Tuesday, March 14, 2006

On the 2006 Social Forum of the Americas

Lydia Sargent's report-back from the Americas World Social Forum mentions that:
On the morning of the fourth day, word of mouth indicated that Hugo Chavez was going to speak that evening, even though the program listed him as apearing (sic) two days later. We were hustled onto a bus of "important guests" for a 30-minute ride to an indoor stadium. There we were split into more "important guests" who were taken to a room to wait for a quick meeting with Chavez and the "less important guests" (us) who were taken to a special section on the stadium floor.

This sort of tendency within the organizing of the forum is troubling as it belies an anti-democratic, elitist streak. Organizing a massive event such as this is no doubt a major challenge and I don't want to impugn the intentions of the organizers. Often when faced with the need to accomplish something quickly (Chavez wants to meet with luminaries at the Social Forum - how do we decide who gets to sit down with him? It's far easier to simply pick some of the best known individuals than to consider other, less obvious options such as a lottery.) It is easiest to fall back on established practices that we're all familiar with from being immersed in hierarchical societies. Even consciously anti-Leninist activists can make these mistakes. What is needed is more conscious awareness and acceptance of the importance of non-hierarchical organizing.

Incidentally, I agree with Sargent that "organizing a movement and continuing a forum structure" can and should be done simultaneously. No forced unity on how to build a movement is necessary. It is to be expected that differing factions will arise over how best to build movements. What is important is that they continue to work together in the large areas where they are in agreement and maintain fraternal discussions in those areas of disagreement. All of this is far easier said than done of course.
[The Social Forum of the Americas, ZMag, March 2006]


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