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Armed police firing into the crowd, mass demonstrations that grew larger and more powerful with each passing day. These were the images seen by workers and peoples the world over. They saw and heard the Tunisian people as they took to the streets, defying the repression, victimized by the violence, to state, "Down with the Regime!” These were images of a people on the rise. The Fourth International salutes the movement of the youth, the working class and the people of Tunisia, who over the course of several weeks -- despite the repression, the killings, and the arrests – drove out Ben Ali, demanding, "Water and Bread -- NOT Ben Ali!"
This was the slogan around which the Tunisian people rose up to oppose the misery, poverty and oppression imposed by the dictatorship of Ben Ali. This is why they were met with such ferocious repression. The people of Tunisia regained their right to speak in this movement that linked the social, working class, democratic, and national demands. The youth of Tunisia, who reached out to the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) and its structures to organize this movement, paved the way for the workers and the entire population. The Fourth International salutes the memory of the dozens upon dozens of people who died in order that the revolution could live. For working people all around the world, these images of the Tunisian revolution brought to mind the images of earlier proletarian revolutions: the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Spanish Revolution of 1936, the Portuguese Revolution of 1974 (with its mobilization of youth and workers with their unions, their committees, and their scenes of fraternization with the soldiers). These images are those of revolution and class struggle, which is international in scope. The People Organize Themselves To defend themselves from the death squads of the Ben Ali regime, the youth and workers -- together with their UGTT affiliates and union councils -- built their defense committees in their neighborhoods and communities. They did all this alone – in opposition to all the international forces that joined together to support Ben Ali. The defense committees then took it upon themselves to organize their pressing immediate tasks and the administration of daily life. They
met in the offices of the UGTT branches. They rose up against the institutions of a regime entirely constructed to serve the interests of a tiny, corrupt minority in the service of imperialism. These committees are one of the highest forms of democracy. Within them, expressing the intense ferment sweeping the country, the Tunisian people discussed freely and in full sovereignty their own future, that is, the defense of the revolution. These aspirations were expressed throughout the country. The Regional Committee For the Protection and Supervision of the Revolution in the city of Kasserin, said in a statement:
"We must take note of the fact that the enemies of the revolution are both inside and outside. They are attempting to confiscate the revolution of our people, thereby trampling upon the blood of our martyrs, by creating a new regime on the basis of all the forces of the old regime. They want to seize the gains of our people and to continue to serve imperialism, Zionism and the reactionary Arab regimes." In its Declaration, the Committee of Kasserin defined its tasks as follows: "Defeat the ruling party [RCD] and all its structures, including its militia, and freeze its assets -- and restitute to the people all the goods that were stolen from them." The Declaration also calls for the creation of "a Government of National Public Salvation" that "is entrusted with ensuring the election of a Constituent Assembly mandated to adopt a new Destour [Constitution] that breaks with the old regime." As stated in the Declaration of the Committee of Kasserin, the revolution is threatened by the external forces of imperialism but also by their relays inside Tunisia, who are seeking to patch up the old regime by maintaining at the head of the State the top officials of the RCD, the ruling party of Ben Ali regime, such as Mohamed Ghannouchi, former Prime Minister of the Ben Ali government and also former director of the World Bank programs responsible for the privatization onslaught in Tunisia. The working class, reclaiming its historic organization – the UGTT -has brought the UGTT to the forefront of the political scene in continuity with the class-struggle traditions of this union federation, founded by Farfaht Hached (who assassinated in 1952). In 1955, the UGTT had adopted a convention resolution calling for the nationalization of all colonial holdings and an agrarian reform law.
The Revolution Has Begun in Tunisia Yes, it is a revolution that has begun in Tunisia. It is not only a “democratic revolution,” as the Western media write. It is a revolution in defense of popular sovereignty and national sovereignty, for the defense of the rights of youth, workers and working people in general against a tiny corrupt minority in the service of imperialism -- particularly French and U.S. imperialism. Through the Association Agreements with the European Union and the plans of the IMF, these imperialist powers called into question the sovereignty of Tunisia, a country that had emancipated itself from colonialism but later engaged in the over-exploitation of the Tunisian workers. The mobilization of the Tunisian people has raised the need to expropriate the wealth of the corrupt minority, of which Ben Ali was the main leader, and that of his "party," the RCD, which is a real gangrene upon Tunisian society. This is a workers' revolution that has burst forth against Capital and the system based on the private ownership of the means of production. Indeed, the regime led by Ben Ali faithfully served the interests of the major powers via the plans of privatization and deregulation, and the fire-sale of national assets. This paved the way for the transformation of Tunisia into a free-trade zone, driving the youth, workers, and small peasants and all the people into abject poverty on behalf of the multinational corporations, which in Europe and elsewhere closed their factories to relocate to Tunisia. This is why the imperialists -- and particularly the French and U.S. governments of all political stripes -- have supported for 23 years the regime of Ben Ali. They have continuously presented Tunisia as a model for the so-called "emerging nations.” On many occasions they even had the gall to sing the praises of a "democratization on the march" at the very moment that the Tunisian people were living under the boot of the police militia of the dictatorship of Ben Ali. French and U.S. imperialism continued to back the Ben Ali regime until the very last minute, only later, once Ben Ali was forced out of power, to try to patch up the old regime. The overthrow of Ben Ali by the mobilization of the people represents first and foremost the defeat of the imperialist powers. Shame on the Socialist International, which waited till the last minute – that is, January 17, 2011, three days after the ouster of Ben Ali -- to expel from its ranks the RCD, which had been a member of the Socialist International since 1989! Shame on IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who, in 2008 while visiting Tunisia, dared to say that the country was "the best model to follow”!
