Saturday, January 29, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
|Narayanan at the CII event on Friday. (Bishwarup Dutta)|
Calcutta, Jan. 21: Governor M.K. Narayanan, the chancellor of the state’s universities, today said Maoism was becoming “fashionable” in varsities and added that a “section of the civil society was feeling encouraged and taking part in protests”.
Citing instances of protests by sections of the civil society following the arrest of rights activist Binayak Sen, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for being a Maoist conduit, Narayanan said on the sidelines of a CII seminar: “The Maoists are gaining the upper hand in the people’s mind. A section of the civil society is feeling encouraged and taking part in protests. Maoism is becoming fashionable in universities across several states, including Bengal.”
The governor said the “support of well-meaning citizens” was required to “ensure that matters don’t get out of hand”.
Sources said the governor cared about the “wellbeing of the student community” because he was the chancellor of the state’s varsities. They said Narayanan was “concerned” over the “intrusion of Maoist ideologies into educational institutions”.
The sources said that as a former intelligence chief, Narayanan might have received “inputs” from the state’s intelligence branch that Maoists were “eyeing intelligent students to garner support for their cause”.
A senior police officer said “a section of such silent sympathisers” had been spotted in Nandigram, Singur and Lalgarh, places that have witnessed Maoist activities.
Narayanan said it was “imperative” to realise that the Maoist menace could not be tackled merely by increasing the number of security forces or by “mere words… or schemes”.
“The past two years were probably the worst in the history of Naxalite violence,” he said, adding “reality is different from seminar papers”.
Speaking on the issue of internal security, the governor said terrorism could not be tackled by setting up more NSG hubs — an idea mooted by Union home minister P. Chidambaram — but “through good, actionable intelligence backed by painstaking police work”.
Narayanan also expressed his disappointment over the Netai killings, admitting that the ongoing political clashes were a threat to the state’s “internal security”.
“The Netai incident is very unfortunate and I feel it shouldn’t have happened and should not happen (again),” the governor said.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Whatever Happened to the ‘Other Binayaks’? Civil Society’s Failure to Stand by the People Targeted by the Indian State
Thursday, January 20, 2011
CPI (Maoist) calls for Country Wide Protests Against Price- rise and Scams and State Terror - 4th- 6th February and Bharat Bandh on February 7th
And Bharat Bandh on February 7
The New York Times
CAIRO — From the crowded, run-down streets of Cairo to the oil-financed halls of power in Kuwait, Arab leaders appear increasingly rattled by the unfolding events in Tunisia and elsewhere in the Arab world, where men continued to set themselves on fire — two more in Egypt on Tuesday, and a third who was stopped.
Though the streets of Cairo, Algiers and other Arab cities around the region were calm, the acts of self-immolation served as a reminder that the core complaints of economic hardship and political repression that led to the Tunisian uprising resonated strongly across the Middle East.
“You have leaders who have been in power for a very long time, one party controlling everything, marginalization of the opposition, no transfer of power, plans for succession, small groups running the business, vast corruption,” said Emad Gad, a political scientist at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “All of this makes the overall environment ripe for an explosion at any second.”
But while there is widespread anticipation about a revolutionary contagion, particularly in Egypt and Algeria, where there have been angry and violent protests, political analysts said that each country is different, making such conclusions premature. Egypt lacks the broad and educated middle class of Tunisia, while in Algeria the middle class failed to join the angry young men in rioting, regional experts said.
In Jordan, an Islamist opposition party, the Islamic Action Front, issued a demand that the offices of prime minister and other high officials be made elective instead of appointive, as they are now. But like the other outbursts, it quickly died away.
“For all the sound and fury, it doesn’t look like much political dividend will come out of what happened in Algeria, in the short term,” said Hugh Roberts, an independent scholar and a specialist on North Africa based here. “It looks like it has gone quiet. It was a big blast of angry, hot air, but in an unfocused way, which leaves most things the same.”
