Monday, February 21, 2011

This Friday!

Come out this Friday for two unbelievably amazing events.

First, From Cairo to Egypt.

From the facebook event page:
The local community and guests from Egypt are gathering to better understand and engage with the ongoing revolutionary activity in the Middle East and North Africa. Memphis's historical struggle with discrimination and poverty allow us to look into the unfolding of these events with inspiration and hope. In this spirit, we will explore how we can enact freedom, justice, equality, and dignity (the slogan of the Egyptian revolution) within our community.

Panel discussion and Q&A to follow.

Free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome!

And after that, Red House Show at The Dairy, 2010 Court Ave. Thanks, Dairy House!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Democracy in the Streets: Madison Mobilizes to Defeat the Anti-Labor Walker

by Omar Mohamad, Secretary, Socialist Party of South Central Wisconsin and Billy Wharton, co-chair Socialist Party USA

The mass protests led by public employees unions in Madison, Wisconsin have been presented by some mainstream commentators as a labor’s last stand. They are not. They are a spark, a spark with the potential to create a new protest movement capable of revitalizing our unions, radicalizing student organizing and creating a space for democratic socialist politics. As socialists, we stand steadfastly in solidarity with this protest movement. We pledge to support the immediate goal of blocking Governor Scott Walker’s reactionary and draconian anti-union legislation and the longer-term project of building a serious left-wing political movement in the US.

Walker’s proposal to strip workers of collective bargaining rights is an extreme example of the budget cutting strategies being prepared by state and local officials throughout the country. More than 31 states are in the process of implementing deep cuts to basic public services. The local budgetary situations have been made worse by the ending of Federal stimulus funds. Much like at the Federal level, most of these states have, for decades, refused to properly tax their richest residents and corporations. In the case of Wisconsin, corporate tax rates have not been increased since 1972 and a myriad of loopholes and tax credits allow these companies to further evade taxation.

But the budget cuts are not about the fiscal balancing of budgets. They are, instead, an ideological attack on the rights of working people, on the opportunities for public university students and on the public programs that millions of people rely on. Gov. Walker and the other politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, have refused to cover deficits by spending from reserve funds or increasing taxation on the rich and corporations. This is a political choice, driven by free market ideology, to defend the wealth of the elite at the expense of the vast majority of people in our society.

As socialists, we understand that public employees are not the problem. Their work helps to enhance the public good. The problem that is gripping all of American society is that 5% of the population controls 85% of the productive wealth and this 5% has no intention of returning this wealth to those who produced it. As a result, politicians will violate any democratic right – union rights, civil rights and economic rights – that threatens this wealth. Walker demonstrated just how far he would go by putting the National Guard on notice in the event of mass unrest.

No wonder then that the protesters in Madison compared the Governor to the deposed dictator of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. This comparison is not only because the protesters see a bit of Walker in Mubarak, but more importantly, they see themselves in the massive street protests that gripped Egypt and in the occupation of Tahrir Square. And what great lessons to learn from this brave movement that faced down the police and forced a dictator out. The fighting spirit of Tahrir Square represents a global wave of unrest in which people are exercising and demanding their democratic rights. Democracy, in Cairo or Madison, is about more than elections. It is about creating a society based on economic democracy – where working people who create the wealth can claim that wealth.

Democratic socialism offers the best hope to make the aspirations of these protests real. We believe that society can best be run through direct democracy – where people have a direct say in how the society runs. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature should not be the ones determining how the budget is crafted. A system of participatory budgeting in which those who will be affected by the budget are given a direct decision making voice in how the funds are spent would be the most democratic and efficient process possible. Here, the true will of all those people mobilizing to stop Walker would be heard.

