Activists gather in Atlanta for Social Forum

Many thousands of trade unionists, peace activists, community organizers, students and young workers are converging on the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta this week to march, rally and develop strategies in their fight against the ultra-right.

The huge gathering was set to march through the city’s downtown on Wednesday, June 27, ending with a rally at the Civic Center.

Leaders of transnational corporations and countries whose governments represent their interests have held an annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, since 1971. The World Social Forum movement developed in 2001 and has been held every year since as a peoples’ response to the ruling-class gathering in Davos. The Atlanta event is the first U.S. Social Forum.

The U.S. forum, which has drawn over 5,000 registrants, was planned by 50 labor, peace and community groups from around the country. In addition to the march and rally, hundreds of workshops, panels and cultural events will take place over the five days of its sessions, June 27-July 1.

Many of the groups attending the forum see this as a significant time in U.S. history, ripe with the possibility of defeating the ultra-right here at home and improving conditions for masses of people around the world. As the basis for their optimism, they cite the defeat of many right-wingers in the U.S. elections in 2006, the almost total loss of support for the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, and the anger in the country over the failure of the federal government to respond adequately to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

The U.S. Social Forum, like its worldwide counterpart, sees itself as hammering out alternatives to the policies of the multinational corporations here and abroad.

Organizers selected Atlanta as the host city because of the political significance of the U.S. South as the area where the worst attacks against people and the greatest struggles for civil rights and justice have occurred. Organizers point out that the South has cultivated determined and consistent fights for working-class emancipation, civil rights and human liberation generally.

jwojcik @pww.org