The translation below is an excerpt from the Tunisian Communist Workers Party pamphlet “On Secularism,” by Hamma Hammami other sections of which has been translated elsewhere on this blog. This excerpt was posted on the PCOT’s website on 27 October, 2011.
It is interesting that this was posted so close to the election; it appears to reinforce convictions in the rightness of the leftist perspective as non-communist forces gained on the party, especially in the Islamist tendency (who are mentioned explicitly; in PCOT literature الظلاميون ’obscurantists’ is often a euphemism for Islamists). The re-publication of this excerpt on the site can be seen as a part of the party’s reaction to the electoral environment in general; communist tendencies in most Arab countries today are non-conformist in that they are the opposite of dominant opposition and political forces which are accommodating of political Islam and religious views (which are vastly more popular), the market liberal economic consensus (especially among non-Islamist factions) and the predominant view of religion in society which is usually conservative and comfortable with having religion used as a core pillar of collective (including national) identity. It focuses on the changing nature of socially acceptable behavior and political ideas.
‘Ethics’ from ‘On Secularism’
Date: 27 October, 2011 (Originally 18 March, 1988)
History demonstrates the fact that there are many ethics. Ethics are sophisticated and their contents change across ages. There is a morality about slavery, feudalism, capitalism and socialism. It is the pattern of production that changes values such that what was acceptable yesterday is rejected today and what was ‘good’ yesterday is ‘evil’ today and so on. To simplify the matter and bring it closer to the mind of the reader let us cite examples from daily life.
An informed worker knows very well that a worker that breaks strikes and demonstrations his accomplices, ‘honest’ and ‘fair’ and his high moral character by some while in the eyes of his colleagues he is a traitor and a ‘pimp.’ The worker who participates and is active in strikes is known as ‘confusing’ and of ‘of a miserable sect’ to authorities but is seen as a bold and brave defender of justice in the eyes of his comrades.
On the other hand, women who are submissive, humiliated, docile and who accept for themselves all order of injustice is a righteous woman and ‘a daughter of the family’ in eyes of the patriarchal mentality of the reactionaries while a smart, liberal woman who lifts her head and struggles relentlessly for her rights is seen as ‘reckless’ and ‘bad’ and ‘poorly educated.’
Thirdly, we all know as well that many of the bearded ones who demonstrate piety and devotion are loons and thieves in hiding.
These three examples show that moral precepts are not just held by the community but vary according to class locations. Overall, a sound moral victor is always one with ethical precepts of justice, freedom and solidarity and the rejection of exploitation and oppression which are held by the downtrodden classes who do not have interests they need to defend by means of misinformation and fabrications.
The importance of secularism in relation to ethics is to remove the veil of the religious who hide behind them more than just thieves and wickedness and aggression and exploiters and subject morality to criticism and change in accordance with the requirements of economic, social and political progress. And this is the greatest fear of the obscurantists and other reactionaries, who are always in need of stereotypes especially ones taken from the menu of the unknown, in order to terrorize the poor and the oppressed.
This site is a good incentive for progressive forces to move forward, unafraid of difficulties, as a beacon in the constant search for truth because the truth alone is revolutionary.
– From the pamphlet ‘On Secularism,’ by Hamma Hammami, Tunis, 18 March, 1988