(Updated Jan. 24) Tunisia:`All Arab dictators are shaking on their thrones' -- Left and Arab voices on the insurrection

[For more on Tunisia in revolt, click HERE. Scroll down for earlier reports and analysis. ]

UGTT demands dissolution of 'unity government'

Statement of the National Administrative Commission of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) issued on January 21, 2011 (first published in English on MRZine).

1. The General Union of Tunisian Workers is a national organisation necessarily interested in political affairs, given its history of struggle during the colonial epoch and the period of the construction of the modern state, considering the dialectical links among economy, society, politics, and culture in the process of development, but out task has become more urgent than ever.

2. The UGTT National Administrative Commission recalls that the withdrawal of UGTT ministers from the government is due to the government's failure to respond to the conditions set by the UGTT Executive Office in its 15 January 2011 statement, a position whose correctness has been proven and which corresponds to the demands of masses of demonstrators and the rest of the civil and political society.

3. In view of massive demonstrations across the country demanding the dissolution of the government and rejecting the participation of RCD representatives in it; also in view of numerous resignations in response to the rejection by various political parties and currents; and because of the urgent need to restore the confidence of all in order to proceed to the effective preparation for the reforms that have been announced; the members of the UGTT National Administrative Commission demand the dissolution of the government and the establishment of a "national salvation" coalition government which responds to the demands of demonstrators, political parties, associations, NGOs, and all the people.

4. The National Administrative Commission decides, with a view to effectively taking part in a commission for political reforms, to create trade union committees composed of experts and specialists to work out UGTT proposals on political, economic and social reforms necessary for the establishment of democracy, as well as transparent elections to ensure the freedom of choice, to lay the foundations for a parliamentary government, and to permit dissemination of accurate information. Moreover, the UGTT demands that members of its National Administrative Commission be represented in the commission of inquiry on the killings of innocent citizens during demonstrations, to bring those responsible for them to justice, and be also represented in the commission of inquiry on corruption and other crimes.

5. The UGTT calls upon all workers to oppose all attempts to disrupt the normal functioning of institutions and to obstruct their return to normal activity, as well as to be on guard in defense of our achievements and to ensure the continuation of necessary mechanisms for the management and conduct of daily functions, in order to preserve the vital interests of the people and to avoid the vacuum that does lasting damage to workers and citizens.

6. The UGTT reaffirms its commitment to continue to wage the legitimate struggle, whether by striking or demonstrating peacefully, until the government is restructured according to the conditions set by the UGTT, which correspond to the demands of all segments of the political spectrum as well as of the people.

7. The UGTT demands that the 14th of January be proclaimed as national holiday, for the public and private sectors, for civil service, and for all the sectors of people.

8. The UGTT urgently appeals to all trade unionists and workers to preserve the unity of their organisation in order to ensure the continuity of the struggle and achieve the workers' demands, in interaction with the demands of protesters and the general public, and to remain vigilant against all attempts to split our ranks and to divide the unity of our decisions at this sensitive stage in the history of our country.

Long live the struggle of our brave people on the path to dignity in Tunisia.

Tunis, 21 January 2011
Secretary General bdulsalam Jarad

* * *

January 20, 2011 -- Juan Cole's Informed Comment reports that stung by continued protests against the Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD) party of deposed president Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali, the members of that party in the interim cabinet all resigned from it on the morning of Januray 20. The president and prime minister had earlier left the party.

The government also announced the freeing of all political prisoners and the unbanning of political parties. Tweets are saying that people are gathering to chant and sing in protest on Bourguiba Avenue. Crowds are smaller than last week, but people are still coming out to demand removal of RCD ministers.

Swiss banks have frozen Ben Ali’s accounts, and the government has seized the Zitoune Bank of Ben Ali’s son-in-law, as well as arresting members of Ben Ali’s clan.

Morning Star on January 20 reported that the Tunisian army fired a barrage of warning shots in the capital on January 20 as demonstrators converged on the headquarters of the ruling party. The party has dissolved its decision-making core following a wave of departures by ministers desperate to keep their government jobs. Protesters climbed over the RCD offices in Tunis and dismantled the sign bearing its name, carrying off pieces of its red lettering.

Outside the gates of the party headquarters, the army fired rounds into the air, scattering some protesters in the noisy but peaceful crowd. The building was being protected by an army tank in addition to numerous lorries and troops.

The crowd of protesters swelled to at least 2000 people, many chanting "The people want the government down!" Others waved loaves of bread to symbolise their demand for cheaper food.

In a sign of the difficulties facing the interim government one minister, a former member of the ruling party, resigned on January 20. Four other ministers, three of whom were former opposition activists named to the unity government, resigned earlier in the week. Members of the interim government who belonged to the ruling party quit the party on January 19. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi and interim president Fouad Mebazaa had already quit the RCD earlier in the week. Following the resignations the party dissolved its central committee, which will continue to be run "provisionally" by its secretary-general Muhamed Ghariani.

In another attempt to ease tensions the interim government has released all the country's political prisoners.

National television reported that least 33 members of Ben Ali's family had been taken into custody as they tried to flee the country. Prosecutors are investigating overseas bank accounts, real estate and other assets held by Ben Ali, his wife Leila Trabelsi and other relatives.

The revolution continues?

By Dyab Abou Jahjah

January 18, 2011 -- Abou Jahjah commentsتعليقات أبو -- The regime led by Prime Minister and now acting president Mohammed Ghannouchi is playing its last card today in Tunisia. That last card is the RCD (Rassemblement constitutionnel démocratique, the party of the former dictator). After the formation of a so-called “national unity government” yesterday, and after that the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT,the largest trade union in the country) supported and even participated in it with three ministers, alongside three opposition ministers (from the legal opposition under the regime) many thought that the Tunisian revolution ended up with a compromise. A compromise that left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Tunisian people and especially the youth who started this revolution and were determined to sacrifice in order to see it through.

[Update January 18: Several ministers have withdrawn from the unity government due to the inclusion of several hacks from the former ruling party, the RCD, in the government. The ministers who have left are UGTT leaders, apparently under pressure from protesters demanding an end to the RCD's role in government. Junior minister for transportation and equipment Anouar Ben Gueddour resigned along with labour minister Houssine Dimassi, and minister without portfolio Abdeljelil Bedoui. The three ministers are all members of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT). They announced their withdrawal after the UGTT refused to recognise an administration that contains eight ministers from former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's discredited regime. Health minister Mustapha Ben Jaafar of the opposition Democratic Forum for Work and Freedom also resigned. It was not immediately clear if the resignations could bring down the government, which has 40 full and junior ministers. UGTT members and supporters took to the streets today and called for a general strike, constitutional changes and the release of all imprisoned union leaders.]

After knowing the composition of the government and the fact that it included even the minister of interior of the regime who can be held responsible among others for the killings, the revolutionary sentiment exploded again. Arab nationalists, Islamists and radical leftists, but above all normal Tunisians with no political agenda except their determination to have a clean break with the past of repression decided to challenge this government and demanded the outlawing of RCD and  the formation of a salvation government that even breaks with the constitution and rewrites it.