Until we are able to build the political will to create such a democratic structure, the political focus must be placed on taxing the rich and corporations to cover the immediate budget deficit in Wisconsin. In the short term, this will mean employing all possible forms of civil disobedience and non-compliance on our worksites, our schools and in our communities. Simply put, if a small group of politicians attempts to strip us of our rights in the service of protecting the wealth of the elite, we are more than justified in using all of the social power we can muster to bring the society to a stand still.

The Socialist Party USA has initiated a national campaign to fight against budget cuts and the attack on public workers. We are calling on all of our members and our supporters to join local campaigns to defend jobs, education, and services. As socialists, we bring with us a firm conviction about taxing the rich and a vision of a democratically run society in which people regain control of their lives from the logic of the market, from the workings of capitalism and from the elite 5% who benefit from our labor, while offering little in return.

Solidarity with the Madison Protests!

Kill the Anti-Union Bill!

Defeat the Anti-Labor Walker!

Sunday, February 13, 2011 Reports on FBI/Sheriff's Dep't/MPD Harassment

To Protect and Serve? Despite Harassment, Peace Activists Vow to Continue Work
by Randall Amster

On January 25, 2011, people gathered in cities across America to demonstrate against the ongoing harassment of peace organizations and individual activists by law enforcement agencies. In particular, these “solidarity actions” were focused on the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who had served subpoenas and raided the homes of people involved in anti-war and international solidarity work in Minneapolis and Chicago in late September 2010. From Boston to Los Angeles, activists rallied at federal buildings, collected petition signatures, distributed pamphlets, and peacefully demonstrated on street corners as part of the “National Day of Action to Stop FBI Repression and Grand Jury Witch Hunts.”

In Chicago, over 350 people assembled in front of the Dirksen Federal Building to protest U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s decision to subpoena 23 antiwar activists and order them to appear in front of a grand jury. In Minneapolis, more than 100 people swarmed the sidewalk at the downtown Federal Building, waving signs that read "Opposing war is not a crime" and "Hands off free speech," denouncing the infiltration of their groups with undercover agents, and stating that they will not cooperate with the grand juries even if it means going to jail. Actions large and small were held in over 50 cities across the nation in a show of solidarity for peace activism and against official harassment.

Perhaps the most curious – and potentially revealing – episode among these many actions played out in Memphis, Tennessee. In a bizarre twist, the small group that had assembled there on January 25th was visited by the FBI and local law enforcement, ostensibly to warn them about their own event and stating that they were there for the activists’ own safety. A local media outlet reported on the episode:

“When a police SWAT team and an FBI anti-terrorism squad showed up Tuesday at a Memphis church where peace activists were staging an event, a scene reminiscent of the turbulent 1960s ensued. The activists, members of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center who oppose the war in Afghanistan, characterized the encounter as police intimidation and a case of illegal surveillance. FBI and Memphis Police Department representatives countered it was all a misunderstanding. They said they were there to protect the activists from potential harm by extremists who might oppose their views.”

Interestingly, the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center (MSPJC) had planned no public demonstration as part of its activities that day, but were merely holding a small meeting of about a dozen people to fill out forms under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to investigate the extent to which activists in their community may have been under surveillance, infiltration, or other forms of potential intimidation. The media release sent out by the MSPJC stated that the event was being held to “demand an end to FBI harassment of peace, anti-war and solidarity activists.” In response, according to the MSPJC’s Director, it appears that the agents and officers were in fact sent to the event to monitor and intimidate the group.

Read the full article at

Memphis activists protest FBI repression on September 29 in response to the raids on September 24, 2010:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Statements on Egypt

Socialism and the Spirit of Tahrir Square
by Andrea Pason and Billy Wharton, co-chairs Socialist Party USA
February 11, 2011

We send greetings to the working people of Egypt on the day of their victorious struggle to depose the dictator Hosni Mubarak. Their grassroots movement provides definitive proof to the world that radical political activity can change the course of history. The activities of the protesters in Tahrir Square transformed the idea of democracy from a stale ritual that occurs every few years to an open ended struggle for freedom. We are inspired by the example provided by this mass revolt of the Egyptian people.

