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Friday January 6, 2012

Roll call: (most people already introduced themselves; note taker is picking up toward the end)

Sara, From IJAN; Flo, From IJAN; Stephanie, Project South; Emery, Project South; Kali, US Human Rights; Fred, Detroit Local Organizing Committee; Michael, GGJ; Nada, US Palestinian Community Network; Alicia, POWER; Cindy, CSJ; Cheri, PPEHRC; Oya, DLOC; Jacqueline W, WILPF; Terry, WILPF; Mallory, MFPL; George, IPPN; Salimah, The Praxis Project; Jerome, LRNA; Walda, LRNA; Jamie, MFPL; Ife, EMEAC; David, MTA; Jen, PPEHRC; Erik, PWG; Jacqueline P, WCU; Monica, PWG; Derek, PISAB; Viola, PISAB; Jamala, FRSO; Maureen, MWRO; Darryl, AFSC; Ahmina, EMEAC; Rose, GJWG

Goals and Guiding Questions


  1. Decide if and when to have USSF III
  2. Identify form and strategy of the next USSF III
  3. Determine form and function of the NPC given the form and strategy of the next USSF

Guiding Questions

  1. What are the defining features, forces and fronts of struggle in this political moment?
  2. What is necessary to advance social movement in the U.S. given this moment – state of the state, communities and the movement?
  3. How does and how could USSF relate to other national convergences, efforts and alliances?
  4. How does and could USSF relate to international/global struggles?
  5. What next in terms of form for the USSF?
  6. Inside of this political moment, what are the basic composition and components we need for building in 2012 (e.g., budget, NPC, division of labor, staff)?

What is the political moment? (9am to 6pm)

Purpose: To assess the political moment and examine implications for purpose, goals and function of US Social Forum and relationship to global struggles

Desired Outcome: Gain clarity on unity and difference regarding the political moment, and what our social movements need in relationship to this political moment. This should help us understand what form the USSF should take.

Guiding Questions

  1. What are the defining features, forces and fronts of struggle in this political moment?
  2. What is necessary to advance social movement in the U.S. given this moment – state of the state, communities and the movement?
  3. How does and how could USSF relate to other national convergences, efforts and alliances?
  4. How does and could USSF relate to international/global struggles?
  5. What is next in terms of form for the USSF?
  6. Inside of this political moment, what are the basic composition and components we need for building in 2012 (e.g., budget, NPC, division of labor, staff)?

Where Have We Been (Steph presented and gave handout)

In 2007, the USSF brought together a variety of movements in the U.S. The 2010 USSF was more advanced and deepened relationships and commitment. We are now in a moment with the potential to connect struggles against financial globalization with global justice movements.

Steph highlighted some of the key points in the development of social movement, such as the South East Social Forum and its work to help build a bottom-up organizing process. The decision to locate the second USSF in Detroit was to shine light on movements in Detroit and the context of globalized capitalism/post-industrial urban settings. The aim of the USSF process is to learn from our experiences and to understand the larger social and structural context as it relates to our struggles.


  1. Its interesting the question Steph raised: what if first USSF had failed? Or, what would have happend if the Southeast Forum had failed? This laid the ground work for the border and USSF forum. The first one organized by GGJ was key as it provided space for and was lead by people of color, working class, marginalized people.
  2. The South East Social Forum was characterized by large participation by black and Latino people and the conversations were ours.
  3. The North East Social Forum was a turning point in both negative and positive ways. It was negative because it failed because funders didn't want to put money into it. It was positive because it forced us to raise our own money and really develop a ground up model.
  4. That the USSF happened in the first place was important. As significant was the fight for the U.S. to be represented in the World Social Forum, especially given its thrust from poor people's organization.
  5. In 2009 the Kentucky Social Forum demonstrated the possibility of state-wide forum and use of PMA at the end.
  6. The U.S. has been important internationally in modeling ideals of the Social Forum.
  7. Consciousness and intentionality in the U.S. process is important. There are complex relationships the local and national. In DC we were able to bring groups together, but they are waiting to hear from national for direction.
  8. The role of PMA and its close integration with forum process is important here, but is different and contentious internationally.

Learning From Past NPC Discussions

Ife presented; the powerpoint has been posted as .pdf here:

Review of NPC Responses to Question on the Political Moment

The Question: What is your organization's political assessment of the current historical moment. Do you see USSF role for building stronger social movements.

Points of Unity

  1. There were several themes that appeared in the papers submitted. For one, it is clear that we are in a moment of deep, protracted, multi-faceted crises. Attacks based on race, class, gender and poverty, for example, are intensifying; there is growing threat of fascism and attacks on social movements.
  2. NPC members who submitted papers emphasized the need to step up the struggle in order to prevent further suffering as the crisis intensifies. Though the crises creates challenges and dangers, they also offer opportunities as new fronts of struggle emerge around the U.S. and world.
  3. Many groups stressed the utility of the USSF and PMA process resources/foundation for converging and supporting current struggles.

Areas of Difference

  1. Several people raised gender as a particular area for concern, but offered different lenses on the crisis.
  2. Greater clarity seems to be needed on the state of globalized capitalism and its implications for our work.


  1. Jerome commended the time and effort people put into responding to the questions. Their responses indicate that they took the questions seriously. This speaks to the political moment as well; people share a sense of urgency of our time and the importance of these discussions.
  2. Questions to consider: What is the relationship between today's crises and our movements? What is meant by revolution and revolutionary process? How do we integrate new activists into on-going, longer term movement work? And what is the role of political education today?
  3. Discussions are needed of the relationship of USSF to Occupy movement and other movements around the U.S. and world.

Review on the Question of Electoral Process and Relation to the USSF

Maureen presented a summary of the key themes, points of unity and difference in the papers submitted by NPC members. There were varied opinions on the importance of 2012 elections that ranged from complete avoidance of electoral process to supprting political candidates; all were suspicious of engagement in process. There was consensus that USSF should critique and stand outside of the electoral process and that conventional representative democracy has failed to address people's needs. But elections are important teaching moment when people are attentive to issues in ways not always present. Obama's presidency brings race into this question as well.

The USSF can help critique/focus on practices and policies rather than specific candidates; use electoral process to play leadership role in offering analysis of system and its limits.

Discussion and Clarifying Questions (The questions/discussion covered the previous 2 presentations)

  1. There are uprisings in the Middle East and Latin America and many phrases are thrown around to describe them. Can we come to some understanding of what is actually happening?
  2. We need to raise issue of nonprofit industrial complex and the impact of Obama money.
  3. Non-voting will occur; this is simply a reality. On another note, omission of trafficking is an issue, should give it a more powerful place. Tremendous group of religious women who are working on this issue.
  4. What is our assessment of the revolutionary process in Southeast Asia? And is capitalism collapsing or re-organizing?

Review of the International Context/WSF and the USSF Process

Ife presented on general themes, points of unity and difference in the NPC papers around the question of the USSF in relation to the international context. The points of unity include:

  • Role the social forum process can play in terms of US social movement building: 1) USSF can support & deepen work among diverse people & groups; provides forum for convergence across sector; space to share models, methods, strategies, etc.; 2) cultivate stronger, unified, more coherent justice movement; 3) space for political education & consciousness raising.
  • Role of the USSF in relation to the WSF: 1) The USSF can link local struggles with those taking place around the world (forge concrete connections); 2) The USSF can build relationships between emerging movements & global struggles.
  • Ways to connect to grassroots struggles in and outside the U.S.: 1) PMAs are considered important venues for addressing important local issues, sharing strategies in more focused ways, etc.

The areas where people expressed some differences include:

  • Role the social forum process can play in terms of US social movement building: 1) Some spoke specifically to the need to have a PMA or regional gatherings to focus on local issues, training for specific issues, etc. 2) One group argued for focus on security & legal issues.
  • Role of the USSF in relation to the WSF: 1) One group specifically expressed importance of USSF fostering engagement in solidarity actions for global struggles.

Discussion/Clarifying Questions

  1. Were there responses indicating particular international struggles or our responsibility to international movements? Mention was made of struggles in the Middle East/North Africa and Latin America, but in a general sense; nothing specific.
  2. People also indicated the need to think beyond just the WSF, as it is but one space. There are other ways to connect the U.S. and other international grassroots struggles.
  3. Was there any mention on how the U.S. movements are seen internationally? Cheri noted the importance of international communications and the solidarity other groups have shown with US efforts.
  4. In terms of gender justice, poverty and food how do international and local/national struggles connect?
  5. There is a need for clarity on relations between USSF and grassroots local struggles too.
  6. What are some good models of organizing? And how do you do this without resources for organizing?
  7. In preparation for the meeting, the motion has been to glean questions that were more global than specific. However we want to clarify the relationship between the USSF and such grassroots struggles as attacks on disabled children (happening in Detroit, for example)?

Summaries of Position Papers: Questions A, E, F

Summary of Question A

The Social Forum 2010: Fostered deeper organizing and organizing strategies; digital communications were based in political vision; fostered new alliances and supported new relationships; united 40 organizations, nearly all of whom are led by or accountable to people living in poverty; forged new personal and political relationships; developed infrastructure; built through Echo Justice Initiative; played a central figure in building commons in Detroit; supported UP south DOWN south process; supported a national meeting for BSD; enhanced networks; offered up new campaigns; introduced the broader sector to framework of human rights; built capacity of organizations; re-energized leaders; and used the PMA process to advance political strategies. There were negative impacts as well: The USSF impacted capacity and created tremendous drains on organizers spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being.

Questions E and F: Purpose, Form and Function

Alicia and Sara presented and shared a powerpoint.

Several key points in response to Questions E and F include:

  • Build strong unified front against capital and the right
  • Broaden progressive movements and increase point of entry
  • Convergence and planning is a process, not a conference of NGOs
  • Need to establish a rhythm about growing momentum that brings about a different level of participation in social movements
  • Regional and sector forums and PMAs can play a significant role in building toward a national forum
  • Scale is less of a priotiy than developing agends and strategies
  • The NPC must be broadened beyond its comfort zone
  • Need strong anchor organizations, building where we are strong
  • Practice healthy movement building culture

Places of Unity

In general, there is agreement that a 3rd USSF is needed and that regional forums should lead toward national forum. In terms of function, NPC members (who wrote the papers) agree that the USSF should provide a space of convergence for the forces in motion to share strategy, tactics and agendas, as well as build unity. The purpose of the USSF should be to fundamentally serve movement building.

Places of Difference

Several questions/comments were made that reflected areas about which people had questions or expressed differing positions.

  • What does 'open space' mean? Does it mean the same thing in the U.S. as it does abroad? Should political content and direction be prescribed? Is the social forum a place for sharing and/or consolidation/building?
  • Should we be concerned more with scale versus clarity/consolidation? The USSF should be less concerned with size and more concerned about increased clarity and consolidation.
  • Some wrote that the shape should be more regional, while other wanted more of a national convergence. There were groups that said it depends on the momentum.
  • In terms of the character of the NPC, who needs to be present? POC and working class communities should be increased in presence. Should it reflect national or local trends? Should it be comprised of NGOs and nonprofits? Grassroots, labor, collectives, individuals, party formations, etc.? We need to continue having this conversation so that we can deepen and broaden social movement.

Key Questions Raised in Papers

  • Within context of US, how do we uphold WSF commitment to minimum assumption of “opposition to neo-liberalism/capitalism and imperialism in all its forms”?
  • How to build something broad and strong and aligned with this commitment within US?
  • What type of process and form best guards against undermining of social movements by liberal and reactionary forces as well as the non-profitization of social movements and the sectarianism and elitism of the Left?
  • How do we relate to and advance emerging social movements and communities in action?
  • In what ways can the USSF support: 1) convergence; 2) consolidation and unity; and 3) expansion and entry into social movements?
  • How can the USSF support relationship between local, regional, national & international struggle?
  • What does political leadership mean?
  • What is the composition of & representation on the NPC to fulfill USSF purpose & function?
  • How are building toward national convergence? How are we supporting movement building at all stages of the process?
  • How are we practicing healthy & effective movement building?

Clarification Questions/Discussion

  1. May First put forward a recommendation of simultaneous regional forums/PMAs that are connected via technology
  2. [To the facilitators] Did you glean from the papers that they thought the right was separate from capital? Sara: i don't think that people thought that it was separate or that if you were against capital then you were against the democrats. Didn't say.
  3. What did people mmean by 'united front'? And do we have a common understanding? Alicia: There was no indiciation of what the strategic front consists of.
  4. In reading the papers, there didn't seem to be unanimity about the next social forum. The responses seemed more to reflect a qualified yes, contingent on clarifying various characteristics, etc.
  5. A lot of what came up centered on capacity, resources, and the extent to which a national gathering does what we want it to do.
  6. Did anyone talk abut the relationship between social forums? Sara: People didn't speak so much about the relationships between social forums. But people were clear that the USSF is not simply an event, but a process. And it is important to see how the USSF relates to social movements, impulses and things that are happening. Also, people expressed concern about what gets left behind in the places where there are social forums.
  7. Where is your representation? Should it be a larger pool of responses? Alicia: There were many different approaches to answering this question. A lot of questions people raised were around getting clarity about this body. And when what shape the forum takes.
  8. Did the papers say what they thought this body should be?
    1. Alicia: There was alot of discussion about representation and the need to reasses who needs to be here.
    2. Sara: The question about political leadership was on people's minds too. Tomorrow we will share the thinking about that.
    3. Alicia: Another thing raised in relation to that was the host area and the impact the USSF has had before, during and after. given the deepending of the crisis, what does it mean to converge 20,000 deep on an area? What does it mean in terms of strategies? And in a way that is not ebb and flow. How do we leave area stronger than before?
  9. The function of the social forum is to advance social movements. And the role of the USSF in doing that is part of our challenge today and tomorrow.

