Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Maitree Press Release and Programme over Death of Rajib Das


16th February 2011

MAITREE – a West Bengal based network of Women’s Rights Organizations and individual Women’s Rights activists - extends its sincere condolences to Rinku Das and her family at this time of great loss. We strongly condemn the role of the administration in the horrific incident of eve-teasing and murder that took place in Barasat on the night of 14th February, 2011. We  deeply mourn the death of Rajib Das – a 16-year old boy who was supposed to appear in the Madhyamik Examinations in a few days time.
We are shocked at the degree of indifference with which the police personnel/security guards on duty in front of the bungalows of the DM (District Magistrate – North 24 Parganas) and the SP (Superintendent of Police - North 24 Parganas) could react to the desperate pleas of Rinku Das. For the umpteenth time this incident has exposed the failure of the administration in providing safe mobility for its female citizens at all hours.

We also strongly condemn the reaction of the Chairperson of Barasat Municipality to the incident and would like to point out that ensuring the safety and security of all citizens is the responsibility of the administration and cannot be left upon the fate of an individual.

In reaction to this incident we demand:

• The immediate arrest of the offenders
• The administration to take measures to ensure safe mobility for women at all hours
• The administration to offer whatever support the family of the deceased needs

We would like to bring to your notice that MAITREE is organizing a protest meeting at 4 pm today (16th February, 2011) at the Hazra Crossing in reaction to the incident. We request you to join us and call upon all responsible media houses to cover the meeting and thus help in building up sustained pressure on the administration to ensure that justice is delivered to the family of the deceased.

Statement from the Revolutionary Socialists Egypt

Statement from the Revolutionary Socialists Egypt


A statement issued by revolutionary socialists in Egypt on Sunday 6 February, 2011

Glory to the martyrs! Victory to the revolution!

What is happening today is the largest popular revolution in the history of our country and of the entire Arab world. The sacrifice of our martyrs has built our revolution and we have broken through all the barriers of fear. We will not back down until the criminal ‘leaders’ and their criminal system is destroyed.

Mubarak’s departure is the first step, not the last step of the revolution
The handover of power to a dictatorship under Omar Suleiman, Ahmed Shafiq and other cronies of Mubarak is the continuation of the same system. Omar Suleiman is a friend of Israel and America, spends most of his time between Washington and Tel Aviv and is a servant who is faithful to their interests. Ahmed Shafik is a close friend of Mubarak and his colleague in the tyranny, oppression and plunder imposed on the Egyptian people.

The country’s wealth belongs to the people and must return to it

Over the past three decades this tyrannical regime corrupted the country’s largest estates to a small handful of business leaders and foreign companies. 100 families own more than 90 percent of the country’s wealth. They monopolise the wealth of the Egyptian people through policies of privatisation, looting of power and the alliance with Capital. They have turned the majority of the Egyptian people to the poor, landless and unemployed.

Factories wrecked and sold dirt cheap must go back to the people

We want the nationalisation of companies, land and property looted by this bunch. As long as our resources remain in their hands we will not be able to completely get rid of this system. Economic slavery is the other face of political tyranny. We will not be able to cope with unemployment and achieve a fair minimum wage for a decent living without restoring the wealth of the people from this gang.

We will not accept to be guard dogs of America and Israel

This system does not stand alone. Mubarak, as a dictator, was a servant and client directly acting for the sake of the interests of America and Israel. Egypt acted as a colony of America, participated directly in the siege of the Palestinian people, made the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace freezones for warships and fighter jets that destroyed and killed the Iraqi people and sold gas to Israel, dirt cheap, while stifling the Egyptian people by soaring prices. Revolution must restore Egypt’s independence, dignity and leadership in the region.

The revolution is a popular revolution

This is not a revolution of the elite, political parties or religious groups. Egypt’s youth, students, workers and the poor are the owners of this revolution. In recent days a lot of elites, parties and so-called symbols have begun trying to ride the wave of revolution and hijack it from their rightful owners. The only symbols are the martyrs of our revolution and our young people who have been steadfast in the field. We will not allow them to take control of our revolution and claim that they represent us. We will choose to represent ourselves and represent the martyrs who were killed and their blood paid the price for the salvation of the system.

A people’s army is the army that protects the revolution

Everyone asks: “Is the army with the people or against them?”. The army is not a single block. The interests of soldiers and junior officers are the same as the interests of the masses. But the senior officers are Mubarak’s men, chosen carefully to protect his regime of corruption, wealth and tyranny. It is an integral part of the system.

This army is no longer the people’s army. This army is not the one which defeated the Zionist enemy in October 1973. This army is closely associated with America and Israel. Its role is to protect Israel, not the people. Yes we want to win the soldiers for the revolution. But we must not be fooled by slogans that ‘the army is on our side’. The army will either suppress the demonstrations directly, or restructure the police to play this role.

Form revolutionary councils urgently

This revolution has surpassed our greatest expectations. Nobody expected to see these numbers. Nobody expected that Egyptians would be this brave in the face of the police. Nobody can say that we did not force the dictator to retreat. Nobody can say that a transformation did not happen in Middan el Tahrir.

What we need right now is to push for the socio-economic demands as part of our demands, so that the person sitting in his home knows that we are fighting for their rights. We need to organize ourselves into popular committees which elects its higher councils democratically, and from below. These councils must form a higher council which includes delegates of all the tendencies. We must elect a higher council of people who represent us, and in whom we trust. We call for the formation of popular councils in Middan Tahrir, and in all the cities of Egypt.

Call to Egyptian workers to join the ranks of the revolution

The demonstrations and protests have played a key role in igniting and continuing our revolution. Now we need the workers. They can seal the fate of the regime. Not only by participating in the demonstrations, but by organising a general strike in all the vital industries and large corporations.

The regime can afford to wait out the sit-ins and demonstrations for days and weeks, but it cannot last beyond a few hours if workers use strikes as a weapon. Strike on the railways, on public transport, the airports and large industrial companies! Egyptian Workers! On behalf of the rebellious youth, and on behalf of the blood of our martyrs, join the ranks of the revolution, use your power and victory will be ours!

Glory to the martyrs!
Down with the system!
All power to the people!
Victory to the revolution!

Joint Statement on Tunisia and Egypt

Statement on the Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt from organisations present at the NPA congress (12 February 2011)


The overthrow of Ben Ali and Mubarak change the political situation not only in the Maghreb but on the international scale.
Popular revolutions which have put an end to dictatorships supported for decades by US and European imperialisms are giving back confidence to all the Arab peoples and strike a devastating blow to the imperialist and Zionist order in the region.
Jordanian, Yemenite, Iraqi, Algerian and Palestinian populations have already taken to the street to demand political changes.
These revolutions are the direct impact of the international economic crisis and of the diktats of the IMF and the World Bank which impose a radical social offensive and the impoverishment of populations already suffering from decades of policies of social injustice and corruption.
These two revolutions open the way not only to democratic demands to break with the dictatorships, but also to the questioning of capitalist economic systems which are the cause of so much injustice. Social issues were at the source of the popular insurrections.
Imperialism is going to do everything to safeguard its positions in the region and stop the anti-imperialist development of processes at work and their propagating in the region.
This means that the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples, the forces which want to open a anti-imperialist and socialist road in those countries, need the solidarity and the active support of revolutionaries of anti-imperialist movements, of social and trade-union movements of the whole world. We are committing ourselves, each and everyone of us, in our countries, our regions, to developing this solidarity especially in order to fight against the attacks which international institutions and capitalist groups are already wreaking in order to stop any social and economic furthering of these emerging revolutions, and to using this magnificent example to stimulate the mobilisations against the debt and the demands of the IMF.
Long live the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions !
International solidarity !
Nota :Social Movements Assembly in Dakar' WSF launched an appeal for a worldwide day of demonstrations on March 20th
Tunisia: Ligue de la Gauche Ouvrière Tunisienne
Iraq : Irak Freedom Congres
Union of communists-Irak
England : Socialist Worker’s Party
Belgium : LCR/SAP
Portugal : Bloco de Esquerda
Corse : A Manca
Italy : Sinistra Crítica
Spain State : Izquierda Anticapitalista,
Catalogna : En Lluita
Euskadi : Askapena
Irland : Socialist Worker Party
Poland : P.P.P.
Greece : SEK,
France : NPA
Canada : Socialist caucus of the New Democratic Party
Mexico : P.R.T.
Martinique : G.R.S.
Venezuela : Marea Socialista
Brasil : PSOL
Argentina: MST
Peru : P.R.T.
Indonesia : KPRM-PRD
Sri Lanka : NSSP
South Korea : New Progressive Party
Institute of the 21th Century Korean Research
KDLP. Paris Comitee
Australia : Socialist Alliance
La Réunion : NPAR
Switzerland :             MPS

