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The cradle of the revolution is correcting the path of the Arab Spring

January 29, 2016 at 10:40 am

Revolutions are generally social movements that are subject to the conditions of their emergence, which may be significant and lead to a major rupture in society. If a revolution is thwarted and fails to achieve its objectives, the conditions which fed it in the first place will often come to the fore again, usually more powerfully.

There are many signs across the Arab Spring countries which confirm this. In Tunisia, for example, the cradle of the revolution is witnessing bloody protests in the city of Kasserine; along with Sidi Bou Said it represents the heart of the revolution. These protests are on the verge of expanding across all poor Tunisian areas, which were created by impoverishing colonialist policies and then agents propped up by the colonial power, Bourguiba and Ben Ali. The protests remind us of the winter of 2010 as they are prompted by the same social factors. At their core is the demand for employment and the right to development, social justice and fair distribution of wealth.

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Although the most prominent slogans of the Tunisian revolution described the regime as a “gang of thieves” it did not hold any of them accountable, even though they prevented development and employment and looted the country’s wealth. Nor did the revolution bring forth a political elite capable of overcoming its ideological affiliations and old conflicts in order to determine a national ceiling for revolutionary achievements. Instead, it created large spaces for disputed issues associated with doctrine, identity and authority at a time when such issues should have been secondary to providing immediate solutions for everyday social problems.

Marginalisation and poverty continue to make the lives of millions of Tunisians unbearable. Thousands of people are driven to emigrate, be displaced, become extreme or even, in some cases, commit suicide; these are daily events in cities such as Kairouan and other impoverished areas. I am certain that the pain of poverty is still with us, despite all the promises made by the government that adopted a revolutionary guise to appear changed, but has not changed much at all.

The return of popular protests in Tunisia is an indicator of two main factors. First, the demand is neither political nor ideological, but social; the suffering, poverty and marginalisation – all of which feature prominently in oppression and tyranny – have to be alleviated. Oppression, tyranny and injustice are the regime’s tools for looting the country’s wealth; they enable colonial companies to control anything that may allow the masses to fulfil the aims of a true uprising and escape the grip of underdevelopment, dependence and colonialism.

The freedom demanded by the revolutionary masses is not political freedom, such as might be made by an ideological party in order to receive positions and privileges; it is a demand for social justice. Freedom is a social goal, a first step against the corruption that has infiltrated the state and blocks any project capable of overcoming poverty and unemployment.

The second factor is the political failure of the transitional phase, as it circumvented the demands of the people who started the revolution. They were mainly young people without a future, the poor and the marginalised. They have a right to share and manage the country’s wealth.

The Tunisian political elite, with foreign assistance, have turned the revolutionary demands into partisan shares and quotas divided amongst themselves, the remnants of Ben Ali’s regime. The transitional phase also divided the Tunisian cake amongst parties and elites who did not originally participate in the revolution, including the Islamists.

Today we see the youth taking action in their hundreds to protect state institutions and facilities, side by side with the security forces and army. They are targeting looters. Thus, the situation on the Tunisian streets has returned to the starting point, when the youth were protecting and guarding the institutions in the winter of 2010-2011, at a time when the regime’s gangs and snipers were destroying vital facilities and killing innocent people.

The non-politicised and non-partisan youth are resisting the vandals as well as the pawns of the counter-revolution who are trying to derail reform. This is actually the heart of the battle between the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces.

There is an awareness that many forces are lying in wait to ambush the Tunisian experience, which, despite all the negatives, still poses an advanced model compared to the bloody experiences of the Arab Spring elsewhere. Such forces are trying to cause the model to fail by pushing the country towards extremism, terrorism, violence and the destruction of institutions and facilities. They are responsible for a large number of the terrorist attacks taking place in Tunisia, and they target the elite security forces. The money pumped into the country by the Gulf States which have backed coups in Arab Spring countries is the best example of the desperate attempts by these forces to kill the gains of the Tunisian revolution.

We are seeing in Tunisia today the partisan utilisation of non-partisan social demands, with many politicians jumping on the bandwagon in order to settle scores. Not too long ago, they were the top beneficiaries from the poor people’s revolution which rid them of the tyrant who stood between them and the positions they seized after the revolution.

The “spare tyranny tyre”, as the Tunisians call them, as well as Ben Ali’s media mouthpieces who did not leave the country with him, are trying to reproduce the same opportunist rhetoric by demonising the protesters and attacking neighbouring countries, especially Libya, in order to find pathetic excuses for their dire failure. This is exactly what they did on the eve of the revolution on 17 December 2010.

This goes hand in hand with abuse of the power of the trades unions, as their leadership has, over the five years since the revolution, tried to burn the traditional path economically by means of thousands of strikes and sit-ins that have exhausted the national economy. This has also caused the country to go into humiliating debt to foreign powers at a time when the unions themselves have spent millions of dollars of their members’ money on a new building.

The warning from Tunisia is that the manoeuvres of the deep state and its media mouthpieces have failed miserably to turn the conflict from one focused on wealth and rights to a conflict against terrorism and other spectres created by the tyrannical regime’s media.

The circumvention of the social demands we are witnessing today, the deprivation of the people from their legitimate rights, the internationalisation of the country’s wealth, the failure to dismantle the networks of corruption and organised looting by the gangs who control the national economy, are all the real reasons for the revival of the uprising and protests. One day, they may be catastrophic for everyone.

The political elite today has had five years of failure to hold the corrupt to account, take control of the union gangs and neutralise the political wheeler-dealers. Most of all, the political elites are normalising relations with the deep state – the corrupt state – which is a clear violation of the revolution’s red lines and main slogans.

Today’s lesson is that no voice is louder than that of the street, as it is the pulse of society and is the only thing that can change the entire situation and determine the most important positions. The miserable political paths taken, including the latest suspicious elections based on corrupt Gulf money, are nothing but desperate attempts to jump over the prioritised social demands in a move that has been exposed and the failure of which is apparent. The popular demands and rights that the helpless elites portray as being impossible to fulfil represent the minimum social demands. This is because the only message that the unemployed and revolutionaries in Tunisia will listen to is that the government is combatting corruption; revising colonial contracts; determining ministerial and MP salaries, containing their greed and downsizing their privileges, which include cars, grants, deeds, land and properties; and exposing the hands stained with Arab blood who conspire against the people’s revolution and wealth.

How can the presidency double its budget to $100 billion at a time when people in the country are dying of cold and hunger? How can members of the crippled parliament vote themselves an increase in salaries while others are dying due to poverty?

This warning may be the last before the next explosion. The state’s attempt to export its problem abroad and accuse the impoverished and crushed members of society of plotting to damage the democratic experience is a repeat of Ben Ali’s discourse throughout his years of oppression, when he talked about the “targeted Tunisian miracle”. This ultimately revealed one of the most brutal oppressive regimes and its social and economic failures.

The crushed, impoverished, unemployed and marginalised have nothing to lose; their death is already pending. All of the patch-up solutions and attempts to gain some time in order to ride out the current storm will not stop the next one. Instead, it will intensify the violence of its winds and harshness that will not show mercy to anyone.

Translated from Al Jazeera net, 27 January, 2016

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.