By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) salutes the brave people of Tunisia for their great victory in rising up and toppling the corrupt and repressive regime of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. This US-supported dictator who fled Tunisia on 14 January had ruled the country with an iron hand for 23 years.
The protests that eventually led to the ouster of Ben Ali were sparked by the sacrifice of a young college graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi. He had a college degree but unable to find work was selling fruits and vegetables in the streets of Sidi Bouzid, a city in central Tunisia. The police confiscated his wares saying he had no license. In protest, he set himself on fire in front of the city hall.
This act became the catalyst for the peoples uprising, igniting demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia in protest against high unemployment, rising food prices, political repression and poor living conditions in the country. Weeks of street protests followed mobilizing broad sectors of society. Ben Ali declared a state of emergency in an effort to crush the uprising. But the people prevailed and Ben Ali was forced to flee into exile.
Tunisia suffers from high unemployment of more than 14%. The unemployment rate for young people is even higher at more than 31%. Tunisia’s economic problems stem from IMF-dictated neoliberal policies and aggravated by the rampant corruption of the ruling clique.
Ben Ali came into power in 1987 in a bloodless coup when a team of doctors pronounced the incumbent President Habib Bourguiba unfit to rule due to senility. Habib Bourguiba had led the struggle for independence against the French and introduced progressive socio-economic policies. The US found in Ben Ali a willing ally in carrying out the free-market policies that the imperialists have been trying to impose in Africa and the rest of the third world. He was also considered by the US as a key ally in the region in fighting Islamic terrorism and in maintaining stability.
The neoliberal policies promoted by the US and carried out by Ben Ali included attacks on the rights of labor, trade liberalization and privatization of public services. These policies have been responsible for the high unemployment and other economic problems in Tunisia these past years.
The protests continue despite the resignations of Ben Ali and his prime minister with the people demanding sweeping changes. They are demanding the complete clean up of government from the remnants of Ben Alis clique and the dismantling of Ben Alis party the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD).
The US and other repressive regimes in the region are now afraid that the social turmoil in Tunisia might spread to other countries. Protest actions have broken out in Algeria over lack of housing and high food prices. In Jordan, demonstrations led by trade unions and Left parties have called for the resignation of the Rifai government over high food and fuel prices. Protesters in Egypt demonstrating in solidarity with the Tunisian people chanted “Kefaya” (enough) and “We are next, we are next, Ben Ali tell Mubarak he is next.”
The French, German and British ruling cliques had always praised Ben Ali for being a friend of civilized Europe for keeping a firm hand on all those Islamists. They are now hypocritically calling for democratic reforms in Tunisia and the rest of the region.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle wholeheartedly supports the Tunisian people in their present struggle against unemployment, government corruption and repression and in their long-term struggle for national and social liberation from imperialism and local reaction. We welcome the spread of people’s resistance to the US and oppressive regimes in the Middle East.
We call on all progressive forces and people in th world to give their support to the legitimate aspirations of the people of Tunisia and other countries in the Middle East for national liberation, democracy, social justice, development, international solidarity and peace.