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      Tunisia: The Crisis of The State, The Economy, and The Capitalist Ruling Class

      An Interview With Tunisian Leader Hamma Hammami,
      General Secretary of The Tunisian Workers' Party
      Part 3

      Interview conducted,transcribed & translated from Arabic by Azza Rojbi

      Azza Rojbi: It has been over 10 years since the Tunisian people took to the streets demanding “Jobs, Freedom & Dignity” and brought down Ben Ali’s dictatorship. What are your thoughts on where Tunisia is today, and what is the biggest challenge for the country going forward?

      Hamma Hammami: For us, indeed, we made a revolution in Tunisia, but revolutions are not a game. And revolutions are not a piece of cake. Revolutions are a process, a great struggle, and they can sometimes even take the form of violence. It took on forms of violence in Tunisia with the political assassinations, for example, that took place because there was a conflict of interests in the country. The internal element also overlaps with the external element. Tunisia is the turmoil and crises experienced in the region and the world. With interventions from both sides, regional and international, the revolution did not achieve its goals. What the revolution achieved in the first stage was changing the form of state power. We moved from a totalitarian dictatorship to representative democracy. But as I said at the beginning, the class character has not changed. Wealth and power remained in the hands of the ruling capitalist elites that controlled the country during the time of Ben Ali, the time of the dictatorship.

      This explains the conditions we are in today. And the rule of the Ennahda movement or the rule of Kais Saied falls within the forms of control of these ruling minorities that, as I said, control the situation in Tunisia. What is before us is to evaluate this previous stage and reclaim the slogans of the revolution. We must return to the origins of our revolution to understand this time that when we make a revolution, we should not stop in the middle of the road. We must carry out this revolution to the end; that is, we take political and economic power from the ruling elites. This is the point. This, of course, requires a great effort from the revolutionary and progressive forces. Today frustration is widespread in Tunisia.

      Despair is spreading. But we believe this will be a temporary matter because the paths of the revolution are not a straight line.

      Revolution has periods of ups and down. We do not want to remain like the French Revolution for a hundred years. But I raised the issue of the French Revolution because it is a classic historical model. Revolution, counter-revolution, revolution, counter-revolution until the conditions ripened for the establishment and consolidation of the republic. We believe that the Tunisians, especially the working class in Tunisia, the women of Tunisia, and the youth of Tunisia, will learn from this experience. They will understand that they should pay attention to the programmes, views, and visions. Not like it happened at the beginning when people followed politicians just based on “Oh, they are honest, they fear god.” It became clear that they fear no god or people. Or when Beji Caid Essebsi deceived people and said, “I will not converge with Ennahda; two parallel lines do not meet.” Well, in the first round, they met and conspired against the Tunisian people. Or Kais Saied when he comes and tells people I will build a paradise on earth for you. Then Tunisians find themselves in hell.

      We must evaluate all these experiences and draw conclusions from them, especially draw a vision and program. We must judge parties, political forces, or people based on those programs and the basis of their practices, not on what they say about themselves or the empty promises they make. However, despite all these difficulties, I am optimistic because when I look back at the history of the Tunisian people, I find that they can rise at every stage. The Tunisian people are very much capable of rising again.

      AR: As a leading figure in the political scene of Tunisia for many decades and as a revolutionary working-class fighter, in your opinion, what are the next moves to stop Kais Saied’s assault on the democratic institutions and constitution and to safeguard the democratic and human rights of working people in Tunisia. What are the immediate steps to be taken?

      HH: I firmly believe that there is only one solution to stop Saied, and that is to bring him down. He must be brought down because experience shows us that he is not stopping, but is moving towards consolidating his repressive regime. He is a threat to individual and public liberties. He is a danger to equality, a danger to women’s rights. He was the first president in Tunisia’s history who, on August 13, 2020, Women’s Day in Tunisia, spoke out against equality. Neither Ben Ali, Marzouki, Beji, nor Bourguiba did it. He was the only one who came on August 13 and said I am against equality. I mean, this is a terrible thing. He also spoke out against and attacked article 6 of the Constitution regarding freedom of conscience and beliefs. And, as I said, he continues to destroy democratic and popular institutions. He also does not want any regulatory institutions.His government has also not stopped deepening impoverishing people.

      What is required in a situation like this? The overthrow of this regime, but at the same time, overthrowing the system that ruled Tunisia during the last ten years and replacing it with a new system. A political, economic, and social system based on a program that achieves Tunisia’s sovereignty, achieves a decent life for its people, achieves true freedom and democracy for its people, and achieves full equality for Tunisian women. This requires a strong unity between all democratic and progressive forces, whether political forces or civil society forces. We have created the “National Campaign Against the Referendum” because we consider the referendum a central task in the Kais Saied project. If he passes this referendum, he will take a faster stride toward consolidating his authoritarian regime. He will then attack political parties, the freedom to organize, the unions and the freedom of the press.

      At the same time, we see that the civil society forces are also coming together. The Tunisian General Labor Union, women’s organizations, and Syndicate of Journalists, all come together. Of course, there are other oppositions, such as the National Salvation Front with Ennahda or the Destourian [Constitutional] Movement, but we do not convene with these oppositions. We do not consider that salvation can be achieved with Ennahda or the Free Constitutional Party. The Tunisian people experienced the consequences of the Ennahda government for ten years. They contributed largely to the destruction of the life of society and people in Tunisia. The Free Constitutional Party still yearn for the Ben Ali regime to be unpopular, and people have revolted against them.

      Therefore, our call is directed primarily to the Tunisian people threatened by division, to those whom [President] Kais Saied and others seek to divide. We call on the democratic and progressive forces to unite and rally around a program that is truly capable of saving Tunisia and opening other horizons for the country. In this context, we naturally extend our hands to forces in the Arab and international arena. To stand on our side, we extend our hand to all the revolutionary forces of all the left-wing democratic and progressive anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, and anti-hegemonic forces. And we call on them to stand up to their governments that have for decades been supporting dictatorship and despotism in Tunisia.

      AR: Do you have anything you would like to add?

      HH: I want to salute our Tunisian community in Canada and the United States of America. I want to ask them always to be attentive to the situation in Tunisia. We are going through a tough time, so I naturally ask them to seek to understand these situations far from the lies and insults being spread out because lying in Tunisia has become a political method, a way of thinking and a way of working away from healthy and serious intellectual and political discourse and discussions.

      AR: Thank you very much, comrade Hammami for your time. We wish you the best of success in your revolutionary struggle for the workers and oppressed of Tunisia.

      Hamma Hammami: Greetings to you and thank you.

      Follow Azza on Twitter: @Azza_R14

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