Thursday, October 11, 2007

Meeting Resistance: New Documentary on the Iraqi Insurgency

A new project that I have been working with over
the past few weeks, this groundbreaking documentary will be hitting theatres in New York and DC on
Friday October 19th. Excitement is building for
the film which just this week was the focus of a segment on ABC World News.

"This breakthrough film, the single most astonishing
documentary yet on
the Iraq war, portrays a full range
of insurgents, from fighters to spies
to imams, speaking
in their own voices, explaining their motives and
from the first days of the insurgency onward...
It is as though
"The Battle of Algiers" had been shot
from the inside, from the point of
view of the insurgents,
and not played by actors."


Meeting Resistance opening week Friday Oct 19th --> Thursday Oct 25th

New York, NY
Cinema Village,
22 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

Washington, DC
AMC Loews Dupont Circle 5,
1350 19th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

What would you do if your country was invaded? MEETING RESISTANCE raises
the veil of anonymity surrounding the Iraqi insurgency by meeting face to
face with individuals who are passionately engaged in the struggle, and
documenting for the very first time, the sentiments experienced and
actions taken by a nation's citizens when their homeland is occupied.

Voices that have previously not been heard, male and female, speak
candidly about their motivations, hopes and goals, revealing a
kaleidoscope of human perspectives. Featuring reflective, yet fervent
conversations with active insurgents, MEETING RESISTANCE is the missing
puzzle piece in understanding the Iraq war.

Directed by Steve Connors and Molly Bingham, this daring, eye-opening film
provides unique insight into the personal narratives of people involved in
the resistance, exploding myth after myth about the war in Iraq and the
Iraqis who participate. Through its unprecedented access to these
clandestine groups, MEETING RESISTANCE focuses the spotlight on the "other
side," leaving the viewer with clarity as to why the violence in Iraq
continues to this day.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dare to Struggle: SDS National Convention in Detroit
July 27-30th, 2007
Mural: Detroit Industry or Man and Machine, 1932-33 by Diego Rivera

Welcome to the "D"

It seemed only right that longtime civil rights veteran Grace Lee Boggs was asked to open up the 2nd annual national convention for the newly reformed Students for a Democratic Society [SDS], which took place in Detroit over this past weekend.

Grace Lee Boggs, although rarely receiving the same kind of attention as some of her male counterparts in the movement, is truly a living testament to what a life-long commitment to revolutionary organizing looks like. Many of the 150 students in attendance seemed aware that they were witnessing something special, as they battled through some tough audio difficulties to listen to Grace's talk.

Grace painted an eloquent historical backdrop for the convention, as she described the rebellions that shook Detroit in the summer of 1967, nearly 40 years ago to the day. She talked about how although the media had called described the uprising as 'unruly riots', but that to many militant black workers it signified the start of something much more hopeful, "a time when anything seemed possible".

Although many have argued that the cities crisis far pre-dated 1967, Detroit over the last few decades has become the poster child as Boggs put it for the "false promises of industrial Capitalism," with vacant lots, burned down buildings, and extreme poverty and high school drop out rates. Boggs argues however, that this combination of extremely harsh circumstances, has simultaneously had the effect of making Detroit a new kind of "laboratory of resistance," as the community, still highly invested in the future of the city, figures out how to fill those huge social gaps vacated by both the state as well as the corporations who have left the city. A large network of community gardens and discussions around starting up some ambitious alternative schooling options (most statistics show that Detroit city public school drop out rates are well over 70%) are some of the small but hopefully very real foundations for turning things around in the motor city.

Only being in Detroit for five days, it was difficult to get a sense of how real the hopefulness was, in contrast to the abandoned streets that I walked down every morning on the way to Wayne State University. Either way it was an eye opening experience just to visit the city and to hear some of the remarkable histories of working class struggle that had taken place there over the years.

One of my goals for the trip was to finally finish the classic book "Detroit: I Do Mind Dying," which as the publishers put it was a "Study in Urban Revolution," following groups like DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement) and the League of Revolutionaries Black Workers. Unfortunately due to a combination of my extremely slow reading skills and the long intense days that were the SDS convention, I barely got through a few chapters.

Detroit: I Do Mind Driving

After doing the 20 hour bus trip each way to Atlanta for the US Social Forum, I told myself that was going to be it on the road trips for a while but just a few weeks later there we were heading off to Detroit for the first of two 12 hour stretches. Without making the usual condescending statements about "red states" and "middle America," I have to admit that every time we stopped at one of those gas/convenience stores on the way and looked around at all of the NASCAR paraphenalia, I got a little more depressed. The only bright side to the long ride over was having some time to look over the impressive 70 or so proposals written up for consideration at the convention.

I was very anxious to see what this convention was going to be looking like and how many people would actually make it all the way to Detroit after so many months of planning. My personal responsibilities within SDS, besides some general help with logistical coordination, was helping to grassroots fundraise $10,000 through individual donors (which we achieved!) in order to be able to pay not only for the convention costs but also for the 4-day "Action Camp" that will be taking place Aug 13-16 in Lancaster, PA. The purpose of the Action Camp is to provide a space for 40-50 active SDS'ers (mostly between the ages of 16-21) to come together and build up some of their organizing skills before heading back into their respective high-schools and universities for the fall semester. The planning specifically for the Action Camp has been very exciting and really gives me the sense that SDS is coming together and moving off of the internet and into the "real world" as the organization continues to grow. The last thing I will say about the Action Camp is that it will be facilitated by our friends at The Catalyst Project who will help lead all the participants through the three main themes; social movement history, anti-oppression, and organizing skills.

We arrived in Detroit on Thursday evening and pulled right up in front of the local church which was housing many of the SDS'ers. The final orientation meeting was already in progress with around 30 people in attendance and we sat down quietly, looking around at so many of the faces that up until this point we had only none through email chat and late night conference calls. There was Carmen, Aaron, Michael, Sicily, Arick and the rest of the Wayne State SDS crew who had worked so hard to make this all a reality. There was Lisa from Texas, Matt from New York, and Nile from the Bay Area who made up the core outside facilitation team (something some of us had to push for on the convention planning calls and am so glad we did!). There was Jenna, Beth and Zach from the Drew University Chapter. There was Babken, Dave, and Samantha from UCLA SDS. And of course my fellow New Yorkers Pat, Meaghan, Madeline, Brian, John, Kaz and the rest of the crew. Although it was only a small sampling of who would arrive the next morning, it felt good to be around friends.