These are revolutionary demands by all means and many people did not take them yesterday. However, people who know the high level of political awareness that the Tunisian people possess also knew that action will follow. Today all over the country demonstrations are erupting forcing the UGTT to retreat from the government and to embrace the revolutionary demands cited above. In many places the popular committees clashed with the police and shoot outs were reported.

Tunisia will decide its direction in the coming days, maybe hours. Will it be a revolution that goes all the way or a compromise between a revolution and a regime that will keep many contradictions under the surface and will sooner or later lead to another clash.

`Illegal' opposition leaders excluded from 'national unity' government

By Yasmine Ryan

January 18, 2011 -- Al Jazeera Blogs -- For all the talk of unity, two opposition parties have been excluded from the national coalition government that was announced January 17, with no immediate prospect of being integrated into what is being portrayed by some as a democratic opening.

The Communist Workers’ Party of Tunisia (PCOT) is one of those parties. Simply being a member of the PCOT has for many years meant the danger of facing a prison sentence.

Hamma Hammami (pictured, right), the party’s spokesperson, was only freed from prison on Friday. "This is a national government which has nothing national about it,” Hammami, told Al Jazeera. “It’s intended to conserve the old regime in power with all of its authoritarian institutions in place.”

“This is why people are taking to the street with a new slogan ‘we don’t want the RCD’”, he said, referring to one of the slogans taken up on Monday’s protests.

For Hammami, like many other opposition leaders, former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s hasty departure is nowhere near enough. He called for “the party of Ben Ali” to be disbanded completely, along with all its “repressive apparatuses”. He called for a provisional government to be established to help pave the way for the transition towards a truly democratic republic.

The communist leader also had words for the Tunisian Islamist movement. He argued that the uprising, which had its one month anniversary on January 17, was a secular one, and called on the Ennahdha party to accept this and not to bring “polemics over theology” into the conversation.

“We want to keep the people united over these aspirations”, Hammami said. “We’re calling on other parties not to divide the people.”

As for Tunisia’s largest Islamist party, it is not only not included in the government. Its leader is being denied the right to return to Tunisian soil. Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of al-Nahda, announced on January 15 that he would be returning to Tunisia from his exile in London to join the unity government.

But Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said today in a statement that there’s no way his namesake -- no relation -- can come back to his homeland unless a 1991 prison sentence is lifted.

Tunisia: Statement of the National Administrative Commission of the Tunisian General Union of Labor

Januray 18, 2011 -- Revitalising Labour -- The members of the National Administrative Commission of the Tunisian General Trade Union (UGTT) held an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday,  January 18, 2011 in Gammarth, headed by the General Secretary comrade Abdessalem Jerad. They analysed the rapid developments witnessed by the country and assessed the sacrifices made by the trade unionists, the workers, the population and the martyrs in the historical popular uprising to resist injustice, oppression and delinquency. Since the members of the Administrative Commission believe in the national and social role, which has long been played by the labour organisation in the struggle for freedom, justice and human rights, they:

1. Stand in humility and homage for the martyrs who perished during the uprising of our people against oppression and tyranny, against the protection of the corrupt gang that lived in our country and for the resistance to an oppressive system based on abolishing public and individual freedoms and human rights.

2. Remind that the Tunisian General Trade Union was the first organisation that alerted the government through its studies and memoirs, and its speech to the public, about the situation of tension and anger that has reached our youth and our people as a result of the clumsy development policies which led to unemployment and poverty and created a void in the social and cultural development.

3. Stand in tribute and appreciation for the solidarity between all the social classes in order to maintain security and public property. They also stress the fact that the acts of vandalism and looting were carried out by groups who were paid by symbols of the presidential security and by spoilers from the family of former president as well as his followers and relatives. They consider that any attempts to divert the public opinion from the real perpetrators of these acts of vandalism and looting represent a kind of deception and obfuscation.

4. Call for the immediate freezing of the accounts of the former president, his family and in-laws and the nationalisation of their properties and to prevent all the suspects from leaving the Tunisian territory waiting for the outcome of the investigations that will be conducted by the committee formed for this purpose.

5. Stress the need for the announced political reforms to be immediately effective, including the separation between political party and state, the passing of a general legislative amnesty, the revision of the constitution and the electoral code and enabling all the political sensitivities of their right to get organised and to exercise their political activities freely, away from all the pressures and constraints.

6. Call for the creation of representative structures with broad powers to monitor the implementation of the immediate measures that were announced as well as the political, economic and social reforms.

7. In order to reinforce the trade unionist rights, according to the international conventions and the local laws, the members of the Administrative Commission call for the immediate dissolution of the professional divisions and their federations since they are parallel structures that clearly damaged worker relations and the social climate within the institutions of production. They also stress the need to dissolve the structures of the Constitutional Democratic Party (RCD) , a party that is still headed by former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

8. Ask for reviewing the terms of the right to demonstrate peacefully in order to eliminate crippling strictures that limit people’s freedom to protest against the adopted policies that contradict with their interests and aspirations.

9. Despite the fact that the Tunisian General Trade Union is keen [for] social and political reforms and to the need to strengthen them, it considers that the composition of the announced coalition government does not respond to the conditions set by the Executive Bureau in the statement issued on Saturday, January 15, 2011 and does not correspond to the aspirations of the workers and the population concerning real renewal, breaking off with the old practices, and equilibriums. This is due to the number of representatives of the previous government and the ruling party in the coalition government as well as the marginalisation of the role of the representatives of the Tunisian General Trade Union. The members of the Administrative Commission announce the withdrawal of their representatives from the coalition government, and the resignation of the union members from the House of Representatives, the Council of Advisers and the municipal councils as well as the freezing of the membership of the Tunisian General Trade Union in the Economic and Social Council as well its membership in the Supreme Councils.

10. Reject all forms of external intervention to guide our people and to influence them because the population who managed to overthrow a president who suppressed all those who upheld the right to freedom of expression, is qualified to chart their own destiny away from guardianship.

11. Call for working to form an elected constituent assembly, through free and democratic elections, which reflects the will of our people to build a better future.

12. Decide to give an amnesty to the trade unionists whose activity was suspended in all sectors and regions.

Tunis, January 18, 2011

General Secretary Abdessalem Jerad

The struggle for legitimacy

By Dyab Abou Jahjah

January 17, 2011 -- Abou Jahjah commentsتعليقات أبو -- In Tunisia, a new government is being formed under the leadership of the RCD (the party of the fallen dictator) and the participation of some legalised opposition parties. All parties that were illegal under the old regimes are being excluded and this is stirring up a lot of controversy among parts of the Tunisian population who feel that the revolution is being driven away from its ideals.

The main view of the opposition is that the people who made the revolution are not represented and that by keeping the RCD on board and even on the steering wheel the former regime is perpetuating itself. On the other hand the pro-coalition voices are stressing the fact that this is only a transition necessary to avoid plunging the country in chaos.

While some would argue that now that the revolution has deposed the tyrant the country must seek reconciliation, and they also argue that the RCD has hundreds of thousands of members and excluding them would exclude important segments of society. However, most of these members were in the RCD not for an ideology or a vision, but because a party card was synonymous of personal advancement under the old regime. I wonder if the RCD will have more than few thousands hard core Ben Ali loyalists if things are left to take their natural course.

