(Updated Feb. 5) Tunisian left parties declare: `The revolution must continue until it achieves its objectives'

The Workers Communist Party's Hamma Hammami. Photo by l’Humanite.

Introduced by Patrick Harrison

January 31, 2011 -- On January 27, Mohammed Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia's "national unity" government, announced that 12 ministers linked to the former ruling party, the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD), would be replaced by independent figures in an effort to appease the mass movement that overthrew Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14. Mass protests continue to demand that all members (and recently resigned members) of Ben Ali’s RCD party be thrown out of the government and for policies to fight the country’s crippling unemployment.

Since Ben Ali’s overthrow, a key demand of the movement has been the establishment of a government with no ties to the old regime. After Ben Ali’s overthrow, a unity government was formed that included former opposition parties — but only parties that were legal under the dictatorship. RCD ministers remained in control of the government.

Since the upsurge began in late December, Tunisia’s umbrella trade union organisation, the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT), has organised general strikes and key mobilisations. However, its leadership was partially integrated into the Ben Ali regime and has shown some vacillation. After joining Ghannouchi’s unity government when it was set up on January 17, the UGTT’s three ministers resigned the next day under pressure from the rank-and-file. On January 21, it called for a national salvation government without any RCD or former RCD ministers.

After Ghannouchi’s January 27 cabinet purge, the UGTT leadership announced that while it would not join the new government it would refrain from calling for its overthrow. The UGTT called off a planned January 28 general strike, Al Jazeera reported on January 27.

However, Al Jazeera reported the following day that the UGTT appeared to be backtracking away from its critical support.

As the movement seeks a clean break with the past, the “14th of January Front” has been formed. It unites political parties and progressive and democratic organisations whose aim is “advancing our people’s revolution towards achieving its goals and to confront the anti-revolution forces”.

The front’s immediate goals are the overthrow of Ghannouchi and the remaining RCD ministers. Its January 20 founding statement explained its goals include the confiscatation of all property belonging to Ben Ali’s family; building a national economy with “vital and strategic sectors under state control”; and opposition to the “liberal capitalist approach” to economics.

The statement also saluted "all the committees, the organisations and the forms of self-organisation of the masses and calls for the broadening of their actions in public life and the running of all aspects of the daily life”. [Read Patrick Harrison's latest article in Green Left Weekly.]

In response to Ghannouchi's removal of the RCD ministers on January 27, the 14th January Front issued the following statement on January 28. A number of UGTT unions also responded to subsequent violent attacks on protesters and education workers with statement of January 29 (see below). The Workers Communist Party's Hamma Hammami on January 28 told the Tunis Afrique Press (TAP) news agency that the "left, nationalist and progressive forces" who belonged to the 14th January Front are demanding the resignation of the current government and the formation of a government made up of those who adhere to the Tunisian people's revolution and its goals.

`The revolution must continue until it achieves its objectives'

Statement by the 14th January Front*, translated by Raida Hatoum and Nadim Mahjoub

January 28, 2011 -- While the Tunisian masses continue their sit-in at the Governmental Square at Qasbah (in the capital city), and tens of thousands of Tunisians have marched in Sfax, Tunis, Sidi Bouzid, Jendouba, Nabeul and other parts of the country to bring down the government of “National Unity", a modified government led by Mohamed Ghannouchi was imposed on us, with clear evidence of the interfering of US Secretary of State Feltman.

This government is the continuation of the dictatorship and tyranny and was dictated by imperialist forces of the United States and the European countries that have brought our country into what we are enduring now: unemployment, impoverishment and marginalisation.

Therefore, the “14th January Front” declares the following:

1. Rejection of the amended government of “national unity", because it is against the people’s revolution and demands and aspirations.

2. Rejection of all types of tutelage of the USA, European or others on the destinies of our people and our country.

3. For the formation of a “provisional government” acceptable to the people, that would result from a national conference to protect the revolution, and consists of:

  • All political parties, associations and trade union organisations, human rights and cultural organisations and independent personalities, which sponsor the demands of the people’s revolution and struggle to achieve them.
  • Representatives of the forces which were produced by the revolution in all areas of the country through the councils or committees or associations formed at the initiative of the masses.
  • Representatives of Tunisian associations and organisations abroad, which has resisted the dictatorship and supported the revolution in Tunisia.

