Algerian socialist Kamel Aïssat, from the Trotskyist group PST, explains the political crisis in Algeria. He spoke with Sam Wahch and Antoine Larrache of the NPA [New Anti-Capitalist Party, in France]. Translation by Michael Elms.
The PST will mobilise with all its forces to try to broadcast our ideas, in particular about a Constituent Assembly, which is in the interests of the majority of the Algerian people, that is, workers, the unemployed, women, all those excluded by the capitalist system, whose demands must be worked into the new constitution.
The mobilisation will be very big, perhaps bigger than other mobilisations. In associations, in discussions, people are saying they're not just going to come with their families but with their domestic animals as well, to show that people want the government to go, and not just organise some transition!
Our idea of a Constituent Assembly based on the interests of the popular masses is taking root in many sectors. It's not an end in itself but a step in the process that's underway in Algeria, trying to seize as much space as possible for social and democratic rights in the new Algerian constitution.
The PST is trying to unte with all the forces on the side of the workers, the side of the shut-out, to carrry our voice on all the marches we go on, and to give meaning to the people's deeply-held slogans, which are "down with the system" and "we want to try all the people who stole the public wealth", which we interpret in terms of opening the books on Algeria's wealth; and "down with the system" as meaning the system based on the bazaar economy, the market, which has ruined the Algerian economy.
How do you view the Constituent process?
It has to be achieved through mobilisations; otherwise the forces of money will imose another constitution which represents their interests, the interests of a minority which is pillaging Algeria's wealth. The fact that the mobilisation is continuing and deepening and being self-organised is the only guarantee that we have as workers, oppressed women, young people, unemployed people, excluded people; the only way to impose our hopes on this Constituent.
We are looking at a spontaneous popular movement which has started to organise itself, but not according to the classical forms that we have seen in the past. There is no social force which emerged in particular at the outset, but rather civil society in general, the population that demonstrated on Fridays (the "Algerian Sunday", the day of rest). The population decided to raise slogans on little placards, which grew into banners. The banners carried certain demands which are still quite vague, but the interpretation given them by forces like ours are taking the movement in a profoundly radical direction. Self organisation is not just an idea from history books: it is the tool that the masses take up at a certain point, depending on their consciousness, their traditions of struggle, or their traditions full stop, as they face down an adversary. Today, the population sees itself as organising in a context of broad freedom of expression on demonstrations that are making demands, of a regime that is responding with letters from Bouteflika or Salah [army chief]. The people respond in turn with demonstrations on Fridays, and some sectors of workers marching in the week.
This is a maximal mobilisation, with good discipline, symbolised by young people from working-class districts who clean up after the marches! But the spokespeople who have tried to come forward, driven on by privately-owned TV channels, and bosses' newspapers in particular, have almost all been rejected.
The establishment wants to have personalities chosen by the media, but that isn't what's happening at the moment. Self-organisation has made great strides in several sectors. It has started to come about in the universities. We are helping autonomous committees to emerge there. That's what explains the haste with which the Higher Education Minister closed Algeria's universities for a month, two weeks before the holidays.
The second aspect is that now all the neighbourhoods are coming to the demonstrations, organised behind their own banner; villages are coming in an organised way; workers are active in various trade unions[...] This is the case in SONACOM or in the industrial steel port of Annaba, where there are general assemblies and demonstrations in the streets. Indeed, this is now happening in many sectors.
Every day we see a new piece of self-organising springing up. Are these "soviets"? No, but it is the start of a debate between workers; of organisation of workers; of workers expressing themselves autonomously, even, autonomously of trade union apparatuses and their bureaucratic leaderships.