The Arab Revolution is knocking on the doors of the states in the Middle East – the new struggles in Tunisia

Yossi Schwartz, ISL, the RCIT section in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 20.10.2022

The new struggle in Tunisia

The previous revolutionary wave known as the Arab spring began when protests in Tunisia and Egypt toppled their regimes, inspiring similar attempts in other Arab countries.

In Tunisia the revolutionary movement was known as the Jasmine Revolution. A popular uprising against corruption, poverty, and political repression that forced President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to step down in January 2011. The revolutionary wave in Tunisia began after Mohamed Bouazizi, a young Tunisian, set fire to himself outside a municipal office in the town of Sidi Bouzid on December 17 2010. Bouazizi, who supported his family by selling fruits from a cart, was enraged when local officials repeatedly demanded bribes and confiscated his fruits. After authorities refused to hear his complaint, he doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire.

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.

The 1848 Revolution

The 1848 events led Marx to the conception of the Permanent Revolution. To understand his theory it is necessary to understand what happened in Europe and especially In France.

By July 1848 the Monarchy was gone, and a Second Republic was declared days after the flight of King Louis Phillipe. The vote was granted to every adult male, a partial victory for democracy. But when the demands of the workers came up against the limits of the capitalist system, the new liberal government fought to defeat them. Even the right to vote, which was fought for by the left, was used against them. Knowing the political mindset of the peasantry in most of France, the conservatives campaigned hard in the provinces to win a majority of the National Constituent Assembly. From this position of strength, they could attack all the gains of the working class.

The key battle line ended up being the National Workshops that demanded the removing of the profit motive and replacing them with works for the public good. Under the immediate pressure of the revolution, the Second Republic had allowed these National Workshops to be created, but they made sure they functioned much more like social welfare, guaranteeing a wage to unemployed workers in exchange for their labor on public works. But the liberals hated even this, because it infringed on the rights of capitalists to exploit workers at will by hiring and firing on an unregulated labor market. They sought to eventually destroy the National Workshops.

“For three days, the working class of Paris struggled heroically against the forces of the French army. Workers fought tooth and nail for every inch of territory against a foe that had them both outnumbered and outgunned. Women workers threw off the chains of their oppression and led the fight: heroes emerged like Elisabeth Guibal, who was arrested for running about the streets armed with a sword and smashing windows to facilitate the seizure of arms, and Veuve Henry, the 76-year-old veteran of the 1830 Revolution, who led other women at the barricades of the Rue des Trois-Couronnes at Belleville” [1]. A similar story happened across the rest of Europe. The defeat of the workers led to the failure of the revolution of 1848.

Marx and Engles theory of the Permanent Revolution

That does not mean that there were no lessons to absorb though. Marx and Engels participated in the German events of 1848. From this experience, they drew valuable lessons that revolutionaries and socialists even today must learn and understand. Marx’s Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, usually referred simply as the March Address, is perhaps the most concise and clear enunciation of these lessons.

In the address, Marx and Engels said:

“We told you already in 1848, brothers, that the German liberal bourgeoisie would soon come to power and would immediately turn its newly won power against the workers. You have seen how this forecast came true. It was indeed the bourgeoisie which took possession of the state authority in the wake of the March movement of 1848 and used this power to drive the workers, its allies in the struggle, back into their former oppressed position. Although the bourgeoisie could accomplish this only by entering into an alliance with the feudal party, which had been defeated in March, and eventually even had to surrender power once more to this feudal absolutist party, it has nevertheless secured favorable conditions for itself” [2]

“They must work to ensure that the immediate revolutionary excitement is not suddenly suppressed after the victory. On the contrary, it must be sustained as long as possible. Far from opposing the so-called excesses – instances of popular vengeance against hated individuals or against public buildings with which hateful memories are associated – the workers’ party must not only tolerate these actions but must even give them direction. During and after the struggle the workers must at every opportunity put forward their own demands against those of the bourgeois democrats. They must demand guarantees for the workers as soon as the democratic bourgeoisie sets about taking over the government. They must achieve these guarantees by force if necessary, and generally make sure that the new rulers commit themselves to all possible concessions and promises – the surest means of compromising them. They must check in every way and as far as is possible the victory euphoria and enthusiasm for the new situation which follow every successful street battle, with a cool and cold-blooded analysis of the situation and with undisguised mistrust of the new government. Alongside the new official governments they must simultaneously establish their own revolutionary workers’ governments, either in the form of local executive committees and councils or through workers’ clubs or committees, so that the bourgeois-democratic governments not only immediately lost the support of the workers but find themselves from the very beginning supervised and threatened by authorities behind which stand the whole mass of the workers. In a word, from the very moment of victory the workers’ suspicion must be directed no longer against the defeated reactionary party but against their former ally, against the party which intends to exploit the common victory for itself” [3]

The Struggle in Tunisia

In Tunisia the masses began to protest once again, a protest against the dictator President Kais Saied. The protesters reflect the anger that grows over fuel and food shortages amid an economic crisis. They protest against Saied who dissolved the parliament in March, eight months after he suspended the legislature and sacked the government citing an “imminent threat” to the country.

This movement is likely part of the new Arab revolutionary wave that already takes place in Iran and in Palestine.

The weakness of the movement in Tunisia is the lack of a working class revolutionary movement. At present it is led by the bourgeois Ennahda party a religious party and by the secular bourgeois the National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition parties including the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha that had dominated Tunisia’s parliament. The executive of the Front includes among others Ahmed Najib ChebbI, the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party and was for a short time Minister of Regional Development in the new government. On 17 January 2011, Samira al-Shawashi, Johar bin Mubarak, Rida Belhaj who on the 1 January 2015 was appointed by the new president of Tunisia Essebsi to the head of his presidential cabinet. It also includes Riad Al-Shuaibi, political adviser to the head of the Ennahda Movement Rached Ghannouchi, a millionaire and arms trader, Samir Diloua a lawyer and a member of the Executive Committee of the Ennahda Movement, joined the Jebali Cabinet as Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice and Spokesperson of the Government. In February 2012, he criticized freedom of the press and according to his opponents he later added that freedom of expression and strikes were a privilege, not a right.

While the RCIT supports the protest movement in Tunisia we do not give political support to the existing bourgeois leadership.

To win the struggle it is essential to build democratic action committees in every neighborhood. To organize a revolutionary Constituent Assembly. Organize a general strike and struggle for a workers and popular government that will nationalize the economy under the democratic control of the workers.

For the victory of the Arab revolution!

Down with all the reactionary Arab and Iranian regimes!

Down with the Zionist apartheid state!

For the socialist federation of the Middle East!



[2] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League

London, March 1850

[3] Ibid

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