Category Archives: Tunisia
Frantz Fanon and the Arab Uprisings: An Interview with Nigel Gibson
“In this interview with Nigel Gibson, one of the most prominent experts on Fanon’s work, he explains the significance of the Fanonian theoretical framework and its relevance for the Arab uprisings. Nigel Gibson has written a number of articles and books on the Martiniquan intellectual and deployed a Fanonian perspective to examine many contemporary revolts. His numerous books include Fanon: The Postcolonial Imagination (2003) and Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo (2011). He teaches postcolonial theory at Emerson College. The interview was conducted in Boston in July 2012.”
Yasser Munif (YM): Ongoing protests have swept the Arab world since the toppling of the Tunisian dictator. They changed the political and cultural landscape of the region. The mot d’ordre of the protesters is clear: “The people want the fall of the regime.” Western powers tried to co-opt the protests because real democracy in the Arab World can threaten their domination of the region. They want to maintain their hegemony in the oil rich gulf. The region is also important geopolitically because of the United States’ close ties to Israel and its wars in the Middle East. The interest of the West in the region is not new. In Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said argues that while formal colonization ended in the mid-twentieth century, Arab countries became the political satellites of the West since then. He writes, “for two generations the United States has sided in the Middle East mostly with tyranny and injustice… one administration after another has propped up compliant and unpopular clients, and turned away from the efforts of small peoples to liberate themselves from military occupation. In a way, Said is suggesting that real independence was never achieved; the present politico-economic condition of Arab countries is a continuation of the colonial period by new means. In this context, the work of Frantz Fanon is very relevant to understanding the current Arab uprisings. Yet, as you explain in a recent essay, one should refrain from the temptation of extrapolating old concepts into new situations. Referring to Fanon’s work ,you write, “The task for radicals is to avoid applying pre-formed cookie-cutter theory to new situations and jamming a new event or movement into old categories, but, instead, to begin to open up space for dialogue and reflection on action.” Do you think that Frantz Fanon’s analysis about colonialism, imperialism, and independence movements can have any relevance today for Arab protesters who are challenging despotic regimes?
Arab Uprisings: Progress, But Not Yet a Revolution
[Article 2 of the series “One Year After the Arab Uprisings.” Part One, “The Failure of the Arab ‘State’ and Its Opposition” originally appeared at http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/failure-arab-state-and-its-opposition and was posted on revolutionary frontlines at https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-failure-of-the-arab-state-and-its-opposition … Part 3 of the series is expected soon. — Frontlines ed.]
….a revolution is fueled by class interest or the ideology of a revolutionary party while an uprising is fueled by anger and frustration. A revolution presents a comprehensive social, economic, and political program for change that was pre-meditated and based on philosophical discourses. An uprising has no such program and has no philosophical discourse. A revolution has a leading class or a leading party, whereas an uprising has no clear leadership.
By: Hisham Bustani–Saturday, May 5, 2012
Arab Uprisings: Progress, But Not Yet a Revolution
There is no real class formation in modern Arab societies. The post-colonial Arab “state” is a political and economic disaster area that has yet to advance into the industrialized era. Its social fabric was deformed by imposing and/or magnifying divisions and fragmentation. It transformed the collaborative self-sufficient gatherings – based economically on farming and grazing in rural areas; pillaging and grazing in desert areas; and commerce, crafts, and some manufacturing in cities, with each social group having its own traditions and rules that applied to all members – into malformed consumerist social formations. These formations come in the shape of family, clan, sect or ethnicity for identity, solidarity and protection.
These formations live on the periphery of a globalized service sector, and are governed by regimes that largely destroyed local economies in exchange for a model based on foreign aid. This is a corporate-dependant, commoditized, service-based model, where the ruling class is the representative of global corporations: a comprador formation with interests opposed to local industrialization and production. In countries where natural resources are abundant, the governments opted for exporting raw materials rather than investing in and manufacturing goods with them. Instead, the money was sucked away in a cycle of corruption and parts of it were redistributed down to the people as a form of a “grant” from the benefactor ruler..
The Failure of the Arab “State” and Its Opposition
By: Hisham Bustani, writing in al Akhbar English
Thursday, April 19, 2012
After one year of the Arab uprisings that initially exploded in Tunisia and swept like wildfire throughout the Arab world, it became very clear that the spark, which has resulted in the removal of three oppressors so far, was spontaneous. That does not mean that the explosion had no preludes. On the contrary, the people were squeezed with each passing day, but those uprisings clearly showed that even in the absence of an organized catalyzing formation (revolutionary party, revolutionary class), an explosion takes place when a certain threshold is reached, a critical mass.
