The Algerian Trotskyists in the mirror of the presidential election
(«Proletarian»;Nr. 11; Winter-Spring 2015)
On April 17 President Bouteflika was re-elected for a fourth term as president of Algeria with 81.5% of the vote; his main «competitor», former Prime Minister Ali Benflis, won 12% of the vote.
Among the other candidates, Louisa Hanoune, leader of the Workers Party («Lambertist» Trotskyists), was credited with a score of 1.5% (1). A special feature of this election, whose outcome was never in doubt, is that Bouteflika, seriously ill and a stroke victim, is impotent; a veritable living Mummy, he has almost lost the power of speech and can move only with the greatest difficulty. No matter that he no longer has the required faculties to even inaugurate chrysanthemums, he was re-elected as «head of State» with a Breznevian percentage! One could not dream of a better demonstration that elections are a pure masquerade and that the State, beyond the politicians who head it at any particular time, is the impersonal defender of the class domination of the bourgeoisie and the corresponding capitalist mode of production; even when they do not attain such a degree of farce, in the bourgeois regime, to quote Marx, the elections are to designate once every 3 or 6 years which member of the ruling class «will represent» and trample the people underfoot in Parliament (2).
Elections, and the entire democratic mechanism in general, are a very valuable means of indirect defense of the capitalist order; by legitimizing the bourgeois political system that would allow all, including the oppressed and the exploited not only to «express themselves», but to decide State policy, they are an antidote to the revolutionary proletarian struggle. The denunciation of the democratic mystification, demonstrating that its purpose is to hide the reality of class antagonism and bourgeois dictatorship, is a constant task of Marxist revolutionaries: they must constantly remind the proletarians that it is by force and not by the ballot, that the odious capitalist regime can be overthrown.
Or, as Lenin said: «The need to instill this idea systematically in the masses – and specifically this one –that violent revolution is the basis of all the teachings of Marx and Engels» (3).
Let us examine how the parties which, rightly or wrongly, are deemed to be the Algerian heirs of the leader of the Red Army have comported and are comporting themselves in the current situation.
THE BOUNDLESS SERVILITY OF THE WORKERS PARTY TOWARDS THE BOURGEOIS STATE
We have seen that Louisa Hanoune, leader of the Workers Party, had participated in the presidential elections, contributing in this way to give some credibility to this farce. It is a constant attitude for the WP to help the authorities when they are confronted with calls for a boycott of the elections and in any case with a massive abstention.
But in recent months, the WP was concerned about the clan warfare raging within the ruling political circles at the approach of the presidential election. Thus in early February, Louisa Hanoune did not hesitate to run to the aid of general «Tewfik» (Mohamed Mediene), the head of the DRS (Department of Intelligence and Security, formerly the sinister «Military Security» notorious for the brutality of its repression and its abuses of all kinds against opponents)! He had been criticized by the Secretary-General of the FLN (National Liberation Front, the main Government party) Saadani for its interference in political affairs. Saadani who publicly called for the resignation of Toufik because of the repeated failures of these services, especially accused the DRS of «inventing stories [of corruption]in the president’s inner circle» (4). For Louisa Hanoune, these statements meant that due to «some supporters of a fourth term» [of Bouteflika] «our country is facing the most serious political crisis in its history, a crisis more serious than that of the summer of 1962, because it is the integrity and stability of the nation State which are at stake» because of the «risk of foreign intervention» it would imply (5)!
After having thus on February 7 noisily supported the opponents of the re-election of Bouteflika, Louisa Hanoune met on February 13 with the Chief of staff of the army and Deputy Defence Minister, General Gaïd Salah, deemed to be the «strong man» of the presidential clan.
According to a communiqué of the WP, she stated at this meeting «the need to preserve the unity of the military institution and its cohesion against any attempt to divide likely to undermine the stability of the country and pave the way for foreign interference»; and she said that the Algerian army «rightly deserved the international recognition earned by its proven track record in the fight against terrorism which is a source of pride for the Algerian people» (6)!!! No doubt after this, that the general and the Trotskyist (poor Trotsky!) parted company as the best friends in the world…
According to Marxism, the army is the backbone of the bourgeois state. The Communist International of Lenin and Trotsky therefore prescribed antimilitarist actions to the communist parties (on a class basis and not a pacifist one): «The proletariat rejects in principle and combats in the most energetic manner all military institutions of the bourgeois state and the bourgeois class in general. (...) The maximum of attention and energy is constantly required in the agitation against the special troops that the bourgeoisie arms for the class war» (7). But Algerian proletarians do not need to have read the constituent Theses of the Communist International to know which side of the class divide the military and the DRS are on: they have learned it in their blood if only coming out of the savage repression of the riots of 1988 which left hundreds of dead. By publicly rallying to the defense of «the unity of the military institution» and the «stability of the country» and by supporting the DRS, the WP could not demonstrate more brilliantly its alignment with the bourgeois order; but its servility towards the authorities manifested itself again after the elections.
