In the past days, Tunisia has witnessed rapid developments, the most important of which was the announcement by Prime Minister, Mohammad Al-Ghannoushi, that he was taking over temporarily as President due to Ben Ali’s inability to carry out his duties, and the announcement of a state of emergency in all areas of the country. We publish here a translation of an Arabic language article published on marxy.com as the dramatic events in Tunisia were unfolding.
The following are the latest developments in Tunisia:
Events have been moving at an incredible speed in Tunisia. Yesterday the old dictator gave his last speech, where he made a series of promises, and a series of veiled threats. After this, reports rolled in affirming that the masses had no confidence in these promises and continued the protests even more fiercely. This morning Reuters received reports of shots fired near the headquarters of the Interior Ministry. There were also tear gas grenades fired against demonstrators in the capital Tunis. Despite the dictator’s statement yesterday that he was putting a stop to shooting at demonstrators, the killing did not stop throughout the night and this morning, which caused the death of thirteen martyrs last night in Tunis and its suburbs, as confirmed by Al Jazeera from hospital reports.
But all these promises and all this repression did not lead to the suppression of the popular revolution. For the dictator decided to play his last cards when he announced the dismissal of the government and the calling of early elections (in six months). But the masses continued their struggle which provoked a military coup when the army’s forces spread everywhere and announced a state of emergency in all corners of Tunisia and took control of the airport and closed Tunisian airspace, after helping the dictator and some of his family to escape the revenge of the people.
This is when Mohammad Al-Ghannoushi named himself President of Tunisia and announced that he would meet with representatives of political parties to form a new government. The trade union bureaucracy and the leaders of the reformist parties are even more terrified than their bourgeois masters, and instead of adopting independent class tactics, with independent class slogans and an independent banner, here they are jumping onto the bourgeois train, singing with one voice the song of the “national unity government”, i.e. the government of the bourgeoisie and its murderers.
And the forces of the secret police and the fascist militias continue to wreak havoc in the country, as they attack the masses and loot the homes of the workers, in order to create a picture whereby the alternative to dictatorship is chaos. These desperate attempts have not frightened the masses but have only served to accelerate the formation of neighbourhood committees of defence, and the secretary general of the General Union of Tunisian Students, Shaker Al-Awadi, told Al Jazeera that there are popular committees being formed in every neighbourhood. Did Marx not say that the revolution needs the whip of the counterrevolution to move forward? From the moment of the overthrow of the dictator Ben Ali, imperialism abandoned him like a rabid dog and let him fall. The United States announced that “the Tunisian people have the right to choose their leaders”! Obama announced that he “praises the bravery and the dignity of the Tunisian people”, and France refused entry to his plane! And the forces of the Tunisian police arrested some of the members of the Trabelsi family before they could leave from Tunis airport!
There is no doubt that the speed at which events are unfolding will make the heads of some dizzy, and this is natural because during revolutionary periods, events which normally wouldn’t happen for decades and decades are concentrated in very short periods of time. Hence, the bourgeois analysts have all proven that they are unable to foresee anything, whether in politics or economics, as it wasn’t too long ago that they were claiming that Tunisia was the calmest and most stable country in north Africa.
In comparison, the Marxists were able to foresee these events much in advance, and understand and identify the perspectives for their development. We predicted in our article The Tunisian Spring that:
“This movement signals, from our point of view, the end of an era characterised by an apparent stagnation of the class struggle, and is an expression of the accumulation of many explosive factors. It is the beginning of another stage of mass movements that sooner or later will overthrow the regime of tyranny and exploitation in Tunisia once and for all.”
And this is not, of course, because we have a crystal ball. It is because we have a scientific worldview, whose validity in interpreting developments and ability to present an alternative to change them, have been proven by more than 150 years of experience.
The reformists, as usual, at the service of the regime
The moment the old dictator Ben Ali fell, the reformists, prostituting themselves as could be expected, immediately got into bed with the new regime, in the same way they used to lie with the old one. And they rushed to offer their services to the ruling class to help it save its system in return for some crumbs from the cake of the regime and some privileges. And of these reformist parties, the Movement of Social Democrats is perhaps the most willing to prostitute of all. Not so long ago, this party was greeting “the celebration of the Tunisian people with honour and pride of the twenty-third anniversary of the transformation of the 7th of November which was led by the president, [Zein Al-Abidein Ben Ali]”! And on their website they declared that on this:
“national occasion the ‘Electronic Future’ published special files highlighting the importance of the great steps taken by our country thanks to the strategic decisions of the leadership at all levels of development which have made Tunisia surge amongst the developing economies and which have opened up big prospects for the future, filled with optimism under the shadow of the wise leadership of the president [Zein Al-Abidein Ben Ali]”!
Neither was it so long ago when they were urging “the parents of the youth to call for calm and dialogue”. And on president Ben Ali’s speech, in which he described the protests as criminal and described the masses as terrorists and explicitly called for them to be killed, this is what they had to say:
“this situation has provoked feelings of sensitivity, sympathy, responsibility, at the very tops of the pyramid of the regime, which is consumed with the issues of the country’s citizens and youth of this country, and the questions of employment and the pressing societal issues, and which has all the facts and is keeping a watchful eye.”
And they added that:
“the president of the country spoke the language of honesty, realism and truth and his speech formed a break in the middle of these events which pulls the carpet out from under those people who rush to hooliganism and chaos and tears from them their veil of cheap ‘solidarity’ and reveals their real hidden intentions, to throw the country into a crisis created by them... but this crazy scenario will not pass... because the country has established laws which protect it within the confines of its democratic pluralistic path, and its social development policies, which the president is keen to give a fresh push forward to, are a priority.”
