“Last night the streets of
Tripoli were filled with wild rejoicing as rebel soldiers occupied Green
Alan Woods 22/08/2011
“The overthrow of Gaddafi was
only the first step. The real Libyan Revolution starts now.”
Alan Woods 23/08/2011
These words published to celebrate
the entry of NATO organised forces into Tripoli reveal the inability of our
friends and comrades in the leadership of the International Marxist Tendency to
distinguish between revolution and a counter-revolution in Libya.
It appears that their theoretical
errors on the class nature of China combined with their voluntarist conception
of revolution have landed them in this unfortunate situation, where they seek to
impose these theories on China onto the Libyan context.
In the truncated debate on China
2008-2009 we argued that the privatisation of a section of a planned economy by
the ruling bureaucracy does not automatically lead to capitalist restoration.
Indeed there are sections of the economy in a transitional society which were
nationalised in Cuba, Libya, China, the USSR etc., which should never have been
nationalised in the first place.
Socialism, and any transitional society moving towards socialism, should be based
upon public ownership of the socialized sector of the economy, i.e. the
large-scale enterprises that produce goods by collective labour on modern
machinery for society as a whole or large numbers of people.
Small and medium scale production,
farming, services etc. do not need to be nationalised in a transitional
society. Experience in all planned economies, starting with the USSR in the
1920s, revealed that nationalisation of these sectors leads to excessive
bureaucracy, shortages, a black-market and excessive concentration on heavy
industry, with inadequate development of services and tertiary industry to meet
Libya nationalised most of its
economy and banned private companies until the recent past. In the 1990s
Gadaffi’s regime and its organs of power, permitted increasing amounts of the
economy to be run by private companies, and allowed foreign companies to invest. There
were even plans to privatise the majority of the economy, but these plans were
a long way from realisation. Deals between Gaddafi and capitalist states and
companies did not constitute ‘capitalist restoration’, nor did the
Hilter-Stalin pact change the fundamental character of the USSR.
Fred Weston (06/4/2011 Marxist.com)
argues that Libya under Gaddafi eliminated capitalism by 1979 and established a
variant of a Stalinist regime of based on bureaucratic planning. He points out
that in 2004 only 41 companies had been privatized, but then he seems to imply
that the class nature of the regime changed because they renounced weapons of
mass destruction, and accepted foreign investment, this apparently meant that Libya “was following
imperialist dictated policies.”
In fact, although Gaddafi and his
cleptocratic clique enriched themselves, they had not restored capitalism as
the dominant mode of production in Libya. The Imperialist powers have shown by
their actions how little they felt Libya was ‘following’ their command.
A theme often repeated in IMT articles on
Libya is that there is high unemployment and there has been a destruction of the welfare
state, and they argue that the ‘revolution’ is an uprising against this. The fact that
there is high youth unemployment also does not determine the class character of
the regime. Prior to the collapse of the USSR, Poland and Yugoslavia, there was
also high unemployment. In reality the full employment in the USSR in the 1980s
concealed millions of people formally ‘going to work’ but in reality adding
nothing to the productive wealth of society. There will soon be high
unemployment in Cuba as many people will be laid off from state employment,
does one therefore seek the overthrow of the Cuban Communist Party? Or would
that signal a counter-revolution?
Comrade Woods declared in horror
(23/2/2011 Marxist.com) that “Gaddafi carried out privatizations and
encouraged foreign companies to open up shops”
indicating that under Wood’s vision of the transition to socialism, there will
be no private companies, no foreign investment, and no private shops!
He argues “It was precisely
these policies which destroyed any elements of a welfare state which existed
previously, created a massive gulf between the obscene wealth of the Gaddafi
clique and the poverty of the masses and mass unemployment developed. Any
progressive features which the regime might have had in the past were
eliminated. This is the root cause of the present uprising”
The same tone is taken by Fred Weston who argued (21/3/2011 Marxist.com) that “Gaddafi was opening up the economy
to western investment. The economy had been partially privatized and more was
on its way.”
The existence or not of a welfare
state, does not in itself determine the class nature of a state, otherwise
Britain, Sweden and Germany would all be defined as transitional or socialist states. Comrade
Wood’s unnamed sources seem to contradict all serious sources, which indicate
that welfare provision continued under Gaddafi despite the regime permitting
private and foreign ownership of shops.
“With considerable oil revenues, a relatively small population and
redistributive policies including an extensive social welfare system and
subsidies for basic goods, Libya was enjoying the third highest Gross National
Income (GNI) per capita and the highest human development index (HDI) in
Africa. In 2010 the country was also enjoying a robust growth of around 7.4%
and exhibited a high growth trajectory until the conflict erupted.”
The Human Development Index of the
United Nations Development Programme indicates that there was no sudden decline
in living standards, welfare or human development in the period in which the IMT
claims “progressive features…were eliminated”. According to comprehensive UNDP data, whatever
measures were taken in practice by the Libyan state between 2005 and
2010, led to improvements in the
general welfare and well being of the people.
The analysis adopted by the IMT
from day one of the “Libyan Revolution” was not based upon facts but upon
fantasy. This fantasy has its root in voluntarism summed up in the following
“The Libyan Revolution contains
many contradictory elements, and it can go in a number of directions. Its main
weakness, as in Tunisia and Egypt, is the absence of the subjective factor: the
revolutionary party and leadership. That missing factor will make the
revolution more complicated and drawn out, but the Revolution also has great
(Alan Woods Marxist.com
The absurd and circular ‘theory’ of
the International Marxist Tendency is that any and all revolutions can be
transformed into a new October 1917, if only the International Marxist Tendency
can win the leading position within the revolution. The main determinant in the
fate of revolutions is something that is absent, not something that is present!
This is passed off to the IMT members as Marxism! Surely a Marxist
analysis should begin from what is present?
According to an article by Fred
Weston (1/4/2011 Marxist.com) “what started as a genuine revolution against
Gaddafi, has been taken over by reactionary bourgeois elements”
It is well documented that the
conquest of Tripoli was organised by British Mercenaries, French weaponry, and Qatari finance and support: all backed by NATO air-cover, bombs, logistics and
According to the Economist the
Libyan ‘rebel forces’ are composed of NATO backed forces (made up of those
‘reactionary bourgeois elements’) of the National Transitional Council and
into 40-plus privately organised, privately funded militias known as katibas
(brigades). Each katiba is usually drawn from one town, commanded by a
respected local military veteran or, in some cases, by the businessman who
This is the real subjective factor in the Libyan
revolution. It is Imperialism and its Libyan stooges. They have the small
advantage over the International Marxist Tendency that they are very much present
in the ‘Libyan Revolution’. What the IMT wish to call a ‘revolution’ in
Libya is in fact a counter-revolution organized by Imperialism.
Heiko Khoo 29 August 2011
The Libyan ‘revolution’ will
forever be remembered by the image of an anti-imperialist statue -of a fist
crushing a US fighter jet -being smashed by ‘rebels’. These images of victory
were no doubt pre-planned by NATO’s Information Warfare experts. A few hundred
rebels dancing with machine guns in Tripoli’s Green Square, were presented in
the Western media as if the ‘masses’ of the capital city had come out onto the
streets crying, ‘free at last…free at last!’
The same scene was
manufactured on the day that US forces took Baghdad in 2003. It later
transpired that the ‘rebels’, who tore down Saddam Hussein’s statue with the
help of a US tank, were specially shipped in for the media occasion. Excited
Western journalists declared the moment to be ‘historic’; they probably felt a
sense of collective pride in the US mission to remake the world in its image.
The Tunisian and Egyptian
mass movements this spring were revolutions, in the sense that the urban
masses, took destiny into their own hands. They toppled the long standing
Western backed dictators, Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt,
through mass street demonstrations.
During the Egyptian
revolution, even when hundreds of protestors were killed and thousands injured,
Barack Obama and other Western leaders refused to call for Mubarak to
stand-down, until the last minute; and instead they called for ‘restraint on
all sides’. The same diplomatic call for ‘restraint’ was made when the Saudi
military invaded Bahrain to crush the Arab Spring there.
When an uprising in Libya’s
Eastern city of Benghazi swept away Gaddafi’s local apparatus of power, the
gleeful cheers in Western capitals indicated that something is rotten in the
state of this particular ‘revolution’. The fact that the rebel flag was that of
the old monarchy was indicative of the reactionary nature of this ‘rebellion’.
Western secret services and military forces immediately opened lines of
communication with the ‘rebel base’. Western arms and money flowed to the
Libyan rebels despite austerity at home. The rebels were declared to be the
legitimate government and provided with all their needs.
Although Gaddafi had made
some deals with the West e.g. providing oil and gas contracts, the Libyan
economy remained overwhelmingly in public ownership and private capitalism
played an insignificant role in economic life. The administrative and power
structure was not that of a capitalist state, even though Gaddafi and his
entourage engaged in kleptocratic activities.
