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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 August 2013

Tunisia: Mobilise to bring down the government

Since the murder of the left-leaning leader Mohamed Brahmi on 25 July a cascade of mass protests, including a general strike on 26 July, has shaken every corner of Tunisia.

A sit-in has been taking place in front of the Constituent Assembly building in Tunis, joined subsequently by many protesters coming from the interior regions.

On 6 August, an estimated 450,000-strong anti-government demo took place. In the poverty-stricken areas of the interior, mobilisations have been accompanied with the development of various local revolutionary power structures.

In some areas, protesters have occupied town halls and set up self-governing committees.

The "Tamarrod" (Rebellion) movement now claims to have collected more than 1.7 million signatures for the ousting of the Islamist Ennahda-led government.

Contrary to the claims of many commentators, the main contenders of the present battle are not 'Islamists' versus 'anti-Islamists'.

Of course, it would be wrong to deny the anger connected to the religious bigotry of those in power and the growing reactionary attacks and threats being perpetrated under the name of Islam.

But the core of the present struggle goes back to the initial aspirations of the 2010-2011 revolution which have simply not been met.

For a big part of the population it is the growing difficulties of daily life - the constant rise of food prices, the dire absence of jobs for the youth, the devastating state of public infrastructure, the low wages and horrendous working conditions in the factories - which is fuelling the present rage against the government.

In the Northern town of Menzel Bourguiba, 4,000 shoe factory workers were recently sacked overnight, without notice. This is the type of issue that those in power are absolutely incapable of resolving.

Warning

Rank-and-file supporters of the left coalition, the 'Popular Front', had enthusiastically welcomed the Front's initial objectives of bringing together all those supporting the need for a strong, independent revolutionary pole of attraction, distinctive from both Ennahda's rule and from the various neoliberal and old regime forces in the opposition.

However, the political alliance recently set up by the Popular Front's leadership with the right-wing coalition 'Union for Tunisia', creating the 'National Salvation Front', has poured cold water on the revolutionary desires of many.

This alliance is a dangerous mistake: it subordinates the interests of the working class and the poor - the majority of the militant forces of the Popular Front - to forces motivated by a resolutely pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist agenda.

The backbone of the 'Union for Tunisia' coalition is the party 'Nidaa Tounes', led by Caied Essebsi. This party is essentially a political shelter for the dictatorship's old guard.

This insipid agreement has been met with increasing turmoil and criticism by the ranks of virtually every Tunisian left party.

Arguments that a deal with such right-wing forces is "necessary" for the movement to be "sufficiently strong" to bring down the present government, as some argue, do not hold water.

On the contrary, the two historic anti-government general strikes this year, as well as the intensity of the present mobilisations, shows that there is an undisputable determination to bring down the government among the working class, the youth and the poor, given a proper lead.

A call should be made for an all-out general strike, coupled with the setting up of democratically elected revolutionary committees throughout the country.

Such committees could provide the basis for challenging and overthrowing the existing regime, and to replace it with a socialist government of the workers, the youth and the poor.

It is only around the demands of the working class and the oppressed that a viable alternative can be built.

That is why CWI supporters in Tunisia argue for a left opposition platform to be built that can organise activists, workers and young people around a programme in line with the initial aspirations of the Popular Front supporters; to reject any deal with alien class forces, and reclaim the Front on the basis of a class struggle perspective and of genuine revolutionary socialism.

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