Events in Tunisia are unfolding by the hour. The news services are carrying reports of the Tunisian president’s hurried departure from power.
Events in Tunisia are unfolding by the hour. The news services are
carrying reports of the Tunisian president’s hurried departure from
According to the BBC (Friday evening – UK time):
Tunisia’s President Zine
al-Abidine Ben Ali has stepped down after 23 years in power, amid
widespread protests on the streets of the capital Tunis.
In a televised address, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said he would be taking over from the president.
A state of emergency was declared earlier, as weeks of
protests over economic issues snowballed into rallies against Mr Ben
Unconfirmed reports say Mr Ben Ali and his family have left Tunisia.
The reports suggest that the deposed president is looking for
a place of asylum, with French media saying that French President
Nicolas Sarkozy has turned down a request for his plane to land in
Earlier today www.marxist.com posted this report on the ongoing struggle:
The marvellous uprising of the
Tunisian people has taken on revolutionary proportions. The coldblooded
murder of more than 20 demonstrators by the police over the weekend did
not have the effect the dictatorship hoped it would have. The result was
not fewer demonstrations but more with even more people taking part who
were more determined than ever not to be intimidated any longer. One
thing is sure now: this tug of war with the dictatorship will be waged
until the very end by the masses.
strikes have paralysed many cities in the central and eastern parts of
the country. Violent clashes with the police, just like the scenes from
the Intifada in Gaza, have continued without interruption in the
neighbourhoods of many cities. In the space of a few days the movement
has grown to unprecedented levels in recent Tunisian history. The
volleys of bullets fired by the police continue to kill but do not to
scare the masses anymore. In total more than 60 youth and workers have
been murdered in the attempt to break the new spirit of struggle. This
will all be in vain. More importantly the workers have started to move
via their union, the UGTT, whose docile leadership has been forced to
enter into opposition to the regime. Local and regional branches of the
UGTT have taken the initiative to call strikes. The mass rallies have
been like virtual occupations of cities.
Some sections of the union, like the teachers, the health workers and
postal workers had already played an important role in pushing the UGTT
into action. Journalists’ unions and the lawyers’ associations have
also been in the forefront of the struggle. But now the wider layers of
the workers’ movement have moved into action. Demonstrations like the
ones in the rebellious workers’ city of Sfax
or in Kassarine mark the active entry of the workers onto the scene.
The images of those demonstrations reveal an attitude of open defiance
towards the regime, a mood of confidence and a feeling that victory is
Already last Sunday, January 9, the UGTT local affiliate in Sfax
issued a call for a regional general strike. With only a few exceptions
(hospitals and many bakeries that stayed open to help the people in
struggle), the strike saw a 100% turnout. In Sfax 30,000 workers and
youths demonstrated on the streets. In Jenduba on January 12, there were
12,000 people demonstrating in a city of 30,000 inhabitants.
The local branches of the UGTT have become the centre of gravity of
the resistance against the dictatorship. Mass meetings are held there,
and the offices are used to organise many activities. This is no
accident. It can only be explained by the specific weight this union has
in the collective political memory of the Tunisian workers. The union
played a decisive role in the anti-colonial struggle against the French
occupation. Now it has become despite the role of its leaders the
cornerstone of the resistance built up in the last few weeks.
In the last days this movement reached the suburbs of the capital,
prompting the regime to impose a curfew. Military vehicles and soldiers
were posted at strategic points around Tunis. Even tourist destinations
such as Hammamet could not escape the sweep of the movement. Under
terrible pressure from its ranks the UGTT leaders called for a 2-hour
general strike in the country for today, Friday 14th January.
Realising that repression alone could not stave off the movement, the
President General, Ben Ali, announced on three occasions this week
promises of reform and concessions. Napoleon Bonaparte a long time ago
understood that you can do a lot of things with bayonets except sit on
The divisions within the regime are now opening up more and more. The
head of the Army is said to have been sacked by Ben Ali for his refusal
to shoot on the demonstrators. Anecdotes often reveal the real
situation in the army, like the one of the young army officer on the
streets of Sidi Bouzid saluting the angry funeral march of one of the
demonstrators that were killed.
The most important “concessions” were announced yesterday evening
when Ben Ali declared he would lift the censorship on the media,
introduce more freedoms, investigate the killings of protesters during
demonstrations, ask the police not to shoot on demonstrators with live
ammunition and that he would not seek re-election as president of
Tunisia in… 2014.
This is a typical example of “everything changes so that nothing
changes”. Yesterday evening’s stage managed demonstrations of supposed
jubilant Ben Ali supporters in the centre of the capital were aimed at
confusing the Tunisian people and the international media. But an
awakened people cannot be fooled easily. Too many promises have been
made in the past and too many have been broken.
