizing to counteract that and expose the roots of racism, the role of the police, police brutality and repression of groups fighting for national liberation,” Dante Strobino, a FIST leader from North Carolina, told Workers World.

FIST will also be working with many of the organizers who planned the successful March 4 National Day of Action to Defend Public Education to host a workshop for another national day of action to be held tentatively on Oct. 7 and to intensify student resistance to budget cuts and the capitalist crisis.

Raising the banner of socialism

Added Strobino: “We see the USSF as a crucial moment to meet young people in motion and introduce them to socialism and to raise fundamental questions that challenge the entire foundation of our current capitalist system that has wrecked so many people’s lives. Detroit is the perfect place to do that with the destructive nature of capitalism exposed before everyone’s eyes: abandoned factories and mass unemployment, empty lots and no grocery stores near many neighborhoods while people starve, vacant and foreclosed homes while people are living in the streets, schools being closed and underfunded as students struggle to get a quality education. All these contradictions provide a ripe situation and point to socialism as the real way forward.”

Workers World Party will also be conducting a workshop and joining in demonstrations at the USSF.

“Workers World Party will be sharing the expertise of our members from around the country in fighting foreclosures, budget cuts, racism and war, and urging others to join us in the fight for a socialist future, which is the only solution to all the deep problems we face. Everyone knows that capitalism is killing us. We need to unite the working class and oppressed to overthrow it and replace it with a system that’s about people’s needs, not profits for the rich,” said Kris Hamel of WWP’s Detroit branch.

Detroit FIST, MECAWI, Moratorium NOW! and Workers World Party will have an open office for activists June 21-26 at 5920 Second Avenue in Detroit from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. USSF participants are invited to drop by for an evening coffee house, political discussion, cultural events and more. Visit www.moratorium-mi.org or call 313-887-4344.

For more information on the USSF, go to www.ussf2010.org or call toll free: 1-877-515-8773.