The importance of the victory of the Tunisian masses is not limited to the successful overthrow of Ben-Ali, ending 23 years of dictatorship. The Tunisian Revolution refutes the arguments that had been disseminated by many right-wing intellectuals over the past few decades that the Arab masses are incapable of achieving revolutionary change, and that the times of revolution are over.
The wide popular anger that took over the whole of Tunisia has re-affirmed that the masses make their own history, and that class struggle is alive all over the Arab world. The Tunisian Revolution has also struck a hammer blow to the chain of alliances dominated by the United States, but also orchestrated by lesser powers such as France and Britain, that keeps the Middle East and North Africa subject to Western imperialism and allows Israel to oppress the Palestinians with impunity.
The Revolution has toppled a regime with close links to Israel that was hailed by Western governments and the World Bank for loyally implementing neoliberal ‘reforms’. The Tunisian masses have terrified the Arab ruling classes. One Arab state after another has hastily introduced material concessions to try to avoid any escalations of popular anger against them and prevent the Revolution from spreading.
In Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan and many other Arab countries, people are starting to question their realities in a much clearer form. Protests have taken to the streets in support of the Tunisian people but at the same time calling for the fall of the Arab rulers and regimes. Revolution is no longer a literary concept we study in history books. It has become, thanks to the strength and determination of the Tunisian masses, a possible and reachable future. We can see the effect in the mass demonstrations that have swept through Egypt, challenging the Mubarak dictatorship.
Many try to paint the Tunisian Revolution as if it were one of the ‘colour revolutions’ that have strengthened Western power or present as strictly limited to public freedoms and personal liberties. They forget that the spark for the uprising came from those who could not find jobs, came from those who worked day and night but could not earn enough bread for themselves and their families. Most importantly they try to hide the fact that the main slogan of the revolution was ‘Bread, Education and Freedom’.
That said, the battle in Tunisia has not ended, but has only just begun. The old regime of Ben Ali is still in power and is still trying to consolidate the state under its rule, relying on a relatively intact police force and on the ‘official opposition’, which had for the past decades helped to legitimize Ben Ali’s oppressive regime, and are now trying to manipulate popular anger to gain power.
Now the old guard of the regime, along with this ‘official opposition’, are trying to propagate the idea that the uprising was completely spontaneous. This disregards the role that the trade unions and the far left and other progressive forces have played in solidifying the resilience and in pushing ahead the resistance of the masses against Ben Ali’s regime.
But the Tunisian masses have managed to respond quickly to these attempts by organizing more demonstrations and protests demanding the dissolution of the ruling party. Popular committees have been organized all over the country to protect the neighbourhoods from the state militias and to stop the attempts by Ben Ali supporters to create an atmosphere of terror.
We therefore believe that it is essential that the revolutionary left all around the world stand in solidarity with the Tunisian Revolution, as the struggle against the remnants of the old regime continues. We call upon the Tunisian masses not to accept less than the full transformation of their country, and completely to break with the old regime, to refuse to accept to the promises of the current government and to keep on fighting until all their demands are met.
It was the masses who toppled the tyrant, and ended a history of oppression and exploitation, and it should be up to those masses to take power and to organize their society based on their needs and not on the needs and the desires of a bunch of opportunist politicians who never dared to challenge Ben Ali and his policies.
Ben Ali’s old guard will only reproduce the same system that the uprising set its mind to defeat and to eliminate. It will continue to enforce on the Tunisian people policies that had long been used to criminalize the Tunisian masses and to distance them from their brothers and sisters and comrades in the Arab world, above all the ties with the Israeli terrorist state, and the overwhelming control that the French imperialist state has had over culture and education in Tunisia.
The remnants of Ben Ali’s regime will try to use all the power they have to try to defeat or isolate the mass movement that took to the streets. They will rely on international support from Western powers and from the Arab regimes in the region, who would be most willing to help the Tunisian regime to restore order for fear that the revolutionary tide would spread to their countries.
So we call on the trade union leaders, who assumed a great role in coordinating the uprising, the revolutionary and far left, and all progressive forces in Tunisia, to continue on the side of the masses, and to continue to sustain and support the revolutionary transformation that is taking pace and shape, and to gather the utmost support for the ongoing battle for freedom from oppression and exploitation.
The transformation will require not simply a thorough-going purge of the state and the implementation of the broadest possible political democracy. It will demand a break with capitalism in order to carry through an economic and social programme radically to improve the material situation of the Tunisian people. Sustaining such a revolution will require active solidarity by trade unionists, socialists, and anti-capitalists, not just in the region, but all over the world.
So, on behalf of the International Socialist Tendency, we stand hand in hand with the Tunisian masses and in full support of their demands and their desire to continue their heroic revolution, and to smash their exploiters and their oppressors. History tells us that the future can only be won through struggle.
Coordination of the International Socialist Tendency
The International Socialist Tendency is a current of revolutionary socialist organisations, based in different countries, which share a political outlook and seek to help each other by exchanging experience and practical support. The Socialist Workers Party is part of the tendency.