In the middle of the struggle in Algeria, a new organisation is born

17 Mar

“The emancipation of the working class will be the task of the workers themselves”
For Democracy and Socialism
Publication of the Organising Committee of Internationalist Socialists (OCIS)
Saturday, March 9, 2019 — Issue No. 1
We are working-class and trade union activists, youth, and students who engaged resolutely in class struggle. After we discussed at length on Thursday, March 7th, Friday the 8th and Saturday the 9th, we decided to constitute our group as the Organising Committee of Internationalist Socialists (COSI-OCIS). This decision was made in the midst of the revolutionary process that started on February 22nd with the huge marches that enveloped the whole national territory and involved the entire Algerian people. Our aim is to start and address the contradiction between the masses’ powerful mobilisation and the tragic lack of an independent, democratic mass party without which, the compradore bourgeoisie and its institutions are still able to “digest” the most advanced forms of our struggles.

The inspiring movement of millions and millions of women, men and youth has set the whole of Algeria into motion these past two weeks. It can be summarised in one sentence: the people as a whole, and first and foremost the workers and youth, the jobless in city and town areas, are yearning for total and unrestricted sovereignty. As they rise up against the Fifth Term, they rise up against a system which, for decades upon decades — actually since the independence of the nation that was wrenched from colonialist hands in the summer of 1962 — has worked to prevent the sovereignty of the nation from being placed in the hands of the people as a whole. Not only do they yearn to break loose from contrived elections with candidates that are mere shadows or that have been selected according to the needs of the regime, but, beyond this, they yearn to be able to decide for themselves the political forms, the social content and the national content that the sovereignty of the people over themselves must recover.

On every continent and in every situation, such an aspiration has always been addressed by calling and electing a Sovereign Constituent Assembly, which means an assembly with full decision-making powers. A Constituent Assembly, without restriction, without pre-condition, with no other control than the one of those who give their mandates. The working people, the nation, should have full decision-making powers. To make decisions, to cast in iron unrestricted freedom of speech, freedom of association and organisation, to walk out and go on strike, to ensure full equal rights for men and women in every field. Those deep-seated aspirations politically and democratically collide with the regime, which has turned its back on democracy and sovereignty, and which, in collusion with imperialism has turned every component of the regime and the compradore bourgeoisie, into its – not always dutiful but ultimately compliant – agents.

And this overwhelming aspiration also has a powerful social content, which today is expressed in the strikes that are expanding and in the process that is now on its rails of reclaiming the UGTA (General Union of Algerian Workers), the historic federation of workers that has for a long time been a subsidiary of the power structure. Through the strikes what is expressed is the need for the nation’s natural wealth be in the exclusive service of working people. Sovereignty also implies social and economic sovereignty. It implies meeting the aspirations of the more than 30% of jobless youth, those thousands of university graduates who, year in and year out, leave the country for lack of prospects that the country does not offer; it is the aspiration to have social justice, jobs, public services, housing. Fully meeting the people’s aspiration to sovereignty and democracy, sovereignty on the economic and social level, is an emergency. Any answer that would not address all the demands will be looked on as a diversion and will only fuel the anger of the people, workers and youth. Any solution other than the Sovereign Constituent Assembly, whatever the intentions of those who propose it, will be viewed as an attempt to continue with a massively rejected regime.

From all corners one can hear fears that the current situation may result in a period of instability, may lead to live again the terrible dark years of the previous period. Those fears are legitimate when expressed by the “grass-roots society” but when formulated by the “top circles” and their representatives, they are just diversions and attempts at shattering the united people’s mobilisation. Things must be made clear: it is merely the refusal to heed the people’s determination and voice, the voice of workers and youth that threatens stability. It is not through the continuation of an anti-democratic regime that stability can be restored and maintained, on the contrary, it is through full, total and trusting opening up to all the needed forms of the people’s sovereignty. This is what is at stake in the calling of an unrestricted and unlimited Sovereign Constituent Assembly.

There exists no artificial separation between the fight for democracy and the fight of workers for their own demands, which, today, sees workers seek to reclaim their trade union federation, on the basis of the living and working conditions, their trade union centre, the UGTA, which cannot play its part to defend the interests of workers while it remains tied to a power and institutions that the people reject. The UGTA must become again the property of the Algerian workers, of their rank and file unions. It must be the property of union representatives desingated by workers themselves. The process is on its way. It must continue and gain traction. Workers must demand that the UGTA totally break with the regime, at the same time as they present their demands and discuss the means to have them met. An action that has been decided on can and must be monitored by workers themselves. Reclaiming the UGTA will empower workers to have their own interests as wealth producers heard and heeded. Like the UGTT for Tunisian workers during the revolution in Tunisia, the UGTA will be the backbone, the organising and unifying body that will make it possible to extend workers’ decisive action to the whole of society in this process of open crisis that is gathering momentum.

