As a few people have asked, I’m doing a video on the current situation in Tunisia. Currently there is an unfolding revolutionary process that seems to me to be very oblique. I’m actually having a hard time figuring out exactly what is gong on. There have been several different conflicting reports on the situation. As per usual we are dependent on the bourgeois media for information, this of course comes with the filtering that they do. So with that said it is difficult to sift through opinion and fact. What I’ll do my best to give you good information.
One thing I do know is clear: The regime has not fallen, it is still in power–though it is in a precarious position.
When Ben-Ali has left the country with his wife, the ruling class under him remains behind and still follows orders from him. A state of emergency has been declared and the military is roaming the streets breaking up any groups of people that they find. As usual the government is using the pretext of civil unrest (looting) to justify the repression of self-organizing neighborhoods. The military is cracking down on those who have picked up the slack and created their own local social structures to compensate for the lack of government authority.
An unnamed military source has told the media that the gangs of armed men are in fact Ben-Ali’s Mukhabarat–internal security services–carrying out violence in order to justify a more brutal military crackdown.
However not all is well inside the Tunisia military. There is great division among the soldiers in the streets. One event that gave strength to the movement against Ben-Ali and the regime was the refusal of soldiers to use violence against the popular demonstrations. Instead the soldiers pulled back and defended government buildings. There were pictures and videos of soldiers embracing the demonstrators.
We can clearly see that not the whole of the military is standing by the regime of Ben-Ali. Right now seemingly the entire bureaucratic apparatus and an unknown percentage of the military forces.
In terms of revolutionary possibilities I do see the situation as promising even if random. In the Russian Revolution of 1917 the military was highly divided between he Bolsheviks and forces loyal to the Tzar. This also happened with the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Many neighborhoods are forming local democratic structures to organize their lives and interactions, very much in the same way as the Paris Commune in 1871.
The protests continue over the failing country, they have a 14% unemployment rate. (Interestingly enough the US unemployment rate is 17.5%.) Inflation is wildly out of control harming access to stable foods and fuel while wages are being decimated. There is also great deal of police repression and censorship. The catalyst for their escalation came when an young unemployed youth who set himself on fire in front of a government building following the state’s seizure of his unauthorized fruit stand–his only livelihood.
While the whole situation is all up in the air and no one knows what is going to happen, it is very possible we could be seeing a revolutionary society. The spontaneous self-organization of the neighborhoods is a very good start, it looks hopeful that a revolutionary society could grow out of this situation.
As Jase Short has previously said:
“Let us stand in solidarity with our comrades suffering under the yoke of tyranny in the Arab world: neither bin Laden nor the US-backed regimes, but real people’s democracy.”