Conversation About and Reactions To All That Has Been Shared Today

  • David: The role of how to engage in electoral politics is key. The overwhelming majority of Americans only think about politics on election day.
  • Carl: The USSF is a common ground, a gathering of tribes. Some people think that is too low, but i think it's been fine the way it is. We should bring everyone in - non-profits, labor, etc. - and we should bring them all in. Its good to debate these questions but not good to force solutions.
  • Mallory: Its important to look at how solidarity is becoming more a focus for groups in the US and how we can figure out what that means, beyond responsibility by stating exactly how US movements can be uplifted through solidarity work, making connections for our groups. I am interested in hearing other people's thoughts about that, also from those who disagree with an increased focus on international solidarity.
  • Maureen: The NPC's sole purpose is to organize social forum. Individually the members of the NPC make up all kinds of different groups. The question of elections is a snake pit. In my view, we don't want the social forum to be an entity that campaigns for a candidate or party; but at the same time I agree that we have to say something about it because people are used to a 2 party system. We have a role as member of NPC which is different from our individual organizations. As Welfare Rights, we are starving under both parties. It's not working for us. The social forum has higher level of responsibility. At MRWO we are doing electoral politics, but we can't vote starvation out of office, so at some point after we exhaust all of these, we will have to take over some stuff. But our people are not ready to do that, they want to register to vote.
  • Derek: Voting is a tactic and will be part of what we do. My fear is that it becomes something that the democrats will use against us. We have a role to analyze. In regards to political education, what does it look like? What does it mean for us nationally?
  • Cindy: As someone who has had to work in electoral politics, it is worse than a snake pit. There are lessons to be learned from our international allies. How do they connect electoral politics to the bigger picture for fuller democracy? If we do engage in electoral politics to bring our movement to a more revolutionary position, how do we do it? How do other countries do it? We must be connected to political education.
  • Jerome: We agree that the social forum is not an organization. I don't know if we agree that the USSF is a process for movement building. If we look at it like that, then with all of the motion that exists, the USSF should be looking to see if we can use that motion to build a movement. If that's the case, then the electoral process is a movement that we should be using. People are going to be involved in the electoral process. What is the role of the NPC? Shouldn't we provide some kind of tools to converge, to strategize, to avoid re-inventing the wheel?
  • Cheri: I am glad we're having this question. In the realm of nonprofits, we are generally not allowed to have this conversation. I agree that it's a process of movement building. For us, in the fight around foreclosure, it's impossible. If you want to build a movement - we can't just talk about bad banks as if there is no elected officials in this country. And then we're supposed to do the organizing work, where the chair of a foundation is Coca Cola. We're not interested in running candidates, we're interested in bigger question of electoral politics. Many people only see politics through lense of electoral politics.
  • Michael: A couple of things are missing: if we look at accomplishments, not enough of the story of the forum has come out. I am glad people mentioned the impact on leaders in organization. We haven't captured story of how people's lives have been changed. What happened to youth who were transformed? What would it have meant to have had 22 papers just after the forum? There was never really strategy - it's got to be thought of before, during and after. And we lost the after. We were so burned out, exhausted and toxic, we saw the event as finish line. We said we'd never let a Katrina happen again, but then things blew up in the midwest and we couldn't provide leadership or even support, when 40% of forum participants were from the midwest. We should be calling for strategy papers when things break out because we have our finger on the pulse of the international, national and local levels. Most social forums have taken place in Africa, they are ahead of the game. How can we get ahead of the game and is this the right forum? We need to change the culture of how we relate to each other.
  • Jackie: Alfredo is usually the one that says this: we're working to build a new system in the shell of the old one. We're stuck with what we got, but need to think about how to move forward. Same with electoral politics. That's what the social forum started off with - as a response to failure of institutions. The failure of national democracies is to have a voice in what globalization looks like. We are experimenting with new kinds of democracy.
  • George: Remember the same principles we want to bring to the NPC we also want to see in the electoral arena. In terms of tons of money and effort that go into electoral politics, why not say: you should run for office. And call up truth that electoral politics is a snake pit.
  • Walda: We know the crisis will deepen and we know people will be in the street. We need to be aware of the reactionary forces that are part of this struggle. How can NPC play a role in helping us be prepared and responsive to the political moment?
  • Oya: The masses are not participating in the electoral process, they are not voting. They feel excluded from process. How do we exploit that reality without being coopted by political forces? We need to identify boundaries and be mindful of the potential of being exploited by the process, while remaining responsive to grassroots needs.
  • How can we better utilize the media?

Post Lunch Presentation from Members of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers

  • Alonzo: Every now and then the new Chrysler plant allows tours, and we took one yesterday. The body shop used to be called the jungle as it was full of people; now there are very few people that work in the body shop. It is operated by robots. They have over 600 robots in the body shop, each robot probably replaced 3-4 different people. The Plant nearly operates without people and those that are employed make very little.
  • Gerald Mitchell (aka Waistline): Retired from Chrysler in 2001 from the engine plant. Now it only requires 200-300 people, when in 1972 needed over 3,000. Go online and search for "Germany Dreseden auto plant" to learn more about this automation. The society and world I grew up in is over, the industrial revolution is over. The new means of production dictate we organize around them. The society we live in depends on our vision.
  • Mitch: I echo the statements they said. I remember coming of age in the 60's, going to work in the factory. There were 30 or so Chrysler plants in and around Detroit and getting a job was not a problem. Plants with upwards of 7,000 workers, now employ only 1,200. The crisis is not imagined, it's planned. We can never get back to where we were. We need to prepare for new epic. We are now seeing new class of people being created who will never have job, won't be able to enjoy the opportunity I had the "American Dream".
  • General Baker: Retired from Ford Motor Co. in 2003 after 40 years in auto industry. We have 400,000 auto workers, now we have 120,000 auto workers. Our retiree chapters meet once a month. We go and talk around pension and health care issues at different chapters. The capacity for auto production is great; we have way more capacity to produce cars than ability to sell them. Don't look for any increases in jobs, as robots work all the time, they don't need breaks, and don't have pension. These are the conditions we have to look forward to.
  • John Wright: Retired from Chrysler in 2008. I can remember when the plant I worked in was a bustling little city, and it has had drastic cuts to this day. I went to an automation exhibition at Cobo back in '96. Back then they showed how the plan of the future was an automated plant devoid of workers. This capitalist class we're dealing with now cannot afford to get off the pedal.
  • Maureen: I wanted my colleagues to give you an overview because these are folks who've worked at different plants at different times. This is an opportunity to engage and energize. These young men are witness to the new weight we have to bear. The entire society is under transformation. We are today where slaves once were. We're either going to live the way we want to live, or have our lives dictated by the corporations. The message is clear and we have to point this stuff out. The world has changed! It has nothing to do with you; changes in technology show that we are now obsolete. Identify some of these examples of resistance that are going on. For example there are voter registration drives, local street organized forms of resistance - marching, demonstrating, national and international forms of resistance - international street based activities and the Occupy movement. We need to raise our level of resistance to a point where we say no more.

Brief Presentation on Detroit Occupy Movement by Writer Bush

When we started this movement on the back of OWS, which began on the back of Tahir Square, we all needed to be on the same page about what we want, where we are going, etc. We are going to be working on housing the homeless. There will be a protest on Jan 20, on the federal courthouse about corporations getting citizenship. We are against foreclosures. There are some key issues tha tall OWS movements should be on the sam page about. Will be here for questions. Will be working with MWRO to house homeless at the end of January. Now we can show the world that regardless of what it takes, we are willing to get what we want. We have a proposition - we have enough union members to defeat Public Act 4, but they are unwilling to sign the petitions out of fear.

Question: What happened in detroit? Do you talk about the connections with the USSF?

Writer: October 10 was our first meeting. We struggled with what we should call the movement. There were problems with the term 'occupy,' so we created a group that dealt with the name. But we wanted to keep solidarity with other groups. The group that was supposed to get another name didn't come up with one. We have solidarity with other groups. And we are working with MWRO. It is a leaderless movement. In some ways people are afraid to step up. But when someone does, she/he is criticized. We as a group are opposed to corporations being defined as a human. We have some internal problems that we are working to resolve. We are in solidarity with what you are doing.

Open Discussion and Brainstorm on Presentations: Unity, Difference, Implications

The task during this part of the agenda is to focus on the presentations that Walda, Jerome, Maureen and Ife did today. When commenting or raising questions, remember to do so in the context of the USSF.

  • George: What does a revolution look like? What are the implications for electoral process? Also, our task is what it means in the context of the social forum going forward. What is our role and the key strategies/suggestions/implications for us moving forward? What are some of the things that haven't surfaced yet?
  • Cheri: As a former sheriff, I want to lift up question of criminalization. I qualified to run for sheriff, even though i have 200 arrests. After the election, I worked a shitty job. They gave me a criminal history and was ineligible to work because of my history. I am unemployable anywhere in Philadelphia. I raised this issue with some friends. It's an important piece for those of us doing this movement building work.
  • George: its not only an issue of having criminal history. But now the military can detain anyone at this table.
  • Kali: In regard to Jerome and Walda's piece, what does an anti-imperialist/anti-capitalist orientation look like and mean for the USSF? There are some things we need to figure out.
  • Karl: I come from an area that is mini-detroit. We now have the largest brownfield. We have alot of retired steelworkers. Alot of unemployed young people and a prison industrial complex. Young people go to the military and return with broken minds and bodies. Many young people go to school and come out with alot of debt and have no jobs. That burden on the young people is great. So the occupy didn't come from nowhere. It came out of young peopel standing up against it. I look at the OWS as a critical force holding a mirror up to society. Is there the kind of future you want? They are doing what the young people did in Greensboro at the lunch counter. They are a militant minority. The militant minority is not the progressive majority. It is not the main force. What stood out is how fast members of a progressive majority joined. OWS: Needs a venue to come together with their allies/ we can be that venue. Diverse occupies can come together and connect with allies.
  • George: This is a reminder for us to come back to the discussion of unity and difference around ideas of current political moment and what opportunities it provides/what is in motion. Do we have unity around OWS and its implications?

How does WSF Anticapitalist/anti imperialist agenda inform our work on USSF?

