Below is rough translation of a briefing paper on Tunisia issued by the International Commission of the militant trade union Solidaires. c) The underground opposition had two main streams: A powerful social movement A large number had been imprisoned and / or torture, and yet does not renounce the struggle, not hesitating not to openly defy the cops and spies who were following their footsteps. Many knew of long and complex networks which mixed pell-mell political affiliations current or past, family ties, geographic origins, etc..including: The Role of Labour The Regional Union of Tunis, as it should be, is the main inter-professional structure of the UGTT confederation . Long subservient to power, it had recently switched to being critic, at least part of the regime. It is o wonder that under these circumstances, the 27 December rally in the prestigious square in front of the headquarters of the UGTT earned the Secretary General of the UGTT a public repudiation nominally denouncing the union's general secretary of secondary education union who had spoken at protests and raised hostile slogans against Ben Ali chanted by the demonstrators . A sign of the times was the posting on the Union Centre the December 30 statement by the French Inter-Union clearly denouncing the regime, and supporting the unionists who had protested on December 27 . The French government and employers are now possible to ensure that the former regime can continue to exist without the dictator. They are closely linked to the Mafia who plundered the country for decades thanks to the combined pressure of unemployment and repression, they were able to have a qualified workforce at a low price. For them all this must continue. 1 - General Union of Tunisian Students Note rough English translations of the original French statements can be found at
Solidarity and Internationalism
The tragic death of Mohamed Bouazizi, 17 December last, was the starting point of a wave of struggles unprecedented since fighting for independence. This act symbolized, indeed, all ills Tunisia. He was a young, who like many others, he had no real job prospects and had to settle for a small job to survive.
Millions of Tunisian recognized themselves in him, and especially young people felt this to a greater degree. The event that triggered his action was the seizure of his stock of fruits and vegetables by the police under the pretext he sold them without permission. And perhaps most importantly, the fact that he was publicly humiliated and beaten by authorities when he tried to recover his stock.
Being subjected to such arbitrary practices has been the daily lot of Tunisians for decades. To avoid such practices, it was necessary to take the path of image of the ruling party (the RCD - Constitutional Democratic Rally), to bribe the mafia and conspicuously display the photo of the president.
For years, this system was able to function: the vast majority of the population was terrorized by an organisation whose size exceeded the number of school teachers, informed by a multitude of informers receiving in return a few crumbs. Tens of thousands have had their lives broken by the prison and torture.
The culmination of a cycle of struggle
This single gesture of despair by Mohamed would probably not lead to a revolution if it had not entered in the cycle of struggles begun in the mining area of Gafsa Redeyef in 2008. These symbolise all the flaws of the regime, which could not be seen at the time, present throughout the rest of the country. It finds, however similar ingredients:
Massive unemployment, caused by the frantic mechanisation of the mining of phosphates, for jobless there was no hope of re-entering the workforce in this region with a mono-industry, which once saw workers flowing into it both from Tunisia and neighbouring countries.
Corruption, with competitive examinations to enter mining rigged by the mafia in power of competitive examinations in mining, was the cause of the massive mobilisation of people, especially youth.
In the struggle against repression, Tunisian trade unionists found themselves elbow to elbow with lawyers and human rights activists in refusing to compromise with the authorities. In the years that followed, several local social explosions took place, but they also remained isolated.
In late December 2010, fear has suddenly changed sides
Very quickly after the gesture of the young Sidi Bouzid, mobilizations were held at the site and in other regions. This movement was marked by several characteristics:
1. The slogans of the demonstrations have evolved very rapidly
Dominated the early emotion and anger, then quickly have expressed social demands:
“Work is a right, work is not charity! " They are combined with democratic claims“Freedom!”, “Interior Ministry, Terrorist Ministry!”.
Gradually, the watchwords have taken a more political character, denouncing the mafia in power: “Gang of thieves! Trabelsi! Bandits! (Trabelsi is the surname of the wife of Ali bin) “No President for Life!” “Police, wake up and join the fight”. All of which are synthesised in the slogans such as “Bread, water, yes, but not Ben Ali, Ben Ali, out!”
There were no Islamist slogans to be heard, unlike the scarecrow stirred for previous 23 years by Ben Alito justify his dictatorship.
2. Multiple sectors of the population entered in the action: unemployed, unionists, lawyers, human rights activists, journalists, feminists, artists, high school and university students etc.
3. These mobilizations have affected the entire country, unlike what in 2008 with that of mining area of Gafsa, and then for other local explosions.
4. For once, the mobilizations were known fairly quickly abroad, some media being referring to Ben Ali as the Ceausescu of Tunisia. Their impact is particularly significant in other Arab countries that suffer the brunt of the financial crisis and the policies of the IMF and the World Bank.
5. Part of the international political establishment has begun to make their prudish distance (USA, European Union). The Sarkozy government and part of the Socialists have persisted until the last day in their support for this plan.
Political forces in Tunisia
The dictator gone, it remains as to how power should be exercised and how politics is to be conducted.
