Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The significance of this is clear. The political elite, the ruling class it is integrated into, and in all probability a phalanx of EU and US diplomats, wanted a constitutional lash-up that would preserve the same basic pyramid of control with some more inclusive, and slightly more representative, structures. The trade union federation, once it showed its ability to act independently, defy the paramilitaries and win over at least the rank and file of the army, was always going to be essential to that. The ruling class is clearly weak and divided, its institutions of repression unable to keep control. In some cities, the population has been able to effectively take full over. No government that does not include organised labour in some capacity will have any legitimacy. It seems unlikely that the mere inclusion of a couple of mainstream social democrats, such as Najib Chebbi (Progressive Democratic Party) and Mustafa Ben Jabar (Union of Justice and Labour), will be sufficient to do the trick.
So the class character of the revolt is coming more clearly to the fore. The New York Times reports that the character of the protests has been changing, as middle class layers have accepted the new situation and celebrated a 'new freedom', while those still protesting are "more working class". But this is also a blow to imperialism, in the sense that it will prove difficult to impose a regime that simply cleaves to the solutions of the IMF and EU.
This is precisely one of the reasons why the working class protesters want the RCD out. Which is not to say that the IMF and EU will lose their leverage over Tunisia. Nor is it likely in the immediate term that Tunisia would withdraw from its treaty commitments to Africom, and thus from its role in the wider structure of US imperial control in the African continent. But if, as seems increasingly possible, the revolt spreads and takes down some other pro-American regimes in Egypt, Jordan or Algeria, then Obama has problems. One can well imagine him, despite his ongoing commitment to aggression in Afghanistan and Pakistan, going down as a Carter-style weakling if a few US embassies in the region start to look vulnerable. Which is why I would expect some sort of panicked intervention by the US and its local proxies to be going on even as you read.