UniCommon the revolt of living knowledge

Invent the future, reverse the present

The extraordinary months of struggle we experienced have changed us profoundly, and at the same time have changed the students and the precarious workers who have been animating with passion and continuity the conflicts of the past two academic years. They have opened spaces previously unthinkable, reversed temporality, reshuffled each one's identity. From Paris to London and Rome down to the Mediterranean a very solid spectre is haunting the world: a generation's rebellion against the policies of austerity and cuts in education which particularly affect young people, their future, the future of Europe otherwise in decline.

A spectre who is reproducing and that we bet will reappear again; that is solid not only because it takes to the streets and besieges the buildings symbol of power, but also because it is a congealment of experiences, hopes and demands, wishes and imagination, collective intelligence, which, starting from the student movements of recent years, has shown the possibility and the need to transform the present, because an alternative to the crisis can only  be born of the movement.

UniCommon is our new journey, a bet on the revolt, the ambition of constituting a challenge beyond the crisis of capitalism and its intellectual utopia. We have never been foolish enough to think that there was a good capitalism, made of innovation and technologies of language. We always knew that when there is capital relation then there is exploitation, and when there is exploitation there is a theft, be it physical exertion or, rather, of words, passions, relationships and life. Today more than ever, though, we know that this theft is not accompanied by any further development: those governing us are corrupted parasites who compress our freedom to learn and produce.

What we have done is to build alternative and common narratives, marking a difference from how they would like to draw and represent us, stories that have given strength and durability to our demands. Thousands, in distant places, we shouldered our shields-book, we besieged government buildings, we took into the streets and we experienced the power of collective action. Unicommon wants to begin a journey along with many others, continue to tell the practices of struggle and transformation and to renew the imagination of new paths to be covered together.

Unicommon is a network that joins together different experiences and that claims a knowledge that is critical and of quality, a new welfare for everyone, the conquest of areas of autonomy and freedom! UniCommon is also an experimentation in the web, a network of multimedia communication and political organization: a new portal of information and connection of the struggles in the world of education, of production of speech and opinion, for sharing self-reform practices in the university of the crisis.

Join Unicommon, the future is unwritten!

Knowledge is power arm yourself!

The apologists of the "knowledge society" told us that the capital would have done without the exploitation, that the work would have been turned in "activity", or at least, would have been integrated in "lifelong learning" as a dimension of indefinite development of individual skills. Well, the students have never believed it! This disbelief was exemplified by the struggles against all attempts of University reforms during the past two decades. Today more than ever, the failure of any idea of harmonious and progressive development of cognitive capitalism, of which the crisis has shown the true face, rises up clearly: deskilling of knowledge, wild precarity, youth unemployment at 30%, apprenticeships and internships, which are reduced to forms of unpaid work (rather than training!). We are facing a paradigm shift: the student component is less and less managed in terms of "development of human capital", while it is increasingly educated at precarity and downgrading of lifestyles as a pervasive cultural horizon.

The final reform, which states the transition to university-enterprise, comes at a time when the university is no longer thought as the driving force of development, rather it seems to work as a filter regulator, with the aim of managing the youth work force surplus. In this context the processes of differential inclusion are tightening: for the first time in years, the enrollment at the university fell (-5% of students in public universities, +2% in privates for 2010/11), but most universities begin to differentiate themselves (In University of series A, B, C, and by division between teaching and research universities), with the effect that the best will (maybe) remain at their previous level, and the worst will be reduced to a lower rank.

Today, producing quality knowledge means that we have to measure ourselves with an material impossibility of spaces, time and ways of expressing our intelligence. It is in this context that the knowledge of the struggles is naturally seen as the space in which to articulate new forms of excellence and innovation, never predictable, but as the result of a daily conquest that only collective action can provide. The new challenge of self-formation, a practice that has been spreading for years in universities all over Italy and now passes through the London -"free school"- occupations, is in being able to connect directly the living knowledge that is born in the struggles and the construction of excellence, battle for the autonomy and capacity for invention. It is not a question of imposing an instrumental relationship or simply put the knowledge in service of the struggles. What is at stake is to rewrite the statute of knowledge, breaking any  established rule, and this becomes possible only if we get it to mature together with the time of the movements and the cycles of rebellion. Only through conflict a new excellence becomes possible!  

All this is accompanied by the reform of governance, which will make the forms of decision within the universities more rigid and anti-democratic , giving maximum power to the Board of Directors, as the supreme enterprise governing body. Needless to say that we are not going to have nostalgia for the Faculty boards, sad narcissistic theater places. It is impossible to think that it is enough to regret the principles of representation that the movements have been able to put into crisis. The stakes are higher: to build public spaces, real bodies of radical democracy, able to build autonomous forms of direct decision-making.

The movements of recent years have taught us many things like being able to question any label and established identity. We now know that, in a phase of so fierce attack by those who govern us, we can not ignore the defense of the existing public university, even if we never liked it as it was. However, we also learnt that the movement lives in the constituent power of the common, beyond the public-private dichotomy.

