Friday, October 21, 2022

From Tunisia in revolt - images and first analysis


Where is the "new" Tunisia going?

The referendum of last July 25 consecrated the constitutional reform project of the President of the Republic Saied who had assumed full powers the previous year and who is now heading towards the second stage of his institutional road map with the next parliamentary elections on December 17, on the occasion of the twelfth anniversary of the outbreak of the Popular Revolt.

These elections will take place according to the new electoral law: the candidates who manage to collect the necessary number of signatures will compete on an individual basis, but no party will be allowed to present electoral lists (this will not prevent political representatives of the parties from running individually).

In Saied's political vision, the new institutions represented by this "anti-party parliament" which will be flanked by the new organ of the Chamber of Regions, within the framework of the new institutional structure, should open the doors to the "new Tunisia" excluding the "old parties power" and resuming the interrupted thread of the Popular Revolt by consecrating the aspirations of national dignity and prosperity, betrayed by the decade of "democratic transition" hegemonized by the Islamists of Ennahdha.

However, what has been happening in the last weeks seems to confirm that even this "new" course up to now is taking place in continuity with the policies of the previous regimes.

Food shotage, cuts in public spending, further debt and dependence on foreign capital

The economic policy choices of the Saied-Bouden regime continue to remain in the liberal groove with the stipulation of a new IMF loan of $ 1.9 billion (the first tranche of almost 500 million). As a counterpart, the IMF is once again calling for a crackdown with austerity policies that will reduce ("rationalize" in the language of the agency and the Tunisian government) government subsidies to down the prices of basic necessities; the beginning is also looming. a gradual privatization of some public enterprises with a consequent cut in "costs" which will result in new firing, early retirements and a reduction in services.

The UGTT union has long promised battles if such measures are implemented.

Meanwhile, inflation, which in recent months has exceeded the 8% bar, thanks to the international economic situation (Tunisia, like most of the North African countries, imports a large part of its wheat from Ukraine) but also the absence of measures of the ministry of finance, has in fact anticipated a food crisis with the generalized increase in the prices of many goods (eggs, milk, legumes, fruit and poultry meat but also beef, sheep and fish), to which was added the a worrying shortage of many goods which in recent months has affected flour, sugar, milk, bottled water and recently fuel. But what on this front represents a real alarm bell was the lockout of the bakeries on October 19. Producers are threatening to raise the price of bread as they have not received state subsidies to keep the price cool for 14 months.

The last time this happened it led to the outbreak of the famous 1984 Bread Uprising.

Adherence to the recipes of the IMF in order to collect the first and subsequent tranches of financing will aggravate this framework, supporting the macroeconomic policy of reducing the trade deficit through the so-called import / substitution: specializing in the production of goods at lower production costs for export them, and import all the others that theoretically have a lower production cost abroad. This policy is not new in Tunisia which as a consequence has become the first exporting country of olive oil in the world, a major exporter of dates, and of fruit while producing only 30% of its needs of wheat to feed the population. the prices of these goods are becoming more and more prohibitive for the Tunisian population. In recent decades there has not been a policy of strengthening the industrial sector for the production of high value added goods, but instead it has preferred to focus on notoriously volatile and speculative sectors such as tourism and construction.

A repressive and security approach towards the migratory phenomenon

The increasingly eroded purchasing power and the unemployment rate which remains stably high, have certainly contributed to the increase in attempts to emigrate to Europe and the Italian coasts, with an unprecedented and worrying qualitative change: among migrants they are always increasing plus entire families as well as unaccompanied minors. On 19 October the local media reported the news taken by the Italian media of the arrival in Lampedusa of a four-year-old girl who had been taken on board by her parents who she is now rescuing. Their parents will be prosecuted by the Tunisian justice for aiding illegal emigration.

Indeed, Saied's Tunisia, leaving aside the formal declarations that speak of the need for a "global approach to the migratory phenomenon", confirms that it has risen to the role of coast guard on behalf of the EU and the Italian government.