Tunisia and the Arab Revolution


Osvaldo Coggiola
After 40 days of mobilisation and with over a hundred people dead, we are witnessing the "Jasmine Revolution" In Tunisia. It’s not just the fall of a family dictatorship, but the breakdown of a political regime and potentially a social system. It is also the beginning of a far-reaching revolutionary process in the Maghreb and throughout the Middle East. Imed Trabelsi was the nephew of Tunisia’s former first lady and he grew rich under the shadow of dictatorship, but he was assassinated his own bodyguard! The residence of Belhassen Trabelsi, brother of Ben Ali's wife Leila Trabelsi, was looted in the city of Sokra, so was the house of Hemi Trabelsi. The fall of Ben Ali and his family (his wife, Imelda Marcos-style, fled the country taking, not thousands of shoes like her Filipino inspiration, but half a ton of gold, over sixty million dollars) was the direct product of a palace coup, influenced by popular revolt, when the military chief not only refused to repress the people on the street, but also showed Ben Ali the back door. This led the former president to flee to Saudi Arabia, after being rejected by his ungrateful French and Italian sponsors. Ben Ali had recently been re-elected with record vote in “a country which enjoyed the highest living standard of the region, and had also wiped out the Islamists”, according to the comment of the surprised “mainstream media”.
During Ben Ali’s last days, the police, which could not cope with the mobilized masses, also faced army units. The new self-appointed government (consisting of dignitaries from the deposed regime along with the incorporation of three ministers from the “opposition”) was temporary in character (it promised to hold elections in six months). Despite that, it did not diffuse, but rather strengthened a popular mobilization which began to demand the complete extinction of the regime and the dissolution of the ruling “party” (the RCD, Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique, a true mafia). It continued more than ever on the street, now supported by the indefinite general strike from various sectors (in particular, teachers): “Neither a police state, nor a military state” was the more modulated slogan. The fall of Ben Ali is almost equivalent to the dismantling of the State, in a country where the national army has less than 30,000 men against the 1,60,000 members of the “security forces”(police), responsible for the protection of the ruling Mafia. The neighbours began to defend their neighbourhoods on their own against the thugs, and the regime's Mafia-like Praetorian Guard deposed: the working class in Tunisia has begun to arm itself with what little they have, to protect their neighbourhoods and to establish self-defence committees, creating embryos of workers’ power centres.

Tunisian Dictatorship

The Neo-Destour Party (New Constitution) (NDP), led by Habib Bourguiba, was formed in 1934. This formally marked the beginning of the Tunisian struggle for independence. In 1955 Tunisia achieved self-governance and, in 1957, independence as a constitutional monarchy. In 1957, the monarchy was overthrown and a republic was proclaimed, with Bourguiba as president. Despite Tunisia’s independence, France maintained its military presence through a naval base in Bizerte till 1963. In that year, after a blockade by the Tunisian navy, the French were forced to leave the country. During the 1970s, the government run by the Destourien Socialist Party (renamed as Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique in 1988) opened up the economy to foreign investment in all sectors, and allowed the development of the capitalist private sector.
Tunisia then was considered a “model country” by the Maghreb, the “Islamic” countries, and across Africa. It was praised by the IMF chairman, the French “socialist” Dominique Strauss-Kahn (now “the Commissioner’s Horse” for the upcoming French presidential elections). A free trade area took shape in 2001 among Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan. In 2001 the EU signed agreements with Tunisia to control “illegal immigration”, which materialised in the 5+5 Group in 2002 (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya).
Ben Ali, a despot, thief and torturer, is (or was) a prominent, and not just decorative, member of the “Socialist International”. In late 1995, the “socialist” Spanish president Felipe Gonzales travelled to Tunisia, during a period of complete repression of the “socialist” Tunisians, to sign a treaty of friendship and bilateral cooperation. He did not denounce the repression in public, and only gave his fellow Socialists a few minutes, standing at the reception hosted at the residence of Spain’s ambassador. Fifteen years later, the Foreign Ministry denied visas to several Tunisian activists to participate in a meeting in Madrid.
The Ben Alis are the direct owners of much of the Tunisian financial sector, with the Mediobanca and Zitouna banks (owned by Sakhr el Matri, Ben Ali’s son), the MAS for the governance of the capital’s airport services (owned by Slim Zarrouk, another son), the Cactus, which owns 60% of the national radio and TV (owned by Néji Mhiri, chairman of the Central Bank) and Dar Assabah Group, which publishes the daily Assabah and Le Temps (also owned by Sakhr el Matri). The Ennakl has a monopoly over transportation, and the Société Le Moteur has the licenses for Mercedes and Fiat. Ben Ali's family also owns Trabelsi airlines and Frip Karthago Airlines, as well as the administration of almost all urban real estate and vast land holdings.
The Arab International Bank of Tunisia went to the Mabruks, allies of Ben Ali. Leila’s sister Belhan Trabelsi controlled the Tunisian Bank and conferred the bank’s directorship upon the wife of Abdelwahab Abdallah, a provost of the regime. The family owns countless real-estate properties, tourist resorts and houses purchased with Euro. The import of alcoholic beverages in the country, the sugar company Bizerte, tuna fishery, monopoly over fishing in the lake bordering the capital, are other interests of the Trabelsis, the Mabruks and three or four other families under  Ben Ali’s leadership.
In this way, this “socialist” continued to usurp, with his criminal partners and with the complicity of European governments (in the first place, French), even “left” and foreign capitalist monopolies, almost the entire “Tunisian” sector of national economy, which was 80% immediately after the independence granted by France in 1957. The president’s family and his wife (a former hairdresser, second wife of “the leader of the nation”) pillaged Sidi Bou Said and Carthage, treasured archaeological cities, on behalf of museums and collectors in Europe and North America. During the period 1987-2009, the ruling family’s overseas transfers (to banks and tax havens) are estimated at 18 billion dollars, an amount equal to the country’s external debt. To end with, the aforementioned (and now presumed as dead) Imed Trabelsi, and his brother Moaz, nephews of Ben Ali’s wife were burglars denounced in international forums (including charges for stealing yachts of rich European tourists). They also managed the highly profitable business of trafficking and prostitution of minors. Personalised and power-hungry nationalism inevitably ends in the “clan economy” and social and moral degeneration. This historical trend reached its ultimate consequences in Tunisia.