In a press conference held after the proclamation of the election results, Louisa Hanoune was congratulatory... on the re-election of Bouteflika: «it’s a clear, straightforward mandate, national in scope that he has obtained (...). There was no massive fraud (...). The choice of the people to give a mandate to Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was enacted by the desire to avoid the country’s switch to the unknown and chaos» (8). A few weeks later, during May 1, while a small group of activists was dispersed in Algiers by the police for having called for an independent assembly, she quietly attended the official ceremonies, laying a wreath between the Minister of Labor and the Secretary-General of the official trade union, the UGTA, whose role as strikebreaker is known to all.
In early June, members of the WP attacked the autonomous unions that have formed in response to the collaborationism of the UGTA, accusing them of bringing harm to it: «As a matter of fact, they are tools in foreign hands who want to make Algeria pay for its sovereign position towards the Arab spring that shook some countries in North Africa and the Middle East». And they called on the Government to put them «back on the right path» (9). The WP is indeed hostile to the revolts that many Arab States experienced: at a joint press conference last November, the WP and the FLN thus claimed that the «revolutions of the Arab spring are just chaos programmed with support from foreign parties». According to Hanoune, it is a «chaos that targets the Republics by a movement organized by foreign non-governmental organizations(NGO’s) targeting the integrity and stability of the country» (10)! Exactly the arguments of a Mubarak or a Ben Ali...
Meanwhile in mid-May, the WP had decided to participate in the consultations decided by the Government on a revision of the Constitution (which all the opposition parties have dismissed as a mere diversion) on behalf of the «aspirations of the Algerian people for real democracy» (11).
Yet another demonstration that when politicians, right or left, talk of democracy and aspirations of «the people», they are thinking only of maintaining order and social stability.
THE SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY: DEMOCRATISM IN its VERY MARROW
Compared to the fanatical defense of the nation and of order of the «Trotskyists» of the WP and their disgusting servility vis-à-vis the government, it is not difficult for the Socialist Workers Party (PST/SWP sympathizing organization of the Fourth International Usec) to appear to the left. The SWP denounced in a statement of 11 April the «electoral masquerade» and it called for a «massive abstention (12). It criticized the WP by writing that «Louisa Hanoune abandoned her working class identity» and that the platform of her party «does not address the workers, the unemployed, youth and women and the downtrodden. It is akin to an offer to the power in place and the employers to reform the system and save the liberal regime» (13).
But looking closer, things start smelling fishy. We must first note that the SWP had not announced its definitive position on the presidential election a few days before the election, some party activists being supporters of participation in this «masquerade»... On the other hand, in an interview last February, Mahmoud Rachedi, the Secretary General of the SWP, said he was still waiting for the WP response to his project to develop an «Union of the Left» that could «present a single candidate against economic liberalism and against foreign submission», the WP being, according to his own statements, «closest to our political vision» (14).
So the WP has not yet lost its working class identity? Still Louisa Hanoune had made her statements in favor of the army; but Rachedi, reminding us that according to the SWP» she is trapped by its opportunistic positions vis-à-vis Bouteflika» would only say in the interview about Hanoune’s meeting with the defense Minister: «Our party is for freedom, thus the freedom to meet whoever we want [!]. (...) We would just wish that the President of the WP who has the opportunity to meet with Bouteflika or Gaid Salah speaks more about the workers, the unemployed and those on strike for example»!
Which is the more opportunistic of the two, the one that asks for an audience with the Chief of Staff of the Army to speak about the «stability of the country» and the unity of the army, or those who find this normal in the name of freedom, just adding that she should have been telling him something about the workers?