It is particularly important to recognize the central contribution made by the working class to the defeat of the dictator. While the occupation of the square and the street demonstrations in several cities galvanized the resistance, it was the mass strikes carried out by the workers that broke the back of the regime. On February 9th thousands of workers demonstrated the ability to shutdown the entire society and economy until their demands were met. After these mass strikes, the regime understood that surrender was its only option.

The victory of Tahrir Square need not be an isolated one – limited only to the removal of one dictatorial regime. The revolt was as much about the conditions imposed on Egyptians by capitalism – the lack of food, the unemployment, the poor housing, the declining environment – as it was about Mubarak. We can all join in the spirit of struggle initiated in Cairo by demanding a democratic socialist society where the needs of human beings are placed ahead of those of corporations.

See Tahrir Square for what it is – an open-ended struggle for freedom. And what the dissident voices in Egypt and many other parts of world are demanding are things that capitalism cannot deliver. In Egypt, the reorganization of an independent trade union movement, the experiences of direct democracy in the protests and the revitalization of a socialist left in the country offer greatest hope for advancing the political agenda for economic freedom developed in Tahrir Square.

As socialists located in the US, we pledge to continue to do our part in the international struggle for socialism. We see our own political activity as a part of the larger international movement for jobs, peace and freedom. As a part of a Socialism for the 21st Century!

To the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt
An Open Letter from the Internationalist Socialist League (Israel/Occupied Palestine) and the League for the Revolutionary Party (U.S.)
February 8, 2011

The following is a response to the statement “Glory to the martyrs! Victory to the revolution!” issued by the Revolutionary Socialists group in Egypt, published on February 1. . .


With sincere respect for your place among the courageous fighters against Mubarak’s bloody dictatorship, we must share with you some serious criticisms of your statement of February 1. We know that your role in the Egyptian masses’ great struggles can only be properly appreciated by considering all that your group has said, as well as all that it has done in practice. However your February 1 statement is the first to be translated and circulated by your comrades in the International Socialist Tendency, so it deserves to be paid special attention.

You are right to say that Egypt’s revolution is being stolen from the working class and poor. The move by prominent opposition figures to enter into negotiations with the government shows their willingness to compromise the masses’ most basic aim of ending their oppression and winning democracy by driving Mubarak’s NDP from power. Your insistence that the economic demands of the workers and poor must not be sacrificed in the struggle for democracy is certainly correct, as are your arguments for the creation of elected councils of the struggle. You are also right to warn that the army cannot be trusted to protect the masses and that the rank-and-file soldiers will have to be rallied to split from their officers.

These points express the fact that the Egyptian revolution is at a dangerous turning point. The prominent figures claiming to represent the masses who are now negotiating with the dictatorship are acting according to their bourgeois class interests. As you know, bourgeois and middle class elements like the imams, businessmen and landowners who dominate the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, or professionals like the diplomat ElBaradei, can all be satisfied by being given a little more space at the top of Egyptian society. No wonder they are anxious for the workers and poor people to leave the streets and return to their old lives of quiet suffering as soon as possible.

A Stable Capitalist Democracy Is Impossible In Egypt

The treachery of these bourgeois opposition figures confirms Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, a perspective that we know you subscribe to: only the working-class and poor masses can be relied on to continue the fight to overthrow the dictatorship and win democracy for all Egyptians, because only the working class and poor have no interest in maintaining the capitalist society that the dictatorship defends.

It is essential to recognize that the reality of class exploitation and imperialist oppression means that whatever course the struggle takes, there cannot be a stable democracy in Egypt for as long as imperialist capitalism rules the region. At this time of economic crisis, with the world sliding toward another Great Depression, capitalism cannot offer a better life to the masses. Aside from the most temporary concessions granted to quell mass struggles, capitalism offers only worsening poverty and exploitation. In dominated and exploited neo-colonies like Egypt, enforcing these conditions is ultimately only possible by means of dictatorship.

