ALGERIA UPDATE: Solidarity in U.S. / Millions in the Streets / Mass Strikes
IN THIS POSTING:
1) Report on Nov. 3 March and Rally in S.F. to Free All Political Prisoners in Algeria and to Support the Struggle for Democracy! — by Alan Benjamin
2) Update 1: Aspiration for Real Independence Runs Deep
3) Update 2: Millions in the Streets of Algeria on Nov. 1
4) Free All Political Prisoners: Packet Delivered to Consul General of Algeria in NYC
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1) Report on Nov. 3 March and Rally in S.F. to Free All Political Prisoners in Algeria and to Support the Struggle for Democracy!
By ALAN BENJAMIN
On Sunday, November 3, a very important march and rally took place in downtown San Francisco organized by the San Jose, Calif.-based Free Algeria coalition. About 250 people were in attendance, 99% of them Algerians living in the United States. They came to help break the media blackout of the “hirak” in Algeria — the nine-month-long popular uprising for democracy and sovereignty — and to urge support in the United States for their fight to free all political prisoners in Algeria.
“We do not get media attention in the United States or in Europe,” stated one of the event’s organizers, “because ours is a non-violent, peaceful movement — a mass movement for change, with millions of people in the streets on a weekly basis to demand an end to the corrupt regime of the generals. We don’t have the turned-over cars and confrontations with the police that make front-page news. And there’s a reason for this: We lived through a dark decade in the 1990s in Algeria, with hundreds of thousands of people killed during a bloody civil war. We don’t want to see this again.”
Another rally organizer chimed in: “If anything gets reported, it’s the fake presidential election planned for December 12. It’s a fake election because leading political voices are still in jail for no other crime than expressing their political views. It’s a fake election because the only candidates approved to run for office are part of the regime. It’s a fake election because the aim is not to promote a democratic change and sovereignty; the only aim is to change the faces of those in power while preserving the institutions of a corrupt regime.”
The date chosen for this action was not haphazard; it was meant to coincide with the November 1 mobilizations across Algeria to commemorate the Nov. 1, 1954 launching of the war of liberation, which, eight years later, would see the Algerian people — at the cost of 1.5 million Algerian martyrs — break free from French colonial occupation and oppression. “We are the rightful descendants of the fighters for independence,” said one of the Algerian activists during the march.
The slogans chanted during the march from the Embarcadero to Civil Center — and at the rally at the end of the march — echoed the demands chanted every Friday over the past nine months in mass marches in every city and town across Algeria:
- One, two, three — Free the Detainees!
- One, two, three — Vive l’Algérie!
- No to Fake elections, Throw out the Generals!
- No to Fake elections, We want Freedom Now!
- Throw the Generals in the Trash Bin, Algeria is taking back its independence!
- Regime Clear Out, Democracy and Sovereignty Now!
Labor Video Project and WorkWeek Radio (on KPFA) covered the main rally and interviewed some of the participants. The video report can be accessed at: https://youtu.be/ZQR6tRrcXJU
Reference to the San Francisco rally also was prominent in the Nov. 7 edition of Democracy Now! that featured Mehdi Kaci (from Berkeley) and Algerian journalist Daikha Dridi (from Algiers). The full show can be viewed at:
More information about the “hirak” in Algeria and the U.S. Campaign to Free All Political Prisoners is posted elsewhere on this website. Search for Algeria to find numerous background articles on the uprising that began February 22nd.
You can also view the scenes of the huge mobilizations in Algeria below:
1- Algiers March 15th, 2019
2- Algiers November 1st, 2019
3- Bejaia ( the Kabylie region, the most politically active region)
Please endorse the Appeal to Free All Political Prisoners [see below]. Send your endorsement — listing your name, city, state and country — to <email@example.com> and join us in the struggle for a free and independent Algeria!
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2) ALGERIA UPDATE 1: Aspiration for Real Independence Runs Deep
[Note: Following are excerpts from an interview with Abdelkader Bentaleb, member of the Organizing Committee of Internationalist Socialists (COSI) in Algeria, reprinted from the October 30, 2019, issue of Tribune des Travailleurs, the weekly newspaper of the Democratic Independent Workers Party (POID) of France.]
On Friday, November 1, 2019, the Algerian masses will commemorate, for the first time in total independence, the historic date of November 1, 1954. This was when the revolutionary process opened in Algeria against French colonial occupation. (Algeria’s formal independence is celebrated on July 5, marking the day in 1962 when French domination came to an end.)