4. The mission of “The National Congress for the Protection of the Revolution” consists of drafting texts about the provision of complete freedom for the Tunisian people by repealing the laws that prohibit freedom and ending the implementation of the constitutional articles which negate freedoms and people’s sovereignty until the passing of a new constitution.

The tasks of the “provisional government” are the following:

  • The managing of daily affairs.
  • The dissolution of the appointed representative bodies.
  • The dismantling of the ruling party and its militia, the expropriation of its properties and calling to account the figures who were behind the economic and political crimes.
  • The dismantling of the political police apparatus.
  • Appointment of provisional officials in the diplomatic corps, the governorates, the delegations and the sectors to carry out the tasks of the transitional period.
  • Preparing the election of a constituent assembly in an atmosphere of freedom. This assembly should represent all the vital forces in the country after agreeing on the type of representation in it (the use of proportional representation) in order to avoid exclusion.
  • The constituent assembly undertakes the drafting of a new constitution for the modern, democratic and civil Tunisian republic that fulfills the Tunisian people’s ambitions of freedom, equality, social justice and dignity.

In declaring these stances, the 14th January Front warns the “national unity government” against pursuing any repressive measure towards the sit-in in Al-Qasbah and the protesters all over the country.

The 14th January Front calls for the continuation of the mobilisation, defending the masses and all the democratic political forces, as well as all the organisations, groups, associations and independent individuals to continue the struggle to achieve the objectives of the people’s revolution, in devotion to their martyrs and will.

* The 14th January Front consists of:

Workers Communist Party of Tunisia (PCOT)

League of Left Workers

United Nasserist Movement

National Democratic Movement

National Democrats

Baath Movement

The Independent Leftists

National Democratic Labour Party

`The hijacker government shows its claws'

January 29, 2011 -- A few hours after the remaking of the the government that has hijacked our people’s revolution, the newly appointed police chiefs and security apparatuses -- known for their allegiance to the old regime -- started a savage attack on non-violent activists sitting, for a few days in Al-Qasbah (govermental headquarters). They used prohibited tear-gas bombs, side arms, trained dogs, sticks, chains ... "RCD militias” joined them to beat and even use firearms against the unarmed militants, chasing them through the capital’s streets and lanes.

It seems that the illegitimate hijacker government aims, through bloody repressive means, at terrorising our people and disabling its resistance so that -- to prove its power -- in can re-enact its apparatuses to control the people, steal their wealth and go back to its dictatorial and corrupt methods.

What happened during the last few days (January 27-29) has proved that the hijacker government took no real positive measures to freeze the RCD’s bank accounts which they still use to employ militias to terrorise non-violent militants. It has been also proved that the new government, together with RCD’s members, helped Ben Ali’s former followers and groups flee the country by giving them cover and refusing to bring them to justice. They also use the media and press to discredit the revolution so as to divide people and show militant teachers as enemies of the nation and of pupils.

Given that, we the undersigned unions, condemn the attack carried out by the hijacker government police on those occupying Al-Qasbah and call for an investigation of what happened in order to hold the perpetrators responsible for such an act. Besides we express our condemnation of RCD’s militias’ attacks on some educational institutions, teachers and unions’ headquarters.

We also support people’s demands to dissolve the RCD due to the crimes committed and still perpetrated against the Tunisian people. In addition, we call for an immediate establishment of a national council to protect the revolution. We also condemn the media for siding with the government and giving the public misleading information.

We, therefore, call on the Tunisian people, militants, political parties and all elements of of the civil society to continue their struggle so as to achieve the Revolution’s primary objectives: freedom, democracy and social justice.

Glory to our martyrs – Long live our people’s struggle

Ridha Ashtioui, general secretary of the General Union of Media Counsellors, School and University Orientation.

Hfaidth Hafaidth, the general secretary of the General Union of Basic Education.

Sami Attahri, the general secretary of the General Union of Secondary Education.

[Translated from Arabic by Tessy Cat and Nadim Mahjoub for the Tunisia Solidarity Campaign.]

