Tunisia: Down with Dictator Kais Saied!

For a Workers and Poor Peasant Government!


By Yossi Schwartz, ISL (the section of the RCIT in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 6 March 2023, www.thecommunists.net and https://the-isleague.com/


The Arab revolution began in Tunisia in 2010 and is known as the Jasmine Revolution. The popular uprising against corruption, poverty, and political repression forced President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to step down in January 2011 and he fled the country after 23 years in power. The success of the uprising inspired a wave of similar protests throughout the Middle East and North Africa, known as the Arab Spring.

In October last year we wrote about the coming new round of the Arab revolution and the protests in Tunisia: "As we know that revolution, lacking revolutionary working-class leadership, failed. Its imperialist enemies and their servants (the bourgeois politicians and the mass media) enjoying the failure, have called the revolutionary wave the “Arab winter”.

"They ignored the fact that in 1848 the “spring of nations” in Europe that was betrayed by the liberal bourgeois failed but like a phoenix the revolution took place again in the shape of the Parisian Commune in 1871. The Russian revolution of 1905 failed but the revolution of 1917 won". [1]

Tunisia has been in political and economic crises since 2021. The crisis has become deeper since July 2021, when the new dictator Kais Saied unilaterally suspended the parliament. He dissolved the government, ruling by decrees before his new constitution enshrined his one-man rule.

"Before July 25, 2021, Tunisia was seen as the only democracy to have emerged from the Arab uprisings of 2011. That is when Saied dissolved the parliament, surrounding it with tanks to deny access to dumbstruck lawmakers. In addition to summarily dismissing the government and the Supreme Judicial Council, the body that is meant to assure judicial independence, Saied approved a new constitution vastly expanding his powers. The charter was passed in a referendum held last year with under 30% turnout. Turnout at two rounds of parliamentary elections held in December and January under a new electoral law, with 8.8% and 11.4% participation, respectively, dealt a further blow to Saied’s melting legitimacy". [2]

In June 2020, bourgeois media reported: “Minister of Finance Nizar Yaish and Foreign Minister Noureddine al-Rai, who accompanied Saied on his visit to France to talk with Macron, emphasized the economic results of the talks, including a new French loan to Tunisia worth 350 million euros (400 million dollars).Tunisian expert in international politics Faraj Maatouq valued a bilateral agreement aimed at “boosting the economic, financial and technological partnership between the two countries, which includes the establishment of a rapid railway line to link the northernmost part of Tunisia with its south.” [3]

No doubt - if Kais Saied loses power, he will escape to France, his real lord.

Afraid of the oppositional political parties uniting in the National Salvation Front, Saied has arrested several political figures connected with them. The National Salvation Front (NSFT), a coalition composed of bourgeois and petit-bourgeois parties (religious and seculars) is headed by Ahmed Najib Chebbi. It was founded on 31 May 2022, 10 months after the beginning of the political crisis in Tunisia. The Front includes the Ennahda Movement, Amal Movement, Tunisia Movement of Will, Dignity Coalition and Heart of Tunisia, Citizens’ Movement against the Coup, the Democratic Initiative, the National Salvation Meeting, and the Tunisian Movement for Democracy.

The powerful Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) has rallied in the country’s capital, mobilizing thousands of supporters against President Kais Saied in a demonstration of its strength, after Saied’s recent crackdown on opponents and his racist remarks on the refugees from Sub- Sahara.

On February 26, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in the capital to denounce racism and express solidarity with migrants after the authoritarian President had claimed that there’s a plot to erase his country’s identity by bringing in Sub-Saharan Africans.