So for now, the most pronounced impact from the unexpected Tunisian uprising is a lingering sense of uncertainty. That is itself either unnerving or exhilarating, depending on one’s perspective, in a region sitting on the fault lines of religious strife, political repression and economic uncertainty, experts said.
“We did not expect Tunisia to go the direction it has. Who had Tunisia on the mind a few weeks ago?” said Amr Hamzawy, research director with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “The ingredients are partially there for it to happen again, but we just do not know.”
Some Arab leaders have ordered security crackdowns to keep calm in the streets, and offered some symbolic gestures. In Syria, President Bashar al Assad backed off the imposition of austerity measures. In Kuwait, the emir doled out money.
In Egypt, where organizers are calling for a nationwide protest on Jan. 25, officials struggled to project a sense of calm and normalcy, while stepping up talk of economic reform and government accountability. Arab leaders have also said they will focus on combating unemployment when they meet later this week at an economic summit meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik.
Fahmy Howeidy, an Egyptian political expert and newspaper columnist, said that while he did not believe conditions were ripe for a similar uprising in Egypt, the government was keenly aware that “what happened in Tunisia has definitely created a different atmosphere. It convinced people that they can revolt in the streets, and that these regimes are not as strong or as mighty as they appear.”
Before the riots in Tunisia turned into a mass uprising against the rule of the longtime autocratic president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, it appeared that either Egypt or Algeria stood a greater chance of some kind of mass public revolt. For years, both have suffered from sclerotic political systems led by aging presidents, with support from the military. For years, both have confronted protests over difficult economic conditions and widespread youth unemployment.
But Mr. Hamzawy noted that in Tunisia the middle class and the trade unions joined protests that initially broke out over economic complaints, and helped transform the discontent into calls for political change. In Egypt, where the leadership continues to rely on a decades-old emergency law that allows arrest without charge, there is a lot of room for free and critical speech, offering a safety valve for expression that did not exist in Tunisia, he said.
In Egypt, he said, the array of interests that benefit from corruption is much wider than in Tunisia, where it was restricted to a small circle around the president. That, he said, means there are more people with an interest in preserving the system. And finally, he said, the military in Tunisia was not politicized and did not have any experience in securing city streets, unlike in Egypt, where the military has risen to the government’s defense before, and most likely would again. In addition, Mr. Hamzawy said that the protests that have racked Egypt recently have mostly been by workers for economic reasons, and that the government effectively bought them off with concessions before they began making political demands.
In Algeria, Mr. Roberts said, there are two primary differences with Tunisia that make comparisons imperfect. The first, he said, was that in Tunisia the riots spread all over the country and eventually involved different elements of society all on the same side. “That gave the movement its moral power,” he said.
By comparison, he said, “In Algeria, that never happened. There was no real support from trade unions, in fact none at all as far as one can see, and there was a good deal of middle class hostility to them because of the destruction. The guys rioting were desperate, angry young men with no political perspective at all.”
But more fundamentally, he said, Algeria is not as repressive as Tunisia was. “It is not an autocracy, it is an oligarchy,” he said, explaining that in addition to the president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, there are multiple power centers, like the military, the intelligence services and the elite bureaucrats. That, he said, meant that unlike in Tunisia there is no one target of public ire, and no public sense that protests would help to dislodge those at fault.
“Even though Bouteflika is unpopular, people know their problems do not simply come down to him,” he said. “You have a situation where there is a great deal of discontent, including in the middle class, but no one has any prescription for how to deal with it.”
Mona El-Naggar reported from Cairo, and Michael Slackman from Berlin.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
17 January 2011. A World to Win News Service.
In a world sorely in need of good news and a Middle East that has seemed to be getting darker, a ray of light has broken through in Tunisia.
Instead of accepting being pressed down and passive, the masses of people seized the initiative and toppled a hated head of state who had long administered the country for the benefit of France, the other European powers and the U.S., a man who was backed by all of them until the very end. While the Tunisian events are not like, for instance, Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. has suffered serious military setbacks, this is a movement where no reactionaries have hegemony, at least so far.