لتتواصل الثورة حتى تحقيق أهدافها
لا لاستمرار الاستبداد، لا للتدخل الأجنبي
   29 جانفي

في الوقت الذي يتواصل فيه اعتصام الآلاف من جماهير شعبنا بساحة الحكومة بالقصبة، وفي الوقت الذي تخرج فيه عشرات الآلاف من هذه الجماهير في صفاقس وتونس وسيدي بوزيد وجندوبة ونابل وسائر جهات البلاد، مطالبة بإسقاط "حكومة الوحدة الوطنية"، في هذه الأثناء نصبت على شعبنا حكومة معدّلة برئاسة محمد الغنوشي، تحمل بصمات جلية لوكيل وزير الخارجية الأمريكية "فيلتمان" لتكون حكومة استمرار الدكتاتورية والتسلط على الشعب وعدم الاستماع إلى صوته والائتمار بإملاءات الدوائر الامبريالية الأمريكية والأوروبية التي أوصلت بلادنا إلى ما هي عليه من تبعية وشعبنا إلى ما هو عليه من بطالة وتفقير وتهميش.

لكلّ ذلك فإن "جبهة 14 جانفي" تعلن الآتي:

1-رفض "حكومة الوحدة الوطنية" المعدّلة باعتبارها حكومة الالتفاف على ثورة الشعب ومطالبه وطموحاته.

2- رفض كل وصاية أمريكية- أوروبية أو غيرها على مصائر شعبنا وبلادنا.

3- الدعوة إلى تشكيل "حكومة مؤقتة" تحظى بقبول الشعب ويفرزها مؤتمر وطني لحماية الثورة متركب من:
- كافة الأطراف السياسية والجمعيات والمنظمات النقابية والحقوقية والهيئات الثقافية والشخصيات المستقلة التي تتبنى مطالب ثورة الشعب وتناضل من أجل تحقيقها.
- ممثلي القوى التي أفرزتها الثورة في كافة أنحاء البلاد عبر المجالس أو اللجان أو الروابط التي شكلت بمبادرة من الجماهير.
- ممثلين عن الجمعيات والمنظمات التونسية بالهجرة التي قاومت الدكتاتورية وساندت الثورة في تونس.

4- إنّ مهمة "المؤتمر الوطني لحماية الثورة" تتمثل في إعداد النصوص المؤقّتة لخلق مناخ من الحرية التامة للشعب التونسي عبر إلغاء العمل بالقوانين المنافية للحريات وتعطيل العمل ببنود الدستور التي تلغي الحريات ومبدأ السيادة الشعبية في انتظار سن الدستور الجديد.

5- إن مهام "الحكومة المؤقتة" هي:
- تصريف الأعمال اليومية.
- حل الهيئات التمثيلية المنصبة.
- حل الحزب الحاكم وميليشياته وتصفية ممتلكاته ومحاسبة الرموز الضالعة في جرائم اقتصادية وسياسية.
- حل جهاز البوليس السياسي.
- تعيين مسؤولين وقتيين على رأس السلك الديبلوماسي والولايات والمعتمديات والعمادات لتسيير إنجاز المرحلة الانتقالية.
- الإعداد لانتخاب مجلس تأسيسي في مناخ من الحرية ويكون هذا المجلس ممثلا لكل القوى الحية بالبلاد عبر التوافق على طريقة التمثيلية فيه (اعتماد مبدأ النسبية) لاجتناب الإقصاء.
- ويتولى المجلس التأسيسي صياغة دستور جديد للجمهورية التونسية المدنية، الديمقراطية والعصرية التي تحقق طموحات الشعب التونسي في الحرية والمساواة والعدالة الاجتماعية والكرامة.

إن جبهة 14 جانفي إذ تعلن هذه المواقف، فإنها تحذر "حكومة الوحدة الوطنية" من كل منزلق قمعي تجاه المعتصمين بالقصبة والجماهير المحتجة في سائر أنحاء البلاد.

وهي تدعو إلى مواصلة التعبئة والوقوف إلى جانب جماهير الشعب ورصّ الصفوف والتوحّد بين كل القوى السياسية الديمقراطية والوطنية وكل المنظمات والجمعيات والهيئات والشخصيات المستقلة المناضلة من أجل المضي نحو تحقيق أهداف ثورة شعبنا، وفاء لشهدائه وإخلاصا لإرادته.

تونس في 28 جانفي 2011
جبهة 14 جانفي

Tunisia: Interview with the League of Left Workers

February 1, 2011 -- The French New Anti-Capitalist Party's Wassim Azreg interviews Nizar Amami, postal worker, trade unionist and spokesperson for the League of Left Workers, a component of the 14th January Front. Translated by Ed Maltby for Workers Liberty.

Why can we talk about a revolution in Tunisia?

