The assassination of Mohamed Brahmi, MP for El Shaab (People’s Movement), has triggered a new mass movement of workers and youth in Tunisia. Under mass pressure, the main union federation, the UGTT, called a one-day general strike on 26 July. Clearly, the revolution is not over in the country which sparked the ‘Arab Spring’ two years ago, when the uprising saw the end of decades of dictatorship.
Since then, however, the situation for the workers and poor has deteriorated, as capitalist governments have driven through austerity measures dictated by the IMF and capitalist governments.
We reproduce below a leaflet distributed on the day of the general strike by supporters of the Committee for a Workers’ International in Tunisia, one of whom, Rezgui, told us: ‘The strike was absolutely solid. And 50,000 people gathered for the funeral.’
‘The town of Sidi Bouzid [in central Tunisia, where Brahmi was MP, and where the Arab spring erupted] has proclaimed self-rule, with “democratic committees” being set up to defend and organise the area. The same is true of Gafsa, further south.’
‘There have also been further mass sit-ins, with tens of thousands – even official figures say 25,000 – protesting in front of the national assembly building on 28 July. Security forces and the army are now encircling them.’
‘They are demanding that the government resigns, and that the whole “constituent assembly” is dissolved.’
Rezgui added: ‘Although there are many examples of mass struggle, strikes and the formation of committees organising working-class and poor people, there are also some dangers in the situation, especially if a lead is not given. What is needed, above all, is the call for an indefinite general strike to bring down the government, and to move towards linking up the democratic committees and areas which have declared self-rule’.
Funeral of Mohammed Brahmi, Tunis
Leaflet of CWI supporters
Tunisia: Political assassination precipitates new crisis in regime
For a revolutionary government of workers, youth, the unemployed and the poor!
On 25 July, the national holiday of the Tunisian Republic, the Tunisian revolution had a new martyr. Once again the opposition Popular Front was the target of a political assassination. Mohamed Brahmi, leader of the movement El Shaab (People’s Movement), elected to the Constituent Assembly for the Sidi Bouzid region, the symbolic fulcrum of the Tunisian revolution, was cold-bloodedly executed outside his home.
The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) strongly condemns this political assassination, which takes place in a context marked by increasing political violence in different forms, fed by the existing capitalist forces, their militias and repressive apparatus.
Two and a half years after the fall of President Ben Ali, the situation for the masses has gone from bad to worse and anger is fomenting across the country. The assassination of Brahmi is a new catalyst for the fury of workers, youth and revolutionary masses whose willingness to topple the Troika regime (the governing coalition) is at fever pitch.
As soon as the news of the death of Brahmi was announced, a spontaneous general strike was called in the governorate of Sidi Bouzid. Huge crowds marched to government buildings to occupy them and, in many places, local offices of the ruling Ennahda party were set on fire.
On the evening of 25 July, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in a protest called for by the Popular Front outside the Interior Ministry in Tunis which was brutally attacked by the police.
A national general strike was announced by the UGTT (Tunisian General Workers Union) for 26 July and implemented throughout the country. The Popular Front called on the population to gather outside the offices of the UGTT for a march to the Constituent Assembly, calling for its immediate dissolution and the fall of the government.
As in Egypt, the Islamic regime in Tunisia is now being questioned, with the masses demanding the fall of the regime. The liberal forces, linked to the regime and imperialist powers, is fearful of the possibility of a new revolutionary wave and is therefore seeking by all means to block the masses’ demands and protect the interests of the capitalist elite.
The Popular Front gathers under its umbrella many revolutionary activists, trade unionists and young people who aspire to continue the revolution all the way and for the coming to power of those who serve the interests of workers and to end the exploitative capitalist system. However, its outlook is toward reaching compromises with political forces alien to the struggles of the workers, the poor, and all those who carried out the original revolution. The Popular Front has called for the formation of a National Salvation Government which will see the possibility of agreements with representatives of the wealthy classes whose sole purpose is to end the struggle of the popular masses and the working class.
The CWI believes that the strength of the Tunisian trade union movement and the weight of the Popular Front should instead be geared to the interests of the struggling masses, in order to build a power that is democratically controlled by action committees at all levels of society and across the country.
The coming days will be decisive as to the future of the revolution, which is at a crossroads. But the situation is fraught with danger. The general strike is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but the implications of such action must be seized without delay. The risk of demobilisation, and the absence of clarity in how to extend and organise actions in the following days, can only benefit those who are against the revolution, whether they use demands for “democracy” or in the name of religion.
The CWI has called for the formation of revolutionary committees in workplaces, universities, schools and popular neighbourhoods to organise the movement collectively and democratically, and according to the will of the mobilised masses. In Sidi Bouzid, the UGTT regional offices and the lawyers’ organisation in the governorate have backed the formation of a unit for the rule of administrative affairs in the region, in response to the calls of the general strike and civil disobedience. Such examples orientate towards self-administration of public affairs by the people and must be encouraged across the country.
Such committees should be responsible for self-defence in the neighbourhoods and the revolutionary movement as a whole, to prevent violence by the forces of repression and reactionary militia. Such committees are essential for the control of the movement by its social base, and for such structures at the local, regional and national levels. These committees could be channelled into the formation of a revolutionary government in the interests of the workers, youth and oppressed, and could be supported by the UGTT and activists in the Popular Front, the Unemployed Union (UDC) and social movements.
- Down with the Troika (the government coalition)! For an open general strike until the fall of the regime!
- No agreements with the government or with the political forces which defend the continuation of capitalism!
- For a government of workers, youth and the poor masses, supported by trade unions and popular and Left organisations
- For the cancellation of the debt and the nationalisation of banks and vital sectors of the economy under democratic control of the workers and communities!
- For an international struggle of youth and workers against capitalism and imperialism, for a socialist world!