Before the time of Ben Ali, during the time of the two presidents following independence, a single political party, the RCD, consisted of local militias and money. The RCD party: it has been for forty years one-party state, combining the features of the former dictatorships of Eastern Europe and neoliberal policies closely linked to the Western world.
This system has enabled a veritable looting of the country by the family and in-laws of the President. He also permitted the maintenance of a large customer is seeking to enrich themselves, or simply survive by accepting in exchange, singing the praises of the regime or participating in the heavy policing of the rest of the population. All this has not prevented the RCD being, for years the official section of the Socialist International!
In this type of mafia system, the space for other political parties has so far been singularly reduced.
a) The small satellite parties of the Ben Ali regime: their main function was to convince foreigners looking for excuses to support the dictatorship, that pluralism existed. They play no role in the current political debate.
b) The legal opposition agreed periodically to "dialogue" with power, in exchange for some parliamentary seats. Most sought until the end to find arrangements with Ben Ali. After his fall, they then accepted, at least momentarily, the Ministerial positions that have been offered. Found in this Category: Ettajdid Ahmed Brahim (former Tunisian Communist Party who followed a pattern similar to that of its Italian counterpartclosely linked to France through the ATF (Association of Tunisians in France);
In the actions, Ennahada denies wanting to use violence, and this trend has pronounced publicly (As at a meeting in Paris on January 15) for equal rights between men and women. Under the dictatorship, Ennahda did not hesitate to work within the 18 October Coalition with the forces of the legal secular-left (PDP FDTL), or even a Marxist like PCOT (Tunisian Workers' Communist Party). This current raises fears especially among youth and women, about sincerity of its evolution on secularism and women’s rights.
As often happens in dictatorships is the social movement that has played, in fact, the role of counter power. They included most of those venturing past dozens of years to raise their heads proudly against the dictatorship: unionists, activists of the legal and illegal left, lawyers, students, feminists, artists, Journalists, human rights activists, etc.
The UGTT, the sole trade union centre, was the origin of the Tunisian national movement time of In Tunisia, everyone claims Hached Ferhat, a founder of Tunisian unionism who was assassinated in 1952 by the far right with the help of colonial French secret service. The UGTT is largely a child of the French CGT (), but a break occurred in the postwar period, following the refusal of the PC and PS to support the claim of independence. The UGTT was then closer to the nationalist movement embodied by Bourguiba, also affiliated with Socialist International. The history is the result of complex interactions between UGTT and the Tunisian State.
Once in power, Bourguiba sought to use the prestige of UGTT to establish its domination, where a perpetual informal struggle occurred over the direction of the UGTT between two great currents:
To give two examples: The secretary of UGTT for the region of Gafsa was simultaneously MP in Ben Ali’s party and boss of companies engaged in subcontracting work for the mining of phosphates. He was personally involved in the shenanigans regarding recruitments in the mines for the benefit of members of his tribe. Faced with popular mobilization against this injustice, it is simply suspended Local trade unionists who were involved in the mobilisation. And to top it all, it was officially supported by the national leadership of the Union Centre, the official in charge of the case was of the same tribe as himself, and presented the popular mobilizations as the work of dangerous extremists! The green light was given and repression against members of his own trade union organization that were imprisoned and some of them tortured. But simultaneously another part of the UGTT, whose unions in Education and Post & Telecommunications  took up the cause for Redeyef Gafsa defendants. Finally, the centre was forced to give their positions to the Redeyef unionists n the eve of the trial, including financial support to them and their families.
After a vigorous internal debate, the majority supported the other direction, with a January 4 statement supporting the movement . Then on January 11, made a call giving unions, at the local regional and sectoral level throughout the country to call strikes . Three representatives of the UGTT had been nominated by the General Secretariat to serve in the first government following the fall of Ben Ali. The Administrative Commission of the UGTT on January 18  and on January 21 required the Government’s resignation .
The Role of International Solidarity
For many years, exiled Tunisians have patiently participated in construction organizations in solidarity with the struggles for human rights, such as the FTCR or CRDLHT . Refusing to retreat into communalism, resolutely secular, they have tirelessly sought to involve the militants from other countries. Featuring a dual culture, and sometimes a double nationality, and they were indeed aware a part of the fight was played in the former colonial power. Faced the close economic ties, political and financial ties between the haves and politicians from both sides, it was the close economic, political and financial between the haves and politicians from both sides, it was necessary to isolate the regime of Ben Ali with the convergent action of the exploited, oppressed and defenders of human rights in different countries.
In order to circumvent censorship, they have gathered information published documentation, , organized meetings, rallies, demonstrations, etc. They have made many contributions, along with French and Moroccan organisations, the formation of the North African Solidarity Collective which is also involved with Sidi Bouzid Partners. They have helped French unions to get involved in this fight.