Convention day I (or voting on how to vote...)

Having been tasked last minute with pulling together the "white ally caucus" taking place Saturday morning, I spent the first part of Friday going over some ideas and meeting with some of my co-facilitators. Although I had never personally organized an anti-racism training or discussion, I had had a lot of (mostly negative) experiences with these kinds of things and I wanted to make sure that our group did not replicate some of those dynamics, leading often to feelings of intense guilt and defensiveness.

People were starting to flow onto the Wayne State campus by mid-afternoon. After running around making extra copies of the proposal packets and hand-outs for our caucus, I stopped into a room of 50 people where two (recent) friends of mine Shea Howell and Angela Jones (an amazing poet if you ever get a chance to see her) were conducting what seemed to be a lively discussion on some basic anti-oppression principles. It was encouraging to see such a large number of SDS'ers participating in the discussion, especially because it was well before the official convention was starting up.

After the afternoon workshops and Grace Lee Boggs' talk, there was a quick dinner break before the real work started. Unlike most conferences and conventions, because of the amount of decisions that had to be made at this convention (ie. how is an 'SDS member' defined, what constitutes an SDS chapter, what is the overall vision of the organization, what kind of national structure do we need for increased chapter coordination etc), the scheduling team put out a meeting agenda that started around 9:00am and often lasted until 9 or 10pm at night, including various time extensions for further discussion. Personally I was very anxious about the decision to meet so deep into the evening but maybe at 27 it was just my old age talking.

The first, and most frustrating step of the evening was to "vote on how we would be voting during the convention." The first roadblock that came up was that there was a huge contingent of over 20 people from the University of Central Florida (UCF) who had somehow gotten their school to subsidize their travel expenses. I think it is fair to say, that broadly speaking, UCF together with a few chapters from the Northwest (Tacoma, Olympia) represented a tendency within SDS that was very concerned with local chapter autonomy, highlighted by the at times outright hostility shown to compromising on some sort of national structure.

To their credit, UCF pointed out early on how their large numbers might sway certain vote counts and so we proceeded to come up with a procedure that would take this into consideration. The problem in the end was not the number of votes that the anti-organizational tendency (for lack of a better word) had but the way in which they at times dragged on conversations and debates needlessly by abusing modified consensus process. It was frustrating for me to watch initially as you could see the facilitators, who were really put into an impossible situation, struggle with finding a way to reach some clarity on some of these major initial decisions among a body of 150 young folks, many of whom had very different ideas of how SDS as an organization might function.
  • Final Convention Decision Making Process:
  • Present Proposal (all of which were included in the packets ahead of time)
  • Clarifications/Questions
  • Pro/Con Speakers [1-2 on each side]
  • Amendments [friendly/unfriendly]
  • Test for Consensus
  • If No Concensus, Chapters Caucus
  • Final Vote on the Floor (Has to get 2/3 to pass)
Although at least a process was voted on, we did not get much more done that initial evening, and it laid the foundation for what would be a tense few days, as many SDS'ers who traveled long ways to actually make some decisions wondered if they would even get to some of the many proposals that were on the table. The facilitators were frustrated. I was tired. Tomorrow would be a better day.

Convention day II (to caucus or not to caucus...)

Although I had been pretty involved in the organizing leading up to the convention, I did not realize until I saw the drafts of the 4-day schedule that people had decided on what amounted to a full day (6 hours) of caucusing on Saturday. There were five or six hour-long caucus sessions back to back on; people of color/white allies, LGBTQ/straight allies, working class/class privileged, women & trans caucus/male allies, high school caucus/older allies. On the one hand it was good to see SDS take seriously the need for oppressed groups within the organization to self organize their own spaces. This convention would set an important precedent for the future and it was clear that caucusing would play an integral role in future gatherings. On the other hand however, after making arguments for the need to have so many caucuses--especially back to back on the first full day of the convention--there were very few people who followed up and actually organized a facilitated group discussion during these times slots. This particular attempt at trying to address oppression within the organization came across to me as more symbolic then real. In the end though, I think this is a very difficult process to navigate and hearing about how the caucusing went down during the first convention last year in Chicago, it seemed like it was a big step forward. In the future my concrete (humble) suggestions would be:
  • Spread the caucusing out a bit more over the course of the weekend so that young folks, many of whom have not been in these kinds of spaces before do not get hit with this emotionally charged material all at once.
  • Figure out if some of the caucuses really need to happen and have an honest conversation with some of the members of that would be caucus beforehand to figure out what the needs are. I believe in Detroit that the high-school caucus for example had about 3 participants in it with the remaining 150+ people supposedly getting together in the room next door.
  • Perhaps focus in on a few of the main "organizational weaknesses" and have slightly longer caucus times for fewer total caucuses (People of color & Womyns caucuses would stand out within SDS as two of the most important ones for example).
My main responsibility as mentioned earlier was helping to facilitate the white ally caucus which I think went quite well. Being on such a tight time schedule, we really only had about 45 minutes to plan for both a presentation as well as an interactive discussion component but I think we did about as well as could be expected given such limitations. The feedback was generally all very positive, but i would be curious to hear any suggestions for things that could have gone better from folks who were in the room. Our basic outline included:
  1. Introductions of facilitators and asking permission to lead everyone through this 45 minute discussion. Clarifying that none of us were experts on the subject and that we know many people often have negative associations with anti-racism workshops.
  2. Defining a few terms, specifically the concept of "intersectionality" and the way that although everyone in the room benefits from white privilege in some way, that we all benefit in very different ways depending on other variables like class, gender, sexual orientation, place we live, level of education etc.
  3. Some historical and current day examples of white supremacy, including Bacon's Rebellion and the current case of the Jena Six.
  4. Small break-out group exercise discussing the quote: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Followed by some group report backs.
  5. Tools for moving forward: passing out some copies of a Catalyst Project handout on strategies around anti-racist organizing.
  6. Commitments & check out: having everyone take a few minutes to think about what specific commitment(s) they would like to make around anti-racist practice heading into the fall semester and in the context of SDS chapter organizing.
My initial misgivings about the intense amount of caucus times were partially confirmed when I went to the next one after our workshop and we waited around for 15 minutes until finally realizing that there was no one who had stepped up to facilitate the meeting. I decided to leave and walk over to get some food before taking an afternoon nap. I knew we would all need our energy for the evening plenaries (side-note: unlike the US Social Forum, plenaries in Detroit were focused around debate & decision making on the various proposals--something which next year might be nice to mix up a bit and also have some analysis/strategy discussion & debate).

