An interview with Abdelkader Bentaleb, of the Organising Committee of Internationalist Socialists of Algeria (COSI)
What is the situation on the eve of the 12 June legislative elections?
The regime knows perfectly well that these elections are and will be massively rejected. When he called them, the president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, had clearly indicated that the rate of participation was of little importance to him. What counts above all is that the elections be held, in order to maintain and guarantee the continuity of the regime – with a new team, but also with some recycling of members of Bouteflika’s staff.
But the legislative elections of 12 June are facing a major obstacle: the popular movement, which has not diminished, as we have seen in the weekly Tuesday and Friday marches. The wave of workers’ strikes and popular struggles have become its essential component. The movement of workers and the popular strata remains intent on its demands: the saving of jobs and salaries, social housing, and a refusal in advance of all the heavy blows to come against pensions and state subsidies for the prices of basic necessities… And a refusal, also, to send their children off to die elsewhere…
How does the regime manage to keep hold?
The regime is determined to stay the course, associating the front-line and back-bench supporters of the so-called « political class » to its project, from the
Islamist movement – notably the MSP – to the parties of the former presidential alliance (FLN, RND, Tadj, etc.), and a multitude of micro-parties from the FLN. The government has also put forward hundreds of so-called « independent » candidates with whom it will secure a parliamentary majority. The regime has the support of the national trade union leaderships, particularly that of the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), whose general secretary has just called on the Ministry of Labour to repress the workers in struggle. The regime also has the support of imperialism, particularly French and American. As this was not enough, it resorted to repression. Witnin a fortnight, the balance sheet has been heavy: 2,000 arrests, 217 prisoners of conscience, several hundred workers punished for striking, including 250 « suspended » civil defence agents. Finally, political parties notably the Socialist Workers’ Party (PST) and the association called Rassemblement Actions Jeunesse (RAJ, “Grouping of Youth Actions”) have been threatened with dissolution.
Is the sovereign Constituent Assembly still the solution?
The current repression is symptomatic of the anti-democratic nature of the regime and its institutions, and therefore of its future National Assembly. Since the summer of 1962, this regime has expropriated the people’s democratic right to decide their future. The first constitution was adopted under the one-party system, taking advantage of and using the euphoria of independence and the prestige of the FLN. Since then, the Algerian people have never been able to express themselves in a sovereign manner on their future. It took the death of more than 500 young people in October 1988 for the regime to concede a « controlled multi-party system ».
Through their irruption in the streets since 22 February 2019, millions of Algerians have put back on the table their democratic right to exercise sovereignty over their future. Two years after the opening of the revolutionary crisis, this struggle for dual sovereignty – popular and national – remains relevant. It pits the will of the majority against the minority will of the regime and its institutions.
Today, it means to act by saying no to the elections of 12 June, and to constitute a united front of militants, workers’ organisations and organisations attached to democratic freedoms; to act so that the workers’ organisations, trade unions and parties break with the bourgeoisie, with imperialism and its lawyers. This struggle opens the way to the emancipation of the working people, the only ones able to implement the democratic and social programme for a society free of oppression and the exploitation of man by man.
Interviewed on 6 June 2021