Med Ali Ltaief





First of all, as far as the period of colonialism is concerned, there is definitely a strong connection. There is definitely a strong and significant connection between direct colonization during the French colonial period, and indirect colonization (during the capitalist regime), because whenever we think of economy and make an economic analysis, we say that it was a capitalist regime that followed. We say it was a capitalist regime that followed, which means that the independence in 1956 was an illusion. It was just on paper, an agreement that was signed by Bourguiba and the French colonizer, the head of the French regime during this period. So there is most definitely a connection with colonialism.

On the other hand, there are two sides, I believe, there are two sides.

There is the side of the regime or any of the authority’s relationship with the people. Here exists a connection between the French authority that settled in Tunisia at that time and Ben Ali’ s regime that had done the same by forcing itself on the people of Tunisia. This means that there exists a connection that we can evaluate and speak about.

There is a revolutionary connection too, because the people revolted against the French occupation with the help of techniques, of movements, methods, slogans and historical assemblages, be it at the level of trade unions, at the level of the Free Tunisian Destour Party or at the level of FALLAGA, the people who struggled in the mountains.

So there surely exists a big connection because we always reflect with reference to history. We can not reflect, we can not make, we can not leave the frame of this history, neither the frame of the history of national liberation nor the frame of people’s history.

First of all, I am sure that the people of Tunisia, I do not want to say let its revolution be inspired by the national liberation, but the national liberation enters the Tunisian people’s revolutionary mind. The revolutionary techniques have advanced because during that period people were neither educated, attached to any political party, nor politically minded and so on. There was a national perception that the country’s liberation was a duty because the country had reached a period during which it could not advance any more. There was a blockade. There was a feeling of unjustness, a feeling of repression, a feeling of authoritativeness, a feeling of looting of the resources. All these feelings existed during Ben Ali’ s regime. These feelings and all the economic problems that existed among other things during Ben Ali’ s regime, but with another sign, with the sign of a national, elected, legitimate government, of this whole political decor that was designed by Ben Ali. So there exists a dialectic connection. Marx says, “Dialectic itself is revolutionary”. Here, they were taking the connection out of its historical frame. This means if we make two projections concerning the two revolutions, you would find that they do not differ a lot because Ben Ali’ s regime was a colonial regime. He was a police president who was for imperialism, for the new globalization, for the capitalist and the international system who came under the pretext of saving the country and so on, just like the French colonials came under the pretext of protecting and saving the country, of protecting it from this and that. The same tricks and lies. In the beginning, the people believed (it) because there are always mental levels, levels of reflection and of cooperation. There are those who ally and those who live with the regime like the people from the infantry and so on, who were living with the French regime. But in a period of time when the contradictions mature, the people, the moment of the revolution, there is, I would say, a time. I do not know what could possibly happen,  an explosion like in 1952, when the armed struggle in Tunisia broke out. It was the same for me, when Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire on the 17th of December. This was the initial spark for the battle that was started against an authoritative regime, against a regime that loots the people’s resources, against a regime that steals the people’s money, scourges the people, recruits mercenaries, exports that money for foreign investments, an open door for all multinational companies, information and so on. What is the difference between the French colonial regime and Ben Ali? The only difference is that the French regime came in another period of time and under another sign and that is it.

But if we analyze the reality of the Tunisian people, there exists an improvement because time evolves and proceeds. We were not like in the year 1940, today we live in 2011, but (there is) the same repression, the same authoritativeness under another heading because capitalism abandoned the project of direct colonialism and followed other procedures within the new globalization. Rulers have been subjecting their people for years and nobody has spoken up. Until today, people in Yemen are killed every day, and the international community is content with condemnation. I assume that what links these two revolutions, not in terms of revolutions, but in terms of a national feeling, is that this country was stolen. It is a duty to get the country back and to get back the people’s right to acquire their land, their goods, their dignity and their right. It is a big heading that links these two periods.

I do not know if they wanted us to talk about the level of techniques of resistance. Surely, the techniques have changed because this revolution was not an armed revolution, it was not an organized revolution and it was not a revolution lead by a political party or a national movement like the national movement in 1928 and from 1952 to 1956. It was a public revolution without any signature, a public revolution without any signature, in which unionists, students, marginalized people, the new proletariat and parties participated. A group of struggling parties supported, sustained and brought its youth and its functionaries to the sit-ins, the demonstrations and so on. They were not (participating) on a big level, on a mass level. So surely, they did not expect anything. But there exists an essential connection between these two revolutions.

