The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten released a series of US diplomatic cables from 2006 on massive and pervasive corruption and nepotism in Tunisia and its effect on economic development and social problems. The cables show that the United States government was fully aware of the dangerous and debilitating level of corruption in Tunisia, and its anti-democratic implications. But they raise the question of whether Washington was wise to make Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, despite his clear foibles, the pillar of its North Africa policy because of his role, as a secular strongman, in repressing Muslim movements (as William MacLean of Reuters argues).
Av mange rapportar i media skulle ein kanskje tru at det berre var dei universitetsutdanna mellomlaga som protesterte, men legg merke til kor viktig arbeidarklassa og fagrørsla har vore:
Note that since the Tunisian crisis has to do with labor unions, unemployment, class anxieties, and a student youth movement rather than with Islam; and since the Tunisian government is counted as a firm US ally, the American mass media is largely ignoring this story. Ordinarily if it bleeds, it leads; but not when it is about class instead of about race or religion, since the latter categories are the only ones useful to monopoly capital in keeping ordinary people divided and distracted.
But it would be wrong to see the revolution only as a middle class movement against corruption and nepotism, fueled by facebook status updates and youth activism. The trade unions (al-niqabat) played an essential role, and were among those demanding the departure of the president. You don’t get massive crowds like the one in Tunis without a lot of workers joining in. There are few labor correspondents any longer, and the press downplays the role of workers as a result of neither having good sources among them nor an adequate understanding of the importance of labor mobilization. It is no accident that on Wednesday the head of the Communist workers movement was arrested (he has been released). The rural areas should also not be underestimated. The protests began in a small rural town, and have been nation-wide, not just in the capital. The role of rural workers is clearly important, and likely rather more important than Facebook.