But even if the RCD would be a real party with real supporters base, it is now the duty of these people -- if they want national reconciliation -- to distance themselves from the past and its crimes by changing their party name and going to the opposition.

Why should national reconciliation be the responsibility of the oppressed, many rightly ask. And they also believe that the best strategy to use now is a transitional committee representing all currents of the people and its trade unions and excluding the RCD as such, while including some independents who are not far from it and that this committee should lead the country into transition towards a free and fair election where all the chances of all the parties are equal.

It is in my opinion the United States and the France that have certainly played a role in convincing parts of the mild opposition to support this government in order to guarantee continuation of the old economic structure and its integration as a service economy for France, plus the political and military alliance with the US and NATO.

The risk is that this government will not be so transitory after all and will only serve as an excuse to win more time and allow intelligence services and regime loyalists to work on their strategy to take back control of the country, albeit under another leader who will govern slightly different than Ben Ali but will be just as autocratic and corrupt and pro-Western.

This is a real risk and the people started protesting against this government today and in Tunis the governmental police used tear gas against the demonstrators.

Tunisia:`All Arab dictators are shaking on their thrones'

By Dyab Abou Jahjah

January 16, 2011 -- Abou Jahjah commentsتعليقات أبو -- The Tunisian revolution continues to dictate its own logic on all levels. After attempts by regime leftovers to spread chaos by several techniques (cars driving through the streets shooting at people and houses, randomly destroying infrastructure, etc.), the Tunisian people have organised themselves in committees that have spread all across the country in every neighbourhood and in every city and started patrolling the streets and protecting the people. Popular committees even chased the militias of the old regime and in one case in a shoot out a martyr fell and two militiamen were executed by the people.

There are reports of Israeli activity in Tunisia in support of the counter revolution, also of infiltrators sent in from Libya to sabotage. It is not clear yet if this is a pattern or independent isolated cases.

On the political level the leftovers of the old regime are still officially in power and they are negotiating with the fake opposition that always served as decoration for the regime. However, the popular committees and the trade unions and the real opposition are all working on changing this and translating the revolution into political effects.

I believe it will not take long before a political road map will be drawn towards preparing elections. It is important to note that elections according the old regime will not bring about change, so the real opposition and the people are demanding changing the constitution first and then going towards election.

The Arab regimes are shaking and the Arab people are euphoric even in places like Oman and the Emirates. On Twitter, the Saudi youth are also showing support to the Tunisian revolution and expressing shame for their country receiving the tyrant. The Egyptian regime is delaying measures that were planned to lift state [subsidies] for some basic goods, and Qadafi expressed his regret and said the Tunisians should have kept Ben Ali for life. Qadafi is clearly nervous about a real revolution on Libyan border unlike his own phony one.

On another level, the Egyptian opposition is now more convinced that the answer is the street and nothing else. This revival of the revolutionary ideal is universal all over the Arab world. In Algeria there are reports of three cases of citizens setting themselves on fire, one of them is reportedly dead. Egypt and Algeria are looking to be the two Arab countries with the most resonance of what happened in Tunisia.

Hezbollah saluted the Tunisian revolution and asked all Arab leaders to draw conclusions from it. Internationally, the French and the Americans issued statements that reveal a high level of hypocrisy. They always supported the old regime knowing very well of its nature as Wikileaks revealed and now they cannot sell us their so-called support to the people’s choices. They do not like to see revolutions unless they are orchestrated by the CIA and the CIA-financed NGOs like in Ukraine, Georgia and Lebanon. This is a real revolution and therefore they feel unsettled about it.

Some quick notes on the Tunisian revolution

By Dyab Abou Jahjah

January 14, 2011 -- Abou Jahjah commentsتعليقات أبو -- From day one it was clear this is a revolution that is not about bread only, it was also against dictatorship and corruption. The revolution was supported by all segments of society. Poor, middle class and even upper middle class. Especially the middle class showed its claws the last days in Tunis. Many friends of mine who live there and who are university students or employed in good positions were in the street also taking tear gas and bullets. The youth played an important role in all this and cell phones combined with Facebook connected through proxy services was the media of the revolution.

The trade union played the role of the momentum regulator and political indicator. It was clear that as long as the trade union (UGTT) keeps on declaring strikes that the battle is on, and that was the signal to the people to stick to the streets. Yet we cannot say that the trade union led the revolution, it rather synchronised with it especially the last crucial two days.

On the political level there was no single party or current that played a major role. The traditional opposition that is mainly in exile tried to coordinate and even thought of a government in exile. But the momentum of the revolution was even too fast for such plans to materialise.

The people had no leader but itself. This however posed a problem for the revolution as to how to organise transition of power. Who will take over. There were only three options, an exile government, but that would be only on the long run, a military coup, or that some figure from the regime institution will take over. Now it seems that the two last options are still open.

Ghanoushi the prime minister is from within the establishement but it is very likely that he will be in power for few days only, some believe few hours. Rumours about General Ammar taking over and appointing the speaker of the house Elmbazaa as caretaker until elections are organised in 60 days are now circulating within the ranks of the army and the political scene.

As for possible attempts by the regime to regenerate itself, this can maybe done through creating mayhem and chaos in the streets. Reports of violence, looting, and arson are widespread at these moments. But whether this can lead to a counterrevolutionary sentiment is very unlikely. Also because people realise that these are the downsides of any revolution, there is no birth without pain….

As for the repercussions on the Arab world and beyond. They are paramount. All Arab dictators are now shaking on their thrones. Especially in the Maghreb countries, but also Mubarak in Eygpt will have a sleepless night. The Arab peoples saw and know for sure what a people can do. They saw another Arab people bring down the harshest of dictators in less than a month. All what is needed is unity and determination to go all the way. This will certainly lead to the revival of revolutionary dreams among the Arab oppressed classes (middle class and masses) and will start the dawn of democracy.

Also the Americans and the Zionists but also France are nervous today, their best friend in the area was kicked out. And the people is heading to govern itself in Tunisia with its own agenda with all the anti-imperialistic and anti-Zionist elements of that. A free democratic Tunisia will not only be a model for democracy for all Arabs, it will also be a safe haven for revolutionary powers and a place of support for the resistance against Israel and the US. The international alliance against empire hegemony will have another member.

Tunisia is a beautiful country that has a very highly educated people, very critical and very vocal. Tunisians are both Maghreb and Machrek, they look like all Arabs and they talk like all Arabs, they can form the core of the Arab people for liberation. Tunisia can play the role that Egypt is no more willing or able of playing. In the age of democracy and freedom, Tunisia must export its revolution, but before all, Tunisia must consolidate it and bring it to its happy end by building a system based upon freedom, equality, diversity and citizenship. A real state of law and a model to follow. I for one believe that Tunisians are the best among all Arabs for this task. We will all watch and learn.

[Dyab Abou Jahjah is founder and former president of the Arab European League. These article was first published in his blog Abou Jahjah Comments.]