The Saturday evening plenary was probably the most challenging part of the entire weekend. It was here that the discussion turned to the "vision" of SDS as an organization, something for which twelve separate proposals had been written up and submitted ahead of time, many of them quite lengthy and unnecessarily wordy. The number and length of the proposals were perhaps signs of strength and as as weaknesses within SDS. A strength because they signified both the enthusiasm and the intellectual commitment to writing some very thought out visions proposals, but weakness because many of the proposals (11 out of the 12 were either authored or co-authored by white men) did not seem realistic to get passed at a convention with so many things to work through without some sort of synthesizing before they hit the convention floor. With the help of the facilitation team, this process of bringing together authors and coming up with more concise collective proposals would mark much of the rest of the weekend.

Convention day III (A question of structure)

The truth was that one of the reasons why the vision discussion on Saturday night (which flowed over into Sunday) became so tense, was because of the conflicting ideas within SDS around the nature of national structure. The word "national" itself seemed to be a scary concept to some, again specifically those from the Southeast and the Northwest parts of the country. A few weeks prior to the convention I had received an email from one of the local Northwest SDS organizers saying:

"How is it that SDS has a national organizer (someone that organizes from the top-down) when SDS is supposed to be a bottom-up organization?."

I replied that I felt like this was perhaps a misunderstanding of the idea of national organizers and suggested:

"when i say national organizer, or whenever anyone in SDS says national organizer, i think all that really means is that you work with SDS on the national level. In my case im helping to coordinate and bottom line parts of the summer Action Camp as well as parts of the national convention in Detroit. "

Although i never heard back from that particular person, the brief email exchange symbolized for me the deep mistrust of any kind of nationally structured organization. Another central concern on the part of the Northwest/Southeast contingents--And I should be clear that there were various positions and voices within each of these groups of course, but these seemed to be in the minority most of the time)--was the problem of "informal leadership" which was indeed a real phenomenon within SDS.

The issue of informal leadership is something that comes up all the time, specifically in so called "decentralized" or "horizontally structured" organizations (for some good background reading to this check out the classic pamphlet "The Tyranny of Structurelessness" by Jo Freeman. It stems from an unwillingness to confront the fact that power dynamics and issues of leadership will always exists whether we talk about them honestly or choose to avoid them. In the case of SDS, many of the folks who were considered part of this informal leadership (made up mostly of a network of SDS'ers located in the Northeast and Midwest who had been in contact regularly over the past year and had the privilege of organizing several face to face meetings over that time), were trying to articulate that the way to actually combat informal leaderships was in fact to decide on a democratic national structure proposal, and not put it off for another year.

When this position was clearly articulated in small group break-out sessions (during the more heated debates I almost got up the nerve to grab the mic and shout it from the overhead balcony) it seemed like people were on the same page. Once the proposals were put out on the floor however, there was just an endless amount of process nit-picking and manipulation of the concept of consensus, where some people would make counter proposals from the floor knowing that 80% of the room was not in favor of them but taking up another 15 minutes all the same.

By Sunday evening we had manage to pass several of the consolidated vision proposals including an edited version of the impressive "Who We Are, What We Are Doing" document that will be going back to the local chapters for official ratification. Still, the question of structure hung in the balance, and with it the success (or lack thereof) of this all important 2nd national convention.

Convention Day IV (All is well that ends well...)

Although initially the group (with at its high point nearly 200 people in attendance, and an average of about 125 in the main auditorium at the same time) voted to not make any serious decisions on Monday, it quickly became obvious that this might need to be re-thought. On Sunday the question was posed again and over 100 people said they would still be around and a large majority of the remaining attendees agreed that it would be important to have Monday morning as an option to attempt to come to some last minute compromises on a structure proposal.

Even with the extended time on Monday morning, it seemed unlikely that we would be able to reach any kind of agreement. We voted to go until 11:00am and by 10:15am the facilitators were making us break into small groups one last time to try and work out some of our differences. We would then one final time with the structure proposal sponsors (which by this time included at least three different groupings who had synthesized their proposal into one) and if we did not come to compromise we would take that long ride home without a national structure.

Im not exactly sure how it happened, but it finally seemed to dawn on everyone that we needed to come out of Detroit with something. The facilitators brought the final proposal to one last vote on the floor... and it passed. The final vote was 89 for, 9 opposed, with 16 stand asides. A nationally federated chapter structure and a series of working groups would fill the void for now. Although the final wording for the structure document is still being worked on, Matt Wasserman a member of Reed SDS commented: "Decision-making power will rest in the hands of local chapters, who must approve proposals by a super-majority, while a council of chapter delegates will be tasked with supervising the working groups that will actually carry out decisions and campaigns on the national level."

After a loud round of applause, we moved to vote on several "action proposals" which unfortunately got left to the very end, although I am not sure how else we would have done it any other way. The two main proposals that passed and seemed to garner the most excitement were the Iraq Moratorium initiative, as well as the major "No War, No Warming" mobilization taking place in DC, Oct 21-23rd. Michael Albert, co-founder of Z Magazine & ZNET gave a rousing closing talk and we got ready for the (suddenly less hard) 12 hour ride back to New York.

It had been an intense, long, and at times very difficult five days in Detroit. In the historic city, with such an incredible history of militant social movements, SDS as an organization and the anti-war movement more generally took a big step forward.

Max Uhlenbeck is an editor with Left Turn Magazine living and working in New York City. He would like to dedicate this article to all of the wonderful people organizing in Detroit including Mike and Jenny who work on the annual Allied Media Conference. Shea Howell, Grace Lee Boggs and the rest of the folks at the Boggs Center. And finally the whole Detroit Summer crew who just released a really dope CD called "Chronicles of a dropout" which you can buy on their website.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Indypendent: The Social Forum Comes to the US.

The new issue of the excellent Indypendent newspaper is out on newstands across the city (or at least better book stores and free racks at your neighborhood dry cleaners). For those not familiar with it, you should check out their work, it is probably the best print project to come out of the Indymedia network over the past decade.

I have an article in this issue titled: The Social Forum Comes to the US, which is a shorter and more analytical piece then my longer and more personal narrative I posted earlier.