It is in the context of the extraordinary struggles of recent years, from the Wave movement to this heated autumn, we intend to build self-reform practices which can speak immediately of institutions of the common . It is against the model of university-enterprise, completely failed, as evidenced by the student protests in the Anglo-Saxon area, we want to take back from the bottom up, piece by piece, that knowledge of the present that they who want to deny us.

Book Block is everywhere! The common challenge of euro-mediterranean struggles

UniCommon is born from the assumption that a new generation is on its way towards a different future. Rome, London, Wien, Athen, Paris, Il Cairo, Tunisi and Algeri speak with the same voice of who grew up among precarity and new poverty, without rights or social mobility, inside the corporatization of education at a global level. From these common features characterizing our generation, UniCommon wants to take up the challenge of a new european space reshaped by the mediterranean struggles.

Since years, struggles on education, against privatization and dequalification of knowledge inside schools and universities, have been considering the european space as a necessary field of experiencing new relationships, political practices and claims. From one side of the mediterranean to the other, a skilled and mature generation, but also precarious and without rights, shouts the urgent necessity to imagine a different future, hankers for a contamination and crossing of Maghreb's revolts with its disruptive strength.

This is the great challenge we aim to win these months: being able to create a direct relation among struggles against austerity policies, against the disinvestment of education, against precarity as permanent blackmail, against any command. We aim to be contaminated and changed by these relations among different subjects, as we did during this intense autumn.

The european and mediterranean space becomes an amazing field of experimentation where we can share and create a common language: new public investment on education and research, the struggle against corporation and privatization, the continuous construction of the university of the common through the device of self-education and the processes of self- reform.   

Moreover, the struggles of last months tell us an obvious fact: the necessity to build up a new social deal able to answer the needs and desires of who has grown up within precariousness and without any right; a new social deal that starts from the defense of acquired rights, but immediately acts toward the construction of new ones to imagine a democracy on a youth scale.

UniCommon wants to be all these things: the struggles against fees and cuts in the United Kingdom; the struggles of egyptian students that drive out Mubarak; the struggles in Frankfurt against austerity policies, neo- liberism and its crisis; the struggles in Puerto Rico and United States that occupy universities to make lessons in the streets. UniCommon wants to cross the universities of the new Europe of struggles to make the university of the common and to keep practicing the Book Block we created to imagine a possible transformation, in Rome as in London.

Get up, stand up, make the university of common!

Income against the crisis: towards the European general strike

To imagine a new welfare in the era of precarity and crisis becomes more and more a necessity. The present forms of guarantee are completely inadequate and anachronistic with respect to the society we live in, the conditions of labor have completely changed and in the last decade we haven't experienced any form of guarantee connected with the new precarious conditions of work. This is to affirm that today, in Italy, we are still facing an old social State completely unable to relate to  the society and its transformations, and, above all, to the new generations who don't have any kind of guarantee, neither continuity of work, nor an adequate wage or income. Blackmail is the only form of negotiation we are obliged to accept.

In this context, poverty is the only perspective set down for a whole generation; precarity is the condition of life for youth that invest a whole life in an education that is not valorized in the world of employment, and for those who enter the world of employment jumping from an on-call contract to illicit work. A whole generation is overwhelmed by the blackmail of contemporary capitalism, a pervasive parasite of our lives, a blackmail that deny us a secure future and a decent perspective of life. We are living in a world where wealth is more and more concentrated in the hands of those few who speculatively exploit our knowledge and bodies, hiding themselves behind the crisis and austerity policies to deny us the access to what is due to us.

Inside this perspective it is necessary to put the conquest of new rights, citizenship and basic income at the center of our mobilizations, practices and language. Our claims must be immediately translated into our daily practices, unveiling the rhetoric according to which the crisis is producing scarcity and economic misery; to affirm immediately that the wealth exists but must be appropriated means to build an idea of society able to guarantee a decent future to everybody.

The attack to our future, to rights acquired through long cycles of struggles, does not regard the youth composition of society only . Today, as last autumn struggles in France have shown, we are facing a transversal and trans- generational attack that hit both the precarious students and the "guaranteed" workers. An attack moved by different faces of power, but that uses always the language of who want to impose a life model that that uses precarity as a social and ontological paradigm.

What we experienced last autumn is just the beginning of a path that during this spring must have the ability to generalize a common lexicon and common practices to refuse the future they want to impose us. The refusal that have to be translated in the construction of an alternative.  The general strike of next May 6th, that we obtained all together, could be the occasion for a total stoppage of the country's production, a stoppage of the capitalistic valorization that corresponds to the reopening of a protagonism of the society inside the processes of self-determination and democracy. A great day when, together with many and different people, we can act new practices of struggle up to the challenge awaiting us.

Published: Friday April 1, 2011, 18:11