Loumamba Mohsni, 1963-2011

Submitted by Matthew on 1 December, 2011 - 10:04

At 1am on 24 November, Loumamba Mohsni — a long-time Tunisian Trotskyist activist — died of a heart attack following a long illness.

Loumamba spent years in exile, and suffered spells in jail, where he was tortured. Acting in secrecy, living the nocturnal life of an underground agitator, Loumamba made a great contribution to keeping Trotskyism alive in a country where the Marxist left was dominated by Stalinist and nationalist ideas.

After the long years of darkness, that organisation has burst out into the light as the Left Workers’ League (LGO). The emergence of a visible Trotskyist current of any size in Tunisia would not have been possible without the long years of sacrifice of activists like Loumamba.

That work in conditions of great danger and demoralisation is now bearing fruit.

The history of the modern Trotskyist movement in Tunisia begins in 1985 with the emergence of the Revolutionary Communist Organisation (OCR), launched by a group of students and workers.

In those days, the country was wracked by social and economic crisis. Habib Bourguiba’s (limited) welfare state was dismantled by IMF diktat and an era of neoliberal policies was ushered in.

During these hunger riots Bourguiba’s interior minister, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, made his name by marching into the middle of a demonstrating crowd in the working-class suburb of Ettadamen and personally shooting dead a ten-year-old boy named Otman. In 1987, Ben Ali ousted Bourguiba and assumed the presidency. He in turn became a hatchet-man for neoliberal policies.

The OCR published a newspaper called Al-Chararam (“the Spark”) and operated illegally. Literature was distributed by being slid anonymously under doors, at night. Militants would meet at night, and keep membership of the organisation secret, operating as trade union activists or supporters of more-or-less tolerated campaigns.

Loumamba was a student activist in this period. His exiled comrade Khalfaoui recalls: “Everyone remembers this intractable militant of the Tunis campuses, a well-known face of the far left”.

The first major blow of repression from Ben Ali’s Dakhilia or secret police came with mass arrests of 40 activists. Many long prison sentences were handed out and some leading comrades were forced into the underground or exile.

The OCR continued to function, but under a greater weight of repression, until around 2001, when Loumamba and other leading comrades launched the illegal journal Kaws el-Karama (“the Bow of Dignity”). A renewed campaign of repression met this initiative.

On 30 January 2002, as Loumamba waited for a taxi, two secret police agents pulled up on mopeds and beat him with iron bars before leaving him for dead.

Following the contested 2004 election, a new wave of repression saw Loumamba forced to seek asylum in France. Here he was persecuted by the French state! His house was raided in 2009.

Loumamba remained politically active as a writer and activist, making contacts. It was through this work that Workers’ Liberty activists came into contact with him. As the workers’ movement in the Arab world takes momentous steps forward, the organisations and ideas fostered by activists of Loumamba’s generation, many of whose names will never be known, will be invaluable in forging a movement for socialism in the region.

Following his death, a rally was held in Tunis. Loumamba’s comrade, Jalel Ben Brik, spoke:

“On this day we lost Loumamba — a man of great mind. Today dies the man {who} stood against the merchants and capitalists and their friends — America, Qatar, France. Gone is his intelligence and great spirit. Yesterday I was with him, a warrior on the way to hospital in his illness. He said to me — wait a week and we will go to Djendouba and we will demonstrate against those who oppress the people and we will make a great revolution against our enemy.

“I promise him that we will walk in his path, for the revolution against our enemies, and that revolution will be forever.”

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