Algeria: the proletariat is angry

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Throughout January there have been numerous strikes and street demonstrations in Algeria[1]. Aware that this might be a ‘bad example' and stimulate reflection in a part of the proletariat, especially among immigrant workers who can't help but be affected by these experiences, the French bourgeoisie has given very little media attention to all this.

Demonstrations by unemployed workers in Annaba in east Algeria, by the homeless or badly housed in a whole series of places, workers' strikes in Oran, Mostaganem, Constantine and especially in the industrial suburbs of Algiers, where there was an important level of protest - all this has been subject to the black-out. With the brutal acceleration of the economic crisis, bringing inflation, declining purchasing power and various other attacks, the working class, which has been weakened in recent years, has once again raised its head. There has been a real surge in workers' anger in numerous regions, above all in the heart of the industrial sector. The zone of Rouiba, an industrial suburb to the east of Algiers, seems to have been in the limelight. Everyone remembers that this is where the so-called ‘Semolina revolt' of 1988 broke out[2]. But unlike the latter, which was a rebellion by a starving general population, a revolt of the non-exploiting strata, this time we saw a more specific mobilisation of the proletariat, with its own demands, demands which have always belonged to the workers' movement: for wages, for pensions, against lay-offs.

The workers of the SNVI (Societé Nationale des Véhicules Industriels, formerly SONACOM) were the first to enter the fray. At the end of 2009 the government decided to end the opportunity for its employees to retire early, an undertaking introduced in 1998. In response, the strike spread like wildfire, hitting both public sector and private sector enterprises, with over 10,000 out on strike. Workers at Mobsco, Cameg, Hydroaménagement, ENAD, Baticim and other companies joined the struggle out of solidarity with their class brothers. The workers then confronted major anti-riot police forces in the centre of the town, where the unions had led them[3].

Parallel to these struggles in the capital, on the back of endless and tumultuous revolts by the young jobless, 7,200 workers from the steel complex at Arcelor Mittal in El Hadjar, Annaba, 600 km east of Algiers, came out on strike against the planned closure of the coking plant and the suppression of 320 jobs. Faced with the hardening of a ‘general, and unlimited' strike, and with the evident determination of the workers, the bosses applied to have the strike declared illegal. Here the UGTA union federation was a very useful auxiliary in sabotaging the movement, calling on the workers to go back to work and accept at face value the bosses' promises to invest in the rehabilitation of the coking plant. The reality is that such cuts are inevitable and the idea of rehabilitating the plant is a smokescreen. The trade unions can't say this though!

This social ferment once again shows the growing militancy of workers around the world.   WH 23/1/10



[1]               Sources: http://www.prs12.com/spip.php?article11934, www.mico.over-blog.org, http://www.afrik.com/article18531.html and also the newspaper El Vatan.

[2]               In 1988 the ‘Semolina revolt' broke out in response to a brutal rise in basic foodstuffs. It was suppressed by the army at a cost of more than 500 dead. See Révolution Internationale no 314

[3]               Following these events, which came after the new tripartite agreement (government, bosses and union) which codified the latest attacks, the boss of the UGTA was denounced as a ‘sell out'.