Uprisings in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet-bloc states came about through the work of organized opposition groups and parties (like Solidarity in Poland), and by decades of calm covert undermining, infiltration, and propaganda undertaken by the West. By contrast, the Arab uprising was not led by an organized opposition. Instead, it came as a surprise to the imperialist circles that historically backed their client oppressor regimes.
The Failure of the Post-Colonial Arab “State”
Following the British-French-Italian colonialism of the Arab region, the Europeans left behind an area that they deliberately divided into “states”. These were designed so as to leave no possibility for their becoming truly independent and sovereign. They also left a watchdog and an easy solution to assuage their anti-Semitic-burdened consciousness: “Israel,” a colonial-settler state that would maintain the imperialist design in the wake of the physical withdrawal of its patrons.
The post-colonial states were subordinate by design, by their innate nature of being divided and incomplete, and by the ruling class that followed colonialism. Continue reading
Arab Spring and Imperialism
[The “Arab (and North Africa) Spring” enters its second year, where in country after country the complex interplay of domestic people’s movements, regional alliances, and imperialists (of both the crisis-driven old variety, and newbies making new global assertions)–are hellbent on asserting very elusive controls. Such would-be controllers continue to be frustrated, and while this provides openings for revolutionary people to seize the time, their organizational, political, and military tools have been lacking–so far. Time will tell how this will play out. Deepankar Basu, writing in Sanhati, takes on the challenge of clarifying the different contradictions and forces at play. — Frontlines ed.]
by Deepankar Basu, Sanhati
The unprecedented wave of mass movements that started in Tunisia in December 2010 and quickly spread to Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen, with smaller scale demonstrations in Lebanon, Mauritania, and Saudi Arabia has the potential to completely change (a) the socio-economic dynamics within the Arab world, and (b) the relationship of the Arab world to imperialism. To understand the dynamics and implications of the unfolding movements, it seems useful to abstract from the details of the movements in particular countries and take a broad brush view of matters. Moreover, to construct a broad brush view it seems important to disentangle two aspects of (or basic contradictions driving) the situation, not only in Syria that is the current focus of world attention but the Arab world in general.
The first, and primary, aspect is that all these movements, often taking the form of mass uprisings, are movements for democratization of their respective societies, a movement against decades-old authoritarian and brutal regimes backed by imperialism. In most cases, over the last two decades, these regimes saw a convergence between authoritarianism and neoliberalism. One way of stating this is to say, using an old-fashioned terminology, that the primary contradiction that is driving these movements in the contradiction between authoritarian (often neoliberal) regimes and the broad masses of the people in these countries.
The second, and to my mind secondary, aspect is the reality/possibility of imperialist intervention. Using the old-fashioned terminology once again, one could say that the secondary contradiction that is maturing in these events, that is driving these movements, is the contradiction between imperialism and the broad masses of the people.
Note that both contradictions are basic, in the sense that they are both active in the current situation; the current conjuncture is shaped by an interplay between them. But between the two it is also important to distinguish the primary from the secondary. What is the rationale for characterizing the contradiction between the broad masses and authoritarianism as the primary contradiction? The rationale is the following observation: each of these movements, without any exception, started as movements for democratization and against neoliberal authoritarian regimes; each of these movements retain that thrust. Hence, it seems very likely that what is being expressed through these movements is the maturing of the contradiction of these neoliberal authoritarian regimes and the popular classes. If at any point there is direct military invasion of a country by imperialist powers with the intention of turning the country into a colony, then the second contradiction, i.e., the contradiction between imperialism and the broad masses, would become the primary contradiction. Continue reading
The Super Rich Sabotage the Arab Revolutions
By Shamus Cooke
Information Clearing House July 02, 2011
With revolutions sweeping the Arab world and bubbling-up across Europe, aging tyrants or discredited governments are doing their best to cling to power. It’s hard to over-exaggerate the importance of these events: the global political and economic status quo is in deep crisis. If pro-democracy or anti-austerity movements emerge victorious, they’ll have an immediate problem to solve — how to pay for their vision of a better world. The experiences thus far in Egypt and Greece are proof enough that money matters. The wealthy nations holding the purse strings are still able to influence the unfolding of events from afar, subjecting humiliating conditions on those countries undergoing profound social change.
This strategy is being ruthlessly deployed in the Arab world. Take for example Egypt, where the U.S. and Europe are quietly supporting the military dictatorship that replaced the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Now Mubarak’s generals rule the country. The people of Egypt, however, still want real change, not a mere shuffling at the top; a strike wave and mass demonstrations are testing the power of the new military dictatorship.