Shame as well on the forces of the so-called left and far-left in France, which in a joint statement called upon "the European Union to support a genuine democratic transition in Tunisia." They dared to call upon those who had given Ben Ali his marching orders, crushing the Tunisian people, to now to come to their “aid” today. The Fourth International affirms the following: The only true demand today is: "Government of France, U.S. imperialism, European Union, IMF: HANDS OFF TUNISIA!" It is up to the Tunisian people to determine their own future. Today, all the political forces and all the governments of the major powers oppose this right to selfdetermination when they launch an appeal for a so-called "democratic transition". What kind of democratic transition are they talking about?
Faced with the so-called government of national unity that was formed with the approval of the major powers, the youth, workers and people of Tunisia took to the streets to demand: "Water and Bread, NOT the RCD!" Because they want the wealth of Tunisia to belong to the people, they took to the streets yet again to demand the dissolution of the RCD. Who else but the Tunisian people should decide the future of Tunisia? Voice to the Tunisian People! The youth, workers, and people want jobs; they want to be able to live from their work. They don’t want the wealth of their nation to be plundered by the foreign multinational corporations and their agents in Tunisia, which for so many years fueled a corrupt regime. They want to smash all the institutions of the regime. They are creating their own committees in opposition to the corrupt regime precisely because they want to take affairs into their own hands; they want to decide matters for themselves. And they are seeking to coordinate these committees. At the same time, they are turning toward the UGTT unions with the expectation that they will be a vehicle to express their aspirations. On January 18, in the aftermath of the formation of the government of national unity, the National Administrative Committee of the UGTT trade union federation adopted a resolution that states:
"Consider[ing] that the coalition government does not correspond to our ideas, that it does not express the demands we have put forward and that it does not represent the aspirations of the people and workers, [the UGTT] decides to withdraw our representatives from the coalition government; to have our elected union officials resign from the National Assembly, from the Assembly of the Council, and from the local councils; and to suspend the participation of the UGTT in the Economic and Social Council." The National Administrative Committee of the UGTT in the same resolution, demanded, "The dissolution of the RCD ... and the rejection of any foreign intervention in the internal affairs of our people, as they were the ones who overthrew a president that repress the people. The union federation also called for the "nationalization of all the property of the Ben Ali clan, which is tantamount to the takeover by the Tunisian Republic of a large proportion of the economy. Toward this end, the UGTT also issued a call for "a Constituent Assembly through free and fair elections that reflect the will of the people." The questions formulated by trade union federation were also raised the discussions taking place in committees, neighborhoods, and workplaces across the country. Many accounts of these discussions show that the Tunisian people are seeking to determine the future of their own country. Democracy, they say, is a government that implements policies in the interests of all the Tunisian people. Democracy means the rights of workers. Democracy means respect for secularism and for women's rights. Democracy means not accepting that the former officials of the Ben Ali regime remain in power. Democracy means breaking with the current constitutional framework. Democracy means the freedom to express one’s opinion. Democracy means not allowing the revolution to be confiscated. It is a government elected by the people and controlled by the people. On January 19, 2011 in Sfax, a general strike took place in response to the call of UGTT, which demanded the dissolution of the RCD, the party-regime of Ben Ali, and the seizure of assets of the corrupt ruling minority. On January 20, the national leadership of the UGTT called for the formation of a Government of Public Salvation.
At the Side of the People Tunisia Against Imperialism The Fourth International believes that it is the responsibility of the
international workers' movement to defend the revolution that began in Tunisia by taking a clear and firm stand against any foreign interference in the affairs of the Tunisian people. It is no coincidence that Standard and Poor's (the rating agency) is threatening to lower the credit rating of Tunisia because, as it announced publicly, it believes that "the current political instability could affect the economy and therefore witness a deterioration of its public finances.” The threat has been wielded: The aim of French and U.S. imperialism is to press the new government to continue the same policies as those implemented by the deposed Ben Ali. That's why they want to defeat the revolution in Tunisia, just as they want to crush all the conquests of the workers, in the name of their crisis. To do this, they want to use the question of the "debt" of US $18 billion contracted by Ben Ali with the IMF. But this debt is not the debt of the Tunisian people. It is Ben Ali’s debt. Cancel the debt! Workers throughout the world are at the side of the Tunisian people because they have the same enemies. The revolution that began in Tunisia is a leverage point for all the peoples of the world insofar it was a blow to imperialism, the IMF, and the European Union. It was a blow to a capitalist system in agony – a system that is leading the peoples to barbarism. The revolution is a leverage point for the peoples of the Middle East and Africa, who are threatened by war and the breakup of nations, such as is occurring in Ivory Coast, Sudan, Lebanon and elsewhere. War and the dismantling of nations only benefit imperialism and the multinational corporations that plunder these countries. But the revolution that began in Tunisia is also a leverage point for all the peoples of Asia, who face similar threats of dislocation and of war, as in Afghanistan and particularly in Pakistan, the country most threatened today by the same destructive logic. It is a leverage point for the people and workers in Latin America who, in their struggles for national sovereignty, are facing the same enemies as the Tunisian people: imperialism and the institutions in its service (IMF, World Bank, WTO), as well as the “free-trade” agreements with the United States and the European Union. It is a leverage point for the Palestinian people's legitimate struggle for their national rights, which are trampled upon by the existence of the Zionist state – a state that relies on the cooperation of the Palestinian people’s so-called “fraternal” regimes.
Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom openly acknowledged this fact when he stated, “The fall of Tunisia’s regime headed by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali could set a precedent that could be repeated in other countries, possibly affecting directly the stability of our system.” Speaking on an Israeli Radio interview, Shalom continued, “Israel and most of the Arab regimes have common interests. ... A democratic system in the Arab world would end this present allegiance, because a democratic system would be governed by a public generally opposed to Israel.” (Avram.org, January 15, 2011)
The revolution that began in Tunisia and that has risen up against the French government and the other governments of the European Union is, likewise, a point of leverage for the peoples of Europe who have been subjected -- in the name of the crisis, the debt and the “reduction of public deficits” -- to an unprecedented destruction of their rights and conquests in all the countries of Europe. The revolution that began in Tunisia represents for workers in Greece, Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain – all of whom have waged huge mobilizations -- a magnificent encouragement to continue and deepen their resistance to Capitalism, the very same system that has exploited the Tunisian workers in sweatshops that were offshored from Europe, where hundreds of thousands of jobs were destroyed in the process. The interests of workers in Europe are the same as those of workers in Tunisia. Finally, it is a point of leverage for the youth and working class of the United States, who continue to oppose the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and who are seeking, despite all obstacles and difficulties, to win the right to a true universal healthcare plan, a Single Payer healthcare plan, and to defend all their rights and gains.
Governments: Fear the Revolt of the People! A few weeks before the revolution broke out in Tunisia, an Open World Conference Against War and Exploitation was held in Algiers, at the invitation of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC). The conference was co-sponsored by the Workers Party (PT) of Algeria and the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA). In the final appeal from conference, one can read the following:
"Despite the terrible suffering endured throughout the world, the resistance of peoples, youth and workers is coming to the fore. All are seeking to reclaim their organizations to be able to struggle, resist and take back all that has been lost. … We, the undersigned, endorse the slogan that was launched at the founding conference of the ILC in Barcelona, Spain, on January 4, 1991: "Governments responsible for wars and misery: Fear the revolt of the people! Down with war, down with exploitation!” Yes, all "governments responsible for wars and misery”: You have every reason to fear the revolt of the people, because the people of Tunisia have risen up, together with their UGTT unions, and they have built their revolutionary defense committees. The Fourth International considers that the only greeting to be sent by the international workers’ movement to the struggle of the Tunisian people is one that states forthrightly, "Government of France, the United States and European Union, IMF: HANDS OFF TUNISIA! It is for the Tunisian people and them alone to decide their future." The youth, workers, the people of Tunisia have shown that the youth, workers, and peoples of the world have the capacity to open through their own actions a solution and positive outcome for humanity, now facing the threat of barbarism as a result of the perpetuation of the capitalist system on the planet. To push back this barbarism, there is no other path than the mobilization of people united for their rights and sovereignty through class struggle – that is, the struggle of working people against the capitalists, imperialism and their agents. T
This requires that the organizations established to defend the workers, primarily the trade union organizations, must be free and independent; they must not be beholden to the demands of Capital. They must be able to express and give voice, with full force, to the power that exists in the labor movement in all countries. Only in this manner will they be able to fight back and resist all the policies which, in the name of “finding solutions to the crisis,” seek to integrate the trade unions into implementing the dictates of the World Bank, the IMF, the European Union, and the capitalist class as a whole.
There is no possible way forward if the unions are subordinated to all the “counter-reforms” directed against the workers and peoples. Quite the contrary: It is through the united struggle of workers and
peoples, with their organizations, as demonstrated by the revolution that has begun in Tunisia, that it will be possible to assert popular sovereignty and national sovereignty. This is the only way for workers and peoples, with their organizations, to roll back the barbarism, the war, the dislocation of nations.
Putting an end to this barbarism requires putting an end to the capitalist system, which is source of all the ills affecting humankind, thus paving the way to socialism. This is the way forward for workers and peoples on all continents, with their organizations, in their struggle for popular and national sovereignty. This is the way forward to roll back barbarism. The Fourth International supports every step forward in this path, just as it supports every step toward the formation of political parties rooted in this perspective. The revolution that has begun in Tunisia has not stopped shaking the big powers, as they can see that their continued domination is threatened.
Long live the youth, workers and people of Tunisia! Long live the Tunisian revolution which has begun!
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