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(en) Black Flag #222S - The Algerian Insurrection

From anarcho@geocities.com
Date Fri, 13 Dec 2002 03:28:47 -0500 (EST)


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Quevedo said of the Spaniards: "they haven't been able to be historians
but they deserved to be". This is still true of the 1936 Spanish
Revolution: others have written the history. It's too early to write
the history of the insurrection that started in Algeria during spring
2001, but it's not too late to defend it; and to fight the deep
indifference as we see it in France.
    To illustrate the significance of this uprising, we need to look at
the actions and declarations of the Algerian insurgents. Their dignity,
understanding and courage reveals the abjection in which people of the
'modern world' are living; their apathy, their petty worries and their
sordid hopes.
    The young rioters fought police and gendarmerie (military police)
forces for several weeks shouting: "You can't kill us we are already
dead!" Treated as half dead by Algerian society, they knew that they
had to destroy it to start living. From the middle of April, mainly in
Kabylie, but also in Kenchela, Skikda and parts of the East (at Oum El
Bouaghi, Batna, Tebessa, Biskra, El Tarf etc.), they erected
barricades, blocked off roads, assaulted gendarmerie and police
stations. Rioters attacked a prefecture headquarters (in Tebessa, two
ministers were inside the building), burned or vandalised many
courthouses (in Ouacifs the 'Justice Court', recently built, was
reduced to ashes), some tax offices, post offices and state corporation
offices, political parties headquarters (at least thirty two), banks,
social security offices etc. This incomplete list only gives a vague
idea of the scale of the movement, but what is clear is that the
insurgents undertook to clear the land of all "material expressions of
the State".
    After years of killings by the police and the military, the murder
of a student in Beni Douala, on April 18th, provoked the first of the
riots. In Amizour, near Beja´a, the arbitrary arrest of three students
on 22nd April provoked a mass insurrection. In Khenchela, on the 10th
of June, an officer, showing off, driving a large car, called out
insults to a young woman. Attacked by the young people who ran to
defend the woman, he cried out: "But what is going on with you today?"
and the answer was "Everything has changed." He got a good hiding and
his car was destroyed. An hour later, he returned with thirty soldiers
dressed in civilian clothes and armed with automatic rifles. After a
pitched battle, the soldiers retreated, but the riot spread throughout
the whole town: barricades were erected, the city hall, the tax office,
Sonelgaz corporation's headquarter, the prefecture and two chain stores
were turned over by people shouting: "this is the way for Chaouis!"
    When the people cease to tolerate day to day oppression, the
extraordinary becomes ordinary. During these weeks and months, nearly
everyday a gendarmerie brigade was attacked; and usually several at the
same time. Military barracks were besieged; a blockade was imposed on
the gendarmes who were forced to launch raids for supplies. Those who
continued to have relations with them, even strictly commercial, were
boycotted and punished. Some hotels were burned, as well as villas,
cafes, restaurants, and stores; targeted because they belonged to
dishonest officials or various wheeler-dealer-businessmen. There was a
lot of destruction but surprisingly little looting.
    So, for example, in Kherrata on May 23rd a stockpile of goods found
a gendarmerie ex-officer's house was immediately burned. Everyone
expressed their individual or collective grievances; concerning
housing, water, industrial nuisance etc. Those known to be guilty of
corruption were systematically exposed to public condemnation. To start
dealing with the problems posed by the dilapidated state of the
country, it was necessary to first fight those who would prevent the
people taking matters into their own hands.
    The people targeted mayors and any officials close at hand. Beyond
these skirmishes, the project of a complete expropriation from the
expropriators was taking shape. On July 7th a declaration of the
popular committee from Beja´a's Wilaya (prefecture) was made to the
State: "Your gendarmes, symbols of corruption, have only one use - to
kill, repress and traffic. That is why they must leave immediately.
Concerning our security, our brave vigilance committees are dealing
with it admirably: they are our pride." It continued, declaring that
the citizens' problems would be dealt with "by our neighbourhood and
villages' delegates and by trade unionist delegates who are working in
an assembly called the popular committee. This is Direct Democracy!"
    The insurrection, or at least in its more advanced form, was
limited to Kabylie. Nevertheless, the Kabylie insurgents themselves
called it an Algerian Revolution and tried to extend it beyond their
local area, refusing the Berberist identity argument in which their
enemies wanted to disguise them.
