Tunisia: Victory for the workers and the people!

The first phase of the revolution ousted Ben Ali! It must continue!

Below we publish a translated article which originally appeared on the website of Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France)

The uprising of the workers, the young people and the unemployed of Tunisia has brought down the police state and the Ben Ali regime. On Wednesday 12 January, the regional federations of the UGTT union called for more general strikes. In Sfax and Tunis, the strikes were heavily supported, with massive demonstrations strengthening the mobilisation. Faced with the huge worker’s demonstration at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ben Ali had to eventually stand down. Despite the deaths, the barbaric methods of the police, the looters and rioters at the service of the RCD and the followers of Ben Ali, fear grew within the system and it inevitably collapsed.

No to a second Ben Ali

Ben Ali’s clan, the leaders of the RCD and the police were afraid the revolution would continue and that forced them to replace the former dictator by his prime minister, Mr Ghannouchi, and then by the quasi-senile and powerless President of the "National Assembly", Fouad Mebazaa. But this fools no one. Ghannouchi, Prime Minister for over 10 years, is fully responsible for the policies in Tunisia which created social deprivation and a grim future for young people. Ghannouchi was instrumental in privatisations and policies in favour of multinationals and things won’t change. The fact that he remains Prime Minister guarantees that the interests of the ruling classes will be defended. In November 1987, the same promises of "democracy" and “free elections” were made by Ben Ali and history now speaks for itself. In the coming days, Ghannouchi could soon form a new party with former executives of the RCD.

The introduction of the curfew and the state of emergency were put into place to prevent a massive outburst of joy. It has mostly left people isolated in their homes at risk of becoming victims of the rioters and gangs of the RCD and the police. Though some soldiers have fraternised with the demonstrators, their leaders are linked with the former regime. The revolution must continue, we must not allow it to be confiscated. The army chiefs, including General Ammar, are trying to ensure that the revolution will not go further by endorsing this "government”. Even if Ammar was opposed to the use of the army in the repression, he will be even more hostile to the revolution continuing.

A government of national unity with murderers of the Tunisian people?

The fact that the majority of the government is formed of ministers from the RCD is an insult to the revolution. Will they claim they knew nothing of the murders, the torture and the arbitrary arrests? They are trying to steal away the revolution with the help of international institutions. By accepting ministries with little power, the parties of the pseudo opposition (PDP, Ettajdid, etc.) who never demanded that Ben Ali step down, who never actually participated in the revolution, support the regime organised by Ammar and Ghannouchi staying in place. The media speaks of “opposition" but these parties are simply token opposition parties looking to reap the fruits of a battle they did not lead. The Tunisian masses must understand that as a warning: the revolution must be defended by organisations from the revolution itself.

In announcing 3 days of mourning, the government is trying to use the deaths that they are actually responsible for. They are also trying to put an end to the continued demonstrations that are, rightfully so, demanding its resignation.

A system that was not only confined to the Ben Ali-Trabelsi clan

It is a whole system of politics that allowed the Ben Ali – Trabelsi clan to capture a large part of Tunisian wealth. It is a whole ultra-neoliberal policy, with the current Prime Minister Ghannouchi as one of its chief architects, following the recommendations of the IMF and imperialist "friends" of the Tunisian state (but enemies of its people): among others, France, the European Union and multinationals from many countries. For example, the Mabrouk brothers own 51% of Orange-Tunisie and the former CEO of Orange France declared in May 2010 that he was "happy to partner with Marwan Mabrouk".

The head of the IMF, D Strauss-Kahn, a so-called socialist, supposedly on the left and on the side of the Tunisian people, declared in October 2010 after being decorated by Ben Ali: “The economic policies in place are healthy and, I think, are a good example for emerging countries." These are actually policies that benefit the capitalists and enabled different clans, including the Ben Ali-Trabelsi clan, to grab so much wealth off the backs of the Tunisians. The very foundations of these policies must be changed. The core of these policies must be changed, and that can only mean overthrowing capitalism.

Why a government of national unity?

