On January 14, 2011, the longtime US-backed Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in a revolution. The massive protests in the small North African country were sparked by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a vegetable cart vendor whose goods had been arbitrarily confiscated by the police.
A WSWS Editorial Board statement, “The mass uprising in Tunisia and the perspective of Permanent Revolution,' noted that this event “ignited the social tinderbox long building beneath the surface of political life.” The tragic event “focused the anger of millions of youth and workers over pervasive unemployment, poverty, social inequality and the despotism and corruption of the ruling elite.”
The social conditions that led to the eruption in Tunisia predominate throughout the Maghreb and the Middle East, and are increasingly confronting the working class in the advanced capitalist countries under conditions of a global economic crisis and a brutal offensive by the banks and corporations.
The WSWS warned that the Tunisian masses were “only at the initial stages of their struggle.” It continued: “As is already clear from the continuation of military violence under the new interim president, the working class faces immense dangers. The crucial questions of revolutionary program and leadership remain unresolved.”
The eruption of mass working-class struggle posed the most basic questions of program and perspective and confirmed the theory of Permanent Revolution—the world revolutionary strategy developed by Leon Trotsky and the Fourth International. In Tunisia and all of the former colonial countries, the national bourgeoisie was incapable of carrying out the basic tasks of the democratic revolution. A struggle against political dictatorship required the independent mobilization of the working class against the capitalist system, leading the oppressed masses against both the national bourgeoisie and imperialism. The WSWS wrote:
This struggle cannot be conducted simply on a national scale. Trotskyist parties must be built throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East to unite the working masses under the banner of the United Socialist States of the Middle East and the Maghreb, as part of the world socialist revolution.
This struggle must be consciously linked up with the mounting struggles of workers in the advanced capitalist countries, many of which have large populations of Arab workers from Northern Africa and the Middle East.
Only on this internationalist basis can the divisions of religion, nationality and race—ceaselessly stoked up by imperialism and the bourgeoisie—be overcome and the social power of the working class mobilized to put an end to imperialist domination.