Workers Party of Tunisia (POT)

The Popular Front and the revolutionary process in Tunisia

Translated from Arabic into French, then into Spanish, and finally into English, from the presentation by Hamma Hammami, spokesperson of the Popular Front, on the second anniversary of the assassination of the martyr Chokri Belaid.

On the second anniversary of the death of our beloved martyr Chokri Belaid, the Organizing Committee of this Political Conference asked me to prepare a talk on the Popular Front.

The Popular Front was born thanks to the important role played by our martyr, together with leaders of other political parties and independent personalities.

The committee asked me to make my speech brief, given the various talks that should explain the different experiences of work in the framework of the “fronts” in different countries. It is worth citing the example of SYRIZA, which just won the recent parliamentary elections in Greece, as well as other experiences of some comrades who are advancing firmly, while others are seeking their way in the midst of difficulties.

Well... the Organizing Committee wanted my speech to be written out...

For all these reasons, my thoughts will focus more on what I consider fundamental in the experience of the Popular Front since its formation. However, I will leave out some details and specifics, which we can deal with during the discussion.

The establishment of the Popular Front: understanding the lag of the subjective factor behind the objective conditions

<> The Popular Front was formed just over two years ago. It was not only for the need to unify the forces of the Tunisian left, but primarily to respond to the real and objective shortcomings of the Tunisian revolution, which is: the weakness of the subjective factor compared to the objective conditions.

This is what made our revolution stop half way, allowing the reactionary forces to continue to maintain their political and economic domination over the population.

The masses who rose up against poverty and tyranny, who forced the dictator Ben Ali to flee, lacked a national, central leadership, able to provide a program, a strategy and a revolutionary organization that would transform this spontaneous uprising into a movement that works according to a strategy with clearly defined objectives.

This does not mean that there was no awareness of the problems, or of the organization during the Tunisian revolution, as some reactionary and opportunist forces that aspired and aspire to take over this revolution tried to make people believe, hiding from a whole generation the sacrifices of the revolutionaries, democrats and progressives, and denying their outstanding participation in this revolution.

Since the beginning of the events in Sidi Bouzid and around the country, political activists and members of democratic organizations were present. They took the lead in actions in many regions and in various sectors; they gave it a revolutionary, democratic and progressive character; they created slogans that echoed throughout the country, such as “Work, Freedom and Dignity” that became the slogan of the revolution.

What was missing was a national leadership, which would be able to guide the actions and move them in the right direction, a leadership recognized by the masses, able to resolve the question of power at the right time, to serve the masses in rebellion, since power is the main objective of every revolution.

The Popular Front was created to overcome these shortcomings and to strengthen the nascent revolutionary process. It was necessary to unite the working class around a minimum, national, democratic, social program, as part of the objectives of the revolution. The content of this program, in turn, was drawn up taking into account the nature of the tasks necessary in this period of development of our struggle and of the contradictions that were created; actions that fit naturally into a patriotic, democratic and social project, which were created from the struggles against the merciless exploitation, corruption and national dependence. They also refer to all the social classes who have suffered under the dictatorship, in the cities and as well as the countryside.

A difficult mission

To build the Popular Front was not easy, we had to get past the sectarian mentality that has always characterized the revolutionary forces, whether Marxists or Arab nationalists, but also all Tunisian political parties in general who fought against the French occupation.

<> The martyr Chokri Belaid said, “in the organizations of the left we have learned to express our differences, but we have never learned how to unite... When one of us was of the same opinion as a comrade, another current of the left felt uncomfortable and stated that it was wrong, as if it were natural for us to be in constant disagreement... It is time to unite... to understand that what unites us is much greater than what divides us.”

Similarly, the martyr Mohamed Brahmi, who left his “Movement of the People” to join the Popular Front, said, “this the best strategic option of the moment,” and he also said that “the movements of the left and the Arab nationalists are looking inward and not outward,” referring to the fact that the Marxist left and the Arab nationalists crushed each other, instead of fighting the reactionary forces and the enemies of the people.

What I am trying to say is that we had to educate ourselves about unity, one based on values imposed by the social and popular movement, in order to achieve our strategic objectives. A new education, in which the people are the key element; without their active participation, change is a utopia.

The Marxist forces and the Arab nationalists often found themselves in the same arenas of struggle, they suffered the same repressive policies, they were before the same courts and in the same prisons of the dictatorship. However, they always preferred division to unity. The height of absurdity is that most of these forces fought each other and counted as “victories” of the one against the other, leaving aside the necessary evaluation of their contribution to the actions required by our people!

This detestable sectarian mentality, of a petty bourgeois nature, which shows a lack of political maturity, continued after the revolution.