I was among the first people who were calling for a repetition of this memory’s stimulation, the memory of the Tunisian people’s resistance against the French colonizer, which we have lost in the period of the 60’s and 70’s. There was no more stimulation of the national memory, we move forward with it and bring it to the level of resistance through its rootedness. So it is not an absurd level of…no, no through its rootedness, which means that it is rooted on an economic, cultural and social level. You hold up big banners against this regime and the international system. It is the role of intellectuals, the role of politicians, the role of unionists, the role of artists and the role of creative people to identify with their people’s culture, but without an identification that is identity-related and without leaving their present behind them. No, no, they think about their present. They do not forget their past. There is a heritage, there are emotions, there is a glorious history of the Tunisian people that have introduced tens, hundreds or thousands of martyrs. So the connection is a dialectic connection, a historical connection, a very important connection.




Common banners were (found), for example, on the level of stealing the resources. The “Where is your land, farmer?” banner was also held up in the battle of the national liberation because large agricultural estates were the property of the French settlers in Tunisia…(they were) on the level of stealing, on the economic level and on the level of dignity as well. They were on the economic level, on the level of dignity, which includes freedom and so.




I think that…(to add) the last point concerning the first question, I think that the biggest lesson for the dimension of the historical connection between the national liberation and the peoples’ struggle at the present time, the disadvantaged people’s struggle today, is the experience of Latin America because in Latin America, movements and battles for the national liberation have been connected and have been important. The first and direct reasons for the outbreak of revolutions and the outbreak of uprisings since the 16th century; from the battle of the students’ movement in Chile in 1923 to the Abra movements, the Zapatista movements and all movements like, for example, the Bolivian front in Venezuela. All these movements, the Red Church, Carlos, all these movements were based on a popular vision of resistance to colonialism that was rooted with Marx’s philosophies and literature; progressive, combative literature and so on. So this is a very important connection because, the human being is not a stranger within its people. It is part of its people and a part of its culture, a vision of its people. It is a component that is not separable from humanity, how can we make our problems become an inseparable component of problems of humanity? How can we be different and special at the same time?

This is an important connection. The experience of Latin America is the most wonderful concerning this level. As far as the question of a connection with the possibilities is concerned, for me, all possibilities exist.

This means that now “other things become possible”, “another world is possible”, as it is said with the slogan of the international social forum “other things become possible”, as spoken by Antonio Negri. All choices are open and can lead to comedy or to a dark rule, a rule of Islamists, but also to a democracy of the bourgeoisie. They can bring us back dictatorship or bring us to wider and larger dimensions because these revolutions still exist in Libya, still exist in Yemen, their spark has even reached China, Albania. People do not want to bring them to its worldwide and universal dimension. They want to confine them in, on the level of the Arab people. But the dimension of the circumstance of Muhammad Bouazizi is worldwide and universal. They are the first public revolutions of the 21st century because today, if we think of the beginning of the century, we are not isolated from the spark of the people’s revolts, of the people’s revolutions against wrong, authoritativeness and the new globalization. These are the first uprisings, the first revolutions. Surely, there still are battles, long battles, battles for years and years. All possibilities are kept open. This will always stay the extent of our willingness to bear our historical responsibility, to bear the responsibility for the people who died, for the martyrs, to bear the responsibility for this circumstance of Muhammad Bouazizi, for the escape of the police president Ben Ali and for taking this revolution to wider dimensions because in my opinion, it is neither the battle of a constituent assembly nor the battle of elections. Surely, there is an important electoral battle that is fought by political parties, but on the intellectual level and on the combative and political level it is more profound, larger, more remote, more memorable and more significant because it is an opening of the dimensions of all people. Nowadays, there is an accordance between all nationalities in the world. Today in Tunisia, you come across people from Asia, from Europe, people from Latin America.  These are indications, signs, important signs, that this revolution is the first public revolution, with a new method and a constructive and creative technique. How can we learn from it, how can we learn from our mistakes in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Yemen and bring it to a wider dimension. For me, the widest dimension is the preservation of connections with peoples, any formation or fixation of a republic or a state, in which there is a maximum of freedom and dignity, which enables a respectable life, which is less connected to capitalism and which preserves the connections with people up to the limits of the outbreak of revolutions in other places of the world. This is a bigger dimension. We have to root it with philosophy and find rapport with political parties and associations, with the singularities of struggling people today, regardless of whether they are outside, inside, right, left, north or south, so that we can go to worldwide and more remote dimensions.

