Below are translations of two communiques (originally in Arabic) from the Tunisian Communist Workers Party (PCOT). The first is a campaign statement in advance of the Constituent Assembly election in October, the second is a post-election statement explaining the party’s view of the elections and its performance. This is a ‘far left’ party which won three seats in the Constituent Assembly.
The PCOT was certainly in the ‘secular’ column insofar as the polarization between religious and secular parties was concerned and the party probably suffered, as has been noted, from its atheism/secularism and generally unabashed communism. Its rhetoric on religious issues has been laid out on this blog previously.
The party has historically had a hardline on religious matters and one can see this even in the translations below where campaign tactics involving houses of worship used by its opponents are compared to the behavior of the old Ben Ali regime. Its ideological tracts include harsh invectives against Rachid Ghannouchi and Islamist political philosophy and personalities in general. Some of these are rather nuanced, for instance its stance on the hijab (it ran candidates for the constituent assembly who themselves wore hijab). It also made an effort to appeal to religious voters by distancing itself from a stance against religious practice and religious people during this past summer. Being a communist party of the Enver Hoxha variety calls up certain connotations for many Tunisians and others. (they ran candidates under the name al-badil ath-thawri or Revolutionary Alternative, leaving out ‘communist’).
A party that declares itself committed to democracy and human rights but also has to explain its view of the dictatorship of the proletariat and its opinion of Marx or atheism is bound to face challenges in a country where many people are observant Muslims (it is worth mentioning that the PCOT was relatively less hostile toward the religious set during the campaign than the PDP, for example).
But there is a constituency for such a party in Tunisia and its members have gained some credibility from non-communists for having been rather harshly treated and detained under Ben Ali. Hard secularism proved less advantageous in October’s election and the overall results do not point to an Islamist take over and it is likely Nahdha and the center left and left wing parties in the new Constituent Assembly will have to compromise rather than impose narrowness on one another.
“Statement of the electoral list of the Revolutionary Alternative”
DATE: 1 October, 2011
Oh Voters! Oh Voters!
Facing the 23 October polls to elect the National Constituent Assembly which was called for by the people’s rebellion and imposed by the transitional authorities in order to make a final break with dictatorship and lay the foundations for a democratic republic to be achieve the goals of the revolution and launch a new phase in Tunisian history, enriched with the blood of the martyrs.
The founding team of the National Council will be the sole legitimate authority in the country after 23 October and its first task will be the drafting of a new constitution for Tunisia and secondly the appointment of a new government for the conduct of the affairs of the county until the election of new governing institutions and accordance with the provisions of the new constitution, terminating after the transitional period and should not in any case go beyond that.
Your voices will be crucial in this election to the NAtional Constituent Assembly and its members must be in the service of the revolution and work to meet the expectations of the Tunisian people and so that enemies of the revolution, from the leftovers of Ben Ali and his “mafia” to the reactionary parties and forces hanging around the authorities, will not be able to control the Council and use it to circumvent the revolution.
Oh Voters! Oh Voters!
The Workers Party, which has struggled since its inception in 1986 for the people to have a free and democratic Tunisia and participated in the overthrow of Ben Ali and continues to struggle to complete the tasks of the revolution, leads you in this carrying along with this name the name of ‘The Revolutionary Alternative’ and as its logo the hammer (the symbol of Worker) and sickle (the symbol of the Farmer).
The Workers Party promises you if you choose from its lists it will act as custodians of the blood of the martyrs and steadfast defenders of your interests in the Constituent Assembly and will work to translate into the new constitution your hopes and ambitions and to speed up the Council’s appointment of a new government to take the necessary actions to response to your urgent demands.
Oh Voters! Oh Voters!
