Confronting the Democracy Gap at the DNC

Unlike Democratic National Convention, Boston Social Forum featured healthy dialogue

| July 2004

BOSTON -- Anyone looking for discussions on the direction the Democratic Party is taking, and exactly what kind of platform should replace the George W. Bush administration next year, should not waste their time listening to the canned and scripted speeches that are lulling the Fleet Center to sleep all week. The real brain action kicked off last weekend at the Boston Social Forum on the University of Massachusetts at Boston campus, where thousands of activists, intellectuals, anarchists -- anyone who wants change and is willing to engage in dialogue about how to reach it -- gathered for three days of convocations, panels, workshops, and powerful open-air exhibits.

The Boston Social Forum (BSF) is the first such forum in North America and builds on the model of the World Social Forum, first held in Porto Allegre, Brazil, in February, 2001. 'This is a reaction to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, wealthier governments like the United States and their large corporations proposing economic policies that forced cuts to social spending and privatization of social services in an effort to reduce debt and encourage investment which results in humanitarian disasters and economic collapse,' said Sean Donahue, one of the BSF organizers. 'We felt it was important to bring people from various social movements to Boston in an open-ended process. We wanted to encourage conversation between people from different social movements and different ways of life to try and share their ideas, experiences and strategies to build new coalitions, develop new ideas, and hopefully move forward with more comprehensive responses to the problems we're facing,' continued Donahue.

'What we want to do is find a common ground where someone who spent the winter working for Howard Dean in Iowa or New Hampshire can get together with someone who locked out a Lockheed Martin plant or someone who traveled to Iraq to document the bombing. And when you find that common ground, you begin to find ways to move forward together,' Donahue concluded.

At UMass-Boston there were no delegates waiting on the edges of their seats for four cumbersome days to nominate the man we've known for months will run for President. Nor was there the menacing security in and around the Fleet Center that naturally curtails free speech. The Boston Social Forum featured no video monitors, no elevator music, no balloons waiting to fall from the ceiling at the climax of an anti-climactic week.

But it did feature spontaneous, original dialogue and conflicting opinions, and lots of them.

There was Peter Miguel Camejo -- Ralph Nader's running mate in 2004 -- questioning John Kerry's soul and the Democratic Party's ability to survive if American voters began supporting third parties en masse. Camejo was both applauded and lambasted by the packed audience afterwards.

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