It is now five months since mass protests broke out in Algeria at the prospect of another term as president for the octogenarian Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The movement rapidly gathered momentum, including general strike action and mass demonstrations. We carry a recent statement by the comrades of Gauche Révolutionnaire and El Yassar el Thawri (ليسار الثوري ) (CWI in France and Algeria).
For the French original: http://www.gaucherevolutionnaire.fr/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Déclaration-Algérie-juin-2019-v2.pdf
The revolutionary struggle of the Algerian people must triumph!
For a democratic, equal and free Algeria – a socialist Algeria !
Algeria has been through an historic Spring and the fight is by no means over. For the first time since the 1980s, on a scale never seen before in terms of size, the movement spread massively throughout Algeria, bringing together millions of people. Since it came to power with the independence of 1962, the regime has never been so worried about the people being united in action. The government has been shaken, has had to retreat several times and is also trying to manoeuvre in response to the revolutionary outpouring of the masses.
The ruling class, and in particular the army, has had to retreat many times in response to the massive nature of the movement. The latest and predictable manoeuvre is the further postponement (perhaps even the cancellation) of the presidential election – already postponed once to 4 July. Behind these manoeuvres lies a great panic, because the government still has no viable candidate, no new Bouteflika, to carry out the national unity ploy again, as they did in 1999.
Nonetheless, it is still hanging on with the aid of the army leaders, in particular Gaïd Salah, who are stepping up arrests of both activists and of corrupt figures from the regime. On the one hand, this is to give the impression that they are doing a big clean-up. But it is also a question of eliminating potential opponents within the system to a future clan that would be formed under the patronage of Gaïd Salah. One possible scenario would be keeping Bensalah, the current interim president, in power; his term of office has already been extended de facto. In reality, that would be a form of coup d’état.
The regime’s manoeuvres show that it will not let go of power so easily. In the same way, all the forces that do not want real change – from those linked to the regime to the pseudo, pro-capitalist and Islamist oppositions – are also manoeuvring to ensure that the movement does not go any further. Similarly, a deadlock can be the result of certain democratic illusions. There can be no democracy if the economy and all that is involved with it remains in the hands of the rich, corrupt clans, capitalists, multinationals and imperialists.
In the movement currently unfolding, it is necessary to clarify the demands and the structure of the movement so that the situation can become truly revolutionary and bring about real change. The decisive moment to overthrow the government has not yet come because the movement lacks strong enough foundations and structures. They must be built and strengthened in order to move forward, but also in order to lay the foundations for a real alternative to the corrupt regime that is crushing Algeria.
It is necessary to discuss a more precise programme that links the fight against the regime to the fight against the fundamental basis of this regime: control of the economy and society by a handful of leaders of the FLN (National Liberation Front, the ruling party), the ALN (National Liberation Army) or the government bureaucracy. They are looking to become the new Algerian bourgeoisie by accumulating wealth at the expense of the people and exploiting workers, linking themselves to multinational companies from Europe and elsewhere.
A disastrous social situation for the people
The current revolutionary fever has its roots in the past. It is fuelled as much by the utter disdain shown by the regime’s leaders as by a disastrous social situation for the majority of the population. How many unemployed young people, how many workers are overexploited for insufficient pay? How many women suffer discrimination every day? Algeria seems to be economically paralysed while only a handful of privileged people benefit from the country’s immense wealth.
Having come to power because of the traumas associated with the war unleashed in the 1990s by the Islamists and the army, Bouteflika held the country in an iron grip for 20 years. The aspirations, dignity and hopes of Algerians were snuffed out, in a country where young people see no future and are forced to go into exile, risking their lives in boats without any destination.
The policy of Bouteflika and his clan was to try to control changes in the country’s economy. After the movements of 2001-03, he slowed down the process of opening up the economy to avoid the damage that wild capitalism would cause in Algeria. At the same time, it was a matter of Bouteflika and his clan getting rich and involving a few friends (like Rebrab who suddenly become an undesirable ) in sharing out the cake. In view of the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in 2011, he even conceded to slowing down attacks against the workers and the population as a whole.
Then, the situation deteriorated again. The unemployment rate has risen steadily from year to year, to 28.4% among young people and 20.7% for women (IMF figures). Inflation has also been rising steadily (6.4% in 2016, 7.4% in 2018), while the minimum wage has stagnated at 18,000 DA since January 2012. Already in 2018, revolts had been breaking out because austerity measures kept increasing the cost of living.
