Scenes from a Revolt Sustained: A Reportback from Tunisia
5 June 2012 – 7:30PM
The Brecht Forum
451 West Street, New York, NY 10014
This Tuesday we will host a reportback from some comrades who spent some weeks in April traveling around Tunisia, meeting with militants, rebels, anarchists, Stalinists, council communists, unionists, students, unemployed, et al.
During our trip we tried to meet with those working to continue the revolutionary process, and to hear their analyses on the current situation; going back to the immediate responses to Mohamed Bouazizi’s suicide of December 17th, 2010, and beyond. With very little information on Tunisia ever coming through Western media, we felt a particular void of English-language translations of Tunisian militants. So it was this we tried to document in a feature-length documentary film scheduled to be released this summer.
We traveled through Ariana, Gafsa, Kasserine, Sidi Bouzid, and Tunis. The group included two New Yorkers, and comrades from Lisbon and Paris. We became interested in Tunisia as the spark of a wave of international uprisings, from the Arab Spring, to the indignados movement of Spain and Greece, to the Occupy movement in the United States. What was challenged in Tunisia was not just a system of authoritarian rule, but also capitalist control of a country’s jobs, resources, and goods. We explored how our comrades in Tunisia organize against ideological obfuscations such as nationalism, neoliberalism, and religious fundamentalism; as well as the limits of democracy, insurrection, self-organization, and the difficulties in building communism in the immediate wake of state and economic collapse.
We invite to participate in this event any Tunisians presently in New York, as well as others who have recently traveled throughout the country. We hope for an open discussion on what the situation in Tunisia means to us now, wherever we may be, in our struggles toward liberation.
The film, Scenes from a Revolt Sustained, is currently being edited at the Brecht Forum. The film is a series of encounters with militants, rebels, fighters, still in the process of finding their voice, articulating their analyses, and organizing interventions towards the creation of a new society in Tunisia and the Arab world. Working through an unknown political culture and history, the film experiments with various beginnings, 2010, 1987, 1956, the present.
The uprising which culminated in Ben Ali’s resignation and flight from the country initiated a new form of participation in society. The film is about examining social life in Tunisia in the first year following its insurrection, the collective overcoming of fears, and a new conception of cooperation.
Society in Tunisia must now be re-built on a visibly unstable ground, following the undoing of a large part of the previous political order. During the rule of Ben Ali, few organizations were able to find a space within which to work. Those few that managed to exist during such repression had to try to respond quickly following the overthrow, to try to create links and develop networks among a wave of spontaneous action taking place outside any organized forms.
Today people are trying to coordinate in order to move beyond a logic dictated only by daily survival. When a people realize it has the possibility to act, they also must work to renew, reinvent, remodel all existing forms of organization around them. The dominant claims are the most immediate, including access to work, for most still the only way to acquire what one needs to survive. But in a country where economic development was dictated by the laws of cronyism and corruption, benefiting only a small circle of elites, disparities and opportunism runs deep. The internal geographical divides within country, north/south, coast/inland, urban/rural, remain embedded in the long collective memories of local resistance, and provide the context for these current struggles for survival within a rapidly increasing inflation.
The moments we have collected show men and women, town and country, unionists, unemployed, graduates and not, party members, and the ordinary, all working towards freedom. Armed only with the intensity of their determination, these activists continue to risk their lives to make their demands heard. Each city of Tunisia has its martyrs, and each local population maintains the memories of the dead, struggles for recognition of the wounded, those considered the heroes of this fight against oppression. Death is a risk knowingly taken, for our “willingness to live”, as in a poem by About El Kacem Chebbi in 1933, now written all over the walls of Tunisia,
“When the day people want to live,
Force of Destiny in the answer,
Force is to dissipate the darkness,
Force is to break the chains.”
The BRECHT FORUM is a cultural and educational center for people who are working for social justice, equality and a new culture that puts human needs first. Through its programs and events, the Brecht Forum brings people together across social and cultural boundaries and artistic and academic disciplines to promote critical analysis, creative thinking, collaborative projects and networking in an independent community-level environment.
The cornerstone of our educational conception situates movement-building within a transformative cultural process within society at large. From the beginning, our conception was based on the idea that a fundamental task of the left is to create, within existing society, a counter-hegemonic culture of working people and their allies, who are capable of challenging the capitalist agenda, prefiguring new ways of thinking and of self-organization, as well as creating new ways of relating to each other and nature.