The Communist Workers’ Party of Tunisia is one of the key communist organizations in Northern Africa and has played a central role in the recent January Tunisian revolution which, least we be reminded, was the original spark that started the prairie fire that has resulted in mass uprisings across Northern Africa and the Middle East. The Communist Workers’ Party of Tunisia, whilst the focus of the world and the “Left” has shifted to Egypt and now Libya, has continued to fight in the last 3 months to deepen the revolution of January and to carry it to its proper conclusion: a revolutionary pro-people democracy. Thus, the first section of the recent statement from the Communist Workers’ Party of Tunisia that I have reproduced from Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal provides a very analysis of the current situation in Tunisia and clearly outlines the immediate tasks in front of the revolutionary movement there. It truly is unfortunate that the Tunisian struggle has largely already been forgotten by the Left that applauded it in January, especially at this juncture at which the Tunisian masses need international support and attention.
The second part of the statement and perhaps the more controversial section for some sections of the Left is their clear opposition to the imperialist intervention by the US and its NATO allies in Libya. The statement very quickly contextualizes the intervention into Libyan as an imperialist intervention based on the need to better exploit Libyan oil resources, and reminds us that the imperialists will never support a revolution that actually does not formally reflect their own interests. This strategic interest in the region is of course something that the Obama regime has consistently emphasized to its own population in its bid to sell its latest military adventure. I must admit that I find it odd that some sections of the Left have been unwilling to condemn noted “Marxists” that have taken the Christopher Hitchens-road by supporting an American war of aggressions under the guise of “critical anti-imperialism”. Indeed, I fail to see how the claims of an impending “humanitarian crisis” in Libya differ that dramatically from those made by the Bush government in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq besides the fact that the Democrats are better at packaging the same old imperialist adventure. As a republican recently reminded us: the Americans had twice the number of international allies for the Iraq war than they do in this most recent imperialist intervention.
What about the rebels you may ask? Should we not support a revolutionary movement? I am not convinced at all by the argument that the rebels of Benghazi constitute a revolutionary force in some progressive sense. Indeed, it is clear that the opposition forces largely consist of radical Islamist elements close to Al-Qaeda, sections of Ghaddafi’s government that have opportunistically jumped ship in recent weeks as the tide has changed, monarchists who want a return to pre-Ghaddafi Libya, former CIA-funded political organizations and a few scattered tribes. I do not think that such a coalition bodes well for the peoples of Libya or for a revolutionary movement there. Furthermore, even reporters on all of the major news sources have reported that the rebels consist of less than a thousand young men with little weaponry, training, discipline or military command. This does not sound like a popular insurgency to me and there is little evidence of the exuberance that marked the early days of the Benghazi uprising. This must raise some serious and troubling questions for any critical person paying attention to the war. At the same time, I also find claims from some sections of the “Left” regarding Ghaddafi’s “socialist” or “anti-imperialist” credentials unconvincing to say the least, especially as it has been time and again demonstrated that Ghaddafi has always been a “critical pro-imperialost lap dog”. Furthermore, I do not think that a) we can permit a civil war to be settled either way by the Americans and Western European powers, especially in light of Libya’s colonial history and their imperialist designs; b) I do not think that we should mistake imperialism as humanitarianism, whether it be under the guise of rescuing the women of Afghanistan or stopping a possible genocide; and c) overturn sovereignty in fear of something that may happen as this returns to the realm of preemptive war. I am not suggesting that there may not have been reason for intervention if a genocide was in fact taking place however, till date it is not and it is not clear besides some initial fear-mongering whether such a possibility was indeed in the offing. Finally, I think we must ask why have the Americans failed to invade Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, both American allies in the war on terror, which also have brutal dictatorial regimes that recently used military resources against popular civilian uprisings. Or is it simply as a high-ranking American general said on “Meet the Press” the fact that those countries remain such close Americans allies demands a radically different approach which in effect permits the brutal repression of the people’s movement in those countries?
Communist Workers’ Party of Tunisia/Parti communiste des ouvriers de Tunisie (PCOT) حزب العمّال الشّيوعي التونسي
Translated by John Catalinotto for Tlaxcala
March 23, 2011 — This event [the legalisation of the the Communist Workers’ Party of Tunisia] has important symbolic significance. It is the result, among other things, of the January 14 revolution that deposed Ben Ali, won the right to organise and inaugurated a new era for Tunisia and its people.
The PCOT was established January 3, 1986, the second anniversary of the glorious “bread uprising”, which was a way to show our determination to link our fate to that of the Tunisian people, to defend its interests and legitimate aspirations for a decent life, where freedom, democracy and social justice rule. The PCOT translated these commitments into its political program and its militant practices, under the slogan of “national and popular democratic revolution”, which it continued to defend at the price of enormous sacrifices: Nabil Barakat died in martyrdom, among hundreds of our activists who have been tortured, imprisoned and denied their most basic rights, many of them forced into exile.
Our party stood shoulder to shoulder with our people during this quarter century, making the fall of the dictatorship a primary objective, considering that it constitutes a major obstacle to the emancipation of the people and the rebirth of the nation. The party had full confidence in our people; it fought against the reactionary thinking that underestimated them, accusing them of helplessness and resignation. It has continually worked to raise consciousness and organise clandestine action to the extent that the lack of freedom permitted. It participated in all the people’s struggles and helped unite the opposition to secure victory against the dictatorship.
