The Algerian PST’s ban: ‘part of the regime’s authoritarian offensive’

Below is an article from Mahdi Adi, published by the French Révolution Permanente (RP) group, on the repression of the Algerian Parti Socialiste des Travailleurs (PST). It was published on RP’s website on 25 May.

On 22 May, the General Secretary of the Parti Socialiste des Travailleurs (PST) Mahmoud Rechidi announced that “the regime has begun a judicial process towards the provisional suspension of the PST, of all its political activities, and the closing of its office” – a serious, anti-democratic attack by the regime, which is leading an authoritarian offensive to muzzle opposition and suffocate social contest as the 12 June legislative elections approach. 

The eruption of the popular masses, of the hirak [movement], on 22 February 2019 allowed the Algerian people to raise itself up and remove Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power for 20 years, and attempting to gain a fifth mandate as President of the Republic. The popular mobilisation exacerbated the regime’s internal crisis, leading to the arrest of ministers, oligarchs, and high-ranking officers. Under the pressure of the mobilisation, so as to calm the anger and prepare for a “return to normal”, the regime attempted to shed its skin – with, however, an anti-social reform package that laid the cost of the economic crisis on workers, in addition to the continued wasting of national wealth, to the profit of imperialism and the comprador bourgeoisie. 

Two years later, despite all this maneuvering, a defiance against the regime clearly remains; the attempted plastering-over has not calmed that popular anger. Witness the massive rejection of the presidential elections – an abstention rate of 60% which, nevertheless, installed the former prime minister Tebboune to power. And, against the attempts at co-optation in the wake of the hirak, social struggles developed across the [state] enterprises in opposition to redundancies, the cost of living, and for union freedoms. Numilog, AlCost, le Poste, and still with Éducation Nationale: these struggles are the face of a new generation of workers breaking with the bureaucratic direction of the Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens (UGTA), as influenced by the historic, popular uprising which brought Algerian masses together onto the streets without regional or corporatist distinction [1], unseen since 1962 and the independence movement. 

‘Cap Blanche I’, 2015, by Lydia Ourahmane.

Faced with a social and political movement, the regime plays the repression card. Strikers were accused of being “foreign agents” by the army review, Al-Jaysh; the government has instrumentalised the anti-imperialist struggle for repressive ends, as with the police repression of the Numilog workers on 14 April in Bejaia. The students’ Tuesday marches were forbidden; protestors and journalists were arrested in their dozens during the weekly Friday marches. The regime has not spared the leaders of political groups, even those compromised by it during Bouteflika era, who were forced by popular pressure to reject the masquerade of the 12 June legislative elections and call for their boycott, such as Wahid Ben Halla (leader of MDS), Mohasin Belabbes (President of the RCD), and Ali Laskri (leader of the FFS), arrested on 14 May. [2] 

The PST threatened with a ban: the regime’s authoritarian offensive continues. 

Just a few weeks ago, the PST brought together more than one hundred militants as its congress. The party was founded in 1989 by militants of the Groupe Communiste Révolutionnaire (GCR). Over the last period its activists have intervened in the hirak and the Numilog workers’ strike, where they have played a role. The threat of the party’s banning is part of the regime’s authoritarian offensive, continuing on the arrest of [Parti des Travailleurs leader] Louisa Hanoune, for example – a preventative, anti-democratic offensive, in the context of a noticeable radicalisation of social struggles. 

It follows the 18 May decision of the Haut Conseil de sécurité, presided over by Tebboune, to put the Mouvement pour l’Autonomie de la Kabylie (MAK) and Rachad on the “list of terrorist organisations”. Without shedding tears for either organisation – the first instrumentalises the democratic and cultural aspirations of the people of Kabyle for racist ends, whilst the second uses the Muslim Brotherhood’s religious discourse to demand a neo-liberal model, plus reactionary counter-reforms at the social level – their banning allows the regime to legitimise the criminalisation of any political organisation that will not join the national unity government that it hopes to form with the 12 June elections. Faced with the threat of a ban by the regime, it is vital to give our unconditional solidarity to the comrades of the PST. 

All those organisations that claim to be part of the workers’ movement must denounce the regime’s offensive, regardless of any political disagreements with might exist. Such an offensive would, if sustained, create a terrible precedent, one with consequences for democratic rights, the very conditions of struggle in Algeria. Faced with the regime’s authoritarian offensive, the widest possible front should be created by PST militants, in defence of democratic rights (and totally independent from the regime). In order to affect the balance of forces, the working-class’ means of struggle, the strike and protests, are decisive weights against the authoritarian offensive of the regime.

[1] The translators are unsure what the author means with ‘corporatiste’. 

[2] respectively, the Mouvement Démocratique et Social, Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie, and the Front des Forces socialistes.

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