  • Karl: "Anticapitalism' and 'anti-imperialism' is too broad to organize around. Anti-imperialsim can mean alot too. It can mean that you are against the war. It can mean replacing socialism. It does help if we define the USSF in the form that it arose. It arose in opposition to the ruling class that was trying to impose neoliberalist policies, war and austerity. To me that is what the social forum is. Lots who come to the USSF are anti-capitalist. You also have people there with businesses, cooperatives, etc. and promote this as part of their organzing. And they have credit unions, etc. and they operate within a capitalist set up. We had 110 in our solidarity thread. And about 1/3 dealt with these kinds of alternative business operations that operated within a capitalist framework. But they were neither socialist or communist in theri framework.
  • Jackie: I'm speaking from my experience in Pittsburgh where I've been working with local Occupy groups and bring to new activists who've been working on Occupy. I'm trying to bring the history to this new movement. One way that I've tried to frame some of the discussion is by relating it to WSF discussions. The media has created idea of lack of clarity around goals. The goals are similar to the USSF and WSF - redistribute wealth and power. The idea is to help think about connections to other movements.
  • Kali: Some things we need to be specific about. I think the WSF came as maturation of movements in Latin America, in Response to neo-liberalism. And rest of us got on band wagon. We need to be clear about what that means for us in this context. For us we need to take an anti-colonial position. I had problems with Occupy from jump street. First and foremost this is indigenous land. Trying to occupy the land for what? That started from a particular lack of consicousness of white privilege/colonialism. We have to start from that point. Based upon some of our experiences in 2007 and 2010, we have run into engagements where some blinders allow for different zionists to get into our ranks and confuse us. There are particular ways of relating to indigenous peoples and movements, and ecological movements. We are changing how we confront these issues, but there is still work to be done. I don't want to necessarily not include groups that are doing cooperative economics, but we do need to ask if this is transformative. We also need to ask what is our relationship to these colonial projects.
  • Jamie: Within movements in the U.S. there is a strong inward focus. And there is a particurlary strong role the USSF can play in the U.S. and in organizing internationally. The question is, is it possible to do anti-capitalist work without working internationally? What does it mean to have a USSF that focuses only domestically and not internationally? How can we organize USSF in a way that challenges borders?
  • Fred: There are differences in how I discuss anti-imperialism and how my organization discusses it. The majority of Americans are pro-imperialism and won't stop the country from killing people. For the USSF, anti-capitalism looks like opposition to the biggest banks/corporations, not necessarily small busineses or co-ops. Anti-imperialsim is getting our troops out of other countries. What will the USSF look like if it were this year? Certainly troops out of Afghanistan, stop threatening Iran. How as leadership we want to introduce the USSF is one thing. We had Bolivian revolutionaries, why did we invite them despite people here don't support them. Because we in this country need to learn from them. What is the reality of the people we're trying to reach?
  • Walda: I agree that there is a general concensus that we are anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. The caveat is that the WSF is against neo-liberal capitalism. We need to be clear, is there a kinder gentler capitalism people are okay with going back to? We need to continue this discussion. What does this mean in terms of a political discussion and political education project? And how do we help build a movement that can stay the course. Speaks to certain kind of clarity we really need to struggle for. I would argue we are a political leadership body. 1) struggling for clarity 2) consciousness and eduation 3) organizational pieces. I felt that by focusing too heavily on program the last 2 USSF's, we weren't able to really have a true analysis of what the problems were. And how do we develop program content as its coming in? For our gatherings USSF/PMA we really must analyze our political discussions.
  • Marian: On the question of elections, we need education. But this is the beginning of our education. Today we can understand things a lot better because of the economic crisis we're dealing with. Like my colleagues who spoke, I know that people aren't going back to the factories. At the same time we must build a society based on what our economic situation is now producing. Capitalism exploits most of us, not all. Those at the top are profiting while poverty is on the increase. People don't give a damn about what's happening to the poor, our women and children. The difference now is that it's more in your face. People don't care about women and children being snatched. This is the type of stuff we're facing today - children without families, women in the streets. This is only the crisis of capitalism. This is one of the best dicussions I've been in in the NPC. What does that mean? Being in the Poverty WG, we're looking at what we need to do with this organizational part of the USSF. Should we be going to Washington? No. We're still out there swimming. After our regional meeting we have not had the opportunity to come back to what we talked about at that meeting. What is happening here to us within the Midwest economically there is opportunity to organize. We have to begin to dig deep in these regions and areas, we have to start to educate people. I was shocked by this group of 12 young women I met yesteday, woman taking care of a disabled child and mother facing eviction. Highly intelligent women who want to be apart of this movement. I'm happy to see the conversation about education. I want us to come regionally, locally to talk. We're not talking electoral politics (technically we'll use it as a tactic), but we need to talk what are the politics of today and educate ourselves.
  • Sara: This conversation is making me think about the implications for our work in the USSF as the NPC. We have to find a way to see what capital means in peoples lives. How can we organize a USSF for people to build a resistance in their lives and communities? One of the things Occupy has done is make me reflect on what we haven't done in our organizations. It's hard to build movement in our country. We need more highly facilitated or formed processes and discussions than we've been able to provide so far. How do we select or organize workshops? How we utilize PMA's? The translation of our goals is important. We are really going to have to figure out what constitutes opposition, and in the context of the U.S. For example, there is no question that reactionary zionist forces don't belong in a USSF space, it's much more complicated in a liberal zionist space just like it is in any movement. This is a place where education comes from actually getting in those debates. Challenge people when they make submissions to the USSF. So they understand how it relates to purpose of USSF, we have an active exchange with them. Let's start to think of central pillars of what capitalism and imperialism means in people's lives and start to organize around those. That's a way to centralize our anti-imperalist/capitalist commitments.
  • Jerome: I want to reiterate that the social forum is not an organization. We're not in charge. We can't expel people from it. We're trying to use this process to build a movement. It is important to talk about anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism so we have a big picture of where we're going. We are fighting over the direction of this movement. If we don't discuss it we won't have the context to direct it. What would it be for the USSF to be an anti-imperialist body? It means we have to be the kind of movement that can stop the US from invading Iran or Iraq. A movement that can figure out how to deal with a disaster like the gulf coast. In regards to anti-capitalism, 2 things come to mind: changes in the debate about what the crisis is about. It's not just an economic crisis, but a systematic crisis that demands that we take on the task of educating people in this movement about the nature of the crises. Present people with choice about being in the anti-capitalist strand or the small-business strand - giving people the choice.
  • Sylvia: The USSF is not an organization, but the closest thing we have is the NPC - so the struggle is what is this body? In terms of the OWS, I jumped in before knowing what I was doing. It was exhilirating and frustrating at same time. Still not sure - in terms of occupy, I saw it as awesome thing, finally seeing something of the energy of the 60's. In Portland some of us who had been to the social forum concluded: we've got to have PMAs. When I did a PMA before the social forum it was a bitch. It was so processed I thought I could never do this again. But now there are spaces and PMA can really help. Neo-liberal/capitalist - people are now ready to have this conversation. Occupy is still going on - how do we keep this going? We've stopped. Our web site is stale. USSF/Occupy have some things in common: at times chaotic, internet/technology is key, claiming public spaces, having conversations about de-colonization, permission to come together. Differences: crazy demographics and issues of privilege (that many POC at occupies would have gone differently), you are talking to people you are living around, response from security - cops, homeland security cracked down.
  • Monica: Strategy and political education - both are important, and got people excited (Occupy Portland)
  • Jamala: We need to flesh out and agree on what it means to be anti-capitalist/imperialist. We are still not in agreement and won't get there now, but the discussion has been productive. Political analysis: how do we sharpen our tools, tactics and vehicles for movement building? It's not an organization, but we operate on a certain set of beliefs and standards about where we should be going. PMAs are very different. Wasn't sure about PMA when I heard of concept, but changed when it was implemented. How do we project the picture of the protracted crisis of capitalism on people's lives without weighing them down with dismal outlook?
  • Nada: As someone who attended both forums as a participant, I was disappointed by lack of follow up after both. I wanted to learn more details and would have loved to have been connected with people in my county. If there was a way to have been connected it would have been useful. There was tension between reform vs. revolution. I don't remember from the web site if there was strong anti-capitalism wording. If the WSF comes from an anti-capitalist model, we have to respect that. Our standard of living is on the back of people of color around the world. We don't want to exclude people who are afraid of what post-capitalism looks like, but the NPC has responsibility to provide guidance. We should not accept groups that will exploit others for their benefit. It is sad to hear that we brought tens of thousands people to Detroit, but the conditions of people living here has gotten worse. Are we ready to take care of the basic needs of our communities? The USSF should scope out issues relevant to our communities: how do we keep wealth in our community? What practical hands-on workshops are needed?
  • David: As the NPC of the USSF, the word ‘occupy’ is problematic. Decolonization might be better. An idea pushed by indigenous group was to think about 'reindigenisization? Just hearing the "O" word over and over causes indigenous people distress. As a white person, I can’t begin to understand the various aspects of oppression are. Jerome, I agree that the USSF is a process, not an organization. But the NPC is an organization. There is a responsibility there to not just convene space, but it is a place where obnoxious things should be rejected. We would have been better off if we were empowered to have a higher standard to say what didn't fit in the framework. We want to raise the bar on the workshops. Empower a programming committee to solicit proposals that touch upon what we've discussed. And then acknowledge that the OWS is a kind of PMA, and part of the issue is that they didn't have a power analysis. It got called out initially without much thought. The PMA process allows and requires us to centralize race, gender and other kinds of oppression. The Move to Amend coalition hopes to roll out a consulta/PMA process that would ask the question what a new legal and political system would look like. Not just critique what exists, but what would a new one look like.
  • Emery: This meeting has been interesting because these type of political discussions and organizational positions could be a part of planning for USSF at national level. These political discussions should come from self-determined organizations. There are plenty of roles for the NPC, but it's not to be umbrella over Social Forum process. This is making me think of the last 6.5 years and what has changed. Conditions have definitely changed, elevating some political consciousness. Our conversations now are more politically clear than they were in the past. I think some of the changes have also come from the work this NPC group has done. The NPC has played a role in this, as well as various organizations that have made critical decisions at critical moments where this process would not have continued. The juice has come from movements in Latin America and from organizational decisions (whether represented on the NPC or not). We haven’t mentioned the leadership development of people and organizations in this process. For example, there were 17 year olds in Massachusetts organizing a van to come to the USSF. Also, some organizations were doing crazy innovative fundraisers to get here. The role of USSF is a powerful expression of where the movement is. Lack of follow-up after the USSF was hard, but it was real. That's where we were, that's where the movement was. People were frustrated. 40,000 people have participated over the past 2 forums and want to know what they can do next, but haven't gotten information. It's clear we can do it - bring people together. What's the next step in the movement building process? Who are our allies? What is our opposition? We need to scale up in numbers, more than 20,000. So what does that mean? Not a USSF in 2013. I think we need to spend some time building our power. For example, the Midwest gathering, occupy, PMA, USSF, whatever it may be. The planning committee at a national level should represent work being done - bringing people together around issues and regionally (around the oil spill, Troy Davis, etc.). The NPC can foster this juice, so that the next time we get together it's harder for the media to do a blackout of our work.
  • Jackie: Just a quick reminder to come back to the political moment question as it relates to anti-imperialism. We've talked a lot about anti-capitalism. The U.S. in the next few years will be in rapid decline as a power. What are new threats of new superpowers? How do we prepare Americans who aren't prepared for not being #1?
  • Cheri: I've been consulting with 8 different Occupies around the country. We've been having those fights on the term "Occupy". I would be in favor of us taking a position on the name "Occupy". In terms of difference between PMA's and GA's is that they are very ahistorical, don't have a power analysis and haven't embraced elders. I'm talking from my experience and what I've been a part of. For example, Philadelphia has been collective ignorance. Now I'm in the battle of fighting because they want to occupy homes. They want to do it without any conversations with groups already doing foreclosure work. We have to do more than this fight for power, some of us are getting old; it has to be strategic. We must address the current historical moment. When people in Detroit are talking about horrible things that are happening, we need to do something about this. I'm not saying let's become a national social service agency; I'm saying how do we use other models as inspiration?
  • Writer: In terms of embracing senior leadership, I was happy to hear that this is not just a problem in Occupy Detroit. With regard to the name, its problematic. But I challenge this body to come up with another name. I will give my name/number so you can share. Regarding keeping the money in the black community, first we need to activate the black community. Occupy Detroit makes up the demographic of the country, but the city is 80% black. So our job is to engage those who feel disengaged.
  • Kali: I want to offer some pushback on trying to be more clear that whether by default or not, we do make political decisions. And we need to be clear about that - having the meeting in Atlanta was a political decision; having it in Detroit was a political decision. I agree in principle with what Jerome and others have lain out. For me there's a limit to when I'm willing to engage in a process I see to be democratic. I'm not going to have a conversation about democracy with a Ron Paul or someone like that. We may not have all the answers today as to what the lines of demarcation are, but we need to sharpen them up. There are some real clear decisions being made. For example the ICC having this WSF to free Palestine is a profound decision that gives centrality to the Palestine struggle. We have to figure out how we want to relate to these things and how they relate to us. There will be attacks by certain forces, Zionist forces, for being allied with WSF. We need to be prepared for it politically, not just financially. We can operate without money, we've done it before. In terms of the elections - we can articulate certain principles to movement beyond that I don't think we should direct people's relationship to the electoral process. From the Latin American example they have created other processes for dealing with electoral work, a space different from the SF space.
  • Alicia: How does a political mandate coming from the WSF relate to USSF? We as forces in U.S. need to consider anti-colonial stance and approach. We need to filter through principles, vision, and practice before during and after the USSF. Because of the nature of the struggle in this country, this is different than purely an anti-captialist anti-imperialist position. The WSF is anti-neoliberalism but not necessarily anti-capitalist or imperialist, and we as a body need to understand the politic at the WSF level. Were also reminded that the position of the U.S. in geopolitical landscape has and continues to change. What are the implications for future forums? What are the implications of rise of India and China for future forums? The question for the NPC - is it an organization that provides guidance? Or is it not? Is it a broad umbrella that encompasses? Is it ok to exclude certain voices? If so, when, how and why? There is the question of whether and how to draw boundaries around participation. How does the social forum process relate to this motion - OWS? And we discussed, where did occupy come from and what does this mean for the futur eof ows and our relationship to it?
  • Walda: One of the things was that we sensed there was a broad embrace of a politidcal direction of anti-capitalism/anti-imperialism. But what does this mean in practice? In making the decisions around it? Also we heard discussion about how this moment impacts the form. And while we will talk about this tomorrow, I want to lift up what we heard. There is a lot of discussion about PMAs, regional, thematic gatherings. And people want to do this to go deep. And when and how a national convergence comes together is something we need to spend time on. And how does this body give life to this process? Then how do we use the technology? How does technology become part of our tools? We didn't mention the electoral pieces in the sum up earlier. What does it mean in the larger political thrust? Now we will have a chance to go deeper on this question.

How Do We Build An Independent Political Power and Force?

  • Rose: In terms of the Occupy movement, my question would be why did the response take this particular form in this country at this particular time?
  • Karl: It is important to make a distinction between Zuccoti Park and other places. The OWS near Wall Street and Zucotti Park had peculiar development. It was creted by Adbusters and connected anarchists that came out of the ivy league. They say it is leaderless, but we know it isn't. That form only exists there. The other occupy movements have bounced off the general brand. Young people rise up and resist finance capital.
  • Kali: I would agree, but, in my experience is this anti-organizational tendency has been growing among youth, especially since the WTO. The form coming from Zucotti Park spoke to particular sectors. It speaks to a theme of this period and this generation. And part has been distressing in that it has taken a concrete form that rails against previous forms of struggle and organization. There has been a struggle, but the tendency is still there. I wasn't suprised by the form that emerged, knowing what they were pushing and how they were pushing it. I don't think that we should be surprised. But the critical piece going forward is claiming people you haven't organized is problematic. But they are part of us. And we have to find concrete ways to deal with the concepts of democracy that they highlight and we have to talk about some things that are lacking (like history of concrete struggle).
  • Karl: What time is it? This is the first generation of white kids without a sense. I do think that we should lovingly call out this "leaderless movement" stuff as an untruth.

If we don't have way to hold them accountable, there's no way to shape anything. They are definitely part of this movement and we need to relate to them as productively as possible.

  • Maureen: I understand something that looks like a flash in the pan. Occupy won't last long - it just showed up as a response and there was no other structure for that voice to be heard. I'm a big fan of the 99%. This is the first time independent conversation says there's a difference between corporate class and the rest of us. That's an appropriate message to me. In Detroit, these are working class kids. It was clear here - taxi cab drivers with PhD's, for example - that just because you are going to school doesn't mean you will get a job. It is very clear that there is a class component to this fight. We in Detroit were late. We're still grappling with whether USSF is an entity - it is an entity - like a united front meeting. The only purpose of the NPC is that it helps to organize USSF and maybe some other things. The deeper issue is that we have not talked about people not here.
  • Viola: Occupy New Orleans has taken over a park accross from city hall. People were arrested at 3:00 am, but also had an attorney and got put back into the park. A lot of white young people have been spending nights in the park. The message from young people is that they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They don't realize what is happening, but just want to do something.

