The Tunisian uprising is nothing but the natural result of the failure of the globalisation model and the impasse affecting the entire world. Indeed, as soon as an economy opens up to foreign capital and one gives the local economy and services over to market forces, the state’s role is automatically undermined and remains only to protect the model itself. By consequence, whether in Tunisia or elsewhere in the developing world, it resulted in a contradiction between the people’s interests and the class created to protect foreign capital.
In the Arab countries, the model of globalisation consisted of abandoning the Arab-Muslim character of the state, responsible for providing wellbeing to its society. It entailed the cancellation of the notion of the national state that emerged following World War II and the independence movement, and whose legitimacy is based on the notion of progress and of the wellbeing of its citizens. It also entailed the cancellation of the socialist aspirations of the people based on their desire for a welfare state and the provision of public services … //
… In Tunisia itself, the illusion that this model seemed to be working very well was based on the authoritarian character of the regimes ruling the country since its independence. However, the result, like elsewhere, was an impoverished and marginalised people, both economically and politically, and a governing police state class getting richer, careless of the wellbeing of the local population and severely repressing any dissent in the name of market forces. But in our modern era, society is not an organisation that one can indefinitely repress nor an ideology that one can ban, but rather a living creature. No one can control it but itself.
If in the past the educated classes had the choice to migrate to other countries and participate in their development, the global economic crisis and the stagnation of Western economies and their allies have limited this possibility. The result of this situation is an army of educated and technically skilled unemployed youth in developing countries. Normally, they are the builders of the national economy, the guardians of the wellbeing of their communities, and aspire to their own fulfilment. The current political and economic situation in all Arab countries pushes this youth, which thinks profoundly that it has the right to live like anyone in a similar situation in the world, to revolt and at times despair.
After 1973, building on their victory, Arab governments thought they could open up to the West and that this process would bring peace and prosperity. Sadat’s economic liberalisation and the welcoming of US and Western corporations for investment signalled the end of the welfare state in the Arab world. Since then, the dream of self-development was abandoned and replaced by opening all Arab countries’ markets to foreign interests, although to varying degrees. This policy of liberalisation became a condition for receiving American blessings, first with Reaganism and Thatcherism, followed by world trade negotiations, and World Bank structural adjustment policies.
As Iraq refused, to some extent, to be integrated into this global neoliberal economy, it was obliged by conquest and force, and through the Bremer Laws, to privatise its oil industry and hand Iraq’s future over to foreign corporations. In order to open Iraq’s economy and free it of any obstacle to outside forces, whether economic, political, cultural or military, the occupation resorted to the physical destruction of Iraq’s capacity of self-development, both of its infrastructure and human resources. As proven by the Iraqi experience, foreign capital does not aim at real development of the economy but rather to destroy all existing capacities for self-determined development processes. Under the phase of imperialism’s finance capitalism led by the United States, the Third World is the last to profit from world progress and the first to pay for capitalist crises. Even Dubai’s financial institutions, which were portrayed as an example of what these policies could achieve, faced with the financial crisis were threatened with bankruptcy if other Emiratis didn’t come to their rescue.
All the illusions of progress that animated older generations since 1973 — like socialism, Arab unity and renaissance, Pax Americana in Palestine and integration of Western models, or Islam as the solution — have now proven unfruitful and unachievable, in spite of the determined struggle of Arab political currents for these ideals. The socialist model collapsed and was put on the shelf; Arab unity is no more on the agenda of governments; Islam as the solution brought only division and sectarianism, as in Iraq; the Pax Americana in Palestine did not stop Israel, while the integration and opening of local markets to the capitalist economy didn’t bring investment or solutions for the unemployed and the poor. It didn’t make the people, as they have the legitimate right to, participate freely in the public affairs of their country, nor benefit from the richness of their land and national economy.
Although the Arab youth might not be opposed to the grand dreams of older generations, still defended by various local political currents, and although these currents continue to have their influence, the Arab youth wants immediate change. The new generation is disillusioned. In Tunisia, it took its destiny in its hands and wants change now, and real change. As an Arab country, and living in a state in permanent exchange with its Mediterranean environment, the people of Tunisia realised that the model of globalisation is simple usurpation. No promise of wellbeing and development, liberty or democracy was fulfilled, and the system can be resumed to a generalised oppression, corruption and theft: a comprador governing class, a police state, and submission of the country to imperialist policies and interests.
The collapse of Ben Ali and his government is not only the collapse of an authoritarian regime, but rather of the globalisation model of finance capitalism and imperialism for Third World countries. The situation in other Arab countries, including oil-producing states, does not differ in last analysis. Maybe the situation is influenced by local economic, geographic and demographic composition of this or that country, but all know that integration into neoliberal globalisation did not and will not result in progress and development, but rather the enriching of some and the impoverishment of the majority, and the abandoning of the national interest to the interest of global capitalism … (full long text).
(Abdul Ilah Albayaty is an Iraqi political analyst; find Hana Al Bayaty on wikipedia; Ian Douglas, named as lecturer in politics, is listed in BRussells Tribunal Executive Committee, … in which all three are named as members).