Tunisia and Imperialism

Foreign monopolies happily became partners of this criminal economy, exploiting it to the end to get monstrous super-profits. French monopolies occupy first place in the list, in the tourism sector (Fram, Accor, Club Med, Nouvelles Frontières: all of them repatriated “the necessity” of their tourists), finance (BNP Paribas, Société Générale, BPCE, Groupe Caisse d'Epargne), distribution (Carrefour, Casino), telecommunications (Orange and Teleperformance), insurance (Groupama) and industry (Valeo, Faurecia, Sagem, Air Liquide, Danone, Renault, PSA, Sanofi Aventis, Total, Colas Rail, Alstom and General Electric France), with its Tunisian subsidiaries often chaired by members of the three major Mafia families in the country (Mabrouk, Trabelsi – related to the wife of the former president – and Ben Ali). Expropriation is waiting: not only the Tunisian criminals, but also their international sponsors, should be brought before an independent criminal court and made to pay for their crimes against the Arab people and Tunisia.
Let’s not forget the EU (European Union), which profited from Tunisia, with a free trade agreement implemented in 2008. Due to low wages and labour flexibility in the Maghreb the EU increasingly moved its industrial production to Tunisia and Morocco in recent decades. EU’s support to the clans of the north west African dictators is not a “political blindness”. Rather, it is a requirement of the European, including the German bourgeoisie, as a whole. As Michel Camau noted, Tunisia was almost “the twenty-eighth member of the EU”.
Even then, with its ten and a half million inhabitants, an economy “modern and liberal”, praised and supported by the IMF and the World Bank, the service sector occupying 54% of GDP (tourism employs more than 4,00,000 people), an advanced medical sector (not for the people, but cosmetic surgery, aimed first and foremost at the French and Italian customers with highly competitive prices in relation to the metropolis, in which liposuction, botox, silicone implants for breasts and the bottom, and other artificial extension of the capitalist illusion of “eternal youth” are not, and justifiably so, reimbursed by social security) and an “advanced” charter of freedom for women in relation to other “Islamic countries” (women do not use veil or burqa if they so desire; “the status of women is incomparably superior to that of neighbouring countries” said Juan Goytisolo), Tunisia was considered the “(imperial) pearl of the Mediterranean”, as Cuba was once (before the 1959 revolution)  the imperial “pearl”(brothel) in the Caribbean.
The post-independence (1957) “development” was uneven. The regions of south and north (initial centres of the revolt) are poor and backward, with the “wealth” concentrated in the west (hilly region), with phosphates (world’s second largest exporter), and on the coast, with a few industries and tourism. In recent times, however, Tunisia held a 5% annual growth, the highest in the region. But the crisis brought down the house of cards, highlighting the low wages and unemployment rates, officially (that is, below real levels) between 20% and 30%, in a population in which 75% are young, under 30 years (analysts estimate that the youth unemployment will reach 60%.)
The precise fact for the masses taking to the streets (provoked by the repressive action against street vendors) since last December, prompted by the suicide of an unemployed youth, reveals the development of a desperate social situation. The protests began spontaneously on the afternoon of 17th December, when Mohamed Bouazizi- an unemployed young man- despite his college diploma, blew himself up with fire to protest the confiscation of fruits and vegetables being sold at a street stall. Bouazizi's gesture was later imitated in many countries, from Egypt to Mauritania. As the anthropologist Hosham Dawod noted, self-immolation is not, in these cases, a religious act, but a political, even anti-religious one- “The symbolic use of fire wishes to tell the world: hell is here”.
Women have played a key role in this struggle, not due to the liberty of the rotten regime, but against it. Even before the outbreak of the revolt of 17th December in the town of Sidi Bouzid, there were a handful of women on the frontline. Among the best known are the lawyer Radhia Nasraoui, president of the Tunisian Association for the Struggle against Torture. Soon after learning about the Sidi Bouzid revolt, Nasraoui created a committee to support its inhabitants. Tunisian women had every reason to hate Ben Ali’s family dictatorship, and the entire regime. In 1993 Sihem Bensedrine, spokesperson of the National Committee for Liberties in Tunisia was the victim of a particular type of attack by the political police. They superimposed her face on that of a pornographic actress and distributed thousands of copies of the photo-montage. In 2003, Radhia Nasraoui did not take a bite for 57 days to protest against repression, while the “Western democracies” looked the other way.
In Tunisia the main source of employment is (or, perhaps, was) tourism, especially sexual (once again, like in pre-revolutionary Cuba). This  “modern and unprejudiced” tourism is organised by thriving companies like Club Med, founded and headed by a modern “May 68 veteran” and targeted at the abundant (and spectacularly stupid) French middle class. That class is “liberally” prepared to repeat the African sexual exploits of their paedophile literary idol André Gide, constantly and with predetermined and prepaid prices. Hence, the much-praised pseudo-freedom of women and youth (in a country with no freedom), is the “freedom” necessary for the commercial transformation of their bodies. A couple of decades ago the award-winning Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun wrote a story in Le Monde, dramatising this exploitation against the backdrop of a Tunisian subsidiary of Club Med. That provoked an angry reaction from frightened readers (surely also customers of the disgusting “tourist” trade).

The Revolt and the European Debacle

The same Tahar Ben Jelloun now writes that “the events of Tunisia have a historical significance for the entire Arab world. They signify a shock wave that can arouse the masses of Algeria, Cairo, Damascus and other countries with authoritarian and unpopular regimes”. Morocco banned solidarity demonstrations with the Tunisian revolt, but the people in Egypt and Algeria ruled the streets chanting “Tunisia shows the way”. All the people and the Arab world are with Tunisia. This nation has risen to shake the crap of imperial and neo-colonial exploitation accumulated over decades (and centuries), aided, in recent decades, by “nationalist” complicity.
The Lebanese Government has just suffered an electoral defeat to the benefit of Hezbollah. The Lebanese left-wing daily As Safir argued that “this is the first popular Arabic revolution of the 21st century and it’s a model for a long-awaited change in the Arab world.” In Jordan hundreds of protesters gathered outside the parliament demanding the government’s resignation. In Egypt, a key Middle Eastern country, the masses ruled the streets shouting “we neither want Mubarak nor his son” … 
In the early days of the Tunisian mobilisation, the French foreign minister, Michelle Alliot-Marie (called MAM...) offered Ben Ali the know-how of the French police to combat street demonstrations (literally, France “proposes that Tunisia use our Police know-how to manage their security issues”). The French press now criticizes that gesture as a test of political stupidity. MAM, however, only expressed the conscience (admittedly idiotic) of an entire social class, accustomed to regard the former colonies (Tunisia was a French colony for 75 years) as the backyard of the metropolis. On 28thApril, 2008, during his travels to Tunisia, President Sarkozy declared: “Your country is engaged in the promotion of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.” A few months later, the IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said in the capital of Tunis, Ben Ali's regime was “the best model for many emerging countries”.
A passing mention needs to be made to the other French ministers, such as Bruno Le Maire (Agriculture) and the very expressive Frédéric Mitterrand (Culture), nephew of the former “socialist” president, and now serving the current right-wing president). They expressed themselves in terms similar to MAM. On the contrary, L'Express (this magazine is for the ultra-decadent French imperialism what The Economist is for the Anglo-American empire) made no mistake in devoting their cover issue to the Tunisian rebellion and titling it “Arab revolution” in alarm. MAM realised the same thing when she travelled to Gaza (Palestine) to engage in a bit of “democratic” demagoguery using the oppressed Palestinians who, in response (and aware of the offer to Ben Ali) pelted her convoy with eggs.
Later, Sarkozy commented on Tunisia: “We were not able to see their despair,” but this was a huge pile of shit. The French history is long. In 1997, the “socialist” (former "Trotskyist"!) prime minister Lionel Jospin met Ben Ali and eulogized him (now left to be explained). This was nothing strange; they were "partners" in the “Socialist International”.
Vis-à-vis the debacle of European diplomacy (not only French but also Spanish and Italian) the US, considered the possibility of entering foreign territory and “welcomed”, along with Barack Obama, “the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people” (of course they did not make this gesture to the people of Honduras in similar circumstances). A few days before the fall of Ben Ali, the Tunisian army top-brass contacted the US embassy and urged them not to intervene in the repression. Much earlier the US and then the EU had detected the impending catastrophe of Ben Ali’s regime and maneuvered to differentiate itself from the the old regime.
Obama finally “applauded” the Tunisian people, but only after the fall of Ben Ali. Having reported daily on incidents in Iran after the elections last year, and constantly insisted on the murder of Neda, one of the few victims of the mullahs in those incidents, the media of the imperialist countries looked the other way while the youth was massacred in Tunisia (and later in Algeria). Both the US and the EU remained silent until the last moment, because they considered the pro-imperialist Ben Ali, who was even subservient to Zionism, useful to their interests. France also fears a mass revolutionary victory in North Africa, because it could motivate the Beurs (the youth of North African origin born in France), who have been the recent rebels in the suburbs of France and a new round of insurrection. The population factor is another link that unites the two shores of the Mediterranean.

Global Crisis and Revolution

The initial spark of the Tunisian revolution had its roots in the world capitalist crisis, which instigated, as in 2008, a strong speculation on raw materials, especially on grains. In India the prices of staple foods rose by 18%, in China by 12%.According to the official figures of the FAO, 29 countries are in emergency situation for food crisis.
In the Maghreb countries such price-rise reached 30% average in the main ingredients, bread (wheat), oil, sugar and semolina: the cost of flour and oil doubled in recent months, reaching record prices, while a kilogram of sugar, which cost 70 dinars or about 0.7 Euros just a few months ago, has risen to 150 dinars or 1.5 Euros. Governments carried out successive devaluations to balance budgets ravaged by the concessions made to big capital (domestic and foreign). This contributed to the catastrophe of Maghreb.
In Algeria, an oil country (OPEC member), with nearly $ 160 billion stacked in foreign bank reserves “the youngsters are infuriated with the regime. They do not understand why a rich country is unable to offer jobs, homes and a decent life to its people”. The rebellion initially left two dead and 320 injured and dozens of police injured by popular anger. The revolt, which began in Oran, western Algeria's capital, spread to 18 of the 48 provinces of Algeria. According to El Watan, the protests reached the towns of Dejlfa, Ouargla and other regions. Young Azzedine Lebza tried to penetrate the headquarters of the prefecture in M'sila with other protesters. He was shot dead. Popular revolt turned directly against the centres of political power. After its inception, the “food riot” transformed rapidly to political rebellion against the government.
These incidents are of nationalist origin (Destour party, Tunisia) and are even “revolutionary”, along with the Algerian FLN, National Liberation Front, founded in 1954 and main protagonist in the armed struggle for independence (1954-1962), in which more than 1.5 million Algerians died (Algerian independence was declared on 5th July, 1962). Nevertheless, the bureaucratic dictatorships are extremely corrupt (Algerian military; the official internal documents of the US revealed by Wiki-leaks, in turn, defined the Tunisian government as a “Mafia”, based on crony capitalism, capitalism of associates) and allied to imperialism: in Tunisia, the “President-elect” Ben Ali (with almost 90% votes, an authentic “Lula index”) ruled for 24 years (his predecessor, Bourguiba, ruled for 30 years, with Ben Ali as his “minister of security” in the 1980's. They are the only two presidents of independent Tunisia.)
It is worth remembering that Ben Ali climbed to power in 1987 through a mini-coup against the senile Bourguiba. It was a crisis prevention policy, a coup orchestrated by the Italian government run by “socialist” Bettino Craxi (hence the good relationship between Ben Ali and the Socialist International). At that time, a spokesman for the Italian “services” revealed that Craxi Andreotti, the head of Sismi Martini and the head of dell'Eni Reviglio gave birth to the successful Tunisian coup. They were the cream of the Italian (criminal) state.

