Tunisia: Stirrings of Revolt - and Not Just in the Arab World

The first thing that strikes you about the fall of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia is the hypocrisy and lies of the Western media and political classes. For years they colluded with the ruthless dictatorship, giving Tunisia favoured trading status as reward for the “stability” it brought to that part of North Africa. Now Ben Ali is gone (and his erstwhile Western friends forced him to seek exile in Dubai - after all he is now tainted goods) they pretend that they welcome the so-called “Jasmine Revolution”.

Like all the other “soft” revolutions before (in Eastern Europe) they are claiming it as a victory for people power and democracy.

What they are trying to hide is that the Tunisian rising was evidence of the extent of the global capitalist crisis. Tunisians ground down by poverty and unemployment with no prospect of a future have simply had enough. It is not just in Tunisia that Arab leaders are quaking. Across the Arab world, from Mauretania through Egypt, Syria and Jordan down to Kuwait and Oman there have been more riots, demonstrations and strikes with calls for governments to resign. In Kuwait the ruling class got the message. They hastily granted each citizen about $3500 in cash plus free food staples. But not all the Arab states are oil-rich and the contagion continues to spread. Even in Yemen demonstrators led by women demanded the fall of the government.

But it is not just in the Arab world that rulers have had to face more “social unrest” than they had complacently expected. Capitalism has been in the downward phase of its cycle of accumulation for almost 4 decades. All kinds of policies including speculation have been adopted to hide the crisis of profitability. The bursting of the latest speculative bubble has only exposed the most vulnerable economies to more hardship. According to the FAO between December 2009 and December 2010 the price of basic food staples rose by 25% as a global average.

In Tunisia it took a single act of self-immolation by Mohammed Buazizi to spark off the whole social crisis. 40% of the population of the Arab countries are under 21. The combination of petty tyranny and no economic prospects led thousands onto the streets. The regime at first started to kill them but when sections of the army (less numerous than the armed police) refused to fire the clique around Ben Ali realised that the game was up. This did not stop his cronies trying to hold onto power in alliance with some opposition leaders. It remains to be seen just what regime will emerge. It is unlikely that anything approaching the real active “democracy” we have seen on the streets as neighbourhoods set up barricades to protect themselves from the pro-Ben Ali forces will continue.

Tunisians demanding freedom as yet lack a programme. What they will soon find is that regime change is not enough. Freedom from fear has to be followed by freedom from exploitation.

One thing is clear, the Tunisian rising will not be the end of the story and a new chapter in the global crisis of capitalism is opening up …

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.