The revolution of January 14 is the culmination of over 20 years of struggle and sacrifices of the Tunisian people, of its sons and daughters making up the different ideological and political opponents to the dictatorship, organised in parties, associations and trade union and human rights organisations or unorganised.
This revolution took on various dimensions: It is a political revolution against tyranny and subjugation, a social revolution against exploitation and corruption, a patriotic revolution for dignity. The revolution did not stop inside Tunisia; it has spread to other Arab countries, where people are rising up against corrupt and tyrannical regimes and making them fall one after another.
Revolution not yet complete
The revolution of January 14 is not yet complete because it has not achieved all its objectives, despite the progress it made. Reactionary forces are still lurking and trying to abort the revolution. They are supported in this by the United States and France, which want to reduce the revolution to a mere reform of the old regime, leaving its economic and social foundation intact. The fundamental issue in any revolution is power, and if the sectors of the population that made the revolution do not hold power, we must conclude that it neither complete nor victorious. This is the case in Tunisia where the people rose up but have not yet taken power.
In the first phase of the revolution, the people brought down the dictator. In the second phase for the victory against the dictatorship, the people, through its vigilance and determination, brought down the Ghannouchi government and imposed the demands for a constituent assembly, and dissolution of the RCD [ruling party] and the political police. It also significantly expanded the scope of freedom of expression and organisation.
However, power remains in the hands of reactionary forces, deployed in different units and institutions that continue to preserve their economic interests. These forces are committing crimes against people (assault, looting, riots …). They try to break its unity through fueling regional, tribal and religious differences and sowing fear and terror in order to discourage the people from continuing the revolution and achieving its objectives.
The interim president and transitional government are bent on sabotaging the revolution’s legitimacy and reject any control over their decisions (appointment of delegates, security officials, the judiciary …); this process serves the interests of the enemies of the revolution. They refused to deal with the “National Council to Defend the Revolution”, which they replaced by a “body” whose members they have appointed unilaterally. In the same way, the decision to dissolve the RCD can be rescinded by returning this party under a new form. This is also the case regarding the decision to dissolve the political police, which is surrounded by doubts and raises serious questions about its application.
The masses, particularly in the country’s interior, are beginning to feel that nothing regarding their political and social conditions has changed, and that their revolution is about to be stolen. It is a legitimate feeling with understandable reasons. The old regime is still in place, with its apparatus and its administration. The interim government took no action, although an urgent action is needed to alleviate the burden of unemployment and the high cost of living, stop the deterioration of public services that hit the regions — which have also suffered repression and looting before and during the outbreak of the revolution. This is the case of the mining region, of Skhira of Benguerdane and many other regions.
The Communist Workers’ Party of Tunisia believes that the revolution is not over. The Tunisian people must remain vigilant to avert the dangers threatening it. The continued mobilisation, conservation and revitalisation of the “National Council to Defend the Revolution” and its committees are urgent tasks today.
Today, the people remain the only force capable of exercising control over the interim presidency and the provisional government, which it has the right to monitor and hold accountable.
The election of the “Constituent Assembly” is an important event in the coming period. Workers, toiling strata and all our people can, in conjunction with the PCOT and all democratic and revolutionary forces, make this moment a turning point to impose the will of the people and stop the enemies of the revolution in their tracks.
This cannot be accomplished without an immediate mobilisation to postpone the elections and put space between them and the dates of the examinations, to enable the people and political forces to be well prepared, given the importance of the issues that the Constituent Assembly will determine.
We must also prepare a suitable political arena, through the purging of the administration, the judiciary and the media, by the effective dissolution of the political police and the establishment of an electoral law that resolves the issue of financing the elections to ensure transparency and equality among all participants and ensure that these elections are not tainted by corruption.
The character of the transition period in no way precludes the need for urgent economic and social measures, particularly for the unemployed, or for the regions that are neglected despite their wealth and potential.
The transitional government continues to cling to the budget decided under Ben Ali, which provides a significant portion for the Department of the Interior and for the repayment of debt incurred by the dictatorship. Why should the government not cancel the debt or at least suspend it for a while, as did countries that have experienced the same conditions as Tunisia? Why not devote the full budget to improving the lives of the people? Why not revise this budget to reflect new priorities?
The Tunisian revolution has spread to many Arab countries. Egypt’s dictator fell, while authoritarian regimes in Yemen and Bahrain are fiercely repressing popular uprisings, in Bahrain, with the help of Saudi Arabia. Our neighbour, the Libyan people, rose up against their tormentors, but events took a bad turn with the intervention of the United States and its allies, under the pretext of protecting civilians. The US administration has hardly mentioned the killing of civilians in Yemen and Bahrain, as it has also never done regarding Gaza, Lebanon or Iraq and Afghanistan, countries it occupies. And didn’t Sarkozy support the Tunisian dictator until the last moment?
What drives Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron to intervene is the frantic race to grab a portion of Libyan oil, after the failure of its revolution. We support the Libyan people in their uprising, but we are against any foreign intervention, which not only hurts the revolution in Libya and Tunisia but also hurts all Arab countries. We oppose the use of our territory or our airspace in the aggression against Libya. The US, French and English colonialists have no interest in the triumph of the Arab revolution, given the danger it represents for them.
- Long live the revolution of the Tunisian people.
- The revolution should go on until it achieves its objectives.
- Power to the people.
- Long live the uprisings of the Arab peoples for freedom and dignity.