The fall of Ben Ali and the “National Union”

Vis-à-vis the protests, Ben Ali reformed his Cabinet (dismissing, among others, the interior minister who was responsible for repressing the people and the media). On 12th January, he was desperate and ordered the release of all those arrested during the unrest. He also created a special committee “to investigate corruption”. The “tolerant opposition” (PDP) attempted a “recovery from the rebellion” (criticising government sectors, but not intending the government to fall). But the masses remained in the streets, shouting slogans against “ the executioners of the people” and spontaneously swarmed the premises of the UGTT (General Union of the Workers of Tunisia, the principal trade union).
Ben Ali promised 3, 00,000 new jobs on the television. The popular response was “We don’t care about unemployment; we want Ben Ali’s arrest”. Even the lawyers joined the protests against the repression of the unemployed youth (“The strike is a clear message that we do not accept unwarranted attacks against lawyers,” said the president of the Tunisian Bar Association, who said that 95% of 8,000 Tunisian lawyers supported the strike), making it clear that the entire country was against the political regime.
In Algeria, the minister of trade, Mustafa Benben, announced a special inter-ministerial council dedicated to examining how to tackle the rising price of staple food. At that time, the people in the street were proceeding to “test” him. The president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika (another “life-timer”), also promised one million dollars to build new houses before 2014. Aspirin for cancer! The post-colonial nationalism in the former French colony has been unable to uplift their country’s fortunes, even the most basic issues, of late, in Tunisia, the basic food depends on annual imports of 1, 00, 000 tons of grain; in Algeria, 3, 50, 000. Hunger (immediate) and unemployment (historical) provoked rebellion with clearly revolutionary overtones. “The entire Maghreb seems to be under the influence of a rebellion,” said the Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, alarmed by events in the two countries lying on the side-walks of the Mediterranean (Algeria and Tunisia are the African countries most directly linked to Europe). But he was wrong about the arena, because it includes the entire Middle East and Arab countries.
The Algerian regime responded to the demonstrations with brutal repression. Five people died and nearly 900 were wounded, but events had to be reversed due to the danger of an eventual popular revolt. This is what happened in Tunisia. The government announced subsidies and repealed certain taxes, which would result in a 40% decline in food prices. The government also designed a new housing plan for 2014, which led to a decline in the protests.However, the split between large segments of the population- particularly among young workers - and the government was complete.
The Islamic clerical hierarchy, both in Tunisia and Algeria, called for calm, to which the population did not pay any attention. On Saturday, the 8th January, police and RCD militia launched a veritable slaughter of the demonstrators. But on the 4th January, the militant currents of the UGTT took on the pro-reconciliation management of the trade union, in its plenary session. From 11th January, regional factories were free to launch general strikes. Six trade union federations (teachers, postal services, telephone, medical services, pharmaceutical sector, and government servants) called a general strike and street demonstrations. After decades of repression, the working class emerged as the potential leader of popular rebellion.
Sudan also was affected by student demonstrations in the capital. These took place in protest against price increase when the government abolished subsidies on petroleum products and sugar. However, the demonstrations in this country are marked by an overall policy crisis. The Moroccan government, meanwhile, prevented a solidarity protest at the Embassy of Tunisia fearing that the demonstrations could start in their own territory. The regime of Mohamed VI has its own crisis at home; just a few months ago he unleashed a ferocious repression against the Saharawi people to curb self-determination of the people and to maintain control over the region. Zapatero, the Spanish “socialist” openly supported it.
On the 14th January there were mass demonstrations in Tunisia across the country. It was the cry of “permanent rebellion, say no to Ben Ali”.  Slogans like “Some bread, some water, yes, but not Ben Ali”, and “Ben Ali, assassin. Ben Ali should leave” were also chanted. After a failed attempt at declaring a state of emergency against an unstoppable movement, Ben Ali resigned and fled to Saudi Arabia. With the fall of Ben Ali, a substitute government was formed, led by Mohamed Ghannouchi (Prime Minister of Ben Ali since 1999), with the participation of (former) “opposition” Najib Chebbi, of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), and Ahmed Ibrahim, of the Communist Party, Ettajdid. After designating three ministers in this government, UGTT refused to recognize or support it. Popular pressure and pressure from the working-class elementarily sustained the independence of class vis-à-vis the pseudo-democratizing manoeuvre.

A Revolutionary Crisis

Ghannouchi, hated by the people, was forced to resign by the Constitutional Council, 16 hours after taking over reign. Required by law to call elections within 60 days, Fuad Mebaza, head of the Parliament relieved him. The new government had to release all those detained previously. However, at the same time, a commando kidnapped Hamma Hammami, leader of the PCOT (Communist Workers Party of Tunisia). There were riots and fires in the prisons of Gafsa and Kaserín regions (center-west) and those of Bizerta and Mornaguia (north). The “7th of November Square” (date of Ben Ali’s rise to power in 1987) was renamed “Martyrs' Square”. the awareness of independent historical action was present in the entire population.
The new “unity government”, commissioned by Fuad Mebaza, retained the four major ministries of the former Executive: Defense, Finance, Foreign Affairs and Interior, the latter appointed a week before Ben Ali’s fall. 12 of the 20 new ministers are members of the deposed president’s party: “The members of Ben Ali’s party belonging to the government were not connected to the repression and corruption. They are technocrats who have not soiled their hands,” justified Seddik Umayyad , a member of the PDP leadership. The former “opposition” took secondary charges: Health, Regional Development and Higher Education. On the streets, shouting activists attacked Ahmed Ibrahim, leader of Ettajdid, one of the ‘opposition’ parties. Ben Ali had given him authority and had made him part of the government.
One need not be too intelligent to perceive the trap that Tunisia has fallen into, after the revolution. For Fathi Chamkhi, a member of the Tunisian League for Human Rights, the composition of the Cabinet is “deplorable”: “The problems are deeper than anger against a family. This regime of theatre actors would have us believe that the Tunisians just hated Ben Ali and Trabelsi, and now everything is fine. What people want is work. The new government is the counter-revolution.” “Ali Baba is gone! Now the 40 thieves must go!”- chanted the demonstrators protesting the permanence of Ministers of the former regime.
The three ministers from UGTT (Anouar Ben Gueddour, Abdeljelil Bedoui and Houssine Dimassi, who had assumed the Ministry of Labour), and leader of the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties resigned. After joining it they refused to further recognise the new government (knowing, of course, its composition of continuing nature). The union's general secretary made it clear that this action was being taken in “response to the demands of the people in streets”. He reported that they were also withdrawing their representatives from the Parliament and the Economic and Social Council. The crisis was complete, and its base is the continuation and radicalisation of the working-class and popular movement. Even the police was changing its tune- “The Police says no to dictatorship”, “the town has let off the police” are slogans written on the streets. The state agents claimed the right to create a trade-union, wage increases and swore at the Chief Inspector Ali Mansur: “We just obeyed orders. Now we need protection.” “We have also been victims of the regime.”
However, the “Communist” and Islamic bourgeois opposition claimed two things from the government in continuation - “an agreement with the real opposition” and organization of a democratic political process. The left-wing and the followers of “radical” nationalism claimed, at most, the expropriation of the assets of Ben Ali and his family (the major portion of these are held with foreign banks) or, as in the case of Tunisian CP, a constituent assembly convened by the “government of national unity”, rather than the complete destruction of the old regime. They also wanted a control by workers and the people over every production (mainly of foreign monopolies), the exchange control and the nationalization of the financial system as basic measures for safeguarding the national and popular economy.