    In the aftermath, pointless questions were raised by a governmental
"inquiry commission" and journalists, to discover if provocative
activities of the gendarmerie could have provoked the riots; as if the
existence of the Algerian State and its bloody repression is not a
permanent provocation; and as if the population needed special
justifications to revolt! The insurgents took up the term "hogra", an
Algerian term for the arbitrary nature of authority, its privileges,
corruption and contempt. Fighting the hogra meant fighting the State
itself. What would be left of a state without privileges or corruption,
a state that could not use arbitrary force and scorn? In Algeria more
than anywhere else, nearly nothing: the only public service that had
really worked in this country, over the past forty years, was torture
and political assassination. Whilst conspiring one against the other to
appropriate power and oil income, the State gangs never stopped
conspiring together against the people. As one of these political
decision-makers declared after the repression of October 1988 riots:
    "During thirty years, we were able to tear each other apart, to
fight each other. However, we never abandoned an expelled leader, even
by simply visiting him. Because we were united by the certainty that
our children have to take over from us. We knew that if this law was
broken off, it would be the end for us, because the street would not be
satisfied with one head but would take all." (Cited by Jose Garšon in
the preface of Djallal Malti's book: La Nouvelle Guerre d'Algerie,
1999)
    Through countless purges, eliminations, manipulations,
negotiations, covered up executions and mass killings, the real and
unique continuity of the Algerian State (in continuity with the FLN)
has been the police. As early as 1956, the emerging bureaucracy
organised itself around the FLN' s secret services (the basis for the
future 'Securite Militaire'). The assassination of Abbane Ramdane in
December 1957 illustrates their definitive victory over those who
wanted to use ideology to control the masses and to justify the coming
bureaucratic and dictatorial system.
    Since then police terrorism has tended to take the place of
"revolutionary" rhetoric. Execution became the standard procedure to
resolve conflicts, not only against the MNA of Messali Hadj, but also
inside the FLN itself. Since 1958, police officers were trained in KGB
schools in Moscow. (Former President) Boumedienne had himself been an
assistant to Boussouf, the organiser of FLN' s interior police. And we
know that the generals, who are part of the Mafioso authorities in
Algeria, many "deserters from the French Army" (in other words very
lately converted to the anti-colonial struggle), went during the
sixties to Moscow to gain other skills. With these dual influences of
colonialism and Stalinism, their methods of pacification (or
eradication), mirrored the worst atrocities of the French colonial
army.
    For the bureaucrats who cynically glorified the masses with their
slogans ("Only one hero, the people"), the Algerian masses have served
as human material for their operations and scheming, cannon fodder,
sent to be massacred by the French army and then directly massacred.
The resolution of the rioters, when they already had dozens of dead in
their ranks, gives clear testimony to the hatred accumulated over the
years in Algeria (and particularly in Kabylie) against the State. "No
forgiveness, never!" has been a popular slogan. According to Le Monde
Diplomatique, "the immediate leaving of gendarmerie brigades" from
Kabylie was the only "clear" demand of the rebels. This was a
revolutionary demand, whose natural progression would be the "effective
control of all state executive functions and of security corps by the
democratic elected institutions". The movement's goal was to dismantle
the "special armed detachments" which are the main functional and
"material expression" of the Algerian State.
    To effectively dismantle and then to organise the retaking of power
by the people, by the masses "who substitute their own force for the
force organised to oppress them" (Marx about the Paris Commune) was the
aim. Even if this had only been accomplished in a part of the
territory, it could not have been accomplished without a revolution in
all other aspects of social life in that area. And this was what the
insurgents aimed to do when they besieged the gendarmeries, isolated
them and separated them from society in order that society separated
from them. This was the example that Kabylie gave to the rest of
Algeria.
    The existence of such a movement in itself disproves all the
political lies omnipresent in Algeria for so many years. In the face of
the uprisings, police fictions started to dissolve and people's true
loyalties began to become apparent: "we refuse to show solidarity with
those who are destroying state property" declared a representative of
the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front).