The Workers Party wants to bring you a democratic republic based on:
- The principle of citizenship and equality among members of society;
- Full and effective equality between the sexes in the family, society and public life;
- Ensuring individual and public liberties and protection from abuse, whether from the State or any other group;
- Respect for the inviolability of the human self from the inviolability of his home and his private life and the criminalization of any violation of it;
- The principle of elections to set up all governing institutions;
- The referendum as an instrument of direct democracy;
- Respect for Islam as the faith of the major of the people and all other beliefs and convictions and ensuring the appropriate conditions for their free exercise and peace of mind without the intervention of the police and administration and without the use of the State by any party or group to justify oppression, exploitation or segregation between citizens and to undermine the unity of the people;
- A civil state in the State and its legislation and authority;
- The political system best suited to our country, at this stage, is the parliamentary system, the adoption of proportional representation, blocking the door to control by an individual or party yet again, where the community has a regime of “governors” and “authorized” and “deliberate” should end up with tyranny being replaced by regionalized councils and village assemblies subject to accounting and control;
- Justice and the independence of the judiciary can be achieved only if the conditions are set according to international standards, and that management cannot work unless it is eased in by the community and subject to the control of citizens and elected officials assure its neutrality from the parties;
- Security and stability rely not on repression but on respect for people’s freedom, rights and dignity and the security forces must work in service of the citizenry and the soldiers in service of the country and the people, not in service to the rulers;
- A Constitutional Court is necessary to monitor the law and respond to abuse;
- The foreign policy of the Tunisian revolution should be based on: resistance to colonialism, Zionism and reaction and should support the just cause of the Arab peoples and of the peoples of the world as a whole and the criminalization of normalization with the Zionist Entity by the National Constituent Council;
Oh Voters! Oh Voters!
Political democracy is meaningless without social democracy as the Tunisian people revolted against poverty, unemployment, marginalization, exploitation, corruption and regional inequality while raising the banner of social justice. And the Workers Party does not see a way to achieve this justice without out a radical economic change toward an economy in the service of the people and not in the service of local and foreign minorities whose only objective is the accumulation of profits.
The essential goods of the country should be, under the constitution, the property of the people with investments in improving training methods and individuals, hand-in-hand, without discrimination and the land of Tunisia should not be relinquished to any foreign company and that private property should have a social function.
The right to employment and education and fair and human treatment for the children of the working class and the poor free of charge and the right to adequate housing and transportation and culture and sports in a healthy environment and to social security should be constitutional rights. Care for those with special needs (disabilities) and for the needy and the elderly should be a made a constitutional duty of the state and society in order to avoid discrimination.
The strength of youth should take pride in their community and provide it with all the material and moral conditions to achieve this.
The family is the fundamental nucleus of society and the state should work to release it from physical burdens and change it into a morality based on love and mutual respect.
The Tunisian emigres are a part of Tunisia and should refrain from dealing with them as a source for the provision of hard currency and the state should pick up their cases and defend their moral and material interests and strengthen their ties to their country of origin.
Oh Voters! Oh Voters!
The founding National Council will appoint a new government to handle the affairs of the country until the election of the governing institutions. The Workers Party will, if it wins your trust and its candidates are elected, push the government to proceed with the processing of files in all seriousness on the political and social emergency:
- To establish transitional justice and accountability for the former regime and killers of the martyrs;
- Purge the security services, judiciary, administration and media and re-organize it on a democratic basis;
- Take urgent action for the benefit of disadvantaged areas;
- Activate a general amnesty and accelerate the compensation of families of the martyrs and victims of repression;
- Take concrete actions for the benefit of the people, bring down prices on basic consumer goods, increase private-sector wages and raise the minimum wage;
- Adopt the granting of unemployment benefits and the free movement of labor and the bringing the idle to work and removing …
- Retrieve money smuggled by Ben Ali and his gangs during the fascist era;
Oh Voters! Oh Voters!
The revolution proceeds towards completing its tasks and putting an end to decades — even centuries — of oppression and humiliation. Take your future in your hands and do not give an opportunity to the enemies of the revolution and know that the Workers Party and its comrades are with you on your journey until the final victory!