The Arab Revolt

2011 is a year of elections in Africa and therefore prone to political crisis. There will be elections in Nigeria, Benin, Chad and Congo. But the explosion in Egypt is the inevitable next step in the Arab revolution, with implications for the entire Middle East and world politics. A joke going around in Cairo gives an idea of the issue: “Ben Ali's plane stopped in Sharm-El-Sheikh (where lies the residence of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak) to take more passengers.” The 82-year old dictator with the approval of imperialism has been ruling Egypt for over 30 years under an Emergency Act. Now he is in the spotlight since his Tunisian counterpart boarded an aircraft: imperialism is preparing for its own replacement.
The Nile country with a population of 85 million people (one third of the Arab population) of which almost half live below the poverty line, has seen real riots in the streets when the price of bread increased. In the last year prices of basic commodities shot up - the prices of Meat and poultry increased by 28.7%, milk products 8.1%, fruit and vegetables 16.2% and sugar 16.3%.
In Egypt, the state provides subsidised bread to a large number of Egyptians whose diet does not constitute of any meat due to its short supply. The price of meat is 75 Egyptian pounds (10 Euros) a kilo, while a teacher's salary is 1,000 pounds (133 Euros) per month. As a palliative measure, Egypt annually buys an average of eight million tonnes of wheat to produce bread. In 2008 fifty people lost their lives in fights ensuing in queues formed near the bakeries. But now the mobilisation in Egypt is directly political, against the dictatorial, repressive and corrupt regime. “Listen to the Tunisians, now it is up to the Egyptians,” chanted the demonstrators.
Tunisia’s path shines in contrast to the imperialist “exercise of democracy” in Iraq. Egyptian masses have begun to flock to the street. Opposition movements such as Kifaya, the 6th of April Youth or We Are All Khaled Said (a young man tortured to death by police in 2009) are trying to organize a popular uprising to end the government of the President. They have changed their profile pictures in Facebook, with an image that merges the Egyptian and Tunisian flag and  are preparing for an international outcry against Tunisian embassies abroad. The imperialist looters (in Iraq and Lebanon) of the great Arab civilization and its lackeys; kings, sheiks, emirs (Gulf countries), dictators (in Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Sudan and Libya) and bureaucrats (of Palestine): all tremble In Israel, the deputy Prime Minister (Shalom) stated that the Tunisian events constitute a threat to the Zionist state...
The revolution in Tunisia is a mass response to the effects of international capitalist bankruptcy. This is happening in a continent where the economic growth figures translate into a major exploitation of the territory by the imperialist powers and in a worsening of mass living conditions. The social, political and humanitarian crisis throughout Africa is the consequence of centuries of brutal exploitation and plunders by the imperialist powers. They had used the African continent according to their own tastes and needs, as nowhere else. This historical trend can only be intensified in the context of the capitalist crisis, which exacerbates the old and new contradictions. The Tunisian dictatorship had been running for more than a quarter of a century. The process of a working-class and popular response to the crisis that toppled such a dictatorship has begun. It lays open the prospect of an emergence from the abyss.
As stated by the DIP (Initiative for a Revolutionary Workers Party) from Turkey: “The Tunisian revolution is, by far the most important consequence in this zone of the class struggle of the great depression that shook the world since 2008. The immediate cause of the long months of struggle that culminated in the revolution was the rise in unemployment to an unbearable level, as a result of the blow given to the tourism industry by the economic crisis that has spread around the world and rocked Europe, Tunisia's rich neighbor and the main source of income for the Tunisian economy. Moreover, the harsh measures imposed by the EU to prevent the immigration of workers in the context of the crisis has destroyed the hope of the youth of North Africa in individual salvation. In this regard, the Tunisian revolution has been marked by the same dynamics that led to the rebellion in Greece in 2008 and formidable class struggle in this country in 2010, Tekel's struggle in Turkey in 2010, general strikes and students' rebellions in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Britain throughout 2010. Echoing the accumulated contradictions and traditions of the class struggle of the European countries of the Mediterranean coast, the poor, the unemployed and the working class of northern Africa now rise up.The Mediterranean is becoming a basin of revolution.”
Frightened by the Tunisian revolution, the Arab League came to play the role of fire-fighter, pooling two billion dollars to help the “poorest countries”. “The Tunisian revolution is not far,” said its secretary general, Amr Moussa. All the mechanisms for political co-optation and policies for class-based collaboration will be implemented to neutralize the Arab revolution.
The terrorism of a religious matrix has achieved spectacular feats. Despite them, we have seen its political failure for over a decade, not to mention the complete haziness of its objectives. The independence of class, the constitution of a revolutionary character and proletarian internationalism now constitute the key Arab victory, more than ever. The ongoing revolution will change political coordinates in every continent, in a shorter period than expected.
2011 26th January


17th December. Bouazizi Mohamed, an unemployed 26-year-old sets himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid in protest against the crisis. Bouazizi dies in hospital on 5th January.
24th December. The first two protesters are killed as a result of Police shooting in a demonstration at Bouzayane Menzel, a town in the mid-west.
2nd January. Anonymous, a group of hackers announces Operation Tunisia in solidarity with the demonstrations. The Websites of the Tunisian Government collapse due to a series of attacks on the internet.
4th January. Announcements are made for a general strike to protest the government’s repression. Tunisian workers mobilize against the bureaucracy that runs the country's  labour confederation, the UGTT. It is aligned with the government and after weeks of demonstrations against its bureaucracy, it has to call the general strike.
7th January. Ben Ali's government launches a major repressive operation and arrests dozens of journalists and activists. The opposition claims several people as missing.
8th January. The trade-union UGTT calls the strike. Six demonstrators are killed and six others are seriously injured during the protests at Tala. Three other people die in clashes with the Police in the region of Kasserine.
10th January. In a televised speech, Ben Ali seeks to “soothe spirits” and promises 300,000 jobs.
11th January. The government acknowledges 18 deaths in clashes while trade-unions claim more than 50. Protests continue and Ben Ali decrees a curfew in Beja, Gafsa, Kasserine and Telab.
12th January. The curfew extends to the capital, taken over by armoured vehicles. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghanouchi dismisses Interior Minister Rafik Belhaj Kacem and announces that some detainees will be released.
13th January. President Ben Ali announces his retirement in 2014 and promises a "comprehensive and profound political change." The protests on the street do not cease and there are 13 more deaths.
14th January. Thousands of people demonstrate in the capital, shouting “Out with Ben Ali!”. The president dismisses the government and decrees a state of emergency. Then he flees Tunisia. The Prime Minister (Ghannouchi) assumes the interim presidency of the country.
15th January. Ghannouchi, hated in the streets, is forced to resign. As required by the law, Fuad Mebaza, Head of the Parliament, is obliged to convene elections within 60 days. The new government frees detainees.
16th to 24th January. The Tunisian government declares three days of national mourning to commemorate the victims of the repression. The events continue in the Tunisian territory, from the capital to the remote southern town of Tataouine. Owner of the only private TV channel in Tunisia is detained and charged with "treason" for promoting violence against the popular uprising.
25th January. The Egyptian people swarm the streets of Cairo and other cities, demanding an end to the government of Hosni Mubarak and his family dynasty. “Tunisian” Demonstrations increase in all Arab countries.


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Public Meeting at Kumirmari

Public Meeting at Kumirmari

Sushovan Dhar

The Sundarban Banadhikar Sangram Committee(SBSC) had been formed last October to initiate the work of organising the forest and forest-dependent people in the Sunderbans.

A unit of SBSC was formed in Kumirmari island of the Sunderbans in January 2011. The frist public meeting of SBSC was held at Kumirmari island on Wednesday, February 2, 2011. The meeting was addressed by Sushovan Dhar, Pratip Nag, Ashok Mondal, Rabindranath Mondal and the Panchayat Pradhan of Kumirmari Parimal Gayen. The was presided by the President of the Kumirmari unit of SBSC Paritosh Mondal.

The speakers highlighted in details and with references the plight of the community and the associated perils of their livelihood due to the oppression of the Forest Department. According to estimates, a vast number of people especially those living on the fringes of the forest depend upon the forests for their lives and livelihood. They collect firewood, honey and beeswax and a huge population are fisher-folks and shrimp farmers. Today, the area provides a livelihood at some seasons of the year for an estimated 300,000 people. Local people are also dependent on the forests and waterways for firewood, charcoal, timber for boats and furniture, poles for house-posts and rafters, nypa palm thatch for roofing, grass for matting reeds for fencing, fish, crabs and shrimps taken for food.

There is a regular harrasment from the forest department without settling peoples' rights under Forest Rights Act 2006(FRA). The Act clearly establishes (a) Community Rights or rights over common property resources of the communities in addition to their individual rights (b) Rights in and over disputed land (c) Right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which the communities have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use (d) Right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge related to biodiversity and cultural diversity (e) Rights of displaced communities, etc.

The meeting concluded with a pledge to intensify the community struggle for the establishment of traditional rights as guranteed under FRA.

View images of the meeting at Kumirmari

WSF Declaration of the Social Movements Assembly

WSF Declaration of the Social Movements Assembly
12 February 2011

As the Social Movements Assembly of the World Social Forum of Dakar, 2011, we are gathered here to affirm the fundamental contribution of Africa and its peoples in the construction of human civilisation. Together, the peoples of all the continents are struggling mightily to oppose the domination of capital, hidden behind illusory promises of economic progress and political stability. Complete decolonization for oppressed peoples remains for us, the social movements of the world, a challenge of the greatest importance.
We affirm our support for and our active solidarity with the people of Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab world who have risen up to demand a true democracy and build the people´s power. Their struggles are lighting the path to another world, free from oppression and exploitation.

