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Another World is Possible -- Another World is Necessary

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From the 2nd U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, Michigan

June 24 June 26

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The G20 opened on Friday, June 25th in Toronto. Government leaders from 20 countries designated as most critical to addressing the world's financial crises met to discuss their proposed solutions for rescuing and stabilizing the world's financial markets.

The headlines were full of news about financial regulation, cutbacks in social programs paid for by government, outstanding debt owed by developing nations, saving the banks and ways in which the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the United States led "war on terror" is affecting the ability of corporations to conduct business profitably all around the world.

What we didn't hear were the voices of those who are most impacted by the current economic crises, economic crises that in some instances have existed for decades. We didn't hear about how conditions in impoverished nations have been worsening for the past 20 or 30 years and how that deterioration in conditions was barely noted until the most developed nations were affected. These are impoverished nations, not poor nations, because many are resource rich, but unable to enjoy those resources as corporations extract them and sell them elsewhere. While this situation is rarely discussed and certainly not addressed, when the U.S. hit the depths of recession, the world took notice because the U.S. had so far to fall. When we hit bottom, the world heard a large crash, a crash that continues to drown out the voices of those who are hurt most by the fall and those who offer solutions at the community level.

It wouldn't take much to hear the voices of those impacted around the world and here at home in cities like Newark and towns like Bloomfield. Just over 200 miles away from the G20, focal point of international attention, more than 10,000 people from around the U.S. and around the world gathered in Detroit, Michigan for only the 2nd ever U.S. Social Forum.

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I attended the U.S. Social Forum (USSF). Forty-five organizations worked together to plan this event and dozens more were involved in the more than 1000 workshops, including Peace Action, the national organization to which NJ Peace Action is affiliated.

As the program stated, by attending the USSF we "join a path that is being walked by millions of people around the world, a path that places people over profits, and values everyday actions over the pontifications and plans of politicians and corporate leaders."

A little bit more about the USSF. Its over 1000 workshops took place over a span of 5 days. There were also nearly 50 people's assemblies and social plenaries every night. This was a political process through which connections were made and actions taken. As connections are built between individuals and organizing efforts, participants hope to change the way national governments relate to other national governments and the way both countries and corporations relate to people and resources.

This was only the 2nd USSF. The first took place in Atlanta, Georgia in 2007. This year, the Forum followed the tracks of the Underground Railroad to a northern border city, a post-industrial environment with high unemployment and foreclosure rates and the fastest growing urban garden movement in the country.

The June 24th plenary I attended was titled "From National to International: The Effects of Neoliberal Policies at Home and Abroad." The plenary did what many of us have tried to do in our work, discuss the ways in which many of the political and economic problems we face are connected. In this instance, the panelists discussed how the economic crisis is connected to policies of war, how the militarization of our country and our world siphons off huge amounts of resources, both human and financial, to support it and how the movement of corporations and jobs affects the lives of many, creating a need for people to migrate from their homes to places where the jobs are located.

The U.S. Congress is set to vote on appropriating $33 billion more toward the escalation of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, billions of dollars that could be used to address social problems here at home.

At the same time, a new report produced by the Sustainable Defense Task Force identifies $960 billion in Pentagon budget savings that can be generated over the next ten years from realistic reductions in military spending. The report was produced in response to a request from House Financial Services Committee Chair, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). Peace Action National's Political Director was a Task Force member.

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A June 24th letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and signed by 29 Representatives, including New Jersey Representatives Donald Payne and Rush Holt, as well as 5 Republicans, urged a delay in the vote on this supplemental until a full discussion of the issues and concerns raised by a senior adviser to General McChrystal and quoted in the Rolling Stone article that led to his resignation are addressed:

"If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular." We support this demand and urge readers their representatives to ask for their support as well.

A quick glance at news coverage shows that most of the print media about the USSF appeared in the Detroit newspapers and in blogs and publications specific to many of the organizations represented there.

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Madelyn Hoffman is the Executive Director of NJ Peace Action, based in Bloomfield, New Jersey. She has held that position since August 2000. Madelyn Hoffman traveled to Afghanistan with Global Exchange in June 2005 and has given dozens of (more...)

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