INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY OF THE WHOLE WORKING CLASS!
For several weeks now we’ve seen an uprising in Tunisia against the misery and unemployment which is particularly hitting the young. All over the country, street demonstrations, meetings, strikes have spontaneously broken out protesting against the regime of Ben Ali. The protestors are demanding bread, work for the young and the right to live in dignity. Faced with this revolt of the exploited and youth deprived of a future, the dominant class has responded with a hail of bullets. These protestors are our class brothers and these are their children who are massacred in the demonstrations and whose blood flows today in Tunisia as in Algeria! The killers, and those that command them at the heads of the Tunisian and Algerian states, reveal in all its horror the real face of our exploiters and of the domination of the capitalist system across the earth. These assassins are not content to make us die of misery and hunger, it’s not enough for them to push into suicide dozens of youths reduced to despair, no, they also kill us with volleys of bullets fired at the demonstrations. Police units deployed at Thala, Sidi Bouzid, Tunis and above all Kasserine, have not hesitated to fire into the crowd killing, in cold blood, men, women and children, making it dozens of deaths since the beginning of the confrontations. Faced with this carnage, the bourgeoisies of the ‘democratic’ countries, and notably France the faithful ally of Ben Ali, have not raised a finger to condemn the barbarity of the regime and demand that the repression stops. Nothing surprising there. All governments, all the states are complicit! The world bourgeoisie is a class of murderers and assassins.
What’s really happening in Tunisia and Algeria?
It all began Friday December 17, in the centre of the country, following the self-immolation of a young unemployed graduate of 26 years old, Mohamed Bouazizi, after the local police of Sidi Bouzid confiscated his sole means of support which was a cart and some fruit and vegetables he was selling from it. Immediately a vast movement of solidarity and indignation developed in the region. From December 19, totally peaceful demonstrations broke out against unemployment, misery and the cost of living (protestors brandished baguettes!). Straightaway the government responded with repression which only accentuated the anger of the population.
A two-day strike of non-urgent medical staff started on December 22 by university doctors protesting against their lack of means and the degradation of their conditions of work. It also involved the medical-university centres of the country. Also on December 22, another young man, Houcine Neji, killed himself in front of the crowd at Menzel Bouzaiane, by gripping hold of a high tension cable “I don’t want any more misery and unemployment” he cried. Other suicides strengthened the indignation and anger still more. December 24, a young demonstrator of 18, Mohamed Ammari, was killed by police bullets. Another, Chawki Hidri, was seriously wounded and died on the first of January. To date the provisional list of deaths by bullets numbers 65!
Faced with the repression, the movement very quickly spread to the whole of the country. Unemployed graduates demonstrated on December 25 and 26 in the centre of Tunis. Meetings and demonstrations of solidarity developed throughout the country: Sfax, Kairouan, Thala, Bizerte, Sousse, Meknessi, Souk, Jedid, Ben Gardane, Medenine, Siliana... Despite the repression, despite the absence of freedom of expression, demonstrators brandished placards reading: “Today, we are no longer afraid!”.
December 27 and 28: lawyers joined in the movement of solidarity with the population of Sidi Bouzid. Faced with the repression meted out to them, arrests and being beaten up, the lawyers called for a general strike on January 6. Strike movements also affected journalists in Tunis and teachers in Bizerte. As Jeune Afrique of January 9 indicated, the social movement of protest and the coming together in the streets was totally spontaneous and was outside of the direction and control of political organisations and the unions: “The first certainty is that the movement of protest is above all social and spontaneous. This is confirmed by credible sources. ‘No party, no movement can pretend that it is directing the street or that it’s capable of stopping it’, declared the regional section of the Tunisian general union (UGTT)”.
A total blackout of information was organised. In the region of Sidi Bouzid, several localities were placed under a curfew and the army was mobilised. At Menzel Bouzaiane, the wounded could not be transported to hospital, the population lacked provisions and schools were used as lodgings by police reinforcements.
