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Somewhere on the Planet
US Social Forum Held in Detroit

This past June 2010, the US Social Forum brought 15,000 activists into the country’s automotive-industry capital, in crisis. Yvon Poirier reports that although interesting, proposals for alternative models was not the major concern for most participants.

Last June, about 15,000 activists gathered in Detroit for the second US Social Forum. This represented a 50% increase in participants compared with the first edition that was held in June 2007. The deepening economic crisis in the U.S. no doubt partly explains this increase.

Event hosted in US city with largest Muslim community

Hosting this event in Detroit was a deliberate choice. The historical capital of the automotive industry is one of the cities most affected by the economic and housing crisis. In the last 30 years, more than one third of the population has left, either for other parts of the country or to outlying cities. The vacancy rate for all types of housing is 17%. The mayor is pursuing a deliberate policy that is detrimental to disadvantaged neighborhoods. There is a policy in effect to demolish entire sections of neighborhoods to sell land to speculators. Parks and schools are being closed. In order to counter this situation, there are strong social movements in Afro-American and immigrant communities, since the golden days of the automotive industry had attracted high immigration. Detroit is the American city with the largest Muslim community as well as the largest Palestinian community. One resistance initiative and alternative industry is urban agriculture. It is the largest such movement in the USA, both to feed itself and to create work opportunities, especially for young people.

This was the context that motivated the US Solidarity Economy Network (SEN) and allied groups to organize a series of workshops. It is important to note the strong presence of the movement related to food issues, that represented community supported agriculture or peasants’ and small-scale farmers’ movements who are members of Via Campesina. Interestingly, a meeting was held to organize a US network for Food Sovereignty. As with other Social Fora in the world, many of the participants adhere to the anti-globalization movement, and many are members of a wide variety of political movements such as Anarchists, Socialists and Trotskyites.

A solidarity-based economy is already under construction

Even if it is interesting to see all these movements, we found that the construction of alternatives was not a major concern for most involved. The third plenary on June 25th focused on this issue. Thanks to the US SEN, the forum organizers had invited Daniel Tygel from the Brazilian Forum of Solidarity Economy to present the perspectives of solidarity economy. He reported on the progress of solidarity economy in Brazil, including the creation of a movement that is now rooted throughout the country. He stressed the importance of reaching beyond the capitalist discourse (strong at the Forum) and the importance of "hands-on work". This means concretely building economic activities that are self-managed by the people involved. The fact that these activities are solidarity-based is in itself a reflection of their political impact, an affirmation that another possible is not only possible, but it is already being built.


Yvon Poirier
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US Social Forum 2010 opening day march
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