This is rare in today's world where imperialists and Islamic reactionaries too often monopolize the political stage. These events have brought hope not only to Tunisians but millions of other people sick of the unbearable status quo crushing the region and the globe.
For this reason Tunisians face a very difficult situation as the enforcers of today's world order and their present and possible future Tunisian underlings and allies manoeuvre to stuff the genie – the people – back into the bottle.
In less than a month events moved at such a dizzying pace that each day brought about new and unexpected situations. The cork began to loosen last 17 December in the town of Sidi Bouzid. The police confiscated the fruit and vegetables Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old unemployed university graduate, was selling in the street. When his efforts to protest through legal channels went unheeded, he set fire to himself in a front of local government offices. Security forces attacked demonstrating local students who put the blame for the young man's death on the regime.
This resonated deeply in a society where the schools have been churning out large numbers of graduates who seldom find a place in an economy subordinated to foreign investment, particularly tourism and low-wage garment and footwear manufacture for export. At first the protest movement was strongest in towns in the country's disadvantaged central and western regions. By late
December thousands of people in the capital and other coastal cities demonstrated in support of the youth in Sidi Bouzid. The demand for jobs quickly went over to a movement to topple the regime.
The movement drew in the educated classes – a strike by 95 percent of the country's lawyers and a demonstration by hundreds of them in front of the government palace in Tunis 6 January gave it impetus. But it also involved much of Tunisian society, including various classes, with little political differentiation. In January, especially during the second week, the protests became more confrontational. Demonstrators set up barricades and fought back against the security forces. In the working class Tunis suburb of Ettadhamen-Minihla people attacked government buildings. Their chant, "We are not afraid, we are not afraid, we are afraid only of god", revealed both a new mood of daring and determination and the persistence of traditional thinking. For the first time the army was deployed in several cities. Many dozens of people were killed in clashes with the police over the next days.
After first dismissing the crowds as "terrorists", President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali began to try to save his regime by offering them concessions. He visited the hospital room of the dying young man who had immolated himself. On 12 January he sacked the Interior Minister, claiming that orders for shooting people at Bouazizi's funeral and other demonstrators had been issued behind his back. The next day he promised not to run again in the 2014 elections. But the protests only became more defiant. On 14 January he fled, reportedly after the army chief of staff advised – or told – him to go.
As his last act, Ben Ali told a long-time loyal henchman, his prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, to replace him as head of state. This was not acceptable to the protesters. In a desperate attempt to cover the new government with the cloak of the rule of law, the courts declared that the speaker of parliament, the Ben Ali henchman Fouad Mebazaa, should become head of state, according to the constitution that Ben Ali had put in place. Mebazaa turned around and made ex-prime minister the new prime minister.
As things now stand, the situation is complicated. The police and armed militia that were Ben Ali's personal gang have been using their guns to cash in on their loyal service by looting. Their rear-guard action, including sniper fire on crowds, has had a (perhaps intended) political effect. It spurred a popular demand for order – neighbourhood self-protection committees sprang up – and helped divide those who now want stability from those still unsatisfied.
Ben Ali had reportedly recruited militia members from among petty criminals, and the police are certainly extortionist thugs at best, in addition to their role as the main force imposing repression and torture. The army has arrested the former Interior Minister and Ben Ali's head of security, accusing them of fomenting violence to prolong political instability.
At the same time the army is also trying to make the people back down. While armed forces units were briefly withdrawn from the streets just prior to Ben Ali's abdication and flight, reportedly because they did not want to use their tanks and armoured cars against the crowds, they have moved back in force. On 17 January came the announcement of a "unity government" in which the six key portfolios went to seasoned members of the ruling party and three other senior ministerial positions were given to opposition parties legal under Ben Ali. Several thousand people, including many trade union members, gathered in front of the Interior Ministry to chant that this new government did not meet the people's aspirations. They were attacked with clubs, water cannons, tear gas and warning shots.
Unhappiness in the Western capitals
This joyous explosion of the Tunisian people has brought unhappiness and deep concern to the Western governments. Nowhere is this more true than in France, where President Nicholas Sarkozy called an emergency meeting of his cabinet to plan what to do after the fall of Ben Ali.
