Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tunisians – You are for the world and with the world

There is a Hebrew proverb: “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” I would add that in this era – of neoliberalism – of spiraling inequality, deteriorating and denying democratic orders, a global elite class ‘gone mad’, corporate reign – we may say that “Whoever revolts saves the world entire.”

Tunisians, for those who have risked your security and lives, you are acting for the world and with the world. You are an inspiration not just to the Arab world but to all of us who seek popular and just control over our political and social world.

As you are continuing to do, push on to end the dictatorship, to heal from the long and deep wounds of the dictatorial regime. Push on and on, keep making your demands heard, don’t let the revolution end here. And we, those of us ‘onlookers’, we will press the international community to support the popularly-demanded changes that the revolution calls for – not superficial measures like changing heads of seats that those ‘who fear’ desire.

And I urge Tunisians, not to separate the ‘political’ from the ‘economic’. This is a revolution not just about the human rights abuses and corruption of the Ben Ali regime; this is a revolution against a neoliberal order that is propping up these vary abuses – and is siphoning workers to the informal, deadening labor rights in all economic spheres, collapsing the productive capacities of countries to mere ‘extractive’ and export driven industries. This is about standing up against economic policies that the regime has backed with pressure and ‘support’ from the West.

Don’t make the same mistakes as the South Africans, the new leaders of the post-apartheid era who had spent a life time fighting against apartheid let their economic agenda fall away as they focused on a political agenda of fair elections, equal suffrage, full human rights. With ‘guidance’ from the international community, the leaders of the early post-apartheid era left in place constitutional provisions that made a redistributive program nearly impossible legally. Quickly the new South African government got pushed into an agenda of structural adjustments, and the decades and decades of an anti-apartheid struggle for redistributive justice became a lost dream.

The fact that three commissions have been formed in the Tunisia revolutionary transition and that all three are devoted to political and constitutional reforms (human rights, corruption, etc.) – is disconcerting. If the Tunisian government and people ‘in the making’ do not draw the connections between political and constitutional reforms and economic reforms, then indeed Western backing and meddling will continue as will deep disillusion.

In his Counterpunch article, Esam El-Amin only got it partially right: “The West’s Little Dictator” fully supported their Tunisian ally Ben Ali because he abided by their War on Terror and pro-Israel agenda, and more importantly, the Ben Ali regime complied with a neoliberal agenda of free trade, privatization, and liberalization that has directly benefited the Mafia regime. And as long as the new governing powers do not threaten this agenda, then the West will continue to back it and manipulate national policy in favor of it. Our common struggles must lie here, recognizing the intimate dance between economic, political and constitutional orders.

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