A strike wave implies that Egyptians want better wages and working conditions; economic opportunity was one of the central demands of the revolutionaries who toppled Mubarak. But revolutions tend to have a temporarily negative effect on a nation’s economy. This is mainly because those who dominate the economy, the rich, do their best to sabotage any social change.
One defining feature of revolutions is the exodus of the super-rich, who correctly assume their wealth will be targeted for redistribution. This is referred to as “capital flight.” Also, rich foreign investors stop investing money in the revolutionary country, not knowing if the company they’re investing in will remain privately owned, or if the government they’re investing in will strategically default and choose not to pay back foreign investors. Lastly, workers demand higher wages in revolutions, and many owners would rather shut down — if they don’t flee — than operate for small profits. All of this hurts the economy overall.
The New York Times reports:
The 18-day [Egyptian] revolt stopped new foreign investment and decimated the pivotal tourist industry… The revolution has inspired new demands for more jobs and higher wages that are fast colliding with the economy’s diminished capacity…Strikes by workers demanding their share of the revolution’s spoils continue to snarl industry… The main sources of capital in this country have either been arrested, escaped or are too afraid to engage in any business… (June 10, 2011).
Understanding this dynamic, the rich G8 nations are doing their best to exploit it. Knowing that any governments that emerge from the Arab revolutions will be instantly cash-starved, the G8 is dangling $20 billion with strings attached. The strings in this case are demands that the Arab countries pursue only “open market” policies, i.e., business-friendly reforms, such as privatizations, elimination of food and gas subsidies, and allowing foreign banks and corporations better access to the economy. A separate New York Times article addressed the subject with the misleading title, Aid Pledge by Group of 8 Seeks to Bolster Arab Democracy:
Democracy, the [G8] leaders said, could be rooted only in economic reforms that created open markets…The [$20 billion] pledge, an aide to President Obama said, was “not a blank check” but “an envelope that could be achieved in the context of suitable [economic] reform efforts.” (May 27, 2011).
The G8 policy towards the Arab world is thus the same policy the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have pursued against weaker nations that have run into economic problems. The cure is always worse than the disease, since “open market” reforms always lead to the national wealth being siphoned into the hands of fewer and fewer people as public entities are privatized, making the rich even richer, and social services are eliminated, making the poor even poorer. Also, the open door to foreign investors evolves into a speculative bubble that inevitably bursts; the investors flee an economically devastated country. It is no accident that many former IMF “beneficiary” countries have paid off their debts and denounced their benefactors, swearing never to return.
Nations that refuse the conditions imposed by the G8 or IMF are thus cut off from the capital that any country would need to maintain itself and expand amid a time of social change. The rich nations proclaim victory in both instances: either the poorer nation asks for help and becomes economically penetrated by western corporations, or the poor country is economically and politically isolated and punished and used as an example of what becomes of those countries that attempt a non-capitalist route to development.
Many Arab countries are especially appetizing to foreign corporations hungry for new investments, since large state-run industries remain in place to help the working-class populations, a tradition begun under the socialist-inspired Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser that spread across the Arab world. If Egypt falls victim to an Iraq-like privatization frenzy, Egypt’s working people and poor will pay higher prices for food, gas, and other basic necessities. This is one reason, other than oil, that many U.S. corporations would also like to invade Iran.
The social turmoil in the Arab world and Europe have fully exposed the domination that wealthy investors and corporations have over the politics of nations. All over Europe “bailouts” are being discussed for poorer nations facing economic crises. The terms of these bailout loans are ruthless and are dictated by nothing more than the desire to maximize profits. In Greece, for example, the profit-motive of the lenders is obvious to everyone, helping to create a social movement that might reach Arab proportions. The New York Times reports:
The new [Greece bailout] loans, however, will only be forthcoming if more austerity measures are introduced…Along with faster progress on privatization, Europe and the [IMF] fund have been demanding that Greece finally begin cutting public sector jobs and closing down unprofitable entities.” (June 1, 2011).
This same phenomenon is happening all over Europe, from England to Spain, as working people are told that social programs must be slashed, public jobs eliminated, and state industries privatized. The U.S. is also deeply affected, with daily media threats about the “vigilante bond holders” [rich investors] who will stop buying U.S. debt if Social Security, Medicare, and other social services are not eliminated.
