Socialist Worker

Mass revolts sweep Algeria

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2648

A huge march in Algiers

A huge march in Algiers (Pic: PA)


The Algerian regime is in a full-blown crisis, brought on by a huge movement of strikes and protests demanding its downfall.

Over a million people demonstrated in the capital city Algiers on Friday. They fought the police, who fired tear gas and plastic bullets at them.

Hundreds of thousands marched in other cities. A rolling strike wave, incorporating extended strikes, is crippling parts of the economy.

The measures that the long-term president Abdelaziz Bouteflika has introduced to stem the tide of resentment are not working.

He announced a new government on Sunday.

This will see 21 of the 27 ministers replaced, but among the incoming rabble are figures such as Algerian central bank governor Mohamed Loukal—hardly likely to assuage people’s anger.

And now some of Bouteflika’s closest allies are abandoning him.

Assets

They are preparing to jump ship by selling their “most liquid assets,” according to the El Khabar newspaper.

Ali Haddad stood down as leader of the Algerian bosses’ organisation the FCE last week.

He was then arrested attempting to cross the border with Tunisia on Sunday. He had on him a British ­passport and large amounts of cash.

Crucially, on Tuesday of last week the head of the Algerian armed forces Ahmed Gaid Salah declared that Bouteflika was “unfit to rule”.

In a televised address he argued for a “solution to get out of the crisis, which responds to the legitimate demands of the Algerian people”. He repeated the call on Saturday.

In a clear sign of Bouteflika’s weakness, the general remains in his new cabinet as a deputy defence minister. The noose is now tightening around the president’s neck—two Algerian television stations have claimed he is expected to resign this week.

But the movement on the streets and in the workplaces has many different ideas within it. There are debates about the way forward.

Some protesters look to the army to achieve change.

In Algiers some called on the army to intervene “to arrest the gang at the top of society”.

Yet it’s clear that others are not looking to the armed forces as the agent of change.

“Gaid Salah the people want democracy not a military regime,” was one of the chants on Friday’s protests.

Many people are generalising their anger from a single hated figure to the entire ruling class. “Street pressure will continue until the system goes,” student Mohamed Djemai told Reuters news agency.

Algerians do not have to look far to see the real role the armed forces play in revolutionary situations. In Egypt general Abdel Fattah el Sisi’s regime has locked up thousands of revolutionaries.

Workers

The strike wave continues across Algeria, pointing to a different source of power to those at the top.

The Friday protests are a focal point and have brought the largest numbers onto the streets. But there are also large turnouts on Tuesdays, with striking workers and students coming out in towns and cities across the country.

Thousands of workers in the port of Arzew organised a three-day wildcat strike on Tuesday of last week.

They attacked the leadership of the General Union of Algerian Workers for supporting Bouteflika in the face of the protests.

Working class opposition is not only driven by the demand for the removal of the regime. Many also want an improvement in living conditions and an end to intense social inequality over which the regime presides.

Working class organisation and socialist politics are crucial—independent of the forces attempting to either claim ownership of the ­protests or to put them down.


Teachers face state’s repression

Teachers in Morocco, north Africa, have challenged the state with a month-long strike which shows no sign of stopping.

They are continuing in the face of the threat of mass sackings and state repression.

Thousands of teachers marched in the capital, Rabat, last Saturday and Sunday.

A few days previously education minister Said Amzazi said, “After four weeks, we can no longer call this a strike.

“This is rather leaving a job without notice.”

He gave notice the state would fire teachers who continued the strike.

The announcement came days after cops used water cannon to clear teachers from outside the education ministry building.

At some schools teachers are fighting to be employed directly by the state.

This would give them better job security and pensions. The strikes are part of a broader protest movement.


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