Popular anger erupted in the coastal and southern city of Zarzis after yet another massacre at sea from which 17 corpses were fished, it was discovered that these were buried in the "migrant cemetery" of the city without carrying out the test. DNA and therefore without identification. The families of many young people who left the city and of whom there is no more news have organized protests and roadblocks for days that resulted in the general strike called by the UGTT on 18 October which paralyzed the city which was crossed by an imposing sustained demonstration even by traders who joined by lowering the shutters.

The police state reinvigorated

The socio-economic situation of the country is therefore explosive, and actually for the past six days a real popular uprising has been going on in the proletarian district of Ettadhamen following yet another young man who died following a police beating. Malek Slimi, 24, finally died after almost a month and a half in a coma, provoking the anger of young people in the largest popular suburb of North Africa who for five nights have been erecting barricades, burning dumpsters, cars and tires and attacking the police. The latter is facing the revolt with the massive use of tear gas canisters fired at eye level, loaded with vans, some policemen have been immortalized while firing on young people in revolt, as reported by the communist organization Resist in a recent press release accompanied by the photos in question.

In recent months, the repression has intensified not only against social struggles, but selectively hitting the political and social avant-gardes, dusting off the extrajudicial arrest methods and the hype reminiscent of the Ben Ali regime: not even the decade of Ennahdha's regime, even with the his new forms of restoration of the old regime made up of arrests and repression of social and workers' struggles had gone so far.

While the montage of the communist journalist Ghassen Ben Khalifa, released on 11 September and awaiting the hearing on 28 October, is still formally underway, two young political militants were arrested within a few days: Marwen Bendhiefi (in implementation of a sentence imposed during the Ennahdha regime for a fist fight with Salafist extremists) and Saif Ayadi (respectively on 5 and 19 October) the latter with his organization played an important role in supporting to the family of the young Slimi denouncing the pressures of the interior ministry to the family to withdraw the complaint against the murderers of their son.

Finally, on October 20, while a hearing was held in the court of Ben Arous (Greater Tunis) in the case of Omar Laabidi, the young 19-year-old ultras thrown into a stream by the police and drowned on the sidelines of a football match on March 31, 2018, the police prevented some demonstrators from reaching the sit-in in front of the court and arrested a young woman active in the committee who is fighting for justice.

The revolutionary left at a crossroads

The revolutionary parties and extra-parliamentary organizations to the left of the defunct electoral grouping of the Popular Front (which in the ten years of democratic transition and even today have effectively flirted with the government forces in maintaining the status quo), have reacted differently, often at the antipodes to the new course of Tunisian institutional politics directed by Saied: some see the upcoming elections as a tactical opportunity, thinking that conducted in this way could favor a presence of a small left troop within the parliament to bring popular demands to the within the institutions and in this sense at this stage they have concentrated their efforts in supporting the referendum process of last July and today of the electoral process.

On the contrary, the communist organization Resist, which recently split from the Workers' Party, has mobilized since its inception in full opposition to Saied's agenda and in a recent statement closing the "second plenary session" on October 16, it states:

"as the crisis worsens, the resistance begins to take root [...] of the sections of the people, in particular those most affected [by the crisis] have begun to march against the choices of Saied and his government, and if this resistance today it seems weak, discontinuous and intermittent, the evolution of the situation leaves glimpses give its gradual intensification, this can open the door to scenarios that can become even worse [than the current one] if the patriotic forces do not arm this resistance with a program, slogans and a clear alternative to avoid falling prey to another wing of the comprador bourgeoisie [...] we consider that the only option offered to our people and patriotic forces is to deepen the option of popular resistance and organize it to arm the popular movement with a revolutionary program and concrete slogans for dispel all popular or liberal delusions and make it clear that our country needs a social revolution that restores the objectives and tasks raised by the aborted revolution of 2011".

The Tunisian autumn is progressively warming up and it is not excluded that a new Popular Revolt is on the horizon, the central question is always the same, what will be the role of the revolutionary organizations organized in this new wave that seems to be able to suddenly erupt?

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