Tunisia: the dictator has fallen, now it is time for the regime to fall!

By Marxy.com, Arabic website of the International Marxist Tendency

January 18, 2011 -- In the past days, Tunisia has witnessed rapid developments, the most important of which was the announcement by Prime Minister, Mohammad Al-Ghannoushi, that he was taking over temporarily as President due to Ben Ali’s inability to carry out his duties, and the announcement of a state of emergency in all areas of the country. We publish here a translation of an Arabic language article published on marxy.com as the dramatic events in Tunisia were unfolding.

Protest on 10 January. Photo: Nawaat.org
The following are the latest developments in Tunisia:

Events have been moving at an incredible speed in Tunisia. Yesterday the old dictator gave his last speech, where he made a series of promises, and a series of veiled threats. After this, reports rolled in affirming that the masses had no confidence in these promises and continued the protests even more fiercely. This morning Reuters received reports of shots fired near the headquarters of the Interior Ministry. There were also tear gas grenades fired against demonstrators in the capital Tunis. Despite the dictator’s statement yesterday that he was putting a stop to shooting at demonstrators, the killing did not stop throughout the night and this morning, which caused the death of thirteen martyrs last night in Tunis and its suburbs, as confirmed by Al Jazeera from hospital reports.

But all these promises and all this repression did not lead to the suppression of the popular revolution. For the dictator decided to play his last cards when he announced the dismissal of the government and the calling of early elections (in six months). But the masses continued their struggle which provoked a military coup when the army’s forces spread everywhere and announced a state of emergency in all corners of Tunisia and took control of the airport and closed Tunisian airspace, after helping the dictator and some of his family to escape the revenge of the people.

This is when Mohammad Al-Ghannoushi named himself President of Tunisia and announced that he would meet with representatives of political parties to form a new government. The trade union bureaucracy and the leaders of the reformist parties are even more terrified than their bourgeois masters, and instead of adopting independent class tactics, with independent class slogans and an independent banner, here they are jumping onto the bourgeois train, singing with one voice the song of the “national unity government”, i.e. the government of the bourgeoisie and its murderers.

And the forces of the secret police and the fascist militias continue to wreak havoc in the country, as they attack the masses and loot the homes of the workers, in order to create a picture whereby the alternative to dictatorship is chaos. These desperate attempts have not frightened the masses but have only served to accelerate the formation of neighbourhood committees of defence, and the secretary general of the General Union of Tunisian Students, Shaker Al-Awadi, told Al Jazeera that there are popular committees being formed in every neighbourhood. Did Marx not say that the revolution needs the whip of the counterrevolution to move forward? From the moment of the overthrow of the dictator Ben Ali, imperialism abandoned him like a rabid dog and let him fall. The United States announced that “the Tunisian people have the right to choose their leaders”! Obama announced that he “praises the bravery and the dignity of the Tunisian people”, and France refused entry to his plane! And the forces of the Tunisian police arrested some of the members of the Trabelsi family before they could leave from Tunis airport!

There is no doubt that the speed at which events are unfolding will make the heads of some dizzy, and this is natural because during revolutionary periods, events which normally wouldn’t happen for decades and decades are concentrated in very short periods of time. Hence, the bourgeois analysts have all proven that they are unable to foresee anything, whether in politics or economics, as it wasn’t too long ago that they were claiming that Tunisia was the calmest and most stable country in north Africa.

In comparison, the Marxists were able to foresee these events much in advance, and understand and identify the perspectives for their development. We predicted in our article The Tunisian Spring that:

“This movement signals, from our point of view, the end of an era characterised by an apparent stagnation of the class struggle, and is an expression of the accumulation of many explosive factors. It is the beginning of another stage of mass movements that sooner or later will overthrow the regime of tyranny and exploitation in Tunisia once and for all.”

And this is not, of course, because we have a crystal ball. It is because we have a scientific worldview, whose validity in interpreting developments and ability to present an alternative to change them, have been proven by more than 150 years of experience.

The reformists, as usual, at the service of the regime

The moment the old dictator Ben Ali fell, the reformists, prostituting themselves as could be expected, immediately got into bed with the new regime, in the same way they used to lie with the old one. And they rushed to offer their services to the ruling class to help it save its system in return for some crumbs from the cake of the regime and some privileges. And of these reformist parties, the Movement of Social Democrats is perhaps the most willing to prostitute of all. Not so long ago, this party was greeting “the celebration of the Tunisian people with honour and pride of the twenty-third anniversary of the transformation of the 7th of November which was led by the president, [Zein Al-Abidein Ben Ali]”! And on its website the the MDS declared that on this:

“national occasion the ‘Electronic Future’ published special files highlighting the importance of the great steps taken by our country thanks to the strategic decisions of the leadership at all levels of development which have made Tunisia surge amongst the developing economies and which have opened up big prospects for the future, filled with optimism under the shadow of the wise leadership of the president [Zein Al-Abidein Ben Ali]”!

Neither was it so long ago when they were urging “the parents of the youth to call for calm and dialogue”. And on president Ben Ali’s speech, in which he described the protests as criminal and described the masses as terrorists and explicitly called for them to be killed, this is what they had to say:

“this situation has provoked feelings of sensitivity, sympathy, responsibility, at the very tops of the pyramid of the regime, which is consumed with the issues of the country’s citizens and youth of this country, and the questions of employment and the pressing societal issues, and which has all the facts and is keeping a watchful eye.”

And they added that:

“the president of the country spoke the language of honesty, realism and truth and his speech formed a break in the middle of these events which pulls the carpet out from under those people who rush to hooliganism and chaos and tears from them their veil of cheap ‘solidarity’ and reveals their real hidden intentions, to throw the country into a crisis created by them... but this crazy scenario will not pass... because the country has established laws which protect it within the confines of its democratic pluralistic path, and its social development policies, which the president is keen to give a fresh push forward to, are a priority.”

And they urgently called on the masses to:

“understand president Ben Ali’s developmental approach on the other hand, which is to ensure that the country does not become reliant on others, and does not sink into mounting debts...”

They then make an about-turn in a statement of the Emergency National Council which met on Friday 13 January, when they declare:

“With all respect towards the spirit of the innocent victims... a decision to pursue all those involved in corruption, bribery and theft of the national funds”.

And they demanded the formation:

“...of a national unity coalition government which would work to create the necessary climate to meet international standards for carrying out early elections before the end of this coming year.”

And if we’re quoting these long passages, it is to keep a historical record of the positions of these criminals who are now trying to rob the revolution of its fruits, to turn it into a means to win positions and privileges for themselves within the regime. We find the same thing with Ettajdid ("Movement for Renewal") which was not known for any serious opposition to the dictatorial regime. But the moment they saw the dictator flee from the country they released a statement on Friday January 14th, demanding their rightful role in the regime and a share of the crumbs from the cake. Despite the fact that the prime minister, Mohammad Ghannoushi, is one of the old cabal, and despite the mass popular protests demanding his removal, Ettajdid gives him legitimacy and demands from him:

“...consultations with the factions of the serious opposition and the General Union of Tunisian Workers and the components of independent civil society in order to arrive at a consensus for the formation of an executive body that includes all factions to manage the process for political reform and democratic transition.”

