There are many Iraqs.
There are many Americas.
There are many Indias.
There are many Faridabads.
Where are you-I?
(New Series No. 178, April 2003)
In northern Africa, there are the country-State-governments of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. The armed struggle challenging the government of France's occupation and attempt to form a new government had made Algeria hot news in the 1960's. Like Turkey and Indonesia, Algeria consists of a vast majority of Muslims but in 1964 a secular state was established there. Soon after, public discontent started getting out of the control of the new government. During the elections the secular party lost to the religious party, the latter cancelled the elections and continued its stay in power behind the military. The religious party started an armed struggle for power. During these ten years, the secular and religious gangs were involved in bloodshed for power and only when hundreds were slaughtered did it become news. Beyond the bloodshed taking place to save the secular government and to establish an Islamic government, many other occurrences were taking place but the propaganda apparatus kept aloof from discussing them.
In a little magazine called Willful Disobedience, there is a brief description of a people's uprising that has been going on for 2 years in Algeria. Contending and overcoming old and new obstacles, public activities seem to be creating fissures in the present social system. Rejecting dead-end paths and searching for new ways, people's activities seem to be providing constructive material for alternatives, for creating a new society. Come, let us establish a dialogue with our friends in Algeria for an outline of the next stage of our present daily routine life.
* 70 kms. away from the capital Algiers in the Kabylia region of Algeria. On April 18,2001, police killed a student in Benidola in Tiziozi area. There was opposition. It spread. Outbursts of anger took place. People attacked police stations and military detachments. People attacked with simple tactics like throwing stones, glass-bottles, and lighted glass bottles with one-fourth petrol, burning down police vehicles, police stations, courts. Collective anger spread and every type of gov't office and political party office was attacked. People's rebellion, revolt, uprising, insurgency spread to the whole of Kabylia region and millions of people joined it.
* At the beginning of May 2001, the people's upsurge started efforts to organize itself. It came face to face with the problems of committees, assemblies, councils, affinities, and coordination between all of them. Means necessary for coordination and people who became the means had the danger of becoming or being made into delegates-representatives-leaders. But there were also processes occurring of dealing with these dangers.
* The government of Algeria was unsuccessful in crushing the people's upsurge. By mid-June 2001, government control in Kabylia region was almost completely done away with. To stop, contain, cash in on the people's upsurge, the Front of Socialist Forces (FFS) offered support to the military president to bring about democratic change.
* Boycott of police by the people- people refused to sell food or give and food and other materials to the police. The government was forced to use helicopters and convoys of trucks through heavily armed detachments to supply goods to its other detachments in Kabylia region.
* Opportunists infiltrated the people's upsurge and attempted to manipulate in their own interests. At the end of June 2001, the coordination committee of people's groups refused to meet the representatives of the government. In the middle of July 2001, the coordination of Tiziozi drafted an oath of honor, respect, commitment to be taken by those people becoming means for coordination parts of which are:
-- not to be involved in any activities or acts whose aim is to make direct or indirect links with State power and its touts
-- not to use the people's upsurge in the interest for factional interests
-- not to use it for electoral competition or any other process for capturing power
-- not to accept any political appointment in institutions of power
* The attempts of leftists and unions to infiltrate the people's uprising and abduct it for their interests was defeated by the people. During the mass strike in Kabylia on July 26th, 2001, "Throw out the traitors! Throw out the unions!" slogans were in wide circulation and discussion.
* Government officials secretly contracted with such people who supported the idea of compromise with government. At this in mid-August, people threw out all government officials from Soumma Valley (a region in Kabylia). Soon after, all government officials from the whole of Kabylia region were forced out by the people. Mujahideen Minister had to cancel his tour of Tiziozo and the Home Minister was greeted by showers of stones when he came to install the new governor.
* At the beginning of October 2001, the government banned the demonstration being organized to give a charter to the President demanding the release of prisoners, withdrawal of cases, and recalling of police. The government used anti-insurgency armed bans in large numbers to disperse the demonstrators. On October 11, 2001, the coordination-arch and other self-organized meetings and committees, inter-regional coordination decided that no charter demand will be given to any government representative.
