At least twenty three people died in an attack by gunmen at the Bardo museum in Tunis on 18 March, for which responsibility has now been claimed by the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ group. The CWI-Tunisia firmly condemns this atrocious and cowardly attack.
A wave of indignation and anger swept the whole country. Thousands of Tunisians spontaneously took to the streets to demonstrate their solidarity with the victims of the terrorist assault, which took the lives of innocent people, including a Tunisian worker who was part of the Museum staff.
This type of attack is unfortunately not very surprising. Recruitment activities and ideological indoctrination by jihadist groups have been on the rise for some time in Tunisia. This is helped by the ever-deepening social crisis, as well as by the complete breakdown of neighbouring Libya following Western imperialist intervention that left that country in ruins.
In recent years, thousands of Tunisians have joined the ranks of jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, including the ‘Islamic State’, making Tunisia one of the main sources of foreign fighters in these conflicts.
No to “national unity” with President Essebsi and the likes!
The government is trying to use the recent events to call for “national unity” in the face of terrorism. Tunisians should stand together indeed, but certainly not with such a rotten government, which includes a party with roots in the old dictatorship, and one with roots in right-wing religious fundamentalism. None of these forces can be trusted to lead the struggle against terrorism.
More than half of the MP’s of the ruling party Nidaa Tounes ("Tunisian Call") are former members or sympathizers of the ex-RCD (Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique), a party that for years used the “fight against terrorism” slogan to destroy civil liberties and stifle any opposition in the country. The deadly terrorist attack that took place in Djerba, in 2002, which killed 19 people, clearly shows that a dictatorial regime is by no means a bulwark against terrorism, contrary to what some are trying to sell us again today.
As for the leaders of Ennahda, their ideological connections with some fringes of the radical Salafist movement are now well established. That is why any illusion in any section of the capitalist ruling class has to be rejected.
President Essebsi recently offered his condolences for the death of the Saudi despot Abdullah, and invited the Saudi Prince Alwaleed to visit Tunisia. The Prince’s regime has exported, via pouring of billions, the poisonous Wahhabi ideology all across the region and beyond. Moreover the recent attack is in part a consequence of the catastrophic wars led by imperialist powers in the Middle East, with whom both ruling parties have been keen to collaborate.
No to terrorism, no to a return to a police state!
Army troops are deployed on the streets and following the terrorist attack many Tunisians might welcome such a move. But this deployment will not tackle any of the underlying problems. It might well be used to suppress other forms of opposition to the government’s rule and to stop people coming onto the streets in a way that would challenge the ruling powers.
The government will indeed try and use the schock and emotion caused by the recent attack to try and impose attack our basic rights and to re-impose heavy state machinery. At the same time, they will continue the disastrous anti-poor policies that alienate large sections of the population, and lay the basis for the growth of religious extremists. The need to put “all the nation’s efforts” into the fight against terror can also serve as a convenient pretext to put an end to strikes and social protests that are bubbling up in many sectors.
The current government has no serious answer to deliver in the face of terrorist violence. It only runs the risk of bringing the country into an endless spiral of violence, while using the pretext of the ‘war on terror’ to get rid of the legacy of the revolution and to restore a regime based on state terror.
Terror has not only one face: terror is also the continuation of torture in police stations, protesters being shot dead in the street, as happened again in Dehiba, last February...And the majority of the Tunisian people do no longer want this type of terror either!
The fight against terror is a fight against capitalist policies!
Most Tunisians have a legitimate and genuine aspiration for security. But the first, basic security is the right to have a regular job and a stable income, to be able to lead a decent life. This right is denied for an increasing number of people in our country. Tunisia has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world and prices of basic items have jumped considerably. Three times as many Tunisians judge the state of the economy “very bad” as compared to the Ben Ali dictatorship years. The policies of the new government - planning new cuts in State subsidies and other “pro-market” reforms - will only make matters worse.
Two years ago, during the 2013 World Social Forum, in Tunis, the CWI in Tunisia distributed the following leaflet:
“The growing misery in poor neighbourhoods feeds the soil from which the Salafists and jihadists recruit, especially among hopeless young people. If they do not see serious answers coming from the left quarters or from the trade union movement, the more desperate layers could fall prey to these reactionary demagogues. The only way the working class and the revolutionary youth can reach out to the masses of the “have-nots” is by creating a powerful national movement capable of fighting for the most pressing demands of all the oppressed.”
As we are preparing for the 2015 World Social Forum in a few days’ time, these words could be re-printed in their entirety. Indeed, the inability of the leadership of the working class movement to provide a radical revolutionary alternative to the impasse of the capitalist crisis in Tunisia has provided the vacuum into which extremist groups have stepped into, in increasing numbers. Salafist and jihadist organizations invest much of their resources in marginalised areas (from which the assailants of the Bardo came from), where despair and mass unemployment are already doing half the work for them.
Let’s take back the initiative from the hands of the ruling establishment!
Chokri Belaid, a murdered left leader, once commented: “You are afraid to go down the street? If only you knew what to expect if you stay at home!” The responsibility of rescuing the country from terror, whatever forms it takes, lies entirely in the hands of the working masses and youth, who share a genuine interest and desire in radically changing the state of things.
As was initiated in 2013 after the assassination of the left leaders Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, which were immediately responded to by two spectacular general strikes, the UGTT union federation, the Popular Front and all the militant sections of the Tunisian left should take the lead and deploy their potentially considerable power, uniting the country behind a clear, class-based programme of action, independent from the current government: a programme relying resolutely on the power of the organised working class and on the dynamism of the youth, with a view to carrying out deep social, economic and political change.
The people in power pretend to care about our security, while their state apparatus is still infested with old regime supporters, some of whom do not face justice for killings and torture. In fact, the most secure time in recent Tunisian history was when the masses, in their millions, ruled the streets and directly affected the country’s politics. The best traditions of our revolution, such as the building of revolutionary neighbourhood defense committees, should be revived, to avoid leaving the struggle against terrorism and jihadism in the hands of the ruling establishment. The terrible sufferings that our Algerian brothers and sisters went through in the 1990’s are testimonies to where this can lead to.
It is time for mass mobilization! The trade union movement, the UGET, the unemployed organizations, the left and the revolutionary youth must rally for mass action, but on their own terms. A call for a 24 hour general strike would be a good first step in this direction: for the unity of all workers, youth and the majority of the Tunisian people against terrorism and obscurantism. And also for the resolute defence of our democratic rights and for the building of a fight-back against the capitalist policies of social misery and state repression, which have contributed to the current situation. Such a strike, coupled with mass street mobilisations across the country, would help in re-building a mass struggle, putting back centre stage the initial objectives of the revolution for “bread, jobs, and dignity”: a struggle that can find its ultimate expression in the building of a democratic and socialist society, based on public ownership and working people’s democratic planning of wealth.