Boston, July 25, 2004
Social Forums from Brazil to India and now Boston are often accused of failing to generate anything more concrete than a brief up-tick in Fair Trade coffee sales, but that’s not exactly fair.
Despite what critics of the movement say–that opponents of neoliberalism are more proficient in puppetry than in articulating solutions to global economic ills–those who do believe in the possibility of another world have been quite effective at summing up that vision. It’s clear, for example, that the Forum crowd opposes the privatization of water; that they support economic models that put the globe’s people above profit; and that, when given a choice, they’d pick peace over war any day.
But aside from these big-ticket items, much of the “another world is possible” view remains murky. For example, what will we do for amusement in this other world? Will there be a dress code? Will papers still be sold at our events? While a weekend at the Boston Social Forum wasn’t able to provide answers to all of these questions, it did put some of them to rest.
We Are Party People
BSF attendees rocked into the wee hours Saturday night to the sounds of Billy Bragg, local rap-consciousness boys the Foundation and the Reagan Babies at the “Another World is Possible” benefit party in Cambridge. But the late-night affair was far from the only party at the BSF. Plenty of the political variety were on the scene as well, from the International Socialist Organization to the recently expanded Committees of Correspondence (now the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism). The heavy presence of sectarians lent a fevered air to even innocuous sounding workshops on topics like labor rights, or challenging corporate power. (“I don’t have a question, I have an answer,” said one such party member, taking the floor at Friday’s opening convocation.) Said one attendee, who appeared visibly shaken after having run the left party gauntlet: “They all want me to buy their newspaper, but what am I supposed to do with all of them?” Then an idea came: “I could use them to line my bird cage.”
If the Boston Social Forum introduced Beantown to a laid-back Forum vibe, more common in Brazil than in this uptight burg, it also marked something of a cultural coming of age on the left. Documentary films including Fahrenheit 9/11, The Corporation and Outfoxed are only the most visible of a flourishing, left-of-center, documentary film movement. The BSF screened more than forty largely well-done independent documentaries, ranging from professional jobs to low-budget, “guerilla” productions. One to watch: Julie Rosenberg, co-producer of the disturbing portrait of Colombian trade unionist Hector Giraldo.