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Tunisia: Communist Workers' Party warns, `Great dangers threaten the revolution; power is not in the hands of the people'

Mass protests in Tunisia, January 2011.

By the Communist Workers' Party of Tunisia/Parti communiste des ouvriers de Tunisie (PCOT)

 حزب العمّال الشّيوعي التونسي

Translated by John Catalinotto for Tlaxcala

Two and a half months have passed since the glorious revolution of January 14. During this period, the people have made significant progress through their struggle and sacrifice.

March 31, 2011 -- Having brought down the dictator and the two consecutive governments led by Mohammad al-Ghannouchi, the Tunisian people have managed to win their demands for a constituent assembly and for the dissolution of the formerly ruling RCD party and the political police. It also widened the space for freedom of expression, organisation, assembly and demonstration. Despite all these achievements, the revolution has gone only half-way, with great perils that grow every day lurking and threatening it.

Power is not in the hands of the people who rose up against tyranny, exploitation and corruption; it is still held by reactionary forces. These forces are attempting, by using the provisional president and the interim transitional government, to seize control of the revolution to reduce it into a mere facelift of the old regime. [President] Mbazaâ and [Prime Minister] Beji Kaïd Sebssi have placed themselves outside any popular control; they refused to recognise "the National Council for the Defense of the Revolution", hoping to escape all control. As a counterweight they set up a consultative body, to which they have appointed members.

Although Mbazaâ and Beji Kaïd Sebssi accepted the plan to elect a constituent assembly, they also set an election date without taking into account the interests of the people.

On the other hand, the formerly ruling RCD’s dissolution failed to prevent its return to the political scene in the cover of new parties. Also, organisations related to it still exist (such as the National Union of Tunisian Women and others). It turned out that the dissolution of the political police is little more than a formality. It still exists, practices repression, torture, surveillance and wiretapping and internet stoppages. Some of its leading figures occupy high positions in the Ministry of Interior, without being held accountable for killings and torture.

The same threatening language used during the final stages of the old regime -- "resistance to violence and chaos" -- has reappeared in recent days when the political police and military brutally repressed popular occupations of the Kasbah and Mahdia. Speeches attempting to manipulate the desire of the population for security have multiplied at the expense of social and political issues in order to divert the revolution.

Despite the suspension of the constitution, draconian laws are still in force: the press code and the laws governing associations, parties, meetings, demonstrations. These laws should have been repealed and replaced by decrees guaranteeing freedoms in order to avoid placing a knife to the neck of the people.

The administration is still in the grip of Destourian* tyranny and corruption, which have returned by force, to their positions of power in the various governorates. They resumed their former practices oppressing the population, marginalising the local committees to protect the revolution with a perspective of destroying them.

This situation is mirrored in the economic and financial institutions such as banks, where those involved in the looting of the people and country, working hand-in-hand with the "criminal gang", hold onto their power as if nothing had happened.

The state of the judicial system, undermined by corruption, has not changed, a situation confirmed by the magistrates' association. The media are still under the yoke of the censors of the Ben Ali regime and always work according to orders. There has been no progress in terms of prosecution and conviction of those responsible for tyranny and corruption, including the murderers of the revolution’s martyrs in Sidi Bouzid, Menzel Bouzayane, Regueb, Thala, Kasserine, Tunis and other regions. Members of Ben Ali’s inner circle have re-emerged to continue their provocative activities.

On the socioeconomic front, the transitional government shows no willingness to take urgent measures needed in this critical period to assist the labouring classes. The vast majority of the population, especially in marginalised regions, feels that no change has occurred in their desperate situation. Unemployment and high cost of living persist, public services continue to deteriorate and the government shows no sign of determination to address these problems.

The government has not yet set its clocks to revolution time; it has not challenged the minority that has practiced looting based on despotism.

The government still is functioning under the budget determined by the dictator Ben Ali last December, where priority is given to the repayment of foreign debt owed by the former regime and to finance its huge security apparatus. Despite its temporary nature, this government has not hesitated to take on new foreign debts, while it has taken no action to lower prices, even for goods and services that were under the monopoly of members of the ruling gang. The families of the martyrs have not been compensated and no emergency assistance has been provided to impoverished regions...

The government justifies its behaviour by claiming to be provisional and claiming not to have a "magic wand" to solve all the problems...

Yet it is the government itself that impedes the prosecution and trial of the gang that looted public money, as well as the seizure of their property. Moreover, what prevents it from suspending debt repayments temporarily and taking the opportunity to address the problems of our people, as has been done in other countries? Why can’t prices of basic foodstuffs, water and electricity decrease? Why can’t the TV license fee be eliminated? Why does it provide no help to the people of Sidi Bouzid for the electrification of their wells? Why does not listen to the teachers' proposals to allow the hiring of unemployed senior graduates?

If the Communist Workers' Party of Tunisian emphasises the dangers that threaten the revolution it is because we assume responsibilities that are our own.

The people have the right to use all legal means to defend its revolution and its achievements, and to confront the dangers which threaten it. It is also entitled to struggle against the government that infringes on the freedoms and wants to confine any decisions to a minimal of closed discussions that involve only "the highest authority".

This period requires deepening the revolutionary process in order to achieve the following objectives.

1. Maintaining the National Council for the Defense of the Revolution, as a tool to control the provisional presidency and the transitional government and safeguard the transition period.

2. The postponement of the election of the Constituent Assembly until after the summer, to allow the people the conscious choice and the political forces adequate time to prepare.

3. Prevent the leading figures of the RCD to organise new parties.

4. The effective and transparent dissolution of the political police and the prosecution of both those who ordered and carried out torture, killings and looting.

5. Purging the public and semi-public administration of corruption and symbols of repression.

6. Purging the judiciary and allowing judges to elect their board of governors.

7. Purging the media industry of the figures of the former era.

8. Repeal the repressive laws and respect people's rights to freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration.

9. Deliver, urgently, to justice the murderers of martyrs and those responsible for crimes committed against the people; try leading figures of the old regime, seize their property and retrieve their fortunes placed abroad.

10. Suspend the repayment of foreign debt for three years and focus on job creation and development of marginalised regions. Refrain from contracting new loans at the expense of the independence of our country.

11. Lower the prices for basic consumer products, water, electricity and gas, and eliminate the television fee.

12. Compensate on an emergency basis the families of martyrs and victims of repression and looting during the revolution and during the events of the mining basin, of Benguerdane, etc.

[* The Neo Destour party, founded in 1934 as result of a split from the pre-existing Destour party (Destour means constitution), led Tunisia to independence in 1956 and became the ruling party during 55 years. It was renamed Socialist Destour Party in 1964 by Habib Bourguiba and Constitutional Democratic Rally in 1988 by Ben Ali. It was suspended in February 2011 awaiting a decision on its dissolution by judicial authorities (Tlaxcala’s note). English translation first appeared at Tlaxcala. Orginal source: http://www.albadil.org/spip.php?article3753.]

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