No regime in history has
survived for long periods simply on the basis of tyranny. Although Gaddafi
maintained his rule by brutal repression he also used the nation’s vast oil and
gas revenue to secure the acquiescence of the majority, and the support of a
significant minority by offering social, health and welfare rights, funded by
the state. This material base also helps to explain why Gaddafi’s regime was
able to hold out during NATO’s five-month bombing campaign.
At the start of the war we
were told to expect a rapid victory for Western backed forces. We were informed
that Gaddafi has no supporters and only maintained power by terror and fear. He
was said to rely on mercenaries from Mali or Chad, and later it was falsely
claimed that he ordered large quantities of Viagra to encourage his military
forces to rape, truly a classical war fable!
Some analysts are raising the
call for Western troops to ‘keep the peace’ in the era of transition to a
parliamentary democracy. It is certain that an army of Western NGOs who
specialize in creating the political machinery to manipulate and control
‘democratic’ organisations, will soon open shop in Tripoli, as they already
have in Tunis and Cairo.
With proven reserves of 42
billion barrels of oil and 1.3 trillion cubic meters of gas, a cynic might see the ‘democratic transition’ as a
process that will be specially designed to facilitate Western access to these
resources. French, Italian and British firms have already covertly made deals
with the ‘rebels’ and they now expect the real contracts to be signed. In their
rush to grab whatever they can from the smashed up ruins of a burning country,
Western rulers bear an uncanny resemblance to hooded looters of London.
Indeed the reason for the success
of the ‘rebel’ advance on Tripoli was NATO bombing from the air, and British
mercenaries commanding on the ground. Of course France, Italy, the US and
Qatar, will all claim they played a key role and deserve appropriate rewards.
The curse of oil rich states
has so often been the temptation of the rulers to enrich themselves and their
foreign partners, and to foster a parasitic elite. As their wealth springs
forth from the earth, there is little incentive to promote development aimed at
genuine progress for the masses. However with such an abundance of natural
resources, Western rulers hope they can create a relatively stable regime,
whose resources can subsidize Western capitalism.
Venezuela under President
Hugo Chavez is one of the few cases of an oil rich state using its natural
wealth to serve the people. Chavez correctly points to the reactionary hand of
NATO in the so-called ‘Libyan Revolution’ but the internal corruption and
dictatorial methods of Gaddafi’s state, provided moral ammunition to the NATO
Western Imperialism has once
again found its feet after being disoriented by the street revolutions in
Tunisia and Egypt. Based on the lessons of Libya, NATO and US military analysts
will now be playing simulated war games modelled on ‘revolutions’ in Syria,
Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela. Even though Europe and the USA are
experiencing severe economic and social crisis, no-one should underestimate their determination to
maintain their position and to exploit each and every opportunity to extend
their global reach.
The Western frenzy to grab a
piece of Libya’s natural wealth, recalls the phrase ‘buy when there is blood
on the streets’ attributed to the
first Baron Rothschild. Libyan dreams of democracy, and the rule of law, sovereignty
and freedom, are mere tools in NATO’s new model revolution.
by Nadim Mahjoub
In both Tunisia and Egypt the potential of a revolutionary change was
palpable on 14 January and 25 February respectively, those days saw two
Arab dictators give up power under the pressure of a mass movement,
which rapidly took the regimes in the two countries by surprise. This
refuted the propaganda of the Islamist threat that the Arab regimes, as
well as the Western counterparts, have used to protect and further their
"national" and strategic interests.
It is not a
coincidence that cumulative factors, internally and internationally,
have led to the most profound social explosions the Arab world has never
seen. The global ‘great recession’ served to deepen the conflicts
between classes and unleashed new revolutionary layers, the youth, the
unemployed and the marginalised, to demand change. What was needed was a
spark and it came from the town of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia. On the 17
December 2010 a street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who was harassed and
humiliated by the police and a municipality employee, got his wares
confiscated on the claims he did not have a vendor's permit,
self-immolated himself in front of the local government building.
died in the beginning of January, but his act was a catalyst for an
uprising and a beginning of a revolutionary movement that engulfed not
only Tunisia but other Arab countries too. Other men and women emulated
Bouazizi's act. Three months on after a mass movement was able to force
the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt to sacrifice Ben Ali and Mubabrak, the
situation in both country is still fluid, both regimes have been
weakened and the masses after achieving some gains are filled with mixed
emotions; of hope and uncertainty; of determination and doubt; of
cynicism and good will.
Politically speaking, and without
falling into a single tailor-made definition of revolution, history has
provided us with at least three types of bottom-up regime change: the
reformist change, the insurrectional change and the 'regime implosion'.
reformist change happens when an opposition movement exerts pressure on
the existing power to carry out reforms (of laws and institutions)
within the framework of the existing system; the political elite and the
ruling class is compelled to make concessions, though the change in
general may turn out to be superficial or even gradually be taken back.
Such a change was the one that Mexico (1910-1929) and Brazil (1964-1985)
, for example, witnessed when they got rid of dictatorship. One might
argue that the "Green Movement" in Iran is attempting to achieve such a
A second type of change takes an insurrectional
character. Over a relative long period a revolutionary movement throws
up a leadership and organisation with a project aimed at overthrowing
the existing order, proposing a new social and political structure.
During the revolutionary process the pressure from below causes cracks
to open up in the regime, splits occur in the state apparatus, some
sections of the regime defect to the side of the revolutionary movement,
alternative organs of power emerge leading to a state of ‘dual power’. A
violent battle between two opposite forces ends with the take over of
the state by the revolutionary forces. The Russian, the Chinese and the
Cuban revolutions are examples of this type of change.
third type of revolutionary change happens when a regime implodes under
the pressure of a mass movement that strangles the regime through
strikes and civil disobedience until the regime collapses. The
Ceausescu's regime in Romania, for example, collapsed amid chaos and
violence. The Libya could have experienced the same process had the
movement succeeded in toppling the regime in Tripoli before any foreign
intervention took place. In the case of Romania in 1989 the brutal
Stalinist regime was replaced by a very different political and economic
system: a capitalist one.
In Tunisia and Egypt powerful
uprisings were linked to previous unrest that developed over several
years into the revolutionary movement of 2010-11, but without a
revolutionary organisation in the classical sense and form. After
compelling the ruling elites and imperialism to remove the authoritarian
rulers in both countries, the most advanced layers of the movement now
call for an overthrow of the entire regime in both countries. Under this
pressure a process of "dismantling" of some institutions has begun.
However, the method and the actual process of this 'dismantling' has
been marred by manoeuvres and manipulation from the old order seeking to
hold power, and thus success so far has been limited.
Tunisia and Egypt the movement has been peaceful and civil, violence
came from the regimes and its counter-revolutionary forces. The movement
put constant increasing pressure on the state apparatuses through its
marches, sit-ins, rallies, strikes and finally a general strike, until
Ben Ali had to be flown outside the country, and Mubarak resigned.
the opposition in both countries has not achieved in creating a state
of ‘dual-power’ where revolutionary organs on a national level threaten
to take over state power. What we see is an interim government in
Tunisia which calls for a constituent assembly, a major demand of the
opposition. In Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF),
‘has taken up’ the task to carry out reforms. In both countries these
reforms consist mainly of the freedom to form political parties, a
rewriting the constitution, the organisation of free elections, etc in
order to establish democratic governments.
There is a
parallel with 1989 in that we are witnessing revolutionary mass
movements that encompass several countries simultaneously. These
protests are fighting against dictatorships and for democratic rights.
They are inspired by each other, they feed off each other’s successes,
and they adopt slogans from each other. In this sense the revolutions
emulate 1989. But one also might draw parallels with the 1848
revolutions in Europe, where the working class began to emerge as a
major political force in revolutions that demanded democratic rights,
constituent assemblies, and end to autocracy.
analogy is sufficient to explain an event. What has been achieved in
Tunisia and Egypt amounts to a huge triumph. In future it will be a
reference point for social transformations of world historic importance.
The social layers that participated in the revolutionary movement, the
youth, the unemployed, the workers, the students and sections of the
middle class, have demonstrated the power of the downtrodden. Above all
this brought to the surface the revolutionary character of the
overwhelming majority of the youth who represent the largest age group
in the Arab world.
Political parties and independent
organisations have mushroomed (more than 50 in Tunisia and the number is
growing), people have removed a number of officials or rejected newly
appointed ones in local areas, a trade union federation has been
established in Egypt, a union for the unemployed graduates have been
created in Tunisia, the State Security apparatus has been officially
"dissolved" (in Egypt the secret police HQ was stormed by protesters),
the Chamber of Deputies in Tunisia and People's Assembly and Shura
Council in Egypt have been dissolved, public spaces have become arenas
for political discussions and workshops, embryonic neighbourhood
committees which emerged in the first few weeks still exist in Tunisia.
