This article was originally written for socialistworld.net, the website of the Committee for a Workers’ International.
Faced with mobilisation on the streets, which remains massive, the Algerian regime is in a state of panic. With no support from the people, it has tried relentlessly to stop the revolutionary uprising.
The regime seemed to think that its only chance of survival was to push for the holding of presidential elections, hoping that the result would give the government some new authority.
It did not work: from the moment the results of the election were announced, millions of Algerians went onto the streets of the country’s major cities, again demanding: “Out with the lot of them!”
For months, the regime has used violence as the driving force of its regime of oppression, with the arrest of demonstrators, some of whom are well-known figures on the Algerian political scene. The regime has tried to divide the masses by arresting several demonstrators who raised the flag of the Berbers, which the regime considers an assault on national unity. And in an attempt to further weaken the uprising, with Kabylie in its crosshairs, the regime closed churches in Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou. The aim is to pit the various Christian and Muslim religious sensibilities against each other, in particular. Despite all these actions, the people have thwarted these obscene manoeuvres and their struggle has spanned all ethnic and religious divides.
For its part, the powerful national bourgeoisie is tirelessly trying to safeguard its interests by relying on political figures or intellectuals dressed up in the clothes of honesty and integrity. But Algeria’s “smile revolution” has shown the limits of the corrupt bourgeois elite.
Real changes will not come in the shape of tinkering reforms but in a radical rupture with the established order; the advent of a new way of doing things at the service of young people, women and workers. The “Hirak”, as the mass uprising is known as, overwhelmed an elite lacking courage and obsessed with its privileges. It was also a Hirak against opportunism.
The Algerian military-bourgeois system continued its theft of the national wealth. With the proposed Finance Bill and Hydrocarbon Bill set for 2020, adopted by the Council of Ministers, the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits was handed over to Total and Exxon. The intentions are twofold: to ensure that the ruling gang gets richer, and to gain the support of the big imperialist powers, in particular, France and the United States.
Algeria’s demonstrators opposed this hydrocarbon bill, accusing the government of selling the country to multinationals. This project, which is a long-term investment, also provides tax and other benefits to foreign investors and partners. The same problem also arises with the licences given to multinationals to explore and exploit shale gas, despite protests from people in the south of the country, who know very well the danger this poses to their health and to the environment.
It is clear that the Hirak movement cannot only be about a new constitution to change Algeria. The country’s wealth must also be returned to the people, by being placed in public ownership under the democratic control and management of the workers and the wider population, and not in the hands of the multinationals and the ruling clique.
Boycott of the election
Twice already – in April and July – the presidential election had to be cancelled, because the Hirak was far too strong to allow such a provocation by the ruling elite to go ahead.
The only purpose of the presidential election was to try and restore legitimacy to the government. The movement therefore decided to boycott it. With their pseudo-democracy, the regime proposed a wide range of candidates, the majority of whom are former members of the governing clique – parliamentarians or ministers, like Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune. The Army Chief, Gaïd Salah, wants to push things forward and reach the election deadlines, at all costs. Tebbourne, who was former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s minister on several occasions, and a long-time member of the ruling FLN party, was a pawn of Gaïd Salah in this election.
During the three weeks of the election campaign, the halls hired for meetings were almost empty and candidates had difficulty getting them off the ground. They were even chased away by the local population in a number of places. During the massive mobilisations on Fridays and Tuesdays, organised by students, people poured onto the streets of the big cities and even in the small towns, across Algeria, to oppose this electoral masquerade and they demanded: ‘Makanch el intikhabat m’a l’issabat!’ (‘No elections with gangsters’).
In the days leading up to the election, a strike was launched in Bejaïa, Bouira, and by Algiers railway workers. Even if there was talk of a “general strike”, notably on social networks, the strike was not a clear national call, and only local sections of the UGTA union federation and some autonomous unions, were calling for it. Nevertheless, it was very well supported in a number of regions.
However, the national leadership of the UGTA holds back any mass struggle of workers, including over poor working conditions and low wages.
Despite protests and demonstrations in several cities across the country, the regime went ahead with the elections: with ballot boxes being stuffed, with plainclothes soldiers in the polling stations and a great lie about a turnout rate of nearly 39% [Hirak had called for an active boycott, which was widely adhered to].
The other insult on top of all this is the vote being made by proxy for the former (disgraced) President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and his brother, Nasser Bouteflika. The ‘system’ in place, once again, has shown its continuity and its desire to govern Algeria with an iron hand.
On Friday 13th, at noon, the results of the vote were announced officially, giving victory to Abdelmadjid Tebboune, with 58% of the total number of votes cast. On the same day, major cities in Algeria saw large demonstrations of protest. The authorities quickly reacted with repression and the arrest of many demonstrators. The city of Oran experienced terrible attacks, with several hundred arrests and beatings of demonstrators. Tebbourne, who said he was “reaching out to the Hirak” on the day of his election, showed that he was actually reaching out with the policeman’s truncheon.
What next for the struggle?
Without or with a president, the Algerian ‘system’ will continue to be challenged and the people, the workers, the unemployed, the young and the elderly, are determined not to give up and to continue their struggle.
What we have shown over the past few months of mobilisation is that the Hirak must continue, but with a stronger political base and a stronger organisation. The system will not give up power. There is, therefore, a need for a revolutionary force coming from the people, based on the workers and youth involved in the struggle.
Self-organisations should be established in the factories, the neighbourhoods, cities, villages and universities; this is necessary to counter the repression and the brutality of the current regime.
The Algerian proletariat is a class involved in struggle. It needs a clear programme that will meet its aspirations. To move forward, there must be struggle committees in factories and offices, in the neighbourhoods and the universities and schools. Such committees will have to link up and coordinate locally, regionally and nationally, to form a real alternative to the existing power – a future revolutionary government of workers and the people.
Our role, as ‘Revolutionary Left’ (“Yassar thawri, thamughli thazelmadt”), is to accompany these masses, support them with the tools of struggle and arm them politically to avoid possible petit bourgeois and reactionary Islamist take-overs.
We must support strikes and prepare for a real general strike throughout the country. This is what the government fears most, and what must be prepared by the struggle-committees and fighting unions.
Rigged elections will not stop us. In fact, the struggle has just begun against a regime that is showing its true colours, more and more, both in terms of the corruption of the ruling clique and in its collaboration with capitalist multinationals and imperialists.
More than ever, our dream and our struggle for an egalitarian, democratic and fraternal Algeria – a truly socialist Algeria – must be at the heart of the debates and struggles to come.
Our determination and strength are inspired by a revolutionary programme. Long live the revolution of the Algerian people! Algerians, from all regions, unite!
We fight for
- Democratic committees in each workplace, university, high school and district, to develop the struggle and demand: wage increases, equality for all, and respect for minority rights…
- The struggle to spread in workplaces, with trade unions organising strikes
- Committees to discuss a new Algerian society – democratic, fraternal, tolerant, respecting freedom of conscience – as opposed to this corrupt regime and its family code
- Discussion on the organisation of economic production and investment, by stopping privatisation and renationalising privatised companies, as well as organising democratically-controlled plans for development and reforestation
- The separation of public institutions and religion
- Massive investment in public services (health, education, etc.)
- 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 populations also struggling against regimes serving the capitalists