Socialist Worker

Millions-strong Algerian movement piles pressure on hated regime

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2649

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Algerians protesting in London on Saturday (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Millions of Algerians protested on Friday despite the former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika being forced from office earlier in the week. 

People poured into the streets in the seventh week of mass demonstrations.

The protests and strikes in Algeria have increased the pressure on a ruling class desperate to limit damage to its rule. 

And they are backed by international solidarity. Over 500 people protested on Saturday at Marble Arch in central London. Some had travelled from across Britain to attend the protest.

"Activists are putting a lot of pressure on the government and the system," said Rashid Aouine, one of the organisers of the London protests. 

"What pushed Bouteflika to be removed was the marches" he added.

Rabie Ben Medjdoub is another of the organisers of the London protests.

He told Socialist Worker that the protests in Algeria have changed ordinary people. 

“There was no racism, no opposition to people based on their religion,” he said. “All these kind of factors were playing a negative role for the people throughout the last 20 years.”

Mainstream accounts of the protests frame them as spontaneous explosions. 

But Rabie said the protests were the result of “years and years of patience from the people.”

At the centre of the protests have been slogans demanding system change and the fall of the Algerian regime. What this means is hotly contested.

Debated

On the London protest people debated what a revolution would look like. 

Mahdi argued that a handful of people going would not be enough. "There are thousands behind Bouteflika—officials in government departments. They all need to go," he said. 

Said agreed, "We got rid of the big head, and if we can get rid of him we can get rid of the rest.”

Some argued for reforms to the system. Moustafa said, "There has to be democratic elections. We want a civil state."

Yet other people argued against a system where "the ruling people are buying expensive apartments on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. There are no resources because the people at the top are stealing money."

The Algerian ruling class has shown it is willing to remove the corrupt clique around Bouteflika. 

On Friday it fired his key ally Athmane Tartag, head of the intelligence services.

Egyptian socialists on five lessons from Sudan and Algeria
Egyptian socialists on five lessons from Sudan and Algeria
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One of the slogans on Friday's protests in Algeria was "No to the 3Bs”. 

This refers to prime minister Noureddine Bedoui, president of the constitutional council Tayeb Belaïz and Abdelkader Bensalah, president of the senate.

Changes at the top have been won by the millions of ordinary people who have protested and walked out on strike. The reforms have nothing to do with the supposed magnanimity of any of the people who previously clustered around Bouteflika.. 

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North Africa - from a democratic uprising to revolution
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Rabie said, “Bouteflika has gone. That’s very positive for the movement—we can see that we are getting our goals, slowly.

“But we can also see the power is still in the army’s hands. This is the same army who killed the people in the 1990s”.

Now elements within the ruling class are pinning their hopes on the army to put down the protests. Bouteflika's former prime minister Ali Benflais called on the army to oppose the "imminent dangers that the extra-constitutional forces are weighing on the very existence of the national state”.

In Algiers, placards demanded no intervention from the army or Bouteflika’s family.

Amaran on the London protest told Socialist Worker, "The leaders of the army do not represent us.

"For me there are no limits—this is just the beginning. This is not just a protest, but a revolution.

There is also a tide of revolt flowing elsewhere across north Africa. One sign of that was a demonstration by thousands of Sudanese people from across Britain in London on Saturday. Dak, one of the protesters, told Socialist Worker, "We have seen success in Algeria. That makes us even more determined to bring down our own dictator, and to cooperate with our brothers and sisters in Algeria to change everything."


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