  • Fred: It is important to make sure that people of color are in leadership. We might not want the USSF to be all-encompassing. Perhaps the purpose of the USSF is not to embrace and bring everyone in. Maybe it's to be what we've been and stay there in large movement. If we go the other way, encompass the 99% - that's a different issue. Talk about being uncomfortable! Why isn't AFL/CIO here? Jobs with Justice? Where do we want to go? If AFL/CIO is not here, certainly more conservative organizations are not going to be here.
  • Ahmina: I haven't really participated in occupy movements - but occupy movement started because of middle class students struggled with debt; it started with a capitalist model. Many occupy movements are working hard to bring in people of color, but that's what we can offer to occupy. What happens if people get jobs? Are they going to be done? Or can we build a long term movement? We can bring the idea of leaderhips of people of color to the Occupy movement.
  • Alicia: Does there need to be a relationship between this movement? What does it mean to build broader political power? We're choosing between continuing this conversation, or going to the 2 aformentioned questions.
  • Karl: We did an interesting thing at Fort Benning where they had an Occupy movement and organized against the School of the Americas. We took Naomi Klines film, broke it down into pieces and discussed electoral politics. At some point, you need an electoral arm to get certain decisions made. Cooperatively owned community credit unions are forbidden to lend money to start workers coops. They can lend to buy a car, but not worker coops. Important reform is needed for a solidarity economy movement to win - would need electoral arm. You can't build a movement pretending that government doesn't exist. The kind of organization we're building is controlled by us - not by a democratic party, even if we vote for them sometimes. The USSF doesn't need to take a stand for or against our chapter. Eventually, this movement will need electoral arm. You don't get socialism by elections, but I do beleive that you proceed through elections.
  • Ife: Regarding the building an independent politcal force I would argue in this moment and as we move forward, people continue to be thrown out of work and find it difficult to fill basic needs. This will force people out, the structure that they then go into is still to be determined. The USSF is something that provides convergence space, it should be intentional in cultivating skills and things that will be needed in this moment to advance our aims (whatever they may be). Or advancing the new world, however we see or determine it to be. Don't have to go through electoral process to make these changes. There are some groups that get their money directly from electoral groups so they can't say this. But when people lose jobs and money, consciousness shifts. So we must be intentional about the structure we create so people can deepen their understanding, develop necessary tools and sharpen their skills. We must clear in this iteration of the USSF on what groups can and should walk away with. Last time that meant we accepted all proposals regardless of what work they did, next time we should rethink this. How can people on the ground be put on a better position to really forge change, in transitional legal ways leading to other extra-legal ways. We know the laws are a reflection of the people in power, they're arbitrary. Point: Be more intentional; but build upon/evolve what's happened in the past.
  • Sylvia: I am still not clear on where we're landing on question of unity and difference, especially in relation to question of relations between social movement and state power/larger forces.
  • Alicia: The issues with occupy in Detroit will differ from other places. We should be moving forward about what this means for the USSF.
  • Sarah: The conversation we are having now with the second qeustion will translate for tomorrow. So we can make decisions about what kinds of organizations or forces we are trying to bring to the NPC. And how we understand what it means to build a political power. Is occupy some of the people who might be part of doing it or not? If we think that what this means is grassroots people of color, what does it mean for the NPC? We are trying to get as clear as possible about what that means. Is there a difference about the extent to which we are trying to create a space for electroral politics or not? How much do we lift up organizational budgets...or not?

Derek: How do we build an independent political power/force? It is the basis of where we come from. I sit here as a member of greater New Orleans consortium which consists of 50 + organizations. So i can say we can build because we are on the ground with every day people who say this is how its going to be. We are here to create a space for conversations to happen. And it is not so much for us to make the decision. Next question: comes from local work. They make the decisions, not us. We can help make the space happen, they decide the content.

  • Walda: This conversation is reminding us of need to work for clarity. We realize that we won't necessarily have unity, but we need to be able to make decisions as an organizing body. We do make them whether we're deliberate about it or not. How can we accompany this movement to help it achieve aims consistent with the USSF? Whose interests do the state serve? We need to be mindful of the militaristic/fascist tendencies of the state. How do we offer some direction and clarity for movements in local contexts struggling with real, urgent needs?
  • Marian: There is the local issue of disenfranchisement through Emergency Manager process. Legislative struggles support capitalist system. The new young activists are all part of the "new class" - without job opportunities, they are moving back home, etc. - because system is failing them. We need to educate, reach out to the OWS folks. Otherwise we'll be in the way. We need to understand what we're facing. We need to envision alternatives and help communicate and teach this vision.
  • Steph: We'll get into this question more tomorrow. There is lots of disagreement on this question of how to build independent political power. Note the intergenerational component of WSF process and figure out how to relate to OWS/political moment. Why are some folks not here? In part this is related to this question of how to build independent power. In the social forum, we're at crossroads. We need to choose between an institutionalized form with large numbers or a process and flexible/strategic process that models leadership/accountability -where scale is less important. We need to make decisions by assessing our strengths in the context. Assess why, for instance, we couldn't respond to the Wisconsin mob. Can we develop capacity to act in more responsive way with ongoing dynamics?

There is a hunger/desire/demand for ENTRY POINTS. Think about how to open many new entry points into movements-- perhaps beyond social forum process. Also think about exit strategies. How do we act responsibly towards local communities?

  • Mallory: The relation between social movements and state power is an ongoing process. We want to complement ongoing movements. We’ll always be working towards the vision we want despite state power. Independent political force is key to develop because we need to avoid engagement with state power. We already are an independent political power—we need to acknowledge that and develop this idea further.
  • Cheri: This isn't an either/or question. We don’t have the luxury of deciding whether or not to be involved in electoral politics. Every day elected officials take action that directly harms our community. We need to get out of box of categorical thinking and be pragmatic about engaging the political system while at the same time building this movement and building strategic leadership. One key think is that we need to do what Stephanie was talking about—relate to the new questions and new paradigms. My organizing experience is totally different from what it was a year ago. We’re struggling to shift gears. I see this in my travels, it’s true elsewhere. We need to stop being categorical and constantly ask what we’re up against and what we’re going to do. There’s always a reaction—our enemy has learned how to respond to what we do. Homeland security is an example of this.
  • George: More than anything else, I appreciate today. Part of what is helpful when thinking about building political power is staying close to the mission and thinking that another world is possible. That vision isn't what we are talking about now. We can get stuck into the overwhelming stuff. How do we articulate the vision to the people we are accountable to? There are some pieces we can bring. And we can facilitate that process - not guide or control it - but provide political education. What they do with that is up to them. Our responsibility is to be intentional that pepole have options about what they can do outside status quo. And to hang in there when discouraged. We have to make people understand that you have to be a millionaire in this country to have power. And we know how to build power. How do we take what we know and make it available to people? And how do we follow up in a way that's meaningful? And to help peole connect locally and grow it into something else? Also, we have to tell the truth. Not in a way that leaves people feeling defeated. It is our responsibility to communicate that in as many ways possible. This is what we can do well.
  • Alicia: Thanks to all. want to say a few things: Steph raises good point about speaking in the specific as it relates to where we are right now. Michael raised, what does it mean 6 months after the social forum that there was all this motion and no one following up? What does this mean for how we want to move forward and do things different? The agenda team will try to figure out how we do that when we meet. Also, we have different strategies. And this question of unity/difference isn't about becoming a homogenous body, but becoming a united front. And understanding the different strategies as we move together and not blindside one another. And what does the next social forum need to look liek and involve to build power? And what we do with that? Lets talk about it so that as we move forward if we differ that we just know that with one another.

Saturday January 7, 2012

Reflections from 1/6/12: What Does It Mean to Build An Independent Political Power and Force

  • George: Building independent political force involves local process; is intentional about naming current political realities; validates local realities and reminds them that they have power to rule; we're helping build political power that affects people's lives.
  • Carl Davidson: Building Political Power has Four qualities: 1) organize good ideas and the means to communicate them, 2) organize money, 3) organize voters that belong to our organizations and 4) organize street heat
  • Darryl: Political power is built at the local level, but our role as the Social Forum is to bring local political forces together under some basic principles to build broad alliances with each other and other forces.
  • Monica: One of the primary tools employed is to see poverty as human rights violation and this helps to uplift poverty as a political issue.
  • Diana Copeland: Connecting networks amongst points of struggle, cross pollinating social movements, and creating our own local solutions.
  • Steph: The honest answer is that we don't know, but the aim should be to connect local, regional and national efforts based upon a critical analysis.
  • Flo: I echo's Steph's answer that we honestly don't know, but building on other statements it needs to be linked to international struggles and networks. It needs to be a body agreed on its role of setting or establishing political direction.
  • Michael: In terms of power the question is who can control the resources of a community. Many forms of movement and power are developing, but there is still not enough unity, coordination and alignment in the US context.
  • Kali: The experiment in Jackson, MS with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, giving power to the People, and take over the City Council via an independent political power; there has to be a counter-hegemonic process for those candidates running or else we become new managers of the neo-liberal system; it is a legitimate point of power but there are also others.
  • Jackie: Helping people collectively understand the current moment and to development new political identities the empower people and counter the dominant system that we are struggling with, and how to build power outside of the established oppressive order.
  • Jamala: We need to raise the bar in the way we function and how we relate to each other.
  • Rose Brewer: Found us in a contradictory space yesterday cause if we don't answer definitively the question of whether this body is going to give political direction to the Social Forum process and the convergence space that it enables it is hard to answer this question.
  • Viola: Organize people and make them aware of their own power.
  • Derek: See's the image of a Turtle shell and we are inside it trying to build a new Turtle that is faster and more dynamic.
  • Jen: Building a conscious organized power base of our class (in its broad totality and diversity) to win power from the class and forces that are oppressing us.
  • Emery: Identity and support the development of key fronts of struggle throughout the country and create multiple types of entry points for folks to get involved and engaged in radical change, all of our practices and struggles must confront the limitations of US society including Indigenous sovereignty, white supremacy, and colonial conquest.
  • Jacqueline: I think its necessary that we enable everyone (whether it's my mom, my aunt, the lady at the post office, or the lady who drives the bus), to see themselves as part of the movement and to see that they also hold power in the movement. Also, it is critical that we recognize the indivisibility of all rights and not to succumb to the 'rights wars' that occur even within the movement.
  • David Cobb: To challenge the legal framework of the government, particularly the constitution, and the organization’s mission is to change the US constitution, the organization has had success in winning for ballot initiatives, including abolishing the doctrine that money equals political speech.
  • Walda: Being with people who are in motion in various fronts of struggle. We need a mass political education project and process to challenge the hegemonic power of the state and capital; this is the project of the 21st century (building independent power) through radical convergence.
  • Jerome: We need to make a distinction between if we're talking about getting our share of power or controlling the productive process. Few have mentioned "independence" and we need to make sure that we are focusing on building our own independent political spaces.
  • Nada: The Republican candidates are currently competing to see who can dehumanize the Palestinian people the most and the fact that the progressive movement in this country is not strong enough to enforce any consequences for these statements is frustrating and demoralizing, what is the point of a space and process like the Social Forum if it cannot stand up to this type of oppressive behavior.
  • Cheri: We have to grapple with the one party system in this country and create an alternative to it, we have to move from the economic to the political (from the point of view of the struggle for economic justice), and we have to build a mass of educated troops.
  • Maureen: My concept of independent political power tries to go to the core issue of survival and addressing the material needs and interests of the class, this means existing without scarcity, and to do this we need mass education. This is a three step process: line up all of the capitalists and give them a chance to change or suffer the consequences. The question of power is do we have access to the things that control our quality of life, this is the central question that our education process must entail and should be included in the Social Forum process.

Small Group Discussion: Role and Funciton of the USSF and NPC (10:00am – 12:30pm)

Purpose: We're moving into small groups of six people with participation from a facilitator.

The Question How can the USSF contribute to build social movements to have the power that we want? What role/function can USSF play in building an independent political power and force? And in what direction: to oppose capitalism and imperialism, to create alternative ways to survive and live? Really focus discussion on the USSF role. Report backs will follow, then a larger discussion to affirm our collective agreement.

Group 1

If we had a forum it would be in Indian country. We agreed that the PMA is important before, during, and after. Whatever form needs to be regional level either before or during. The NPC should be an organizing body not so much planning body. The NPC is not an organization. The USSF has many purposes and we need to make sure that it's a place for many issues to come together, having thematic yet broad forums for participation. We know that anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movement is needed, but we're not asking everyone to join. But we need to be able to frame our language for all people to use and mobilize with. The next social forum should be in South Dakota. We have to develop political direction for social movements. It's important to identify ourselves as USSF because we need to be a part of the world process.

Group 2

Our contribution is a metaphor of facilitator as the main function or role of the NPC. Specifically, what we do as facilitators is to bring to local struggles a frame or vision that is national, international, and historic. We hold a particular vision that's wider, that another world is possible. We're making strategic links that are separated in local contexts. Guiding groups strategically as active facilitators with our analysis. Our experience so far as facilitators we recognize that we are one force and there may be others that we may be complimenting. However, we have to be more self-aware of our role as facilitators. The different stages of our work are to make the forum convergence effective. We have to think more about the pre- (orienting, mobilizing) and post-forum on both the national and international levels. Technology is important for the strategic networking, mobilizing, and other tactics for before, during, and after. PMA is good for this, too. Also a people's university to continue before and after and contirbutes to decentralized leadership. A task that we have in cultivating decentralized leadership is to create more access points.

Group 3

The role and function of the USSF is a space to gather movement forces and to develop stronger movements. Five things: align to a shared political direction, align to global movements, develop political spaces for political commitment, challenge the workshop system but create space for skills and best practices and sharing information, developing politcal education process for entry points at and between forums and allow for mandates to come out. Fronts of struggle to be developed and go deeper. How does that body connect to those larger synthesis fronts? The question of accountability and leadership is still open. What does it look like to have representation? We should hold to this shape and scope but not necessarily adhereing to political lines with backing in history and power and conditions. Clarity about what the forum is not: (in the details).