Indeed, the Egyptian state is essential to imperialism’s domination of the whole of the Middle East. It governs vital shipping routes including the Suez Canal. Egypt’s border with Gaza and Israel is another wall in the Zionist settler state’s prison-house for the Palestinians. The struggle for democracy in Egypt thus threatens the imperialists’ most vital interests and will face their most violent resistance. A stable and genuine democracy will be only possible in Egypt after imperialism’s client states in the region are overthrown, especially the racist colonial settler state of Israel. Working-class socialist revolutions throughout the Middle East are the only solution to the problems faced by the workers and poor of the region. The speed with which the uprising of Tunisia’s workers and poor people inspired similar rebellions across the Arab world shows the potential for this strategy to succeed.

Under these conditions the opposition leaders’ treacherous moves to negotiate with the dictatorship do not merely threaten to prevent the masses from winning their demands. By demobilizing the struggle, especially before the working class and poor can establish their own independent mass organizations, these bourgeois leaders are helping the dictatorship regroup its forces. While the mass struggle in Egypt today has proved too great for the state to crush, that balance of forces cannot last forever. The dictatorship, as well as the imperialists who rely on it to keep order, will inevitably turn to bloody repression when it thinks it can and must.

Put simply, the Egyptian masses’ struggle will either triumph as a socialist revolution of the working class that defeats imperialism by spreading the revolution throughout the Middle East, or it will suffer a bloody defeat. Workers’ revolution is the only hope of avoiding a nightmarish counterrevolution.

Working-Class Leadership Needed

That socialist revolution is the only solution to Egypt’s crisis is of course a conclusion that most Egyptian workers seem far from embracing today. Workers and poor people (semi-employed and unemployed workers as well as impoverished vendors and others from more middle-class occupations) account for the overwhelming majority of protesters on the streets, but at least at first they for the most part participated simply as members of “the people,” without emphasizing specifically working-class demands. Unlike in Tunisia where unions organized protests from the beginning of the uprising and general strikes were widely observed, workers in Egypt are mostly only just beginning to turn from street protests to engaging in strikes and workplace occupations demanding Mubarak’s ouster. However the announcement of the formation of a new federation of independent unions, and the example of militant struggles by tens of thousands of textile workers in Mahalla and of strikes and workplace occupations by factory and service workers in Suez and elsewhere are sure to spread.

But the experience of struggle against the Mubarak dictatorship has given the working class a sense of the tremendous power it has when united in collective action and the role played by the various opposition leaders is already providing powerful confirmation of the revolutionary socialist perspective. Those lessons will be lost, however, if the revolutionary strategy is not put forward clearly and openly. That is why we were disappointed to see that in your statement of February 1 you expressed yourself not in the clear language of Marxism, which speaks of specific classes having specific interests, but instead in the vague rhetoric of populism. Complaining about “elites” hijacking the “popular revolution,” you call for the working class to support the other forces making the revolution, but you do not call for the workers to lead the revolution. Thus instead of calling for workers’ power through socialist revolution, your statement raises the purely democratic populist slogan, “All power to the people!”

Comrades, this slogan of “power to the people” may not seem so bad – it sounds a lot better than Mubarak’s rule! But “the people” include not just the masses of workers and poor but the capitalists and petty bourgeoisie as well. For as long as the revolution is promoted as being in the interests of all, it will be limited to the demands for limited democratic change that seem acceptable to most people of all classes. If revolutionaries do not insist on working-class leadership of the struggle, power will by default fall into the hands of those with the greatest resources, the bourgeoisie.

Your February 1 statement says:

“The revolution is a popular revolution. This is not a revolution of the elite, political parties or religious groups. Egypt's youth, students, workers and the poor are the owners of this revolution. In recent days a lot of elites, parties and so-called symbols have begun trying to ride the wave of revolution and hijack it from their rightful owners.”

