Tunisia: Revolution continues as Arab rulers shake in fear

Ongoing protests, that began in late December, against the Ben Ali regime's corruption and rising food prices and unemployment
January 18, 2011

The popular revolution that has overthrown US- and French-backed Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (in power since 1987) continues to shake the country despite repression. It has sent shockwaves through the regime, raising prospects of inspiring the democracy movements in other Arab nations. Jordan has been hit by protests against price rises.

Below, are a series of reports by Dyab Abou Jahjah, the founder and former president of the Arab European League. The reports are reprinted from Abou Jahjah's blog.

For more reports and coverage, check out Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. It includes statements from Tunisian left groups.

A series of trade union statements in support of the struggle, from Tunisia and internationally, can be read here.

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Tunisia:`All Arab dictators are shaking on their thrones'

January 16

The Tunisian revolution continues to dictate its own logic on all levels.

After attempts by regime leftovers to spread chaos by several techniques (cars driving through the streets shooting at people and houses, randomly destroying infrastructure, etc.), the Tunisian people have organised themselves in committees that have spread all across the country in every neighbourhood and in every city and started patrolling the streets and protecting the people.

Popular committees even chased the militias of the old regime and in one case in a shoot out a martyr fell and two militiamen were executed by the people.

There are reports of Israeli activity in Tunisia in support of the counter revolution, also of infiltrators sent in from Libya to sabotage. It is not clear yet if this is a pattern or independent isolated cases.

On the political level, the leftovers of the old regime are still officially in power and they are negotiating with the fake opposition that always served as decoration for the regime. However, the popular committees and the trade unions and the real opposition are all working on changing this and translating the revolution into political effects.

I believe it will not take long before a political road map will be drawn towards preparing elections. It is important to note that elections according the old regime will not bring about change, so the real opposition and the people are demanding changing the constitution first and then going towards election.

The Arab regimes are shaking and the Arab people are euphoric even in places like Oman and the Emirates. On Twitter, the Saudi youth are also showing support to the Tunisian revolution and expressing shame for their country receiving the tyrant.

The Egyptian regime is delaying measures that were planned to lift state [subsidies] for some basic goods, and Qadafi expressed his regret and said the Tunisians should have kept Ben Ali for life. Qadafi is clearly nervous about a real revolution on Libyan border unlike his own phony one.

On another level, the Egyptian opposition is now more convinced that the answer is the street and nothing else. This revival of the revolutionary ideal is universal all over the Arab world.

In Algeria there are reports of three cases of citizens setting themselves on fire, one of them is reportedly dead. Egypt and Algeria are looking to be the two Arab countries with the most resonance of what happened in Tunisia.

Hezbollah saluted the Tunisian revolution and asked all Arab leaders to draw conclusions from it. Internationally, the French and the Americans issued statements that reveal a high level of hypocrisy.

They always supported the old regime knowing very well of its nature as Wikileaks revealed and now they cannot sell us their so-called support to the people’s choices. They do not like to see revolutions unless they are orchestrated by the CIA and the CIA-financed NGOs like in Ukraine, Georgia and Lebanon. This is a real revolution and therefore they feel unsettled about it.

The struggle for legitimacy in Tunisia

By Dyab Abou Jahjah

January 17

In Tunisia, a new government is being formed under the leadership of the RCD (the party of the fallen dictator) and the participation of some legalised opposition parties. All parties that were illegal under the old regimes are being excluded and this is stirring up a lot of controversy among parts of the Tunisian population who feel that the revolution is being driven away from its ideals.

The main view of the opposition is that the people who made the revolution are not represented and that by keeping the RCD on board and even on the steering wheel the former regime is perpetuating itself. On the other hand the pro-coalition voices are stressing the fact that this is only a transition necessary to avoid plunging the country in chaos.

While some would argue that now that the revolution has deposed the tyrant the country must seek reconciliation, and they also argue that the RCD has hundreds of thousands of members and excluding them would exclude important segments of society.

However, most of these members were in the RCD not for an ideology or a vision, but because a party card was synonymous of personal advancement under the old regime.

I wonder if the RCD will have more than few thousands hard core Ben Ali loyalists if things are left to take their natural course.

But even if the RCD would be a real party with real supporters base, it is now the duty of these people — if they want national reconciliation — to distance themselves from the past and its crimes by changing their party name and going to the opposition.

Why should national reconciliation be the responsibility of the oppressed, many rightly ask.

And they also believe that the best strategy to use now is a transitional committee representing all currents of the people and its trade unions and excluding the RCD as such, while including some independents who are not far from it and that this committee should lead the country into transition towards a free and fair election where all the chances of all the parties are equal.

It is in my opinion the United States and the France that have certainly played a role in convincing parts of the mild opposition to support this government in order to guarantee continuation of the old economic structure and its integration as a service economy for France, plus the political and military alliance with the US and NATO.

The risk is that this government will not be so transitory after all and will only serve as an excuse to win more time and allow intelligence services and regime loyalists to work on their strategy to take back control of the country, albeit under another leader who will govern slightly different than Ben Ali but will be just as autocratic and corrupt and pro-Western.

This is a real risk and the people started protesting against this government today and in Tunis the governmental police used tear gas against the demonstrators.

Tunisia: The Revolution continues?

January 18

The Regime is playings its last card today in Tunisia. That last Card is the RCD ( the party of the former dictator).

After the formation of a so called “National Unity Government ” on January 17, and after that the UGTT ( the largest trade union in the country) supported and even participated in it with three ministers, alongside three opposition ministers ( from the legalized opposition under the regime) many thought that the Tunisian revolution ended up with a compromise.

A compromise that left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Tunisian people and especially the youth that started this revolution and were determined to sacrify in order to see it through.

After knowing the composition of the government and the fact that it included even the minister of interior of the regime who can be held responsible, among others, for the killings [of protesters during the uprising], the revolutionary sentiment exploded again.

Arab Nationalists, Islamists and radical leftists, but above all normal Tunisians with no political agenda except their determination to have a clean break with the past of repression, decided to go challenge this government and demanded the outlawing of RCD and the formation of a salvation government that even breaks with the constitution and rewrites it.

These are revolutionary demands, by all means, and many people did not take them yesterday. However, people who know the high level of political awareness that the Tunisian people possesses also knew that action will follow.

Today, January 18, all over the country demonstrations erupting forcing the UGTT to retreat from the government and to embrace the revolutionary demands cited above.

in many places, the popular committees clashed with the police and shoot outs were reported.

Tunisia will decide its direction in the coming days maybe hours, would it be a revolution that goes all the way or a compromise between a revolution and a regime that will keep many contradictions under the surface and will sooner or later lead to another clash.

Below: Michigan history professor Juan Cole speaks on the Tunisian revolution on Democracy Now! on January 18.

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