Group 4

We talked about the first question: Role of the USSF and NPC in setting the framework so that the NPC takes a more poltiical leadership role and setting pollitical direction in the US movement that represents the US to expand the NPC to better represent the movement. Creating the USSF as a space to hash out issues on the ground and through that try to come out of the USSF with direciton forward. Being able to create this body into a better representative body with suggested direction offered. Within that, having movement towards the next steps after the forum. If we go into the forum with better direction then we could come out of the forum with better direction for movement. Direct versus indirect power, defining who is the we, and logistical organizing of the forum and how the previous two have been logistically difficult are all additional conversations. Taking on explicit anti-capitalist language concerning the USSF came down to having the broadest or most focused forum possible? Language around "anti-" will limit the broadness. Even if people uphold those politics the language could alienate them.

Group 5

We didn't address the NPC. In terms of the forum's function is in a broad sense a place for convergence. We talked about the language of anti- and if there are individuals who are not able to align themselves with that. To provide a space where political education, consciousness raising, skills development are functions. For method, we looked at the space for convergence and it as part of a broader process that includes pre-work such as PMA and regional work and then also followed by more focused regional and local work to be able to continue the stuff that gets developed within the USSF convergence space. The politcal popular consciousness-raising in workshops that there be a process for vetting and establishing criteria to reflect principles of the forum to focus and select to ensure that we're building upon the work that has been done at previous social forums and in movement work to a higher level. Education for what? What's the purpose for our doing this in this space, having intentionality?


  • Alicia: Lift up differences, but identify points of unity for some shared direction.
  • Maureen: One conversation in group 1 was about the role and make-up of the social forum process. The folks that should be coming to social forums across the country should be the visionaries so that we can find points of clarity and collectivity. When those visionaries go home they go home to do the work with the rest of the country. This is the space reserved for the folks that have the vision for how we get to where we're trying to get there. Let's bring in a special kind of folks.
  • Mallory: Before, during, and after. The benefits of mobilizing and educating before the forum and then the critical follow-up after the forum are both things that we have done but should think about doing much better in the future. The benefits of the work we do and the follow up is so critical, building from lessons of 2007 and 2010.
  • Alicia: The before, during, and after is also beyond the NPC.
  • Michael: What if this body hosted the International Council that would bring in people from around the world, and educate people on struggles, capturing what's going on now and put out to the movement.
  • Stephanie: Agree with Michael. Also, one of the functions is to develop movement-based praxis not just getting our needs taken care of. All the pieces are important to the movement and increase.
  • Fred: Regarding the question of open space, as the crisies deepens, the creation of liberated space is important and within that space people make decisions about actions, improve their lives and make a better world. This is what we want to maintain and not be restricted about how developments take place. We need to keep our eyes open about how change happens and let it come into the organization.
  • Walda: We haven't talked about this today but it came up in our small group, infrastructure and resourcing our movement is imporant and we need to seriously think about this. Michael knows what I'm talking abut. As we think about our movement, the meetings, etc. We gotta tackle this sooner than later.
  • Jen: Think tank, the space to discuss where we going, political education, creating vehicles for political education and exchanges between movements like the People's University.
  • Maureen: We do better if we are able to focus on an upcoming activity, like the International Council meeting. That's a real possibility and we will get more detail on that in the next few days. Resources, we generally write grants or request money from participants. We got 20,000 people in our database, if we could get $10 per year, we could get uwards $100k for operating. need to fund our own activities.
  • Dave: Who can do $10 a year? If the NPC can say we committed to it, we can get others to do it. Don't know what the protocol is for doing this but it could be something to build on.
  • Alicia: We need to use lunch to synthesize and think about a shared direction.
  • Steph: We need to develop a process for assessing our development and new levels of assessment. This afternoon we should get into factors, tensions for Wisconsin, etc. As we raise money, how are we developing processes for fair distribution, etc.
  • Mallory: In the spirit of in-between forums, we need to deal with communications issue. what is the message with fundraising, organizations or individuals?
  • Jerome: I am trying to figure out the future plans for the USSF--thematic, regional? Wondering if that's a discussion we'll have after lunch. After then, we need to decide role of NPC.
  • Rose: This is an area where we don't have to start from scratch, we've had regionals and need to learn from them.
  • Alicia: The major thing is that the role of SF is to provide political education and to develop skills. We use PMA's to facilitate those processes. What kind of leadership roles and functions are we trying to develop to move these proeceses forward? Open space is not totally open but has a more political focus. And finally, the USSF provides a space for convergence...but for what?
  • Sarah: In that spirit, the social forum and the coordinating body is facilitating leadership towards a political direction. It is useful to have more conversation about how to be independent of capital and how to build in that direction? We need more discussion and unity on continuity and as we experiment with diffferent forms. Maybe some difference in body that plans SF and one that guides movement; need to develop shared langauge and working together effectively.
  • Alicia: Another theme is broad vs focused - how focused are the contours? Organizing mobilized forces or bringing as many people together as possible? We need to come to some alignment about this. Also what is the role of the NPC relative to this decision?
  • Reuben via Jamie: PMA is a process not just a tool. Thanks for using mic , video is choppy because not enough bandwith and too many people using internet.
  • Sara: Logistics discussed for meetings over lunch.Mike is transitioning out of Resource Committee, needs others to join; Poverty Work Group not meeting; Gender Justice not meeting, Info and Tech not meeting; PMA group is meeting; Pol Security is meeting; Communications is meeting.

Synthesis on Points of Alignment

  1. The role of USSF is to facilitate building social movements in the direction of opposition to capitalism and imperialism, by facilitating ways for forces of motion and fronts of struggle to gather together.
  2. It offers political education, skills building, relationship building, debates to gain clarity, strategy and tactics, shared language and communications
  3. The USSF allows for multiplicity for forms, tactics, and agenda
  4. It must be grounded in and organized around peoples survival and work
  5. It must be representative of and accountable to forces of motion at fronts of struggle and impacted communities, WSF and global struggle/impactted people and struggle
  6. It is important to have continuity to building social movements before during and after via vehicles & tools for political education, prepare and create spaces for debate, PMA, regional & thematic forums, response/participation/support for emerging social movement/impulse

Questions and Points of Clarity

  • David: What does it mean to be accountable to the WSF?
  • Kali: One way to address David's question is through various questions coming from the international coordination of bodies/vehicles. And in terms of themes - for instance WSF Free Palestine - how de we relate to it as USSF?
  • Michael: On the question of anti-capitalism, the WSF is very intentional regarding anti-neo-liberalism; we must do the same. Where do we draw the line on participation?
  • Steph: Also, debate and synthesis needs to be inlcuded

How are we defining our opposition to capitalism? Narrow or broad?

  • Michael: There needs to be balance between who we think is in motion and where we're at in history. Do we feel in the US today that we are ready to make the call that this is an anti-capitalist movement? I don't think we are. Do we keep that door open before we make that call?
  • Walda: Remain focused on the guiding political framework of struggle as opposed to criteria. We need to be clear and intentional. It's forward looking as opposed to who is in and out.
  • George: Defining capitlism in terms of oppression & exploitation.
  • Sylvia: I would like to understand the question of who's in. Regarding Occupy, a lot more education needs to be done. The USSF has been for everyone. Are we trying to draw a line in the sand? We don't have the resources to put energy toward education for folks who aren't there yet.
  • Kali - We are not trying to create absolute lines of demarcation but would like to see us move to clarity and discussion with folks we work with to say that space for reform is virtually gone. We need to be able to provide leadership and be clear with people. You may not be clearly opposed to capitalism but if you think reform will make things better, I need to argue with you that history proves that wrong. we need to have serious conversation about being and creating the alternative. Let's move beyond just being opposed to neo-liberalism.

How do we transform basic ownership to being tranformative force? I think we need to move in that direction.

  • Sara: The piece about who is in motion and historical motion and direction we want to go comes down to practice. At this moment we have to be broad about the forms of opposition and how complete, incomplete or partial that oppostition is. And use seperate messaging, stratiegies.
  • Michael: Conversations we should be having implications for charater of the forum, messaging that comes out of this meeting is critical. if we're saying we're ready to put out anti-cap, et al frame, lets just do it knowing what we are dealing with and what the implications will be
  • Cheri: Everyone i know right now doesn't know how they're going to pay for their homes, health care, etc. They are ready to be really loud about this capitalist system. We have to not be behind times. The social forum can do it in a way that is loud and transparent about calling what it is. The responsibility to global community to make that decision right now.
  • Jerome: This is so important bcause we are recognizing this struggle is going on everyday inside every process we are involved in toward resolution of the issues or we're going to struggle to get a better deal. This is an ongoing struggle. The voice of saying we can deal with this in the confines of capitalism is consistent. We should clearly understand what we're doing. We're talking about lets struggle this thing out in the open. This discussion would draw people in. This is not about a political line but about having a space where we can have this struggle.
  • Marion: The USSF is supposed to be a space where we bring this stuff. All this should be on the website. People need to understand question of racism but won't if we don't educate them.

Synthesis (Alicia): Anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, neo-liberalism, etc. are not critera but guiding direction and alignement to achieve over time through our work. We want to be able to have conversations in the open. We need to be accountable/responsible if we decide to take this direction

  • Carl: I don't like triad of title. I don't think reform is exhausted but rather it has hardly begun. Discussion at USSF should be between reform and revolution. It is important how this is framed - so folks say this is where i belong as opposed to this is for someone else.
  • Cheri: Just because someone votes republican, doesn't mean their not anti-capitalist. These days alot of folks are moving from democrat to republican because they have been disenfranchized by the lack of democratic action over the years. It means those folks don't see other options not that they aren't anti-capitalist because they probably are.

Synthesis (Alicia): We agree that we need to keep it broad. The USSf is against exploitation and oppression. We talked about the NPC taking responsibility, offering leadership. We are not excluding strategies but pointing to needing to have the conversation. Even talking about it internally has consequences. Another potential cost is strength of our movement. The more we can describe what we mean as these oppressions show up in people's lives. We need some strategy, form and method around this direction.

  • Steph: What are implications of not making this choice? Potential cooptation. So how do we note this as a risk? We can't limit our strategies. We need to create multiple space for mulptiple alliances and we have to get beyond rhetoric. The function of organization - manifestations on multiple fronts of struggle
  • Jamala: I am curious as to whether when people talk about realignment that we want to embrace right now, that we need to be mindful of who it is alienating.
  • Jamie: Up to now, the USSF has been a one trick pony, albeit a damn good trick. For the next step we have to take a big risk. A huge risk of taking the next step without taking that risk/step. We don't want to do the same thing again.

Proposal (Alicia): The role and function of the USSF is to facilitate building social movements in the direction of opposition to capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism as a guiding direction and alignment, not criteria, for participation or leadership. 22 orgs - in favor

What does it mean to be accountable to WSF/global struggle?

  • Oya: Accountability is a strong word. What does this mean?

What accountablity means: We are locating ourselves in unity with the WSF principles of unity and overall process.

  • Proposal that we change "accountable to" to "alignment with" the WSF.
  • Another proposal that we state that we are "connected" to the WSF, rather than accountable to.
  • What does accountable mean and is there a better word to capture what we mean?
  • We need to keep in focus our affirmation to aligment to social forum principles. Maybe need to just reaffirm this alignment and that is our accountability.
  • We are affirming alignment and adherence to WSF principles and accountability to impacted communities and people and global struggles. What does that mean in practice?
  • Accountability to global struggle - the sentiment is good, but i think it is a goal not criteria. "Global struggle" could mean a lot of things. Like that we moved from WSF to alignment with WSF principles
  • We are affirming our alignment with WSF principles, and accountable to impacted, and proposing that we be more specific about being in alignment with global struggles in alignment with WSF principles.
  • Who are we saying this to? What is the purpose with the last statement around alignment being determined by the WSF principles.
  • The usage of accountability should be struck from our usage in this formulation as it is problematic on various levels.
  • Alicia: We should note that we are keeping the point around accountablity to impacted people.

Proposal on Wording: "In solidarity with global struggles that align with the goals of the USSF and WSF" 18 organizations agreed with the proposal around "solidarity"

  • We should strike 'accountable' from all of the points period, even where it is a modifier for impacted communities.

Discussion of Impacted communities in the United States

  • George: I am willing to think about another term, but want to talk about the concept of accountability and privilege. We as a body (NPC) have a lot of privilege in relation to impacted communities. In my mind it is accountability for my privilege. Word doesn't have to be accountability, but has to be stronger than solidarity.
  • Kali: It is important that we have a clear understanding of the political implications of the terms that we use. There are grand juries persecuting some of our comrades because of the solidarity that they have provided. Solidarity is a safe enough term.
  • Alan: Proposed language: "We recognize the centrality of the U.S. power system in the global struggle and invite movements worldwide and within the U.S. to call upon us to assist in movement building to the extent we are able."
  • Cheri: We need outside help. We need intervention. Need to revisit concept of solidarity. Some of situations described earlier are happening now in terms of repression.
  • We need to describe what these terms mean in practice.

Will work on the language outside of this meeting. "Responsibility to impacted communities and people" 22 organizations support

Questions and Guided Discussion

  1. Is the forum a place for visionaries, for everyone, or all of the above?
  2. Are we converging for converence's sake, or are we converging toward something, and if so, what?
  3. Think we have answered the question of alignment vs. criteria andwe are leaning towards alignment
  4. Need to decide the purpose of the NPC - political leadership vs. logistics organizing body
  5. Added question from Ruben: we are creating a process that allows for social movements to converge vs just intersecting
  6. Is the social forum a aplace for visionaries, for everyone, or both?
    1. Derek: A gathering for both and all
    2. Alan: Both - everyone has that capacity - to be visionaries.
    3. Will: I don't think it's exactly the right question. Is this a gathering for people who are already affiliated with organizations or people who are impacted? We were speaking mostly to people who were affiliated. If we want this to be something where everyone can come, it would be a strategy session. If we want more people involved, we should speak more to those that are not affiliated. Would prefer to do something for eveyone but would have to organize it differently.
    4. Marion: When we went out to organize for the social forum we first reached out to other organizers and relied upon them to reach other forces. I think we should prioritize reaching out to conscious organizers first.
    5. Maureen: hard to think of many spaces for activists and organizers to get together at this point in time, but we need this space to bring these forces together, particularly intergenerational dialog.
    6. Ruben: Convergence is the coming together to build relationships and consciousness. The power building space is the USSF 3 and the action space is the PMA.
  7. Rose: Most of our communities are not organized, we have to be real about this. We need to do a more serious assessment of our organizing initiatives and structures.