    In Portugal in 1974, people used to say, "truth is like oil". Today
in Kabylie we say: "Truth is like a cork." The insurgents were not
interested in abstract debating of the 'truth' with the state (the
conclusions of governmental enquiry commissions were denounced in
advance, and their dissolution was one of the demands of the El-Kseur
platform), but instead imposed the truth with their "live" actions. One
of the most beautiful moments, was the women's demonstration in Tizi-
Ouzou on 24th May. The women started by refusing to allow the official
"Association of Widowed and Daughters of the Martyrs of the
Independence War" to join their demonstration, and then expelled
Khalida Messaoudi, in her own words "militant companion" of Bouteflika
(president-dictator). She had just left the RCD and was attempting to
change her political image: "As she was trying to slip into the
procession, jeering started. 'Khalida out', shouted some women.
'Khalida Lewinski' screamed others. She had only just been evacuated to
Alger." (Liberation, 26th-27th May 2001.) Finally, after showing their
contempt for the media's auxiliaries, they also prevented
representatives of Kabylie's official council from joining the
demonstration.
    The rejection of all political parties was a consistent aspect of
the insurrection, and one of the most slandered. The offices of the two
parties (RCD and FFS) that might have hoped to profit from such a
movement were among the first to burn in Tizi-Rached on April 26th. And
even during the June 25th demonstration in Tizi Ouzou, commemorating
the third anniversary of the execution of the singer Lounes Matoub, we
heard among the slogans "a kabyle is a kabyle, its enemies are the
gendarmes", "no FFS, no RCD". The most discredited party was the RCD,
despite its resignation from the government at the end of April, it was
impossible to forget its long time collaboration with the military clan
of the 'eradicators'. The FFS, formerly less compromised with the
authorities, revealed its true colours by presenting, on the 12th May,
to Bouteflika, to the army chief of staff and to the chief of the DRS
(former Securite Militaire), a 'memorandum' offering their services to
organise a "democratic transition".
    The most outstanding aspect of the Algerian insurrection was its
self-organisation. The hostility toward political parties and "any
proximity with power", the distrust for unaccountable
'representatives', the refusal to be, once more, rank and file for
political scheming; all this resulted in the spreading and co-
ordination of village and neighbourhood assemblies, rapidly recognised
by everybody as the only authentic expression of the movement. As early
as the 20th April, the delegates of the forty-three villages of Beni
Douala da´ra (sub prefecture) came together to call for a general
strike. During the following days, village committees co-ordinated
throughout the whole wilaya of Tizi-Ouzou. On May 4th, in the city of
Tizi-Ouzou itself, posters from a neighbourhood temporary organising
committee called for a six day general strike. On May 6th a meeting for
the 10th was called in Beni Douala for an assembly of delegates from
Tizi-Ozou, Beja´a and Bouira's wilayas, to co-ordinate actions
throughout the whole of Kabylie and to adopt a platform of demands. As
one delegate declared: "the parties, nobody believes in them anymore
here." (Liberte, May 7th)
    The meeting in Beni-Douala took place as expected, but only 200
delegates, mainly from the villages of Tizi-Ouzou' wilaya attended. It
transpired that the press had broadcast a false communiquÚ announcing
the postponement of the meeting (this was just the beginning of a
growing campaign of disinformation and slanders). A mayor who attended
to remind the assembly of the need to respect the law of the land, was
thrown out "we don't need a mayor here or any state representative"
declared the delegates.
    A concern to protect the autonomy of the movement and the will to
control closely its delegates marked all the decisions; for example, a
decision was made to create a committee headquarters in Tizi-Ouzou to
publicise the next delegates meeting: but the assembly made forbade the
committee the right to speak in the name of the movement. (No
declaration to the media etc.)
    It is impossible to accurately catalogue the spread of the assembly
movement to the whole of Kabylie and on to the rest of Algeria; firstly
because the Algerian "independent" press (and the French press) wrote
of the need for an urgent "democratic" modernisation but hardly
mentioned at all the activities and declarations of the assemblies, or,
worse they slandered them.
    We can nevertheless point out the main developments of self-
organisation, that followed the riots as they spread throughout the
country. On May 18th in Illoula, a delegates meeting of the Tizi-Ouzou
region adopted a platform of demands (among these, the immediate and
unconditional withdrawal of all gendarmerie brigades) and called for a
march on Tizi-Ouzou. On May 21st, this march brought together hundreds
of thousands of demonstrators ("'the black march' was organised by the
co-ordination of village committees and political parties had no
visible presence" noted Le Monde in its May 23rd edition). Then a
succession of delegates meetings led to the formation of an inter-
wilayas co-ordination (Tizi-Ouzou, Beja´a, Bouira, Setif, Boumerdes,
Bordj-Bou-Arredidj, Algiers, and the 'Comite collectif des unversites
d'Alger') and to the adoption, on June 11th at El-Kseur, of a platform
of common demands. The march on Algiers, on June 14th, was the peak of
this first stage of the movement.