In the slums of Cairo the first organisation of the residents has been
formed, the workers are involved in daily struggles, organising sit-ins
and strikes, demanding wage increases and better conditions (a strike by
the street cleaners went on for 3 weeks in Tunis and other towns until
the workers won part of their demands), demand for an elected editorial
board of the Tunisian National TV has been raised… All these processes
reveal that society is experiencing profound revolutionary
Because the revolution has not adequately
challenged state institutions, the regimes continue to stand. Even
though they are weak, they utilise their ability to manoeuvre,
manipulate, and entangle and thus entice and compel the opposition to
work within the existing institutions. In Tunisia, it is the interim
government (a one that was not born from within the revolutionary
movement) has called for a constituent assembly and initiated a
committee of parties and individuals called the High Committee For the Realisation of the Revolutions' Objectives, the Democratic Transition and Political Reform.
Although Ben Ali's party the RCD, was officially dissolved, it has now
been resurrected into a handful of separate political parties. The new
arrangements make the Islamist Alnahda and the RCDist parties,
the most well-organised and funded parties. These are the parties most
likely to benefit in any future elections. There are unconfirmed reports
of a possible alliance between these two poles.
In Egypt a
referendum to modify the constitution has been organised. The Muslim
Brotherhood and the National Democratic Party (Mubarak's party)
remnants, who are in favour of the constitutional amendments, have been
the best organised forces and are likely to emerge as the main
beneficiaries. However, only a minority of the eligible voters voted in
favour for the proposed constitutional amendments (41.2 % turn out and
22.73 % voted No). Those who oppose the amendments want a completely new
constitution. In Tunisia it is a wing of the bourgeoisie headed by the
PM Essebssi that advocates a ‘liberal’ economy and political freedoms
and works work alongside the “technocrats” and the old officials behind
the scenes to make sure that things do not go beyond reform. In Egypt it
is the army that is holding power and claiming to carry out reform ‘on
behalf of’ the revolutionary masses.
As in any profound
revolutionary movement is difficult to read and predict the future of
the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. In both countries the army played a
decisive role in preserving the old order against the revolutionary
momentum of mass unrest. Thus while the presidents fell, the state
regime did not follow the fate of the ruling clique. The outcome has
been an unstable equilibrium: the revolution is holding neither power
nor determining the decision-making process, simultaneously, the army is
not controlling power, as it wishes. The army in Tunisia played the
role of a balancing force appearing to stand between the classes, but in
reality it contributed to the preservation of the regime. In Egypt the
army is at the head of the counter-revolution, but claims neutrality. It
is an inseparable wing of the dominant class in Egypt and it controls
up to 45 % of the Egyptian economy.
Thus we have a
transitional situation with two main forces pulling towards two
different directions: the counter-revolutionary forces have been
weakened, but are still nested in the army. This institution retains its
anchor and support in the market and in wider society. These forces
want to prevent any fundamental change from occurring as a consequence
of the revolutionary movement, and wish to do everything possible to
sustain and reproduce the same fundamental socio-economic order, but one
with minor changes. They seek to balance the interests of the ruling
class that they represent, and the interests of imperialism (including
the Israeli state) to which it is inextricably linked whilst holding the
masses in check with democratic and constitutional manoeuvres.
the opposite side, there are the masses that have begun a revolutionary
process and want a real change of the regime. These masses have proved
that life is richer than theoretical frames. They have achieved these
changes without a leadership in the classical revolutionary sense. These
are the masses who organise themselves on a daily basis to gain spaces
and rights making many mini-revolutions in the process. They are
establishing their own independent organs and trying to push reform
forward by exerting pressure both outside and inside existing
institutions. For that reason, it would be accurate to describe what is
happening now in Tunisia and Egypt as a revolution that seeks to reform
the existing order.
22 April 2011
The imposition of a no fly zone
over Libya, backed primarily by France, Britain and the United States, and the
invasion of Bahrain by Saudi Armed forces, mark a new stage in the tumultuous
revolutionary events in the Arab world. The joyous revolutionary victories
secured by mass protests on the streets and squares of Egypt and Tunisia have
given way to bloody and ferocious conflict drawing in national and
international military forces.
In the past the Imperialist powers
were happy to see dictators in power throughout the region, provided they
appeared to serve the economic, political, military and strategic interests of
European and US capitalist states. It was European powers that colonised,
plundered and divided the peoples of the region; leaving a legacy of artificial
lines from which nations were carved out of the sand.
After the Second World War the
United States wove a complex web of intrigues in the region. This involved the
staunch defence of its local allies through massive financial and military aid,
but each adventure produced poisonous fruit.
In Saudi Arabia, the US supports
the rule of a feudal theocracy composed of 7000 members of a Royal Family
enriched by oil. This oil is used to back US economic policies throughout the
world. This intimate Saudi-US relationship was behind the battle to expel
Soviet forces from Afghanistan in the 1980s, at that time they created the
basis of Bin Laden’s network which later attacked the USA. This in turn led to
the continuing war in Afghanistan.
In Iran, the west supported the
Shah’s dictatorship until it was overthrown by revolution in 1979. This spawned
the creation of the Islamic Republic, a theocratic reaction combining modern
technologies of power, medieval barbarism and anti-western rhetoric.
In Iraq, US policy supported Saddam
Hussein for decades, in the war against Iran and in the ferocious repression of
the Iraqi people. Untold millions suffered due to this US policy and then due
to two US led wars in which Saddam was recast as a ‘madman’.
Since 1948, Israel was backed by
western powers despite the systematic abuse and repression of the rights of the
Palestinian peoples. More recently the United States and European governments
backed the Egyptian and Tunisian dictators to the hilt until their final hours.
Colonel Gaddafi was an untouchable
pariah until a few years ago. He led an officer’s coup in 1969 and proclaimed a
path independent of Moscow or Washington during the Cold War. He engaged in all
manner of peculiar zigzags in international and domestic policy much to the ire
of the Western powers. He supported various rebellions and terrorist groups
around the world, and created a peculiar eclectic fusion of socialistic and
Islamic ideas, complied in the ‘Green Book’.
In economic policy he nationalised
oil and banking, this provided the material basis of the regime. Libya became a
planned economy based on fossil fuels. This flow of wealth from the ground into
public coffers enabled living standards to rise rapidly. To this day housing,
education and healthcare are free and basic foodstuffs are subsidized. But
power is also based on arbitrary and dictatorial methods developed by the
entourage and police apparatus of Gaddafi’s bureaucratic state, camouflaged in
the garb of ‘rule by peoples’ committees’.
There is barely any private
capitalism in Libya, foreign investment and privatisation are marginal to the
core economy. However, such deals provided Gaddafi, his family, and some
officials, with a means to plunder resources from lucrative contracts and
Bureaucratic corruption and the
kleptocratic tendencies of the ruling family, helped to generate protests when
the winds of revolution blew in from Tunisia and Egypt.
The first wave of unrest in
Benghazi immediately suspended the local regime in mid-air and insurrections
seemed to sweep away state power in several cities. Initially, Gaddafi appeared
utterly confused and lost, a reminder of the haunting video images of the fall
of Ceausescu in Romania in December 1989. Ceausescu looked bewildered when the
people turned on him and his apparatus of repression. So too Gaddafi appeared
lost and ‘mad’.
In Tripoli, the regime held onto
power due to the passive acquiescence of significant layers of the masses. This
is not simply due to fear of the powerful and repressive state. It stems also
from extraordinary economic growth in recent years,
and the continuing dominance of state ownership and control of the economy that
The uprising in Benghazi has
characteristics similar to post-Ceausescu Romania in 1990. The collapse of the
state and the seizure of control over everyday life by committees and militias
mean this resembles a political revolution; but likewise it may open the path
to a social counter-revolution, the battles will decide.
In the explosion of discussion and
debate that accompanies revolutionary upheavals, the progressive tendencies
will seek to defend and extend social gains developed under public ownership,
democratize administration and control, and further internationalise the Arab
revolutions, breaking down the barriers between the peoples of the region.
The imperialist powers also see an
opportunity following the collapse of state power in Benghazi. They began their
machinations starting with a veritable cacophony of attacks on the “madman”
Gaddafi. Many of these same
spokes-persons for democracy were only yesterday making lucrative deals with
Gaddafi and praising his ‘moves to the market’, his statesmanship, his wisdom
etc. Naturally, Gaddafi felt personally affronted and betrayed by this, where
is the “honour among thieves?”
When Tunisians and Egyptians were
being shot just a few days ago, western leaders acted as if paralysed into a
deafening silence. They condemned violence and killings in the abstract, laying
no blame on Ben Ali, or Mubarak, and calling for peace. Likewise when the
Saudis’ invaded Bahrain a few days ago, in order to crush the protests there,
western leaders were as one, in their silence.
However when Gaddafi’s state uses
violence, a flurry of diplomatic, political and military forces flocked
together bellowing for war, in the name of
liberty, justice and universal rights!
