The spark that burned the dried branches of the Tunis people’s rage was the self-burning of the 26 year old Mohamed Bouazizi, on December 17th, in Sidi Bouzid. The non graduated young man made his tragic decision when the authorities confiscated his bread-earning vegetable bench. This news was the cause for a popular outburst, continuing for weeks now in Tunisia and resulted in the departure of the Former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the repeated resignations of various members of the ruling party.
Tunisia is one of the wealthiest countries of Northern Africa. A recent IMF report mentions that in 2010 the country’s GDP reached 4%, compared to 3,1% in 2009, and that its economic growth reached 4,8%, that the sectors of technology of computer science and the industry of hydrocarbons reached 16% and 13%, and that the average annual per capita GDP is estimated on 8.254 dollars, one of the most “acceptable” in the region.
According to this report, Tunisia is the “most competitive economy in Africa” and holds the 40th position internationally.
Based on the directives of the IMF, Tunisia implemented over the last 20 years a political program that included: the privatization of public enterprises (more than 160 have been completely or partially privatized), the selling or renting of large acres of land to private owners. 12% of the state income comes from tourism, making Tunisia “Northern Africa’s Switzerland” as the Media said, with 6 contemporary commercial ports and 7 international airports!
This politics also resulted in the personal enrichment of Ben Ali himself and the members of his family.
The Tunisian government was fully supportive of the “war against terrorism” that the USA government launched, promoted the business with American multinationals and is a very important partner of the European Union and especially France (72.5% imports from the E.U and 75% exports to the E.U-France).
Supporters of the Ben Ali regime have been, during all those years bureaucrats trade unionists.
This growth goes hand in hand with the complete lack of freedom, the persecution of progressive people and every other voice of contradiction, the poverty, the high unemployment rate, the social injustice and the high prices of the daily essentials. 55% of the population is under 25 years old, but the unemployment in the young people reaches 30%. One of every two young people is unemployed, although most of them are postgraduates or have master degrees.
The example of Tunisia proves that the growth and the competitiveness does not go hand in hand, it is against the popular strata’s and the working people’s progress and well-being, it is against their social and working rights. USA and EU bear huge responsibility for the reality that the Tunisian people are facing today.
For twenty four years, Tunisian people were living in a big fear of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and different forms of abuse. So far, Tunisians got rid of a dictator but they are still suffering another dictatorship, stronger and more aggressive: the big capitalists, the multinationals and the power of the international financial institutions especially the World Bank, the IMF and the European Investment Bank.
The self-burning of the young person was the cause of the outburst of the people’s rage which was growing underneath for many years. This struggle is fair, promising and hopeful. It proves, until now, that it does not stop in front of “maneuvers” and actions that are only targeted to appease the people’s rage, without bringing real change in their reality, this struggle does not accept the “monopolies’ democracy”, the remaining of the former governmental members in the government. Despite the police bullets and the many dead and wounded persons the determination of the demonstrators is not waned.
This struggle will not be satisfied with nothing more than the fulfilling of the people’s demands for “Dignity, Bread and Freedom”, they ask for real solutions.
The World Federation of Trade Unions stands on the side of the struggling Tunisian people, demands the fulfilling of all their demands, the immediate release of all the arrested, the cessation of the state violence.
The WFTU calls its member-organizations and friends to express their solidarity with Tunisian people and their struggle for decent work, social and trade union freedom and rights.
The call and the slogan of the 16th World Trade Union Congress for a struggle: “against the capitalist brutality, for social justice and a world without exploitation” embraces the class-oriented, trade union movement we need today.