    The unofficial aim of the Algiers march was to spread subversion to
Algiers itself and to confront the State 'at home'. And, indeed, going
to the presidency to bring the platform of El-Kseur (the official goal
of the march), with hundred of thousands or millions of demonstrators
in the streets, would have enabled the insurgents to speak directly to
the State, and to proclaim to the Algerian people that the time had
come to end the last forty years of oppression.
    The authorities realised that they had to prevent, at any cost, the
spread of the insurrection to Algiers, and despite the State's
paralysis, found sufficient forces to head off the danger. The
authorities used effectively all the repressive tools available to
them, splitting up the demonstrators from Kabylie, blocking most of
them ten kilometres from downtown Algiers, isolating rioters groups and
introducing agent provocateurs, recruited among local gangs, into the
crowd. Further, the demoralization and fear among people living in
Algiers who suffered the most during the "dirty war" was helpful to the
State. The capital's population had only recently begun to rediscover
their fighting spirit during the student agitation that started in
early May; and since the demonstration called by the FFS on the 31st
which had enabled an initial meeting with the insurgents of Kabylie.
The comments of some Algerois, reported in the press, expressed quite
fairly the situation at that time, after a week of spontaneous demos in
Algiers (and also Oran, Setif, Boumerdes) with hundreds or thousands of
demonstrators:
    "We shout 'pouvoir assassin'. We are beaten. Then we go home and we
watch, on French TV, the real riots in Kabylie, just one hour from
here. But today we'll know better what is going on, if we join the war
or if we stay outside."
    "We were afraid to get out of the neighbourhood because of
assassinations, policemen, terrorists and all that. Now, I think it's
our time, we have to go. But I'm very confused."
    "Who in Algeria, doesn't feel injustice and deep discontent? Who
doesn't want to end that ? However, Algiers is not Kabylie. There it is
very tough but they know each other, they are all together, with a
culture, strong structures that resisted despite war. Here, our only
political education comes from Egyptian TV soap. After years of
brainwashing, G.I.A (Islamic Armed Groups) bulletins looking like
science fiction, our brains were like pulp. In a big city, any
provocation or dirty trick can happen." (Liberation , May 31st 2001)
Jaime Semprun
Paris
Notes:
FFS: Front des Forces Socialistes - Authoritarian Socialist Party
FIS: Front Islamique du Salut - Islamic Salvation Front - Islamic
Populist Party. It was the main opposition to the FLN. They won local
and legislative elections in December 1991, the generals rejected the
democratic results and organised a coup. FIS leaders and activists were
arrested, many tortured, some killed, and the villages and cities who
voted for FIS became victims of State Terror. Of the villagers who
survived, many joined the Islamist terrorist guerrillas to protect
themselves from the army and/or to get revenge.
FLN: Front de Liberation Nationale - THE Algerian Party for decades.
Supposedly democratic and post-colonial, but in fact the corrupt party
of the Leninist-nationalist ruling class. The role of the FLN was to
control, at any price, the vital resources of the country (mainly oil)
for its own interests and for the oil industry. Historically, the FLN
manipulated the memory of the fight against French occupation, but is
now working for privatisation with capitalist global institutions
RCD: Rassemblement Culture et Democratie - Berberist Authoritarian
Party - Presented the Insurrection in Kabylie as a "cultural"
insurrection.

GIA: Islamic Armed Groups - Islamo-fascists who are using 2 types of
armed struggle: regular fighting against the army and terrorism and
mass murder of Algerian civilians. One favourite tactic is to murder
civilians at false army checkpoints. Many of the GIA are in fact
manipulated by the Algerian intelligence services and the army
generals-businessmen (who are the real leaders of the country). In
addition, some terror acts attributed to the GIA are in fact committed
by army commandos dressed as islamist terrorists. For instance they go
into villages who voted for the FIS and kill, torture, rape women, burn
babies in front of their parents etc. Of course western intelligence
services (specially French Services) are aware of the Algerian state
terrorism, but they support it, as a mean of social control and local
stability.





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