This sudden unity of purpose by
France, Britain and the United States, is nothing but a cynical use of the
internal conflict in Libya to regain western prestige in the Arab world, and
acquire control over oil and gas supplies. The people of the whole region face
a cruel and perilous battle for peace, freedom and plenty in the struggle for
genuine democratic control over politics, economics and society.
by Heiko Khoo
National Income per capita rose 97% between 2005 and 2008 State of African
Cities 2010 UNDP
by Nadim Mahjoub
18 March 2011
Are the Islamists “ready for their close-up”? In an article
published on Al-Jazeera.net (10.3.11) the writer D. Parvaz, extensively
quoting observers on Islamism and the Arab world like Ed Hussain, Tareq
Ramadan, George Joffe, and Amina Elbendary, poses this question and
points to the misrepresentation of the Islamists by the West. A West, he
says, that tends to “put all the people in the same box.”
He distinguishes Al-Nahda in Tunisia and
the Muslim Bortherhood (MB) in Egypt among the Islamist movements to
assert that they played no role in the revolutions in both countries.
And also to paint the features which reflect that they are moderate
organisations. He concludes that even if these two countries end up with
Islamist governments, it would not be “a catastrophe” as people do not
want a religious-based system.
However, in this long article, we cannot
find one word or hint as to the economic programme of the Islamists.
Indeed the analysis does not mention whether the “moderate Islamists”
have an economic programme and solutions to socio-economic issues which
have been the root of the revolutions.
Are the “moderate Islamists” moderate in
their economic alternative, too? Do they have different economic
policies from the ones the Iranian regime has pursued, for example? More
importantly, there is no background behind the reasons why the
Islamists are “moderate.” Have they been always “moderate”?
Today the Islamists have not been in the
forefront of the revolutionary movement that is sweeping the Arab world.
The field has been taken by the youth, the women and the labour
movement. This has obliged the Islamists to change and try to adapt to
the new situation, but at the same time they do not wish the movement to
become too radical. Their project is to ameliorate the situation within
the confinement of a liberal capitalist environment, but with some care
for the poor and the unemployed, etc.
From the Government Square in Tunis to
Tahrir Square in Cairo, the economic issues have been sidelined in most
recent analyses. The focus has been on political issues whereas the workers themselves have been fighting for better wages, independent unions, etc. Surely the economic aspects are fundamental?
In the Tunisian revolt in December 2010
in Sidi Bouzid economic and social slogans prevailed. In the case of
Egypt, the roots of the Revolution are socio-economic and are in many
ways a continuation of 2005 middle class Kifaya Movement and
2006-2008 strike waves by workers. It was during this that the April 6
Youth Movement emerged, so named, because the mostly educated young
activists initiated a general strike in support of the textile workers
on 6 April 2008.
It is also not correct to consider Ben
Ali and Mubarak as secular leaders, as D. Parvaz does. Both of them used
religion and religious institutions for their own interests; they both repackaged the language of religion to marginalise the Islamists. Mubarak went further when he opened the TV stations for Islamic preachers as well as using the morality police against “offenders
of the moral codes, the homosexuals for example, as well as against the
trash-recycling pig farmers, single women, Shia' and Christians.” Ben Ali, on the other hand, was even given the tile of “the protector of the motherland and religion” (Ha'mi Alhima' wa Eddeen).
Some analysts describe Rachid Al-Gahnnoushi, the leader of the Tunisia Al-Nahda
Movement, as “a progressive.” Al-Ghannoushi claims to defend democracy
and he is for a democratic constitution and his model is the Justice and
Development Party (AKP) in Turkey. He believes that “The successful AKP experience has influenced Islamists everywhere.”
The AKP advocates and defends the liberal free market economy,
maintains close relationships with the Zionist state of Israel, and
Turkey is still a member of NATO despite an apparent weakening of the
army. So much for “a progressive” defending “a progressive” ruling
party! The rise of the AKP was fuelled by the emergence of a
conservative middle class that undermined military rule, and it remains
an integral part of the Turkish bourgeoisie.
Turkey still refuses to remove repressive
labour laws that limit workers’ rights; nearly 20 per cent of the
population of Turkey lives below the poverty line. According to a 2009
report by the Turkish Statistical Institute approximately 15 million
people (out of a population of about 88 million) are struggling to
obtain the basic necessities of life, 6 per cent of children between the
age of 6 and 17 are working an average of 51 hours a week! The majority
of Turkey's wealth is in the private sector.
Since his return to Tunisia,
Al-Ghannoushi has barely addressed the economic alternative for Tunisia.
In an interview with “International Movement for a Just World”
(www.just-international.org) he stated: “In the economic sphere Islam is
closer to the left-wing outlook, without violating the right to private
property. The Scandinavian socio-economic model is closest to the
The “left-wing outlook” Al-Ghannouchi
refers to is the Social Democratic project, but this Social Democratic
Welfare State project is in crisis throughout Europe. It is questionable
how much of the social-democratic welfare model will remain in Western
Europe in 5 years time. There have been general strikes to protect the
rights of the majority in Greece, Portugal, France, and Spain. There is a
general malaise across Europe. Is this really a model North Africa can
create or should aspire to?
Europe faces massive privatisation,
attacks on the welfare system, involvement in wars abroad and
anti-immigration policies at home. If it happens that the average
Scandinavian countries is slightly better off than the average German
for example, it does not mean such a model can be emulated in North
Africa. In fact even in the case of Sweden, one third of the national
wealth is owned by one family.
If this is the private property that Al-Nahda's leader
is defending then his economic project is constrained within the
framework of the existing division of wealth and power. A system
established under the dictatorship of crony capitalism serving a tiny
minority. What Al-Ghannoushi advocates is class collaboration, a
collaboration that unites “the nation”, “rich and poor.”
Such unity is the unity of an aspirant
democratic bourgeoisie eager to cuddle up and unite with the bourgeoisie
of the dictatorship. Under these plans those who robbed and plundered
the people for generations will have their ill-gotten gains cleaned by
“the democratic process” and this in the name of peace and unity!
Nothing better expresses the willingness to collaborate with the
bourgeoisie than what Al-Ghannoushi said after he was amnestied in 1987:
“I have trust in Allah and in Ben Ali.” Later, Al-Nahda, an nearly all
the political parties signed "The National Pact" with Ben Ali's regime
In an event organised by the School of
Oriental and African Studies (04 February 2011), Mohamed Ali from the
Islam Channel replying to a question on development and employment said:
“the question is not about creating employment, but about creating
wealth.” Ali did not elaborate on this and such a statement is unclear.
However, if he means that creating wealth precedes employment or that
priority should be given to wealth, then this is a reversal of
and reflects a whole outlook on
economic laws. In fact, wealth is created by human hands and brains.
Providing useful employment creates wealth, not the other way around,
the wealthy only invest to make profits from the sweat and toil of the
The Trabelsi family had the wealth but did not create employment for the unemployed. The banks and capitalists in the West sit on the money instead of investing it in employment
until they find a profitable means of exploiting the people.
Simultaneously, the world has an ever rising number of US Dollar
Billionaires; the interests of their economic empires tend to dominate
politics. This is true even in well-established West European
democracies, as the sinister and clown-like antics of Silvio Berlusconi
in Italy reveal.
In the 1950s to 1980s the Muslim
Brotherhood represented disenchanted elements of the national
bourgeoisie. In fact one can argue that these people are tainted with
Mubarak's “pluralism.” The “new-old” guard of the Brotherhood have
participated and benefited from the recent “economic boom.” These
leaders now own cell-phone companies and real estate developments, for
example, and have joined the upper-middle class.
Politically, the MB has suffered internal
divisions, and this is one of the reasons that they tail-ended the
revolutionary movement. In Tunisia, Abd Al-Fattah Morou, a leading and
historical figure in Al-Nahda Movement has been expelled from the Movement and he is in the process of forming what he calls “an Islamist centre party.”
With its core drawn from worse-off middle
class layers, the Islamist movement succeeded in mobilising significant
numbers of a discontented population using the language of religion,
cultural purity and identity, as a substitute for politics. The failure
of the modernisation project in the 1960s and 1970s bred and mobilized
'middle class over-achievers' who were marginalised economically,
politically and culturally. The failure of the left and the nationalist
project, and the support of imperialism for the Islamist movement, saw
the latter filling the vacuum.
When Anouar Assadat took over after the
death of Nasser in 1970, he helped to prop the MB up in order to use
them to counter the left Nasserists and the radicals. They were
completely drawn into the “Opening” , the economic policy of
privatisation pursued by Assadat. As a result the MB saw an increase in
the influence of men who belong to “the new bourgeoisie.” At the same
time these men condemned and attacked corruption by expressing piety,
which effectively found ground among the petit bourgeoisie, the MB’s
Essam El-Errian, a member of the guidance
council of the MB, expressed the Brotherhood’s demands in a statement
published by the New York Times (09 February 2011), “In more than
eight decades of activism, the MB has consistently promoted an agenda
of gradual reform... We have repeatedly tried to engage with the
political system, yet these efforts have been largely rejected based on
the assertion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a banned organization...”.