As the newspaper Le Monde and other media have abundantly detailed, France supported Ben Ali to the bitter end. (See the Facebook page "Ben Ali Wall of Shame" – more than a third of Tunisia's 10 million people are said to have access to Facebook and Twitter.) Early on in his presidency, in 2008, Sarkozy feted the Tunisian tyrant with a super-delegation featuring Mrs Sarkozy and seven ministers. IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who hopes to be the opposition Socialist Party's next presidential candidate, visited to tout Tunisia's economy as a "model for emerging countries". Several French government ministers made statements supporting Ben Ali during his final days. The day before Ben Ali fled, Sarkozy's Interior Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie offered to send French police to "share French skills" and train their Tunisian counterparts in handling "security situations". Although in her statement for French public consumption she added that the police should preserve order and respect democratic rights, the official version of her statement left out this second clause, probably because it might embolden Ben Ali's opponents. In Tunis, people commented that the last thing they needed in fighting a "police state" was French police.
When the fleeing president's private plane approached Paris, Sarkozy apparently gave orders that it not be allowed to land. Members of Ben Ali's family who had been waiting for him in a luxury hotel at the Euro Disney amusement park were asked to leave. Finally, it was Saudi Arabia that gave Ben Ali shelter, probably to France's great relief. A leader of the fascist National Front criticized Sarkozy bitterly for betraying a great personal friend and a friend of France.
It could be said that the basic deal that kept Ben Ali in power so long was that France allowed him and especially his wife's family to enrich themselves obscenely as long as he efficiently performed his role as manager of France's Tunisian enterprise – not very different than a bank or other big corporation. In trying to protect France's man, Sarkozy was continuing the policy of all the French presidents of the right and left who came before him.
Tunisia's ties with France are not only financial. In fact other European powers (especially Italy) and the U.S. have also profited from Tunisia's enslavement to the world market and the economic boom under Ben Ali. But there are also political and cultural ties that have made Tunisia particularly pliable to Paris and therefore important to France's regional and global efforts.
France made Tunisia a "protectorate" by invading it in 1881 and ran it directly until 1957. But unlike Algeria, for instance, which France's ruling capitalists considered an integral part of their country, so that it had to win its independence through a long and hard-fought war, Tunisia became independent without a violent struggle (not unrelated to the war going on in much larger Algeria at the time), and slipped easily and quickly into the neocolonial mode. Its first president, Habid Bourguiba, was also a close "friend of France" from independence until 1987, when the senile old man was overthrown by his security chief, the military leader Ben Ali.
The U.S. did not see Ben Ali as their man the way France did, but Washington was not far behind in supporting him. The "Tunileaks" (WikiLeaks of cables to the U.S. State Department from the American embassy in Tunis) are very revealing in that regard. A report from the U.S. ambassador spread over a series of cables details the almost surreal degree to which Ben Ali's family used its power to accumulate personal wealth, so much so that "50 percent of the economic elite" are members of his and especially his wife's family. This is seen as making the regime more fragile than it would be with a broader-based ruling class. Yet the ambassador's main complaints centre around Ben Ali's failure to support American initiatives that might soften the country's ties with France, particularly in the educational and cultural fields.
The cables make the point that while Tunisia is small and without much regional influence, it is particularly useful to the U.S. in terms of its informal ties with Israel and its refusal to support the Palestinians, even in the purely rhetorical and hypocritical ways dear to some other Arab regimes. The ambassador also expressed appreciation for the regime's Westernised trappings (such as its adoption of French family law, including a ban on polygamy) and its apparent success in strangling Islamic fundamentalism. For these reasons, while continuing to express concern for what are seen as the regime's self-inflicted weaknesses, a later cable advises the U.S. State Department to "dial back the public criticism" and continue efforts to strengthen U.S. influence in the country in the context of supporting Ben Ali.