The experience of unity embodied in the January 14 Front was short-lived; it broke up as soon as the decision was taken over whether or not to participate in the “high body for the objectives of the revolution,” a body set up by the authorities at that time to counter the “National Authority for the achievement of the objectives of the revolution.” Some chose to participate with the idea of influencing the policies of the transition period, others refused, considering it is a first step to distancing oneself from the objectives of the revolution and to give full powers to the prime minister, who belonged to the old regime.

The elections of 2011

The elections for the Constituent Assembly of October 23, 2011, were a real blow to the forces of the left. Scattered, becoming adversaries, contesting the same seat in the one electoral district or another, the result was deplorable, only six or seven seats. According to the votes obtained by this tendency, the number of seats could have been doubled or even more, if the scattered forces had united, according to the electoral law that was in force.

This failure allowed the reactionary forces, who were united around their interests, were better organized and supported by the colonialist forces, to win the elections. Thus, they opened the way to take advantage of the revolution and establish a new tyranny under the guise of religion!

The awareness of this new situation and its needs was not immediate, delaying the formation of the Popular Front until October of 2012, that is, one year after the election of the Constituent Assembly.

We had to break with this sectarian heritage, to establish a new look forward, with “one home for all,” “a common Party” and not one house for each party, which would impose its views and that would boast of its victories over all the “others,” with its “tribe”!

It was necessary for the foundation of this “common Party” to live up to the revolutionary demands, that unity be organized around the demands of the people, aspirations that today include strategic aspirations that must now be established.

Clearly, it has not been easy to find a balance in all this...

The platform of struggle of the front

Marathon discussions were the prelude to developing this platform. A project that put emphasis on the independence of the Tunisian people that confronts the reactionaries within and outside the country whose aim is to divert the revolution, but also outlines the principles that govern the work of the Front.

We read in the platform of the Popular Front: “Our country is experiencing a grave crisis, which it cannot get out of except through the continuation of the struggle of the Tunisian people, their national, democratic, social, cultural and environmental struggle for the full realization of the objectives of the revolution and the establishment of the power of the people. This will only be possible through a rupture with the disunity of the revolutionary, patriotic, democratic and progressive forces, whether they are parties, unions, organizations, youths or independent personalities, and their common alliance within a Popular Front. This would represent an alternative for a real government to overcome the false duality, the ‘two poles’ that claim to oppose each other, but which in reality are united in maintaining the same economic control, with neoliberal policies and subjected to foreign powers, although the one hides itself under a ‘religious’ cover and the other under a ‘modernist’ blanket, thereby seeking to hide the truth, the contradiction between the forces committed to the objectives of the revolution and those trying to liquidate it.”

It is on this basis that the political platform of the general objectives of the Front was defined:

A difficult evolution under complex conditions

Since the announcement of its creation, the Popular Front has breathed new life into the revolutionary and progressive circles, which have expressed their desire to join and participate in it.

The Popular Front has become a hope in the midst of a gloomy atmosphere, marked by pessimism and defeatism. The Ennahdha movement that is in power is heading toward fascism under the banner of the “Islamization”!

Thus the Popular Front has become an influential political force that must now be taken into account. The rapid development of the Front has made it the target of the reactionary and obscurantist forces, especially their bloodthirsty terrorist factions.

The demonization of the Popular Front has begun in order to marginalize it, to destroy it and eliminate its leaders. This is part of a unique context: to abort the Tunisian revolution and prevent the appearance of serious leaders who can take up this revolutionary task.

The assassination of martyr Chokri Belaid, the leader of the united democratic patriots and one of the main founders of the Popular Front, was a first step. Later, another leader of the Popular Front was assassinated, the martyr Mohamed Brahmi, leader of the Popular Current. At the same time, there have been attempts and attacks led by the military and security forces, which left dozens dead. The objective is to create conditions to establish the domination of obscurantism.

This occurred under the government of the Troika dominated by the Ennahda movement, which has allowed the development of terrorism, its moral and political responsibility, and the investigation will determine whether it also is criminally liable or not.

The Popular Front has evolved in this difficult environment, which has complex ramifications. The plan to implement the power of the “Muslim Brotherhood” and to abort the revolution and perpetuate the reactionary domination of colonialism was not only local, but also regional and worldwide. It was led mainly by the United States, European reaction and the Zionist entity, with the assistance of their lackeys in the region: Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. They have managed to abort the uprisings in many Arab countries, transforming their struggle for freedom into a destructive civil war.

In this complex situation, the Popular Front had to show clarity and redouble its vigilance. It was necessary to develop tactics that could be adapted to the general objectives of the reality on the ground, taking into account the balance of forces at the time, to choose in the best manner the slogans and forms of struggle; to set the right tactics and advance the revolutionary process to avoid retreats, which requires:

These powers are beginning to doubt the power of the “Islamists,” which is increasingly seen as a factor of instability that must be “corrected,” because there is a risk that they could be brought down, as happened in Egypt.