The political proximity to the WP admitted by Rachedi, is none other than proximity in opportunism, proximity in the renunciation of Marxism, as we shall see. If one examines the positions of the SWP, we see in fact that they are all motivated by democratism and not by class positions. The call for abstention in the presidential elections was not based on a Marxist critique of bourgeois democracy and the inability to use the bourgeois electoral process in favor of the workers, but on the consideration that this election «is not democratic and its result will have no legitimacy». But what «legitimacy» should Marxists recognize in elections, even the most democratic? As long as capitalism persists the bourgeoisie remains the dominant class and it dominates the exploited and oppressed classes and the proletariat in particular, at all levels including at the level of «ideas», «opinions» and ... elections. In the «Theses on bourgeois democracy and proletarian dictatorship» of the Communist International, Lenin wrote: «All the socialists, by demonstrating the class character of bourgeois civilization, bourgeois democracy bourgeois parliamentarism, expressed this idea already formulated by Marx and Engels that even the most democratic bourgeois republic cannot be anything but a machine to oppress the working class for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. (...) Marx (...) proved [by analyzing the experience of the Commune] the exploitative nature of democracy and bourgeois parliamentarism» (15). This does not mean that the proletariat and the oppressed cannot fight and free themselves from the domination of the bourgeoisie; this means they cannot do it through the mechanism specifically established by the latter to perpetuate its rule; they have to fight on another terrain, that of open confrontation, class against class, to violently smash capitalism.
But this is not the way indicated by our Trotskyists; The 4/11 release also states: «the SWP calls for the election of a constituent Assembly representative of the interests of workers, young people, women and all oppressed people of our country. The SWP reiterates its call for a democratic convergence, antiliberal and anti-imperialist». In its communiqué of 4/20 on the outcome of the elections, the SWP reaffirmed: «only a convergence of democratic energy and antiliberal and anti-imperialist forces can impose the satisfaction of the aspirations of the majority of Algerian men and women. A convergence which will impose the election of a constituent Assembly representative of the interests of workers, youth, women and all the oppressed of our country» (16), etc.
The objective is thus a «democratic» assembly of diverse «social forces», in other words, according to Marxism, a gathering of several classes, an interclassist assembly. The SWP tasks such an assembly with the struggle against «liberalism» –i.e. a particular bourgeois policy– and against imperialism –that is to say, foreign capitalism. No question of proposing the struggle against capitalism in general – and first against the private capitalists and Algerian state capitalism – in other words against those who directly exploit the workers of Algeria, if we want to achieve a democratic convergence! The latter will suffice, no one knows how, to «impose» the satisfaction of the aspirations of the majority of the population, perhaps through the famous representative constituent assembly which the Trotskyists of all countries invoke at one time or another.
Interclassism always involves sacrificing proletarian interests to the interests of other more or less propertied classes that one wishes to attract; and the illusionists are always ready put the proletarians to sleep with democratic mirages. Also the statements of the SWP also take up the bourgeois or petty bourgeois words of «people», «popular sovereignty» and so on, instead of demonstrating the falsity of these conceptions and use the Marxist notions of class and class struggle.
But it isn’t a question of vocabulary! According to the Communist Manifesto, the proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains; According to the «socialists» of the SWP they possess, in the same way as other Algerians, the «national wealth»! The SWP is indignant that «proponents of liberalism» want «to monopolize our national wealth» (4/11 communiqué).
And if one defends «our» national wealth, it is logical that one defends the nation and the national State which protects it. Another PST leader, Nadir Djermoune, referring to many election speeches about «conspiracies» aimed at national sovereignty, also speaks of the danger of «a challenge to the minimum of sovereignty of the Algerian state by imperialism (...). Only a popular mobilization is able to roll back these imperialist objectives. But these mobilizations will be doomed to failure if from the outset they do not pose as a principle the anti-imperialist resistance and the defense of the national State. The current protest movements are built on the idea of ending the national State and this, by an unfortunate confusion between the regime and the State. The latter is still regarded as an object in the hands of the ruling oligarchies which should be broken so as to bring about a democratic state» (17). Into the trash bin goes the Marxist thesis, borne out by the historical experience of the Commune, that the proletariat must have as its objective the destruction of the bourgeois state! But it is true that Djermoune is talking of people and not the proletariat…
The same author has also published, in the context of the presidential elections, an article on «The challenges of the democratic struggle in Algeria» (18).
In this text he is comically pondering what democracy means and on the possibility of «discovering» a form of democracy that would be better than the «most advanced» form that exists today, the «so-called bourgeois democracy or parliamentary democracy». And he responds: «We must invent new superior and universal democratic forms that meet the collective and individual aspirations of all social and cultural categories at a given moment in history».
«All social categories»: It’s clear, now it is the class struggle that is thrown into the trash! Djermoune can conclude his text with the SWP policy proposal: «A transition, which seems to be accepted by all, in order to be democratic, cannot spare the need for a constituent assembly as a starting point for a national debate where all components of society are represented» (19). Interclassism, defense of the national state, national unity, we see that the political congruence between the WP and the SWP is perfect...