And the “Progressive Democratic Party” in earlier times opened what it called “a window for the beginning of a political solution” through “a collection of thoughts which create a roadmap out of the crisis” which called for a government of national emergency which can implement a plan to find 300,000 jobs for the unemployed by working with the different layers of society, particularly the youth.

“The secretary general of the Progressive Democratic Party, Maya Jribi, said in a statement that Tunisia is in even more need than ever before of comprehensive reform and the formation of a government of national unity, noting that the new government will fight against corruption and to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and prepare the road for holding early legislative elections overseen by an independent electoral body. And she also called for constitutional amendments to guarantee the peaceful transition of power, and the restoration of order to avoid anarchy.”

Workers, these are your enemies, for all of them want their share of the booty. Workers, these are your enemies, for all of them want to extinguish the revolution and retreat behind closed doors to divide up the power and privileges.

The bankruptcy of reformism is clear, not only because they have become so used to bowing that they have forgotten how to do otherwise - for when there was a dictator they put themselves at his service, and they were always in the service of the capitalist system - but also because they spent decades preaching social peace and negotiations, and speaking out against the revolutionary struggle of the masses. And because they achieved nothing serious at all: for they achieved neither democracy nor bread, nothing. Whereas one month of the revolutionary mass movement was enough for the downfall of the dictator, and the achievement of gains not just in Tunisia, but outside its borders as well!

And now after the dictator has fled, here they are falling over each other in a scramble for the gains so they can take them for themselves and give a new opportunity to the existing system and its executioners.

Working class of Tunisia, revolutionaries, we must not allow our enemies to steal our revolution from us, we must not allow them to cash it into their bank accounts. We have given tens of martyrs and all the other victims; we must continue the revolution until the destruction of the system of exploitation and murder, so that the nation and its wealth can belong to all!

No trust in the agents of the old order, no trust in its state, or its courts, or its laws! It was and remains an apparatus for repressing us and killing us and taking our freedom, it can never be in our service. We must establish our own state, or own courts, or own laws, we must work to elect our own representatives to democratic workers’ and people’s councils, in the poor neighbourhoods, the factories, the unions, the colleges and the villages, from amongst the advanced revolutionary elements who distinguished themselves during the course of the revolution.

The role of the army

As we predicted in a previous article, the army organized a coup to save the regime from overthrow. And the country is now under the absolute control of the jack boot. This was the objective consequence of the lack of consciousness and organization amongst the ranks of the working class. The army is a critical element in the fate of every revolution, and it has a critical role in the current revolution as well, which makes the discussion of its position now of utmost importance to develop the perspectives of the revolution and the position that we the workers must take.

When the ex-dictator ordered the army to intervene to crush the people, the leadership of the army refused, and this is what pushed him to dismiss the army chief of staff general Rashid Amar. There were also confirmed reports of the army fraternizing with the protesters, and even protecting them from the assaults of the police forces. And this is what won this institution an important authority amongst the ranks of the demonstrators.

But we must never forget that the institution of the army is not above the classes, we must not forget that it was always a tool in the hands of the ruling class for the repression of the protests of the workers and poor. Ben Ali himself is a legitimate son of this repressive institution. And the highest leadership in this institution belongs to the ruling class.

Therefore, no trust at all in the army as it is now, with the same old hierarchy and with the same old leadership and structures. No trust except in our own power. We must not allow the military clique to abort our revolution and replace one general with another general (clear or veiled).

But on the other hand, we have, within this institution, our brothers and our sons, the regular soldiers, who come from our ranks and share with us the reality of persecution and poverty. And to them we must turn with fraternal appeals which ask that they too elect their officers and purge the army of all the fascists and enemies of the people, so that they can join the ranks of the revolution and aid in the formation of militias of the armed people, overseen and controlled by the trade unions and the popular councils.

We need now to complete the revolution, to the very end. For half a revolution is a complete mistake! We must not accept anything less than the expropriation of the property of the expropriators, and at their head are the families of Ben Ali and Trabelsi and the gang around them. We must not accept anything less than the expropriation of the property of imperialism which propped up the dictatorship and cooperated with it in keeping down the revolutions of the nation, and place it under the control of the working people.

[Marxy.com, translated by In Defence of Marxism.]

Protesters demand end of ruling party

Protesters in Tunis
January 17, 2011 -- Morning Star -- About a thousand people rallied in central Tunis today to demand the abolition of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party. Demonstrators shouted: "Out with the RCD" and "Out with the party of the dictatorship!" as police fired volleys of tear gas to break up the protest.

Monji Amari, one of those protesting on Bourguiba Avenue, said: "We are here to say 'No'. We have had enough of this party of power. We do not want to see them any more. Together with Ben Ali they are responsible for the situation that we are in now."

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi was a close ally of Mr Ben Ali and began talks with opposition parties on January 16 to form a national unity government. Sources close to the talks said the current interior and foreign ministers will stay.

Najib Chebbi, founder of the opposition Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), is set to become regional development minister in the new government, while opposition leaders will also get the education and health jobs.

Any public gatherings are banned under a state of emergency declared by the ousted premier on Friday just before he resigned and fled. Riot police used water cannons and tear gas today in an attempt to prevent protesters from marching on the RCD's headquarters.

"With our blood and our soul we are ready to sacrifice ourselves for the martyrs", they chanted, referring to the 50 people who were killed in clashes that led to Mr Ben Ali's downfall after 23 years in power.

There was another rally in Sidi Bouzid, a city in central Tunisia that was at the heart of the protests that erupted against Mr Ben Ali's regime in mid-December last year. People there chanted: "Bread and water and no RCD!" A rally was also held in the nearby town of Regueb. Shops in the centre of Tunis remained shuttered today and police were deployed in force.

A semblance of normal daily life returned in other areas of the capital where shops, petrol stations, pharmacies and supermarkets reopened. Many people went back to work and others rushed to buy scarce items like bread, fish and milk.

Hundreds of stranded tourists were still being evacuated from the country and foreign airlines gradually resumed the flights that were halted when Tunisian airspace closed amid the upheaval.

Tunisia: The 9 points of the Workers Communist Party

January 15, 2010 -- Tunisia Solidarity Campaign, translated from Arabic by Nadim Mahjoub

1. The success achieved so far is only half of the way and the other half is achieving the wanted democratic change and implementing it on the ground.

2. The democratic change cannot spring from the same party, the figures, the institutions, the apparatuses and the legislations that maintained the dictatorship and deprived the people from basic rights for more than half a century, 23 years of which under Ben Ali.

3. The interim president is one of Ben Ali’s clique and a president of an appointed body which does not represent the people in any aspect whatsover, and the plan to hold presidential elections in 60-days time has no purpose but to maintain the continuation of the dictatorial regime through one of its former leaders.

4. The most dangerous of what could happen now is robbing the Tunisian people of their victory and their legitimate ambitions for freedom and a diginified existence and sacrifices through preserving Ben Ali’s regime without Ben Ali and through forming a democratic decor around it.