Summation (Alicia): The Social Forum is geared towards conscious forces (visionaries, organizers and activists), but is open to everyone as a place of learning, development, and relationship building.

  • Cheri: We need to be clear about incorporating various fronts of struggle.

Reframing (Alicia): add "emerging fronts of struggle, but is open to everyone for the purposes of power building, etc."

  • We need to make sure that we make sure that the Forum has multiple points of entry for various forces at varying points of development.
  • Everyone is welcomed implies that we are open to various right wing forces to participate.
  • Alicia: The focus is on design, not on participation in and of itself.
  • We have to remember that we will have security that will attempt to ensure that participants abide by our principles.
  • Sylvia: Are we talking about applying this definition to local and regional social forums? (There is general agreement indicated that we are talking about these applying at all levels)

Summation (Alicia): "visionary, activists, organizers, and forces in motion, and is open to everyone who adheres to the principles of the Social Forum". Agreed upon by 21 organizations.

Question: Are we converging for Convergence sake or converging towards something? If so, what are we convergening toward?

Call to Question - Is there anyone here who believes that we are just converging for convergence sake? There is consensus that no one holds this position.

  • Will: Organizations and Social Movements will determine for themselves what they are converging for.
  • Maureen: What might be embedded in this question is what do we do after the Social Forum gatherings? It is not supposed to be, but historically we have not done some of the follow up and follow through work.
  • Ann: We already agreed that what we are converging for is the building of a movement in opposition to capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, etc.
  • Michael: Folks are saying that a higher bar needs to be set for the next Social Forum. We need to be more deliberate about what is going to be available to people to use to keep us better connected and engaged.

(Proposal) We are converging toward...(see points of unity and agreement from earlier in the notes and from the Chart papers being worked on by the facilitators, Alicia and Sara). This was agreed upon by 21 organizations. [CHECK NOTES ON THIS] For clarity there are 24 organizations that could vote. Praxis is NOT voting and Carl had to leave due to a family emergency.

The main question is regional and thematic gatherings towards a national gathering or not?

  • A counter question is one of timing? It did come up in some papers, should there be another national gathering? Simultaneous regional and thematic gatherings. Another option. In 2006 there were polycentric gatherings of the WSF. This could be an option/model.
  • Ruben: This body is not a body that respresents all of the social movements and should not answer this question.
  • We need to walk out of here with as much clarity of purpose and direction as possible. This is an expectation many have for this meeting. So, we should continue the discussion on this issue. There is broad agreement for this proposal.
  • Rose: The regions are very uneven, and we need to be clear about that and intentionally that it might not work in our context to just have regional meetings in regard to adherence to our principles.
  • Emery: What has been most fruitful in the experiences of the past was to have regional social forums leading up to a national social forum. This is the model that we should adhere to and focus on reconstituting ourselves as a National Organizing Body as opposed to a National Planning Committee. And that the National Organizing Body help to give direction to and build regional and thematic Social Forums. If we are committing to a organizing process that includes PMA's, regional and thematic forums, etc., then we need to be mindful of our capacity and the time it takes to organize these successfully.
  • Maureen: The quicker we can get to freedom the better. But, we need to question if we want to get to something quicker or do we want it right? One thematic forum could be a Rust Belt Forum, but want to advance that the next USSF should be on Indigenous land.
  • Michael: We should not set a date right now for a national, but instead focus on setting local and regional forums. This would help us to more effectively build a successful USSF down the road.
  • Steph: The initiatives are self-determined processes that have autonomy. The Kentucky Social Forum provides an exellent example and something that we should relate to as organizers. We don't determine the regions, these are determined by the political struggles that are taking place. We have created a general thrust with the work that we have done today that organizers and social movements can engage with.
  • A couple of issues and questions have to be raised. We know the problems with some of the regional social forums that were not lead by people of color and impacted communities. Raises the question of how involved is the NPC going to be in relating to these regional and thematic forums. An alternative is to consider holding a number of regional and thematic forums at the same time. We need to do something big and different now, we cannot continue to do the same thing, we need to give something more to the movement.
  • David: The OWS phenomenon captured an energy, in part because we were not doing anything during this period. The call to action is important and thinks that 2013 is important and I think we can do it.
  • Jen: I am concerned that we will surrender the unifying points we created here for an unconnected and unaccountable process on the regional and thematic level. I think that if we did a forum in 6 months we would have 100K people there because of the consciousness and expectations of the historical moment.
  • Diana: I am trying to think of how to strengthen our movements using the PMA process. The benefit of regional is starting local and building, but how does that link with other struggles like food justice, etc? How does that build as we go into something nationally? I think that some of the regional forums that have happened that are very white led come from different roots but if we are very strong in our principles and ensure that if we are led by people of color and grassroots, if we are very intentional it makes the process a lot stronger.
  • Jerome: This decision is a big one. I am not sure if we are going to get enough discussion in about the implications tonight. I propose we discuss as much as we can but hold the decision until tomorrow. We may have to do something different. I'm from regional/thematic social forums along with people's assemblies pointed towards a national convergence. I'm for having a date for a national forum, it puts a point and a focus. The reason I'm for it is because of the last two days of discussion. We are building a US movement pointed towards anti-capitalism but it can't be done regionally. it can be built regionally but it can't be accomplished regionally. It's urgent and it's going to get worse unless we do something about it. that's what we all agreed upon. Do we want to do it soon or do we want to do it right. we have enough time to do it right but we don't have time to f@$% around. The real question is what the role of the social forum is in that process. Are we going to provide some structure to it or not. If we are going to provide leadership, direction, or structure, it's a lot of work. Either of these things we say we are going to do is a lot of work. Regional things can't be how they were. they have to be coordinated and have a relationship to each others. delegation of people from each region at other ones. we need to promote convergence. There wasn't this notion of building a movement which meant we had to coordinate convergent. it's a lot of work either way. We need to talk about political impact. something that has a national impact has a greater political implication than something that is regional or local. True in terms of movement building and elections....have regional, local, thematic, but pointed at a date sensitive national convergence.
  • Sara: There is a lot of support behind regional and thematic social forums and gatherings as a next step. PMAs are a significant tool around regional and thematic forums. Keep processes aligned around principles and values, in relationship to self determination of that region. The big question outstanding seems to be are we picking a date, 2013/14/15 as a specific point or does the date emerge out of the process of regional/thematic forums.
  • Writer L. Bush(Observer from Occupy Detroit): Heard there was going to be a decision by this body to have a USSF in 2013. I came to make sure that happens. Soon versus right. 5000 people turned out of public assistance. Believe in soon, right, and now. Believe we should lock in a date for 2013 and use 2012 to organize. Just made protesting illegal under military law.
  • Michael: For the last year, we've been operating under the feeling that we should have a national forum in early 2013 after the election. There is the question of capacity. Will it detract from local work? Regional/thematic/PMAs would be a good middle ground. What are the principles and criteria that would guide? Role of this body is to provide connection. This is what they are doing in New York, etc to get people in motion. We have earned some level of political capital to do some of these things. There would be a level of discomfort we need to be able to live with. We need to bring new people into the process. Who should be at the table. Some of the people organizing regionally need to be at the table at the national level as well.
  • Will: Some of the things we are trying to do with the social forum are new or don't happen frequently, cross-cultural, cross issue, etc. People are coming together from various communities and cultural, regional, regional-thematic, regional thematic and local. The social forum is an attempt to do something cross cultural, cross regional, so how do we have criteria? When I envision regional, it was very specific and not such an open process. It might not be cross cultural. I would like to help to envision if it is going to be open or closed, and if open how? I think a PMA is great and part of movement building.
  • Alan: Harvesting connections and following up on the regional connections is our strength and what we want to do. People are going to get caught up in elections and we can use this time for our own organizing locally and through fronts of struggle during the spring, summer, fall of next year.
  • Fred: 2014/2015 is pretty far away. If we say a year we don't have to give a precise date.
  • Cheri: I advocate that we do choose a date; people are looking for something. Those of us that are frustrated that nothing has happened in a year need something. We should have a movement response team. If all hell breaks loose we want to have a way to respond to something like Wisconsin, etc.
  • Sara: How we increase the impact and really important in building momentum? There may be other things we can do. Many will be going to the G8 convergence. We can generate position papers around the elections. There are other things other than regional/thematic that can build toward a national convergence. I don't think we can go with what the NPC has been.
  • Kali: I have been concerned that so much energy is going to be diverted into the election with what's at stake for so many those in our base. There are a good number of our forces who are pushing to not vote; they are consciously and deliberately pushing to abstain in this election. What should be applauded in Occupy is that they have intentionally resisted being co-opted by the democratic party. This is one of the most principled things that have gone on. There are a good number of forces who want to be politically engaged who refuse to be subsumed. I am more inclined towards 2014 for a big national convergence. We need to build the strength towards the next national one. We shouldn't underestimate the terms of people wanting to engage. It may be we do it in 2013, I'm being moved/convinced.
  • Steph: What kind of force do we need to be building? Where do we need to be building? It's not anybody and everybody. Concentrating on fronts of struggle, what questions need to be resolved? We have to be real about our weaknesses which have been coordination and communication. As processes happen, how are they building on one another. We can use the time as we build. The role of the body is to reorganize ourselves to better reflect what's happening on the ground. We do need a movement response team? Build up morale, pieces, sense of momentum so people can count on what that national convergence will look like.
  • Nada: If the NPC puts out a call, what kind of organization will be in place? The database of 18K has been underutilized. Would love to hear who from my region came to the forum. Send out principles, reports from Southeast, southwest, what's needed to pull off a successful forum. Look at each other and see who else is interested, is it being led by impacted communities.
  • Derek: Take 2012 and 2013 go to whatever city that needs us and be part of that struggle and build momentum. Build a base there. In New Orleans the roundtable is in love with the idea of it coming to New Orleans. One person said, "If the people from Detroit came to our town, I want to see them flood the area round our jailhouse."
  • Jackie: We can have a poly-centric forum in early 2013 and tap some leadership we've already seen through the PMAs. Then we can look at the national forum; this will give us some time to plan. And hosting the international council.
  • Alicia: I am in favor of some activity at the level at which people are organizing. The form the convergence takes is up to who is in motion at that level. It will happen in the way it was supposed to happen. People are pushing for something larger to happen in a year. We need to take some time to figure out how to re-form and re-shape ourselves. Even in this room, we are not half of the supposed organizations that are supposed to be on this body. Sure it comes from fatigue with this process and with these people. Not a deterrent but we have to take it seriously. The way we've organized together, incredible moments and hard moments that have discouraged people from being here who are supposed to be here. Bring other people to the fold who are not our usual suspects.
  • Jerome: It takes a long time for people's outrage to get organized and take a form where they can express themselves so that it's impactful. The time from when SCLC was formed, and the sit-ins, and the full blown movement. What is the rhythm of the movement? The most important process to think of is, is this thing going to blow up while we are sitting around talking about process? The two years between 1968 and 1969, so much happened in those two years. Are we in the movement of people being angry and ready to get it moving?

Sunday January 8, 2012

Review of Roles/Functions of NPC/USSF: Points of unity found in previous days

  1. Function of USSF is to facilitatte building of social movements in the direction of opposition to capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy, and colonialism (not criteria but orientation)
  2. Responsible to impacted communities of people; in solidarity with global struggles in alignment with WSF principles [solidarity here means relationship of working to build mutual power]
  3. USSF Purpose: political education, skill building, sharing, building relationships, sharpening and building clarity and unity thru debate and synthesis, strategy and tactic development, shared language and communications. It allows a multiplicity of forms, strategies, tactics, programs, and agendas. It is grounded in and organized around people's survival, lives, and work.
  4. Social Forum is gathering intended to bring together visionaries, activists, and organizers, but it is open to everyone, as long as participation and leadership is in alignment with USSF and WSF principles.

Proposals on the Form

  1. Reminder from Saturday's discussion: The decision we're making about form is based on our assessment of this moment, as well as capacities and unfolding developments. How do we balance doing this 'right' with doing it 'quickly'? How do we respond to opportunities but ensure time for planning and building? What forms of USSF can support forces in motion and help bring unity to movements?
  1. There is a general sense that regional/thematic forums and PMAs leading toward national convergence should be pursued. A specific date to help focus regional efforts is desired by many.
  1. There is an additional proposal on the table to host WSF International Council as a collective activity that can help support and build USSF process.
  1. There is a question of possible dates for a national forum: 2013 or 2014
  1. It remains unspecified if the USSF will emerge from local/regional/thematic forum and PMA process
  1. There are still questions on the form of national convergence, as in past-large national convergence vs. polycentric forum.

# Proposal: There be a national forum in 2014, with date and place announced late in 2012 following regional movement building work/PMAs.

Comments on this proposal

  1. Mallory: Will we be in better position to choose date/place at end of 2012? Notes busy-ness of this year?
  2. Maureen: Propose to plan for something in 2013, but assess capacity in mid-2012 to determine whether we're ready. Recognizing urgency of moment.
  3. Ife: We should push for something in 2013. The moment is calling for a national convergence and we need to respond to it.
  4. Marian: I am in agreement with the proposal. We should be able to get to the point that we are in motion, we can mobilize people toward a larger convergence. A movement is here. And movements we don't know much about. Once people know who we are, they will come on board.
  5. Jacqueline: Supports a 2013 date given the urgency of the moment.
  6. Flo: Agree with 2014 feeling very far away, given what is happening in the U.S. and the world. Don't want to miss an opportunity becasue we don't recognize it. In 2013 we can pull off a forum, but it wouldn't allow us to do much else. We can have a middle ground to have regional and thematic forums to address/reflect what is happening in the mean time. We could spend time expanding the NPC, reaching out to other groups during that time. I don't know that we could do that and plan a forum by 2013. Supports the proposal.

