WSF Tunis

Tunis: Birth of a Common Front of Political Organisations Against Debt

27 March 2013 by Pauline Imbach

The first Mediterranean coordination against debt, austerity policies and foreign domination, and for a free, united, democratic, social, feminist and environmentally responsible Mediterranean region took place in Tunis on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 March in the build up to the World Social Forum.

A score of political formations, coming from the Mediterranean perimeter gathered in response to a call by the Popular Front (a coalition of 11 radical left-wing political parties, associations and independent personalities, one of whom was Chokri Belaid, who was assassinated on 6 February 2013). Among those represented were the French parties, Front de Gauche (Left Front) and NPA (New Anti-Capitalist Party); from Spain came Izquierda Unida (United Left) and Izquierda Anticapitalista (Anti-Capitalist Left); others were Sortu from the Basque country, CUP from Catalonia, OKDE from Greece, the Left Block from Portugal, Sinistra Critica from Italy, Al Mounadil from Morocco; also taking part were representatives of organisations from other Mediterranean countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. Organisations from Belgium, Haiti, Venezuela and a number of other countries were also present. This is the first time that political parties and organisations get together in the mediterranean area in order to cancel illegitimate debt.

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Fathi chamkhi (spokesman of Raid Attac Cadtm Tunisia), without whom this activity wouldn’t have been possible

This gathering was followed by a public meeting attended by over a thousand people, including many representatives of political parties from the Mediterranean region and beyond, a large number of whom were women and youths (although it is to be regretted that among the twenty or so speakers only three were women). The mood was electric, animated by slogans in Arabic, charged with passion, anger, joy and collective feeling, each affirming the ardent will of his or her party to work on the issue of the debt, to resist the dictatorship of the creditors, wipe out the capitalist system and struggle for the emancipation of the peoples by laying the foundations of a New World Order.

Numerous tributes were paid to different leaders, revolutionaries or progressive activists. Emotion was high during a film in homage to Chokri Belaid, who remains a popular personality and inspiration in the Tunisian revolution. Homage was also paid to Hugo Chavez and his commitment to the social transformations needed by his people.

For over 3 hours a number of different speakers hailed the Tunisian revolution and more largely the “Arab Spring” that led to the overthrow of the dictators Ben Ali and Moubarak. These historic events take on an international significance. The Tunisian revolution is, for several generations, the demonstration that revolution is not an idle word and that a people can choose their destiny. The public meeting was brought to a vibrant end by Hamma Hammami who developed an analysis of the debt that is entirely convergent with that of CADTM.

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Hamma Hammami

As mentioned in the preamble of the declaration of this Mediterranean reunion against debt, the fall of Ben Ali “has permitted the disarmament of the local capitalist structure without going so far as overthrowing it. The social regime, which is the historical result of foreign domination and, more recently, of the restructuring of worldwide capitalist globalisation, is still standing. The revolutionary crisis opened by the insurrection is still active. The victory of the Tunisian democratic and social revolution remains possible.” [1]

In this context the debt, which remains a central tool for the domination and oppression of the peoples must be cancelled. A real instrument for the transfer of riches and of political domination, this issue was at the heart of the debate. The speakers have affirmed the necessity of liberating ourselves from the dictatorship of the creditors and the international financial institutions, particularly the World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

and the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.
. Several speakers mentioned as examples, Argentina, Ecuador and Iceland to demonstrate the possibility of resisting creditors so as to implement policies that favour the population. Public debt audits were also presented as possible strategies permitting the identification and cancellation of odious and illegitimate debts, with the stress on the need to mobilise on this question. This is the first time that such a common front has arisen. It is undoubtedly a historic step forward in the struggle against the debt, echoing the call made 26 years earlier by then President of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara in Addis Abeba in 1987, “The debt cannot be repaid because if we do not pay the lenders will not die, that is certain,. On the other hand, if we do pay; it is we who will die. That is equally certain.” The groups gathered in Tunis have decided to create a follow-up commission and to meet again in Spain some time in 2013 or 2014.

Translation : Mike Krolikowski and Christine Pagnoule


Mediterranean conference of political parties against the debt Mediterranean conference of political parties against the debt Eric Toussaint speaking at the Mediterranean conference of political parties against the debt


[1The final declaration will soon be published.

Other articles in English by Pauline Imbach (5)



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