5. The democratice change, with its political, economical, social and cultural dimensions, requires a real end of the repressive regime by taking a direct step which consists of forming a provisional government or any other body that has excecutive powers and undertakes the task of organising free elections for a Constitutional Assembly which would establish the bases of a real democratic republic in which people would enjoy freedom, social equality and national dignity.

6. All the forces, whether they are political organisations, unions, human rights groups, cultural organisations, organised or non-organised and the people, who have played an effective and decisive role in toppling the dictator, have the task to decide on Tunisia’s future, and no one could replace them in their negotiations or contatcs with the authority.

7. It is of a high urgency that the democratic forces form a national and unified body to carry out the democratic change and has the tasks to protect the gains of the revolting Tunisian people and to negociate with the authorities to yield power to the people in a peaceful way

8. All the democratic forces all over the coutry have to unite in organisations, committees, or local, regional and sectorial councils in organising the popular movement and to undermine the manoeuvre of reaction and the acts of looting and vandalism perpetrated by hidden groups aiming at spreading fear among the citizens, threatening their safety and scaring them of a democratic change to compel the people to surrender to the repressive apparatuses.

9. The armed forces, which consists in the main of the sons and daughters of the people are required to provide safety for the people and the motherland and respect people’s aspirations towards freedom, social jutice and national dignity, which requires lifting the state of emergency as soon as possible so that it doesn’t become an excuse that prevents the Tunisian people from continuing their struggle and achieving their goals.

For a provisitional government

For a constitutional assembly

For a democratic republic

Hamma Hammami

Workers Communist Party of Tunisia


All the victory to the Tunisian Revolution; the forefront of the revolution in the North of Africa and the Middle East

By Al Mounadil-a

January 15, 20100 -- An Arab tyrant is finally fallen by a popular revolution. After 23 years of tyranny, robbery and oppression, the dictator Ben Ali fled in a humiliated and disqualified way under the cries of the revolutionary Tunisian people: “Ben Ali, get out!”

Since 1987, Ben Ai accompanied by the great rotting and venal bourgeois; especially the families of his wife and his kinsman, the Trabelsi’s and Materi’s, have always believed that the devices of police and investigations [150.000 policemen without counting the army and the other forces of repression; the first rank in the Maghreb by one policeman for each 27 Tunisians] are enough for him to continue robbing Tunisian fortunes, humiliating its people and starving them. Ben Ali’s regime was a brilliant pupil of the global financial institutions and basically of the French imperialism that cynically condoned on the dictatorship of Ben Ali for the sake of their share in the Green Tunisian Pie and which spoke a lot about the "Tunisian Miracle"; the Hong Kong of the North of Africa. This was before being awake on a true miracle whose heroes are the victims of Ben Ali and the World Bank policy.

It is a January 14th Tunisian Revolution that triggered from Sidi Bouzid, a month ago, after the young Mohamed El-Bouazizi fired himself as a protest against unemployment and indignity. It is the fire that turned into a popular flame which increasingly spread to all over Tunisia and rocked the pillars of the rulers. From one demonstration to another, from a barricade to another and from a martyr to another; the uprising was flourishing and growing, and resolutely made its way towards the palaces of the Carthage torturer demanding the head of the old dragon.

It’s got what it wanted. The old tyrant fled in panic. It is an important and great victory for the Tunisian laypeople and all the peoples of the Great Maghreb and the Arab Amazigh region and for all the oppressed and exploited people all over the world. It is an Arab, Amazigh and African proof that the will of the people is indomitable, and that the revolution is not just illusions of radical dreamers living out of date. The revolution is the blood and flesh running in the streets of Tunisia. Let all the reactionaries shuddered everywhere because the infectious revolution is inevitable.

The Tunisian revolution has made a huge step forward, but the fate of the revolution has not been decided yet, and still has a lot of rubbish to sweep. The enemies of the revolution have not yet received the decisive defeat, and the dragon of the counter-revolution is more than the head of an old tyrant. It has a political system that is fully supported by all the reactionary forces of the world. It is a groggy and shaky system, but it has not yet lost the hope to escape from the grip of the street that throttles her. It still has in its command the mouldiest police devices in history. It is a corrupted system and the revolution will not succeed in achieving the hopes of the Tunisian laypeople if it has not been bombed and replaced by the temporary government representing the revolutionary people. A government of the workers, poor peasants and all the laypeople that oversees the election of a constituent assembly setting the rules to conduct the country at all levels.

The revolutionaries and the revolutionary people are not to wait for an interim government, but they have to seek to form worker and popular councils in factories, neighbourhoods, schools and also in the barracks. The councils are to be at the local to the national level and elected with the possibility to remove any delegate at any time. They should be a revolutionary power to run the country and a revolutionary shield in the face of the counter-revolution and its propaganda, repression and games. And the future of the revolution is based on the formation of these worker and popular councils and on their gain of the armies or at least some of them to their side. The arming of the revolutionary people regulated on councils is the guarantee to push the revolution forward and protect it from any foreign interference.

- Do not trust those who remained from the gang of Ben Ali! Beware of liberal political forces that are very eager to ride on people’s victory! All the power to the revolutionary people! This is the slogan that should unite all Tunisian revolutionaries.

- For a second, third, fourth, and fifth Tunisia! Against the tyrannical regimes sponsoring division! For a Great Democratic United and Socialist Maghreb! These are the slogans that should unite the revolutionaries in the Great Maghreb.

- All the victory to the Tunisian Revolution; the forefront of the revolution in the North of Africa and the Middle East.


[Al Mounadil-a is an Arabic-language website of the Fourth International, published by the Moroccan section.]

The social and democratic revolution is on the march!

By Fathi Chamkhi, Tunis

January 15, 2011 -- International Viewpoint -- The Tunisian popular masses have just erupted onto the political scene in a spectacular fashion! They have succeeded, after 29 days of a social and democratic revolution, in driving out the dictator Ben Ali! This is a great victory!

It is a great day for us all, which we share with all those who are fighting against the world capitalist order! Above all, we have re-conquered our dignity and our pride, which for a long time had been ridiculed and dragged through the mud by the dictatorship. Now, we have a new Tunisia to build: free, democratic and social.

But right now the counterrevolution is on the march! Ben Ali has fallen from power but his regime, although destabilised and weakened, is trying to maintain itself in place. The Destourian party/state is still there, and so are its liberal capitalist economic and social policies.

This regime, which is presented as an example of a “star pupil” by the international financial institutions, this regime which bled the Tunisian popular masses for 23 years, for the benefit o f an international capital that is greedy for profits, while enriching a minority of families, grouped around the government and organised in gangster clans, must go. That is what we want!

We refuse the attempt that is under way aimed at confiscating our revolution. This operation is being presented under the formula of a “government of national unity”, with which this illegitimate regime is trying to hang on to power.