Check out the Indy's great new website, and if you live outside of NYC, you should consider subscribing here.

The New Face of the Anti-War Movement (Must See!)

For all you regular Ideas For Action readers, a little comedic break from the norm. Introducing "Speak", the Hungarian Rapper who is bringing his Anti-War message to a (Eastern European) MTV station near you. This video is hilarious (but very real)... "tjee c'mon"..
[Music comes on after 10 seconds... turn it up!!!]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Domestic Workers Take USSF by Storm; Form National Alliance
By: Brent Perdue

During the US Social Forum, New York-based Domestic Workers United (DWU) and over ten other domestic worker organizations from California to Maryland founded a historic national network of domestic workers to link their struggles and more effectively agitate for change. As Celeste Escobar of DWU commented, "We need it more now than ever…"

Stemming from the history of slavery, domestic workers are excluded from most basic labor protections US workers enjoy. And that legacy continues as nearly the whole workforce is foreign-born women of color, who are forced to migrate to the United States in search of viable employment opportunities.

Day in the Life

Household workers are excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, which grants workers the right to organize. As “casual” workers, they are not afforded the federal minimum wage mandated in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Nor does the FLSA provide live-in household workers the right to overtime. And the Occupational Safety and Health Act excludes domestic workers “as a matter of policy.”

Domestic Workers United 2006 Home is Where the Work Is survey, which canvassed over 500 workers, found that 41% of workers receive low-wages (between $8.98 and $13.46 an hour). According to New York labor law, household workers have the right to overtime. Yet, 67% of workers do not receive it despite nearly the majority of workers clocking in 50 to 60 hours a week. Only one in ten domestic workers receive health insurance. As these women scrap-by, nearly 60% are primary income earnings for their own families.

Long-hours, little pay, and little personal time is the daily reality. Workers' basic necessities are at the “hands of the employers.” In Maryland, domestic workers report 79% of household workers are on-call 24 hours a day. Lou reported her employer's behavior: “Many times around 11:00 o’clock at night, Ms. Lemay would wake me up and she would ask me to clean the floor with Clorox Bleach…”

Yet, many workers will remain at jobs out of economic necessity that caused their migration in the first place. Linda of DWU put it crystal clear, "Neoliberal globalization put into place politics that have destroyed home countries and pushed them to migrate to places like New York to support their families." In fact, 33% of domestic workers reported coming to the US because they couldn't support family in their home country.

Modern-Day Slaves

During a human rights tribunal hosted by DWU in 2005, domestic worker Cindy told a horrifying real-life tale of how employer's really viewed the 'help:'

…that was the day when Fontaine beat me, pushed me down from her porch, causing me physical injuries to my back. While she was beating and kicking me, she was saying to me, “I was nothing but a nigger.”…she was cursing and saying that she had wanted to call me a nigger for three years. And her words – because I was an illegal nigger, no one would listen to me because she was an upstanding citizen of Massapequa Park and she pays taxes. And I was nothing.

This May, a millionaire couple was arraigned in federal court on charges of slavery and “incomprehensible inhumanity.” According to two Indonesian domestic workers, their employer, Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, beat them with a bamboo rod and scalded them with boiling water, among many more things. One worker was found wandering the streets, half-naked, muttering 'Master' and making slapping motions. After she was found, officials searched the millionaires' home and found another woman huddled in a 3-by-3 foot closet.

Many dismiss cases such as this as mere bad apples. But, domestic worker organizations maintain that slavery in the extreme manifestation of daily exploitative conditions that provide fertile ground for slavery to take root. DWU and other anti-slavery organizations, know that slavery's longevity lies with the imbalance of power in the workplace.

Joyce Campbell now organizes with DWU to make sure fellow workers know their rights and do not fall into such situations. Campbell said during the Forum, “Whether you are documented or not in this whole-wide world there are human rights. And once you know this, no employer can bullshit you. If you don't walk that dog, if you don't shovel that snow, and they say they will call immigration. Look them in the eye and tell them, 'I'm not afraid of you. I'm not an alien. I'm a human being.”

Tell Dem Slavery Done

To combat such abuses, grassroots domestic worker organizations are pushing for Bill of Rights legislation from California to Maryland. This upcoming legislative session DWU is planning for a major push and hopes for the Bill of Rights passage. Success in New York, for many domestic workers, means a strong precedent for nation-wide change.

In 2003, the New York City Council did pass the “Nanny Bill.” The bill requires that household worker employment agencies provide employers a “code of conduct” detailing existing labor laws. Employers are required to sign the code and agencies keep the records on file for three years. Individual employers may sign a largely symbolic code of conduct, but a industry-wide change is still lacking.

And for that reason, DWU is pushing for the Bill of Rights that would mandate a livable wage, payment of overtime, and protections from human trafficking. What it comes down to for DWU is that domestic work be “recognized, respected, and protected” just as any another job would be. Last year Campbell told one state legislator, "I will fight for my Bill of Rights until my last breath."

Base Work

While integrally important in DWU's view, the Bill of Rights is just one set of their organizing. DWU represents a workforce of 200,000 hailing from 42 different countries. Essentially, they do the day-to-day work of a workers' center or an independent union. DWU has recovered $300,000 in unpaid wages, offers an annual nanny training school, holds leadership develop and political education sessions, and does extensive street-level outreach and base-building.

DWU also will take to the streets to fight for their rights. One such fight occurred when one domestic worker was repeatedly locked in a basement during her shift. She complained to her employer about her treatment and unpaid wages to which the employer replied, “I could have let you die in there because no one knew you were here.” DWU reacted, organizing fifty workers who marched on the uber-rich town of Southampton demanding respect and the back wages. The employer was shamed into paying her employee.

One worker in Atlanta commented that through her involved and DWU's popular education programs she now knows, “I have rights. Before, I didn't know that.” It may seem like a small step. But, as Barbara from DWU explains, “This is what we mean by power—the more people know, the more they fight." The national network that formed in Atlanta plans to do that work, as well, at the macro-level. Domestic worker organizations across the country are on the rise and strengthening ties.

We Built This City

During a march through New York City this June, DWU members carried cardboard cut-offs of the City sky-line on their backs with the phrase, “We Built This City.”

"All the behind doors work is sustaining the economy…," stated Escobar. The lawyers, Wall Street suits, and managers rely on the labor of household workers to maintain their families, have a social life, and work outside the home. Indeed, domestic work is one of the “fluids that keeps this economy running" as work that “enables other work to happen.”