But while the masses of workers, poor people and youth are the great force behind the revolution, they have never “owned” it. How could they have, without a working-class political party leading the broader masses in an open struggle against not just the Mubarak dictatorship but against all the representatives of capitalism?

If it is to move forward, the limits of Egypt’s “popular revolution” must be transcended and the masses’ struggle transformed into a conscious struggle for the working class to seize power. That requires leadership by a revolutionary socialist political party of the most far-sighted and determined workers and youth that is prepared to win the support of the masses in seizing leadership of the struggle from the pro-capitalist and reformist figures that currently dominate it. Until that takes place, any talk of the masses’ owning the revolution is nothing more than wishful thinking, and populist sloganeering about a “popular revolution” giving “power to the people” can only obscure the class conflict and delay the working class from realizing its tasks.

Read the full letter here...

Mubarak Resigns, the Struggle Continues
Solidarity Webzine

by Jase
February 11, 2011

One thing is clear from the events of the last 18 days: the power of the people is now back on the world stage in a dramatic fashion.

What has transpired in Egypt is nothing less than the largest popular revolution in the last 30 years. Two weeks of demonstrations and mass actions put the authority of Hosni Mubarak on its last legs, and 2 days of strikes finished the job. Masses of working class people have participated in the protests, swelling the ranks in the streets, but once the working-class exercised its social power over the economy in an organized fashion, the regime could not sustain itself. As the Revolutionary Socialists, an Egyptian organization, said: "The regime can afford to wait out the sit-ins and demonstrations for days and weeks, but it cannot last beyond a few hours if workers use strikes as a weapon."

The ruling classes of the world are now on notice: the people are back, in a big way.

While it is good and necessary to celebrate this victory, we must also understand that this political revolution is not yet a social revolution--and the extent of the political revolution, a transfer of power to the armed forces, is still minor. Cultural change is sweeping Egypt in a way that it has not in a very long time, caused by the movement for democracy from below. The explosion of popular organization in the form of independent unions, neighborhood defense committees and new political organizations will forever change the face of Egypt, the Arab world, the entire Middle East and the world itself. However, the regime created by Mubarak remains in place.

Where did the Mubarak Regime come from?

The regime of Hosni Mubarak is a creation of local Egyptian elites who worked in tandem with US, Israeli and European interests to repudiate the Arab Nationalist regime of former Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser. Nasser's government came into existence in 1952 following a revolt by military officers against the British-installed monarch King Farouk. Nasser himself did not take power until 1954, but he was the major architect of the 1952 overthrow.

Nasser's regime opposed forms of popular self-organization but gained an enormous amount of respect from the people of Egypt and the entire world with his robust opposition to Israeli imperialism and indeed following the 1956 Suez Crisis, world imperialism itself. The regime operated via nationalizing major industries in order to develop the country's economy.

The Arab Nationalism of Egypt was supported by ruling elites to counter revolutionary internationalism, and its limitations (especially via the nation-state) were made clear during the 1970's. Below Nasser in the hierarchy of the regime was Anwar Sadat, who began the process of creating the regime that is in power today in Egypt. Sadat made peace with Israeli apartheid, giving de facto support for continued imperialist bludgeoning of the Arab world. Without fear from the Egyptian government--the only effective counterweight to Israeli aggression--the Israeli government was able to spend the following thirty years demolishing the region in the name of "security." Invasions and occupations of Lebanon coupled with airstrikes on Iraq and multiple vicious campaigns against the "internal" threat of occupied Palestine became the rule of the day.

A splinter group of the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Sadat, a kind of "chickens coming home to roost" moment for the Egyptian ruling class. To counter working-class self-organization and revolutionary internationalism (not to mention more consistent and independent secular Arab nationalism) the government in Cairo did what many other governments across the Muslim world did during the 1970's: bolster--both directly and indirectly--religious political groups to provide the only effective opposition (the most cynical version of this policy in the region was the Israeli intelligence services' support for Hamas in Gaza during the First Intifada in order to counter the Arab nationalism of the Palestine Liberation Organization).

