‘Socialists’ oppose broad alliance to democratise Tunisia

On Tuesday the Guardian pubished an excellent article by Soumaya Ghannouchi on the Tunisian revolution in which she outlined two alternative roads out of the current political crisis:

The first involves a recycling of the old regime with a few cosmetic amendments. That is the strategy of the so-called “unity government”, announced by Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi today, a man who had served for years under the fallen dictator. It excludes the real forces on the ground, which genuinely reflect the Tunisian political landscape: independent socialists, Islamists and liberals. The unity government seems intent on turning the clock back, behaving as if the revolution had never been, reinstalling the loathed ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), with all the same faces – bar Ben Ali’s, of course – and the same security machine. That is why protests have erupted again in many cities, with “Ben Ali out” changed to “RCD out”.

The alternative strategy – and the task now facing the Tunisian people – is to build a wide coalition of the forces that can dismantle the legacy of the despotic post-colonial state and bring about the change their people have been yearning for decades. This has been the driving force for the alliance being forged between the Communist Workers’ Party, led by Hamma al-Hammami, the charismatic Moncef al-Marzouqi’s Congress Party for the Republic, and Ennahda, led by my father Rachid Ghannouchi, along with trade unionists, and civil society activists.

You might have thought that support for a broad alliance of those forces campaigning for the democratisation of Tunisia would be welcomed by anyone outside of the ranks of the ruling RCD. But you’d be wrong. Yesterday’s Guardian featured two two letters denouncing Soumaya Ghannouchi’s article, both of which were written by supporters of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, a far-left sect notorious for its obsessive hostility towards political Islam.

You’ll note that Soumaya’s AWL critics don’t make the slightest effort to analyse the actual political character of Ennahda. Indeed, an article in the latest issue of the AWL paper Solidarity entitled “Islamist threat in Tunisia?” begins: “We don’t know how strong the Islamist threat is in Tunisia.” In fact the AWL doesn’t know anything about Islamism in Tunisia full stop. But ignorance is no obstacle to such sectarian dogmatists. Mark Osborn and Sacha Ismail don’t need to acquire any actual knowledge of the Ennahda party, its history, its principles or its programme. Why should they? For the AWL, the idea of an alliance between the left and an Islamist party is excluded as a matter of principle, whether its purpose is to mobilise public opinion against imperialist war or to displace a corrupt one-party dictatorship. We can at least take consolation in the fact that there is not the remotest prospect of the AWL influencing political developments in Tunisia – or anywhere else for that matter.