Accounts of a participant in the 1988 uprising against austerity measures in Algeria.
These letters were received by our comrades at Le Brise Glace (The Ice Breaker). We are publishing them because they give an interesting eye-witness account of the situation before and immediately after last year’s uprising in Algeria. The reference to ‘Chadli’ is to the president, ChadIi Benjedid.
I spent a dozen days at the seaside… the sea is the only thing here which is still beautiful. Our country is In the process of living through a very difficult moment, a major economic crisis. Inflation is at full tilt, which means that the number of people on the take has increased a lot. Corruption Is everywhere. It even touches the popular classes. The people suffer and console themselves with a silence which will be heard sooner or later. Because things here are really over the top. But then, unfortunately the leaders are lacking. and there are no mass organisations of the people.
The party of the FLN (National Liberation Front) is just a collection of corrupt and treacherous shysters, a kind of mafia, who can only milk the people. There is no bureaucrat who is not a thief. Money is syphoned off by the billions by the DGs (Directeur Géneral) who only risk a few months In jail. At the moment all the bigwigs are feathering their nests. Even the president and his entire family are implicated. Recently there was a bloke here who, with the complicity of the DG of the banks, embezzled several billion; he was arrested and held for several weeks at the same time that the bank manager, who was in Switzerland, was sent back here. Result; they were only held for a few weeks, and the police aren’t bothering them now. I always used to see this bloke driving around in his Porsche. No-one trusted him. And the reason that the police aren’t interested: well Chadti’s son (a right little tucker) and the son of a general (as much a fucker as the former and as his dad) are involved In the business. So long as the people are being screwed they are no longer In power. Socialism, what’s that? Those who don’t really know about socialism have ended up hating it, because they judge It by the style of the Algerian regime. And the worst is that ChadIi and his clique are in the process of selling the country to the west, the USA in particular.
The Algerian authorities have even secretly extradited Algerian nationals that France has asked for. What this means Ii that if France or the USA want to liquidate or condemn such and such an Algerian, they only need to act through the Intermediary of the authorities here. This is truly revoltingl (...) Well that’s what’s happened to our country. It is very difficult to do anything here. Everyone is very fragmented here, because they are scared and they know this can’t last much longer.
So, firstly there is a lack of propaganda material to inform people and to prepare them. Then there is the lack of money and guns. But to have this is a dream in a country like this. Because people only worry about filling their pockets and becoming more and more selfish. Personally, I want to leave this country this month - I’ll contact you from wherever I am.
I sent you a letter just before the recent events, but I think it must have been Iitercepted like many other letters, because the post of the ‘Algerian people’ is censored in case the truth gets out, but the truth is already out.
I have already told you that the people were at the end of their tether, and I had a good idea of what was going to happen. I have liyed very close to the recent events, or rather the revolt by the ‘kids’. I often found myself in the front line. Unfortunately I have been very II and week; I had to go home and recover my strength whenever It abandoned me.
What has happened here has not been seen in any other part of the world, even Chile or Palestine, where the soldiers have been gunning people down for four months (The Israeli Prime minister sad: ‘What we have killed In 8 months, the Algerians have killed in 2 daysl! So the Medal for Repression must go to the Algerians.’) In two days more than 200 people were killed, a more accurate estimate would be more than 500 dead. In my neighbourhood we have buried 2 youths aged 10 and 11 years old (the youngest). The youngest wounded in our neighbourhood was one year old, although a mother was killed with a baby in her belly. A nineteen year old friend of many was brought down as he tried to help a wounded person lying on the ground. In our sector, there have been at least 30 people killed and 100 wounded.
Personally, I have endured many bursts of MAT49 fire. The only reason l’m still alive is because the soldiers are such lousy shots and the MAT49 doesn’t aim too good in the hands of a crap shot. But with the KaIachnikovs we have to keep out the way and even lie flat. I felt no fear, but I was careful not to get killed, whereas the youth threw themselves at the tanks and machIne guns like kamikazis with the carelessness of their age. Unfortunately we did not have any guns or any way to stop the tanks. No-one was ready for it (now not far from Algiers, there must be nearly 400 tanks. I can’t think what they’re waiting fort) These fachos have shot at us when we were going to bury 3 people, including the two kids. They have no respect for the dead (you’re going to say they have respect for the Iiving!). I saw 6 people drop during the funeral cortege.
I tell you such experiences so as to tell you that French imperialism has been inherited here: amongst other obscenities, torture. The mopping up after the revolt was merciless. The French were soft next to this race of monsters. Some youths have been finished off, because after having tortured them so much, they could not let them go in the state they were in, which would have been very bad evidence against them. Whilst the youngest kids were subjected to the most horrible sexual abuse, those who were only raped or sodomised were lucky. Some were castrated! In what country have you heard of things like this? It is unbelievable.
The Red Menace, number three, June 1989. Taken from the Practical History website.