Read the full article here...

Take a look at some beautiful photos from Mubarak's last day on stephentempe's blog.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Statement from Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt

A call from Egyptian socialists
Revolutionary socialists in Egypt issued this statement about the Egyptian uprising and the tasks that the movement faces as the struggle continues in the coming weeks.

Glory to the martyrs! Victory to the revolution!

What is happening today is the largest popular revolution in the history of our country and of the entire Arab world. The sacrifice of our martyrs has built our revolution and we have broken through all the barriers of fear. We will not back down until the criminal "leaders" and their criminal system is destroyed.

Mubarak's departure is the first step, not the last step of the revolution

The handover of power to a dictatorship under Omar Suleiman, Ahmed Shafiq and other cronies of Mubarak is the continuation of the same system. Omar Suleiman is a friend of Israel and America, spends most of his time between Washington and Tel Aviv, and is a servant who is faithful to their interests. Ahmed Shafik is a close friend of Mubarak and his colleague in the tyranny, oppression and plunder imposed on the Egyptian people.

The country's wealth belongs to the people and must return to it

Over the past three decades, this tyrannical regime corrupted the country's largest estates to a small handful of business leaders and foreign companies. One hundred families own more than 90 percent of the country's wealth. They monopolize the wealth of the Egyptian people through policies of privatization, looting of power and the alliance with capital. They have turned the majority of the Egyptian people to the poor, landless and unemployed.

Factories wrecked and sold dirt cheap must go back to the people

We want the nationalization of companies, land and property looted by this bunch. As long as our resources remain in their hands we will not be able to completely get rid of this system. Economic slavery is the other face of political tyranny. We will not be able to cope with unemployment and achieve a fair minimum wage for a decent living without restoring the wealth of the people from this gang.

We will not be guard dogs of America and Israel

This system does not stand alone. As a dictator, Mubarak was a servant and client directly acting for the sake of the interests of America and Israel. Egypt acted as a colony of America, participated directly in the siege of the Palestinian people, made the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace free zones for warships and fighter jets that destroyed and killed the Iraqi people, and sold gas to Israel dirt cheap while stifling the Egyptian people by soaring prices. Revolution must restore Egypt's independence, dignity and leadership in the region.

The revolution is a popular revolution

This is not a revolution of the elite, political parties or religious groups. Egypt's youth, students, workers and the poor are the owners of this revolution. In recent days, a lot of elites, parties and so-called symbols have begun trying to ride the wave of revolution and hijack it from their rightful owners. The only symbols are the martyrs of our revolution and our young people who have been steadfast in the field. We will not allow them to take control of our revolution and claim that they represent us. We will choose to represent ourselves and represent the martyrs who were killed, their blood paying the price for the salvation of the system.

Read the full statement at

Saturday, February 5, 2011


The Memphis SP stood in solidarity today with activists across Memphis calling for an end to the Mubarak regime and democracy for the people of Egypt.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Revolution in Tunisia: Three Left Perspectives

Tunisia Breaks Free
Solidarity Webzine
by Jase
January 27, 2011

The events unfolding in Tunisia before our very eyes constitute a sharp break in world events, albeit a break that has emerged from years of grinding contradictions that have now come to a head. These events represent a break from US-backed “color revolutions,” feigned revolutionary upsurges by reactionary Islamists masquerading as harbingers of progress, and forms of reformist and guerilla-style revolutionary elitism. Popular self-organization from below has scored a victory that—although limited in nature—has had profound effects in transforming the consciousness of people around the Arab world and indeed globally.

