The Algerian Crisis

‘Nuevo Curso’ on the mass protests in the Maghreb

With a country in general uproar, Bouteflika waited until the last moment to present his presidential candidacy. (1) The demonstrators are still on the warpath because they know that the official candidacy wins. (2) But why should the fossilized Algerian bourgeoisie impose a dying Bouteflika who survives on medical care in Geneva?

A history of fragility, an explosive situation

Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s biography is a summary of the history of the Algerian national bourgeoisie constituted in the infamous war of independence, in which the FLN (“National Liberation Front”) and the French state competed for the application of terrorist methods. The resulting state in 1962, idealized by European leftist propaganda, (3) flirted in its early years with the Soviet bloc, following a coup d’Etat in which a young Bouteflika, foreign minister since 1963, was a key element, [but] reoriented itself to a “preferential relationship” with France. Aligned with the “critical” sectors of the almost monolithic Algerian bourgeoisie – who maintained a single-party system for almost three decades – he was only removed from power during the 1980s. The development of the economic crisis at the end of that decade produced a growing discontent of the petty bourgeoisie, culminating in the student revolt of 1988. Bouteflika would then defend the “democratic opening”. But the first free municipal elections ended with the electoral triumph of the “Islamic Salvation Front”, an expression of the radicalization of the petty bourgeoisie in its confrontation with the state bourgeoisie of the FLN. The annulment of the results was followed by a civil war that lasted almost a decade, doubling the economic disaster and [the country’s] dependence on France. It resulted in a new balance between the factions of the former FLN. The new status quo of Algerian state capitalism, imposed by the army, reinstalled Bouteflika and put him at the presidency since 1999. Relentlessly presented by the propaganda of the state as the “irreplaceable leader” he has been the guarantor and symbol of the new internal equilibrium and of the imperialist alliances that allowed the military core of the Algerian bourgeoisie to win the war on Islamism.

The necessity of establishing an ironclad authoritarian and monolithic state capitalism from day one, the constant dependence from imperialist alliances with the USSR or France and the difficulties of maintaining the cohesion both of the social whole and within the ruling class, are evidences of the limits of the national liberation model of the 1960s. In Algeria, as everywhere else, political independence could not give way to an independent development of national capital. The very “manna” of hydrocarbons soon became a motor of dependence and the absence of solvent markets prevented the escape of the much wanted diversification that would give productive destinations to the profits from gas and oil. Algeria is a textbook example of the reactionary character of national liberation during the decadence of capitalism.

In addition, if there would be any doubts, Algeria has tried to assert itself as the regional hegemonic imperialism from day one. This applies of course in Libya, where it is a central agent in the course of the civil war today; but above all it does with Morocco, where the old dispute over the Sahara has been been reopened amid mutual accusations, (4) diplomatic insults, an endless arms race (5) and deceitful offers of “direct dialogue” (6) which, in the regional tradition, always precede a new spiral of inter-imperialist conflict. The simultaneous political and economic crisis in Tunisia and Morocco at a time when Libya’s equilibrium is more unstable than ever, and the French war in the Sahel extends to Chad, turns the possible “military solution” of the Algerian situation into the danger of a regional war. Today, the army is already mobilized on the southern border in the face of the arrival of irregular Islamist forces. (7)

Moreover, in the Algerian crisis it moves much faster than its neighbors and the increasingly restless French capital. The Spanish investments in gas, the German investments in assembly plants, the growing presence of Chinese capital, (8) the Italian pressures on Libya’s account, the European policy of migratory control… a multitude of crossed and contradictory imperialist interests play their own strategies in the outcome of the situation. Algeria has the potential to become the scene of an imperialist “every man for himself” that multiplies instability.

And the workers?

For the time being, the leadership of the mobilizations has fallen to the students and the intellectual petty bourgeoisie. The peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie of Kabylia have their own agendas, which they have advanced almost immediately. But the proletariat has lagged behind or remained relatively on the sidelines.

That doesn’t mean that they support Bouteflika, far from it. At this point in history no one is left with any illusions about “Algerian socialism” and its [presumed] love for the workers. The Algerian bourgeoisie has abandoned 25,000 migrants to die in the desert (9) and has shamelessly put the ladle to the Europeans to collect the reward. (10) It keeps bags of Moroccan migrants in extreme precariousness and directly enslaves sub-Saharan migrants to improve margins. After the cholera epidemic, the anger towards the state of most workers is evident. (11) In the course of last year we have seen the long strike of the resident doctors, (12) the teachers’ strike (13) and a multitude of skirmishes, most of them repressed without considerations by the security forces. But everyone’s eyes are on the oil zones, the areas with the largest concentration of workers. The atmosphere in which this crisis has been received is tense and expectant. The combativity is high and any spark – as a few weeks ago, a failed rescue (14) – can quickly turn it into a mass protest.

And now?

The offer of the Algerian state bourgeoisie to calm the petty bourgeoisie is to promise that Bouteflika will neither end the mandate nor “run” for the following elections. That is to say, they ask for time to be able to order their own ranks and prepare an alternative candidate. (15) It is doubtful that this offer, which does not see beyond the concerns of the ruling class itself, serves to create any kind of social consensus. In any case, the only factor that can drive the Algerian crisis towards a solution that is neither sterile nor reactionary, is for the workers to mobilize themselves with their own demands. The shortcomings of the Tunisian mobilizations (16) and the successes of the Jerada mass strike (17) lead the way.

Nuevo Curso, March 4, 2019

The theme of this article was chosen for March 4, 2019 by the readers of
 Nuevo Curso’s’ news channel on Telegram (@nuevocurso).

Source: La crisis argelina, https://nuevocurso.org/la-crisis-argelina/

Translation: H.C., April 7, 2019

Glossary (Wikipedia)
Abdelaziz Bouteflika Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Algerian War of Independence (1954 – 1962) Algerian War
October Riots 1988 1988 October Riots
Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) Islamic Salvation Front
Algerian Civil War (1991 – 1998) Algerian Civil War

 

Notes

3 For instance in the renowned movie “La batalla de Argel” directed by Pontecorvo (YouTube video: https://youtu.be/F8D_80qdxHg).

8 Dossier Jeune Afrique, Chine-Afrique, August 31, 2018: Algérie et Maroc, deux visions de l’opportunité asiatique

14 Al Jazeera, December 26, 2018: Protests erupt in Algeria after man dies in well.

17 Nuevo Curso, July 17, 2018: Marruecos en crisis.

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