Clearly, the MB does not challenge the whole regime in Egypt, it merely
wants recognition and believes in reform.
In fact, the MB demonstrated that it was
ready to accept Mubarak's regime if the latter met people's demands;
they wanted the regime to stay but without Mubarak: “The Mubarak regime
has yet to show serious commitment to meeting these demands or to moving
toward substantive, guaranteed change,” pledged El-Errian.
Like their brothers in Tunisia the MB
leadership believes in class collaboration. On 17 March Aljazeera.net
reported that the MB, with a certain number of political parties, has
agreed on an initiative: “For Egypt.” The initiative's mission is to
push for constitutional amendments and to draft an electoral programme
for the coming parliamentary elections. MB leader, Mohamed Badie, said
that the initiative comes as a conclusion of the revolution. Let's
remember that before 25th January the MB refused to take part in the
revolutionary movement that had already gathered pace without the
In fact, the initiative aims at limiting
the revolution to a set of reforms. For instance, what the MB and the
other parties, including a nationalist leftist party (Hizb Attajamou),
which are part of the initiative have agreed upon is: an investigation
of the plunder carried out by the regime, restructuring the budget, less
taxation on the small investors, implementing the court's decision in
relation to the minimum wage and the writing off of the farmers' debts
towards the Agricultural Bank. The initiative also calls for the
creation of a fund to support the martys' families and an independent
institution of Al-Zakaat (a fund to help the poor).
Two days before this initiative, Issam
Sharef, the Egyptian Prime Minister, asserted that his country would
continue to follow the free market economy, but making sure that social
justice be achieved. Now, if for decades the most developed economies on
earth have not achieved social justice by implementing free market,
i.e. capitalist, economic policies, one would only hope for Moses' stick
to create social justice in a poor country like Egypt.
Politically, the Supreme Military Council
(SMC) in Egypt have decided to push forward for a coalition of parties
against the secular groups that led the revolution. Quoted by the Financial Times,
Hossam Tammam, an analyst who specialises in Islamist groups, said:
“There are signs the military may have decided to bet on the Brotherhood
as the biggest organised force on the street. The others [small parties
and secular groups] may be seen by the army as representing an unwanted
and radical transition to democracy.” (FT, 17.3. 2011)
Contrary to the bourgeois and reformist
parties and groups, the “unwanted and radical transition to democracy”
for the secular-led revolutionary movement means real freedom and
genuine democracy: freedom from poverty, jobs, decent healthcare and
education and direct democratic participation of the people in decisions
that affect their lives. The revolutionary movement raised the slogan
“the people want to overthrow the regime.” By that they meant the regime
of oppression and injustice, which means the overthrow of the regime's
constitution and its laws, its political apparatus and its repressive
The SMC plan is a move to abort the
revolutionary process for the benefit of the Brotherhood and the
remnants of Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP)! The MB is in fact
taking part in the military-bourgeois and imperialist plan of “orderly
transition of power.” The result of which will be a new parliament
dominated by conservative forces though the MB had already declared it
was not going to field a candidate in the presidential elections.
Like the High Council for the achievement
of the Goals of the Revolution in Tunisia which consists of many forces
and people that did not take part in the revolution, it is merely
another attempt to hijack the people's revolution, the “For Egypt”
initiative will represent the Egyptian bourgeoisie but with the
inclusion of some figures from the youth movement and the “left”, to
stop the wheel of radicalisation that is still rolling in forms of
strikes and formation of workers committees and independent
The regime in Egypt, like others in the
region, has allowed Islamic NGO's and charities to help out the poor.
The aim has been to contain social explosion and delay or minimise class
conflicts. It is worth noting that after Ben Ali's flight,
representatives from Al-Nahda held talks with the Interim
government at least twice, as did the Muslim Brotherhood even before
Mubarak stepped down. Thus the Muslim Brotherhood, along with its
participation in Parliament as independent candidates, has been giving a hand to the regime to preserve the status quo rather than overthrowing it along with its oppressive system. This is why they were left behind when revolution called.
The Arab revolution began with
socio-economic demands and against social injustice and dictatorship,
but after the toppling of Ben Ali and Mubarak, the dictatorial
institutions of the state have been trying to resist the pressure of the
revolutionary people through manoeuvring and cunning. Now the process
has been confined to the political arena. The workers and the youth are
still trying to keep the process on.
However, the dangers are now bigger than
before as reformism is gaining pace. Without extending the struggle to a
combination of a socio-economic as well as political revolution,
people's hopes and aspirations will be dashed. Trade unionists, social
and political activists from North Africa should assist this process by
making direct links with their fellow workers in Europe to exchange
information and ideas about their rights and their common struggles.
By Nadim Mahjoub
British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking at his Tory party spring conference in Cardiff, repeated his call for "Gaddafi to go".
"On Libya, our strategy is clear," he said. "We will continue to intensify pressure on the regime. We will continue to state clearly that international justice has a long reach and a long memory, and that those who commit crimes against humanity will not go unpunished. We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by this crisis, and continue to demand access for aid agencies to reach those in need. (Guardian (UK), 06 March 2011)
David Cameron, along with his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, is carrying out attacks on the working people in Britain, attacks on their living standards never seen before. Here he is mouthing about “international justice” that has a "long memory". Does international justice mean shouldering the theft of more than a trillion pound by the banks worldwide on the working people and the future generation who are not responsible for the crisis in the first place?
No long time ago, the rulers of Britain under the new Labour Government and with the support of the Conservatives supported the war on Iraq which has led to the death of more than a million people and left the country in a mess.
Not a long time ago International Justice” waged a war on Yugoslavia. The claimed objective was to end the ethnic cleansing. In fact, the effect was to break up Yugoslavia, the last of the countries of the former Eastern bloc not fallen into the imperialist orbit of capitalist democracy. Both the war on Iraq and the war on Yugoslavia were launched without a United Nations resolution.
This International Justice has supported “the only democracy in the Middle East” in its killing of the Palestinians, robbing their land bit by bit, and imprisoning a whole population by imposing on them an apartheid system.
This International Justice that “has a long reach and a long memory” is the one that established Guantanamo Bay and other prison camps, that set up rendition to Eastern and Middle Eastern countries, and gave a free hand to Ben Ali, Ghaddafi, Mubarak and others to torture and imprison “suspects” without trial.
How long does this international Justice go back in history? 50 years? 100 years? 300 years? Does it go back to the British empire era during which even people in Britain did not enjoy “justice”, human rights were a privilege for the rich, and most of the population did not have the right to vote. Or, was “international justice” the transportation of human beings to work as slaves in the plantations of the empire so that capital could be accumulated, or the transporting “criminals” to Australia?
Does the International Justice that the British Prime Minister is boasting of mean the carving of the Middle East into kingdoms and fiefdoms, installing sheiks and dictators, arming and cuddling up to them? Does “international justice” mean the exploitation of the oil wealth of these countries and guaranteeing that both oil and money come to London, Paris and New York?
Does International justice” mean that a simple person running from persecution is denied asylum whereas a Russian oligarch who stole billions of pounds from the Russian people is welcomed and defended?
What is this “international Justice that has made the gap between the rich and the poor the largest ever in history and imposed capitalist policies which not only enslaved billions of people, but caused wars, civil wars in many countries and the dislocation of millions of people. What International Justice can be spoken of where half of the world’s population live under $2 a day?
A Czech proverb accurately expresses the hypocrisy of “world leaders” like David Cameron who speak about punishing dictators: “big thieves hang the small ones.”
Labor protests continued in various
governorates yesterday as hundreds of mine workers in Bahariya Oasis
held sit-ins to protest poor living conditions. Around 50 Ministry of
Religious Endowments workers also called for salary increases and dozens
of temporary agricultural supervisors continued to protest for
In Port Said, hundreds of residents in
the village of Radwan demanded investigations into violations regarding
the sale of land allotted for college graduates (under the Mubarak
project for young graduates) without official permission.
In Beni Suef, 1000 new graduates,
workers, and teachers protested for the second day in a row in front of
the Education Ministry building in the governorate. They called for real
and permanent job opportunities. Protesters tried to storm the building
but security forces stopped them. The protesters gathered on Saleh
Salem road, one of the city’s main roads leading to surrounding
highways, and blocked traffic. They threatened to storm the teachers’
union and set the Education Ministry building on fire if their demands
are not met.
In Alexandria, tens of employees of the
medical research center at the University of Alexandria organized a
protest in front of the university’s administrative building. They
called for permanent contracts for temporary employees, higher wages,
and immediate administrative reforms to cleanse “the remnants of the
Dozens of residents of Nadha village in
Amriya protested in front of the carbon factory. The protesters
complained about the carbon emissions coming out of the factory, which
they say have caused illness among residents. In addition, secondary
school students organized a protest in front of the Qa’id Ibrahim
Mosque, demanding they not be equated with vocational school students
when applying for college. They also demanded that exams be postponed
another month given the current unrest.