Consolidated, but difficult, the Popular Front has managed to overcome the obstacles that it faced. Despite its shortcomings, the experience of the National Salvation Front, created after the assassination of martyr Hajj Mohamed Brahmi on July 25, 2013, was one of the tactical successes of the Popular Front. This front brought together a broad coalition of parties, unions and civil society organizations of different ideological currents, on the basis of combating the rise of a fascist current that could jeopardize not only the achievements of the revolution, but all the modernist and progressive achievements of the Tunisian people. Also it threatened the unity of Tunisia and the Tunisian people. Thanks to this tactic, with protests and demonstrations that took place across the country, it was possible to dissolve the government of the Troika and the revision of the draft constitution of June 1, 2013. This draft Constitution allowed for the establishment of a tyranny under a religious facade, it was abandoned in favor of a constitution that guarantees fundamental freedoms and democratic rights for the Tunisians. It was a victory of the democratic forces and the Tunisian people that revived their hopes.

The Popular Front achieved good results in the parliamentary and presidential elections last fall, with results well above those of 2011. The Popular Front has clearly been established as the third political force, with 15 deputies; our Presidential candidate came in third. At the same time, several other forces, including some who were in power or were well represented in the Constituent Assembly, have collapsed completely. Clearly the results of the Popular Front could have been better if it had managed to overcome some political and organizational weaknesses, but still it represents an advance that confirms the need for the Front and for united work. Today, faced with the coalition government of Nidaa Tounes and Ennahda, the Popular Front is the main opposition force and has made significant progress.

The revolutionary process is still present despite threats and despite the progress made by the counter-revolutionary forces to annihilate it. Indeed, socio-economic, cultural and environmental conditions are constantly deteriorating and, at the same time, the working class and youth continue to show their willingness to fight. Today we are witnessing a series of actions such as strikes, protests, hunger strikes, etc. and these are unlikely to stop until their demands are met.

To maintain and develop the revolutionary process demands that the Popular Front overcome its shortcomings.

Conditions for success

After two years of experience, the Popular Front should answer a key question: Should it remain a pressure group or a permanent radical opposition group, whose influence is limited to 10% to 12% of voter support, or should it aspire to finally become a real popular force, a force that gauges its power by its ability to mobilize the masses around it and its program, to seize power and advance the revolutionary process?

To answer this question the Popular Front should take stock of its experience in order to determine its strong points, but above all, to identify its weaknesses. I am sure that we will agree that the Popular Front should:

All these issues require deep discussions and exchanges that should culminate in a national conference that will make the decisions necessary for the Front and begin a new phase in its revolutionary path.

The front has a great future

All conditions are there for the Front to become the force of the future; the masses are continuing to educate themselves and raise their level of political consciousness; moreover, they have sent positive signals to the Popular Front in the last elections. The Popular Front has no other choice, it has to live up to its historical responsibility; our people expect a lot from us.

The experience of the Popular Front is creating a broad current of sympathy in various Arab countries, from the Maghreb* to the Mashreq** in more than one country in Europe, Asia and Latin America. This experience also indicates the direction to be followed by the progressive and revolutionary forces, that of unity to stop the onslaught of imperialist capital and its lackeys against the workers and peoples, an offensive that takes many forms, ranging from the violations of liberties, of socio-economic and cultural rights and of the environment, to the war provocations in many regions of the world.

* The Maghreb consists of the western countries, the four countries of North Africa: Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. (Translator’s note.)

** The Mashreq is the eastern countries or the Levant, that is, those of the Middle East and Egypt.

This sympathy makes our responsibility much more important, we have the obligation to have successes and nothing but successes!

The victory of SYRIZA in the recent elections in Greece confirms the need for unity of the progressive forces in order to unite the masses in the struggle against the savage neoliberal right-wing, which sees human beings only as labor power to be exploited for their profit in the process of accumulation.

The experience of SYRIZA will certainly inspire some movements in Europe where certain movements are already taking shape, such as that of Spain (Podemos) and France (Left Front).

The Popular Front, or United Front, has become an urgent task to be implemented in the entire world. In Tunisia, with our comrades in France, Spain and other countries, we need to advance our experience and create interest. Our Palestinian, Lebanese and Moroccan comrades should not hesitate to unite the patriotic, democratic and progressive forces and put an end to the dispersion. As to our Greek comrades who today are leading the country from the new government, they must show the peoples of the world that another way is possible, a way different from the plunder of the peoples and the enslavement of the workers and the poor. This will have a major impact in many European countries.

Finally, we builders of the Front for liberty, emancipation and social justice in the whole world must unite; our cause is one.

Long live the revolution!

Long live the Popular Front!

March 2015

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