A LA-based domestic workers' rights organization relayed such a recent story about a Filipina worker. One day she got into an argument with her employer's wife, who solved the disagreement by taking a glass bottle to her head. The employer was the Vice President of Legal Affairs for Sony. During the domestic workers' workshop, the Maryland-based group elaborated how they had physically rescued three workers from abusive situations in the last three months. All three rescues were from homes of diplomats.

These stories may seem outrageous. But, as Ai-jen Poo, organizer for DWU, explains, “"It isn't unique. In fact, it is common, which is why we are organizing. And even though its often said it is impossible, we are doing it."

At the close of the domestic workers network's founding, a resounding call and challenge was made: "We intend to organize across the nation until we have one million domestic workers." And from the likes of the presence of domestic workers at the US Social Forum, they are up for it. After all, as one domestic worker from LA declared, "We are workers in the house, but we are not domesticated!"

For more information:

Monday, July 16, 2007

Liberating Gender & Sexuality

Audio from the "Liberating Gender and Sexuality" plenary at last month's U.S. Social Forum is finally available here. Thanks to Jessica Hoffmann for passing this along.

As I noted in an earlier report back, I felt that the evening plenaries (even the best of them like the Gender & Sexuality discussion) could have been formatted in a more thoughtful way so as to move the discussion beyond just another series of presentations. However, im passing on this audio specifically so that folks can hear Andy Smith's talk which was one of the highlights of the forum.

Moderator: Suzanne Pharr
Speakers: Andrea Smith, Mia Mingus, Loretta Ross, Imani Henry, and Betita Martinez

(The plenary begins after a pre-show by participants in the Children's Social Forum.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

US Social Forum Photos (Part II)
Left Turn rolling deep final night in ATL (Zein, Max, Jordan, Tej)
After Party (in the hotel lobby) --Kazembe, Linda, Me, Kai, Tej, Reggie,Imani, Iliana
Kazembe, Linda, Max, Kai... New Orleans Hotel Party
Charlie's Angels? Zein, Rayan & Tej strike a pose...
Left Turn crew heading to the party (Rayan, Rami, Me, Sasha, Josie, Akilah, Jordan, Francesca, Zein)
Kristin & Mika back in the Hotel Room
Dinner on Friday night (Kiyoko, Beverly, Jordan, Rami + half of Josie)
Liz Roberts reppin' War Resisters League at the table

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Another Politics is Possible/
Otra Politics Es Posible

Here is the Audio Link where you can download our 90 minute discussion that took place at the US Social Forum last week.

For further reference on this session and the larger track that it was a part of please check out Zapagringo's blog post here.

Thanks to Brent from CIW/SFA for passing this on.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

US Social Forum Photos Part I
(report back below)

Heading back home... (Uruj, Tej, Kiyoko) Sunday, July 1st
Picture the Homeless rolling deep (Jean, Ryan, Lynn, Bruce,Marco,Torrey...)
Left Turn off to dinner! (Nekoro, Sasha, Francesca, Kiyoko)
Eric speaking @ part I of "The Revolution Will Not Be Funded" (Sat, June 30th)
Left Turn editor Jordan & all-star distributor Finn @ The Tables
Reggie, Tej & Prachi hanging out late night in the hotel lounge...
"Another Politics is Possible" Discussion (Friday 10:30am, June 29th)SDS "Intergenerational Organizing" Panel (Thurs. 3:30pm June 28th)
[Josh, Senia, Ashanti, Bob, David]

Monday, July 09, 2007

Taking the Midnight Bus to Georgia: US Social Forum Diary

As we approached the bus stop over on the north side of Union Square, we knew all of our hard work over the past few months had been well worth it. Looking out over the 100 person, two-bus delegation, you couldn’t help but be struck by the amazing cross section of people and organizations we were rolling with on our way down to the first ever US Social Forum (USSF) in Atlanta.

There was Jean, Lynn, Bruce and the rest of the Picture the Homeless crew in one corner with the big water cooler, preparing the egg salad sandwiches for the long ride ahead. There was Center for Immigrant families, with Priscilla and Ujju going over the map-quest directions that we had to print out for our bus drivers who showed up about an hour late. Weaving through the stacks of luggage and people are all of the kids running around along 17th street, trying to outpace the childcare volunteers from Regeneracíon who were doing their best to keep up. There was Janice, Prince and Joseph from Families for Freedom. Uruj, Doug and Daniel from Students for a Democratic Society. There was Kelley, one of the co-founders of Iraq Veterans Against the War, running around trying to get a last minute bite for her and Lovella who both came up from Philadelphia to join our bus. And of course there was the reverend Ashanti trying to sneak on board with us at the last minute. We were off to a late start, hitting the road a good two hours after we planned, but we were in good company.

Breakfast at Cracker Barrel (or, the journey is the destination)

There were several reasons why we ended up taking buses down to Atlanta instead of the quicker more comfortable method of flying down. A fundraising appeal circulated a few months earlier on behalf of the Another Politics is Possible (APP) delegation summed up some of the main points:
  • Many times, individual paid professionals and “token” community members represent community organizations in larger strategic conversations, gatherings, and conferences. The USSF provides an important opportunity to change this dynamic. Instead of choosing a few individuals to travel by plane and rent out hotel rooms, we will use a comparable budget to enable a large group of mothers, children, youth, and childcare volunteers to attend the USSF. Ground transportation will enable more participants to attend, particularly immigrants and families with children. The journey itself will embody our politics, fostering an intergenerational space of connection, sharing and caring for people from different communities in NYC.
Although initially only a one-bus delegation, the APP contingent was able to spill over when the War Resisters League agreed to help subsidize a second bus as a way for grassroots anti-war organizers, veterans, and low-income community based organizations to make the trip. Very quietly, and without much fanfare, the sponsoring of the bus was a nice example of genuine solidarity (without all of the usual strings attached), reflecting hopefully a larger trend among national organizations, towards what could be called a “movement building sensibility” (ie. something that facilitates the building of personal and political relationships between various groups, laying the foundation for future collaboration and joint work).

