Argelia: The Mass Movement in Algeria, the Question of Program

Mar 6, 2019 | Africa

Protests continue to erupt after 82-year-old President Abdulaziz Buteflika was nominated for president for the fifth time in Algeria. Hundreds of protesters and dozens of police officers were injured, one protester has died in the protests until now.

Buteflika, who came to power in Algeria in 1999, declared that he will run for the elections,which will be held on 18th of April,  despite his serious health problems. His decision to stand for a fifth term in office has unleashed major protests. Demonstrations took place all around Algeria and hundreds of thousands of people were on the streets.

The Problem Behind the Scenes

Buteflika, who is also the Leader of the National Liberation Front (FLN), has been receiving treatment in Switzerland since he had a severe stroke in 2013 and is actually still bedridden. His brother Said is unofficially the person in the power. Buteflika’s re-nomination in the upcoming elections means the continuation of the current status quo. However, laboring masses who were overwhelmed by the corrupt and rotten order were expecting a change because of Buteflika’s health problem. However, when the nomination of Buteflika in Algeria, where the elections are not much more than formalities, was announced in a scandalous way, the patience of the masses overflowed, and now everyone in Algeria wonders if a new era is began.

Strikes are taking place all over the country, hundreds of thousands of people are on the streets, slogans like ‘’regime should be destroyed’’ are heard. Normally, we could say that something important might happen in Algeria but there is also a strong countermotion that breaks the actions because of the disorganization of the masses and the dreadful experience of people due to Algeria’s recent history.

What’s on the Table?

-First of all, workers and the youth are unorganized. It is unclear what kind of regime will be organized after the fall of the Buteflika regime.

-There is a danger that Algeria, who has rich oil and natural gas resources, might be targeted with imperialist interventions.

– Political Islamists are likely to come forward. The secular-liberal-left-democratic sections, which is the main social opposition in Algeria are worried that Islamists will benefit from the crisis of the government.

-From the 1990s to the early 2000s, Algeria witnessed the civil war of the army with the Islamist FIS-GIAM. The memories of this civil war where more than 100,000 people lost their lives are still vivid. Even if GIA loses, the fact that tens of thousands of Algerian jihadists joined the war in Libya and Syria reveals that the social base of political Islam is strong.

– Libya and Syria were devastated because of the civil wars. In Egypt, Sisi was even worse than Mubarek.

Is Parliamentary Democracy Possible?

The left-democrat-liberal-secular groups in Algeria want a Western-type parliamentary system. The parliamentary system in the West had already rotten even in Europe, so it is suspicious if there is an economic leap or bourgeoisie which would be able to lead the system. However, this is exactly what democratic opponents want. It seems like they try to refine the issue in a sweet manner to keep it under control – almost as if they are warning Buteflika regime. After all, they are well aware of the fact that there would be limitations for them under extreme circumstances. They lack the necessary organizational and social power.

The basic social problems of the workers who live in poverty in an oil-rich country such as Algeria cannot be solved only by free elections, failure of Buteflika or FLN.  Therefore, it will not be possible to lead class rage against Buteflika with a limited democratic program and also to organize the people. Therefore, these secular-liberal-democrat circles are frightened clearly and simply by the mass movement. Their incapability stems from the limits of their programs. Algeria cannot reach the bright days without combining the struggle against capitalism with the struggle against dictatorship, without targeting power of workers and getting organized for it. Because of this vacancy, the radicalism of the poor workers benefits the fanatic Islamists. At this point, the democratic opponents who are well aware of their own inadequacies have to follow behind the FLN regime after some point.

The North Africa has different dynamics from the Middle East. Ethnic and sectarian fragmentation is not that intense. The conflict is taking place between dictators the people. We can observe this situation from Morocco to Egypt. Let’s exclude Libya, which is ruined by imperialism and jihadists. This region is greatly affected by Europe. The youth, students and middle classes have affection towards Europe. For example, Algeria is influenced tremendously by France. Indeed, there is no doubt that the last Yellow Wests movement in France has affected Algeria. As a matter of the fact, the first initiators of the actions had been the Algerians in France. Let me mention one more thing; the organized labor movement in North Africa is significant, yet the revolutionary socialism is insufficient in this field. Another dynamic in North Africa is the unorganized workers’ tendency to shift to the jihadist side. What nurtures this tendency is undoubtedly the weaknesses of the forces that organize class radicalism. The only way out is to organize revolutionary socialism, to establish the unity of the working class as in order to destroy imperialist-capitalism, to reveal the unity of internationalist struggle of North African and European workers.

V.U. Arslan