There are two battles. There is the national battle that is fought against the regime on the level of tides. It requires a lot of alertness, a lot of political work and an update on the level of slogans and methods. Every stage requires observation, a temporary program and so on.

The second level is how we can bring it further away from the state, further away from the limitations that were drawn by colonialism. This is a dream. Of course, one day it will come true that people become free and know that the bourgeois democracy, the state and so on are not enough for the people who died a martyr’s death, for all the people who sacrificed themselves and all the people who suffered repression, authoritativeness, wrong and injustice. These are important things. This goes along with conditions. If the people today are, like Franz Fanon says, “a calm, mummified corpse that is still reflecting inside”, then surely (the answer is) “No!”, because today, political parties, intellectuals and artists must be on the level of this crowd’s (way of) reflecting, on the level of the people’s (way of) reflecting, without supercilious tactics and a lot of criteria which do not have any connection with the revolution. Of course on a level of classes, on an economic level and so on, there exists a connection. There is a proletariat, there are marginalized people, but there are also other factors, other developments, other existing signs on the level of being aware of people’s possibilities, the possibilities of that crowd on the battle field, because the people think that they are more combative, more imaginative and more aware concerning all the cognitive abilities, tactics, they think that people are not capable of doing that, this is dangerous. Secondly, people do not learn. This is a rapport of changes. Me as an intellectual, I try to convey a lot of ideas and phenomena that were experienced by my people. I also learn from my people. I learn from the miners, I learn from the people who work at the municipality, I learn from the people of Sidi Bouzid, from the unemployed people and so. This is a rapport of changes. How can we reflect together? This common democratic thread that unites people, different people, how can we lay the foundation for a democratic republic, a republic of the masses, a republic of the people who made the revolution, a republic of the bourgeoisie and of liberal parties? All these trivia that exist on the basis of our creating an authentic state in which we can install specialists concerning democracy and democratic transition like democratic and progressive parties, the reform movement and all the people who regard themselves as specialists in democracy. These are big questions. What is important for us is to answer them, but not today. We answer them daily. The response will not come today. There is a revolutionary evolution that is still in motion. The snowball is still rolling. The more we advance, the bigger and wider the dimension becomes.

The point of Latin America is just another answer to the first question. So the experience of Latin America is the clearest. It is a reference… There is a connection between the national liberation and present-day revolutions, people’s revolutions. So the revolutions of Latin America today are connected to the revolutions, to the battles of the national liberation in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th century in Latin America. There is a big connection because they reflect historically.

On the level of the revolution there is a perception. There is a perception of people, a first perception. There is a perception on the first level, a perception on the second level, a perception on the third level, a perception on the level of a whole century. There are people…a person who reflects, reflects more wide-ranging.

When Marx was thinking of what could come after the state in the 17th century, people thought he was crazy.

As far as the perception is concerned, the people consider it [the revolution] as being against the government. All of them, be it intellectuals or politically minded people, consider it as being against the government, against capitalism and against the international system.

People will awake after the elections and see that the revolution would possibly lead to a bourgeois democracy. The situation will be the same as for European people, and the revolution will be necessary, too, because this is not the solution.




First of all, reflecting is in progress. In other words, in 2008, I did not reflect like I reflect today, because reflecting and practice are always in progress. Ideas change everyday. So me, for example, during the period of frustration in the years of 2008 and 2009, I was assuming that Ben Ali’s regime can only fall with the aid of an armed struggle, although I was well-educated in new leftist philosophies, civil disobedience, civil resistance and so on. In fact, I admit that I only believed in armed struggle. At this point, the human being has to reflect carefully. The human being will always think of the present. These are lessons. Today, there are important lessons for the crowd. The Tunisian people’s revolution has taught us that a change is possible with naked breasts, with people who do not have arms and who are without knowledge, without thinking, without political parties, without advanced techniques, and it has triumphed…at least figuratively. This is important. How did we reflect before? Actually, who are we? Are we young people, are we students, are we party supporters, are we… or have I become a disbeliever?