The CSA federation and all the autonomous unions should no longer hesitate. Everywhere, on the shop-floor, in junior and high schools, in colleges and universities, at the municipal and wilaya (department), as well as national levels, they should seek to join the different UGTA structures. As the regime persists to reject the Algerian people’s aspiration for a change and wants again to force its decisions on the people, we shall counerpose the force of large numbers and the unity of workers with their trade union organisations, freed from its yoke. The general strike of workers and citizens would appear as the concrete answer. Unity is needed now, it must be realised without delay, now and still more urgently, in the near future.

The unity and independence of trade unions will mobilise a larger number of workers, will attract and bring along the youth of marginalised areas, the jobless, all the impoverished rural and city layers. It will put on the agenda the organising effort of citizens in marginalised areas, the national independent and democratic union of students and university professors. Self-organisation among the masses to act “all together in unison” and control the struggles can and must surface in the same move.
We are activists and have no interests that are separate and apart from those of the workers, youth and broad layers of the population.

Wherever we are, we fight for the people’s sovereignty, the nation’s sovereignty against imperialism, to have all the demands met, to defend all the conquests, for the independence of trade unions where they exist, and towards the creation of a single unified independent and democratic trade union centre. The toiling masses are fed up with divisions; they aspire to the creation of trade unions where there are none, especially in universities where there is a strong yearning for a “student, unified, independent and democratic union” and a “unified federation for the whole national education system”. We fight for the general strike as a means for the people to impose their will and aspirations.

We activists of the Organising Committee of Internationalist Socialists (COSI- OCIS) are fighting for unity and, first and foremost, with the organisations fighting on behalf of the labour movement and of anti-imperialism. We say it loud and clear, we are ready to take part in any single action to help the masses but also to discuss the formation of a “front of working-class organisations, parties and unions, and anti-imperialist organisations” on the basis of a programme built on the people’s and nation’s sovereignty against imperialism on the principle “Let us walk separately, but let us strike together!”

If we have no interests that are distinct from those of the workers of our country, then we also have none that are distinct from those of workers in other countries of the world. We suffer from and we fight against the same policies that came out of the Bretton Woods financial institutions. We suffer from and we fight against the wars perpetrated by global imperialism – yesterday in Iraq, in Syria and in Libya, and today beyond the southern borders of our country. The political interference of the major powers in the domestic affairs of sovereign states has become a constant given. They use no kid gloves in their challenging of the sovereign legitimacy of the legitimate president of Venezuela. And what is to be said of what the sacrosanct alliance between imperialism and Israel that the people of Palestine have been subjected to for over 70 years?

Like all organisations, including revolutionary ones equipped with a programme, the “Fourth International” has been subjected to the pressure of those who promote – and especially who act for – the preservation of the present order, based on the private ownership of the means of production. Revisionist and liquidating currents have insinuated themselves into its leaderships, in an attempt to break it apart. In the early 1950s, the International was destroyed as a democratically centralised organisation. It was reconstructed, and has for four years now been through yet another crisis, the source of which is the same as in the 1950s: the abandonment of its party-building and an adaptation to bourgeois society.

We say that the time has come today for gathering the forces that will tackle the reconstruction of an independent and genuine labour representation of workers and young people. In the parties that already exist, there are many activists and currents who are perfectly at home in this reconstruction: the members of the PST, UTS and VOS, the members of the ex-PAGS and, naturally, the members of the PT (Workers Party– a party that has held on to its sympathisers in a broad sector of the working class, due to the battles it has waged in the past. But the revolutionary process that is taking place today has shed a crude light and exposed the orientation that its general secretary has fixed over many years now: that of adapting to the needs of the regime, or at the very least to the needs of a fraction of that regime, under the cover of saving the needs of society for security and stability. Its recent positions (postponing elections, a medical solution to the crisis, etc.) have now been assimilated by a broad vanguard as a treatment for the needs of the regime, or at least a fraction of the regime, in order to save what is essential: the continuity of the regime. Its advice distilled to the deciders at each of the crucial stages of the confrontation between the masses and the regime has clearly been a refusal to break with the regime in place and a refusal to fully assume the tasks of a fight for a Constituent Assembly. We are not happy with this situation. It is an expression of the crisis that is hitting the labour movement in Algeria just as on the international scale. It is the expression of the necessary re-building of forces on the line of labour independence, and the re-construction of the labour movement. For our part and based on the positions that are our own, we are ready to participate shoulder-to-shoulder with all those of all the currents of the labour movement, of all the supporters of popular and national sovereignty who are ready to engage, in the framework of free and open discussion, in this fight.

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