The provisional government of national unity is a lie and an attempt to steal the revolution. Fortunately, the leaders of the UGTT who agreed to participate quickly resigned under pressure from core members, but evidently, the UGTT will need be democratised, to get rid of leaders who have not defended the workers and have agreed to arrangements with the regime of Ben Ali. An extraordinary congress of the UGTT, supported by democratic elections in all local branches, could help re-elect a fighting and uncompromised leadership that is truly representative of the core of the struggle.

While Ben Ali is relaxing in a luxury home in Saudi Arabia, he maintains regular contact with Ghannouchi according to the French media. The government is out to perform a specific task: calm the crowds to regain control and steal the revolution from the hands of the Tunisian people and re-establish a regime under the control of the ruling groups over the Tunisian economy. A backlash could then occur, compromising the democratic advances that the people have fought for. The relatively relaxed atmosphere, the release of political prisoners, the freedom of the press, etc. have been the result of the exemplary mobilisation of workers, young people and poor classes. As long as political power remains in the hands of those who, for years, have crushed our most basic democratic rights, and as long as the economy remains in the hands of looters and profit-driven multinational corporations who have succeeded by silencing our means of expression, nothing can be taken for granted. Only a government representing and run by the oppressed classes will ensure sustainable foundations in terms of democratic freedom and prevent any future dictatorship from resurfacing. To begin, we must demand an immediate end to the state of emergency, the reopening of schools and universities (announced by the government but the staff, high school students, university students must take control), full recognition of trade union rights including in the private sector, the legalisation of all democratic political organisations and associations which have suffered systematic repression for so many years.

This fake government that only represents itself and the wealthy clique (rich Tunisians and foreigners) which profited from the dictatorship do not possess an ounce of legitimacy to organise new elections. The possible monitoring of elections by the European Union will not change anything. Their hypocritical attitude towards the Tunisian revolution has not gone unnoticed. Truly democratic elections to establish a revolutionary constituent assembly should only be organised and supervised by the workers and the masses through their committees and their unions.

Several parties and figures of the "real" opposition (that were banned, activists imprisoned) regularly discuss parliamentary or presidential elections. This is the case of the Tunisian Communist Workers Party (PCOT), or the religious party, Nahda (which claims to be close to the Turkish AKP). However, these elections are not possible until the current government is overthrown and as long as many executives of the Ben Ali regime are still in place. The PCOT rightfully calls for the establishment of democratic committees but does not call for their extension into the army. Speaking with no criticism about the role of the leaders of the army: "The army is present to watch over our safety and the security of the country.” It did not comment on specific economic measures or on democratic committees that should constitute the basis of a new power: that of workers, young people and the masses. As for Nahda, it is not an Islamist party like the FIS in Algeria. For a long time, Ben Ali has justified his dictatorship with an Islamist threat, yet it does not really exist in Tunisia. However, as shown by the revolution, it is the will of a free and democratic society, allowing everyone to live properly, that has driven events. The Tunisian people do not want a dictatorship, whether be it a police or religious one.

The role of France

If the regime of Ben Ali was able to hold on this long, despite the discontentment of more and more Tunisians over the years, it has been through the support of French leaders. Chirac and Jospin in the 90s, Sarkozy, Alliot-Marie and the whole “official” French political class have supported the dictator.

France condemned the "criminal gangs” and "those who support them with the hope of challenging changes that were brought about in a constitutional manner" said the Foreign Ministry. But this government, and all others before it, even the mayor of Paris, did they not support a "criminal gang": Ben Ali and his clique?

All of a sudden France, the EU and the US salute the uprising of the Tunisian people but they all previously backed Ben Ali. From this point of view, maintaining the power of Ghannouchi is of benefit to them as they fear that the revolution will continue and questions will be asked about the stranglehold of many multinationals on the Tunisian economy.

Successive revelations of the wealth of Ben Ali-Trabelsi show how all these governments were complicit: villas, buildings in France and elsewhere. An act of international solidarity would be to invade these properties to return them to the Tunisian people.

The movement must continue and move forward!

Ghannouchi clearly explained in an interview with Europe 1 radio why many ministers of the previous government were retained: "These are ministers who run economic departments that will enable us to continue economic reforms.” The policy in favour of capitalists will continue.

