As we go to the press, the North African country of Tunisia is in the midst of a powerful popular revolt of the working masses. The erstwhile President, who has ruled the country since 1987, has fled to Saudi Arabia.
The revolt in Tunisia began with a 26 year old young Tunisian man, an IT engineer, immolating himself in public on December 17, 2010 in front of the municipality of his town. The reason — joblessness, his attempts to sell vegetables was barred by the municipal authorities. Following this, the people, especially working class youth, came out in mass protests against a repressive unpopular regime.
The protestors on the streets are chanting slogans like "you gang of thieves, employment is a right". They are protesting against corruption, injustice and lack of job opportunities. The gang of thieves they refer to is the "Trabelsies", that is the family of the wife of President Ben Ali.
Over the past 24 years, the ruling family of Tunisia grew to become a controlling elite monopolizing most of the country's resources. It is said that a mere one hundred people control the whole of Tunisia today and dictate its policies in pursuit of their personal gain.
For several weeks, the Tunisian government, with support of US imperialism, the European Union, as well as Arab reactionary regimes, ensured that there was very limited media coverage of the Tunisian developments. It used its close relationship with the imperialist powers, particularly with the US and French imperialists for this purpose.
It must be noted that not only do these imperialists freely loot the wealth and labour of Tunisia, the regime of Ben Ali carried out savage attacks on all people who expressed their right to conscience in the form of practicing Islam. Women and girls are barred from wearing the veil. The Tunisian ruling clique deliberately portrays all opposition to its reactionary and exploitative rule as "backward" a "foreign conspiracy", "backed by Al Qaida" etc.
Emboldened by European support, the regime went berserk, opening fire at demonstrators and killing fifty people in three nights. As videos showed shocking images of youth shot dead in the head or in the heart, this has galvanized larger crowds onto the streets. What started as a spontaneous uprising now looks more like a revolt, the geographical spread of the protests reaching Tunis, the capital, where artists protesting against the severity of the repression were beaten and humiliated by the police. But, above all, major protests were reported in three populous neighbourhood of the capital Tunis, Al Tadamon, Al Tahrir, and Al Intilaka. It seems that the momentum is still building after twenty-five days.
There are already signs of dissent among some army units following the sacking of an army commander for allegedly refusing to shoot at the protestors.
Meanwhile, the events of Tunisia are being closely followed with sympathy by the working masses in other Arab countries who are faced with the same problems of poverty, unemployment, soaring food prices, corruption, and despotic rulers supported by the imperialists.
In the streets of Algeria, thousands of youth, who are copying the demands of "the Tunisian Intifada" as people are calling it now, have clashed with police. As we go to the press, a powerful uprising has begun in Egypt, demanding the overthrow of the hated pro imperialist Mubarak regime, with the people clashing fearlessly with the ruling party and its fascist security forces. There are reports of mass protests in Yemen as well. Across the Arab world, peoples are experiencing hope, and are preparing for actions, and the regimes are afraid: all the Arab people and all the Arab regimes.
Human rights organizations have constantly condemned and exposed the brutality of the Ben Ali regime. However, the imperialist powers of US and Europe have watched in silence, as it served their interests.
The explosive situation in Tunisia, Egypt, and other Arab countries reflects the sharpening of the major contradictions of the imperialist system on the world scale. It shows that the tide of revolution is likely to rise once again, with the fury of long suppressed anger and aspirations of the oppressed victims of this system.