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Is it February in Tunisia?

By John Passant - posted Friday, 21 January 2011

The Tunisian revolution has only begun. While the dictator has fled, his regime remains in place, trying to manage a transition to some unknown, but bourgeois, future.

The massive demonstrations of the unemployed, the hungry and the angry - the victims of neoliberalism and imperialism - and the state repression of those demonstrations saw the Tunisian Workers’ Union - the UGTT - call a two-hour stoppage last Friday to, as the IUF put it “protest against the government’s violent suppression of the popular uprising in the face of the country’s economic problems, high unemployment and the corruption of the presidential family.”

According to Richard Seymour at Lenin’s Tomb in a good article called "The rise and fall of Tunisia’s Ceauşescu" it was the “… intervention of the trade union movement, its bureaucracy hitherto prepared to act in conjunction with and as a tool of the regime, that decisively changed matters”.


Until that time Ben Ali was perhaps going to tough it out. On the Thursday he had promised 300,000 jobs, not standing again in 2014 and democracy, but at the same time repression of the “terrorist” elements, that is demonstrators.

Those on the demonstrations on Friday were defiant and joined by striking workers. The police and army split over whether to kill more protesters.

The ruling clique and the wider ruling class knew the game for Ben Ali was over. The tyrant fled and his acolytes have attempted to construct a compromise which aims to retain the regime while accommodating the protesters. Three Presidents in three days shows that the contradictions may be impossible for the dictator’s cronies to overcome.

The revolution has only begun. Ben Ali’s security forces and police and army leadership remain in place. The first task must be to drive these butchers out.

The second must be to demand wage increases to redistribute wealth to workers; for jobs for all and to begin organising production democratically in the workplaces; and for peasants to seize the land.

Run the workplaces. Take the land.


There are reports of neighbourhood councils being set up to drive out the regime’s agents and protect property.

The Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party (in French, Le Parti Communiste des Ouvriers de Tunisie or PCOT) is one of the few opposition groups relatively untainted by collaboration with the regime.

The Islamists are the other, although at the moment the social composition of the revolution - unemployed, poor, workers and peasants and their economic and political demands - appears to have kept them on the outer of the movement. That could change if the revolution does not move forward and intensify and express the class interests of workers.

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This article first appeared in En Passant with John Passant.

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About the Author

John Passant is a Canberra writer ( and member of Socialist Alternative.

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