Throughout the huge mass marches that have been a weekly staple of the “hirak” [the popular uprising — Ed. note], a demand has been raised that points to the unfinished revolution opened on November 1, 1954 : “Chaab ourid l’Istiqlal” — that is, “the people want their independence.” This slogan is reminiscent of the same formulation used by Hocine Aït Ahmed, one of the leaders of the war of liberation, when referring to July 5, 1962: “We have liberated the country, now we have to liberate the people.”
The aspiration for real independence, in all spheres, is longstanding and runs very deep.
Workers are reeling from the attacks by an illegitimate government against all their gains — attacks implemented in accordance with the dictates of the IMF and World Bank. These include attacks against the pension system, Social Security, and healthcare. They also include the attempt to impose a new Labor Code. The people feel as if they have been subjected to a “hogra” [humiliation — Ed. note].
At meetings in Washington between the IMF and World Bank officials, on the one hand, and the Algerian Minister of Finance, on the other, these institutions have demanded that Algeria “thoroughly reform its economy” and integrate “the Algerian economy into the world economy by complying with its rules and standards.”
The captains of international finance want to privatize the Algerian economy, remove all customs barriers, facilitate free movement of capital, reduce labor costs, and reduce the operating budget of the State by “cutting all the fat.” In short, they want to destroy many of the social conquests resulting from independence.
This is the meaning of the draft Hydrocarbons Law, which opens this market to the looting of our oil and gas resources by foreign multinationals, and it’s the meaning of the draft Law on Finances, which would overturn the 49/51 Rule (which prohibits foreign companies from owning more than 49% of the capital of an Algerian company).
On October 28, as this issue of Minbar El Oummel (the weekly newspaper of the COSI — Ed. note] goes to press, a nationwide strike has been called. The aspiration for united action — “all together in action, and at the same time” — has become a necessity if progress is to be made. This movement from below is raising the need for massive strike action. It’s a movement that has reached the summits of trade union organizations, particularly those of autonomous trade unions that are members of the Algerian Trade Union Confederation (CSA).
The masses have forced trade union leaders to take this path.
The CSA has called for a national strike and demonstrations on October 28 in the capital cities of the country’s 48 wilayas [administrative regions — Ed. note]. The Organizing Committee of Internationalist Socialists (COSI) — whose activists have waged the struggle for a nationwide general strike in their workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, and universities — consider this call by the CSA to be a first positive response to the deep aspiration of the masses for effective action.
The October 28 strike action can open the way to the general strike. What is needed is to prepare the way for the general strike. Workers, students, and young people in the neighborhoods and with their trade union organizations (including the UGTA) need to organize general assemblies on the shop floors and in the schools, high schools, universities and districts. They need to elect strike committees, coordinating them at all levels until a national central strike committee is formed. They need to discuss the follow-up to be given to this national action.
This is how the power of the popular movement will be expressed fully, how the regime and all its reactionary projects will be cast aside.
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3) ALGERIA UPDATE 2: Millions in the Streets of Algeria on November 1st!
[Note: Following are excerpts from an article published in the November 6, 2019, issue of Tribune des Travailleurs, the weekly newspaper of the Democratic Independent Workers Party (POID) of France.]
Millions of Algerian men and women took to the streets of the capital city of Algiers and of all the country’s cities on the 65th anniversary of the outbreak of the Algerian Revolution on November 1, 1954. These were very possibly the largest demonstrations since the popular movement — the “hirak” — began on February 22, 2019.
Once again, this was an opportunity for the millions of demonstrators to express their rejection of the fake presidential election, now slated for December 12, and to denounce the “illegitimate” government in power with their chant of “System, Clear Out!” In addition, it was an opportunity to demand the release of all political prisoners and to raise both the national flag and the Amazigh flag (which the government intends to ban).
On November 1, a slogan was chanted time and again: “Chaab ourid l’istiqlal!” — the people want independence. To end the regime and to wrest real independence will require ending the subordination of this regime to the international institutions of Capital: the IMF and the World Bank.
In recent weeks, this subordination has been reflected in the draft Hydrocarbons Law aimed at turning over Algeria’s oil and gas to foreign multinationals; the provisions of the 2020 Law on Finances, which turns over majority ownership and control of Algeria’s corporations to foreign interests; and a draft new Labor Code, which generalizes precariousness and dismantles labor rights and protections on the job.
It is precisely for these reasons that the working class continues to play a leading role in the popular movement. The national strike of October 28 was widely supported in the workplaces in which the autonomous trade unions have been active. Since November 3, strikes have taken place among dockworkers and in the refineries. Strikes have also been organized in the workplaces organized by the UGTA Finance Federation, and, most important, among 98% of the country’s civilian judges (who are waging a continuous strike) at a time when the regime, through its military tribunals, is increasing the number of arbitrary arrests and speedy trials of demonstrators and activists.