People shouting, “No to Racism!”, “Solidarity with Migrants!” and “No to the Police Crackdown!” while they marched through central Tunis as part of the demonstration, which was staged by Tunisia’s journalists’ union and several nongovernmental organizations. [4]

The Bonapartist regime is continuously arresting political figures that oppose the government. "Abdelhamid Jlassi and his wife, Mounia, were having dinner at their apartment in Tunis’ Bardo neighborhood when they heard a knock at the door. Fifteen security officials stood outside. “Before my parents knew what was happening, one of them shoved a search warrant in their faces, seized my mother’s phone, took my dad’s phone, iPad and laptop, then hauled him off without any explanation,” the couple’s daughter, Mariem, told Al-Monitor. Jlassi, a former senior figure in Tunisia’s beleaguered Islamic-leaning Ennahda party, is among at least 10 people who were arbitrarily arrested over the weekend in part of a systematic crackdown by Tunisia’s aspiring dictator, President Kais Saied, to consolidate the power grab he began last July.Among those being held at anti-terrorism detention centers in the capital are Noureddine Bhiri, a top Ennahda veteran; Noureddine Boutar, head of Mosaique FM, Tunisia’s main independent news outlet, and Kamel Eltaief, an influential businessman known for his close links to Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the dictator who was overthrown in Tunisia’s 2011 Jasmine Revolution. Bhiri’s wife wrote on Facebook that 100 security officials swarmed their house to drag her husband away. She said they assaulted her". [5]

The Western imperialists who love to speak about human rights show their bigotry by not doing anything to stop the abuse of the human rights by their supported dictator in Tunisia.

"The EU, the UN and the United States have, alongside numerous rights watchdogs, condemned Saied’s actions. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday, “We are deeply concerned by the reported arrests of multiple political figures, business leaders and journalists in Tunisia in recent days.” But he stopped short of calling for their release. The Biden administration is talking abouthalving the $85 million allotted for aid to Tunisia in the next fiscal year. Few are impressed." [6]

Furthermore, the militant trade union is attacked for their protests by the regime: “The UGTT — the one-million-member-strong trade union federation that plays a big role in Tunisian politics — has been muted in its criticism, chiefly because Saied was targeting a common foe, Ennahda. Now it too is feeling the heat. On Jan. 31, Anis Kaabi, secretary-general of the union's highway branch, was arrested after leading a strike by toll booth workers to protest austerity measures sought by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $1.9 billion bailout for Tunisia. The North African nation of 12 million is struggling with runaway inflation and acute food shortages amid fears that it might default on its sovereign debt. [7]

However, it became also very clear that the bureaucratic leadership of the trade union is limiting the success of the protests with their reformist outlook: “On March 2, trade unionists took to the streets. the UGTT on the one hand, the presidency of the republic and the government on the other. The UGTT accuses the authorities in power of wanting to revoke subsidies on basic products, sell public sector institutions in implementation of the conditions of the International Monetary Fund and repress all forms of dissent with a campaign of targeted arrests. Ahead of the protest, the secretary-general of the UGTT, Noureddine Taboubi, delivered a speech to the crowds. “The workers are united, and we have chosen the path of struggle; struggle does not come cheap. We will not accept the suppression of freedoms in the country, and there will be no tyranny in Tunisia. We salute the imprisoned politicians in Mornaguia prison. We reject the intimidation and nightly raids on politicians’ homes and the intimidation of their families. The era of injustice, persecution and tyranny is over,” he added. [8]

While there is nothing wrong with joints demonstrations with the Salvation Front in this situation, nor with the demands to release bourgeois politician from jail in Tunisia, this speech is in political support for the politicians of the National Front rather than for independent road of the working class and the poor.

The road forward is for the working class to fight in an indefinite general strike. It needs to fight for:

* For expropriation under workers control of the industry that the government of the capitalists has privatized, namely oil, phosphates, agri-food products, car parts manufacturing and other sectors!

* For expropriation of the banks under workers’ control! Not one penny for the IMF!

* For a workers’ and poor peasants’ government!

For this struggle the trade union bureaucracy with its reformist limitations as well as the reformist parties must be replaced by a real revolutionary leadership.

Finally, the crisis in Israel and of the Palestinian Authorities while the Intifada is growing may be a factor that will assist the revitalization of the Arab Revolution, which needs the revolutionary uprising of the Tunisian masses once again.