May 31, 2012
To: Friends of the Organizers’ Forum
Fr: Wade Rathke, Chair
Re: 2012 International Dialogue in Bolivia
An International Dialogue in Bolivia!
September 23, 2012 to September 28, 2012 – Sunday through Friday
Our fall 2011 International Dialogue in Cairo, Egypt couldn’t have been much more exciting and educational for everyone. We had a large delegation that came away with a life changing experience that was part exhilaration, exhaustion, and perhaps even depression. In other words, it was a typical Organizers’ Forum International Dialogue!
We debated going right back to the Middle East, but instead decided to let some of the dust settle there so that in future years we can more accurately assess the impact and legacy of the Arab Spring. Having not been to Latin America since our inaugural international dialogue in Brazil where we were able to watch the thrilling run up to Lula’s and the Workers’ Party historic victory, we decided its time to go south rather than east this year.
Bolivia is not only one of the poorer countries in South America but one of the more fascinating in recent years as it goes through historic changes of its own. The election of Evo Morales was a game changer in that country for the population in the same way that Obama’s was in the USA, and he and his allies have brought their own kinds of changes and controversies to government more attuned to indigenous concerns. More recently his nationalization of oil companies has attracted attention and the unique position they have carved out in the “drug wars” as coca farmers yet not cocaine exporters is something worth our delegation also trying to determine.
The trip is still in the planning stages, and we will post updates as soon as we have them. La Paz is our primary destination though there is possibility we may wander from the high altitude capital and take a closer look at the “water wars” that have been fought against water privatization throughout the country as well. Rest assured, this will be a great experience for community and labor organizers!
We plan to travel with approximately 10-15 participants, and we will strive to have a mix of both community and labor organizers/leaders from a variety of community organizations and unions. We look for participants to meet in La Paz, pay their own travel and visa costs in addition to a program fee. The Organizers Forum will pay for food, lodging, and ground transportation. We will do our best to get a sense of how the city and the country move as always.
If you are interested in applying to attend this dialogue, we invite you to apply by sending an email of interest to Wade Rathke firstname.lastname@example.org Organizers’ Forum. Please respond as early as possible, and certainly no later than August 1st because there are a limited number of spaces.
Honoring the Life & Work of Barbara Bowen
Barbara Bowen Memorial Dialogue Scholarship
Barbara Bowen (1946-2012) for 8 years from 2000 to 2008 was the National Coordinator of the Organizers’ Forum, and it’s only staff member. Her time facilitating and organizing the domestic and international dialogues for the Organizers’ Forum came after a career as an organizer for social justice for more than 30 years with VISTA, National Welfare Rights Organization, Children’s Foundation, Massachusetts Fair Share, ACORN, United Labor Unions, Project Vote, SEIU, and other organizations and campaigns working all over the country. Her career, character, commitment, and courage represent what is best among community and labor organizers dedicated to achieving change in terms of social and economic justice.
Almost 300 organizers have participated in the various dialogues of the Organizers’ Forums over more than a decade. With knowledge of Barb’s tragically premature passing and long time contribution to the dialogues which many organizers have often described as transforming and transcending experiences, several suggested that a Barbara Bowen Memorial Dialogue Scholarship be organized to assist other organizers in being able to attend future dialogues.
Contributions to the Barbara Bowen Memorial Dialogue Scholarship can be made by sending a check directly to the Organizers’ Forum c/o Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center at PO Box 3924 New Orleans, LA 70177. All contributions are appreciated and are tax exempt.
Special Thanks to Mary Rowles for pulling together all of the minutes of this great dialogue.
The Organizers Forum visited Cairo during a transition period when the excitement of overthrowing the regime had started to evaporate in the face of the monumental task of nation-building.
The revolution had affected many people with a new sense of agency. We met women whose first organizing efforts were neighbourhood protection committees, and who went on to start up women’s organizations; we met organizers, dispirited under the Mubarak regime who were now charged with new optimism that community organizing might lead to real change where before it would dead -end in bribery. Tahrir square revolutionaries were forming new networks and civic organizations.
Like all most industrial countries Egypt is facing the challenge of economic development and job creation. Activists are looking for ways to end the economic inequalities, high unemployment and low wages that were partly responsible for the explosion of anti-Mubarak animosity in Tahrir Square last January.
But Egypt has particular challenges that we heard about in meetings with community organizers, presidential candidates, young revolutionaries, unions and workers’ centres. They told us that before even beginning to address the deep social and economic problems Egyptians must work out new power-sharing arrangements, new election rules, and an orderly transfer of power from military caretakers to civil authority. They must establish a clear relationship between religion and the state, and the role of religion in government. They must establish new attitudes and practices within the state apparatus, including respect for civic freedoms; and they must deal with pervasive corruption.
Some young revolutionaries are looking to take their place in new power structures. Women’s organizations will be looking to a new government to create a legal context for women’s rights and to assist in shifting cultural attitudes and practices. Minority populations are looking for state protection. Workers and unions demand freedom of association, free collective bargaining, the right to strike, and freedom from state reprisals, interference and control.
During our visit political elites were trying to negotiate ,with the SCAF, the new rules for elections that must precede the shift to a civil government. The nation- building will depend on achieving change throughout a society distorted by the political power of one family, expressed through the state. Mubarkak is gone but the attitudes and practices of the regime remain.