Once again, the question of a general strike to drive out the regime is raised.
— From our correspondents in Algeria
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4) Free All Political Prisoners: Packet Delivered to Consul General of Algeria in New York City
October 21, 2019
Dear Consul General of Algeria in N.Y.C.,
This packet is being submitted as part of an international campaign organized by the International Workers Committee Against War and Exploitation, For a Workers International (IWC).
The U.S. signatories to the enclosed Appeal are long-standing opponents of U.S. wars and interventions in the affairs of foreign countries, particularly in Northern Africa and the Middle East. We honor the 1.5 million martyrs in Algeria who fought to free the Algerian nation from the yoke of French colonial domination, and we stand in defense of the sovereignty of oppressed peoples and nations worldwide, in opposition to the policies of the United States, France, and other Great Powers.
Our intent is not to meddle in the internal affairs of Algeria. As supporters of labor and democratic rights, we wish to submit to the Algerian government our Appeal to free all the political prisoners in Algeria who have been jailed for having expressed their political views.
The Appeal is signed by more than 50 prominent U.S. labor and community leaders and activists calling on the Algerian government to free the scores of prisoners of conscience who have been sent to prison, many of them by military tribunals. All need to be freed.
We are also submitting a personal statement by one of the conveners of our U.S. Campaign to Free All Political Prisoners in Algeria: Mumia-Abu Jamal, an internationally renowned journalist and political prisoner in the United States.
We will be sending a report concerning this submission to all the endorsers of our U.S. Appeal, to the International Workers Committee (IWC), based in Paris and Mumbai, and to the Réseau de Lutte Contre la Repression, Pour la Libération des Détenus d’Opinion, et Pour les Libertés Démocratiques, based in Algeria.
Millie Phillips and Colia L. Clark
On behalf of the Conveners of the U.S. Campaign to Free All Political Prisoners in Algeria
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APPEAL from U.S. Labor and Political Activists
For close to eight months, across Algeria, millions of people have taken to the streets in weekly protest actions to express their deep aspiration for change, chanting: “System Clear Out! Popular Sovereignty!” As the mobilizations increased in numbers, so, too, the repression intensified against political activists of all political backgrounds.
For months, the present regime has put forward all sorts of phony pretexts to justify the waves of repression unleashed against activists, lawyers, trade unionists and youth. The victims of repression are numerous. They include:
- Kamel Eddine Fekhar, an activist in defense of the rights of the Mozabite (Berber) people in the northern Sahara region of Algeria, who died in detention on May 28 after more than 50 days of a hunger strike;
- Abdelouhab Fersaoui, president of Youth Action Rally (RAJ), who was arrested on October 9 by police at the end of a rally organized in front of the Algiers courthouse to demand the release of five other leaders of that organization, which has been very active in the Hirak (popular movement). All RAJ leaders have been charged with threatening national security, and face 10 to 20 years in prison;
- Lakhdar Bouregâa, age 86, former commander of the National Liberation Army during the Algerian Revolution, and one of the founders of the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), who was arrested on June 29 for “contempt of court and violation of Army morale”;
- Louisa Hanoune, the general secretary of the Workers Party (PT) of Algeria, who was imprisoned in connection with the case involving Saïd Bouteflika (the brother of the former president) and Army Generals Toufik and Tartag. She was arrested on May 9 and then sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Blida Military Court on September 25. Hanoune, along with the three other co-defendants, was charged with “conspiracy against the State”;and
- Samira Messouci, a local City Council member on behalf of the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), who was arrested on June 28 for carrying the Amazigh flag.
The list is long — up to an estimated 200 people, according to human rights activists in Algeria.
We, the undersigned labor and community activists in the United States — whatever political opinion we may have about the situation in Algeria or about the political positions of the prisoners of conscience in Algeria — express our unconditional solidarity with the Algerian people and call for the immediate release of all political prisoners!
— October 21, 2019
U.S. CAMPAIGN CONVENERS:
- Alan Benjamin, Mya Shone and Ralph Schoenman (on behalf of The Organizer newspaper)
- Mumia Abu- Jamal, internationally renowned journalist and political prisoner
- Colia L. Clark, Convener, Judicial Violence Symposium, Harlem, New York
- Suzanne Ross, International Spokesperson, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia-Abu-Jamal
- Pam Africa, Co- convener, International Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
[Note: The full list of 50-plus signatories and the statement from Mumia demanding freedom for all political prisoners can be accessed at http://www.socialistorganizer.org.]