The IMF wrote in June 2018 that the authorities “advocate continued fiscal consolidation and ambitious structural reforms to facilitate the diversification of the growth model and support private sector development”. Even if this was not strictly adhered to by the ruling clan, the direction of the regime’s policy was clearly towards more privatisation and attacks on living conditions.
The country still has huge foreign exchange reserves ($82bn), acquired thanks to oil and gas (80% of Algerian GDP). But these reserves are not used to develop the country. Large national companies like Sonatrach are run by little Bouteflikas who are constantly doing business with the imperialists and repressing any struggles of workers, often with the help of the leaders of the main trade union federation – the UGTA.
The arrest of Ould Kaddour – until recently, CEO of Sonatrach, a member of the Bouteflika clan (and, like them, with ‘savings’ in Dubai) – shows one thing: all the leaders of this system are corrupt to the bone and get rich at the expense of the workers and the people. When prime minister Ouyahia was dismissed in March, this was not a sign of democracy but a clan battle over the pace of implementing capitalist policies and the resulting personal enrichment of those from different layers of the regime.
In the present movement, we must demand that the account books of companies and the state itself are examined by independent, elected workers’ and citizens’ commissions, making their investigations public. And we would see that Algeria is rich and capable of developing and that the problem is the capitalists’ drive to make profits from the country’s wealth.
The representatives of the regime must be driven out of all the structures – the large companies, government administrations, universities, high schools and from the top of certain organisations like the UGTA. Workers must organise themselves independently in the workplaces and in struggle committees and demand real democracy in their trade unions, so that they can fight for their living conditions, their wages and so on.
The huge mobilisation since 22 February at national level makes everything possible today. It is necessary to rely on the energy and the will of the people in struggle.
This has shown that the people are no longer afraid, that they could take to the streets en masse, without falling into the trap of provocation and useless violence. Millions of workers, young people, older people, women and men, were able to discuss, exchange ideas, engage in politics and reject the pessimism that the government had imposed since the 1990s. And, what’s more, it was the time of the call for a general strike in March that pushed the regime back the most and allowed workers in many companies to fight against the regime as well as demanding better wages and working conditions, with the very real possibility of creating a union capable of fighting against the small dictator-bosses.
A new general strike must be prepared, because it is in such a movement that the working class will show its revolutionary strength. Without them, the ports shut down, as do trains, factories… Organised through forming strike pickets and struggle committees in each company, workers can be the backbone of the revolutionary movement on which others can rely – students, craftsmen, small shopkeepers, retired people and small farmers.
Such struggle committees would make it possible to discuss what kind of new Algeria is wanted and how the economy should work so that it serves society and the population, not making capitalists and corrupt richer. It would ensure leaflets, newspapers and posters are published, aimed at other sections of the population, helping them to organise collectively against repression and even to address rank-and-file soldiers so that they really support the people against the manoeuvres of the army tops.
Certain intellectuals, liberal parties and journalists speak glibly about a ‘constituent assembly’ but are careful not to involve in it representatives of the people doing the fighting. Basically, this means that specialists would determine on behalf of the people what is good for them, without touching the roots of the evil – the capitalist system that produces inequalities and allows the exploitation of millions of workers for the benefit of a handful of rich people. That is the problem with Cevital (Algeria’s largest private conglomerate) and others that have made billionaires on the backs of workers and small farmers. As for the state-owned enterprises, they operate like capitalist enterprises, except that it is the men of the ruling clan who help themselves to the profits that are made.
A constituent assembly would only make sense if it really emanated from the people involved in the struggle, based on the struggle committees in the workplaces and offices, schools and universities and the neighbourhoods. A revolutionary constituent assembly, with delegates elected and controlled by the workers and the people is obviously not what the liberals and other intellectuals want.
What’s more, it is not in one or two years’ time that things must change; it is now. It is not a question of discussing a future constitution in a corner while everything carries on as before. It is a mass revolution that will make a new Algeria, not a constitution discussed among specialists.
The revolution will continue
The official opposition had got tired. It did nothing except wait for Bouteflika to fall on his own without knowing how or by whom he would be replaced. It is the people who have come to stir everything up. It’s exactly at that point that the broader layers have found a way to fight without waiting for the pseudo opposition. During the initial demonstrations, no opposition elements declared whether they were for or against a popular uprising. Only after seeing the extent of the movement did they start to join the people.
The pseudo-left parties and independent presidential candidates no longer saw any solution because they did not have confidence in the masses, only in changes at the top. However, we knew that it was only a matter of time before the masses took the path of struggle.
