Tunisia: ‘It’s evident that a solution for the problems of the people cannot be found within capitalism’

Emna, a young Tunisian revolutionary, talks to In Defence of Marxism about the contradictions within the Tunisian Revolution and how they are reflected concretely on the ground.

Emna is a young 19 year-old revolutionary Tunisian and journalism student. We met her during the World Social Forum. Active in the student union UGET, she is also a member of the party of the Democratic Patriots (the party of Chokri Belaid, assassinated by the Salafists in February 2013) and of Amnesty International. During this short interview she describes the political situation at university and the main challenges facing the revolution.

Can you explain what changed in Tunisia since the famous 14th of January 2011 when Ben Ali, the president dictator, was overthrown?

Many things have changed of course. The question is to know if things have changed for the better or for the worse. The good thing is that now we have freedom of expression, even an exaggerated freedom of expression. Everyone can express himself or herself, as he or she wants. But the bad changes since the revolution are more important than the good ones. Unemployment has increased and there is much less security for the people than before.

How has the university changed since the revolution?

The university is dominated by the battle between the progressive and revolutionary students of the UGET and the Islamists organised in the UGTE. The UGTE was historically the student union of Bourguiba (first president of independent Tunisia) then it became the union of Ben Ali and now is the organisation of Ennahda, the Islamic party in power.  They pretend to defend the students’ interests and rights but in reality this is not true, they add nothing to the debate. The students, even the non-militants consider the Islamists as a danger for the Tunisian university. 

Why do you say they represent a danger?

Because they are Islamists, they can only talk about religion and have no separate program except that of religion.

So what is the political situation at the university? Do the students support the revolution?

Some students pretend that they are neither left wing nor right wing; they pretend to be neutral. But in reality you have left wing and right wing students. During the elections for the student representatives on March 13th to the scientific councils the left wing student union, the UGET, got 71% of the votes in all the universities across the country. In my faculty the electoral campaign of the UGET has only costed 16 Dinars (8 euro) … contrary to the Islamists of the UGTE who spent much more money, for flashy stickers etc., which we did not have. But we won.

Can you tell me something about the social situation at the campus?

The universities attract many students from the interior of the country. Their first concern is where to sleep. There are many problems linked to the ‘Foyers’, the student houses, the university restaurants and transport. They have to survive with very few money, 30 Dinars for example a month for food and transport. All this costs a lot.

What is the Popular Front and what are its objectives.

In reality there exists another front, the front of the bourgeois parties who came together after the elections.  The Popular Front does not limit its activities to elections. Eleven left wing parties have integrated in our Front, it has a clearer program than the others, and you can say it has a more Marxist program.  The objective of the Popular Front is to overthrow the actual government. Its only interest is the people.

Why, in your opinion, has Chokri Belaid been assassinated?

Contrary to other political leaders he had a fierce discourse. He was not afraid of naming the corrupted leaders or those who harmed the people. For instance he attacked the leaders of Ennahda, the Islamist party. He had proof of their wrongdoings and they disliked that.  Everybody knows that behind his assassination was the armed section of Ennahda, the Salafists, who organised under the deceptive name “League for the Protection of the Revolution.

Following his assassination the people rose up in different regions of the country. Then we asked ourselves, who will be next? Journalists in particular are scared. But in the end few things have changed. The Salafists are still everywhere to be seen and are supported by the state.

What are, in your opinion, the problems a real revolution needs to solve in Tunisia?

The first and most urgent problem that needs to be solved is unemployment. Those who are hungry cannot advance as an Arab proverb says. Then there is the question of the infrastructure and the economy in general.

Do you think these problems can find a solution within capitalism?

No, it is evident, that this is not possible.