But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did have the very good luck to give a speech calling on Arab governments to reform the day before Ben Ali fell, and President Barack Obama was the first head of state to salute the developments. Under the guise of "promoting democracy" the U.S. will likely seek to advance its influence in Tunisia and the Arab world in the course of the present political turmoil.
Still, turmoil in the Middle East is what the U.S., France and all the big powers are united against. Tunisia does not have the strategic value to the U.S. as other "friends" such as Egypt, Algeria and Jordan, as the diplomatic cables point out, but what has broken out there does pose dangers for regimes that are crucial to continued U.S. regional control. It is no accident that the focus of Clinton's speech was the need to strengthen Arab regimes under the U.S.'s thumb in order to isolate the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The bright spots and dangers of the current situation
The best thing about the events in Tunisia is that for once the people themselves have stepped in and become the motor force driving events. As a reactionary Washington commentator pointed out, even if U.S. and Western interests are not necessarily threatened by the fall of Ben Ali in and of itself, those interests could be imperilled by the fact that he has been thrown out thanks to a popular upsurge and not allowed to go quietly in the kind of smooth transition that characterized the end of fascist regimes in Pinochet's Chile and Franco's Spain. (Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, 17 January 2011)
Many commentators have said that the absence of a strong Islamic movement is one reason why the West is not more worried about what's going on there and hasn't tried to more directly intervene. Actually, there hasn't been much opportunity or means for the West to do that so far. But it is also true that it is a very good thing that this upsurge has been able, until now at least, to steer clear of the deadly dynamic that has kept the terms of struggle in other countries confined to open capitulation to imperialism versus a reactionary Islamic fundamentalist movement that does not truly break with the imperialist system even while upsetting the imperialist order.
Commentators have compared the events in Tunisia with the 1979 fall of the Shah of Iran. The revolutionary process there had the advantage of a much longer period of political turmoil and fighting before it was aborted by the installation of today's hated Islamic Republic. When the U.S. and the UK could no longer keep the Shah in power, they decided that an Islamic regime in Iran would be preferable to the uncertain and perhaps revolutionary alternatives, although they probably regretted that later. In the case of Tunisia, it is not impossible that the U.S. summed up those lessons and decided to pull the plug on Ben Ali before the situation became even more uncontrollable.
Explicitly examining the Tunisian situation from the angle of how to pursue U.S. interests, the academic Steven A. Cook wrote for the Web site of U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, "Whether the [Tunisian] military leaders are democrats is not the issue; rather, their concern seems to be that graft, corruption, and the practices of one of the worst police states in the Middle East proved to be a threat to social cohesion and stability." Cook deliberately overlooks the fact that U.S.-dependent regimes in the region like Egypt have killed and tortured many more people than in Tunisia. Probably he means that Ben Ali ran one of the most successful states in the region in terms of its ability to stifle opposition almost completely for 27 years – until a month ago, when these "practices" no longer worked. But his characterization of the role of the Tunisian military is both accurate and expresses the American imperialist point of view.
While various clans have disputed over the spoils, the Tunisian army has always been and is still the backbone of a comprador (imperialist-dependent) state and the ultimate guarantor of a whole imperialist-dominated economic, social and ideological order. In fact, given the country's geopolitical situation, it has little other reason to exist. If the army dumped Ben Ali and has tried to distance itself from his torturers and jailers, it is all the better to play that role. This is why one of the Wiki-leaked U.S. cables stresses the importance of American support for the "neutrality" of the Tunisian army vis a vis disputes among the "economic elite".
It is impossible to predict what concessions to popular demand the military behind Tunisia's governments of the day may feel compelled to grant, and to what degree such concessions may succeed – or fail – at quelling people's anger. It is very possible that they will have to allow more space for political debate and the people's will to be expressed than they normally do. But it is absolutely certain that the Tunisian armed forces and the imperialists will focus on preserving the existing state power.