In Suez, around 1200 workers in the
Egyptian and national steel companies blocked the Al-Adabiya-Ain Sokhna
Road. The workers said the appropriate agencies have not yet interfered
to solve their problems with the administration and meet their demands.
Workers in the Egypt Amiron company for steel pipes continued their
sit-in for the fourth consecutive day at company headquarters, hoping to
get better financial and employment conditions, and a stake in the
company’s profits. In Kafr al-Sheikh, bus drivers in the city of Desouk
went on strike to protest the increasing cost of their insurance.
In Daqahlia, 1500 farmers protested the
actions of the Ministry of Religious Endowments. The ministry had
illegally sold land to traders and businessmen in a public auction. The
farmers had been renting the land for more than 70 years.
In Damietta, tens of employees in the
health departments in Farsco and Zarkaa held a protest, calling for
increases in bonuses, the restructuring of wages, and the removal of the
department’s financial manager.
In Menoufiya, 50 women from the families
of prisoners in Shibin al-Kom general prison, protested in front of the
courts’ complex to demand that their relatives be released or that they
be allowed to visit them in the prison.
In Qalyoubia, around 300 drivers stormed
the governorate’s building, destroying the main gate. They went up to
the second floor, occupied the halls and encircled Governor Adli
In Aswan, 700 workers in Al-Nasr mining
company in Edfu presented a memorandum to the general miners’ union, the
Egyptian Trade Union Federation and the Holding Company for Mining
Industries, demanding the withdrawal of confidence from the chairman of
the board and the employees’ union committee. Workers demanded a new
temporary administrative committee composed of workers.
In Ismailia, a number of members of the chamber of the commerce demanded the dissolution of the current board of directors.
In response to labor strikes, the
Ministry of Health distributed an administrative pamphlet to governorate
health departments announcing that protesting is unacceptable and that
there will be no negotiations with any group that protests.
The ministry confirmed that it formed a
supreme committee to look into the employees’ problems and propose
solutions, in an attempt to protect state agencies and ensure the
continuation of its functions.
Since it took over power, the Supreme
Council of Armed Forces has issued several statements calling on
citizens to end strikes and protests and return to work.
In its biggest protest since the 14 January when Ben Ali was toppled and compelled to flee to Saudi Arabia, the Tunisians, estimated to be 100,000, (50,000 according to Al-Jazeera), have gathered with the aim to topple the interim government. The most d'ordre is: Degage! Many people have travelled from many parts of the country to join the sit-in in the Government Square, which entered its sixth day.
Meanwhile, there is a sit-in in the National TV, another in Sfax, the second biggest city. No general strike has been called by the Tunisia General Union of Labour, but there have been stoppages and pupils and students have joined the protesters in the Government Square. The Prime Minister office, however, had been moved to Carthage at the end of January. There is a renewing demand of the creation of a constituent assembly.
Thus it seems that there is no strategy to seize any key buildings in the capital, and to begin a purge of the dictatorial institutions through the setting up of regional revolutionary bodies that will elect a provisional government. We are seeing a situation that is similar to the one we saw in Tahrir Square in Cairo: Day and night protests. In addition, one observer has noticed the absence of socio-economic slogans among the protesters.
Recently, the 14 of January Front have initiated the creation of the Council for the Protection of the Revolution (CPR) which consists of 28 organisations and groups including the leadership of the UGTT the Islamist party Al-Nahda. It seems that the initiative came as a “solution to get out of the crisis,” as the Workers Communist Party argued. Disagreements on including Al-Nahda in the Front led to the creation of the Council. Now the CPR is demanding recognition from the interim president! In the words of a member of the Progressive Democratic Party (which is in the government): “We find it strange that the Council [CPR] wants to be a legislative and executive authority and demands be recognised by the interim president while it does not recognize the president. This reflects the lack of political maturity of this Council.” This may explain why till now the project of a constituent assemply has not materialised.
On the ground, however, the majority of people are not involved either in the Front or in CPR. They have defined themselves without any party or organisation speaking on their behalf.
Lawyer Jalal Hammami, speaking to Al-Jazeera.net, says that the mission of the Council for the Protection of the Revolution is to protect the revolution and monitor the interim government, not to interfere in the latter's affairs. He argues that putting pressure on the interim government can bring results. Contrary to what Hammami wishes, the police this afternoon was unleashed and used teargas against those protesting in the capital. The army stood by and watched!
There has been a lack of a clear programme of action on the part of the organisers. Having mobilised tens of thousands of people from all parts of the country, it seems that the power and determination of the people have not been used against clear targets. As wementioned in the previous note on Tunisia the dangers are becoming greater. Some Islamists not many, but organised, began to exploit their alliance with the left to attack the left and exclude activists from voicing their views (the case of Sfax today). In Sidi Bouzid, the army is using the situation in Libya to hold people back from participating in any action saying that the mercenaries are going to enter the country; the governor there removed all notices calling for sit-ins and have threatened to shoot anyone who takes part in a sit-in.
In Libya Al-Ghaddafi forces are loosing more towns to the people who have been supported by sections of the army and the police. Hundreds, if not thousands, have been killed so far. The situation have mobilised many Tunisians who have been helping their brothers and sisters in their plight. Paradoxically, the Tunisian army that helped break up the sit-in in Tunisia on 28 of January which resulted in police brutality against the militants, have been involved in helping the Libyans fleeing the country via the Tunisian border.
The Tunisians have looked in disgust to the interim government and the airlines companies which have stood by and done nothing to help the people in Libya. They have exposed Aziz Miled, one of the richest people in the country, a close associate of Ben Ali and Belhassen Trabelsi with whom he owns two airline companies. One of the main targets of the Tunisian revolution has been the corrupt families that have plundered the country and nationalising companies like Miled's companies should be one of the tasks of the revolution. The Tunisian, and the Arab, revolution has to carry out revolutionary socio-economic measures, not only nationally but across the whole regions of North Africa and the Middle East.
As the BBC pointed out in the case of Libya:”In May 2008, the US firm General Dynamics inked a $165m (£102m) contract to equip the Libyan army's elite second brigade with sophisticated communications systems. This force, led by Mr Gaddafi's son Khamis, was deployed to the streets of al-Bayda - a city east of Benghazi and near the border with Egypt - where it has unleashed live ammunition on protesters.” Of course this not news; Britain, the US, France and other imperialist countries have been arming regimes like the Libyan regimes to the teeth to protect the interests in the world. The Western regimes gave financial and logistic backing as well it sold weapons to Suharto's Indonesia, Sadam Hussein's Iraq, Colombia, Mubarak's Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia...Dictators and army elites were even educated and got training in schools like the School of the Americas in the US and Sandhurst in England.
Unsurprisingly then that to this moment Obama has not called for Ghaddafi to leave power, has supported Mubarak to the last minute until he found his replacement in the army. The war on democracy and freedom goes on by the same people who talk about freedom and democracy everyday.
New upsurge of revolution
website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI
Protests against government biggest since January 14
CWI Reporter in Tunis
As we post this report from a CWI reporter in Tunis, we have received news from Tunis of “a new wave of the revolution”. On a ‘Day of Anger’, there are now the biggest mass protests in Tunisia since those which ousted the hated president, Ben Ali, on January 14.
Secondary school students are on the streets en masse and the Kasbah area is “black with people”. Determination to “protect the revolution” and bring down Ghannouchi is everywhere! “He may have to go today!”
During the month since the overthrow of Ben Ali, the Tunisian revolution has been almost ‘overshadowed’ by the titanic mass movement of Egyptian workers and youth, and by the heroic uprising of their Libyan neighbours. But the struggle here against what is largely seen as a government of usurpers continues, despite all the efforts being made by the present rulers and their diverse relay teams to impose a different version of the story.
The fact that the Tunisian mass movement is being emulated in the whole region is giving new energy to workers and youth to keep up the fight in their own country. Also, an unprecedented wave of solidarity with the neighbouring revolts has appeared on Tunisia’s streets. This is graphically expressed by the hundreds mobilising in different parts of the country in support of the Libyan struggle against the Khadafi regime.
Unthinkable only a few months ago, demonstrations, sit-ins and strikes have become an integral part of the Tunisian social landscape. All these protests are taking place in the context of widespread mistrust and anger against Mohamed Ghannouchi’s provisional government. The weak authority of the ‘official’ state is illustrated by the fact that these continuing protests are taking place in spite of the noisy threats from the Interior Ministry, calling on citizens to “respect the state of emergency”, which supposedly bans gatherings of more than three people in public places!
This situation is getting on the nerves of the Tunisian bosses, who say, through one of their mouthpieces: “We are seeing everything nowadays. Workers who get rid of officials they don’t like, citizens who do not recognise any authority in court decisions and even a government which is not even capable of saying ‘no’ to the streets.”