* It was also decided that the issue was beyond completely beyond negotiations and anyone who would accept to talk or discuss with the government would be boycotted.
* People stopped paying their taxes and bills. People refused compulsory service in the army.
* On December 6, 2001, people who claimed to be representatives or delegates of the coordination planned to meet the head of the government. The whole of Kabylia region was shut down in protest. People surrounded police barracks and there were violent confrontations. In Amizor, offices of the gas company, tax department, and Mujahideen national organization were burned down. In Elqesaeur, the court and the judge's houses were attacked.
* Roads were obstructed. On February 7, 2002 outside the United Nations office in the capital, people were arrested. People had quarantined the police in barracks. When the police again came onto the roads, there was a mass strike in all of Kabylia. At different places, people assembled in front of police barracks and confrontations with police took place at different places.
* At the end of February 2002, the president declared elections for May 30. In response, the people captured ballot boxes and administrative documents and burnt them. To appease the people, the President withdrew police from two different cities and offered to negotiate.
* At the people's no-compromise assertion, the government again began making large-scale arrests. On March 25, 2002, government forces attacked that theater in Tiziozo which was being used as an office for the coordination. The government issued arrest warrants against 400 'representatives' of the coordination-arch.
* Increasing oppression was met by increasing opposition. On May 20, 2002, when the President went to Algiers University, then the students demanding the release of prisoners greeted the President by showering him with stones. The next day the students took over the University.\
* In May 30, 2002, less than 2% polling took place in Kabylia region. People put up barricades in streets, on roads. Municipalities, government building, election offices were taken over. And burnt ballot boxes were littered on the roads.
* To derail the people's upsurge on June 19, 2002 with the mediation of two representatives, the government prepared a proposal and permitted prisoners to meet and discuss it. People at large rejected 'representatives'. The prisoners refused to accept a proposal that contained their conditions of release for reaching a compromise with the government. With the people's upsurge continuing in August 2002, the government of Algeria released the prisoners and declared to hold elections in October 2002. Again confrontations of people with the police took place in different places. Despite the participation of Socialist Forces Front (SFS), merely 10% voting took place in Kabylia in place.
* The gov't could not have its way despite a second election within a year. In the last week of October 2002, the government again began a major attack on the people. Government armed bands are raiding those places where people hold meetings and coordination groups meet. Arrests and torture occurred. Prisoners went on hunger strikes.
* From amongst the people and from the government side, hundreds have been killed and thousands injured. Despite this, people's uprising in Kabylia region has not come to a halt. For two years continuously, this people's upsurge has not allowed itself to be hijacked. Therefore, the propaganda apparatus is keeping mum about it. But it is necessary for ordinary people to discuss this people's upsurge. New language, new words, new idioms, new meanings seem necessary. And the continuing world-wide churning is making these indispensable.
In this people's upsurge there is no leader, there is no party, there is no charismatic spokesperson. Behind this people's upsurge, there is no letter-like hierarchic organization. There is no pyramid-like organization. Instead of being controlled and directed from above, this people's surge has attempted to organize itself. Opposite to top-down or bottom-up approaches...here those who are at the bottom and have attempted a wider coordination by keeping those who are like them as themselves. As necessary means of coordination, people have been decided upon but they have not been given the rights of representation, delegation, leadership. It is not that everyone is alike or that everyone is equal rather...rather it has been that they are not unequal. Therefore, for two years, this people's upsurge has continued and parties, unions, politicians are other opportunist elements have not been able to hijack it, exploit it.
Government-power seeks, creates mediums-middle persons. Compromise means the present itself! Attempt after attempt to engender, become a representative, delegate, leader.
People surrounding confronting the armed bands of the government had placards in their hands in which was written "You cannot murder us, we are already corpses."
This people's upsurge is against all those in power, all those contending for power, all those anxious for power.