The media are now arguing that this is the first Arab revolution. One reason why that is wrong is that so far, this has not been a revolution, strictly speaking, in the sense of bringing about fundamental change in social, political and economic relations, or even a thorough regime change. But lessons should be taken from earlier upheavals that toppled feudal monarchies (Egypt and Sudan, Iraq) and and neocolonial republics (Syria). For instance, while the U.S. was at certain points somewhat favourable to the nationalism of Egypt's Gamal Nasser, in terms of challenging British and French dominance of the Middle East, the U.S.'s objective was to make Egypt an American neocolony. Similarly, while the military coups in Syria and Iraq, with their nationalist trappings, created problems for some Western powers, neither of these countries experienced any liberation.
There is also the example of neighbouring Algeria in the 1990s, where the U.S. and the West at first backed political reform in order to achieve a more broad-based and stable comprador regime, and then dropped it when it became clear that Islamic elements would win elections. This helped provoke ten years of bloody and thoroughly reactionary strife in which both the regime and the fundamentalists slaughtered many thousands of people and both sides specifically targeted the intellectuals. The fact that many Algerians felt trapped and mortally threatened by both the comprador regime and its religious fanatic opponents played a major role in putting a damper on the popular struggles that had shaken Algeria in the 1980s. In fact, this experience had a big influence in bringing about a state of political depression in the Arab world.
The media have also enjoyed throwing around the term "Jasmine Revolution", in hopes that the Tunisian upsurge will take the path of the non-violent (on the part of the people) and totally non-revolutionary "colour revolutions" in former Soviet-bloc countries, most recently in Ukraine, which have brought nothing but disappointment, disillusionment and a new plunge into passivity for the people. That is one possibility, and the one for which the enforcers of the world order will do their best to impose, but that is not the only one now.
The Tunisian people have every reason to be happy and proud, but it's no use pretending that they don't face formidable obstacles. The imperialists and the various varieties of smaller reactionaries are going to interact with the people's movement in complex and perhaps unpredictable ways, seeking to slam shut the door that the people have opened through their struggle and sacrifice.
It is far from certain, but there are objective reasons to hope that the enemies of the Tunisian people will not be able to consolidate their grip for a while, and that this situation will continue to inspire and spur on other people and constrain the reactionaries' regional efforts, especially if the movement that brought down Ben Ali develops in a way that gives expression to the independent and revolutionary interests of the people in opposition to the imperialists and their system. The world needs more open doors like the one the Tunisian people have given us, and it needs breakthroughs to the other side.
Juan Cole: Tunisia Uprising "Spearheaded by Labor Movements, by Internet Activists, by Rural Workers; It’s a Populist Revolution"
"This is the first popular revolution since 1979," Cole says. "This revolution so far has been spearheaded by labor movements, by internet activists, by rural workers. It’s a populist revolution, and not particularly dominated in any way by Islamic themes, it seems to be a largely secular development."
AMY GOODMAN: We’re spending the hour on the revolution that is unfolding right now in Tunisia. The latest news is that three members of the national unity government representing the protests in the streets have just pulled out of that unity government. We’re going first to Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan. His blog is "Informed Comment" online at juancole.com. His most recent book, Engaging the Muslim World. And then we’ll be joined by Anthony Shadid, based in Beirut, also in Baghdad, but now in Beirut.
Juan Cole, this latest news and the significance of this revolution?
JUAN COLE: Well, this is the first popular revolution since 1979. But it’s distinctive in that the Iranian Revolution in 1979 was ultimately taken over by the ayatollahs, by a clerical elite, and so it didn’t develop in a democratic direction, whereas this revolution so far has been spearheaded by labor movements, by internet activists, by rural workers. It’s a populist revolution, and not particularly dominated in any way by Islamic themes, it seems to be a largely secular development. And it’s occurring in a Sunni and an Arab country, unlike Iran, which is Persian and Shiite. And it’s occurring in a country that has many similarities to other countries living under authoritarian regimes with limited employment opportunities and a kind of long-term economic stagnation. So, it’s something that other Arab countries might well look to—the publics, at least—for inspiration.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the coverage? As I raced through my TV dial this weekend, trying to find coverage, it was extremely difficult to find coverage of the revolution in Tunisia.
