By: Trevor Loudon
While the character of the Egyptian revolution remains ambiguous, the nature of the Tunisian revolt is more clearly communist in nature.
Fahem Boukadous is a journalist who was in prison when the Tunisian demonstrators forced president Ben Ali to flee the country. A member of the Workers Communist Party of Tunisia, “he does all he can every day so that the great opportunity opened by the revolution will not be lost.”
Because of that, Fahem Boukadous is content. He is a happy man. Released on January 19, five days after the flight of the dictator, he hit the streets in a Tunisia turned upside down by the revolution. He was in prison for six months, and it was not the first time he suffered the rigors of the dictatorship. In 1999, after going through the torture chambers of the ministry of interior, was sentenced to three years in prison, of which he served 19 months before receiving a presidential pardon.
An exceptional witness of the 2008 revolts in the mining area of Gafsa, in the Redeyef region, he was again imprisoned in 2010 for his role in promoting an activist journalism that unveiled those protests, which are considered the dress rehearsal for the ongoing revolution in Tunisia.
What is the relationship between the revolts of 2008 and the revolution of 2011?
On the one hand, there is the lesson of resistance that the Redeyef residents and the entire mining area contributed, which accumulates in the collective memory of the country. The second point is the participation in the 2008 movement of unemployed university graduates, one of the forces today [leading] the revolutionary process. The third is the importance of “popular media”. Al-Hiwar TV and home CDs have been replaced by Facebook, through which the jaw of censorship was broken.
Did it have anything to do with US?
I do not think there was any US intervention to facilitate the fall of the dictator. The revolution has caught the great powers off balance. Yes, of course, now they maneuver for “stability”, but they are sure they cannot stop the process of change.
Is it finished, the Ben Ali regime?
The regime is still there, not only within the police and the state apparatus, but also in the media and the internet. We must seize the moment to create new media and new formats. We must also establish a coalition between Tunisian and foreign journalists because we need experience and training.
What happened in Tunisia has had great international repercussions.
Tunisia has unexpectedly put in motion an avalanche that is not only one of “emulation”, it is a true “revolutionary rivalry” or “positive competition” that is now shaking Egypt, the epicentre of the Arab world. What happens there will impact on this country again.
The revolution rose from the centre and south og the country and there it returns and there it continues… The revolution is not the capital. The Qasbah is just one of many expressions of protest, a symbol, no doubt because it attracts the attention of the media, but the revolution began in the provinces and there it is still very active. The other day, 80,000 people demonstrated in Sfax and then the city has been paralysed by a general strike. In Gafsa, Sidi Bouzid, in Tala … there are rallies and protests.
How do you evaluate the relationship of the Tunisian left with the European left?
During the Bourguiba years, relations between the Tunisian and European left were very strong. Then, under the harsh repression of Ben Ali, solidarity contacts have been more on an individual basis, but they have helped us greatly to resist. The Workers Communist Party of Tunisia (PCOT) maintains contact with some forces of the Marxist left in France, in the Spanish state in particular with the Spanish Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of Raul Marco. The demonstrations these days in different European capitals have been very important, not only moral support but as pressure on EU governments, which have been so complicit with the dictator.
What is the unfinished business of the Tunisian left?
By its very nature, the left is international. There is no singularly Tunisian left. And we all must pull together, overcoming sectarianism, to reclaim this minimum common denominator: not only the struggle against the local dictatorship, but against imperialism.
Some pictures have shown Tunisian demonstrators with flags and symbols of the left, something that has proved shocking to many people in Europe.
In Tunisia there are thousands of leftist activists. During the hardest years of repression, our forces were scattered and hid. But today they are returning. The problem is we have no trained leaders to give direction to the new militancy.
Information management is showing itself to be crucial these days, both in Tunisia and Egypt. What should we do to prevent the corporate media that serves the Empire from taking the upper hand?
It is essential to build an international coalition of left-wing journalists and to organise internationally to produce new formats and new media capable of combating prejudices of the self-serving mainstream media.
The Tunisian revolution is clearly secular in nature. Islam is playing little, if any, of a role.
In my view, the Egyptian revolution is following a similar course. Islam will play more of a role in Egypt because the Muslim Brotherhood is far stronger there. However, though Islam will be used by the revolutionaries to win over the masses, I believe the Marxist revolutionaries will be the real power behind the throne.