17-04-2019 – Algeria was one of the foremost countries of the wave of anti-colonialist liberation struggles which followed the Second World War, winning its independence from France in 1962. Today, there are both hidden and barely hidden attempts to bring Algeria back within the vice-like grip of Western imperialism. The US Empire, desperate after being defeated in Syria, and following ham-fisted failed attempts at regime change in Venezuela, is responding by doubling their bets. Anywhere they can see even half a chance at fostering and fomenting internal regime change where an independent country exists, Wall Street in all probability has contingency plans ready to roll.
To the uninitiated, waves of protest in Algeria calling on an octogenarian leader to refrain from running in the Presidential election for a fifth time appear to be self-justified. Yet in Africa, and politics in general in 2019, things are not at all what they seem. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a joint press conference with Algerian Deputy Prime Minister Ramtane Lamamra last month. Lavrov pointedly warned of external interference and destabilisation in Algeria. This was a veiled reference to the US state department, delivered with trademark Lavrov diplomacy. Russia and Algeria have been strong allies since the time of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and Algeria also signed a Strategic Partnership agreement with Russia in April 2001. More recently, in 2014 Algeria rejected a US demand to set up a military base on their soil. Since then, Algeria has been one of the very few Arab countries to vigorously defend the Syrian Arab Republic against the US/Israeli/Saudi backed jihadist death squads which besieged them, as Algeria itself is susceptible to similar attacks, some as spillover from the NATO destruction of Green Libya in 2011.
Algeria tilts towards Russia, against NATO
Given the aftermath of NATO’s annihilation of Libya, in cahoots with Al Qaeda linked death squads they armed, Algeria has found it necessary to align itself with the Russia/Syria/Anti-NATO bloc. This is the real reason for the current round of staged protests calling for “regime change” in Algeria. There are always some domestic pro-US layers of society in all countries, from liberal students to agents of small or large business classes. In this case, such elements are betraying Algeria’s independence under a grossly distorted banner of “freedom and democracy”. To be sure, working people in Algeria have no stake per se in the capitalist system operated by the Algerian political leaders. However, allowing Algeria to be fully open to US/NATO plunder via US backed regime change would be consonant with a return to occupation by French imperialism, i.e. it would return Algeria to a situation before its independence in 1962. To that extent, workers in Algeria and internationally need to militarily side with Algeria/Russia/Syria against the US Empire, while retaining their own organisational and political independence.
Russia, in the form of the then USSR, has backed Algerian independence since the first hours of its declaration in 1962. Yet today the alliance between Algeria and Russia to a large extent hinges on Algeria’s backing of Russia’s actions in Syria, where it is still combatting the residues of the unhinged US backed ISIS death squads. Russia also appreciates the Algerian government’s role in what they term the “pacification” of Libya and Mali. That is, Algeria taking measures to prevent the further spread of the remnants of the Al Qaeda elements used by Washington to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. These actions by Algeria are in the interests of working people across North Africa despite the politics of the Algerian government.
Further, it is not just in a tactical security bloc against US backed jihadism in North Africa where Algerian-Russian co-operation is apparent. Energy supplies are vital also. Algeria and Russia are top gas exporters, with Algeria producing 130 billion cubic metres of gas annually. 14% of this amount is exported to Europe. Russian gas exports to Europe are also extensive, so co-operation with Algeria in this sphere is mutually beneficial. Washington, of course, views such trade and co-operation with Europe as an obstruction, and political impertinence – despite the US not being able to supply gas itself.
Algeria signs onto the New Silk Road
As if to further underscore declining US economic power across the globe, in 2018 Algeria became one of the 90 countries to have signed onto Red China’s One Belt One Road (also known as the New Silk Road or the Belt and Road Initiative – BRI). Algeria signed onto the BRI in Beijing itself, while attending the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Under the BRI, China’s booming socialist economy commits billions of dollars to infrastructure development in countries along the old Silk Road. Algeria will be a part of the Maritime Silk Road, which connects China, Europe, India, East Africa and the Red Sea states. Washington is furious at this, but is unable to prevent it. What is more, the People’s Republic of China has remained Algeria’s largest trading partner since 2013. 2017 figures have China accounting for $8.3 billion of Algeria’s $45.95 billion worth of imports.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC), like the USSR at that time (and now Russia), has extensive ties with Algeria due to its assistance for its struggle for national liberation. This is not lost on the current Algerian leadership, regardless of their politics. As Guy Burton wrote:
“China’s connections to Algeria go back even further. In 1958 China was the first non-Arab country to recognize the National Liberation Front and provide it with arms and funds in its struggle for independence. Following independence in 1962, China provided soft loans and other forms of assistance, including medical missions to the new government. When China eventually joined the UN in 1971, Algeria was one of the co-sponsors that proposed the resolution. Today, Algeria has one of the largest Chinese communities in Africa and the Middle East, at around 70,000.”