2 PROPOSALS: both involve regional, thematic, response to urgency

  1. Do the work, put a call for 2014, by the end of 2-12 pick a date.
  2. Move date to 2013. There is a concern - don't want to wait too long. But its not enough time to engage forces to ensure representation by who should be there


  • George: 2014 feels a ways away. But also if we set the date for 2014 for a full national gathering, it allows us to respond to needs. If you call for people to come together to address something. We can respond to what is going on and use it as a method for building for 2014. We will identify leaders who can be on the NPC. Think about a process to respond to issues leading up to convergence.
  • Kali: How are we going to do the educating function of our work? A lot of the urgency is part of the process we saw with the occupy movement. We want to respond on the one hand and don't want to be left in the dust. The OWS is a form of participatory democracy suited to strategic and not tactical decisions. The strategist in me says 2014. But the fighter in me wants to get down now. I am of 2 minds. Leaning toward 2014, but the missing link is, how do we link it? The PMAs and other pieces can be motions in and of themselves. How are we engaging people? How are we leading people toward anti-colonialist/imperialist/etc? Working this out would fill in the gaps about how we will do the educational work leading to 2014.
  • Emery: Support original proposal. I agree with sentiment of there is urgency and the need for connected action now. The proposal allows for this. Part of the need and the name isn't crucial. Shifting this body into an organizing committee, creates strong action now. The organizing committee needs to go full steam from here. Build where we are strong. The organizing committee can support the poverty group. And fundraising group. The money should be moved to where we are strongly organizing our forces. Also, we should build where the process is being built. Most recently in Detroit, the idea of the rust belt, i.e. Atlanta. And if we are talking about the plains, SW and first nations, there is a movement opportunity to build this year in those places. Build in New Orleans. How can we support the work there and how can we build our fores in 2012 to build our political will? We want to go and develop relationships and organizing work so that it can emerge where it makes the most sense.
  • Jamala: Support the initial proposal, but 2014 isn't long way off, really. We can use intentionality to link ongoing efforts such as G8 and other things coming up. The goal is to help make the connections and help us converge in 2014.
  • Rose: Agree with Emery. We should move where there is energy. 2014 is OK, given the work needed to make linkages and connect what is in motion to USSF. We need to consider how to link things toward 2014.
  • Viola : 2014 is good date, but we need to move quickly. Local groups are more ready to move given prep. for earlier USSFs.
  • Derek: Supports sentiments of others and 2014 date. Calls for serious hard work to organize locally.
  • Steph: We should build an internal education strategy. Learning from PMA process and other forums and forces in motion. Youth vote initiative/student bill of rights, people's economy, Palestine initiatives in motion. We need to build local base and force and cultivate a national story. PMAs should not be seen as separate, but part of learning process. Coordination is needed. Build toward forums and tie in the lessons across spaces. Practice is not toward single convergence but through PMA process. Mid-year meeting needed in 2012 to assess how assemblies and other forces are moving, develop sense of the details for 2014 and map out strategic plans toward national convergence.
  • Jen: Proposal for 2013 scaled down convergence to focus attention in interim. A strong NPC needed to have political body engaged in leadership and coordination/support for regional/thematic forums.
  • Michael: Am torn over these options. I like idea of convening a conversation in early 2013 with new US administration, but the short timing is an issue. Also, we need to think about who is not at our table today and how to build for this and bring folks in. We're in a "post-Occupy" discussion. We're figuring out what is next and the OWS folks are talking of this too. A national Occupy Social Forum is a proposal.

Funders will be looking at elections and Occupy during 2012. This is dangerous for both OWS and USSF, given organizational capacities. Key is need for clarity on process. Things are clearly in motion and we need to think about how USSF can contribute. What do movements need and how can our actions help build movements? Hosting WSF Int'l Council in 2013 might be something to help sustain energy and attention while helping us have conversation.

  • Jackie: Supports Emery's idea of having this body think more about this. Our role is to help people think about the international process. How does what is happening here connect with international motions? Think about the global geopolitical context. The rust belt is helpful in thinking about post capitalism. Indigenous focus is good, can bring in climate justice and mother earth. Let's work toward 2014 forum.
  • David: ambivalent. Kali said what I would have said, except, strongly I lean toward 2013. The OWS has the potential to leave us in the dust. It is a big part of the psychic engagement. It is great there is a movement, but there is no centrality of race in that community. There is no appreciation for building accountable leadership. No real understanding of a social movement process. There doesn't seem to be much international perspective. But i believe that this moment is calling us to do this work at this time. We should do it right and as quick as we can. I believe we could pull off 2013 doing it right. OWS is a mess already and money is already being dropped on it. And it will get messier.
  • Diana: Support proposal 1: regional, thematic and then put out a call for 2014. I am particully interested in process. I feel like we are going to catch more opportunities by hosting regional forums and PMA's because they will be engaged locally. This body should be an organizing committee – and we should really look at how we can document the work. PMA's, local actions, work brigades were done here and we can use these as tool kits for others areas and regions. For a national forum we need to have groups step up and want that responsibility – I think groups and a location will reveal itself through the regional process. I don't think we should pick a date and a time. It did feel somewhat inorganic in Detroit to be asked to host when we had very little to do with the process prior. We did need to have a process in which we bring groups on – need call for organization and RFP for specific skills we need – if we have a need for expanded communication or social media, etc.
  • Walda: Am torn about tension between urgency and capacity. 3 things to offer: 1) PMAs in 2012 is important. Our work as NPC to help support/organize but also to deepen our own capacity and engage in leadership development, grounded in local and regional work. 2) Think of national convening in 2013 that helps bring forward leaders emerging from local/regional processes to help direct process towards 2014 (i.e., use position paper strategy as we used in this meeting).
  • Jerome: Is happy with this conversation and discussion we're having. There is a serious motion in this country around fascism. I want to note a recent law passed allowing indefinite detention. This isn't isolated thing, but it caps other developments. Elections will be a serious thing. 2013 will be a time we need to evaluate/assess post-election time. Whether we call it a social forum or not doesn't matter, but we need a national assessment and conversation. National discussion in early 2013-- before the WSF. Impetus towards 2014. Reminds us of rapid response team proposed yesterday. We need more ability to respond to things in motion-opportunities and threats and relate our work to this.
  • Oya: National meeting in 2013. How about national and IC meeting? Not as overwhelming as social forum, but is national and international conversation.
  • Nada: An early 2013 gathering good. We also need to think about fundraising, and clear plan for earlier action can help.
  • Jacqueline W: I am new to the NPC (from WILPF). We should work on strengthening the 'brand' so that we can have some control over the name/associations with social forums. We should have a more concentrated, intentional use of technology. The Bioneers conference used simulcast to bring in speakers from San Francisco to Detroit. We can consider how technology can link things across country. Allied Media and other groups can be helpful in accessing this technology. Calls also for better evaluation so we can learn from actions in different places. Make 'lessons' more readily available/ database of potential partners. National calendar.
  • Sylvia: Loves 2013 idea, but 2014 is more realistic. There is still a need for clarity on what NPC will look like. We need to figure out process. What's next? So realistically we probably can't pull off something so quickly. We have lots of catch-up work, regrouping. We need to get clarity on structure of leadership body.
  • Cheri: Things will be developing very quickly because of economic realities in this country. So, we need some kind of smaller event as soon as possible. Take best practices internationally and from different fronts of struggle and from history. We need to do better at learning from past and building from that experience. We should do something in 2013. We can't rely on OWS to fill leadership vacuum. We can channel resources to the USSF process. Let's organize and link the work we're all doing in response to teh conflicts that are breaking out. Let's get together and assess what's happening.
  • Darryl: Supports urgency of action. People are looking to us for leadership. We should do something in 2013.
  • Rueben: It is as important to ID the date as well as to develop a before, during and after USSF III plan and timeline accompanied by it.

  • Alicia: We need to learn from PMA process and develop strategy from it. I am concerned about 'bootleg' social forums. We can't really control that but we can be more intentional about putting people in motion and working as planning body. We can ask what is our responsibilty to help support, initiate and maintain motion? Let's not have amnesia about what this takes. How do we develop movement infrastructure in a principled way? PMA work and thematic, regional forums will involve lots of this work. We have a limited capacity. When work needs to be done, there are not enough people at the table. So if we speed up and expand process we need to figure out how we can do this in terms of capacity. What form will this body take? What kinds of accountability will we have? I recognize that everyone here is also doing work in his/her own community. We also need to make room for people who can and want to step up. The critical question is connecting and projecting different strands of action.
  • Sara: I am hearing that we are talking about these activities composing the building of social movemnets and what will be important is to continue to identify what our role is/isn't in it. The tools and vehicles we are talking about, like how something gets branded as USSF or not. All these activities are part of a full picture. How do we offer some of the tools, like PMA, to engage (not control)? Its not just education, we have to show through our actions who we are, what we stand for, that we are building toward strategic power and not just tactical activity. We have to show that we are actually building power. On the question of a 2013 convergence, I agree that something immediately after the elections makes sense, even in December. And we can even combine it with the IC meeting and have it be an assessment of where we are at in the U.S. and the implications for the U.S. and the world, and the implications for their struggles. And also, it can be a place where people in PMA's can come together to assess. So it is a building and planning, gathering and assessment...the next national convergence. I want to lift up the world social forum free Palestine and am thinking about how it influences our work here.
  • Cheri: I want to remind people that we are involved in the last organizing efforts around the national republican ocnvention and democratic convention. These are the most horendous militarization of the police. People should revisit them too.

Form and Function of the NPC

  • Alicia: There's been a proposal put on the table. The NPC transitions into an organzing committee. This does not mean that everyone here becomes part of it. We need to talk about who needs to be here. We heard that this body needs to play a role in connecting processes and activities to move forward. These activities include 1) activate political education; 2) document processes and outcomes; 3) movement response team. There were some fundamental shifts we need to raise up. 1) we are consciously naming the organizing body as a politcial leadership body that needs to be rooted in the ground and not just provide assessment. 2) part of what political leadership is calling for is assessment, direction and coordination. and trying to balance these. 3) that it be representative not only of sectors, but sectors in motion. Also heard a modification that was asking about the NPC in this period being interim, but it holds some form. Does this feel right? Project South put out some ideas. And take modifications/disagreements.
  • Steph: I want to reiterate specific roles and to create space around the organizing plan. The main piece that i would add is representatives of fronts of struggle. Anchor organizations from the previous site should be involved for infrastructure development and based on fronts of struggle. The work areas we determined would be held in this space, but not until held in the planning space of the social forum. There would be communications strategy: documentation, video, community journalism, database maintenance and usage, calendar. a key piece of the educational process, orgainzing process, etc. is part of this. leadership and representative??? the newest thing is the movement response team. and the expansion of communication strategy and documentation. what it means about the database and what we put out. [insert above: there can be specific work areas: structure for plannign process hsould be based around central functions: 1) resource distribution: fundraising and financial administration; 2) infrastructure development: space, database, logistics, access, transportation, housing, health and water; 3) Communications/Media: internal planning mechanisms, external entry points, language, online presence; 4) political programing: methodologies to meet political goals within convergence spaces, actions, assemblies, workshops, plenaries, cultural integration, public space, activities; 5) leadership and representatives: coordination of work engagement, representation, decision-making
  • Michael: I have some recommendations around structure. One that this body's role and function is to monitor and capture the learning of the pmas, determine criteria for ussf activites, call for strategy papers, 2013 hosting ic meeting. In terms of committees and working groups, eliminate what is there now; provide seed support for pmas etc, communications. If we are going to 1. organize meetings, 2. resources and fundraising, 3.movement response team, PMA committee. In terms of staffing, we should have a national coordinator, accounting and communications. Someone that is going to cature all the stories. Fold in everything else. In 2012, the emphasis should be on organizing local, regional, thematic social forums and peoples' movement assemblies. The role of the NPC is to provide space to monitor, capture, disseminate learnings from social forums and PMA's; determine criteria for USSF supported activities; Be space for learning, political analysis and trends; Organize discussions and debates; Call for strategy/position papers on key trends; For 2013 - host International Council meeting - either in early 2013 or post WSF? In terms of communications, the NPC can manage database, website, listserves. For the structure, we eliminate issue/constituency working groups and other working groups. The committees needed include: Ad hoc committee to develop criteria for support to social forums and PMA's; communications; convening or strategy committee; resources and fundraising; and a movement response team.
  • Steph: How would the PMA process be treated to better to representative of committee as a whole, around fronts and work that is happening instead of a working group?
  • Mallory: We need to still have a communications working group or a larger communications family and really have a communications strategy team. We need to have a newsletter every month. Jackie and I are hosting that with a PMA article every month. We can choose themes 6 months out in advance. To get the most recent information up on the website to lead up to the next thing. I'll get the tickets in our system so we can take requests. It needs to be more detailed.
  • Flo: The NPC shift looks great. We need to have a work group focused on recruitment of NPC to intentionally represent movement.
  • Jackie: We learned in the past that we didn't have the capacity to do everything that we wanted to do at the forum. We need to put an effort in coordinating and recruiting volunteers to do the work. This is also part of our work to build the movement by creating ways for people to use and build skills. Maybe hiring a volunteer coordinator.
  • Marian: we need money to volunteer. We need to do fundraising to pay for a volunteer coordinator. Did you say to fold the working groups? I disagree. We have a working group in motion. So I would be against stopping the working groups. At least those that are doing something need to stay. The others we can leave alone.
  • Michael: My uderstanding is that the poverty working group is to organize the assembly. The budget reqeust is the assembly.
  • Alan: I support what Flo said about outreach/organizing committee, making connections with other groups, insurgencies, etc. all over the country. We need to locate the USSF at the center of opposition of the regime as it exists. We need an outreach committee to do this.
  • George: I would like to underscore a function: evaluation needs to happen before, during and after. If we don't do that, lots gets lost. Lots of history doesn't get captured. If we don't formulate that process as we plan, we will miss alot. It is a function. Do we want to work with a university? How do we talk with local leaders, etc.?
  • Jen: If we're working to ensure we're engaging current and emerging fronts of struggle, it doesn't make sense to eliminate working group associated with major front of struggle-- so the poverty working group is important, indegenous work is important too. Think about the salient fronts of struggle and make sure our structure links these to our process.
  • Oya: We don't need to deactivate working groups. We can allow them to re-group, re-emerge and support the work in motion. Why eliminate something before we see how the process takes off. Let's let things take shape and than re-assess.
  • Sara: One question that keeps coming up is how we keep commitment to grassroots working class and people of color leadership? So composition of NPC needs to be assessed in terms of intentionality of our process. Groups will come together to plan and develop forums-regional or thematic. An ad hoc group will form to attend Palestine thematic forum in November/Brazil. How will these relate to the organizing body? How do we connect these efforts and coordinate, and how long these continue, needs consideration.
  • Steph: To groups that are in motion and want to play a role, bring position papers about that front. The proposal is to reorganize/restructure this decision making body.
  • Emery: The rapid response team is on table. Restructuring needs to help organizing work that is going on.
  • Walda: Reorganizing of planning body so that those organizing on fronts of struggle are part of discussion is good. What is the organizational form and name that we might want to have? Think structurally and politically about how the fronts of struggle relate to the larger process. How do we capture their organization of their front as part of our understanding of who we are? We need to also think about resources. We need to raise resources, and if that is driving this contradiction over the structures and needs, we need to resolve the resources question.
  • Derek: Asks if anyone is committed to maintaining old structure. Things need to change, but we need to know where people are.
  • Cheri: Agrees with reorganization at some point, but dismantling working groups right now is premature. Setting up of poverty working group was to ensure that front of struggle had place at the table. At this time, we need to maintain the poverty working groups; we all have different understandings of the histories of these working groups/structures. But we do need to address this question. Not now.
  • Viola: Agrees with Cheri, let's give inactive working groups time to regroup/wake up before restructuring.
  • Alicia: We need to develop our plan. Identify what is happening in PMAs, assess where different workign groups are with their work. The question is how the work will be represented on the planning body.
  • Cheri: The working group structure isn't the best, but we can't be premature in throwing it out.
  • Michael: Proposed for right now: we need people to do the work. We can amend proposal to maintain constituency working groups for now, but let's consider the rest of the proposal.
  • Alicia: We're not making decision on this but agreeing on a direction. The aim is to simplify and streamline the structure of our national planning body. We don't have enough information to make decisions about the exact changes, but we need an assessment. How does the function of this body shift with the longer-term strategy?