JUAN COLE: Oh, the U.S. 24-hour cable news networks fell down on the job with regard to Tunisia. Ben Wedeman, a veteran reporter at CNN, made heroic efforts, did get to Tunis. I don’t get a sense that his dispatches were put through by his editors back in Atlanta. And mostly, you couldn’t find out what was going on in Tunisia from television, from American mass media. You had to be on the internet. There’s a Twitter channel, "SidiBouzid," which is excellent. There are Facebook formats. The French press, if one knows—if you can read French, was much better. But the American corporate news just blew off this story. They’re not interested in it. They don’t seem to think it’s important. Or maybe they’re a little bit afraid of it, because it is, after all, a revolution made by workers, and American corporate media are a little nervous about things like that.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan Cole, what if it was an Islamist revolution?
JUAN COLE: Well, had this been a revolution led by the Muslim party, the Ennahda, by the longtime opposition leader Rashid Ghannoushi, then I’m quite sure that it would have been 24/7 coverage. It would have knocked off of the news many of the fluff stories that dominated it. But since it was a labor revolution and an internet activist revolution, it wasn’t seen as connected in any way to the master narrative of American foreign policy, which is now the—still the war on terror, even though they don’t call it that.
AMY GOODMAN: And Al Jazeera’s coverage of this, Juan Cole? Very hard to get Al Jazeera on television, terrestrial television, in the United States, of course. I think Toledo and Burlington, Vermont are the only places that you can get it on cable channels here.
JUAN COLE: Yeah, and Dearborn, I think, has it. But—and the Washington, D.C. area, you can get it on the Verizon network. But the Al Jazeera English is difficult to get. For some strange reason, it’s not available on DISH satellite, which does run other foreign channels. And the Arabic, actually, is available much more widely, because it is carried on DISH. Al Jazeera did an excellent job of covering the events, although it should be noted that many Tunisians were miffed at Al Jazeera, because they felt that they gave too much air time to the Muslim activists, who were not representative of this movement, and that Al Jazeera kind of has a little bit of a bias towards the Islamic movements.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the effects on the whole region, as you are monitoring coverage and reaction around the world? And particularly Saudi Arabia—does the regime there, the autocratic regime that has been in power for decades, have something to worry about?
JUAN COLE: Well, I think all the regimes in the Arab world are very nervous about this development. It is something new. I did survey the reactions. You know, interestingly, the deputy prime minister of Israel expressed concern, lest this spread and maybe regimes come to power, more democratic, but more hostile to Israel, in places like Jordan and Egypt. Libya, interestingly enough, the longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who started as a revolutionary himself, condemned the Tunisian people as immature and impatient, who said, just—"You should have just waited Ben Ali out. Why would you be so eager to have a new president?" And he sounded like an old fuddy-duddy and really did himself no favors, I think. And, of course, he was mainly speaking to his own people, pleading for their patience. And other countries were much more circumspect.
The Arabs of Kirkuk in Iraq, who are now increasingly under Kurdish domination, threatened to make a Tunisian-style uprising if they didn’t get their rights. So, oppressed people, people in Gaza joined in demonstrations in solidarity. Oppressed groups throughout the region were delighted. Status quo powers, whether they, you know, are old revolutionaries like Gaddafi or status quo powers like Israel, were very nervous about this.
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, Ben Ali has taken refuge in Saudi Arabia. And if you heard Fares Mabrouk, they are calling for him to be extradited back to Tunisia to be tried.
JUAN COLE: Well, Saudi Arabia has long served as a kind of asylum or refuge for deposed politicians. Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan went there when he was overthrown by Pervez Musharraf. Idi Amin went there. This is nothing new.
One thing to keep in mind is that Tunisia is not an oil state. And it suffered from a kind of nepotism that was extreme. I mean, the U.S. leaked cables from WikiLeaks suggest that 50 percent of the economic elite of that country was related in one way or another to the president or to the first lady, Leila Ben Ali, and her Trabelsi clan. So, the combination of not having any extra resources to bribe people and buy them off and also of monopolizing the country’s economic resources in the hands of a few relatives was unique to Tunisia. I mean, there are similar situations, but the Tunisians took it to an extreme—
AMY GOODMAN: Yet, you say this is not—
JUAN COLE:—the Tunisian regime did.