First of all, the experience in the students’ union was very important because the students’ union is the only organization in the country, possibly in the manner of the trade union, that resisted and stayed. The students’ union was considered to be the oldest national organization, and it is the most important organization concerning the formation of a struggling youth. Even as far as the perception of political parties and movements is concerned, the school of the students’ union was considered as a school for the formation of cadres and the formation of people who are capable of playing a political role during the subsequent period because the experience of the students’ union is a unionist experience that teaches you how to negotiate with a sovereign or with a leader in conditions of repression and dictatorship, and how to alternate between the public and the private… the public and the private, not within a predefined meaning of what you can and what you can not say, what you can… you display yourself or present yourself every time according to the existing repression and the political, economic and social conditions that exist in the country.

The experience of the students’ union is very important because I have learned a lot of my ideas and my practices from the students’ union. It teaches you how to react and teaches you to get to know combative people, to get to know people who are not combative and to engage in an intellectual conflict with these people. Today there are achievements on the level of the revolution and there is a dispute that is carried out with a lot of political groups that exist within the students’ union. Apart from the fact that it is an important experience, I consider it as a duty because in conditions of repression and in conditions of dictatorship it was our duty to be on the spot and to test terrains. The students’ union was one of these terrains. I did not leave university, I am still at university, so I am still in the students’ union. I think that it is important on the level of resistance because it was not submitted to the students’ union to change, but moreover to resist… to resist with the meaning that it can still organize general assemblies and speak about the Trabelsi clan and Ben Ali’s regime, the international system and so on. To speak about the poor educational program, the system of duration and so on. It speaks about the students’ problems, the students’ accommodation and the suffering of the people who come from the provinces without a scholarship, without accommodation, with bad education, with an end… about a future of unemployment.

The experience of the students’ union is important on all levels, on the unionist level, the political level. You know you say that there are still people who resist in the country because we were reasonable in terms of this people, the Tunisian people, which taught us that after the revolution this was a pretense of the pretenses of the regime. It assumed that there are no combative people in the country. It assumed that all people are disloyal, mercenaries, members of the RCD and so on.

When we showed up at university and spoke, people were proud. Of course, this struggle is a struggle of the minority, but it [the minority] is important because it resisted, it connected us to the people, because we were waiting for a period of time… for the period of the outbreak of the representation of this connection with the people. Martyrs of this revolution were from the students’ union, be it the martyrs of Manzil Bouzyan or the martyrs of Sidi Bouzid. The students’ union was involved in the biggest battles that were fought by the Tunisian people, but not with its name, but with those who have struggled inside it for a period of years… MA students. We had fellows who were in prison during the period of the revolution, but they were released only after the 14th of January. So the students’ union participated, be it on the level of university, on the level movements, on the level of demonstrations and on the level of leaving university afterwards. The cause for the closure of universities was part of the decision of the curfew, and these were universities of Ben Ali.

I think that the role was very important despite all the intellectual and political conflicts. A lot of political parties and intellectual schools were more rooted. There were other more submissive schools whose view was shallow on the level of this uprising.

It seemed to be an uprising that would not result in a lot of splits or a lot of technical problems and problems, technical with an authoritative meaning concerning the technique of this authority, you get the impression that it is a democratic authority that presents itself on the basis of being for the woman’s freedom, elections, freedom of expression and so on. There are people who believed it. The role of the students’ union is very important. I was a part of it on a unionist and political level. It participated in all the demonstrations, all the gatherings, all the movements when the Tunisian people, when the spark was ignited. A group of people believed that during this time, this revolution would give something. Even in the period of the movements in January we had fellows who were imprisoned and punished in the dungeon of the interior ministry and only released after the revolution. I think that the role of the students’ union was very important, not on the level of its leadership or on the level of the execution office, (but) on the level of the people who struggled as a part of it and on the level of combative political parties that were a part of it. They played an important role during the revolution.