The revolt in the streets of Tunis had their origins in the rural southern regions of the country, specifically in the town of Sidi Bouzidi. There, mostly rural workers took to the streets in December “with a rock in one hand and a cell-phone in the other” (according to Rochdi Horchani, a relative of Mohamed Bouazizi—the 26 year old street vendor whose self-immolation sparked the current round of resistance) to challenge the regime of Ben-Ali.

The challenge came after three decades of ruthless repression at the hands of Ben-Ali's Mukhabarat (secret police). The US and French support for the regime went very far as Tunisia was upheld as an exemplar of behavior considered acceptable to the interests of the American and French ruling classes. Tunisia was to be a place of robber-baron dictatorship (Wikileaks cables reveal that something like 50% of the economy was in one way or another under the control of Ben-Ali's family and 6 other clans). All of the repression occurred with the blessing of Washington and Paris, for as long as the people were docile and timid before their oppressors, no complaints about human rights abuses seemed to matter.

Unlike similar demonstrations against the regime that had broken out in the spring, the people of Sidi Bouzidi made a huge effort to get the news of their demonstrations out to a broader public. They succeeded dramatically. Images from the south were seen via the internet and pirated satellite television.

Then came more eruptions across the country—and the entry of thousands of urban working-class citizens into the battle. The explosion was more than the police could handle and so Ben-Ali called on the military to enter the mix with guns drawn: and the orders were refused.

We do not know exactly what transpired in the halls of power, but the ruling RCD party maneuvered for its own survival following the military refusal by pressing Ben-Ali to flee—and flee he did. First he tried to touch down in Paris, but the shrewd Sarkozy government refused him asylum, recognizing that inflaming anti-imperialist tensions was probably an unwise decision at this given juncture. Ben-Ali has taken refuge in Saudi Arabia now—though the new (second) interim government is trying to have him brought into custody.

Unlike recent “color” revolutions in Eastern Europe or Central Asia, millions of dollars of George Soros' “democracy promotion” aid did not contribute to the effort and no liberal opposition parties were significant participants. The dissension from the regime by the largest trade union confederation (which had previously been the handmaiden of the regime) turned the struggle from one isolated among youth and rural workers to a general uprising against the regime.

read the full article on the Solidarity Webzine...

Tunisia’s Revolution in Danger
A Bolshevik Policy is Needed to Guide the Workers and Poor People to Power!

A Joint Statement by the League for the Revolutionary Party (U.S.) and the Internationalist Socialist League (Israel/Occupied Palestine)
January 28, 2011

The sight of Tunisia’s long-time dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fleeing in the face of workers’ general strikes and mass demonstrations is inspiring an upsurge of struggle throughout the Middle East. The idea is spreading among the Arab world’s workers and youth that they could rise up and send the rest of the region’s imperialism-backed dictators packing as well.

But in Tunisia itself the struggle is far from over. The dictator is gone, but the political party that he led and which ran the dictatorship, the RCD, still dominates the government. The hated police have been driven away or underground in many places, but the state apparatus of courts, police and the army that was the dictatorship’s foundation remain in place in the country’s most important centers of power. Weeks of big demonstrations and mass strikes demanding that the RCD be ousted from the government have yielded little change, and Ben Ali’s crony Mohamed Ghannouchi continues to hold the position of Prime Minister.

Today, the forces of the old dictatorship are too weak to try to violently crush the masses’ struggles. But the workers and poor people do not see a leadership willing and able to lead them in finally driving the RCD from power. The current standoff between these forces cannot last forever.

The masses’ desire to rid themselves of the RCD is accompanied by a growing sense of the need for a strong government to get the economy moving again. Ghannouchi’s regime hopes that it can hold on to power while the masses grow tired from weeks of struggle without a breakthrough. But there are already signs that more violent means could be used to subjugate the masses: recent provocative demonstrations in Tunis expressing support for the government and condemning the unions and the left for spreading anarchy, combined with scattered violent attacks on union offices in different cities, warn of attempts to rally middle-class support for a more dictatorial crackdown.