For those who took advantage, the bus ride offered lots of opportunity to hang out and talk to new people. Going to such an overwhelmingly large event like the USSF, it was nice to be able to have some time beforehand to get a sense of what people were thinking about and working on locally in New York City. I myself was lucky enough to be sitting behind Prince and Joseph who work with the aforementioned organization Families for Freedom, which focuses on post September 11th immigration and detention issues. Both had spent several years locked up in detention centers, the real casualties of this so-called “War on Terror”. Joseph, after five years of lock-down, literally got out just days before our bus orientation meeting and right away decided to make the trek down with us even though sitting in one place was very hard on his body after what he had been through. Joseph, in what is an all too typical story, had actually served in the US military during the first gulf war. After the war he came home with serious post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and instead of being taken care of by the military, he was given the cold shoulder and eventually turned to alcoholism and drugs to treat his depression. After several years of being on and off probation, he was put on the “enemy combatant” list after September 11th and was rounded up and thrown in jail.

Prince later explained to me in great detail the organizing he and others were a part of while inside the various detention centers and outlined a whole other aspect of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC), where immigrants were being warehoused for months and in some cases years at a time without explanation. Although I had read many articles and had discussions with several staff organizers about the various detention increases, it was striking to hear it all first-hand from someone with the lived experience. Suddenly all of the long days and short nights leading up to the organizing for the forum seemed to pale in comparison to these harrowing experiences. It was a good reminder of why we were all traveling down together and the importance of sharing our stories.

Besides the conversations, the other highlight on the way down had to be our breakfast stop at Cracker Barrel on Wednesday morning. We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we were unfortunately not going to make it on time for the opening march. While everyone sat down for pancakes and biscuits, I took the time to re-charge my phone on the outside deck in one of the many rocking chairs that seemed to be a staple of the Cracker Barrel franchise. No longer then five minutes into my stay, I was hit up by the grassroots outreach arm of some fundamentalist Christian sect who gave me “some important reading” which informed me I was to pay for my sins in the afterlife if in fact I did not “confess to my blasphemous lifestyle” and give myself to the lord. While not too into the propaganda, I had to confess that I was impressed by their hustle.

Atlanta Day One (Its getting hot in here…)

We knew the USSF was going to be hectic. Having experiences with conference organizing, my assumptions were that the organizers were going to be completely overwhelmed and that there would be a lot of logistical things that would inevitably fall through the cracks. When we were a few hours away we got a voice message from our friend and co-editor of Left Turn magazine, Rayan El-Amine, that the tabling situation at the civic center was a nightmare. The fire marshals had come and told the organizers that they were way over tabling capacity and that a large number of tables would have to be removed. When organizations started showing up with their materials they were being told that they would have to wait on several long lines to secure a spot, even if they had already registered and paid well beforehand. For us (Left Turn) this was a major problem, because besides the travel coordination and all of the sessions that we helped to pull together, tabling was going to be a major component of our stay in Atlanta. We had brought around 2,000 magazines that we needed to distribute along with boxes of t-shirts, books, dvd’s, and updated pamphlets and hand-outs. Left Turn was basically back to 0$ in the bank and we needed a solid week of tabling to ensure that our fall issue would hit the streets.

We were all staying at different places, and the bus drivers were not in the mood to accommodate our various stops. After the 20 hour ride down, we ended up unloading all of our luggage and boxes of magazines by the side of the road, two blocks away from the Civic Center in the hot Atlanta sun. Instead of being able to check into our hotel, get some food and rest up from the long trip, we had to go straight to the long registration line so that we could help Rayan with holding down a table. We got the word that after standing in line off an on for two days, that he had secured a great spot but there was still no table and he needed materials to save the space. From the registration lines we made our way to the tables and decided to do some tabling while we were there. Everyone was telling us how beautiful and spirited the opening march had been, with contingents representing from all over the US. We didn’t eat until after midnight that first night in Atlanta. We had missed the opening march, it was hot, we were exhausted, but we were happy to be there.

Atlanta Day Two (Moving the Movement)

The alarm clock woke us up with a jolt. No rest for the weary. We were at the first ever USSF and we were gonna make the most of it. We got to the tables at the Civic Center around 9am. Our friend Jordan who had come in with the (huge) New Orleans delegation, had been setting up for a little while and everything seemed under control. I scanned the (bit overwhelming) USSF program and found an interesting sounding 10:30am session that was right there in the Civic Center. The title was “Moving the Movement” and was organized by Grassroots Global Justice, one of the primary networks that helped bring the USSF together. For a second while we were re-arranging the chairs in the room I got scared that the title was meant more literally and that we were going to spend the session moving around the room like some of those Theatre of the Oppressed workshops (no disrespect to TOP-LAB, I was just in the mood for something else). The session ended up being exactly what I was hoping for and although it was basically a straight panel presentation (they wanted to break it down more, but ran out of time), it was engaging from start to finish (well until the guy from one of the Trotskyist sects stood up and informed us all of their platform—I actually left at that point). The presentation included some of the Social Forum’s main organizers (although really who is a main organizer when the event is so huge, it has to be a larger collective effort) representing organizations like Project South, The Miami Workers Center, South West Organizing Project, Labor/Community Strategies Center, and Grassroots Global Justice. They spoke candidly about the discussions behind the scenes and how the organizing for the forum eventually came together. Some of the points that really stuck out to me were:
  • Although there had been calls for several years to US organizations to organize their own regional Social Forum, the decision to organize one was put off until it seemed like there would be enough buy-in at the grassroots level to make it a real representative body.
  • Unlike some of the international Social Forums (speaking specifically of the World Social forums in Porto Allegre, Brazil), the USSF was a much more grassroots and bottom up initiative, not mediated through any major political parties or large international NGO’s
  • Funding was a big problem because forum organizers were explicitly not trying to get “the big organizations on board” (read: white organizations) and it was not until a few months ago that foundations started stepping forward with significant funding once, as one of the panelists put it, they realized “this thing was actually going to happen”
  • The main organizing committee for the USSF was 90% people of color
  • They are looking at a possible 2010 date for a second US Social Forum.

Several of the organizers also notably touched upon the “serious tensions” that were prevalent within the national organizing committee, although obviously did not go into much detail on this. Although I have heard different stories through the grapevine and could speculate on what these differences were, I will leave it to someone actually involved in that work to tell the story at some later point (and hopefully they will, because I think if done in a respectful way it would be very instructive). All in all, it was the perfect introductory workshop to the forum as a whole. The presentations on “Moving the Movement” and the discussions that followed painted a helpful background picture for the days that were to follow.

