Tunisia: the dictatorship survives the dictator’s fall – A Reply to Morad Shirin

I generally agree with the analysis of the above article [published  here on 28 January] about the present situation in Tunisia. However I have some observation about the central slogan to be posed by the revolutionary Marxists in Tunisia (and other Arab countries) today.

Comrade Morad says: “The next step is for the masses to arm themselves so that they can smash the bourgeois state’s “armed bodies of men” and set up independent, mass-based and armed organisations”.

This is all very well. But before calling for the “arming of the masses”, one has to question, under which leadership the masses are organised? If they are under the influence of another bourgeois organisation like Hezbollah, it will be a mistake to call for this slogan now. In Iran armed masses were under the leadership of Khomeini and after the fall of the Shah, the situation of the masses, especially the working class, became much worse. Most of the left socialists were either executed or put in prison. The number of left organizations’ members murdered by the Islamic regime was much higher than those killed under the dictatorship of the Shah.

Though this slogan is generally correct, we have to be very cautious using this slogan. Without posing a transitional demand specifically for the present situation, “arming the masses” sounds like an empty and irrelevant slogan. We have to understand the call for arming the working class, by Revolutionary Marxists, is posed during the dual power situation where there are very clearly two camps: 1- revolution (proletariat and its party and soviets and allies) and 2- counter revolution (bourgeoisie and imperialism) are equally in conflict with each other, with more or less equal force. This is the final call for an insurrection by the soviets. This is NOT the situation in Tunisia today (nor is in Egypt or Algeria nor was it in Iran in 2009/10 or in Gaza strip or Lebanon). In these countries the oppressed masses are clearly under the influence of “radical” Islamists.

These leaderships have gained credibility amongst the poor masses as they have been helping them with their basic needs (schools, hospitals, food etc.) in recent years. But, nevertheless they are a bourgeois leadership and very reactionary one (as shown in Iran). The masses have not seen any of them in power (with the exception in Iran). The masses have illusions about these leaders.

So, in these countries, the Marxists have to pose some slogans that act as transitional demands which will lead to a dual power situation and arming the workers for overthrowing state power of the bourgeoisie (even their present leaders). In the absence of a vanguard party and soviets, that slogan can be a “revolutionary constituent assembly” controlled by the armed masses. This relates to the objective consciousness of masses (which at the moment is far from a socialist revolutionary consciousness). In the absence of the vanguard party (which has been correctly mentioned in the article), the slogan of “arming of the masses” can have opposite effect. It either leads to blind anarchism or the “armed masses” will be lead under another bourgeois leadership (today Hezbollah in Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Gaza and in Egypt Akhvan-Al Muslemin- The Society of the Muslim Brothers) which will prevent the revolution (by using the armed masses).

In the absence of soviets, when there is no self organisation of workers and no genuine leadership by the masses, the slogan of “arming the masses” and taking power could de facto mean accepting the leaderships of these reactionary leaders and encouraging them to come to power! The fact is that the masses and Marxists need a breathing space to expose these leaders. This cannot be anything but calling for a revolutionary Constituent Assembly.

All the present revolutionary situations can develop rapidly, if there is a clear leadership with clear transitional slogans which starts from the PRESENT consciousness of the masses and creates a bridge to socialist revolution through self organisations of the working class (at its centre the vanguard party) by the arming the masses.

Of course the Constituent Assembly is a bourgeois assembly (but most democratic one in history). At the present time this slogan relates to the consciousness of the masses (many thousands of poor and oppressed in the streets of Tunisia are calling for this assembly). This assembly will attract all parties, after the fall of the government in power. It is not a state or a government. Its function is to form the future government. It is controlled and organised by the armed masses that are fighting in the streets today against the dictatorship. In this assembly the Marxists will pose and fight for the programme of socialist society. While the bourgeoisie will have to defend private property. The open discussions in the mass media nationally and internationally, will show the true nature of all these leaders who claim to represent the oppressed masses. This process is the only hope to achieve a workers’ state on the mass consensus.

Comrade Morad, of course points out: “…progressive layers need to form their own organisations that make democratic decisions about their own affairs and, through representatives in an assembly of the exploited and oppressed, co-ordinate and implement their demands against the capitalist class and all its allies.” But surely this proposal is not a Constituent Assembly. It is only an assembly of some layers of the society. Besides, if the “exploited and oppressed” had genuine leaders (like soviets and vanguard party), then why should they strive for an assembly? They would prepare the workers’ revolution to take the state power in their hands. The purpose of posing the Constituent Assembly is that there is NO revolutionary leadership in any of the Arab countries to clearly break from the bourgeoisie and Imperialism. This has to be created. The quickest and surest method to create that is call for a revolutionary Constituent Assembly now.

Maziar Razi

30th January 2011


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