The Role of the Army

The current balance of power between the Ghannouchi government and the masses is held by the army. Its ranks of soldiers, conscripted from the working class and poor, have been swept up in the masses’ revolutionary ferment. They broadly share the hope of seeing the RCD ousted from power and today guard government buildings and central streets with flowers in their gun barrels, symbols of their intention not to harm the masses.

The army’s top leader, General Rachid Ammar, was at least at first regarded as a hero for refusing Ben Ali’s orders to crush the masses’ protests. Indeed in the days after Ben Ali’s downfall, the army played an important role in apprehending bands of police engaged in wanton acts of murder.

But Ammar was hand-picked for his position by Ben Ali and has long been closely tied to U.S. imperialism and its military. Ammar may have prompted Ben Ali’s flight from power, but he did so with the aim of sacrificing the dictator in order to rescue the rest of the capitalist ruling class and save its state power to rule over the masses. When “Caravans of Liberation” arrived in Tunis from the country’s impoverished central region and threatened to lead demonstrators in toppling the government, Ammar stood before them with a megaphone and begged them to allow more time for reforms. “The army will protect the revolution,” he promised. What Ammar was literally doing, however, was saving the RCD from the revolution.

A Democratic, Not Socialist, Revolution?

Tunisia’s revolution did not begin with intellectuals in cosmopolitan Tunis protesting for free speech. Rather, it began with massive union-organized demonstrations in the impoverished center of the country. Rallying behind slogans like “Bread and Freedom – Not Ben Ali!” the masses of workers and poor people made clear from the outset that they were fighting to liberate themselves not just from political oppression but also from poverty and exploitation.

read the full statement here...

Statement on Tunisia
by the Socialist Party USA International Commission
January 31, 2011

Tunisia has become the latest hot spot in a global wave of popular rebellion against failed economic policies, corruption, and despotism. Ongoing protests throughout the country – called the Sidi Bouzid intifada by Tunisians in reference to the city where the protests began - were sparked by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a twenty-six year old street vendor. Like many, he suffered from underemployment and police violence. The rebellion went largely unnoticed by the international commercial media until the Tunisian dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14th, ending 23 years of autocracy.

The International Commission of the Socialist Party USA salutes the people of Tunisia in this important step toward liberation. The ousting of Ben Ali shows that tyrants cannot rule over a population that refuses consent. In particular, we recognize the central role played by working people. While students and the middle class also went into the streets, it was workers, organized by the General Union of Tunisian Workers that gave the demonstrations structure and tipped the balance of power toward the protests. Through concerted mass action, the working class of Tunisia proved to have the power to overthrow a seemingly invincible authoritarian regime and make history. The revolt has inspired popular struggles throughout the region and the world. Already protests have rocked Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen and other Arab states.

The Tunisian struggle continues over the nature of a new government. Mobilizations in the street are continuing in protest against a proposed “unity government” which maintains many officials from the old ruling party. Protesters are demanding a new democratic constitution before elections. Removing the dictator is not enough; the entire dictatorship must go.

Behind the scenes, economic power brokers are working to preserve neo-liberal relations with foreign interests, and insulate themselves from democratic forces. Recent revelations from Wikileaks have exposed how French and U.S. diplomats were well aware of the corruption and human rights violations of the Ben Ali regime, yet maintained uncritical friendly relations. A truly democratic alternative for the people of Tunisia that is independent of economic and diplomatic imperialism will be served best by connecting to the international socialist movement.

The International Commission of the Socialist Party USA pledges to share Tunisia's story, and to pressure our government to respect Tunisian sovereignty. We extend our solidarity and seek greater ties with the movements in Tunisia of unionists, women, youth, and socialists. The liberation of Tunisia from Ben Ali's personal dictatorship brings us one step closer to ending the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, warding off aggression against Iran, and ending the occupation of Palestine.