Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tunisia’s Revolution: Self-organisation for Self-emancipation

The full explosion of the Tunisian revolutionary process is now taking root across Africa, far beyond the town of Sidi Bouzid, from where Mohammed Bouazizi had sent a message to youths all across the world that they should stand up against oppression. The overthrow and removal of the dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011 was an important stage in this revolution. When this dictator (who was a top ally of the USA and France) fled to Saudi Arabia, dictators and corrupt party leaders all over the world trembled as the popular power in the streets found support in all parts of Africa, the Middle East and parts of Europe. This revolution in Tunisia is a typical example of the self-mobilisation of ordinary people for their own emancipation, independent of a vanguard party or self-proclaimed revolutionaries. The iteration of the Tunisian revolution in other parts of Africa and the Middle East is fast becoming a pattern that speaks volume about the nature of 21st century revolutions.

At the time of writing this piece, the revolution is going through the third stage where the popular forces are seeking a drastic change in the politics of the society and demanding new order in Tunisia based on freedom, democracy and social justice. In short, the people were calling for a form of popular democracy that moves beyond alienation, and beyond the separation of politics and economics. The first stage of the revolution started with the self-immolation and self-sacrifice of Mohammed Bouazizi in the region of Sidi Bouzid. The unemployed graduate Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest police brutality after they harassed and stopped him from selling fruits and vegetables, which was his only means of a livelihood. The second stage involved the mass organisation and the deployment of new networks for revolution among the youth and the working people, leading to the popular overthrow of the dictator. The third stage involved the merger of the caravans of liberation into Tunis, the capital with the break in the ranks of the forces of coercion. It was at this stage that the true revolutionary character of the self-organisation started to emerge. At this third stage, the prolonged popular protest of the organised poor emerged, with women and youth taking the lead in calling for the arrest of the dictator and for a new government of the people. It is at this delicate stage of this revolution that it is most necessary for revolutionaries all over the world to stand together with the Tunisians, and to draw the positive lessons that can spread the revolution like a fire to burn off the corruption and destruction of capitalism and neoliberalism.

The capitalist classes have been wounded in Tunisia and they want to do all within their power to contain this new wave of revolution. However, their ability to undermine this revolution will depend on the vigilance and support of revolutionaries internationally. We must remember that revolutions are made by ordinary people and that there are millions who want a new form of existence where they can live like decent human beings. In another era of capitalist depression and war, it was C.L.R. James who commented that, ‘That is the way a revolution often comes, like a thief in the night, and those who have prepared for it and are waiting for it do not see it, and often only realise that their chance has come when it has passed.’

James was referring to the Chinese masses who had led the way in the revolutionary process in China. The real point of Tunisia, as in China, is that in every revolutionary situation it is the real action of human beings taking to the streets, defying the police and fighting with courage and imagination that changes society. Revolutionaries should grasp the epoch-making process that is now underway in the world. How this epoch-making process will mature across Africa, Europe and Asia will depend on the politics and organisations that shape the movement in the coming weeks and months. Revolutionaries must learn the positive lessons: the new pattern of 21st century revolution, the new forces of revolution and the new tools of revolutionary struggles that are being fashioned by those who are making sacrifices for a new mode of social existence. Read more