News from the UniCommon March caravan from Italy to Tunisia.
From Rome to Tunis, the flight is short: not even the time to close your eyes and the other side of the Mediterranean is already in front of you. That’s what travelling is for: to close the gap, to compare the differences, to set off the the different experiences. Today’s the day of prayer in Tunis, friday. At lunchtime, the streets are filled with men in suits with the rugs under their arms. Prayer is just over and people are all ready to go back to work, at least those who have one. Our taxi driver overwhelms us with words about this bustling city, this country and its people. The dictatorship is over, but the perception of the present and future scenarios appear blurry. This is our first day of the caravan “United for Freedom”, a journey that will take us from Tunis to the border with Libya to visit the refugee camp of Ras Jadir and deliver drugs to be redistributed among the other camps. While some hurry to attend the press conference launching the caravan, we reach the headquarters of the UGTT, the sole union, where a meeting with different organizations that animated riots in recent months awaits us. The room is crowded with people, students and unemployed youth. There is a desire to speak and listen .. there is a desire to understand. After a while, the space of discussion is invaded by the enormous complexity that have been characterizing recent months. Narratives, positions and interpretations of the January revolution just passed, of the Tunisian history, and of its future, follow one another, sometimes conflicting, giving us the feeling of something difficult to grasp. The afternoon offers us a glimpse of orderly confusion to which we feel closer. Even in the extreme diversity of life experiences and struggles that we have heard, we share the desire to build a present and to demand a better future. These young people do not speak of Lampedusa, they have chosen to stay because for the first time in almost 50 years they succeeded in opening an enormous space of possibility, completely to be built, and of which they feel protagonists exactly as we felt during autumn and how we feel now that we’re here, face to face with the other side of the Mediterranean. It is worth insisting on the chaotic character of the meeting, if nothing else because the extent of the turbulent and contentious confrontation between the various student and youth Tunisian organizations emphasizes the richness and dynamism of the post-authoritarian political environment.
The first real achievement of the revolt in January and February is the public arena, and the singular and collective desire to speak, to break the deafening silence which for decades has blocked the Tunisian society, compressing its power. So the meeting with the italian students and precarious workers becomes immediately an opportunity to bring the critical points to the foreground, for arguing with “fellow travellers” to clarify the status of the new revolutionary subjectivity.
All agree that the revolution is just the beginning. The landslide of the rais and the establishment of a constituent political space, have not yet been accompanied by a significant economic and social transformation. The economic powers remain intact, as the exploitation and poverty: if one moves away from Tunis to the south, everything is clear, with all its hardness and roughness. If one one hand, therefore, many students (particularly students from the union Uget) read as positive, albeit critically, the institutional and political transformation under way, the polemic voices of those who consider the revolutionary process blocked, in part betrayed (these are, mostly, independent student groups or gravitating around POCT, the Tunisian Communist Party).A different reading of the phase which describes the divergence of political initiative, particularly in relation to the Provisional Government, between those who do not disdain an explicit support to the institutional transition and those who propose to return to the streets to push the revolutionary process forward. The latter option has to deal, since a few days, with the failure of third Kasbah (the permanent and conflictual occupation of the square), after the success of first and second and the collapse of the first and second provisional government. The third provisional government, in fact, seems stronger and the date of elections to the constituent assembly has already been set (July 24). All speeches stressed the centrality of the generational issue: it is the youth to be more affected by unemployment, it is freshly qualified and graduated more than others to suffer the crisis and poverty. At the same time, it is the very young people to want a radical transformation, anti-capitalist and democratic at the same time. The role of the unemployed, in this sense, was and is decisive: they are the ones who put under pressure the weak social reformism of the interim government.
There are many similarities, we have explained in our contributions, among the youth dimension of the Tunisian revolt and Italian turmoils. Affinities that do not allow us to overlook the many differences: the discovery of public arena and open political debate, as we said, are things that make their appearance in Tunisia these weeks for the first time, the poverty which characterizes the condition of the young Tunisian of the suburbs is far more violent than that experienced by the italian precarious. Of these things, we will continue to discuss not only the next days but for the months ahead, because the commitment with which we left is to give continuity to the euro-Mediterranean confrontation. Already Rome, indeed, could be a future opportunity for relaunching the debate, enriched, perhaps, by the contribution of many other students and temporary workers in the north and south Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, the sun sets in the spring of Tunisia. The night that lies ahead will be long. At 3 am we will walk towards the border, ready to overwhelm us with new eyes and new words, with the awareness that in the confrontation distances grow thinner and new springs explode.