French Trade Unionism and Tunisia
The links between French trade unionism and Tunisian trade unionism are old. Given our history recent links of the Trade Union Solidarity are less old. They rely on irregular exchanges some structures as clearly opposed to power since 2002, between of postal and telecommunications and since 2008 with those of education, Redeyef etc. Acceleration occurred recently at the sectoral level. In February 2011, a Tunisian trade unionist working a call centre participates, for example, in a workshop on this during the World Social Forum in Dakar.
This acceleration occurred also between French unions, with the establishment about two years ago, a collective of trade union support for the struggles in Tunisia involving the CGT, CFDT, FSU, UNSA and Solidaires, which FO recently joined . Organizations run by exiles Tunisians have played a major role in the establishment of the French inter-union collective, organized meticulously our trips to Tunisia, restarting every time when necessary. Overall, French Centres, have made four or five trips to Gafsa, along with exciting exchanges in Tunis with various structures of the UGTT, the LTDH, lawyers etc... The welcome of the management of the UGTT Confederation was generally limited to the “bare minimum”. They once even refused to receive the French inter-union, declaring they considered their presence as a hostile act towards the UGTT.
Build the solidarity movement
Tunisia's fate rests fundamentally on the development of popular mobilization within the country. But the Tunisian activists in Tunisia and France, more than ever are in urgent need of solidarity from the French trade union movement. They expect us to increase pressure on the French authorities, who were compromised, until the last day, with Ben Ali. Minister Alliot-Marie even suggesting the French Police aid Ben Ali! .
If Ben Ali's plane was turned back, it was only because the French government was afraid of
It avoids having to respond with extradition requests in the near future. If measures have been announced against capital tied to the Ben Ali regime, it is for the same reason, we act so these measures are effectively implemented. For activists in Tunisia and France to also ensure that the property of Ben Ali in these two countries be returned to the Tunisian people.
The link between our partners is not always the greatest simplicity. The secular left current
for the first time with Ennhada under the collective Sidi Bouzid. This made it more difficult to link with groups of young Tunisians living in France, including collective of students, anxious for autonomy, involving women, hostile or reluctant to with Ennhada. These contradictions are present in the various initiatives of solidarity and also partially overlapping inter-generational questions.
Some emergency measures
Most Tunisian organizations present in France have agreed to jointly promote a number of immediate demands. Several French organizations, including the Trade Union , have decided to support them in their approach. This platform is based on the following:
2 - In 2009, the general union of secondary education had 55 000 members, for a total of 82
000 employees. Rate unionization in post and telecommunications was around 50%.
3 - Greater Tunis has about 3 million inhabitants, for a Tunisian population of 10 million.
4 - Article published in the press on 28 December 2010 and posted on the website of the
5 - Statement of the French inter-union 30 December
6 - UGTT statement of 4 January 2011 www.ugtt.org.tn/userfiles/statement(1).pdf
7 - UGTT statement of 11 January 2011
8 - UGTT statement of 18 January www.ugtt.org.tn/fr/actualitees-details.php?id=624
9 - UGTT statement of 21 January www.ugtt.org.tn/fr/actualitees-details.php?id=623
10 - Federation of Tunisian citizens of both banks http://www.citoyensdesdeuxrives.eu/
Committee for the Respect of Human Rights in Tunisia www.crldht.org
Tarek Ben Hiba mailto:t.benhiba%20@%20gmail.com
Mouhieddine Cherbib firstname.lastname@example.org
Kamel Jendoubi email@example.com
11 - See for example the press release dated May 20, 2010
See also the statement of January 13, 2011 www.solidaires.org/article34686.html
12 A selection of statements by French political officials is available on
In addition to this newsletter, you can find materials related to international news and material from the International Committee of Solidaires on our website at the following address: http://www.solidaires.org/article12420.html.
c) The underground opposition had two main streams:
A powerful social movement
A large number had been imprisoned and / or torture, and yet does not renounce the struggle, not hesitating not to openly defy the cops and spies who were following their footsteps. Many knew of long and complex networks which mixed pell-mell political affiliations current or past, family ties, geographic origins, etc..including:
The Role of Labour
The Regional Union of Tunis, as it should be, is the main inter-professional structure of the UGTT confederation . Long subservient to power, it had recently switched to being critic, at least part of the regime. It is o wonder that under these circumstances, the 27 December rally in the prestigious square in front of the headquarters of the UGTT earned the Secretary General of the UGTT a public repudiation nominally denouncing the union's general secretary of secondary education union who had spoken at protests and raised hostile slogans against Ben Ali chanted by the demonstrators . A sign of the times was the posting on the Union Centre the December 30 statement by the French Inter-Union clearly denouncing the regime, and supporting the unionists who had protested on December 27 .
The French government and employers are now possible to ensure that the former regime can continue to exist without the dictator. They are closely linked to the Mafia who plundered the country for decades thanks to the combined pressure of unemployment and repression, they were able to have a qualified workforce at a low price. For them all this must continue.
1 - General Union of Tunisian Students
Note rough English translations of the original French statements can be found at