The old regime is still in place
This amount of freedom has only been imposed by the masses’ revolutionary struggle. Yet political and economic power remains in the hands of the same ruling elite. Fundamentally, this self-proclaimed government, recomposed from the ashes of the dictatorship, is only there to assure the continuity of the capitalist state machine. Far from dismantling the apparatus of the dictatorship, the government is, in practice, relying on its remnants to try and keep a semblance of control over the situation. The examples are numerous.
All members of the present parliament, as well as of the regional councils, have been selected by the former regime, while the constitution, on which Ghannouchi is pretending to base his “legality”, is the constitution of the dictatorship. The political police, by whom a CWI activist has been recently attacked, is still in place and according to some testimonies, many political prisoners are still in jail despite the claims of a supposed ‘amnesty’. On Wednesday, an ‘Organisation of Struggle Against Torture’ was created, highlighting the continuing use of such practices in the present period. Relatives of martyrs of the revolution have also denounced the fact that the presumed assassins of their children are, “not only still in functioning, but have even received promotion”. The censorship and obstructive methods of dealing with information in the mainstream media was publicly pointed out recently by a journalist of the national television, denouncing the pressures, lies, intimidations and marginalisation she has been facing because she wanted to “report sincerely on the deep and most pressing problems of the Tunisian people”.
However, the masses who rose up in their millions only some weeks ago, are scrutinising all the measures of this government with close eyes, and have decided not to accept any stealing of their revolution. The episode of the nomination of the new regional governors, in the beginning of February, was very significant in this regard. The list of the new governors appointed by the government to replace the previous ones was composed of 19 RCD members out of 24! Rapidly, this provocation caused massive outrage and protests all over the country. Some of these governors were not able to start their term of office and had to leave their positions under the protection of the army. Forced to retreat, the government then established a new list of governors in agreement with the UGTT trade union.
New occupation of the Kasbah
Last Sunday, tens of thousands walked along Tunis’ streets in a demonstration ‘for the protection of the revolution’, under shouts of “Gouvernement Ghannouchi, degage (resign)!”, “Enough of lies and masquerades!”, “Get out, all you who want to abort our revolution!”… The demonstration was supposed to be much bigger, but the armed forces prevented buses and cars flooding in from several parts of the country’s interior regions from entering the city.
Braving the attempts by the army to disperse them by firing into the air, the demonstrators were able to reoccupy the Kasbah, where the Prime Minister’s office is. Army units had been guarding it since it had been cleared of the previous occupation at the end of last month. They are demanding the resignation of the transitional government of Ghannouchi, and intend to stay there until this demand is met. They put forward demands such as the democratic election of a Constituent Assembly, the effective dissolution of the RCD and the dissolution of both parliamentary chambers.
In the revolutionary process, the mass of workers, young people and poor are learning very quickly. Past illusions in the ‘benevolent’ and protective role of the army have been replaced by a much more defiant attitude. “Where is Rachid Ammar and his promises of protecting the revolution?” young demonstrators were shouting. This refers to General Ammar whose relative popularity had been used by the regime to get him to try and evacuate the occupiers during the first sit-down protest at the Kasbah.
The end of French interference in the country is also part of the demands and slogans of demonstrators. On Saturday, a 500-strong demonstration took place in front of the French embassy, with the aim of getting rid of the new French ambassador, Boris Boillon. He started his mandate by insulting journalists who dared to ask him questions related to the attitude of Sarkozy’s government towards Ben Ali’s regime. The response of the masses was rapid: “Boillon, degage! (Get out, Boillon!)”.
The recent days have seen a ceaseless round of visits from French officials and politicians in Tunisia. But the masses have not forgotten the past attitude of all these hypocritical Philistines, who, after having displayed support for Ben Ali’s rotten system for years, are trying now to strengthen French imperialism’s position in the ‘new Tunisia’.
A new sort of struggle is now appearing on Tunisian soil - between rival imperialist powers, mainly France and the United States, attempting to reinforce their control over the Tunisian economy. Both countries have already announced the visits of delegations of businessmen from their respective countries to benefit from the new ‘opportunities’ of exploiting the Tunisian market (the Ben Ali-Trabelsi mafia ruled over 40% of the Tunisian economy…). In order to attract those foreign investors, Ghannouchi’s government is engaged in a campaign to desperately try and stop the strikes that have erupted in many sectors and to restore capitalist order in the workplaces and in the factories.
For this dirty job, the government can rely on the disgraceful role played by the UGTT bureaucrats. Since the revolution, the UGTT bureaucracy, the executive committee in particular, has not stopped presenting itself as the ultimate warder of the rotten regime (forced, though, into some notable sharp reversals because of its militant base). On the 8th of February, the executive committee of the trade union concluded an agreement with the government “to work to restore security, dealing with anti-revolutionary forces who are trying to destabilise people, hampering the normal functioning of the institutions, and negatively influencing the social climate”.
For people who did not understand properly what that meant, Abdessalem Jerad, General Secretary of the UGTT, made it clear one week later in an interview. He accused the RCD of being behind the strikes and social unrest, calling the federations of the different sectors to stop the strikes and demands because of this, and declaring that disciplinary sanctions would be adopted against trade unionists who do not follow those instructions.
This anti-strike campaign is beating its drums in all the official media. Workers who are fighting for their rights and social aspirations - who refuse to “produce first and demand afterwards” - are increasingly being targeted as enemies and traitors of the “noble causes of the revolution”. Whatever the poverty wages, precarious work, endless temporary contracts, high cost of living, mass unemployment, ‘economic freedom’ must not be put in jeopardy (the freedom for a handful of capitalists to exploit a cheap and docile workforce). It is quite ironic that it is precisely the people who have allowed and assisted the mafia to loot the economy for years who are now accusing the strikers of “leading the economy into collapse”.
“I do not have a magic wand”, says Ghannouchi, trying to play down the potential of the social volcano on which he is sitting. And this is at a time when all newspapers and media outlets are reporting daily on the huge fortunes, assets and companies of the former ruling families. Tunisian workers and poor have not seen one dinar of all this. One glaring example of what is happening:- On 24 February, the French multinational Vivendi announced its intention to explore the possibility of buying 25% of the shares of the telecom company ‘Tunisiana’ that belongs to “Zitouna Holdings”, whose owner is Sakher El Materi, Ben Ali’s son-in-law. This is what it is all about: the visits of French and American officials are taking place in a race against time to get their hands on the mafia’s fortunes, like vultures on a dead body.
An elementary measure to secure the public interest would be to restore immediately all this wealth to the Tunisian people, by putting all the companies and assets of the mafia under public ownership. No to imperialist thieves and predators taking over! Let the Tunisian people decide their own future! Immediate restitution of all the mafia’s wealth into the hands of the poor, the workers, peasants and young people, to let them benefit from it!
‘Council for the Protection of the Revolution’
A group of twenty eight different opposition political parties and organisations has signed a common statement calling for the establishment of a ‘National Council for the Protection of the Revolution’. It includes the Islamic party Ennahda, the UGTT and the ‘January 14th Front’ - a common platform of about ten left and nationalist organisations.
The provisional government is claiming that such a body has no legitimacy. This is blatant hypocrisy from a government which is itself completely illegitimate! However, as with every good lie, there is an element of truth in it. Instead of seeing such a ‘Council for the Protection of the Revolution’ as something which is democratically built and organised from below, through a network of revolutionary and workers’ committees that could ultimately replace the present government, this is more of a self-proclaimed institution.
De facto it would include non-elected people from all these political parties. Moreover, and more importantly, they consider this council not as an alternative to the present counter-revolutionary government, but as a sort of complement to it that would ‘control’ its activities! This is what Khalil Zaouia, from the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties (FDTL) has said: “It will give the new government its legitimacy”! The representatives of this initiative are even planning to request the interim president, Foued Mebazaa, to issue a decree to endorse its establishment.
From the point of view of the ‘January 14th Front’, which had put on its banner the organisation of the resistance against Ghannouchi’s government, this is a profound step backwards. In practice, this means an acceptance of the present government’s existence, and gives dangerous illusions that the counter-revolution can be ‘tamed’ so easily from the top by a bunch of wise politicians.
For a genuinely elected constituent assembly. For a revolutionary government of workers, peasants and poor
The CWI supports the demand for the election of a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly, that can draft a new constitution and decide the country’s future. But for these elections to be truly democratic, no trust should be put in any of the old regime’s figures to organise them. They must be under the democratic supervision of local revolutionary committees of workers, poor and young people.
The idea of a government standing clearly for the interests of the poor and working people is instinctively present in the movement, some raising the idea of “people power”. But such a power cannot simply be declared. It must be built from below.