In order to try to restore calm, Ben Ali broke his silence and made a 13-minute long public declaration in which he promised to create 300,000 jobs in 2011-12 and to free all the demonstrators except those who had committed acts of vandalism. He dismissed his interior minister using him as a safety-trip and at the same time denounced the “orchestrated” politics of a minority of “extremists” and “terrorists” who were trying to harm the interests of the country.
This provocative speech, which criminalised the movement, could only galvanise the anger of the population and particularly its youth. From January 3rd, schoolchildren mobilised themselves and used mobile phones and the internet, notably Facebook and Twitter, to call for a general strike for all pupils. They demonstrated on January 3 and 4 and were joined by unemployed graduates at Thala. The young demonstrators were faced with truncheons and tear gas from the forces of repression. During the course of these confrontations the seat of government was invaded and the centre of the party in power was set on fire. The call for a national strike of pupils, relayed through the internet, was followed in several towns. At Tunis, Sfax, Sidi Bouzid, Bizerte, Grombalia, Jbeniana, Sousse, schoolchildren joined up with the unemployed. Meetings of solidarity also took place in Hammamet and Kasserine.
The revolt spreads to the universities
At the same time, in Algeria on January 4, in the small town of Kolea to the west of the Algerian capital, a number of impatient and angry workers and unemployed came onto the streets. The same day, dockers at the port of Algiers began a strike against an agreement between the port authority and the union cutting out supplementary payments for night work. The strikers refused to give in to an appeal by union representatives to suspend the strike. Here also the anger rumbled on; for these workers having a miserable wage, feeding themselves and their families is a daily preoccupation with the same content as unemployed youth in Tunis or Alger. The next day, the movement of revolt spread in Algeria notably to the coastal region and in Kabylia (Oran, Tipaza, Bejaia...) around the same social demands: they too are faced with endemic youth unemployment and the lack of lodgings, forcing them to live with their parents or to be crowded into unsuitable rooms (in the suburbs of Algiers these are found in profusion in the city quarters built in the 1950s and now resembling shanty-towns where the inhabitants are regularly harassed by the aggressive forces of the police). The response of the government wasn’t long in coming: immediately the forces of repression hit and hit hard. In the quarter of Bab el Oued in Algiers alone the wounded counted in the hundreds. But here also the ferocious repression of the Algerian state contributed to increasing the anger. In a few days, the demonstration spread to twenty departments (wilayas). Official reports were of 3 dead (at M’Silla, Tipaza and Boumerdes). The demonstrators are angry: “We can’t carry on like this and we don’t want to”, “We have nothing to lose”. These are the cries that you hear most often on the streets of Algeria. The immediate detonator for these outbursts was the brutal increase in the price of basic necessities announced on the first of January: the price of cereals increased by 30%, oil 20% and sugar shot up 80%! After 5 days of repression and lies about the demonstrations, Bouteflika took a step back to try to lower the tension: he promised a reduction of prices in the products that had been put up.
In Tunisia on January 5, during a funeral of the young vegetable seller who killed himself at Sidi Bouzid, anger was overflowing. A crowd of 5000 people marched being the funeral cortege crying in indignation “We won’t cry today, we will make those that caused his death cry”. The procession turned into a demonstration and the crowd stressed slogans against the cost of living which “led Mohamed to kill himself” and shouted “Shame on the government!” The same evening the police proceeded with heavy-handed arrests of demonstrators at Jbedania and Thals. Some youths were arrested or chased by armed police.
January 6, the general strike by lawyers is 95% solid. Elsewhere, in the centre, the south and the east of the country, strikes, street demonstrations, confrontations with the police are taking place and the agitation even spreads to the wealthier towns of the eastern coastal region.
The police are deployed in front of schools and all the universities in the country. At Sfax, Jbeniana, Tajerouine, Siliana, Makhter, Tela demonstrations of schoolchildren, students and inhabitants are brutally dispersed by the police. At Sousse, the faculty of Human Sciences is assaulted by the forces of order which proceed to arrest students. The government decides to close all schools and universities.
Faced with the repression of the movement, on January 7, in the towns of Regueb and Saida close to Sidi Bouzid, confrontations between demonstrators and police result in 6 wounded. Some demonstrators launch missiles at a security post and police fire into the crowd. Three youngsters are seriously injured.