We strongly affirm our support for the Ivory Coast, African and world peoples in their struggles for sovereign and participatory democracy. We defend the right to self-determination for all peoples.
Through the WSF process, the Social Movements Assembly is the place where we come together through our diversity, in order to forge common struggles and a collective agenda to fight against capitalism, patriarchy, racism and all forms of discrimination.

We are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Social Forum, which was first held in Porto Alegre in 2001. Since that time, we have built a common history of work which led to some progress, particularly in Latin America, where we have been able to intervene in neoliberal alliances and to create several alternatives for just development that truly honor nature.
In these ten years, we have also witnessed the eruption of a systemic crisis that has expanded into a food crisis, an environmental crisis, and financial and economic crises, and has led to an increase in migrations and forced displacement, exploitation, debt levels and social inequities.
We denounce the part played by the main actors in the system (banks, transnational companies, the mass media, international institutions, …) who, in their constant quest for maximum profits, continue with their interventionist politics of war, military occupation, so-called humanitarian missions, new military bases, plundering natural resources, exploitation of entire peoples, and ideological manipulation. We also denounce their attempts to co-opt our movements through their funding of social sectors that serve their interests, and we reject their methods of assistance which generate dependence.

Capitalism´s destructive force impacts every aspect of life itself, for all the peoples of the world. Yet each day we see new movements rise, struggling to reverse the ravages of colonialism and to achieve well-being and dignity for all. We declare that we, the people, will no longer bear the costs of their crisis and that, within capitalism, there is no escape from this crisis. This only reaffirms the need for us, as social movements, to come together to forge a common strategy to guide our struggles against capitalism.
We fight against transnational corporations because they support the capitalist system, privatize life, public services and common goods such as water, air, land, seeds and mineral resources. Transnational corporations promote wars through their contracts with private corporations and mercenaries ; their extractionist practices endanger life and nature, expropriating our land and developing genetically modified seeds and food, taking away the peoples’ right to food and destroying biodiversity.

We demand that all people should enjoy full soverignty in choosing their way of life. We demand the implementation of policies to protect local production, to give dignity to agricultural work and to protect the ancestral values of life. We denounce neoliberal free-trade treaties and demand freedom of movement for all the human beings.
We will continue to mobilize to ask for the unconditional abolition of public debt in all the countries in the South. We also denounce, in the countries of the North, the use of public debt to impose to unfair policies that degrade the social welfare state.

When the G8 and G20 hold their meetings, let us mobilize across the world to tell them, No ! We are not commodities! We will not be traded !
We fight for climate justice and food sovereignty. Global climate change is a product of the capitalist system of production, distribution and consumption. Transnational corporations, international financial institutions and governments serving them do not want to reduce greenhouse gases. We denounce ¨green capitalism ¨ and refuse false solutions to the climate crisis such as biofuels, genetically modified organisms and mechanisms of the carbon market like REDD, which ensnare impoverished peoples with false promises of progress while privatizing and commodifying the forests and territories where these peoples have been living for thousands of years.

We defend the food sovereignty and the agreement reached during the Peoples’ Summit against Climate Change, held in Cochabamba, where true alternatives to face the climate crisis were built with the social movements and organisations from worldwide.
Let’s mobilize, all of us, especially on the African continent, during the COP 17 in Durban in South Africa and in « Rio +20 » in 2012, to reassert the peoples’ and nature’s rights and block the illegitimate Cancun Agreement.

We support sustainable peasant agriculture ; it is the true solution to the food and climate crises and includes access to land for all who work on it. Because of this, we call for a mass mobilisation to stop the landgrab and support local peasants struggles. ´ We fight against violence against women, often conducted in militarily occupied territories, but also violence affecting women who are criminalized for taking part in social struggles. We fight against domestic and sexual violence perpetrated on women because they are considered objects or goods, because the sovereignty of their bodies and minds is not acknowledged. We fight against the trade in women, girls and boys. We call on everyone to mobilize together, everywhere in the world, against violence against women. We defend sexual diversity, the right to gender self-determination and we oppose all homophobia and sexist violence.

We fight for peace and against war, colonialism, occupations and the militarization of our lands.
The imperialist powers use military bases to trigger conflicts, control and plunder natural resources, and support anti-democratic initiatives, as they did with the coup in Honduras and the military occupation of Haiti. They promote wars and conflicts as in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and many others.
We must intensify the fight against repression and the criminalisation of the people’s struggles and strengthen the solidarity and initiatives between peoples, such as the Global Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel. Our struggle also aims at NATO and to ban all nuclear weapons.
Each of these struggles implies a battle of ideas in which we cannot progress without democraticizing communication. We affirm that it is possible to build another kind of globalization, made from and by the people, and with the essential participation of the youth, the women, the peasants and indigenous peoples.

The Assembly of the Social Movements calls the forces and popular actors from all countries to develop two major mobilisations, coordinated on the international level, to participate in the emancipation and selfdetermination of the people and strengthen the struggle against capitalism.
Inspired by the struggles of the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt, we call for March 20th to be made a day of international solidarity with the uprisings of the Arab and African people, whose every advance supports the struggles of all peoples: the resistance of the Palestinian and Saharian peoples ; European, Asian and African mobilisations against debt and structural adjusment plans ; and all the processes of change underway in Latin America.
We also call for a Global Day of Action Against Capitalism on October 12th, when we express in myriad ways our rejection of a system that is destroying everything in its path.
Social movements of the world, let us advance towards a global unity to shatter the capitalist system !
We shall prevail!

Eric Toussaint
345 Avenue de l'Observatoire
4000 Liège

Abdul Khaliq Shah
Focal Person,
Campaign for Abolition
of Third World Debt (CADTM)-Pakistan
E.mail: cadtm.pakistan@gmail

