Faced with a massive economic crisis, movements have embarked on a campaign of education and struggle
By Zoe PC / The Dawn News / May 1, 2018
The Dawn News spoke with Mokhtar Ben Hafsa, an Arabic teacher in a secondary school, a trade unionist and general secretary of Tunisia Raid Attac CADTM (Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt), an anti-globalization and popular education organization focused on action. This organization is part of a Popular Front that is a political coalition created in 2013 in Tunisia by an array of parties from the extreme left wing to Arab nationalists. Hafsa spoke about the challenges facing the Tunisian working class and the moment of struggle and resistance in Tunisia now.
Q: Can you talk about the current political context in Tunisia? What are the principal challenges for the working class?
A: Currently, Tunisia is going through a massive economic crisis. It is the most intense and longest crisis in the country’s modern history since 1956. The crisis is the consequence of the imperialist domination of Tunisia, particularly by the European Union and the international institutions, and the practice of neoliberal capitalist policies.
Over 30 years, these anti-people and anti-social policies have caused the destruction of the economic system and we can say that the country is under the grip of neocolonialism.
I can cite the evidence and nature of this system that controls and worsens the social and environmental situation. After 1986, the government called on the services of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) two other times – in 2013 and 2016. That is to say after the victory of the counter-revolution from 2012.
There is also the inclusion of Tunisia in the zone of European capitalist domination since 1995 through the free trade agreement and currently, the government and the European institutions are trying to intensify and prolong this agreement (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area-ALECA).
So this capitalist path and imperialist domination explain the profundity of this acute crisis. The evidence shows that this continues year after year. And of course, the indicators of the current situation show that the crisis is much worse for the working class and the poor.
Who pays the hefty bill? International capital controls one-third of the industry and services. More than 60% of the businesses are from these two offshore sectors. The financial hemorrhage has to be seen in the context of the deepening spiral of public debt.
And just like that, we enter 2018 and the ratio of debt in the budget is 30% compared to 17% in 2010. Faced with this crisis, the governments resort to counter-revolutionary measures, taking the same path but at a faster speed!
On the contrary, the will of the people of Tunisia is clear through the revolts against the dictatorship of the police, the diktats of imperialism, the neocolonial system and the misery. It is the reignition of the revolutionary process of 2010-2011.
Q: What is the principle challenge of your organization? What struggles are you engaged in?
A: At the moment, the government continues with its anti-people policies. In the face of the financial crisis, the poor and working class, with their meager incomes, are forced to take responsibility for the government and its budget. There is much evidence to show that the situation will see a social confrontation against this policy and the neoliberal crisis.
So the resistance has been consistent, of course with its difficulties. In the first week of 2018, there was a revolt against the new budget measures-taxes and cuts. There have also been strikes from the different sectors of the working class, notably by the secondary school teachers who just carried out a strike at the end of April.
The central trade union, the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), has categorically refused the capitalist counter-reforms of the international financial institutions and European Union and in particular, the privatizations of the remaining public companies.
Our organization is also trying to create popular education projects to understand the situation and make people aware of the profound causes of this crisis: capitalism and imperialist domination. We also intend to expand the resistance of organized workers in trade unions to include the unemployed sectors. This is the role of the popular front.