The same players will play the same game; there is no man of Providence. A day of demonstrations and a general strike must be called for to celebrate victory and keep fighting to show that workers and young people are mobilised and do not recognise this government that is in no way different to the previous one. This is frequently discussed everywhere, the board of UGTT should take responsibility as we approach the anniversary of 26 January, 1978…

Democratic committees in neighbourhoods, businesses, schools, and universities should be formed to create the foundations for a new free and democratic society. The multiplication of democratic committees could also help organise defence against gangs and the police.

Committees, such as these, have already been spontaneously created on the spot in one form or another in different places (defence committees of a district, organisation committee for the dissolution of the RCD, committees for supplies, etc.). These must be generalised, strengthened and must coordinate together to help identify needs, to seize the property stolen by the ruling elite and so on. By electing officials, and by uniting nationally (by a national convention of elected representatives of these committees), they are the true product of the revolution against this government to replace it. These could also organise defence against gangs and the police.

The foundations of a new society, that is truly socialist and democratic, that ensures a decent life, a real future, real freedom, could be created through these democratic committees. Soldiers should do the same in the army to prevent it from being used to repress a future stage of the revolution. To move towards this goal, we must build a genuine mass worker’s party along with young people and independent from corrupt politicians, to fight for the interests of the majority.

Towards another stage of the revolution

Now that the revolution has begun, everything will be questioned. The miserable situation of some farmers, the lack of union rights in export processing zones where multinationals super exploit Tunisian workers, the lack of housing, etc. Not only are democracy and total freedom needed, but the RCD must come to an end, and we must also stop the causes themselves: the capitalist system that subjects the Tunisian economy to multinationals, especially French ones.

The movement is far from over. Demonstrations continue across the country. Ben Ali is out, it is now the entire RCD, its apparatus, and the entire government who the masses want to see out. Recently, in various public companies, workers have begun the cleaning process of getting rid of RCD-collaborating bosses who were still in positions of leadership, and are trying to take things into their own hands. This is the case at the Banque Nationale Agricole, the National Social Security Fund and in several media companies. These examples should inspire all the workers: in all big companies and in the public sector, corruption cases and "incriminating" dossiers must be made available to the employees, measures taken to evict the bosses who have worked hand in hand with the regime and illegitimate managing boards replaced by democratically elected committees. Workers’ control and full publication of accounts books must be on the agenda in order to lay the groundwork to organise production and labour is in the interests of the workers themselves.

Trials must be held for the assassins of the RCD, beginning with Ben Ali, who should be imprisoned in Tunisia. The trials should not be held under the current legal system but should be held by the workers, young people, small farmers, etc. all those who have suffered from Ben Ali policies.

Nobody wants a new dictator; do not let them seize the revolution. Many governments (Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, etc.) are keeping a close eye on the events in Tunisia. They have carried out the same policies for the benefit of capitalists and against the workers and the people. The fear of a similar revolutionary mass movement is prompting them to reduce prices. But like in Tunisia, this will not be enough because as long as the economy is in the hands of ruling cliques and multinationals, the majority of the population has nothing.

Young people and workers in these countries look with envy and hope at the events of Tunisia. It would be possible to appeal to the workers, young people, the unemployed of the other countries of the Maghreb and also elsewhere to organise a mass movement similar to that of Tunisia. This would strengthen the Tunisian revolution itself. Ultimately, it is not only in one country that things have to change, it should happen all around the world.

The Tunisian revolution must go forward and not leave things in the hands of Ghannouchi or others. A socialist revolution is needed to allow the nationalisation of the major sectors of the economy under the control and democratic management of workers and the population. This will ensure a dignified existence, a real job, a future for young people, as well as a free and democratic society. To succeed, we must build a mass revolutionary party in Tunisia and other countries. It is for this purpose that the sections of our international, the Committee for a Workers’ International (CIO / CWI) are fighting for the overthrow of capitalism and for socialism in the world.

The Tunisian revolution is just beginning; it is an example for workers, young people, the unemployed, pensioners, woman or man in every country.

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January 2011