Notes on the international situation

Notes on the international situation

SABADO François

20 January 2011


Circulated January 20th, 2011, these notes have been written prepare the debates at the coming International Committee (IC) meeting of the Fourth International. Centered then mostly on Europe, they will be reworked in function of the quick evolution of the situation (Arab region...) and the IC debates.
1. The current moment of the crisis
The world crisis continues. It has entered its fourth year. Its unfolding takes the form of financial crises, crises on the food product or raw material markets and crises of the public debt. Its combined character –economic, financial, social and climatic- is confirmed. Some, like Paul Krugman (an economist identifed with the left of the US Democratic Party) suggest that this Third Depression resembles both the stagnation which began in Europe and the United States in the 1870s - he calls it the Long Depression – and the stagnation of the 1930s which he calls the Great Depression. Thus, he writes “We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense." This phase of “depression” is not only the result of financial crises but also the exhaustion of the economic and financial mode of accumulation of the last thirty years. Neither in Europe nor the USA is there the equivalent of the upturn in the world economy of the 1940s and 50s, and policies of generalised indebtedness no longer compensate for the limits of economic growth.
The dominant classes and the governments have contained the financial crisis of 2008 which could have ravaged the world economy but the cost of the state interventions to save the banks and world finance have worsened the economic situation of each region or country: after the recessions of 2008 and 2009, current growth rates and those predicted for the long term are weak: 3% in 2011 and 3. 5 % in 2012. This breaks down as follows in the various zones: 1 to 2 % in Europe, 2 to 3 % in the USA ; and 6 to 7% in the so called emergent countries. Unemployment rates in the main capitalist countries remain high, around official figures 10%, in fact much higher. Poverty is increasing, hitting in particular women, youth and immigrants. All the talk of emergence from crisis or claims that the “the worst of the crisis is behind us” does not hide the slide into crisis and the absence of upturn of the world economy, notably in the USA and Europe. From this viewpoint, we could say that the crisis is above all that of the Westeern world and that China, India, and a series of countries in Asia and Latin America have avoided crisis or developed despite the crisis. The growth rates of these countries are indubitable facts, but they also suffer from the contraction of the market and world trade. And above all, these countries still do not have the capacity to relaunch the world economy, even if the Chinese and Indian growth rates remain impressive. Don’t forget that 42% of China’s GDP originates from its exports, and that a Chinese upturn will depend on its capacities to construct an internal market, with new infrastructures, wage increases and social security. We have the premises of it but it is not yet stabilised.
The crisis also takes the form, notably in the under-developed or developing countries, of an explosion in the price of raw materials, impoverishing the people. The Tunisian revolution is the combination of a social explosion against a terrible increase in basic food prices and the rejection of the dictatorship of Ben Ali. This dual social and democratic demand is at the heart of these movements. These movements against price rises and for democracy could not spread to a number of Arab countries. The demonstrations in Algeria, Jordan, Egypt or Yemen express, each in their own way and taking account of their national specificities, this profound movement.
2. The new neoliberal offensive
In the battle between capital and labour, the crisis is a lever for the dominant classes who use it to destroy a series of social rights and gains. Since profit rates cannot be restored by production and mass consumption, world competition demands further lowering of the cost of labour in Europe and the USA. It is necessary to attack, deregulate, privatise. This capitalist offensive settles the debates and questions on the choice of a Keynesian turn for the dominant classes.
It is about attack, frontal attack, not social compromise. Little reflation, little reconstruction, no “demand” policies, no social and public redeployment of the state, loss of speed also of all the projects of “green capitalism”. After some weeks of panic, the financialisation of the economy and the power of the financial markets have been restored. One can even speak of a second wave of the neoliberal offensive after that of the 1980s. In any case, the social destruction waged by the employers and the governments are as indeed stronger than in those days. The crisis now the lever of a new historic phase of neoliberal counter reforms. It is also through the deepening of the crisis that we should follow the development of the situation not only in the imperialist centres but also in the so called "emergent” countries.
This crisis can slow up the development of the latter, it can also demand new austerity plans which hit the popular classes. From her accession to power, Dilma Rouusef is preparing an austerity plan for Brazil. This new offensive has a global character. Nothing escapes capitalist globalisation, its unequal exchanges, its remodelling of labour power, it challenge to a series of social rights. It also affects by the pressure of the world market the progressive experiences of recent years in Latin America. It even strikes at the heart of the Cuban economy. What would be the consequences of the “privatisation” of a whole sector of the Cuban work force on the relation of socio-political forces in Cuba and in Latin America? But there is no fatality. The attititude of the progressive governemnts of Latin America and the Cuban leadership in relation to the crisis constitute a key test of the development of these currents.
We should expect new social and political struggles including inside the “Bolivarian movements”.
According to their relations to the mass movements, this or that option can dominated. From this viewpoint, the recent hestitations of Morales in Bolivia, on the increase in the price of oil constitute an example of the crises which can develop in these countries. In a series of regions of the world, in Africa or in Asia, the pressure of the economic and social crisis, the miltary and political offenisves of imperialism in a situation of weakenign of Western hegemony, the weakening or absence of socialist or even progressive nationalist alternative, lead to situations where there is a mixture of resistance to neocolonialism, conflict between factions of the dominant clases, ethnic conflicts – this is the case with the situation in the Ivory Coast - or religious conflicts. In a region like Pakistan and Afghanistan, opposition to the exactions of Western imperialism is combined with a rise of reactionary Islamist forces who attack the rights of women and democratic rights. In this conjuncture, the construction of camps or fronts which oppose imperialism, but also the Islamist reactionary religious currents, is decisive for the future.
3. The shift in the world’s tipping centre sharpens
The crisis accentuates the change in the world relation of forces with the rise of the emergent countries, the decline of the USA and above all Europe. The Western world, above all the US, conserves its political and military power and maintains its economic strength but it is falling back in relation to China and in its relatons with the other rising powers. China is already the world’s second biggest power. It has even conquered first place in key sectors like computer production. Its military force and its armse expenditure have increased considerably, seeking to make of it a first order power in the coming years.
The presence of China in the world is undergoing a real expansion: big worksites in Africa and Latin America, large scale exploitation of territories for the production of raw materials and food products; purchase of the debt of countries “in difficulty” in Eruope; Greece, Portugal and Spain,
We should also relate this development with the growth of the other so-called emergent countries - India or Brazil - and the countries of Aisa and Latin America which affect this growth.
It is necessary, in this context, that the comrades from Latin America, Asia and Africa report on the situation in their region. One cannot for example separate the balance sheet of “Lulaism” from the new place of Brazil in the world, and its capacities to develop the financial markets but also its policy of state assistance which has obtained results. In this new world equilibrium, the US is in decline but keeps its political-military power, its huge market and “its dollar” it is Europe which is falling back. Some even speak of the crisis of the Eurocentrism which has dominated the world since 1492- the date of the discovery of America; but what is striking is this weakening of Europe in the world competition, worsened by the crisis. It s a structural factor preceding and concomitant to the world crisis. One of the striking elements of the current historic period and the crisis is the structural weakening of Europe.
4. The crisis in Europe
Deapite its technological, social, economic power and its accumulated wealth, Europe is the weak link in capitalist globalisation, in the sense where it is caught in the pincers between the USA and the rise of the emergent countries. The purchhse of a part of the Greek, Portuguese and Spanish public debt by China is, effectively, more than symbolic. In the current world competition, the dominant classes are convinced that the “European social model” is a major handicap in the competition with the USA and China. It is necessary to destroy social gains and conquests obtained over the last decades. What is more, from the conjunctural viewpoint, the banking crisis continues but it has passed from the banks to the states with a public debt crisis which results from decades of inegalitarian tax policies and the public intervention into the financial and banking crisis.
The public deficit went from 2 to 6.5% in the Euro zone and from 2.8 to 11% in the USA. The public debts between 2008 and 2009 went from 69.4 to 78.7% of GDP in the Euro zone and from 62 to 83%, from 2007 to 2009 in the USA. The states are now in the front line of the crisis. It is astonishing to see the different methods of response to the crisis, even if they don’t succeed in vanquishing it: monetary and budgetary expansion in the USA with the purchase of treasury bonds - that represents 600 billion dollars injected into the US economy – the “quantitative easing” of the FED which is only a particular manner of “printing money” - but recessive austerity policies in Europe which smother any resumption of growth. This difference stems from the continued role of the dollar as "world currency” unlike the Euro. It also expresses different positions in the global relation of forces at the world scale. We indicate only that none of these policies has succeeded in relaunching the capitalist machine.
It should be added that the specificity of crisis in Europe results from the type of construction of the European Union: an entity dominated by the markets, of unfinished political content, without democracy, without popular participation, without political and economic unity. This construction far from protecting against the crisis is the basis of new tensions and contradictions among European states. Neoliberal construction far from coordinating economic policies encourages the “divergent dynamics" of the European economy, divergences between the industrial (Germany ) and financial (British) dynamics, highly developed economies – former common market – and averagely developed – south and east of Europe.
The Euro effectively covers countries at different levels of development and productivity. And far from constituting an instrument for an economic coordination of the so called “Euro zone”, it now functions as an instrument to discipline economies and peoples in the service of the strongest. Which leads to tensions between Germany or similar countries and the other, with a pressure which has become unbearable for Spain, Portugal and Greece. At this stage, the governments of the Euro zone have created mechanisms of assistance in return for radical neoliberal structural reforms, notably with the creation of a “European stabilisation fund" in 2013 for the countries in difficulties, of 750 billion Euros. Will that be enough to support the debts of the countries most in difficulty? Already a number of companies, financial markets and pensions funds speak of the inability of the countries of southern Europe to hold the line in the face of a new speculative offensive of the financial markets. Will the competition between the economies of the Euro zone combined with the absence of common economic, industrial, fiscal and social policies contain or worsen the crisis?
These tensions are reflected notably on the monetary plane, but behind the currency, there is the will of the dominant classes and the financial markets to make the peoples and workers pay for the crisis.
5. Social war in Europe
There is a real “social war” in Europe today: freezing indeed nominal lowering of wages of public employees, drastic reduction of social and public budgets, destruction of whole layers of the social state, extension of the working day – pension reforms, challenges to the 35 hour week, suppression of millions of public sector jobs, attacks and privatisations of social security, health, schools (explosion of student fees in Britain).