January 8, the official UGTT union finally ends its silence, but doesn’t denounce the repression. Its General Secretary Abid Brigui, contents himself with saying, under pressure from below, that he supports “the legitimate claims of the population of Sidi Bouzid and the regions inside the country. We cannot be outside this movement. We can only range ourselves alongside the right to necessities and the demands for jobs”. Faced with the violence of the repression, he timidly declared: “It is against nature to condemn this movement. It is not normal to respond with bullets”. But he launched no call for a general mobilisation of all the workers, no appeal for the immediate end to the repression which was unleashed with a growing violence during the week of the 8th and 9th of January.
At Kasserine, Thala and Regueb, the repression of demonstrations turns into a massacre. Cold-bloodily the police fire into the crowd killing more than 25 people. In the town of Kasserine, terrorised by the exactions of the police who have even fired on funerals, the divided army not only refused to fire on the population but stood up in order to assure its protection against the anti-riot police. For his part, the high-command of the land army is dismissed for having given an order not to fire on the demonstrators. Moreover, if the army was deployed in the main towns to protect public buildings, it placed itself aside from the operations of direct repression, including in the capital where it ended up withdrawing. Faced with the bloodbath, hospital personnel of the region, although overflowing with emergencies, walked out in protest.
Since the bloody weekend of January 8 and 9, anger has spread to the capital. January 12, struggles exploded in the outskirts of Tunis. The repression results in 8 deaths with one youth killed by a bullet in the head. The government imposes a curfew. The capital is patrolled by the security forces and the official UGTT union ends up by calling for a general strike for two hours on Friday the 14th. Despite the curfew and the deployment of the forces of repression in the capital, confrontations are vigorously pursued in the heart of Tunis and everywhere portraits of Ben Ali are burnt. On January 13, the revolt spreads to the resorts on the coast and notably the great tourist centre of Hammamet where shops are smashed and portraits of Ben Ali torn apart while confrontations continue between demonstrators and police in the heart of the capital. Faced with the risk of tipping the country into chaos, faced with the threat of a general strike, and under the pressure of the ‘international community’, notably the French state which, for the first time, begins to condemn Ben Ali, the state strives to save something from the situation. 12/13 January Ben Ali declares to the population: “I’ve understood you” and he affirms that he would not be standing at the next elections... in 2014! He promises to lower the price of sugar, of milk and bread and finally asks the forces of order not to fire bullets and affirms that “there have been some errors and some have died for nothing”.
The complicity of the ‘democratic’ states
Faced with this savage repression, all the ‘democratic’ governments have for several weeks limited themselves to expressing their ‘concern’, calling for ‘calm’ and ‘dialogue. In the name of respect for the independence of Tunisia and non-interference its internal affairs, none of them condemned the police violence and the massacres carried out by Ben Ali’s thugs, even if they have hypocritically deplored the ‘excessive’ use of force. After the bloody weekend of 8 and 9 January, The French state was still openly offering support for this ruthless dictator. The French foreign minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, in his speech to the National Assembly of 12 January, offered to lend a hand to Tunisia’s security forces: “We contend that the savoir-faire of our security forces, which is recognised throughout the world, would make it possible to resolve the security situation in this country”
The “savoir-faire” of the French security forces: we’ve seen that at work in the police persecution which resulted in the electrocution of two teenagers who had been chased by the cops in 2005, provoking the riots in the banlieues. We also saw this “savoir-faire” at work at the time of the youth revolt against the CPE, when anti-riot brigades invaded some universities with dogs to terrorise the students who were fighting against the prospect of unemployment and casualisation. The “savoir-faire” of our fine French cops was also revealed when they fired the flash-balls that injured a number of high school students during the demonstrations against the LRU in 2007. And more recently, in the movement against the reform of pensions, the repression meted out in particular to the young demonstrators in Lyon once against showed the efficiency of the security forces of the French democratic state. Following this demo, hundreds of young people were condemned to heavy penalties or are threatened with them. Of course, the ‘democratic’ states are not yet using live bullets against demonstrations, but this is not because they are more civilised, less barbaric, more respectful of the rights of man and freedom of expression, but because the working class in these countries is stronger, has a longer experience of struggle and is not prepared to accept such a level of repression.
