Build Action Committees and Self-Defense Units! Forward to a General Strike!
Statement by the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 19 January 2021, www.thecommunists.net
1. Thousands of Tunisian working class youth are demonstrating on the streets for four consecutive days. There have been clashes with the police in poor districts of the capital, in Mallassin, Kasserine, Gafsa, Sousse, Monastir, Fouchana, Sijoumi, Kef, Bizerte, Kalaa Kebira and Siliana. All over the country, demonstrators are chanting slogans denouncing police and government corruption, police repression and the rise in poverty. A popular slogan reflects the determination of the youth: “No fear, no fear! The street belongs to the people!” No doubt, this is the most significant mass protest in Tunisia since the rebellion in January 2018.
2. The uprising was triggered by a video circulated on social media showing Abdul Rahman Al-Othmani, a shepherd in Siliana province, being humiliated and beaten by a police officer after his sheep accidentally entered a government building. This provocation has taken place nearly exactly ten years after first victory of the Arab Revolution when the masses brought down the long-time dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. This uprising was provoked by the humiliating beating of Mohammed Bouazizi by police in the town of Sidi Bouzid in December 2010 after which he set himself on fire and died.
3. The deeper reason for the new uprising is the poverty caused by the decaying capitalist system. According to the World Bank, the percentage of poor and those vulnerable to poverty is expected to have increased from 16.6% to 22% of the total population in 2020. Official unemployment currently exceeds 15%, with higher rates found among university graduates (around 30%), and disproportionately affecting young people in the country's long-marginalised interior. The IMF expects a fall of national output (GDP) by -4.3% in 2020, inflation stands at 6% and public debt has exploded in the past decade (+95% between 2010 and 2019).
4. The government tries to suppress the uprising by any means. It imposed a nationwide lockdown on 14 January – the anniversary day when Ben Ali fled the country – under the pretext of the coronavirus pandemic. This is another example which demonstrates that the ruling class all over the world is deliberately utilizing the pandemic in order to expand the powers of the bonapartist state – a crucial development of the current period as the RCIT has repeatedly pointed out. However, similar to other countries, the COVID-19 Counterrevolution has failed to keep the people from the streets. Until now, a total of 632 people have been arrested, according to Interior ministry Spokesman Khaled Hayouni. Amnesty International says that the majority of those arrested are minors aged between 14 and 15. As the police has failed to smash the uprising, the government has begun to deploy troops in Bizerte in the north, Sousse in the east and Kasserine and Siliana in central Tunisia.
5. The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) strongly welcomes the popular uprising of Tunisia’s working class youth! We send our greetings to the courageous activists who fearlessly fight against the repression apparatus. In our opinion, it is urgent to broaden the protests so that the movement towards a general strike which can bring down the government. It is necessary to form action committees in the workplaces, neighborhoods, schools and universities in order to better organize the struggle. Furthermore, the movement needs to create self-defense units so that it can defend itself against the attacks of the repression apparatus. It is important to call the trade union federation UGTT and other workers and popular mass organizations to support the uprising.
6. To overcome unemployment and poverty, activists should call for a public employment program under the control of the UGTT and other mass organizations, financed by the expropriation of Tunisia’s super-rich. Such demands should be combined with the perspective of fighting for an authentic workers’ and popular government. Such a government would serve the interests of the popular masses and would remove power and wealth from the hands of the small corrupt elite of super-rich politicians, business men and army generals. It would also expropriate the foreign imperialist corporations which are exploiting semi-colonial Tunisia.
7. The latest uprising of Tunisia’s working class youth must not be viewed in isolation. It is part of the Arab Revolution which began in 2011 and which experienced a new revival in the last two years. The ongoing popular liberation wars in Syria against the Russian-Assadist tyranny and in Yemen against the Saudi/UAE invasion, the resistance of the Egyptian people against the military dictatorship of General Sisi, the ongoing struggles of the masses in Iraq and Algeria, the steadfast Palestinian people in Gaza who continue their resistance against the Zionist enemy – these are all parts of the ongoing heroic Arab Revolution. The task is unite these struggles into a single Intifada in the whole Middle East and to fight for a socialist program of permanent revolution and working class power directed against all imperialist Great Powers (U.S., EU, Russia, China, Japan) as well as the local bourgeois regimes!
8. The RCIT calls activists in Tunisia to work for the formation of a revolutionary party. Without such a party, any new popular uprising is in danger of failing just like the first did in the years after 2011. Such a party must also be part of the new revolutionary world party as political and economic developments in Tunisia are closely interrelated with international capitalism. We call upon revolutionaries to join forces on the basis of an unambiguous socialist program of action. Join the RCIT!
International Bureau of the RCIT
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The RCIT has published numerous documents on the Arab Revolution. We draw reader’s attention to the following links:
Tunisia: Solidarity with the Mass Protests! Down with the Price Hikes! For the Creation of Action Committees and Self-Defense Units! For a United Front to Organize a General Strike! Unite the Popular Struggles in Tunisia, Palestine, Syria, Iran and Yemen! For a single Intifada in the whole Middle East! 10.01.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/solidarity-with-the-mass-protests-in-tunisia/
Documents of the RCIT on the second wave of the Arab Revolution: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/collection-of-articles-on-2nd-wave-of-great-arab-revolution/
Documents of the RCIT on the Syrian Revolution: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/collection-of-articles-on-the-syrian-revolution/