The movement has also evolved from a localised social protests into a
nationwide political movement confronting the mighty force of the
state. The concessions now are “too little too late”. No one trusts Ben
Ali and his clique any longer, no-one, that is, among the masses. There
are still a few who trust this hated man. The main so-called opposition
parties, including the former communist party, on hearing the
concessions being made, have reacted with cautious optimism and called
on Ben Ali to form a coalition government. But from the masses Ben Ali
is getting a completely different response, not the kind of reaction he
expected to the concessions he announced yesterday evening.
Tunisian street, educated by years of oppression, lies and treachery by
the representatives of the regime has replied with its feet. This
morning the masses poured onto the streets all over Tunisia. More
importantly in the capital, tens of thousands have gathered in front of
the once feared buildings of the Ministry of Interior. A demonstration
in front of the “Minister of Terror” would have been unimaginable even
24 hours ago.One slogan unites the demonstration: Ben Ali out! Not
tomorrow, not in 2014 but now! Others say “we prefer to live on dry
bread and water than to continue to live with Ben Ali”.
Scenes of fraternisation between the army and the demonstrators have
been shown on French television and broadcast around the world. The
police who were out on the streets this morning did not dare to
intervene. Later on in the day fresh police forces were sent in who
tried to disperse the demonstrators with tear gas and baton charges, but
to no avail.
Other demonstrators decided to go the Presidential Palace in Carthage
to stage a sit-in. Prominent figures within the regime are abandoning
the boat, like rats jumping from a sinking ship. The regime is losing
its grip on whole sections of its state apparatus. Some reports indicate
that sections of the army have come out in defence of the
demonstrators. Journalists of the Tunisian state television are reported
to have revolted today, as they took over the TV studios and decided to
start reporting the truth of what has been going on in the country.
These are all signs of the death agony of the regime. Nobody can
doubt any longer that a revolution is going on in Tunisia. This is the
moment of truth in Tunisia. Friday 14th of January 2011 will be
remembered as an historic day. It will be remembered as the day when the
whole of the Tunisian people rose up against its dictator. Again it has
been proven that it is the masses that make history.
Yesterday a blogger summarised very well the feeling of many Tunisians:
“Ben Ali has proposed we should work ‘hand in hand’ to build an
illusory future, but his hands are covered in blood! We cannot tolerate
that he should goes in complete impunity.
“Having sacrificed our compatriots for some reduction of the price of
bread, for opening access to Youtube and the illusion of democracy in
2014 would be unforgivable while freedom is within our grasp, in the
grasp of the people that is capable of bringing a regime to its knees.
“Yesterday I saw a stressed and terrorised president… a president
trembling, stammering, sometimes shouting and out of control. His speech
was a confession of weakness, a cry for help. The man of ‘Bikolli hazm’
is on his knees. Let’s finish him.”
The regime is manoeuvring in order to save its very skin, making all
kinds of last minute desperate concessions. Ben Ali has dismissed his
entire government in an attempt to save his own position. The legal
reformist parties of the “opposition” are preparing to lend him a hand.
Most likely they will try to form a government of national unity with
some of Ben Ali’s ministers together with representatives of so-called
“civil society” and legal opposition figures. Most probably, however,
Ben Ali will have to go. Such a government would be very unstable and
govern with the shadow of the awakened masses on its back. This is how
they will try to rob the masses of their victory.
The masses should have no illusion in any of these politicians. The
struggle must be waged until the very end. The masses have learned in
the space of a mere four weeks that they can only count on their own
strength. Instead of conceding power to a government of national unity,
the UGTT and all the other rank and file groups of youth, peasants,
neighbourhood activists, should set up democratically elected committees
at local, regional and national level. These could then form the
democratic and political backbone of a new government with the aim of
the eradication of poverty, unemployment, corruption and abuse. Within
the confines of capitalism and imperialist domination, however, these
aims are impossible to attain. Real democracy means also that the
wealth, the economy, is owned collectively and run democratically. This
is what socialism means.
Tunisian people, its youth and its workers, are writing history now,
this very minute. They have become the symbol of the struggle against
oppression and exploitation in the whole of the Arab world. They are
showing to the whole world the real face of the Arab working class, a
class that is prepared to struggle to the very end. In this struggle we
do not see Islamic fundamentalism coming to the fore, but the working
class and its organisations. The Tunisian workers are showing the way to
their Algerian and Moroccan brothers and sisters and to the peoples of
the whole of North Africa and the Middle East and beyond.
There is not a stable regime in the whole of the Arab world. The same
conditions that have ignited the movement in Tunisia exist in Jordan,
Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt… The same conditions will lead to similar
developments. What we are witnessing is the unfolding of the Arab
revolution, which will eventually spread from one country to another.
The conditions exist for an international struggle that can only lead to
one conclusion: the need for an all-Arab Socialist Federation.
- Down with Ben Ali and his mafia clique!
- Down with the Tunisian and foreign oppressors and exploiters!
- Forward to a socialist Tunisia!
- Long live the Tunisian revolution!
Go to the special Tunisia page of Marxist.com to read all the articles on this mighty struggle: