This post is a part of a new series of posts which will consist of translations and excerpts from the communiques, statements, pamphlets and other literature from left-wing political parties in the Arab world, especially Tunisia (others as well, Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania in particular). The selections will focus on foreign policy, women’s issues, relations with other political factions (mainly Islamists and other leftist tendencies), ideology, rhetoric and general worldview. The purpose of this series is to put into English elements of the contemporary Arab political discourse which are generally neglected in western and English-language reportage and analysis while the of Islamist tendency receives extensive, if not excessive coverage. The translations in this series should not be taken as this blogger endorsing or promoting the content of particular materials: the objective is to increase access to and understanding of the contemporary Arab left by making its perspectives known, especially in areas of interest and relevance to English-speakers. This series will include both leftist and Arab nationalist [party] documents, statements, communiques, articles and so on. The series will attempt to touch on as many of the main (and interesting) leftist parties as possible.
Recent posts have focused on translations of the communiques, tracts and documents of Arab, mainly Tunisian (so far), leftist parties as part of a post series hoping to raise awareness and consciousness of the contemporary Arab left on key political questions among English-speakers. This post includes some images and a summary of reports on the first session of the party congress of one of the parties given particular attention in the first stages of this post series (“Studies”): the Tunisian Communist Workers’ Party (PCOT).
The Tunisian Communist Workers’ Party (PCOT) held the first session of its first party congress as a legal organization on 22 July (the congress lasts from 22-24 July in Tunis). It featured foreign delegates and guests from Europe, Latin America, the Arab world (press reports and releases highlight the presence of Palestinian communists at the meeting in particular). The atmosphere was playful though the attendees did not fill the venue (estimates by those in attendance put the number at between 1,700 and 2,000 people). Leader Hammami gave a speech in which he defended the party from accusations of involvement in violence, lobbied indirect attacks against “the forces of regression” (this along with other comments that can be seen as indirect attacks on an-Nahda and the transitional authorities who have accused the PCOT and Islamists of being “extremists” stoking recent unrest)¹, urged party members and followers to register to vote in the upcoming constituent assembly elections and stressed the need for ongoing efforts to reach the “objectives of the revolution” which was described as “a revolution of the people not by a coup”. He also praised the role of Tunisian women in the January uprising, saying that Tunisian deserve full political equality due to their long struggle. The congress began with a moment of silence for Tunisians who died in the uprising, with a performance by musicians playing “the International” and other songs sung by Rym al-Banna (who sang draped in Tunisian and Palestinian flags) and chants from attendees such as (all of these rhyme in Arabic):
خبز حرية كرامة وطنية (!Bread! Freedom! National dignity)
الشعب يريد الثورة من جديد (!The people want a new revolution)
الشعب يريد اسقاط النظام (!The people want the downfall of the regime)
الشعب يريد تحرير فلسطين (!The people want the liberation of Palestine)
Below are pictures taken by Lina Ben Mhenni, a Tunisian activist and blogger who also happens to be a friend of this blogger, posted to Facebook. She also posted this video. Translations of banner slogans are included.
The slogan on the second line of banner overhead (the writing on the first line reads “The Tunisian Communist Workers Party) reads: من اجل استكمال مهام الثورة “For completing the tasks of the revolution.”
The slogan reads: من اجل اجر ادني صناعي وفلاحي موحد لا يقل عن 400 دينار “For a minimum wage for industrial and agricultural (workers) no less than four hundred dinars.”
The banner says: من اجل القاء المديونية الخارجية والمقطع مع كل اشكال النهب والمسيطرة على مصير الوطن “For shedding foreign debt and breaking with all forms of plunder and control of the country’s destiny.”
The slogan here is: من اجل تعليم مجاني في كافة مراحله “For free education at all levels.”
The stands and back floor.
Followers in the back stands. Other Che Guevara banners were visible as well.
PCOT party leader Hamma Hammami at the podium addressing the party congress.
A flyer for the PCOT’s congress: كوامة/حرية/اشتراكية “Dignity, freedom, socialism”; below the hammer and cycle: السلطة للشعب “Power to the People”.
 The party has recently faced accusations from the transitional government and others alleging that the party has been subverting the country through demonstrations and rabble rousing that have caused recent violence. The party says the police and agents of the old ruling party, the RCD, have been the source of violence and the PCOT’s leader has called for an independent investigation to establish the time line of events during recent disturbances. Earlier this month, a crowd gathered outside the hall the PCOT planned to hold a meeting, tearing down posters and blocking the meeting from taking place; party leaders blamed the interior ministry and police. Similar incidents have taken place with other political parties; violence between religious activists and secular parties has also taken place.