And they urgently called on the masses to:
“understand president Ben Ali’s developmental approach on the other hand, which is to ensure that the country does not become reliant on others, and does not sink into mounting debts...”
They then make an about-turn in a statement of the Emergency National Council which met on Friday 13 January, when they declare:
“With all respect towards the spirit of the innocent victims... a decision to pursue all those involved in corruption, bribery and theft of the national funds”.
And they demanded the formation:
“...of a national unity coalition government which would work to create the necessary climate to meet international standards for carrying out early elections before the end of this coming year.”
And if we’re quoting these long passages, it is to keep a historical record of the positions of these criminals who are now trying to rob the revolution of its fruits, to turn it into a means to win positions and privileges for themselves within the regime. We find the same thing with Ettajdid ("Movement for Renewal") which was not known for any serious opposition to the dictatorial regime. But the moment they saw the dictator flee from the country they released a statement on Friday January 14th, demanding their rightful role in the regime and a share of the crumbs from the cake. Despite the fact that the prime minister, Mohammad Ghannoushi, is one of the old cabal, and despite the mass popular protests demanding his removal, Ettajdid gives him legitimacy and demands from him:
“...consultations with the factions of the serious opposition and the General Union of Tunisian Workers and the components of independent civil society in order to arrive at a consensus for the formation of an executive body that includes all factions to manage the process for political reform and democratic transition.”
And the “Progressive Democratic Party” in earlier times opened what it called “a window for the beginning of a political solution” through “a collection of thoughts which create a roadmap out of the crisis” which called for a government of national emergency which can implement a plan to find 300,000 jobs for the unemployed by working with the different layers of society, particularly the youth.
“The secretary general of the Progressive Democratic Party, Maya Jribi, said in a statement that Tunisia is in even more need than ever before of comprehensive reform and the formation of a government of national unity, noting that the new government will fight against corruption and to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and prepare the road for holding early legislative elections overseen by an independent electoral body. And she also called for constitutional amendments to guarantee the peaceful transition of power, and the restoration of order to avoid anarchy.”
Workers, these are your enemies, for all of them want their share of the booty. Workers, these are your enemies, for all of them want to extinguish the revolution and retreat behind closed doors to divide up the power and privileges.
The bankruptcy of reformism is clear, not only because they have become so used to bowing that they have forgotten how to do otherwise - for when there was a dictator they put themselves at his service, and they were always in the service of the capitalist system - but also because they spent decades preaching social peace and negotiations, and speaking out against the revolutionary struggle of the masses. And because they achieved nothing serious at all: for they achieved neither democracy nor bread, nothing. Whereas one month of the revolutionary mass movement was enough for the downfall of the dictator, and the achievement of gains not just in Tunisia, but outside its borders as well!
And now after the dictator has fled, here they are falling over each other in a scramble for the gains so they can take them for themselves and give a new opportunity to the existing system and its executioners.
Working class of Tunisia, revolutionaries, we must not allow our enemies to steal our revolution from us, we must not allow them to cash it into their bank accounts. We have given tens of martyrs and all the other victims; we must continue the revolution until the destruction of the system of exploitation and murder, so that the nation and its wealth can belong to all!
No trust in the agents of the old order, no trust in its state, or its courts, or its laws! It was and remains an apparatus for repressing us and killing us and taking our freedom, it can never be in our service. We must establish our own state, or own courts, or own laws, we must work to elect our own representatives to democratic workers’ and people’s councils, in the poor neighbourhoods, the factories, the unions, the colleges and the villages, from amongst the advanced revolutionary elements who distinguished themselves during the course of the revolution.
The role of the army
As we predicted in a previous article, the army organized a coup to save the regime from overthrow. And the country is now under the absolute control of the jack boot. This was the objective consequence of the lack of consciousness and organization amongst the ranks of the working class. The army is a critical element in the fate of every revolution, and it has a critical role in the current revolution as well, which makes the discussion of its position now of utmost importance to develop the perspectives of the revolution and the position that we the workers must take.
When the ex-dictator ordered the army to intervene to crush the people, the leadership of the army refused, and this is what pushed him to dismiss the army chief of staff general Rashid Amar. There were also confirmed reports of the army fraternizing with the protesters, and even protecting them from the assaults of the police forces. And this is what won this institution an important authority amongst the ranks of the demonstrators.
But we must never forget that the institution of the army is not above the classes, we must not forget that it was always a tool in the hands of the ruling class for the repression of the protests of the workers and poor. Ben Ali himself is a legitimate son of this repressive institution. And the highest leadership in this institution belongs to the ruling class.
Therefore, no trust at all in the army as it is now, with the same old hierarchy and with the same old leadership and structures. No trust except in our own power. We must not allow the military clique to abort our revolution and replace one general with another general (clear or veiled).
But on the other hand, we have, within this institution, our brothers and our sons, the regular soldiers, who come from our ranks and share with us the reality of persecution and poverty. And to them we must turn with fraternal appeals which ask that they too elect their officers and purge the army of all the fascists and enemies of the people, so that they can join the ranks of the revolution and aid in the formation of militias of the armed people, overseen and controlled by the trade unions and the popular councils.
We need now to complete the revolution, to the very end. For half a revolution is a complete mistake! We must not accept anything less than the expropriation of the property of the expropriators, and at their head are the families of Ben Ali and Trabelsi and the gang around them. We must not accept anything less than the expropriation of the property of imperialism which propped up the dictatorship and cooperated with it in keeping down the revolutions of the nation, and place it under the control of the working people.