As for the Islamists, apart from continuing to divide the people by using religion and advocating violence, they only represent an Algeria even less free, even less democratic and even more unequal.
After 22 February (the date of the national protest mobilisations) up until the 10-11 March with the general strike in many parts of the country, all the oppressed strata of society – youth, women, children, men, workers – suddenly found themselves united. So many fears were lifted and everyone dared to say out loud what they used to whisper in the street or at local cafés. This was a revolutionary element because all the barriers have been broken down and, in one week, after the question of the strike having already been posed, many workers in many places came out to demonstrate on the Fridays that followed the strike.
“The barriers of law and order are overturned. It is precisely the active involvement of the masses in events that is the most essential element of the revolution.” Leon Trotsky, On the Russian Revolution
At last once more it was possible to condemn on a mass scale everything that is wrong. In particular, the situation of women, crushed by the odious family code; that of national minorities (Kabyles, Mozabites and others) who are often despised or discriminated against; the question of nature and the environment, which is being destroyed by real estate speculation policies for the benefit of the corrupt; the situation of young people who have poor opportunities for study or who see no future; the lack of a real instrument for organising workers’ struggles, when it takes the General Secretary of the UGTA more than a month to realise that there is a struggle and strikes are going on.
This is what the movement is all about and what gives it its revolutionary potential. In order to move forward, the confrontation must develop and when we say “Down with the system!”, we must mean the whole system – the corrupt figures at the head of the government but also, the roots of the problems in society. That is to say capitalism, which always involves the enrichment of a handful of gangsters at the expense of workers and the people. To remove all corrupt cliques and the capitalists, the main companies and services must not only be taken into complete public ownership, but must also be also democratically managed by workers’ committees and their representatives – elected and subject to immediate recall.
We are for a free, democratic and equal Algeria, without discrimination. A society cannot be equal if women are discriminated against. It cannot be democratic if workers continue to be exploited in the interests of a capitalist.
At the time when the movement is strengthening and continuing the mobilisations, there is a need to build a party that truly defends the interests of workers, young people and the popular layers against corrupt people, capitalists and the agents of foreign multinationals.
That is why we are fighting to build a revolutionary party that allows us to organise collectively both to help the current movement and to prepare for the mass revolution that will be necessary. We are fighting for genuine socialism, which is nothing like what the Algerian leaders claimed to do in the past. Only an Algeria where the economy is truly publicly owned, democratically managed by workers and the population, planned to develop the country and satisfy the needs of all, can have real freedom, democracy and equality.
A victorious socialist revolution in Algeria would have an immediate echo in all the countries of the region, where people have had enough of being crushed by dictators in the service of European and North American imperialists. Revolutionary movements are linked up and make all corrupt regimes tremble: this can be seen in Sudan, where the regime is trying, with the help of semi-Islamic, semi-mafiosa militias, to crush the revolution. A victory of the revolution in Algeria would be a victory for all oppressed peoples.
All over the world, even in so-called rich countries, capitalism only brings misery, war and discrimination. It will not be different in Algeria. Join our organisation to fight for the movement to triumph, to get rid of the system and fight for a socialist revolution!
THE PROGRAMME WE FIGHT ON
- System out! Continue the mass struggle!
- For democratic committees of struggle in workplaces and services, in neighbourhoods, schools and universities
- For the preparation of a real day of general strike action involving all workers to demand the removal of corrupt leaders, higher wages, the right to organise in a trade union and to strike. We demand transparency and democracy in the UGTA
- For the freedom to organise without police control, for transparency in future elections
- For the complete equality of all. End the discrimination against women and abolish the ‘family code’. End the abuse and repression of the national Berber minorities
- For the separation of public institutions and religion
- Against unemployment. Jobs for everyone by appropriating the huge profits of the oil and gas industry, by setting up a plan for the development of public infrastructure and the protection of nature and the environment. For the development of health and education services
- The large oil and gas industries must be publicly owned, managed by the workers themselves through democratically elected committees, with all accounts made public. Enough of the secret deals and the enrichment of corrupt officials and capitalists on the backs of Algerian workers!
- In the struggle committees, let’s discuss a new Algerian society – democratic, fraternal and tolerant with the democratic and planned organisation of economic production and investment
- For these committees to form the basis of a government of workers and youth, stemming from the revolutionary people, electing and controlling its representatives
- For a mass struggle that goes to the end, for a socialist revolution
- For a socialist and democratic Algeria, freed from capitalism and the subjugation to the imperialist powers that this entails, with international relations of solidarity with the countries of the region and their people also struggling against regimes that serve the capitalists