On the streets of Tunis

Submitted by Matthew on 20 April, 2011 - 12:55

I arrived in Tunis just after the army had prevented a third Casbah sit-in, aimed at extracting fundamental democratic reforms from the third government, under the octogenarian Sebsi.

The movement was in something of a lull, but there were tanks and razorwire all over the city centre, periodic clashes with the police, and new graffiti appearing every day: “Down with repression”; “The women of Tunisia are free”; “Down with Sebsi”; “Secularism”; “Free at last”.

The revolutionary movement in Tunisia is still ongoing. Despite the fact that press freedom has not yet been fully won, the Tunisian press carried stories every day of strikes in the interior of the country. There were large street meetings and demonstrations in the city centre most days.

Since 14 January, there have been three governments. The first two, under Ghannouchi, were brought down by sit-ins in the Casbah, the square in front of the governmental palace.

I’d come to Tunis mainly to find out what Tunisian revolutionary socialists are doing and saying.

The recent history of Trotskyism in Tunisia goes back to the mid-1980s, when a group called the Revolutionary Communist Organisation (OCR) was founded as a section of the Fourth International (the international network clustered around the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) in France).

The group was made up of young workers and intellectuals. The foundation of the OCR took place in the context of the implementation of the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Programme, an assault on working class living standards which was the spark for bread riots in 1984.

The IMF programme came with a higher level of political repression, orchestrated by the new President Ben Ali; he created a police state. The OCR had to start operating underground. For a period, they produced a newspaper, Al-Chararam (The Spark); their militants went to work in different sectors of industry, and organised dissident cultural milieux, and oppositional political associations.

In 1992, 40 comrades were arrested and tried. The group was able to continue its activity, but some were jailed, and others were forced to live underground.

In the midst of the revolution of January 2011, the comrades organised a re-groupment, launching a new organisation, the Workers’ Left League (LGO).

The LGO bases itself around the need to push the revolution forward to working-class power, but it is broader in its make-up than the old OCR.

Its political basis will be clarified when it has its first conference this spring.

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