Saturday, June 30, 2007

Searching for a vision at the USSF

Susana De Anda USSF Blog 6.29.07

As the second day of the US Social Forum comes to a close, one theme has emerged from the various workshops and discussions: people are searching for a new direction for the left. Throughout all the conversations I hear, I see people looking to each other, to panelists, to workshops, for a vision of where the movement for social justice is headed. People are hungry for an understanding of what the left needs to do to make real change in the US.

Overwhelmingly, there is a message that we as members of different movements need to come together across our various divisions and isms. Everyone rallies around the cries of speakers to overcome differences in race, issue area, politics, etc. because without this unity we will never succeed in making real change. People clearly want to create bridges between all of our collective efforts in order to see the larger change we work for in our organizations and communities.

This urgency for change that hovers in the air underscores the larger dilemma: what is the vision for the left? What will pull us all together? As many people have pointed out, we failed to do so when Katrina hit, wreaking havoc. Overall, the left failed to not only provide crucial support for Katrina victims but the left also failed to fully pressure the government when its horrible management and institutional racism was revealed. Similarly, the left failed to provide a strong vision for the movement for immigrant rights. In California, where there millions marched for immigrant rights, that incredible energy dissipated as immigration bills moved through the Congress with little hope of providing real relief to immigrants and no clear direction for next steps emerged.

It is inspiring and encouraging to hear so many people and organizations calling for a move away from divisive, territorial politics that have torn the left apart for the past decades. There is a sense of the overwhelming need for not only for real change in the US, but also a real change in how we operate as organizations, movements and people working towards social change. One of the most immediate starting points is by moving away from the isolated, narrowly-focused approach of much social change work. This is not to say that everyone wants to adopt everyone's issues, but incorporating the awareness of and solidarity with other struggles has emerged as a key theme.

People are hungry for change, but they are also hungry for a vision. However, the part that seems missing is the how. How do we build these bridges and come together? What are the next steps we need to take to create a more unified front for social change? But we all keep looking to the panelist in front for that vision, or the organization putting on the workshop for the compelling message to gather around. As the final days of the USSF unfold, it seems many people will be looking for a cohesive vision that we can all come together around. It is my sincere hope that we can collectively find that vision, and that the cheers for unity echo way beyond the plenary sessions.

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