On Friday, March 1, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators thronged the streets of Algerian cities, asking Algeria’s ailing president, Bouteflika, to step down and give up the idea of seeking a fifth term. But Algeria’s officials were unmoved. They confirmed their support of the bedridden Bouteflika, who will run for president despite his obvious incapacity to govern.
The ruling clique has clearly failed to reach an agreement on the name of Bouteflika’s successor. Once more, it has rallied around its old leader---and lowest common denominator. To make the farce complete, the president pledged to shorten his stay in power by holding an early presidential election some time during his next stint!
Such a masquerade can only stir up anger among Algerian people and increase the feeling of humiliation that prompted them to take to the streets. Indeed, since the official announcement of Bouteflika's bid, there have been spontaneous demonstrations all over the country.
The struggle engaged by the Algerian people is a difficult one. But Algerians have waged many hard battles in the past, starting with the fight against French colonization and for independence. We can only acknowledge the courage already shown by the hundreds of thousands of women and men who dared take to the streets. They did so despite the regime's official ban on demonstrations and attempt at spreading the fear of a new civil war.
Algerians, especially younger people, have had enough of the contempt shown by the regime’s mafiosi who view the state as their own “help-yourself” cash drawer. Now that they have taken the first steps, there is no going back. The fight will continue, one way or another.
But for the future of Algeria’s working people and Algerian youths to be lastingly different, the workers’ specific interests and rights must be put forward.
The bulk of demonstrators are young, educated and qualified people who know full well that they are condemned to unemployment and poverty if nothing changes. There are also those who are paying a high price for the crisis: blue collar workers, housewives and job-seekers. Algeria’s inflation rate and the devaluation of the dinar represent a major threat for every Algerian’s purchasing power. At 130 euros per month, the minimum wage simply does not allow people to make a living. Daily life is becoming miserable for more and more people.
Algeria’s leaders flaunt worn-out slogans that refer to “freedom” and “democracy”. But they are now being openly asked where does Algeria’s “oil money” go and why is there so much poverty and unemployment. It is vital to raise these questions and to fight for every Algerian’s right to have a job and a decent wage keeping pace with inflation--failing which, democracy and freedom will remain empty words for the vast majority of working people.
Many social categories are involved in this protest, and different, even opposing, interests are expressed. Each category--lawyers, journalists, students, Islamist militants--has interests of its own. Businessmen defend their businesses and politicians play their usual little game, claiming their agreement with the protesters after being initially hostile to their movement.
The interests of the exploited can only be defended by the workers themselves. That's true in Algeria as well as in France. Acknowledging this fact could become the first step towards increased awareness. Yes, workers can collectively change their living and working conditions and open up a different perspective for society as a whole.
The rebellious people of Algeria are our brothers and sisters. We are bound together by a multitude of family or friendship ties. France’s working class includes millions of workers of Maghrebian descent. And Algeria, with her century-old history as a colony of imperialist France, or Morocco and Tunisia for that matter, continue to enrich big French conglomerates. This is why the fact that Algeria has got an authoritarian regime never posed any problem to successive French governments.
The Algerian rebels are also our brothers and sisters because they are working people. They were no doubt prompted to get on the move by Algeria's specific political problems, but the struggle they now have to wage to guarantee their living conditions is the same as in every other country.
In Algeria, the domination of a clique of army top-brass and bourgeois people is based on the preservation, by the state, of the monopoly over the oil rent. In France, the wealth of those who make up the big bourgeoisie, the Arnaults, Peugeots, Dassaults and Co., is based on the economic domination of major industrial and financial groups. In other words, on both sides of the Mediterranean, the wealthy thrive on the exploitation of workers.
This is why the struggle of the Algerian people could open up bright new prospects for all working people!