At the same time, the defeated regime has unleashed its over-armed militias, including the personal guard of Ben Ali, which are sowing terror in the big cities of the country, in particular in Tunis and its suburbs. Groups coming from the disinherited and famished masses are also taking advantage of the current chaos to help themselves in the supermarkets: in particular Carrefour and Geant. Bands of looters are positioning themselves along the principal roads of the country, making it dangerous to travel! Basic products are starting to be in short supply or are non-existent: bread, milk, medicine …

The regime, which has demobilised the police force in the cities and the National Guard in the countryside, is letting all this happen, taking advantage of the chaos to impose its own solutions. The introduction of the curfew and the deployment of the army – which lacks manpower and which has never had to face this kind of situation before – do nothing but worsen the fear, since it is during the night that the armed militias act! Everywhere, citizens are trying to organise their own defence, often in coordination with the army. Thousands of “popular citizens’ defence committees” are being set up to defend the population.

Only the establishment of a provisional government, without any representative of the Destourian regime, which will have the responsibility of preparing free and democratic elections, regulated by a new electoral code, for a constituent assembly, will be able to allow Tunisians take control of their destiny again, and to establish, in their country, an order that is just and beneficial to the mass of the population.

If the people aspire one day to live, destiny can only yield to their will!

[Fathi Chamkhi organizes RAID (Assembly for Alternative International Development)-ATTAC and the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) in Tunisia.]

Statement by the Workers’ Communist Party of Tunisia

January 15, 2011 -- Socialist Unity -- Tunisia has lived since December 17, 2010, the day when the current popular revolt against unemployment, exclusion, poverty, cost of living, the shameless exploitation, corruption, injustice and tyranny began. These popular protests started in the city of Sidi Bouzid and have since extended to all parts of the country. Poverty and tyranny, endured in the city, are a general phenomenon that affects all the Tunisian people. The rage and indignation is the same throughout the country.

The police and dictatorial regime of President Ben Ali attempted to crush the people’s uprising using misinformation, deception, lies and the brutal repression of the police who fired on the people, killing unarmed demonstrators. This was done with the intention of suppressing the protests quickly and preventing their spread to the rest of the country. These methods failed. Instead they have fueled protests that have extended their range, and drove the demonstrators to turn what began as simple social demands to political demands on the issue of freedom and power. Even when Ben Ali delivered his speech on the twelfth day of the revolt to promise that he would allow elections, nobody believed him and the masses responded that the protests would continue.The placards and slogans put forward by the masses in revolt, from south to north, are clear evidence of the long process of political awareness which has taken place in the minds of Tunisians over the last twenty years of the reign of Ben Ali.

Slogans such as: “Work is a right, band of thieves”, “Hands off the country corrupt band”, Work, freedom, dignity”, "Liberty, freedom and non-life presidency“,”Down with the party of thieves, down with the torturers of the people“,”Ben Ali lose, the people do not let it go“.

Finally, the masses have realised that they are being ruled but not represented and that the system represents “a band of thieves”, a handful of families who have plundered the resources of the country, sold its resources and its people to foreign capital, which deprives people of their liberty and their rights, using the brute force of the state apparatus, which has been transformed into a “state of families”, to humiliate, subdue and intimidate the people and discourage them from fighting.

Tunisia has been turned into a national prison in which torture and repression was used to terrorise the people. The people demand change in the belief that the aspirations to freedom, democracy and social justice can not be achieved under Ben Ali. The masses involved in the struggle, in the intifada, no longer want dictatorship, and have embarked on a new process in Tunisia.

Tunisia needs a new democratic government which represents the national and popular will of the people and represents its own interests. And a system of this type cannot emerge from the current system and its institutions or its constitution and its laws, but only on its ruins by a constituent assembly elected by the people in conditions of freedom and transparency, after ending the tyranny.

The task of a People’s Council is to draft a new constitution that lays the foundations of democratic republic, with its institutions and its laws. The popular protests are still ongoing. No one can predict either their duration or their development. Tunisia has entered a new phase in its history characterised by the rise of its people and their desire to recover their freedom, rights and dignity.This raises the responsibilities of the opposition, especially its most radical wing, to find new policy solutions that place as an immediate priority the requirements of the Tunisian people for a program providing a plan for overall change in Tunisia. The opposition, consisting of all the forces involved in the intifada, has been invited to close ranks for democratic change and to form an alternative to tyranny and dictatorship.

The Workers’ Communist Party renews its invitation to convene a national assembly of the Tunisian opposition in order to confront the issue as quickly as possible. Also renewed has been an invitation to come together to coordinate at national and local level support for the  popular movements, and to work towards a set of concrete demands so that the movement does not run out of steam. Among these demands the most immediate are:

1. An immediate end to the dictatorship’s campaign of repression against the people.

2. The release of all prisoners.

3.  The arrest and prosecution of all those responsible for repression, the plunder of property, and murder.

4.  The repeal of all restrictions on civil liberties, free expression, organisation and assembly. The adoption of immediate economic measures to alleviate unemployment and poverty. We demand income security, health care and the immediate recognition of trade unions.

The Workers Communist Party will remain, as it has always been, on the side of the workers, the poor and all those at the forefront of a new order in Tunisia.

For freedom, democracy and social justice.


Tunisian Patriotic and Democratic Labour Party: Immediate tasks in Tunisia

Statement by Khaled Falah, Tunisian Patriotic and Democratic Labour Party

January 15, 2011 -- First of all, our party intends to remain in opposition, and not to enter the next government, although two of our allies in the Alliance for Citizenship and Equality plan to take part in a government of national unity (namely the Ettajdid Movement and the Democratic Forum).

[Editor's note: The Mouvement Ettitjad (Renewal Movement) emerged from the Tunisian Communist Party, which dissolved in the early 1990s. Ahmed Brahim, the secretary-general of the Ettajdid won support from the Workers Communist Party of Tunisia and the Socialist Party – both clandestine – for the presidency in 2009.]

Our tasks:

1)      To neutralise the criminal gangs which are indulging in plunder and aggression, and which are like a kind of “tontons macoutes” of the old regime;
2)      To support the creation in each district of Citizens’ Committees for Civic Defence to defend people and property from these “tontons macoutes”
3)      To require the return of the police force and the army to their barracks as soon as possible, and the end of the curfew and the state of emergency;
4)      To create a commission of inquiry to locate the persons who were responsible for the use of live rounds [against civilians during the uprising];
5)      To create a commission of inquiry with the power to expropriate the beneficiaries of corruption and illicit enrichment;
6)      To create a national commission on total reform of the electoral code, the press code and the law concerning political parties;
7)      To secure the legalisation of the Patriotic and Democratic Labour Party and other civil organisations.
Tunis, January 15, 2011.
[Khaled Falah is a member of the founding committee of the Tunisian Patriotic and Democratic Labour Party. Web site: http://www.hezbelamal.org/siteanglais/index.htm.]

is time for all dictators to get off their seat and let democracy take control over the country

Dissidents’ joy tempered by fear for lives

By Heba Saleh in Tunis

Published: January 19 2011 20:02 | Last updated: January 19 2011 20:02

Protesters in Tunis with a ‘coffin’ of Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally party. They want ministers linked to the party to be sacked

They may be delighted that Tunisia’s dictator has been ousted by a popular uprising, but the dissidents Hamma Hammami, leader of the banned Communist Workers party, and his wife, Radhia Nasraoui, say they live in fear for their lives.