After a few hours of tabling, I was offered a ride by my friend Kristin to a workshop that I really wanted to attend but initially seemed to hard to get to. Although the organizers did a great job with finding so many locations for the over 1,000 workshops, there were some spaces that were very hard to get to and that if you tried, you would basically forfeit either the sessions before or afterwards in order to make it on time and not starve yourself in the process. The 3:30pm session was being organized by the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an organization which I am a part time staff member of. The panel was titled “Intergenerational organizing” and featured a great line-up of older organizers (Ashanti Alston, Bob Wing, David Solnit) spanning all kinds of movements in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Alongside them were some of the new faces that were active in the new SDS (which in case you want to, you can support by clicking here—sorry it’s the fundraiser in me). The session went really well, it was nice to see such a variety of voices talk about what it meant to be in this movement for the long haul, and how to stay committed and healthy through all of the ups and downs.

After the session I got dropped off at the Westin hotel, where most of the Another Politics is Possible crew was staying. Our friend Paula from Sister II Sista had set up an informal meeting with organizers from the LA Garment Workers Center (GWC). The following morning was going to be our big “Another Politics is Possible” session co-sponsored by about 15 organizations and GWC had played a big role in envisioning what it was going to look like. On Saturday we were also going to be working together (Left Turn, INCITE!, GWC) on running a four hour session on “The Revolution Will Not Be Funded” so it was cool to hang out by the pool for a bit and talk a bit in person. Looking back I wished I had scheduled more time for more meetings like this with specific organizations, no matter how informal but with everyone’s hectic schedule it was just not meant to happen.

After some more tabling—which I personally always enjoy a lot because it allows you to really meet folks from all over the country and talk to them on a one on one basis in a way that is much harder inside the workshops or panels themselves—we got the word that it was about to rain. We were supposed to roll over to the Palestine tent for some food and music but it ended up coming down so hard that we decided to run into the car and head back to the hotel. After another late dinner we just passed out in our room and didn’t make it out to what I guess turned out to be quite the party sponsored by Ruckus Society, Bloc Network, and a host of other organizations. The following morning looking at all of the missed calls at 3am, I knew we had missed out, but as we were quickly learning—in Atlanta, you had to pick your battles and get your sleep where you could.

Atlanta Day Three (Another Politics…)

Up early again. Friday morning was the big day—our APP session was going down at 10:30am and besides being a bit of a trek to get to, we realized that most of Atlanta was just starting to wake up from a heavy night of dancing. Some of us were worried that the turnout would not be very good, especially in light of the fact that we had received a 400 person room for the session—it might look silly to have 50 people sitting there. The nerves quickly passed after seeing people streaming into the room to the sounds of bucket drums that folks from the Garment Workers Center had brought and our new Left Turn volunteer Nekoro was helping out with. In the spirit of creating a different kind of politics and an alternative to the panel style formats so prevalent at these things, we started off with music, handing out the following questions to the 200+ people who eventually came through the doors:


How do you practice leadership development when you are trying to implement a horizontal structure and politics?

Many people say that “horizontalism,non-heirarchy,collective functioning sounds good but is it efficient”? Is it more of a luxury for folks who aren't experiencing immediate oppression and perhaps have more time? – how would you answer these critiques?


How do you understand the idea of "intersectionality" and the way it relates to your work? How do put that into how you practice and build it into how you resist?

*Living the Vision:

When and how do you decide to make demands of and organize against dominant institutions, or build an alternative to that institutions?

When you say a principle is “living the vision”, what do you mean by this, how do you practice it and what are challenges in this practice?

*Larger Social Transformation:

Given the "new politics" that people are talking about, how does this change the methods of work: campaigns, organizational strategy? How does it change the way you think about broader social transformation?

What's the relationship of some of the politics we are trying to articulate and the broad revolutionary theories of socialism, anarchism etc.

After the small group discussions, we sat in a huge multi-layered circle as members from Sista II Sista, Workers Center, INCITE!, and Center for Immigrant Families spoke to some of the ideas that the questions had raised amongst their groups. After a lively discussion, we asked Ashanti Alston to close out the session for the final five minutes where he re-iterated the need to keep talking and thinking about the concept of Revolution itself and how important it was to “keep our eyes on the prize” even if our definitions of revolution and what the “prize” might actually look like kept changing. He was upset that no one on the closing plenary the night before (on War & Militarism) had even mentioned the “R” word and he was glad we were not afraid to keep talking about it. People came out of the session very inspired I think. Several people told me this was somewhat of a life-changing experience and that they had never seen a discussion like this organized in such a way with such sharp questions. As organizers, I think we all felt we could have done a few things differently but it seemed like most people were happy with how it went.

As we walked back from our session a few of us decided we would try and make it to the big: “Building Revolutionary Strategy and Organization in the 21st Century: A Multi-Generational Dialogue” which was organized by several of the remaining non-sectarian party building/pre-party building left groupings including; Freedom Road (OSCL), Solidarity, Labor Community Strategy Center & Bring the Ruckus (although BTR is more of an anti-authoritarian cadre formation). When I got there the session was packed. For some reason they had only given them a 75+ person room and there were well over a hundred people trying to squeeze in. Some friends of mine stayed around but I decided I couldn’t stand in one place against the wall for several hours so I left early. From what I heard the session went well and the discussion was friendly and principled, which is always a step in the right direction for the party building left. After grabbing my what seemed like my first lunch of the week, I headed back to the table to hang out with Left Turn folks who I had barely had a chance to see through the madness that was the USSF.

Weekend Comes (The social is the political…)

I think it was Mao Zedong who once said: “Revolution is not a dinner party”, but like a friend in Atlanta told me: “sometimes you gotta eat.” After running from workshop to workshop, facilitating a few sessions, meeting new people, engaging with new ideas, several of us realized that we would be missing out if we did not plan some more intentional hanging out with our friends who work on the magazine before it was all over. We made a plan to eat on Friday night and then again on Saturday. In the end, this probably ended up being the best part of the trip. Friday we found a great Caribbean restaurant which featured amazing (spicy) jerk chicken and a waiter who was out of this world. It was our first real (non fast food) meal in Atlanta and it was worth the wait.

As a national magazine with no staff and no money, we see each other once, maybe twice a year at most. The reliance on phone and often just email communication takes a toll on us over the course of a year, and we need to see each other in person just to re-affirm why we do the work we do at times. It was good to just be around everyone and remember how much I love to hang out with the Left Turn crew. I don’t know how we do it sometimes but even though we rarely see each other we have a very close relationship.

