Tunisia: Drawing the Lessons after Four Years of Revolutionary Ferment

Report from the RCIT-Delegation to the World Social Forum in Tunis in March 2015

Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 31.3.2015

 

The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) sent a delegation to participate in the World Social Forum (WSF) which took place 24-28 March 2015 in Tunis. Several tens of thousands of people participated in this event which saw two official demonstrations as well as hundreds of meetings and workshops. Among the participating organizations were trade unions associated with the Tunisian UGTT, as well as workers’ organizations from other countries, political parties such as the various “communist” parties of Tunisia and the reformist Party of the European Left (which attended via its so-called transform network), student organizations like the Tunisian UGET, various associations with an Islamist orientation, refugee organizations, and many others.

Most participants came from Tunisia and many others arrived from Algeria. There were also sizeable delegations from the nationally oppressed Sahrawi people from the western part of the Sahara, as well as delegations from Morocco and Syria. It is certainly fair to say that about 95% of the participants came from the Maghreb region. For this reason the event was extremely interesting, in light of the revolutionary processes, including counter-revolutionary setbacks, which the working class and the poor in this region have experienced during the past four years.

The WSF was certainly a contradictory event. The forces which dominated the organizing committee followed a thoroughly reformist policy which expressed itself in their close collaboration with the bourgeois Tunisian government under President Beji Caid Essebsi, an 88-year old veteran from the old guard of the Ben Ali dictatorship. The organizers shamefully joined the campaign of the government which launched a reactionary campaign calling for “national unity against terrorism” after the attack against Western tourists in Tunis on 18 March.

As we explained in the statement we issued prior to our departure, the RCIT condemns such terrorist attacks but strongly refuses any calls for unity with the reactionary government of President Essebsi. No less, we condemn the pro-imperialist hypocrisy which sheds crocodile tears for the two dozen Western tourists killed in the attack, but which fails to focus on the much more numerous victims of the main terrorists – Obama and US imperialism, Hollande and French imperialism, Nethanyahu and Israel’s Apartheid state, Putin and Russian imperialism, as well as Assad, al-Sisi and the other lackeys of the imperialist Great Powers. (1)

The WSF reflected the ongoing struggle of the Arab Revolution in confrontations which occurred during the conference between a small group of reactionary supporters of the Syrian dictator Assad and supporters of the Syrian Revolution. Shamefully, most of the Arab left – influenced by the tradition of Stalinism and its support for the bourgeois, phony, “anti-imperialist” dictatorships in the Middle East – fails to take a progressive stand in the ongoing Syrian Revolution.

The WSF also witnessed confrontations of members of the Sahrawi people, who are fighting for the right of national self-determination, and reactionary Moroccan chauvinists.

Despite its negative aspects, the WSF was an extraordinary event as it reflected the enormous process of politization which Tunisia (and other Maghreb countries) have undergone during the past four years since the beginning of the Arab Revolution. Actually, this revolutionary process started in Tunisia after the desperate 26-year old street peddler Mohammad Bouazizi set himself ablaze in Sidi Bouzid on 17 December 2010 to protest against the terrible conditions in which he and so many others were and are forced to live. Several weeks of huge and often violent mass protests finally led to the overthrow of the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. (2)

However, the lack of a revolutionary leadership enabled the ruling class to stabilize the situation and to start a process of a formally “democratic” counter-revolution. This absence of a revolutionary force is reflected in the reformist popular front policy of the various “communist” parties – most of them are of a Maoist or Hoxhaist orientation (like the PCOT, Watad, Al-Qotb, etc.) or belong to the centrist tradition of the Mandelist “Fourth International” (like the “Ligue de la Gauche Ouvrière”).

Regardless of these setbacks, the WSF reflected the existence of a huge layer of mostly young revolutionaries – many from a communist background, but also often from a nationalist or Islamist background – who are eager to search for new answers. Many young communists have left the existing parties and are searching for alternatives. Many who are still member of these parties are open for discussions about their past experience.

At its stall at the WSF, the RCIT delegation had the opportunity to experience the eagerness of this new generation of young revolutionaries. Several thousand people visited our stall and hundreds signed up to receive more information about our organization. Our Arabic-language literature was sold out after two days, and at the end of the event we hardly had any English-language material left. These days were full of nearly uninterrupted discussions with mostly young revolutionaries who are eager to build a new revolutionary, authentic communist organization.

The RCIT delegation was also invited to discussions with leaders of the Hoxahist POCT at the party’s headquarter in Tunis. Irrespective of the fundamental programmatic differences which we have with these comrades, it enabled us get a better understanding of the class struggle in the country and of the policy of the organization.

The RCIT looks forward to deepening its discussions and collaboration with revolutionaries in the Maghreb region.

 

Footnotes:

(1) See on this the RCIT’s statement: The Main Terrorists are Obama, Hollande, Putin, Assad, and al-Sisi! We Reject the Statement of the Preparatory Committee for the World Social Forum in Tunis on the Terrorist Attack of 18 March, 21.3.2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/rcit/critique-wsf-pc/

(2) See on this the RCIT’s analysis in our German-language book by Michael Pröbsting: Die halbe Revolution. Lehren und Perspektiven des arabischen Aufstandes, http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/werk-8/