Tunisia: Terrorist atrocity in Sousse

For a renewed mass movement against poverty and terror

Al-Badil al-Ishtiraki (Socialist Alternative) strongly condemns the barbaric terrorist attack in Sousse, which at the last count has led to the death of 39 innocent people. This is the worst terrorist attack that Tunisia has ever experienced, and the second major terrorist attack targeting tourists in less than four months.

The victims, beyond the tourists massacred while on holiday and the unbearable pain caused to their relatives and friends, will also be the many Tunisians who depend in various ways on the tourism industry for their livelihoods. Thousands of tourists have already left the country or are waiting to do so.

Isis, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, might well denounce the foreign tourists as ‘infidels’, while in reality countless poor Muslim families are among those who will bear the brunt of its poisonous actions. Horrified at the terror attack, hotel workers and other local people – many of them Muslim – heroically formed a human barricade to protect as many tourists as they could.

The perpetrator, Seifeddine Rezgui Yacoubi, used a Kalashnikov to kill 39 people in 17 minutes. This clearly suggests that he was trained to use his weapon. An increasing number of Tunisians are being trained or armed through the expanding terrains of war in Syria, Iraq and neighbouring Libya, the latter having become, since the NATO-led military intervention, a hub for traffic of all sorts by numerous jihadist and armed groups.

Since the major terrorist operation in the Bardo museum in March, the conditions which underlie this kind of horror have remained unchanged. Rezgui was himself denied the right to be accommodated in the university dormitories in Kairouan and pushed to live in a neighbourhood where many Salafists operate and indoctrinate young people. Mass unemployment, social and political marginalisation, the lack of basic facilities in many neighbourhoods, the lack of access to a decent education and public investment in means of cultural and artistic expression, all of this has created a deep sense of alienation among hundreds of thousands of Tunisian youth. Radical preachers and Salafist networks, aided by floods of money from rich donors in the Gulf, are taking advantage of this for their divisive enterprises.

After this new carnage in Sousse, the terrorists could almost make us forget that a bit more than four years ago, under the regime of Ben Ali, it was the state apparatus itself which was ‘shooting to kill’ in Tunisia, killing hundreds to protect the interests of the clique of thieves in power. While a few heads have been removed, the backbone and functioning of this state has fundamentally remained the same (this can be judged for example by the number of deaths under torture in police custody in the recent months) and the ruling party Nidaa Tounes is in direct political lineage with those who exploited and oppressed us for so many years.

That is why we cannot trust this state and this government to deal with the terrorist danger. All they are interested in is to step up repression and criminalise the freedoms we have won – a ‘solution’ which will inevitably fail, as it does not address the root causes of the problem. Quite the contrary, the government’s neoliberal policies and its collaboration with imperialist countries that are nourishing the wars in the Middle East and selling weapons to Sunni theocracies, will only make matters worse.

Time for mass mobilisation!

The best way to honour all the victims of terror: the victims of the jihadists but also the hundreds of victims of state terror who are still demanding justice; is to pursue the struggle for genuine revolutionary change and the development of a mass political voice representing working people and youth. Without this, the Tunisian people will be caught between the fires of one handful of murdering criminals and another.

Social and trade union movements have revealed on many occasions the potential to attract thousands of young people into mass collective struggle to demand jobs and a dignified life. Many of the youth who are today falling prey to religious extremists were in the past fighting against Ben Ali’s regime, and for a better future. The latter struggle is the type of mass revolutionary movement that we need to rebuild, to give hope to the young generation and take back our youth out of the claws of terrorist and smuggling gangs.

If the left does not provide clear answers on how to change society and a channel for radical, mass political action, and instead disappoints those who put their hopes in it, Takfiris will fill the vacuum by exploiting the despair that exists, diverting it into destructive individual actions which mainly workers and the poor, Tunisian and foreigners alike, will pay the price for.

Therefore, we call on all trade unions, the left and the revolutionary youth to not be misled by the propaganda of the ruling class and the media, who are trying to create a climate of intimidation, ordering people to stand behind the government and asking for a “break” in social demands and movements. This is exactly the road for further misery and for the multiplication of the type of mayhem shown in Friday’s atrocity.

Instead, we call on the Tunisian masses, trade unionists of the UGTT, left-wing parties and social organisations, to fill up the streets and attract the largest possible number of people out, to say no to terror and religious extremism, and to renew the struggle on the ground to demand jobs and a decent life for all, and to defend democratic rights against threats from any quarter.

No to terrorism, no to capitalism, no to imperialism – for a socialist alternative to war, poverty and terror!

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June 2015