When it comes to criminalising social movements in order to justify repression, the Ben Ali government has little to envy in its French accomplice, which was the first to use the term ‘terrorists’ to denounce the students in 2006 or the transport workers in 2007 when they came out in defence of their pension provisions.
It is clear that the only thing that really concerns the ruling class in all countries is the need to efficiently strengthen the police state in order to maintain capitalist order, an order which has nothing to offer the younger generations. All over the world, faced with an insurmountable crisis of capitalism, this ‘order’ can only engender more poverty, more unemployment and more repression.
The obvious complicity of the world bourgeoisie exposes the fact that it is the whole capitalist system which is responsible for the bloodshed in Tunisia, and not just Ben Ali’s corrupt regime. The Tunisian state is just a caricature of the capitalist state!
A revolt which is part of the struggle of the world working class
Although Tunisia is dominated by a highly corrupt, totalitarian regime, the social situation in this country is not an exception. In Tunisia, as everywhere else, young people face the same problem: the lack of any perspective. This ‘popular’ revolt is part of the general struggle of the working class and its younger generations against capitalism. It is in continuity with the struggles which have been developing since 2006 in France, Greece, Turkey, Italy and Britain, where all generations have come together in a huge wave of protest against the degradation of living conditions, against poverty, youth unemployment and repression. The fact that the social movement was marked by a vast expression of solidarity beginning with events of 17 December shows that, despite all the difficulties of the class struggle in Tunisia or Algeria, despite the weight of democratic illusions which are a product of a lack of experience and of the extremely repressive nature of these regimes, this revolt against unemployment and the high cost of living is part of the struggle of the world working class.
The conspiracy of silence which surrounded these events for weeks doesn’t just come from the censorship imposed by these regimes. It has to some extent been breached by the activity of young people who have made use of internet forums, blogs, Twitter or Facebook as a means of communication and of spreading information about what’s going on, linking up not only inside the country but also with family and friends abroad, especially in Europe. But the bourgeois media have everywhere contributed to installing a black-out, especially about the workers’ struggles which have inevitably accompanied this movement and about which we have heard only fragmentary echoes.
As they do with every workers’ struggle, the media have done all they can to deform and discredit this revolt against capitalist poverty and terror, presenting it to the outside world as a ‘remake’ of the revolt in the French banlieues of 2005, as the work of a bunch of irresponsible wreckers and looters. Here against they have been in full complicity with the Ben Ali government: a number of demonstrators have denounced certain acts of looting as being the work of masked cops aimed at discrediting the movement. Amateur videos showed plain clothes cops smashing windows in Kasserine on 8 January to provide a pretext for the terrible repression which was to descend on this town.
In the face of capitalist barbarity, in the face of the wall of silence and lies, the working class in all countries has to show its solidarity towards our class brothers in Tunisia and Algeria, And this solidarity can only be affirmed effectively through the development of the struggle against the attacks of capital in all countries, against this class of exploiters and murderers which can only maintain its privileges by plunging humanity into the depths of misery. It is only through the massive development of its international unity and solidarity that the working class, especially in the most industrialised ‘democratic’ countries, can offer society a perspective for the future.
Refusing to pay for the capitalist crisis all over the world, fighting against impoverishment and terror, this alone can offer the prospect of an end to capitalist exploitation and the construction of a society founded on the satisfaction of human need.
Solidarity with our class brothers and sisters in the Mahgreb!
Solidarity with the younger generation of proletarians, wherever they struggle!
To end unemployment, poverty and repression, we have to end capitalism!
 Let’s recall that in 2008 in Tunisia, the region of phosphate mines of Gafsa was at the heart of a confrontation with the state that was violently repressed, and that in Algeria, in January 2010, 5000 strikers at SNVI and other enterprises attempted, despite a brutal intervention by the forces of order, to assemble with the aim of extending and unifying their struggle at the centre of an industrial zone which contains 50,000 workers and stretches from the Rouiba region to the gates of Algiers.