Such ties, forged in bonds against colonialist and imperialist struggle decades ago, are not easily forgotten. The US can fume as much as it likes, but it cannot match anything like the camaraderie and mutual backing offered by both China and Russia – in political and economic terms. The economic crisis of the capitalist US economy, however, drives it further and further into reckless military adventures, and/or, constant preparation for them. This is why Africa today is subjected to US military intervention, the arming and funding of proxy jihadist death squads, and constant backing for compromised opposition groups within African states. The aim is chaos, destabilisation and disruption, and even open war, in order to undermine friendly relations with Russia and China. Washington will consider using any means, from using its own troops, to arming and funding Al Qaeda linked barbarians, to covert or overt backing of internal regime change “revolutions” – such as the one in Algeria today.
AFRICOM – footprint of the US Empire
AFRICOM (Africa Command) was established in 2007 as a counterpart to the US Empire’s CENTCOM (Central Command) and SOUTHCOM (Southern Command). It currently shares its headquarters with EUCOM (European Command) in Stuttgart, Germany. Some US Senators have recently openly questioned why, after 10 years of “operations”, the US does not have its AFRICOM headquarters stationed in Africa. It takes some galling arrogance, even from the standards of US imperialism, to assume that they have a right to permanent bases in countries overseas, and base entire military commands based on sections of the globe. Yet this is the reality of Africa today.
Even some US citizens were surprised to learn, after US troops were ambushed in Niger in October 2017, that US troops are crawling over many countries in Africa. The reaction was one of “what are they doing there?”. To put it bluntly, they are there as an imperial occupying force – albeit one that is not advertised as such. There is some evidence that the main task of US troops across Africa is the fostering and fomenting of coups against African countries which demonstrate even half a shred of independence from the US behemoth. Today Algeria and Sudan, tomorrow Cameroon and Nigeria, and on and on it goes.
Many African countries have baulked at allowing a permanent US military base to be set up on their soil. One of the core responsibilities of AFRICOM is supposedly “stability operations” – but what is meant by this is clearly demonstrated in Algeria and Sudan in recent times. That is, not stability, but thinly veiled destabilisation, to bring down any government or any ruler not willing to play by the rules of Washington. To facilitate this, the Pentagon operates what are euphemistically termed “Cooperative Security Locations” or “Lily Pads”. Lily Pads are weapons and vehicle depots which include airfields for military aircraft as well as drones. Lily Pads have been constructed in Algeria (despite its refusal to host a US base), Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cabo Verde, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo. It doesn’t take too much understanding of geopolitics to realise that this is an imperial occupation, which can only serve Washington to the detriment of hundreds of millions of Africans.
Left parties toe Washington’s line
Seemingly oblivious to the US Empire’s troops across Africa, or perhaps because of it, some Australian left parties have been eager to put their hands up to man the megaphone for the US state department. First cab off the rank was the Socialist Alliance (SA), as an extension of its role of propagandist for US led regime change war against Syria. In Syria, SA pumped for US/Saudi/Israeli armed jihadists who were leading a mythical “revolution”, alongside secular forces which did not exist. Similarly in Algeria, SA falls for a corresponding assortment. Sam Wainwright in SA newspaper Green Left Weekly claims that the Algerian opposition marches have “included Islamists, people with a democratic secular outlook, the Kabylie independence movement (a Berber speaking part of the country) and the Algerian Socialist Workers Party (PST).”
For a start, the PST is linked to the French NPA (New Anti-Capitalist Party). The NPA was notorious for calling on French imperialism to arm jihadist death squads to effect regime change in Libya and Syria. French imperialism certainly did this, and parties such as the NPA in France and SA in Australia, cheered on these atrociously dirty wars – arguably the dirtiest in history. Islamists were at the heart of the “uprisings” in Libya and Syria, and SA again hails their participation in regime change operations in Algeria. Some Berber independence groups also backed US led regime change in Syria, and “democratic and secular” opposition to the Syrian government was a fantasy.
The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and its “World Socialist Web Site” (WSWS), to their credit, did not back US led regime change in Syria. However, in Algeria they switch sides and fall into line with Washington. The SEP loudly criticised parties such as SA for spruiking for US led regime change in Syria. Yet they don’t notice the irony of adopting the same position – regime change backed by imperialist powers – as SA in Algeria! Will Morrow claims in the WSWS that the “…ongoing movement of the Algerian working class against the military backed regime is part of a renewed eruption of working class struggle around the world.” One could only believe this if it was possible to ignore the swathe of US operated “Lily Pads” across Africa, US troops swarming across many African nations, Algeria’s alliance with Russia in security and gas exports, Algeria signing onto Beijing’s New Silk Road and major trade with Red China. One would have to have to be wearing blinkers to ignore Washington’s concern about all African countries’ dealings with both Russia and China. For all rational observers, Algeria’s “uprising” is anything but pure.
To be sure, to lift Algeria and Africa finally clear of the devastating legacy of Western colonialism, socialism – the class rule of the workers – will have to emerge victorious. The current Algerian government will ultimately stand in the way of such progress. However, right now, working people in Africa and internationally have a vital interest in militarily siding with Algeria, Syria, Russia and China against the nefarious ends of US imperialism. At the very least, workers should demand that the US withdraw AFRICOM and all US troops from African soil. The sovereignty of Algeria and all African countries must be guarded, and defended in a temporary bloc alongside the non-imperialist (and anti-NATO) states. US backed coups, in such a scenario, will have little or no chance of “success”.