Socialist Worker

Strikes in North Africa rattle rotten regimes

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2644

Algerian ruler Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been rocked by protest

Algerian ruler Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been rocked by protest (Pic: Wikimedia/Creative Commons )


Huge protests have swept Algeria in North Africa demanding the fall of president

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in towns and cities across the country on Friday after weeks of protests and strikes.

In capital city Algiers alone there were 800,000 on the streets, according to the cops, in defiance of a ban on protests dating back to 2001.

Last Sunday Bouteflika filed his candidacy to run in the April presidential elections. In response, thousands of young people marched through Algiers.

Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013. He is 82 and is incapacitated. Now his brother Said rules in his place. Strikes have also swept Morocco, and Tunisia in recent weeks. Teachers in all three countries have walked out along with wider sections of workers.

In Morocco a general strike was held on 20 February to mark eight years since the protests that gripped the country in 2011. Striking workers were viciously attacked by riot police.

In Algeria strikes have also spread to airline workers and port workers.

And in Sudan protests demanding the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir continue despite heavy state repression which has reportedly left at least 50 people dead since the movement began.

The protesters in Algeria are demanding the downfall of the corrupt government.

This has clung to power partly through suggesting the alternative would be a return to the bloody, decade-long civil war of the 1990s. That was caused by a coup in 1991 against an Islamist electoral victory.

But the protesters also point to the lack of change since the revolutionary wave of the Arab Spring swept the region in 2011.

The chant of, “The people want the fall of the regime,” that was heard in 2011 is popular again.

Problems 

But for some the problems in Algeria go further back still.

“Algeria has been run by the same group of men, the same system,” since the overthrow of French colonialism in 1962, said protester Abderrahmane Hamirouche.

And today the French ruling class still wants to control its former colony.

One source was candid in an interview with the Nouvel Obs news website, saying, “With Algeria, our historical, economic, and security ties are very deep. France has interests there.”

In 2011 Bouteflika staved off serious unrest through mild social reforms and increasing subsidies on essential goods and services.

This was made possible by diverting profits from the oil industry. Falling oil prices have made the situation increasingly volatile. Over 25 percent of Algerians under the age of 30 are unemployed.

Across the region people are demanding change.

Oppositional elements of the ruling class within the protest movements must not be allowed to push themselves to the front of these, or to co-opt them. The role of working class organisation independent from such influences is crucial.


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