If Djermoune and the other leaders of the «Socialist» Workers’ Party had read the texts of an author who was not a supporter of the «national debate», but of the national and international class struggle, a certain Trotsky, they may have been able to «discover» what is really the Socialist position regarding democracy:
«In the practical interests of the development of the working class, the Socialist Party took its stand at a certain period on the path of parliamentarism. But this did not mean in the slightest that it accepted in principle the metaphysical theory of democracy, based on extra-historical, superclass rights. The proletarian doctrines examined democracy as the instrument of bourgeois society entirely adapted to the problems and requirements of the ruling classes; (…) It was just for this reason that the theoreticians of the proletariat had to expose the metaphysics of democracy as a philosophic mask for political mystification.(…) In the name of its fundamental task, the Socialist Party mobilized the masses on the parliamentary ground as well as on others; but nowhere and at no time did any party bind itself to bring the masses to Socialism only through the gates of democracy. In adapting ourselves to the parliamentary regime, we stopped at a theoretical exposure of democracy, because we were still too weak to overcome it in practice. But the path of Socialist ideas which is visible through all deviations, and even betrayals, foreshadows no other outcome but this: to throw democracy aside and replace it by the mechanism of the proletariat, at the moment when the latter is strong enough to carry out such a task.» (20) Such sentences should be branded with red-hot iron on the fronts of all the petty bourgeois democrats who want to pass themselves off as Marxists!
The Algerian «Trotskyists» whom we have reviewed constitute, like their colleagues in other countries, a current perhaps revolutionary in words (if that!), but certainly not revolutionary in practice. Internationally Trotskyism in all its variants is a fundamentally democratic and nationalist movement, that is to say petty bourgeois; a degenerate political movement formed on the basis of all the errors of Trotsky in the thirties, which have been aggravated still more over the decades so as to lose any revolutionary proletarian character and to merge more and more with the heirs of Stalinism and with the reformists in general; a current that uses some vague and carefully sorted references to Trotsky and Marxism to better oppose authentic Marxism (denounced as «ultra-left»); a current that only welcomes workers’ struggles and only speaks to workers’ demands so as to obstruct proletarian class orientations.
It is outside of Trotskyism that the proletarians of Algeria and elsewhere should organize on classist bases; It is only outside and against these false revolutionaries the same as outside and against all the alleged Marxists in the Stalinist or Maoist matrix, that it will be possible for the workers’ vanguard to find unadulterated Marxist positions and the authentic communist program; it’s outside and against all these currents they will need work in union with the proletarians of all countries, for the reconstitution of the international class party, the indispensable organ to lead the proletarian struggle against the capitalists and their States and to lead the future world communist revolution!
(1) No doubt to give more plausibility to the results, a low participation figure was announced: 50.70% (while for the 1995 presidential elections a completely implausible figure of 75% was provided). That was enough for many commentators, including «Trotskyists» to ramble on about the decline in participation. But as a journalist said ironically «efforts» were made by the authorities to achieve a turnout of more than 50%. http://maghrebemergent. com/presidentielles-2014/item/36619-l-abstention-en-hausse-a-fait-perdre-benflis-mais-fragilise-bouteflika4.html
(2) See Marx «The Civil War in France,» quoted by Lenin in «The State and Revolution», Collected Works, Volume 25, p. 456 (ch.3, para. 3).
(3) Lenin, «The State and Revolution», ibid. 433.
(4) http://www. lecourrierdelatlas. com/652903022014Saadani-pilonne-general-Toufik.html
(5) http://www.algerie1.com/zoom/la-big-anxiety-de-louisa-hanoune/. Louisa Hanoune is prone to these melodramatic declarations.
(7) See «Theses on the structure, methods and activities of communist parties», para. 30 Third Congress of the Comintern in Moscow, June 1921.
(8) El Moudjahid, 28/4/14.
(12) http://afaqichtirakiya. wordpress. com/2014/04/12/le-pst-appelle-les-algeriens-et-les-algeriennes-a-ne-pas-cautionner-cette-mascarade-electorale/
(13) http://www. algeriepatriotique. com/ article/le-pst-louisa-hanoune-abandonne-son-identite-ouvriere
(15) First Congress of the Communist International, Moscow in March 1919.
(16) http://afaqichtirakiya. wordpress. com/2014/04/20/pour-une-convergence-des-energies-democratiques-et-des-forces-sociales-anti-liberales-et-anti-imperialistes/
(17) http://afaqichtirakiya. wordpress. com/ 2014/04/23/elections-algeriennes-victoire-a-larrache/
(20) See Trotsky, «Terrorism and Communism» (1920). (MIA) Djermoune ended his text with a rather obscure quote from the late French Trotskyist Bensaid which asserted that revolutionary activity is always uncertain and indeterminate. It is not surprising that Bensaid considered this text by Trotsky «appalling»!
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