Algeria: Same Boss, Same Struggle

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Algeria no longer seems to be hitting the headlines with a string of communiques listing the assassinations of militant syndicalists, intellectuals and ordinary and anonymous people who made the mistake of letting be known their desire to live and dress outside the boundaries of religious dogma.

A certain fatalism lies behind the bloody stories in most press commentaries.

This brings us back to the basic stereotypical image, which has always been presented, of an uncultured and ignorant people who are incapable of adapting to the modern world. This devaluing and criminal representation has fed racism and justified colonialisation and 'French' exploitation.

After each report of a fresh assassination, it is not rare to hear this sort of comment: they got what they deserved, these Arabs. They wanted their independence! Look what they do with it. Things were better as they were!

There is a certain triumphalism when they speak of the political stalemate and the social and economic misery which affects the vast majority of Algerians. This voyeurism hides a desire for revenge and ignores the French State's responsibility for the genesis of the current situation: 150 years of colonialism can't be rubbed out in a day.

The Socialist Party calls for a memorial to those 32,000 Frenchmen who died during the Algerian war as though they have no shame, no unease faced with the million Algerian deaths which are France's responsibility.

A whole generation of youth was decapitated, all of which weighs heavily when there is a need to reorganise an anemic country which the former colonist was trying to strangle economically. Since then normal commercial relations have been resumed in the interests, of course, of the respective middle classes. But there is no doubt that French capital has always known how to use its weight to influence the Algerian economy. For example, by imposing renegotiated gas prices and capitalising on the urgent financial needs of the Algerian state.

And then there is always the problem of an immigrant work force, the object of blackmail from one quarter or another. It's a question of there being colossal sums at stake simply because of salary transfer. Today France still intervenes to help determine the level of IMF loans in order to influence the decision as to when the funds should be released and in order to determine under what conditions and with what levels of redundancies and which economic policies will be financed by this money. Of course all this is done discreetly and only in the company of reliable people.

All the same we must ask ourselves what the aims of the State and the French managerial class are in all of this. This group of Frenchmen who govern us, have they any interest in ssing Algeria get out of the social stagnation or have they more to gain by seeing the whole population trying to survive under martial law imposed by the military under the pretext of getting rid of the fundamentalists? I don't want to expose too much Machaevellianism but 27 million people are currently crushed and neutralised by the implosion of their own society... all in accordance with the workings of capitalism. Whilst people struggle among themselves it's business as usual.

If the FIS and its most fundamentalist militants have managed to carry out high profile operations it is because they have managed to catalyse social discontent and denounce the incapacity of the bureaucratic FLN.

But without financial support from Saudi Arabia and Iran could they have laid on the food and health provision or the Islamic education?

Today it is the same sources that are funding the network of armed groups. Why? Who gains? Could this happen without at least the neutrality of the American and French states? Is the issue inseparable from the heightened efforts to normalise economic and diplomatic relations with the Iranian and Iraqi states? Surely not.

There is also, without a shadow of a doubt, a desire to 'manage' the moderate faction of the FIS in order to constitute at the end of the day a political compromise between the military and religious groups in order to run Algeria and assure the continuity of French influence in this part of the world.

And it is not just by chance that even here in France Pasqua is making such strenuous efforts to canalise and favour the emergence of a French Islam with an Islamic University and support to set up French Imams.

On the left nobody has anything further to say in so far as the Muslim religion allows for the control of a part of the youth in the suburbs. Better that than riots.

In Vnissieux [a suburb of Lyon] the communist local authority is congratulating itself on seeing young Muslims joining Islamic associations and returning to the police cars and other objects stolen the previous night by other young people. Where will such collaboration lead us?

For sure the Algerians are in a cul-de-sac and no one can tell them how to get out. For sure, we are also in a political impasse, and nobody can say how things will turn out. It's easy to make such a statement. We must continue to realise that it is the same capitalist logic which leads to the same situations and no one can convince us that they are different or in our interest simply because the opposition is not being slaughtered on the streets of Paris.

Let us be clear that the same rumblings are being heard here as well as over there. Will we be able to state and define the convergence of interest which unite the exploited everywhere in order to breach the arrogance of the police and the ministers of all religions?

Bernard Le Monde Libertaire 30/3/94.

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Publication: 
Freedom
Publication Year: 
1994