AMY GOODMAN: You say this is not a WikiLeaks revolution, but a hunger revolution.
JUAN COLE: Well, it’s a revolution—you know, all revolutions are multiple revolutions happening at the same time. So there’s a strong element of economic protest. There’s a class element. Twenty percent of college graduates are unemployed. There’s extreme poverty in the rural areas. And the regime was doing things that interfered with economic development. They would use the banks to give out loans to their cronies, and then the cronies wouldn’t pay back the banks, so they were undermining the financial system. And that made it—and the extremeness of the dictatorship, the demands constantly for bribes, discouraged foreign investment. So the regime was all about itself. It was doing things that were counterproductive. And it injured the interests of many social groups—the college-educated, the workers. Now, the three ministers that pulled back out of the national unity government today were from the General Union of Tunisian Workers, which is an old, longstanding labor organization. So, it was a mass movement; it included people from all kinds of backgrounds.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan Cole, we’re also joined by Anthony Shadid from Beirut, the foreign correspondent for the New York Times, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Let us express our solidarity to the people’s revolutionary movement of India
Lately, large military and police forces of the Indian state, supported by para-military organizations, have conducted a murderous military offensive to crush the resistance of the poor native peasants who defend their land and wish to live in their homeland under humane conditions.
The Communist Party of India (Maoist), which supports and participates in this revolutionary struggle of the masses, is under fierce attack by the forces of the Indian reactionaries. As a result, in the beginning of July, the forces of the Indian reactionaries murdered in cold blood a party leader and an independent journalist, thus outraging the left and democratic people not only in India, but all over the world.
A few days before this event, the Communist Party of Greece(marxist-leninist), CPG(m-l), took the initiative to call a meeting of parties and organizations of the left, which concluded in a joint statement of condemnation of the murderous military operation of the Indian state and solidarity to the people’s revolutionary movement. The statement was published in newspapers of the left and also in one of the biggest daily newspapers in Greece.
The meeting decided to protest outside the Indian Embassy in Athens, which was held on July 6th. The murder of the Indian revolutionary and the journalist was already known when the protest took place. CPG(m-l) had a banner with their names and the slogan “honor and glory to the Indian revolutionaries”.
These are the slogans of the protesters:
- Victory to the struggle of the Indian people
- The military offensive of the army and the police murders militants and peasants
- The land belongs to those who work it, not to the multi-nationals that loot it
- In India the militants, the poor peasants and the communists are slaughtered
- Hands-off the Indian peasants, hands-off the Indian guerillas
- Peoples are victorious with weapons in their hands
- Solidarity to the Indian people
- Those who now murder will confront the peoples’ struggle
The revolutionary struggle of the Indian people can and must find support and solidarity all over the world. It is an armed revolutionary struggle that the more it strengthens the more will become a reference to revolutionary forces in every country, which will feel it as their own struggle.
Revolutionary forces should lead the creation of a broad movement of solidarity and support for this great struggle of the Indian people.
Solidarity is the weapon of the people
Communist Party of Greece(marxist-leninist)
By Margaret Walker
For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
- repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
- gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
dragging along never gaining never reaping never
knowing and never understanding;
For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
- backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss
Choomby and company;
For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
- to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
people who and the places where and the days when, in
memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
were black and poor and small and different and nobody
cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;
For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
- be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
marry their playmates and bear children and then die
of consumption and anemia and lynching;
For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
- Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
people's pockets needing bread and shoes and milk and
land and money and something--something all our own;
For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
- being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;
For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
- the dark of churches and schools and clubs and
societies, associations and councils and committees and
conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
false prophet and holy believer;
For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
- from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
trying to fasion a world that will hold all the people,
all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
- bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs be
written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now
rise and take control.