The most recent example of these attacks is the referendum at the FIAT Mirafior plant in Turin, where the results of approval of the management proposals open the road to the liquidation of collective bargaining, not only in engineering but in all the professional branches and sectors. They are collapsing before the employment contract “negotiated” between the employee and the boss. The policy of the FIAT directorate also imposes a worsening of work conditions: team work, night work, crackdowns on absenteeism, wage freezes and so on.
Attacks of this type are tending to generalise across Europe. Combined with the policy of cutting deficits, it worsens not only the working and living conditions of millions of people but increasingly limits final demand, with the consequence of stifling growth and bringing about new recessions. The deficit cutting policies limit final demand and can only have consequences which will restrain growth indeed provoke new recessions. This is not yet another austerity plan, the objective is to reduce in the coming years the purchasing power of employees, by 10 to 15%. The dismantling of the welfare state or what remains of it will receive an unprecedented boost.
6. The right in Europe
The difference between this offensive, linked to the historic and systemic crisis capitalism is undergoing, and that of the 1980s lies in the destabilising consequences for the whole of the system, its dominant classes, its parties, its institutions. All the dominant parties but also the others are destabilised by decades of neoliberal counter reforms and the crisis of the system. The crises of political representation, the historic crisis of socialism, the phenomena of popular abstention, the feeling of corruption of the political élites: all this feeds the general crisis of politics.
On the right, the neoliberal social counter reforms undermine the social bases of the traditional parties, so the latter seek this base by deploying authoritarian, racist, populist, police, attacking immigrants, Roma and Muslims. They accentuate their reactionary course like the Republican Party in the USA. Tendencies to “populist bonapartism” with Sarkozy or Berlusconi reflect a certain instability. Populist or neo fascist movements gain ground, In Sweden, Holland, France, or Hungary. In all the recent elections in Europe, the right and far right have increased their vote.
7. Social-democracy confirms its social-liberal evolution
On the left, the crisis has not led to any "Keynesian turn”. The presence of a socialist president at the head of the IMF expresses the degree of integration of social democracy in the institutions of capitalist globalisation. Unlike in the 1930s, there is no turn to the left from social democracy. The social liberal choice is confirmed. The policies of Papandreou, Zapatero and Socrates show it. The broad orientations of the Party of European Socialists the European level comfort them and show that beyond the tactical positioning of each Socialist Party in the opposition against the right, social democracy has turned into social liberalism.
Even if there are differences between left and right, the integration of social democracy in the neoliberal economic and political systems, relayed by the development of the trade union apparatuses is increasingly strong, We should also note the evolution of the big Green formations on orientations increasingly marked by the centre left.
8. Social fightbacks and their limits in political expression
The most notable element of recent months has been the struggles of résistance to the austerity plans. Days of general strikes have taken place in Greece, Portugal, Spain, France. In France, nearly 3 million people demonstrated and participated in strike movements eight times in two months… the Spanish and Portuguese strikes had a historic breadth. One of our tasks is to analyse the forms, content and dynamic of these conflicts. In Britain and Italy, the student demonstrations show the degree of explosiveness of the social struggles. In Germany there have been impressive anti-nuclear mobilisations. The crisis will continue. The attacks will redouble.
There will be struggle, resistance and social explosions according to national particularities. At the heart of these social movements, there is the defence of social gains- jobs, social security, pensions, wages, public services – which are frontally challenged but also the anti-governmental political dynamics stimulated by the practice, style, arrogance of governments or right wing leaders. The accumulation of these experiences, the degree of combination between social and political crisis, the level of self-organisation of the struggles can constitute turning points in the situation.
If there is a new social situation in Europe where people’s fightback is being heard, we should note two major political facts:
a) the struggles, even the biggest ones, do not lead at this stage to partial defeats for the dominant classes or victories for the workers and their organisaiton. We have not blocked the capitalist offensive and still less sent it into reverse. What we can note is that, if tne neoliberal counter-reform continues to advance, the workers who have gone on strike and demonstrated in Greece, France, Portugal, or Spain, and the students who have demonstrated in Britain, do not have the feeling of having experienced major defeats. They feel in a confused way that there will be further battles.
b) the second political fact to highlight is that where popular revolt is growing, a gap exists between the social reactions and mobilisations and their political reflection. We should consider the specificities of the situation in each country. In some countries the level of social struggle is weak. But even in the countries where there is a social mobilisation, there is no equivalent at the trade union or political level: there is no organic growth of the trade unions, parties, or left currents in the social movements. How many members or supporters? There is a difference between the movement of members into trade unions and parties in the 1930s and the current situation. In the 1930s the crisis and social resistance led, for example, to the growth by hundreds of thousands in membership of unions, socialist and communist parties, left movements within social democracy. The social liberal evolution renders these parties increasingly “impermeable” to the rises in the class struggle. `
But nor have we seen any massive qualitative growth of the trade unions. We might then have expected the development of currents or parties outside the traditional left organisations. At this stage we note no notable progress. Today in France, after an exceptional social mobilisation, we could have expected that the the PS candidate for the presidential election of 2012 could be one with a more “social-democratic” profile. Well no, the SP candidate for the 2012 presidential elections is likely to be IMF president Dominique Strauss-Kahn, one of the most righ-wng representatives of international socal-democracy!!!
One can be prudent in saying that we are at the beginning of the crisis and its persistence will lead to combined movements of social and political crisis, events which will block this or that austerity plan, will allow partial victories, and could reverse the underlying trends of the situation… But for the moment, the obstacles to be overcome to win remain difficult to surmount. The effects of the historical crisis of the workers’ movement of the last century re still felt. The building of a revolutonary socialist consciousness needs new experiences to take shape. We have to note that the level of current struggles even if it is rising in reactions to the attacks of the ruling classes and government has not got a sufficient political dynamic to turn back the decades of neoloberal counter-reforms and lay the basis of an overall counter-offensive an a new revlutonary socialist project. The processes of construction of radical left or anticapitalist parties, in Europe, thus meets a series of difficulties.
9. Elements of discussion on our tasks
In these conditions what are our tasks? The reply depends on the diagnosis made on the crisis which broke out in 2007. Is it a financial episode analogous to all those that capitalism has known in the past, followed by temporary recessions? Or is it a systemic crisis at two levels: because the regime of financial accumulation developed over more than thirty years is exhausted, and because world capitalism has reached a limit linked to the finite nature of the planet and its natural resources. If we take the second hypothesis we cannot be content with policies of reflation through demand and more regulation in the financial system, what is needed is a radical reorganisation of the economy turned to social needs, an ecological reconversion of industry and agriculture, quality non-commodified public services, in short a rupture with capitalist logic, the private ownership of capital and the current system of distribution of wealth.
We need then a plan combining immediate demands with anti-capitalist counter-crisis demands. It is not the workers who should pay for the crisis but the capitalists: defence of social gains, demands, rights, taxation of financial transactions, cancellation of the public debt. This plan can be financed from the banking and financial profits and those of the big capitalist groups. This programme should be accompanied by the “collectivisation-socialisation” of the entire banking system at the European scale under the control of those who use it. Which means through the natonalisation or public socialisation of the banking sector, posing the question of inroads into the ownership of capital. This question of ownershi should alost be posed through the struggle against privatisation and the creation of big public sectors under workers’ and users’ control in the key sectors of the economy. It is alost posed throught the ecological question and the necessary reorganisation and ecological planning over the medium and long term. The ecological dimension has an increasingly significant place, given the natural disasters taking place around the planet, and with the increasing frequency of floods, climatic chaos, landslides, and should take an increasing place in our activity. All proposals of social and organisational reorganisation of production, reorganisation of urban space, transport, energy serving the needs of workers and peoples should be stressed in out agitation.
In Europe, this plan should have a continental dimension. The response to the crisis is not nationalist protectionism and exit from the Euro. That would lead to an exacerbated competition between European countries and new attacks against the peoples so that the countries in most difficulties take the blows; not to mention the development of chauvinistic and xenophobic movements. A response is needed that which is European, social, democrtaic, and ecologist, bht which breaks with the European policie and institutions. In this sense, saving the Euro or the European Union cannot serve as an alibi to redouble the attacks and austerity plans against the peoples. Our response should start from the defence of the rights and demands of the workers and peoples in each country and at the European level.That means the rejection of any policy of austerity.So what is needed is a coordination of the policies and struggles of the peoples in Europe to build a European, internationalist response which prioritises harmonisation upwards, coordination and cooperation to help the peoples hit hardest by the crisis, a polciy which makes the capitalists and the bankers pay through a fiscal and social policy benefiting the people and large scale public services, particularly banking.
In an anti-capitalist action plan, the question of democratic rights and demands takes on an important character, notably in the defence of democratic liberties and the defence of immigrants and the undocumented. In the countries faced with dictatorshiips, this should lead, notably in the context of the popular movements or democratic revolutions shaking the Arab world, to combining social, self-organisation and democratic demands In Tunisai, we support the democratic demands, the dismantling of the dictatorship and all its institutions, the dissolution of the RCD and all the repressive apparatuses, the formation of a provisional government without representatives of the regime and the convening of a constituent assembly At the same time, anti-capitalists should support the embryos of self-organisation underway in the struggle against the high cost of living and the protection of the population.
These objectives can only be attained by the social and political mobilisation of millions of workers and citizens and a confrontation with the dominant classes and governments.
More generally, our orientation should stimulate and orient this mobilisation which should combine, social, trade union and ecological struggles, unity of social, trade union and political action of all left forces, calls for and leadership of experiences of social self-organisation. Proposals for a European campaign for the cancellation of the debt or on employment through the coordination of associations and trade unions.
At the political level, unitive struggles should go with the systematic search for independence in relation to social democracy, notably through electoral policies in the big cities, regions, parliament and government. The crisis confirms the indispensable character of a global political alternative to social liberalism and the parties of the traditional left. Finally, we should encourage unity and anti-capitalist alliance encouraging all initiatives of anti-capitalist coordination at the level of sectors, struggles or parties

François Sabado