Never before has the global market economy been so damningly exposed as biased and dominated by the super-wealthy. These consciousness-raising experiences cannot be easily siphoned into politicians promising “democracy,” since democracy is precisely the problem: a tiny minority of super-rich individuals have dictatorial power due to their enormous wealth, which they use to threaten governments who don’t cater to their every whim. Money is given to subservient governments and taken away from independent ones, while the western media never questions these often sudden shifts in policy, which can instantly transform a longtime U.S. ally into a “dictator” or vice-versa.
The toppling of dictators in the Arab world has immediately raised the question of, “What next”? The economic demands of working people cannot be satisfied while giant corporations dominate the economy, since higher wages mean lower corporate profits, while better social services require that the rich pay higher taxes. These fundamental conflicts lay just beneath the social upheavals all over the world, which came into maturity with the global recession and will continue to dominate social life for years to come. The outcome of this prolonged struggle will determine what type of society emerges from the political tumult, and will meet either the demands of working people or serve the needs of rich investors and giant corporations.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action ( http://www.workerscompass.org ). He can be reached at email@example.com
Youth, Media, and the Art of Protest in North Africa
Jun 27 2011
by Loubna Hanna Skalli, http://www.jadalliya.com
“Everyone has his own way of fighting, and my weapon is art!” says Milad Faraway, a 20 year-old Libyan who created the rap group Music Masters with another young friend in 2010. Their song “Youth of the Revolution” urges “Moammar [to] get out” and end the violation of Libyans’ rights. “Qadhafi, open your eyes wide” sings another rap group Revolution Beat: “you will see that the Libyan people just broke through the fear barrier.” In neighboring Tunisia, twenty-one year old Hamada Ben Amor, known as El General, circulated on the internet his video song “President: Your people are dying” in an open address to Ben Ali during his last days as a dictator. For singing about peace, justice and freedom, Hamada faced jail time even after Mohammed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian street vendor, sacrificed his life for making the same demands. In Algeria, Rabah Ourrad one of the country’s lead rappers, built his popularity on “breaking silence” around the leaders’ corruption, greed and nepotism. Years prior to the recent revolutions that swept through North Africa and the Middle East, Moroccan youth political dissent transpired through the vibrant cultural movement known as the Nayda, or the Moroccan Movida as others call it. Rappers like H-Kayne, Zanka Flow, Hoba Hoba Spirit, and Bigg, are among many who captured the attention of the young generation in ways no political party or ideological current could. Continue reading
US-compliant Yemeni president ‘injured’ after palace shelled; US, Saudi’s preparing his replacement
Jun 3, 2011 by itnnews
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been ‘slightly injured’ say officials after his palace was reportedly shelled.
[The article from the Guardian, below, describes the shifting terms of the struggle in Yemen–which began as a popular uprising against a brutal, repressive regime, and now has special attention from the US and Saudi Arabia, who are intent on having a controlling hand in the government and military powers that emerge after Yemeni President Saleh’s probable-impending demise. This has some similarity with the process in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, after the eruption of people’s revolts, where the US moved, rather clumsily, to drop relations with compliant and allied dictators Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Gaddafi, and moved to control the emerging new forces in a process of moving from imperialist “business as usual” to finessing claims of “concern for humanitiarian issues” and “democracy”, to ensuring the bottom line: strategic control of the political economy, through corrupt surrogates, military intervention, racketeering, and starvation. For the people, getting rid of Saleh, as with Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Gaddafi, is only one part of getting rid of imperialism and all reactionaries (including other styles of reactionaries like al Qaeda). Developing revolutionary forces with clear-sighted political independence and initiatives is the only immediate objective which leads forward. — Frontlines ed.]
Yemen slides towards all-out war after President Saleh survives rocket attack
Government claims attack on presidential compound was ‘attempted coup’ as fighting intensifies in Sana’a
guardian.co.uk, Friday 3 June 2011
Yemen‘s embattled president survived an apparent attempt to kill him on Friday as fighting intensified in Sana’a amidst warnings that the country is sliding inexorably into all-out war. Continue reading
Tribune Magazine (UK): Tunisia’s brutal regime may be down, but it has shown it is not out
Since the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali was ousted by mass unarmed demonstrations, successive waves of protest and self-organisation have dismantled many of the old structures of that dictatorship.
But earlier this month the old regime showed it could still strike back. The prospect of a coup by the old dictator’s party, which had one million members, after the elections in July led to further demonstrations. This time protesters were beaten and journalists – male and female – were singled out. It emerged that a censorship law had been secretly rushed through by the interim government. News from the Tunisian heartland, where the democratic revolution started, is being censored.
