ALGERIA: Statement by the Organising Committee of Internationalist Socialists (COSI-OCIS) — March 12, 2019
- Down with the Regime!
- Let the People’s Voices Be Heard!
- Sovereign Constituent Assembly!
- For the Independence of the UGTA!
- Address the Workers’ Demands!
- No to the IMF’s Anti-Worker Plans! Let’s Get Organized!
- For an Independent, Democratic and Mass Workers Party!
The postponement on March 11 of the presidential election and the renunciation of the 5th Term [by President Bouteflika, who has served four terms in office — Tr. Note] mark a new phase in the social, political and institutional crisis that has been unfolding since the demonstrations of February 22.
This March announcement was precipitated by the events of the preceding 72 hours:
– The demonstrations by millions of Algerians in the streets of all the country’s cities on March 8, increasingly combining the social and democratic demands of women, young people and workers with the one demand that was common to all: “No to the 5th Term, Down with the System!”;
– The irruption of youth onto the streets after the closure of universities and high schools;
– the mass emergence of workers deciding to strike in the country’s main industrial areas (Rouiba, Arzew, El Hadjar, Hassi R’ Mel, Hassi Messaoud);
– youth marching side by side with striking workers;
– the growing number of labor bodies, federations, local unions, and departmental unions of the UGTA announcing the breaking of relations with the Secretary General, the main supporter of the regime;
– the creation of embryos of popular committees for food and basic necessities, linking together representatives of the communities in the districts and municipalities with workers and young people.
… All this points to the fact that a new situation has begun to emerge.
The working class, bursting onto the political scene as a class, has risen to the forefront of the struggle to address and resolve the crisis facing the country. It has brought together the people, all strata and all sectors of the population (after the journalists, we have seen the appeals of the magistrates, the Order of Doctors, and the organisations of the martyrs and mujahideen [veterans of the Algerian Revolution — Tr. note]) — all following the lead of the workers organised with their unions and their delegates.
The government and the elites understood that their obstinacy in wanting to impose the 5th Term was leading the country into a situation of open revolutionary crisis. They became afraid and decided to shift course. It was necessary, through a spectacular announcement [on March 11], to give the impression of changing the course of events while ensuring the preservation of what was essential: the continuity of the system.
The uprising of the working class, the power of the mobilisation of all the people and youth, have forced this change of form.
Does this mean, however, that it is a substantive change? Has the regime given up on its objective, which is to remain in place?
One only has to read the official statement, broadcast on television on behalf of the outgoing president, to make a judgment. What was announced on the evening of March 11?
No longer will there be a 5th Term; rather, what you will have now is an extended 4th Term, with no specific time limit. At the very minimum, the president will remain in office for a year, or a year and a half. A national conference, the composition of which will be decided by the government in office, will make constitutional proposals. Which ones? We don’t know. All this leads to a proposal for a new Constitution, perhaps subject to a referendum in 2020, which would lead to new elections being called, perhaps by the end of 2020 or even 2021.
If this plan were to be implemented, it would be a disguised 5th Term — a 5th term without even going through a presidential election, with a change of personnel at the head of some institutions but the preservation and continuity of the institutions of the system.
Are these announcements commensurate with the mobilisations and demands that an entire people have been raising for the past 20 days? To ask the question is to answer it.
What have our compatriots been proclaiming for 20 days in the streets of Algiers, Bejaia, Constantine, Annaba, Oran …?
What were we loudly chanting and demanding by the millions? We said, “No to the 5th Term.” And to this demand we quickly added another one: “Down with the Regime! Down with the System!” Yes, it is the entire political system, it is the entire regime and all its institutions in place that have been indicted by the mobilisation of the vast majority of the people.
What the people want is not that the individuals at the head of the institutions give way to other individuals. What the people want are other institutions. “Down with the Regime! Down with the System!” to make way for another regime, another system.
If it is a question of the people forging new institutions, then it is up to the people to decide. There is no other way than to convene a Sovereign Constituent Assembly in which the representatives of the people — designated, mandated and controlled by them — can decide what the new institutions of the new Algeria should be.
Yes, what is called for is a Sovereign Constituent Assembly with no limits, no restrictions other than respect for the mandate entrusted to it by its constituents; a Constituent Assembly, not in two years’ time, not emanating from a national conference with an obscure composition decided from above. It is a Sovereign Constituent Assembly now, immediately, that must take the future of the country into its hands.
There is no answer other than the Sovereign Constituent Assembly, as all other means have been rejected in advance. The entire people have shown their maturity and responsibility in the mass demonstrations that have erupted over the past 20 days. The Algerian people are mature and responsible enough to lead a constituent process without supervision.
The Organising Committee of Internationalist Socialists (COSI -OCIS) was formed on March 9, 2019, in the very course of the mobilisations. It shares, along with many of our fellow citizens — young people, women and workers — the belief that it is up to the people to decide their own future, that it is up to the people to establish themselves as a constituent people through their Sovereign Constituent Assembly.
The Organising Committee of Internationalist Socialists is aware that what is at stake, what is being raised, with this proposal are both democratic and national demands. It is a question of preserving the sovereignty of the people and the country, in particular of preserving it from the appetites of the large multinational corporations — be they American, French or other — that want to get their hands on the country’s wealth.
It is a question of restoring to the nation what belongs to it, so that its wealth can go to those who produce it, and not to those who benefit from it. It is a question of stopping privatisations and enabling the re-nationalisation of what has already been largely ceded to the private sector, so that the nation’s wealth and the future wealth that can be obtained from its natural resources can be devoted to social needs, housing, education, and employment.
It is a question of preserving the peace and resisting external pressures from those who have never given up trying to drag Algeria into the chaos and disintegration caused by the imperialist and neocolonial interventionist wars. All this, a Sovereign Constituent Assembly will have the strength and legitimacy to address, establishing the laws that will guarantee this real change.
For the Organising Committee of Internationalist Socialists, these are proposals that we submit for wide discussion. Of course, no one can decide in advance what a Constituent Assembly will do. But the Constituent Assembly can decide that it will be sovereign and that it will do sovereignly what is good for the people.
There is a way to carry forth; it is the one that has emerged over the past 20 days, namely, the organised mobilisation of workers and young people themselves with their unions, torn from the State’s control — with their independent unions, their autonomous unions, their UGTA sections that have regained their sovereignty, with their committees, etc.
With all forms of organisation, the workers, young people and women have been moved to take action, and with them large sectors of the population have followed suit. This movement cannot stop until full democracy is established. It is up to the Sovereign Constituent Assembly, representing all the people, to do so.
— Algiers: March 12, 8:30 a.m.
[Statement published in Issue No. 2 of the Minbar El Oumel newsletter (Workers Tribune), published by the COSI-OCIS]