The United States Social Forum was a successful and positive event for the Young Democratic Socialists (YDS), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and the broad Left. Held in Atlanta June 27th to July 1st, 2007, its atmosphere was productive, open, and friendly.
The Social Forum proved to be a very diverse and well attended gathering. The participants varied greatly in age, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. This fostered unity and inclusiveness, as no one group could dominate. The diversity of the event reflected excellent outreach by the conference organizers.
The YDS delegation comprised twelve young people reflecting our organization’s reach across racial, gender, class, and regional demographics. Participating YDS members felt that the USSF was a crucial gathering for both our selves and our organization. We held two workshops (one shared with DSA), a social event, and joined with DSA, our coalition partners, and others in many different events. The knowledge shared and learned will be brought back to our locals to strengthen our activism.
YDS was an active participant in the Social Forum, contributing our political perspective and abilities to the gathering. One of the most apparent differences between the USSF and other Leftist events was the feeling of openness and optimism. Our vision of coalition building towards a progressive majority was shared by many at the event. The notable presence of organized labor, progressive Democrats, and non-profit organizations reflected a change for the good. It is becoming obvious to many that reforms and radicalism are not mutually exclusive. We openly promoted our view that radicals must fight for reforms that empower “ordinary,” working class people, ones that provide a bridge between the capitalist present and the possible socialist future.
On Wednesday, June 27th, a few YDS members rallied with the YDS banner visible at the opening march. Many more of us arrived later that day. That night, we held a short debriefing about our agenda and our goals. Thursday, June 28th, was our biggest day. Will Emmons and Emahunn Campbell lead the workshop on “Government as an Agent of Social Change” with DSA National Director Frank Llewellyn. Outside of an employee from the Venezuelan Embassy, this panel was primarily attended by DSA and YDS members. Stories and political perspectives were shared regarding the idea that government can be, but is not always, a positive force for equality and social justice. Our panel, “Radical as Reality: Pragmatic Politics and the Student Left,” was attended by 10 youth outside of YDS. Emahunn discussed putting forth our radical politics on a conservative campus; Edward Elam discussed education through his YDS group’s literacy program; Mary Smith discussed organizing strategies; and David Duhalde ended with distinctions between utopian, radical, and liberal politics. The event was well received and convinced many of the essential correctness of YDS’s political perspective. That night we gathered for dinner and drinks. This event served as one of the first opportunities for YDS members to get a chance to socialize and bond with one another outside of a conference.
YDS members also attended events on their own during the rest of the Social Forum. We met often at the DSA/YDS table, for meals, and at DSA and allied workshops. Frances Fox Piven (President of American Sociological Association and Honorary DSA Chair) was able to meet with several YDS members before the DSA panel on the Economic Justice Agenda. That panel, on Saturday, featured Frank Llewellyn, Dr. Piven, a United for a Fair Economy staffer, and Jose LaLuz (AFSCME leader and DSA Vice-Chair), who discussed DSA’s new project and the possibilities for reform in the post-Bush U.S.
The DSA and YDS party that night was an excellent multi-generational event. YDS and DSA members discussed politics, history, and life in general. YDS members stayed long into the night drinking and singing. Sunday evening, as the Social Forum closed, we said good-bye to each other for now. Undoubtedly, YDS members left with a stronger connection to each other than they had coming into the Social Forum.