Since 2006, thousands of people have come together at over 300 Peoples Movement Assemblies to fight oppressive conditions and create radical grassroots democracy for community power.
The following history is based on the thinking and presentations of Ruben Solis who founded the Peoples Movement Assembly process in the United States.
THE PEOPLES MOVEMENT ASSEMBLY
Over the past year, hundreds of people have come together at Peoples Movement Assemblies to fight oppressive conditions and create action plans for long-term change.
The assembly process is like a jet engine, propelled by the involvement of many peoples’ ideas and experience.
This process, through which we converge our communities and spark action, has been growing in the US over the past five years. At the 2nd US Social Forum in Detroit in June 2010, over 100 Peoples Movement Assemblies convened over 10,000 people and produced a Social Movement Agenda for Action. Fifty assemblies were organized leading up this social forum and many more assemblies have happened since.
BUILDING FROM THE GROUND UP
The first movement assembly in the US was held in 2006 at the Border Social Forum in CD Juarez, Chihuahua in Mexico across from El Paso, TX. The Border Social Forum, along with the Southeast Social Forum (held in Durham, NC), built up to the first United States Social Forum in Atlanta, GA in 2007, which completed with a Peoples Movement Assembly. These assemblies are inspired by the Social Movement Assembly, which was integrated into the World Social Forum in 2002. The Social Movement Assemblies recognized that to be able to leave the Social Forum with stronger dreams, visions, and directions for our world, we needed stronger plans for action.
A BRIEF SOCIAL MOVEMENT HISTORY
The Peoples Movement Assembly draws from a history of social movement organizing strategies.
This history provides important insight for our communities to understand the current political moment and continue to move forward effectively. Building from this history, Peoples Movement Assemblies offer an innovative approach to organizing and movement building.
For Part Two of this video, scroll to the bottom of this page.
2000’s: MEGA MARCHES
The new millenium was characterized by ongoing building of movement forces and conservative backlash. In 2001, the first World Social Forum (WSF) took place in Porto Alegre. Also in 2001, the reaction to 9-11 caused a set-back for movement forces. Yet a change in era happened after 2003 when people moved from focusing on committees to talking about movement building and mass organizing. Mega-marches, such as the Migrant Marches protesting change in immigration policy, were widespread in the mid 2000’s. The Global Action to Stop the Iraq War on February 15, 2003, which mobilized millions of people, was the result of a direct call to action from the Assembly process at the 2003 World Social Forum. Yet these marches focused on getting people to attend the march, not on organizing with people to build long-term movement.
1990’s GLOBAL MOVEMENTS
During the 1990’s the start of a global movement was building. From 1992-96 bi-national mobilizing against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was organized in the US (by SouthWest Organizing Project and Southwest Workers Union) and Mexico (by Centro de Investigacion & Solidaridad Obrera in CD Juarez and Frente Democratic Campesino in Chihuahua). The Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994 continued to propel Anti-NAFTA mobilization onto the world stage. By 1997 global north/south social movements, alliances, and solidarity was building. The“Battle of Seattle” in 1999, where the WTO ministeriel meeting was shut down by movement forces, was a landmark coming together of the global justice movement. Historically this action played a very important role; organizers returned to Brazil from Seattle and began organizing the first World Social Forum based on the idea that the movement needed to have it’s own meetings to construct it’s own vision and agenda. The idea and hope was that only together could we discuss alternative directions for our world and society.
1980’s ISSUE BASED ORGANIZING
In 1979-80 there was an era change. While COINTELPRO and the assasinations of movement leaders contributed, many liberation and identity movements collapsed because we didn’t have the analysis to change our strategy from what had worked in previous decades. In response to scare tactics used by the Reagan administration, people veered away from political organizing and focused on working in the community sector. There was a lot of fragmentation between different political struggles as people concentrated on issue-based organizing. This focus brought many new people into the movement and resulted in many new organizations being created. Yet many of those involved, while ready to fight specific targeted fights, were not prepared to fight for the long battle for liberation. Similarly, the focus on specific issues meant that people that were working in parallel to each other. People understood that they needed to build intersectionality between issues, this was approached mechanically, whereby the goal was to create partnerships between organizations and groups working on different issues, and was not based on new analysis about the current political moment and the impact of issue based organizing.
1970’s POPULIST MOVEMENTS
In the 1970’s, there was a populist upsurge. Marches against the Vietnam War drew thousands of people; 100,000 people participated in the Kent State Massacre/Cambodia Incursion Protest in Washington, D.C. in May. There continued to be one symbolic leader who was seen as the spokesperson for the movement; but during this time the symbolic leader was backed by a populist movement. The synergy and momentum that was building met a glass ceiling: energy was not put into developing new leadership to be able to sustain the momentum.
1960’s LIBERATION MOVEMENTS
During the 1960’s the movements were based on one symbolic leader. While there was mutual recognition between the many groups, for the most part they worked on separate issues. There was often competition between leaders in regards to who could be the most radical or militant.
- • Chicanos were organizing together (Brown Berets) • Blacks were organizing together (Black Panthers) • Indigenous folks were organizing together (American Indian Movement) • Whites were organizing together (Students for a Democratic Society)
This era of organizing can be understood as like pulling a box car; the populace were engaged by single leaders.