Towards the end of our meal, we were treated to a special guest appearance by our friends Kymberlie and Thomas who made the last minute trip from Texas with their beautiful five-month old Elliot Thomas Quong-Charles. After dinner we went to the Westin hotel and took advantange of their comfortable couches (though not their $10 drinks) as we talked until late in the night. It was around 2am that I realized that I was helping to facilitate a two-part, 4-hour session, on “The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex” the following afternoon. Sleep would have to wait until the ride home.

Atlanta Day Four (is the US even necessary?....)

Saturday morning didn’t really start off the best way. After only a few hours of sleep I got ready for a 9am SDS meeting to talk about the weeklong Action Camps that we were organizing in August. Stepping out of the hotel, after pulling myself from a pleasant dream, I received a text message saying the meeting had been cancelled. Knowing that if I went back to sleep it would be twice as hard getting up later, I proceeded to home base over at the Civic Center and helped my partner Francesca get ready for a session that Left Turn helped put together on “Independent Media & Movement Building”.

From there I was off back to the Westin Hotel to hook up with Paula, Andy Smith (who later gave the talk of the USSF during the Gender & Sexuality plenary) & the Garment Workers Center crew for our 4 hour session on the NPIC. We had the feeling it might be a big turnout, but damn, organizers ended up having to put all sorts of fire code signs around the doors, even after we moved into a larger room. The space was packed, all of the bodies made the temperature even higher then it already was, and we were all pretty tired, but we huddled up and went over the game plan one more time. The first session was more of an introductory analysis of the “Non-Profit Industrial Complex” (please read the book, or order the amazing audio CD set from the 2004 conference here) with a traditional Q&A and the second session was a small group break out session where we came up with scenarios that the groups had to navigate in an effort to think outside of the “non-profit/foundation funded box”. Both sessions went really well, although there was one point of controversy towards the very end of the first session. During the Q&A, I was trying to navigate the seas of people who had their hands up and eventually an older black woman, who was a fairly well known tenant organizer from New York stood up and shouted at me that I was trying to exclude her and by extension a “Black Revolutionary Socialist Perspective” from the conversation. Although I personally disagreed, we let her shout at the room for about ten minutes during which she mixed in some important comments (her personal experiences of being iced out by foundations for being a militant black organizer from Harlem), along with ultra leftist rhetoric and personal insults. I had seen her do similar things around the New York area, but in this space people were confused as how to perceive her comments. Some folks came up to me afterwards and asked me about the situation and we had some interesting discussion but in the end I felt that unfortunately the speaker was not really interested in fruitful dialogue or pointing out some helpful critiques of the make-up of the speakers (which happened to be all people of color including Indigenous, Latin@, and Asian-American) with myself as the (white) moderator. After the two part session I was about ready for a long nap, but Andy was getting ready for her plenary talk so we decided to head over and hear her talk.

For those who have never heard Andy Smith speak, it is truly an experience. Numerous times she had the entire Civic Center auditorium on their feet, most notably when she said (paraphrasing here) “I saw the USSF slogan ‘Another world is possible, Another US is necessary’—but shouldn’t the real question be: ‘is the US even necessary?’ If our collective social justice imagination is only able to come up with a kinder and gentler US, we have failed as a movement.” The Gender & Sexuality panel had some amazing speakers on it, and it was actually the only one where I stayed for the entire thing, but as my friend Tej pointed out to us, it was unfortunate that with all of these great speakers on the evening panels there was not more discussion of some of the amazing work being done around the US and the kinds of coalitions, networks and organizations that have been able to make progress on a variety of issues. Perhaps the discussions could have focused more on some concrete alternatives or uplifting stories from some of the many communities represented throughout the Social Forum. In my humble opinion, the whole concept of the nightly panels could have been thought through a bit more and the USSF organizers might have used the opportunity of the large evening gatherings in a more cohesive way, but that would be one of my few critiques for the folks who did just an incredible job with the whole week.

Closing night (And after the party it’s the hotel lobby….)

Saturday night was our last night and although we had to wake up around 6am to catch our 20 hour bus back to New York City, we decided to go the “you only live once” route and made the most of it. After dinner & drinks in the comfortable Westin hotel lobby (staying true to the grassroots, we snuck both our food and our bottles inside), we headed up to the pool party which was being thrown by the APP crew for all of the childcare volunteers and mothers who wanted to have one nice relaxing evening before heading back. When we got up to the pool we saw that the police had just been called and so we left for the big New Orleans delegation party which was happening in the Hilton hotel (the whole thing with the fancy hotels was obviously a bit strange and a story for another day). It seemed like everyone we had met throughout the course of the week was right there in one place, it was a nice way to close everything out. After some drinks and some sweaty dancing, we said our goodbyes to everyone we might not be seeing for a while (or at least not until 2010 – USSF part II... the remix) and headed back to the hotel one last time.

I wont bore everyone with the story of what happened to our bus on the way back home, but just some final thoughts I hope others will explore in future (more concise) report backs other then this one.

- The Children’s Social forum was amazing and a truly inspiring model for future conferences/gatherings/meetings large or small. A huge thank you to all of the childcare volunteers who were running around all weekend!

- The unfortunate situation with the Ida B. Wells Media Justice Center and its marginalization throughout the USSF. Another sign of the ongoing struggle to get independent media recognized as the important force that it can be within our movements and organizations.

- The closing plenary, and the proposal and plans coming out of it, specifically the calls for coordinated days of action and future local social forums which various regions have already been experimenting with. Is there anyone who can clearly explain this process?

- I know for younger organizations (both in terms of membership age and how many years the organization has existed) like the new SDS, the USSF provided the ideal space for more face-to-face connections and relationship building. How did other organizations take advantage of this event, were they able to balance their own meetings and gatherings with the crazy-ness that was the USSF or did it just make the whole thing a bit too overwhelming?

And finally, thanks to everyone who had the patience to read this (way too long) report back, thanks to Tej & Francesca who worked really hard to make the trip as smooth as possible, and a big thanks to the War Resisters League for recognizing the importance of this event and helping to support the delegation.

PS. - for everyone who attended the USSF, please take a moment to fill out your feedback/evaluation forms

Max Uhlenbeck is a member of the Left Turn editorial collective, and a national organizer with Students for a Democratic Society ( who works and lives in New York City.