La Tunisie profonde is where the uprisings began. The Jasmine Revolution is seen as bloodless, but when you reach the small towns almost everyone knows someone who died, and almost everyone marched and organised against the regime. Since then, they have been setting up their own local councils, been central participants in the independent trade unions, made organisations for the graduate unemployed whose plight kicked off the uprising, held women’s marches, and begun court proceedings to prosecute the snipers who killed the young men and women demonstrators. Continue reading
Asian Dub Foundation: The History of Now
EGYPT REVOLUTION – TUNISIA REVOLUTION – THE HISTORY OF NOW (ver 1)
Photos and videos from Tunisia and Egypt in January and February 2011 of protesters in Tunisia seeking Ben Ali ouster and Egyptian protesters seeking Mubarak resignation in central Cairo. Music from Asian Dub Foundation, “History of now”
The Egyptian capital Cairo was the scene of violent chaos on Friday, when tens of thousands of anti-government protesters stoned and confronted police, who fired back with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons. It was a major escalation in what was already the biggest challenge to authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year-rule. They are demanding Mubarak’s ouster and venting their rage at years of government neglect of rampant poverty, unemployment and rising food prices.
Asian Dub Foundation – A History of Now (chapter 1) (new ver)
AsianDubFoundation1 on Mar 2, 2011:
“In anticipation of our performance at this year’s Brighton Festival which is exploring the twin themes of freedom and voice, we are delighted that Jimmy Cauty (founding member of KLF and The Orb) is putting together a series of different interpretations of the video for the History Of Now. In the run up to our opening performance on 7th May we will be featuring these on the website and our YouTube channel video. Revolution is the spirit of the moment. This is the History of Now.”
Egypt’s Revolutionary Poetry
Protesters throughout the Middle East are using famous classical poetry as subversive chants against the government. Josh Dzieza on countries where verse still has power—and the Pete Seeger of Egypt.
Imperious despot, insolent in strife,
Lover of ruin, enemy of life!
You mock the anguish of an impotent land
Whose people’s blood has stained your tyrant hand,
And desecrate the magic of this earth,
sowing your thorns, to bring despair to birth
The readings and poetic chants in Tunisia and Egypt are only the latest instance in a long history of political poetry in the Middle East, going back all the way to pre-Islamic times, when the sa-alik (roughly translated as “vagabond”) wrote about living outside the tribal system. In modern times, poetry has been a tool for creating a sense of political unity, giving voice to political aspirations, and excoriating governments and leaders. Maybe most surprising to an American used to poetry’s increasing confinement to college campuses, poetry is a tool for galvanizing people to political action.
“Outside the West poetry is still very powerful,” says Muhsin Jassim al-Musawi, professor of Arabic literature at Columbia University. “It might not be very conspicuous, but it is there, an undercurrent, and whenever there is a need for it you will be surprised that people have something to say.” Postcolonial literary criticism has neglected the political power of poetry, says Musawi, focusing instead on the way narrative defines cultural and national identities. But when those identities are first being formed, he says, when people are taking to the streets in protest or trying to establish a new government, it’s poetry people turn to. It’s easier to rally around a verse than a novel. Continue reading
Statement of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt
News from website http://www.uruknut.info
|PFLP, February 2, 2011
Comrade Hussein al-Jamal, member of the Central Committee of the Gaza branch of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said on February 2, 2011 that “the Front will never stand aside or claim neutrality toward popular revolution or the national liberation movements in the Arab world. Our Front stands beside all of the Arab people, and especially the peoples of Egypt and Tunisia at this time of their great revolutions.”
In an interview with Gaza-based Voice of the People radio, Comrade Jamal said that the “clock of the Arab world will not go backwards, but instead forwards toward freedom and emancipation from oppression,” adding that the victory of the Arab revolutions would deal a severe blow to Israel and the Zionist movement.
He noted that Israel is currently confused and carefully watching events in Egypt, and warned of attempts by the state meant to subvert the popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Comrade Jamal said further that the common factor of these revolutions is their popular base and origin, and have a fundamentally progressive and leftist character. Continue reading
French-Tunisian relations as the government in Tunis fell
France okayed tear gas as Tunisia revolt peaked
By Brian Love
PARIS, Feb 1 (Reuters) – France, on the defensive ever since it offered Tunisia its crowd control know-how as protestors died in the streets, risks further embarrassment after the revelation on Tuesday that it authorised tear gas exports at that time too.
Prime Minister Francois Fillion acknowledged in a letter to a member of parliament that permits for tear gas exports were granted as late as Jan. 12, two days before Tunisian President Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali fled in the face of a popular uprising. Continue reading