It’s a revolution in every sense of the word, but according to a new schema: as much in the manner in which the movement was built as in the new impetus it has found to carry on. What is happening in Tunisia is the first revolution of the 21st century, with the objective of a new society and a constituent assembly capable of founding a real democracy which can respond to the social and economic problems.

This dynamic will continue until the popular, democratic demands are met. This is not a classic revolution, as much by the means utilised to overcome to blockades put in place by the dictatorship (Facebook, SMS, mobile phones), as in the demands and slogans which have moved from the right to work, to the right to dignity in life, the desire to be free and fundamentally, to democracy.

This revolution has also used classic forms like the general strike in the provinces, demonstrations and discussion circles everywhere. But is has also benefited so far from the non-participation of the army in massacres, which has allowed the popular wave to express itself.

It is a permanent revolution in its modes of action as much as in its slogans. At the outset, the actions were organised during the day, but then, in the face of the political police who acted at night, they turned nocturnal. In this way it was possible to fight the police and to have a tactical advantage thanks to familiarity with the terrain and the neighbourhoods.

After the fall of the dictator and in the face of violent acts by armed bands unleashed by the former regime, self-defence committees were set up. Today, given the power vacuum at the local level, these committees have taken control of the former headquarters of the RCD (Ben Ali’s ruling party) to run the affairs of certain towns and districts. They are also showing the way and tracing the contours of the next steps of the revolutionary process.

These committees in all their forms and modes of action are defending the gains won by this revolution. They are not ready to stop before all their demands are met, like the current slogan: “The people want to dissolve the government.”

What is the role played by the trade union movement?

On the side of the popular organisations, the trade unions are in the front line, and certain union structures  have imposed their orientation on the general secretariat of the UGTT, the united union federation.
The left wing of the unions, certain local and regional unions and federations within the UGTT are now at the heart of the revolutionary process.

This is not an accident, because for several years now, we have seen federations calling strikes without the approval of the general secretariat.

These structures have even, in certain cases, shown the way in struggles and on the question of how to organise. It was, for example, the case with the local unions in the Gafsa mining basin three years ago.

Thanks to the popular mobilisation, the left of the UGTT has been able to defeat the orientation of the general secretariat of the federation – that of salvaging the old regime. That has been expressed by the support of the executive bureau of the UGTT for general strikes organised in certain regions, which contributed to the fall of Ben Ali.

Since the start of the demonstrations, the action of union activists in regional federations in the UGTT in primary and secondary education, in certain sectors in health, in the post and telecommunications, unemployed graduates, has been coordinated with actions by lawyers and student unions in the General Union of Students of Tunisia (UGET). Union activists have played an important and fundamental role in the organisation of these demonstrations. The fact that many demonstrations started from the local offices of the UGTT is evidence of the key role played by the trade unions. Union activists have also played a big role in local debates and the creation of committees, as well as in the people’s march on the capital on January 22.

What is the 14th January Front?

The 14th January Front represents a big part of the Tunisian opposition. It was set up during the recent events and the flight of the dictator. It provides a political framework which allows the regroupment of various left-wing and Arab nationalist forces. In Tunis and other regions it is participating in demonstrations and in the radicalisation of slogans.

It is one response to the revolutionary process which is currently underway, aimed at putting flesh on slogans put forward by demonstrators. Its goal is to propose a popular, working-class, progressive and revolutionary alternative in the face of counterrevolutionary forces. The platform needs to be clarified and deepened. Discussions and the evolution of the situation will contribute to this.

This front will be a force for political initiatives, allowing a break with the dominant social and economic system, in order to be able to deal with the questions of unemployment and pauperisation of whole layers of society. It is calling for the creation of an elected constituent assembly… This must include all the political, organisational and trade union forces coming out of the movement. It must prepare a new constitution to allow citizens to determine the nature of the state.


I don't beleive that the aim of the revolution to end the misery of the working class in Tunis and establish a new ,fair social system can be achieved by such coalition which includes parties or groups like Baath or Nassiriat. these parties played a major role to subject working class in so many Arab countries since 1950s to the interest of the capitalism.Worker communist of Tunis (PCOT) by joining such a coalition is repeating same mistakes that had been done by Comunist parties in Iraq ,Egypt, Palistine and others in the last five decades that led to disasters after disasters to the working class in these countries and was a major reason the led the revolution to be delayed until now.