Days in Tunis that changed the world
Short version of a coming text about World Social Forum in Tunis 2015
(published in WSF discuss mailing list)
The World Social Forum in Tunis starts a new era in world history. The global revolution in 1968 saw a split in two groups of political actors evolving. On the one hand left wing political parties aiming at bringing about convergence of different struggles and on the other hand so called new social movements fragmenting the struggle into specific single issues.
In Tunis this model was changed by three main actors. The global democratic movements organizations as Via Campesina, World March of Women and Friends of the Earth International converging their struggles without political parties as intermediaries. More spontaneous movements giving strength to the struggle in all parts of the world as the indigenous peoples struggle against so called development projects, the Zapatistas, Occupy, Indignados and the Arab spring to name a few. Finally thanks to different models of organizing global gatherings of popular movements and NGOs.
At the World Social Forum in Tunis the strength of the open space concept which stimulates openness and avoids taking decisions in the name of all participants was combined with the strength of the Peoples summit model used in Rio 2012 were the main global popular movements were prioritized in an open convergence process during the forum. The main outcome of the Peoples Summit was the transversal campaign to dismantle corporate power organically rather then ideologically linking a wide range of struggles on different issues. In Tunis this campaign merged with climate justice campaigning in a joint convergence process without neither of the two losing their broadness and both sharpening their main focus. Thus a core for further convergence was established which in a second step in a similar way was done with the global struggle against water privatization, for land rights, for a just transition promoted by the trade unions, for small scale farming and for alternatives.
In this way a convergence took place deeply rooted in ongoing campaigns, a convergence that can be described as organic and a coming together in acting rather than through ideology or with the help of representatives voting to make a specific struggle or day of action the most important. A process that at the surface of it was quite invisible as the convergence of a very broad range of issues took place under the official heading of an assembly for 80 seminars on climate change. The official Assembly of social movements was far less a convergence of movements and more of a listing of coming actions.
Even more invisible was two more far reaching processes taking place. In practice they addressed a split among popular movements since 100 years and even 500 years. Land grabbing with the help of IMF and Monsanto, extreme austerity politics and virulent nationalism replacing demands for social justice ending in war with the possibility to escalate into nuclear war at least with tactical nuclear weapons has erupted in Ukraine. In a situation one hundred years after the Zimmerwald conference and the peace movement gathering in the Hague it is of most immediate concerns to rebuild a peace movement with the beginning at both sides of the war zone and by uniting all different strands in the struggle against the capitalist forces behind all forms of imperialism.
This is precisely what happened in Tunis. For the first time civil society representatives from both Euromaidan and Antimaidan met in a dialogue and were able to make a joint statement bringing forward a socio economic perspective of the need for a joint struggle to promote peace. The dialogue included both a industrial workers union leader with traditional communist views, an anarchist environmental activist, a Troskyist and a marxist organizer of a women's squadron to protect wounded Euromaidan activists. Thus the whole spectrum of left wing ideologies were present opening up for the possibility to bridge a 100 year split among the workers and left wing movements and anew building a lasting peace movement.
At the even deeper level 500 years of oppression and colonialism was also addressed at its most profound basis, the level beyond developmentalism, state and market routines. Here during the climate justice convergence the limitations of all alternatives were discussed from degrowth to commons and Buen vivir. It became clear that degrowth had problems establishing itself outside the Western world and was limited in terms of addressing issues of social power. Commons could be most useful including the public sphere while also going beyond the routines depending on the commitments made by those using the commons. Buen vivir had a wider perspective including a spiritual dimension. The concept Swaraj which also challenges right based and consumerist individualized discourse was brought to WSF by movements from India. Together with Buen vivir and other similar notions non colonial concepts have now entered a central place in global movement strategy.
It could be felt among the many young Tunisian participating and helping as volunteers during the forum and among many other young activists coming from diverse backgrounds. Not only the dichotomy between parties and movements but also between a spiritual and cultural part of the movement and a more politically oriented may be on its way to be merge into a more mature social individualism were the interest for other cultures is not reduced to copy the capitalist consumerism but be inspired by humanity and mother earth.