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The unemployed movement in Tunisia: an unstoppable process
The Tunisia chronicle, pt.6
Young people have been at the forefront of the revolution. Mohamed Bouazizi, whose death sparked off the revolt, was one of those educated young people who were rotting in villages with no prospect for the future. But these young people today are organizing themselves. More than 100 local branches of the Union have been created since February, when it was legalized, and so far it has gathered 45,000 members, male and female. [Castellano]
The unemployed movement in Tunisia: an unstoppable process
In the '80s and '90s, especially in the western countries of North Africa, there was widespread access to university for young people from the working classes. The first rural women got to attend university. There were large-scale demonstrations at universities and from them emerged organizations such as the Union nationale des étudiants du Maroc (UNEM - National Union of Moroccan Students) which served as a nursery of activism and united struggle of all the tendencies struggling for social change.
But after university came unemployment. To continue studying in Europe or for a doctorate, masters', etc., one needs to have enough money. To enter the civil service, where cronyism and corruption dominate, graduates from the working classes and rural areas have little chance. Continuing the experience and contacts formed in the UNEM, the Association nationale des diplômés chômeurs au Maroc (ANDCM - National Association of Unemployed Graduates) was created in Morocco in 1992, the first organization of the unemployed to be created in the region and which, after 19 years of struggle without being legalized, blazed a trail in the fight against unemployment.
The enemployed graduates in Tunisia organize themselvesInfluence from and knowledge of the experience of the ANDCM spread. Contacts were established between Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
In 2006, the Ligue Tunisienne des Diplômés Chômeurs (Tunisian League of Unemplyed Graduates) was founded. Tunisian representatives attended several international conferences by the ANDCM, also attended by the CGT. Post-graduation unemployment was massive and the need to organize was clear.
But in Tunisia, Ben Ali's dictatorship repressed branches of the unemployed graduates' league. There was persecution and division was fomented. The organization returned underground. But it continued to sow its seends, there were still contacts being made and the uprising in Gafsa was like a flame that the repression put out, but it did point the way.
The revolution arrives. The Tunisian Union des Diplômés-Chômeurs (UDC) is formedYoung people have been at the forefront of the revolution. Mohamed Bouazizi, whose death sparked off the revolt, was one of those educated young people who were rotting in villages with no prospect for the future. But these young people today are organizing themselves. More than 100 local branches of the Union have been created since February, when it was legalized, and so far it has gathered 45,000 members, male and female. In Tunisia, a country with 10 million inhabitants, there are 140,000 young unemployed graduates with another 60,000 students who finish school early. This is one of the motors of change.
We spoke with Salem Ayari, president of the UDC in Tunis. In the last three months, the process has been unstoppable. Local branches are created almost daily. There is a national committee, but without any decision-making powers. They have rented premises in Tunis so that the committee can continue to organize the process. A bond system has allowed the movement to finance itself. Computers from the local premises of the RCD and from friends give the UDC a minimal infrastructure.
Following the experience of the ANDCM, they have developed a standard scale for jobs obtained by the various branches of the association. Actions at local level are essential. We have seen permanent protest camps in various places (Sidi Bouzid, Thala, Tozeur...).
Apart from the common struggle to end all structures linked to the dictatorship, in the field of unemployment the UDC focuses on three key demands:
But they know they have to combine the struggle and the mobilization with analysis of the current situation and find concrete alternatives for employment that are viable. To do so, they are organizing a conference debate on 9th and 10th May, with the participation of various intellectuals, on the theme of "Unemployment and models for development", as well as the issue of migration.
The ability to organize ourselvesWe do not talk about the past or about dreams. Before our eyes, here and now, in less than three months tens of thousands of young Tunisians have managed to make a tool that they themselves have forged, autonomously at each location, with solidarity between all, with common objectives, with bottom-up participation, without depending on anyone. It is not perfect or without contradictions and weaknesses - it is after all a human process. But it is real, present, and something from which we should all learn.
Translation by FdCA - International Relations Office
Original (in Spanish) published on 18 April 2011, with photos:
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