“We are afraid of being killed,” said Ms Nasraoui, a human rights lawyer. “Anything can happen because the situation is not clear and terror can continue. We have been spending every night with different friends.”

She points to the broken door to their apartment, which had been forced open by police last week when they took her husband into detention, holding him for three days until he was released on Friday after Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali, the deposed president, fled.

“The interior minister who arrested Hamma is still in his position,” she says. “My neighbours warned me that they saw a suspicious man place something under my car. Since then I have not been able to drive it and I have been asking the army to come and check it.”

A small, slim woman with dark hair, Ms Nasraoui has not been daunted by years of harassment and intimidation, including beatings and close police surveillance of her home and three daughters. Her clients include hundreds of Islamist prisoners arrested during successive crackdowns by the Ben Ali regime.

In between taking calls from prisoners’ families waiting to hear news after the Tunisian prime minister said all political detainees would be released, she argues that the threat of violence remains. It would come, she says, from groups attached to Mr Ben Ali’s ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally.

This week, armed men belonging to a presidential police force terrorised neighbourhoods around the country with random shootings and arson attacks.

The violence appears to have died down, and the authorities say they have made arrests, but Ms Nasraoui says that the situation is still confused.

Like many Tunisians, her husband argues that although Mr Ben Ali is gone, the bulk of his regime remains. The Communist party may still be banned, but it has been involved in organising protests against the national unity government announced this week.

Mr Hammami is furious that despite the success of the “people’s revolution” in ousting Mr Ben Ali, politics is still controlled by the dictator’s party. The unity government includes members of the opposition, but it is led and dominated by ministers who served under Mr Ben Ali.

Hundreds of Tunisians held demonstrations across the country as the government prepared to hold its first cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

“The current interim president and the prime minister supported the politics of the previous regime,” Mr Hammami says. “They may not have personally picked up clubs and used them to hit the Tunisian people, but they knew of the repression and the pillage of the country’s resources that was happening.”

A tall, charismatic man with a shock of grey hair, Mr Hammami has spent his career in politics defying Mr Ben Ali’s police state. He paid a heavy price, including torture, jail terms and years on the run.

But he and his wife relish memories of fooling the police. Despite being under close surveillance in 1998 when her husband went underground to escape a jail sentence, Ms Nasraoui managed to get pregnant with their third daughter – much to the anger of the security services.

“I have always found refuge with ordinary people who recognised me and gave me shelter,” he said.


Comrade Hamma of the Tunisian Communist Workers Party

Al-Hussein sent me this (I cite with his permission): "I've been looking into comrade Hamma's previous TV appearances, the man is absolutely a legend. Below are two youtube videos compiled from differences interviews and appearances. Part 1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xztpcp11z08&feature=related) starts with his bio, this man was tortured many times, spent 10 years in prison, 10 years on the run and a year and half in exile. Wrote several books, Ben Ali instructed his interior minster to collect all his books and burn them 1996. At 5:04 a report about beating by Ben Ali's gangs after he spoke on Aljazeera and an interview with his wife on the subject. In part 2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpGqR7Smm_w&feature=related) at 2:38 he talks about the failures of Ben Ali's economic policies (unemployment, wealth distribution between classes, health care, education and privatization) he exclaims that Tunis was "sold to the foreigners". At 6:20 he exposes the imperialist support of the regime. At 7:05 he lists some of the banned parties and says that constitute the most important political force."


Tunisian leaders seek evolution in place of revolution

Friday, January 21, 2011
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Hamma Hammami, the spokesman of the banned Tunisian Workers' Communist Party, is hopeful that the voice of the Tunisian people will be heard.

Senior political figures in Tunisia have urged a “moderate transition” to democracy following calls for extreme measures and the total expulsion of old-guard members of toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s ruling party.

Years of poverty, poor job prospects and growing political pressure by the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally, or RCD, prompted the recent popular uprising in Tunisia and ended Ben Ali’s decades of iron-fisted rule. With the deposed president having fled to Saudi Arabia, the interim government – led by the old regime’s prime minister and the speaker of the lower house of parliament – is now struggling to restore calm amid protests demanding the dissolution of the new Cabinet.

Nejib Chebbi, founder of the Progressive Democratic Party, or PDP, and newly appointed minister for regional economic development, believes the current government needs to be given a chance to lead and that continuing demonstrations are not representative of the majority of Tunisians.

“These demonstrations are directed by extreme left-wing political groups or Islamists. These groups want the dissolution of the party in power, the RCD, while we, in government, don’t wish for dissolution but simply desire a separation of the state from the party,” Chebbi told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday.

Chebbi’s PDP was one of only a few legally recognized opposition parties in Tunisia under the rule of Ben Ali. Chebbi has long called for a transparent and democratic political process in the country, campaigning to prevent Ben Ali from seeking re-election in 2004 and applying to run in the 2009 presidential elections. However, he was ruled ineligible.

Still, Chebbi believes there is a role for the RCD in the transition of the Tunisian government to a democratically elected body. According to the PDP leader, Ben Ali’s party will eventually have no grip over the state.

“The leftists want an absolute dissolution of the [RCD] and the departure of all its ministers who belong to the party. We do not agree, instead favoring a collaborative effort with these people who represent a power that is still present with its army, police force and administration,” Chebbi said.

Total change

Hamma Hammami, the spokesman of the banned Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party, or PCOT, told the Daily News he is hopeful that the voice of the Tunisian people will be heard. In a recent statement, the PCOT said democratization in Tunisia cannot be accomplished with Ben Ali’s party and warned against a continuation of the old regime without the deposed president. It called instead for a total end to the old regime and change that is politically, economically, socially and culturally democratic.

“What the Tunisians want is a new democratic regime,” Hammami said. “They want a provisional government to prepare free elections to establish a constituent assembly, meaning an assembly that will uphold the peace of a democratic republic, meaning institutions and public democracy.”

Chebbi also wishes to see the current government merely serve as a provisional one; he expects elections will be held within the next six months.

“We now demand six months to finish this work of transition, which will be coordinated with free elections that will be internationally supervised. The elections will be under the control of an independent committee, rather than the previous arrangement of being under the supervision of the Interior Ministry,” Chebbi said.

The PDP acknowledged there is some division within his own party regarding participating in the government as it is currently shaped – namely with members of the old guard representing the majority of the Cabinet. However, he believes that having sought to participate in government for so long, it is only natural for opposition parties to participate in the political process.

While Chebbi believes the international community is now firmly in support of a democratic process in Tunisia, Hammami remains skeptical of some foreign powers’ intentions. Nonetheless, the PCOT spokesman hopes Tunis will serve as an example to other states in the region.

“You know that the European Union, including Italy and Spain, has always supported Ben Ali, has always supported dictators. France and the United States have also supported dictators, and they rarely criticized the politics of Ben Ali on the subject of liberty or human rights,” he said. “Despite the dictators and despite their [foreign] support, the Tunisian people have toppled the dictator and encouraged other Arab countries to attain democracy.”


Daily News reporter Samuel Doveri Vesterbye contributed to this report from Istanbul.