Towards this end, the local popular and revolutionary committees need to be spread and reinforced everywhere. These committees need to be coordinated at every level, and to establish strong links between themselves to avoid isolation or dissolution by the repressive apparatus, which is what the ‘official’ state will inevitably try to do at a later stage in order to restore its authority.
Above all, similar committees need to be organised in a systematic way - in the companies, the administrations and factories, to provide the working class all its weight and strength in the situation. Flying pickets of striking workers could also be organised to assist and protect the sit-down protest of the youth at the Kasbah in Tunis. Similar initiatives are vital, especially since the regime is trying everything to break the unity between the unemployed youth and workers who go on strike. Yet, in many companies, the reduction of working hours is part of the workers’ demands - an important and essential measure to provide jobs for the unemployed.
The official newspaper of the regime, ‘La Presse’, was asking recently: “Can we reasonably ask bosses to leave their companies? If they do, who is going to provide jobs and wages?” Actually, many bosses are now warning of possible job losses, or of relocation elsewhere. Those companies should be taken over and put under the democratic control and management of workers’ committees.
Other companies have been forced to concede wage increases because of strike action. But, as always, and especially in the present period of intense competition and world economic crisis, the capitalists will try to take back from the workers with the right hand what they have been forced to give with its left, and even more. There is no future whatsoever for the majority of people under a capitalist system. This is the real obstacle. It will have to be overthrown and replaced by a rational, democratically-planned economy.
The revolutionary potential of the masses is undoubtedly still alive. However, the absence of a genuine revolutionary party, with a clear policy, independent from the regime and from its capitalist supporters, and arguing for the socialist case in a coherent and consistent manner, makes all the tasks ahead much more complicated.
The left and trade union activists need to discuss the need to link up individual strikes, occupations and walk-outs into nationwide general strike action with demonstrations in every city, town and village. It was the strike action in Sfax and Gafsa and also in Tunis from 12 to 14 January that was decisive in getting Ben Ali to flee the country.
Generalised strike action would be a means to unite the revolutionary masses in a powerful response against the government, the bosses, and their propaganda. The building of strong elected organising committees in the workplaces is vital and also amongst the youth and poor in the neighbourhoods and countryside. Linking them up on a regional and national level would create the instruments for creating a government of the workers and poor.
Particularly crucial in any upsurge of the revolution are elected committees in the armed forces and the police. Large swathes of the army and police can and must be convinced to be on the side of the workers and youth, but they must have control in their hands through elected committees. They should be able to refuse orders to attack demonstrations and strikes and insist on the right to remove reactionary officers. They would also need to link up with the committees of the workers and youth.
None of the problems posed by the revolution has been fundamentally solved yet; a mass mobilisation of the entire working class and the poor, to take political and economic power out of the hands of the capitalist regime and its state machine, will be necessary.
Down with Gannouchi and all ministers of the RCD, whatever name they use today!
A united struggle of workers, youth, poor and soldiers to remove them!
For a government of the people making the revolution – of the youth and their committees, the UGTT and its fighters and genuine anti-capitalist left groups!
Workers, youth and poor, complete the revolution with your own independent forces!
By Kumaran Ira
Amid revolutionary struggles across North Africa and the Middle East that have already toppled dictatorial regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, details continue to emerge of the corrupt ties between these dictators and leading French politicians. These revelations are embarrassing the French political establishment, including the main bourgeois “left” opposition party, the Parti Socialiste (PS).
In early February, the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné revealed that Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, her partner, and her parents spent their Christmas holiday in Tunisia during the social unrest. On this trip, they enjoyed the hospitality of Aziz Miled, a wealthy businessman with close personal ties to ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Alliot-Marie’s party were provided with the use of Miled’s private jet and a stay at his luxury hotel. (See “French government embarrassed by its ties to North African dictatorships”)
Alliot-Marie #8217;s family enjoyed hospitality and business deals in the midst of an intensifying social revolt, brutally repressed by the Ben Ali regime, during which some 200 people were killed. When the social revolt escalated against the regime, Alliot-Marie offered the “know-how” of France’s police forces to help quell the social uprising.
Shortly after this revelation, it was French Prime Minister François Fillon’s turn to face criticism over his Christmas holiday in Egypt, offered by now-ousted President Hosni Mubarak. (See “French prime minister faces scandal over all-expenses paid Egyptian vacation”)
Fillon’s subsequent attempts to explain his ties to Mubarak only underscored the profound historical connections between Paris and the Arab dictatorships. While on visit to Saudi Arabia, the prime minister said: “It’s a question of relations between France and Egypt. [Former presidents] François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy have all repeatedly responded to invitations from President Mubarak.”
Another revelation pointed out that French Minister of Economic Affairs Christine Lagarde was offered one week’s hospitality in 2008 by the Egyptian minister of foreign trade, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, one of the richest men in the country. He offered her and her children a private trip by jet to Sharm el Sheikh and then to Luxor, where she was the guest of the minister of tourism.
Last week, Le Canard Enchaîné further revealed that Alliot-Marie’s trip to Tunisia was part of a business deal between her parents and Aziz Miled, a family friend with whom they have had business dealings for some time. According to the weekly publication, “Alliot-Marie’s parents, Bernard Marie and Renée, had bought shares in a property company owned by Miled, in an amount worth 325,000 euros.”
Speaking on the French radio station Europe 1, Alliot-Marie’s father Bernard Marie said they had “turned to a friend named Mr. Miled, whom I have known for some time and whom we had already visited. He also came to see me, in the same jet.”
These revelations, however, have exposed the calculated ambiguities in Alliot-Marie’s initial explanations of her Tunisian trip. She said, “Arriving on Christmas in Tunis, I met a friend going to Tabarka, my final destination, who in effect proposed that I could travel with him, because he had room.”
Le Canard published excerpts from the municipal register of the city of Tabarka, where the transaction took place between her parents and Aziz Miled. The Médiapart news site reported that their luxury hospitality in Tabarka was offered by Miled. It also reported that Alliot-Marie had used Miled’s private jet not two, but four times.
Ben Ali’s family used the same aircraft when they fled the country on January 14.
Earlier, Alliot-Marie maintained that she had “no close contact” with Tunisian regime. She claimed that she had been in Tunisia on “vacation, like millions of French people”, and that during her vacation, she was “no longer a minister”.
However, Médiapart reported that she had a telephone conversation with Ben Ali during her trip. This revelation was later confirmed by the French foreign ministry, Quai d’Orsay. Despite these revelations, the French ruling conservative government has defended her and has opposed calls for her resignation.
When Alliot-Marie’s travel scandal broke out, the bourgeois “left” opposition PS made cynical calls for her resignation. However, new reports show that the deposed African dictators had ties not only with Alliot-Marie and Fillon, but also with high-ranking members of the PS.
Last week, Le Canard revealed that there had been a closer link between Aziz Miled and the former PS justice minister, Elisabeth Guigou, and her husband Jean-Louis, who established the think tank IPEMed (Institute for Economic Perspectives in the Mediterranean World) in 2006.
According to Le Canard, Aziz Miled is vice-chairman of the supervisory board elected in 2009 and one of the financial backers of IPEMed. IPEMed welcomed his election and wrote, “The election as vice-president of Mr. Aziz Miled, the first man to represent the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, is a significant tribute to the role played by Tunisia under the leadership of President Ben Ali.”
Las Thursday, soon after this revelation, Guigou announced that she was resigning as co-chair of the Committee for Political Oversight of IPEMed. This group includes a number of high-ranking officials—largely though not exclusively drawn from European social-democratic circles—including former Italian premier Romano Prodi, former Spanish prime minister Felipe González, former French foreign minister Hubert Védrine, former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, Lebanese economist Georges Corm, former French prime minister Alain Juppé, and former US Clinton administration adviser Robert Malley.
The supervisory board of IPEMed includes representatives of major French industries and banks that finance the think tank, such as Gerard Mestrallet (GDF Suez) and Anne Lauvergeon (nuclear firm Areva). It is also reported that the Mabrouk group—led by Mohamed Ali, Ismail and Marwan Mabrouk—also funds the think tank. Mabrouk is married to Cyrine Ben Ali, the daughter of the former Tunisian president.
Guigou argued, “This think tank organizes seminars, colloquia, but has no commercial, industrial or financial activities.”
Nonetheless, the task of IPEMed and other such organizations is to study how French and global investors can continue to exploit cheap labor and energy resources throughout North Africa. As long as dictatorial regimes remained in power, the French ruling class did not bother discussing violations of human rights.
A WikiLeaks cable from the US embassy in Tunis dated April 30, 2009 states that “during his visit to Tunisia, French Prime Minister [François Fillon] made fewer public statements on democracy and human rights. When Fillon was pinged on these issues during a press conference, he said that France ‘doesn’t give lessons’ on human rights, and that the world ‘asks more of Tunisia’ because it is more developed and more ‘similar to us’. He added that human rights problems ‘arise pretty much in every country in the world’ and that democratization is ‘a continuous process’.”