Functions: Political education and programming; Documenting and monitoring developments on the ground; Assessing political moment Calls for position papers on key and emerging fronts of struggle; Create organizing plan to organize and recruit representatives from fronts of struggle who should be involved in the planning process for USSF; Develop national story of movement; Hold the movement response team--nimble, able to adjust and help respond to real-time developments.

  • Marian: The people that we work with we better have some consciousness of - it is not like going to work with the university and the youth. This section of the class is rising much more than any other section. The poverty working group is more than the assembly. Until I see poverty eliminated.
  • Cheri: Sylvia will call people and insure their imput. If we want people that have been affected by language or illeteracy we need to incorparate a listening project. We need to make calls to different fronts of struggle.
  • Jerome: This is confusing. What we have done over the last 2 days is coming to political understanding and our priorities and we have come to functional unity. What people are talking about given that understanding how do we organize to get that done. I think that every apparatus needs to be restructuring. Are we organized in the best way to carry out these prioritise. All of us need to do that.
  • Steph: Not just assessment for the structure but also for participation.
  • Alan: What are the criteria of engagement? We said our direction was against capitalism but that is not a criteria of joining the process.
  • Sara: In the next 3-6 month were will work on criteria. For now we have gained a lot of clarity and move into a next step conversation. It feel like we have gone as far as we can.

Presentation on Political Security (Handout)

  • Need mindfulness of security concerns in a time of heightened struggle especially.
  • Causa Justa and IJAN, USPCN, Malcolm X, NLG and others contributed to this document.
  • It is a proposal for our practices and alignment around political security. This is part of larger movement conversation about security that is ongoing. The central aim is protecting especially those most vulnerable.
  • Kali: There is material need for training related to security. We need to test for alignment on protocols and procedures, and if group is committed to supporting this work.
  • Sara: Proposal to put this plan into action. We need a secure way to share this online. We need response team and longer discussion of security practices and training on security of computers and work to develop internet security. Legal dimension: lawyers who are aware of current laws and practices relevant to our activist work.

Consensus check--There is agreement to support political security work.

  • Kali: Note three dimensions of security threats--from state; from reactionary forces; from internal conflicts within our movements.

Note how facebook postings can be used to build a case against us. We need to be mindful of language and networks on facebook and application of laws to associate participants in a meeting with sentiments expressed at meetings.

  • Sara: The point is not to make us fearful or limit our activity, but to strengthen it. The point is to develop a smart movement culture that avoids these vulnerabilities.
  • Cheri: Notes the importance of this work, suggests linking with international efforts such as Frontlines Human Rights Defenders to gain from their experience.
  • Jamala: Protocols on use of technology? Does ICT have suggestions? Notes the importance of alignment on how to respond to right wing opponents; i.e. prevent things like the reaction to Glen Beck attacks on USSF 2010.
  • George: The Bill of Rights Defense Committee I work with address some of these issues. NGI facial recognition software, liscense plate links, other electronic surveillance.
  • Jamie: Thanks to political security team for working on this. Our technology principle for being secure has been transparency. This requires discipline. Remember that when we say things in this room, we're saying it to the world, openly. Understanding technology is the first step in using it securely.
  • Sara: There is a technology protocol that has more detail on secure practices; there's a need for more secure software. DO: Please send (with mindfulness) information on additional resources and concerns as teh political security team develops and implements the proposal.
  • Cheri: Encourages at this meeting of political security to address some of the actual experiences with Occupy, Republican convention, Miami, etc. Don't focus on encryption, since authorities can get access to that.
  • Kali: Notes responsibility to security for allies, esp. as we work with Palestinian thematic forum-in Porto Alegre, Brazil-which will attract backlash from Zionist forces. Need awareness of history of these reactionary groups and their attacks on e.g. black and other liberation struggles.

Next Steps

  • Sara: There is a group of people that will take the notes and turn them into a proposal and show what some of the alternatives are. Circulate here first then out to those that are not here. Anyone can join. The timeframe is - adoption of the proposal 2 months from now? When the first draft be out in 2 weeks. End of the month. We need a team to develop to offer a proposal on the form of the organizing body. And check in to get update from current groups. Stephanie was nominated to be part of that committee.
  • Derek: Give it 3 months? By March/April we have it in place:
  • Kali: We need a little something before the G8/ NATO. That is going to be one of those bigs point of engagement and the thrust against the Republican party.
  • George: Is this body a precursor to the organizing plan. It feels like they feed each other.
  • Sarah: The next thing we are going to need is an organizing plan and we need a team to design it. Can we say April for an organizing plan? All we need right now is a point person and a timeline.
  • Cheri: This is not the time for people who don't know how to do these things.
  • Steph: We are trying to collectize this work and we are having a meeting in March where we can discuss this plan.
  • Sara: There needs to be a 2 years plan for organizing this process.
  • Maureen: The reason we are not gravitating to this is because we don't understand the questions. As far as I can tell Sylvia has been dilligent in getting us to this point.
  • Sara: It is not the coordination of the meeting but creating the content and the process. There was a group that did that from this meeting and Sylvia did not do that. We need a proposal so we can have a process to move forward. We need to figure out what that structure is and a group to do that. This is the process, the PMA connects to it in this way,
  • Maureen: The groups that made things happen needs to put input. Those people aren't all here.
  • Sylvia: Intentions were good and the work could not get done. This is a lot that is getting set forward. As a reality check, these are the same folks that are doing a lot on the ground. How do we hold each other accountable?
  • Sara: All of the ideas here have to help us sort through that. But put some shape and timeline to.
  • Sylvia: I would really like to ask that the transition team that we have been working with get that started. Ife, Sylvia, Walda, and Rosilinda was on it but she can't do it any longer.
  • Mallory: There is going to be the communication about the newsletter to the NPC. I don't know about a communications plan. At the moment we have a monthly thing. At any point people can come onto it.
  • Sara: There is the content/ branding and then the content and process piece
  • Mallory: I think they are going to be together
  • James: We will have a plan in 6 weeks
  • Cheri: There needs to be an accountibility team
  • Walda: That is the transition team
  • Steph: We will(PMA) have some levels of communications strategies cause some of the same questions come up.
  • Sara: Steph made a good point on that. We are going to need an outreach committee. I am unclear if we need a separate team that will come out of the structure. Do we need an outreach team. I think the transition team should do that.
  • George: I appreciate that the transition team will do that but we may want to do that after the organizing plan so we think about who do we need.
  • Sara: 2 other pieces - we know we are going to need more people on the resource mob can do that. At the end of January target to get resource mobilization team together and develop fundraising plan. An ad hoc team is forming around support for delegation to WSF to free Palestine. Volunteers to join that team are invited to step up. Call by the end of the month. Palestine point person is Sarah.
  • Jerome: Clarifications on transition committee. We need someone to check in to make sure committees have the right people, etc. Transition committee needs to follow-up on commitments we're making here. Do people want transition committee to do follow-up/accountability. Sylvia will staff/support that team. (support).
  • Sylvia: Summarizes history of committee structure as of fall 2010. Notes that accountability team job reverted to transition committee.
  • Salima: Fundraising team/recruitment. Proposes to rename to resources committee to reflect the actual work, which is more than fundraising.
  • Kali: Volunteers to join resource team to bring his organization's experiences to the work.
  • Viola: Volunteers to join resource team
  • Steph: Database management and usage. Wants to affirm what has been talked about on conference calls. Wants to get approval for active updating, cleaning and using database for monthly communication.
  • Mallory: Communications team will be at PMA reps meeting and will work on communications strategy then.

Budget/Finance (Budget handout)

  • Michael: We got grant from Jesse Smith Noyes Foundation to cover costs of this meeting. Current balance is about $116,000. In accoutn with Praxis project and here in Detroit. Working budget of $56k -- coordinator and accountant (Sylvia and Victor) ; NPC meeting $22k; Outstanding requests from last year's budget $1,000; PMA organizing kit, with proposed expenditures remaining budget is $29k, recommends waiting to spend until we see how expenditures go. We need process for making decisions on expenditures. Resources committee is making recommendations, it needs to go somewhere to get approval. Proposed that transition committee be that authority. Recommends Praxis Project and existing arrangement continue for managing funds for now.
  • George: How does budget proposal fit with grants cycles?
  • David: Will generate letter to go to email list to request donations. This email will go out soon. Maureen will help with this. It will go in newsletter.
  • Kali: Notes the immediate funding needs: political security, early 2013 meeting, Palestine WSF.
  • Michael: Resource team will meet in the next 2 weeks to make recommendations.
  • People who want to get involved in resource development should contact Sylvia- Sarah, Monica, Viola have volunteered.
  • Sara: Timing for next call: First week in February
  • Timing for next face-to-face meeting: Late June/early July.
  • Sylvia: we should figure out where do we want to be politically before figuring out the timing of the f2f.
  • Jerome: We should start process of choosing the place for the next national USSF. Transition team has that job.

Meeting Evaluation

  • Michael: Still anxious-- we have work to do.
  • David: New person -would like more backstory on who isn't here. Also wants to understand some of the reasons why some of the accountability isn't here yet. We should be better able at the accountability.
  • Walda: Resource development is huge; we all still have lots to do.
  • Cheri: Sees the development of maturity on this body. Hopes we can follow through on all we've committed to do this weekend.
  • Jerome: Now that we've decided our priorities, we need to focus on structure. Need to put the same energy into that conversation about structure as we did on the political conversation.
  • Oya: Why some aren't here: 1) burnout--taking time for healing. She feels that healing has happened through this weekend. She feels very energized coming out of this meeting.
  • Writer, Occupy Detroit- notes that he'll take back lessons from this meeting on how to conduct consensus decision making to Occcupy Detroit.
  • Darryl: We need to have time in the meetings to share with each other the work we're doing so we can link up and coordinate our own local/national organizing efforts better.
  • Marian: Stresses need to pay attention to the class of people rising up. We need to understand our role in helping support and build this struggle. Our contribution is reminding/teaching folks that Another World is Possible.
  • Ife: For people using twitter: #USSF share comments.
  • Sylvia: Try to get different people from your organizations involved in the NPC work-- on calls, at meetings, etc.


  • Darryl : Dec. 2012- 2nd African American Legacy delegation to Palestine. We're trying to identify who is interested so we can work on fundraising. Contact Deryll. Meeting in Feb. with Inter-faith peace building. Wants to connect USSF people with Palestine effort.

Also--seeking help in Philadelphia re; Mumia abu Jamal. Meeting later today in Philly on supporting his case. We're trying to get people around the country to target US Attorney General on this case. Working towards a spring action in DC to occupy Attorney General office.

  • Mallory: email her with website/elist questions.
  • Jackie: WE still have copies of USSF newspapers that can be useful to organizing work. If you want copies, contact jackie at