“Statement on the Constituent Assembly Elections”
AUTHOR: PCOT National Leadership
DATE: 29 October, 2011
This evening, Thursday 27 October, 2011 the “Election Commission” announced the preliminary results of the National Constituent Assembly elections. The Nahdah Movement came in first place, followed by the Congress for the Republic, Ettakatol, and al-Aridha . . . and the Tunisian Communist Workers Party received only three seats in Sfax, Kairouan and Siliana.
The Workers Party has gone to the door to participate in these elections, the first of their kind after the revolution that is open to all parties, intellectual and political currents, but it cannot on the on hand record that this election despite being marked by several impurities should stand defended by the truth and move away from the wooden language inherited from the era of Ben Ali and know only the glorification of ‘standing’ while hiding the facts from the people.
- The turnout did not exceed, according to official figures provided by the Supreme Body for Elections, 48.9 per cent, which means that the majority of voters (3,867,197 of 7,569,824 voters) did not participate, which represents a major weakness and the causes of this should be sought for in the political and social climate during the year of the elections.
- Money played a dangerous and dirty role in these elections, starting with the work the all too familiar “publicity policy” and acts of bribery, which was widespread in the form of “gifts” and “charitable and social services” which continued until the day of voting without an effort to put a stop to it by the Supreme Body.
- Because media, including the public media, has remained in the hands of agents of the former regime, the disposal of bias for the benefit of some parties at the expense of the others did not help the general public understand the stakes raised by the Constituent Assembly election and sometimes marginalized or blocked off issues in an ideological maze.
- The recruitment in mosques and public places made the election not free, for example, most of the speeches on Friday 21 October, 2011, only two days before election day led to tacit or open calls to vote for certain parties over others which it was claimed represented “religion” or that its followers “prayed” . . . which reminds us of the same methods used by Ben Ali.
- The tactics associated with some campaigns led to excessive distortions — despicable and backward — against the forces of revolutionary democracy, including our party, using accusations of blasphemy, swearing and cursing, and the various reactionary, anti-revolutionary forces participated against the interests of the Tunisian people, for the the bases of these campaigns was the goal of distracting attention from the real axes of political, economic, social and cultural conflict, tearing at the unity of the people on the basis of ideological fabrications.
- The many violations committed against the ballot, including by many workers at polling stations, included violations in the use of cars and buses to transport voters, especially those not “registered voluntarily”, the continuation of the campaign on polling day in front of stations in various ways, and incitement of voters toward one party or another, and [parties] providing voters with food and drinks at poling stations . . . These violations violated the principles of an electoral democracy, a certification of several monitoring bodies, observers and independent reports, affecting the integrity of the Constituent Assembly election and its transparency and they influenced the results in one way or another. The attempt by the Supreme Body to minimize their importance is not at all convincing in hiding the deficiency of this body in addressing these violations and abuses.
- The lack of an announcement of the results on time and the postponement of this more than once raises more questions about the transparency of these elections. Over the next few days we need to be shown some of the reasons for these delays.
- The Tunisian Communist Workers Party contributed to the election and was the first to advocate the election of a Constituent Assembly to break with the regime of tyranny. The Workers Party ran a clean campaign financially, morally and politically by focusing on programs and proposals and relied on the dependability of the energy of its activists who were faced with smear campaigns on a large scale in the media and brushed it off. The results the party obtained are weak, and do not reflect its influence and presence in the field and its history of struggle and its contribution to the sites of progress in the Tunisian people’s revolution against tyranny and dictatorship. While these results are important due to the climate of the year in which the elections took place, which we discussed, and the organs of the party will assess the reasons related to this [performance] and ways to overcome.
- The Workers Party, regardless of these results will continue to fight relentlessly for the workers and the working class and for other classes of people in order to complete the tasks of the revolution and bring about national, democratic and popular change. The Workers Party gained supporters and convinced them of its program, positions and credibility, which will be a solid base for launching a new and winning bets in the future.
The Workers Party salutes all those who stood by its side on the occasion of this election and who voted for the party, the people and their children, and promises them that its representatives in the Constituent Assembly will defend them will all its strength and the message they carry with them!
– The Tunisian Communist Workers Party National Leadership, Tunis 29 October, 2011