At a time when social benefits are disintegrating while the trade unionism wallows in the privileges and the complicity with the employers, it is not unnecessary to remember those who fought and died to defend the working class. All over the world, men have stood with their bare hands facing the violence of the capitalist and/or colonialist system for the just recognition of workers’ rights. The American Eugene Debs and the Algerian Aissat Idir were of these men.Eugene Debs, born in 1855 in Indiana, is one of the founders of the IWW union (Industrial Workers of the World). He was five times a presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America. A railway worker at the age of 14, he became a driver and took part a few years later in the founding of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen of which he became secretary in 1880. He was elected as a Democrat to the Indiana General Assembly in 1884. In 1893 he organized one of the first industrial unions in the United States, the American Railway Union (ARU). In April 1894, the union began a social conflict against the Great Northern Railway and obtained satisfaction from most of its claims. In the same year, Debs was jailed for his support of the Pullman Wagon construction company strike in Chicago which affected most lines west of Detroit, and more than 250,000 workers in 27 states. Debs reads the works of Karl Marx during his six months of detention and, after his liberation in 1895, begins his career of socialist politician. He is a candidate in the American presidential election of 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920 for the Socialist Party of America. On June 30, 1918, Debs was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for giving a speech against American involvement in the World War I. He was also disenfranchised for life for violating the Espionage Act. He was imprisoned on April 13, 1919, at the age of 64, leading to a parade of unionists, socialists, anarchists and communists to march on May 1, 1919, in Cleveland, Ohio. The event quickly broke into the violent May Day Riots of 1919. He ran for the 1920 presidential election as he was detained in federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. He obtained the second best score of the Socialist party ever obtained with 919 799 votes (3.4%). During his time in prison, Debs wrote critical articles on the prison system and on December 25, 1921, he was pardoned by President Harding. When Debs was released from the Atlanta penitentiary, the other prisoners sent him off with a great roar of cheers and a crowd of 50,000 people celebrated his return to Terre Haute to the accompaniment of band music. In 1924, Debs was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Finnish Socialist Karl H. Wiik on the grounds that « Debs started to work actively for peace during World War I, mainly because he considered the war to be in the interest of capitalism. » He spent his remaining years trying to recover his health which was severely undermined by prison confinement. Eugene Debs died of heart failure on October 20, 1926 at the sanatorium in Elmhurst, Illinois, at the age of 70 years.
Aïssat Idir was an Algerian trade unionist born in 1915 under the French colonial occupation in the wilaya (department) of Tizi Ouzou. He is the founder of the UGTA (General Union of Algerian Workers). Born in a modest environment, he was an orphan of his mother at the age of six and joined his uncle’s family in Tunis. There he studies law and economics until 1938, and do his military service from which he leaves with the rank of sergeant. He returns to Algiers where he is received in the recruitment competition for the personnel of the aeronautical industrial workshops of North Africa in Bordj El Bahri where he will remain nearly 10 years. He is promoted to senior manager in accounting department and is responsible for the control of the company’s subsidiaries in North Africa. During his travels, he learns to know the Tunisian Union environment and is involved in unionism. He is elected by his comrades in the executive Commission for workers in the State sector, affiliated to the French Communist union, and is considering founding an autonomous Algerian trade union organization. In the years 1946-47, Aïssat participates in the writing of the clandestine newspaper of the Algerian People’s Party, La Nation Algérienne (The Algerian Nation), where he is in charge of the section « the Algerian proletariat ». Suspected of having relations with the OS (the Special Organization), he is arrested a few days in 1950. The company where he works immediately dismisses him. He finds a position as head of service at the CACOBAT (Leave and unemployment fund-weather for workers in the construction and public works sector) and joins the CGT union (General Confederation of Labor) of the company. From 1949 to 1954, he leads a group of trade unionists affiliated with the Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Freedoms and chooses to support the FLN (National Liberation Front). He is arrested and imprisoned for some time for his trade union activities, then released in December 1954. Supported by the FLN, the congress of 26 February 1956 signs the creation of the UGTA and places Aïssat Idir at its head as Secretary General. For two months, Aïssat is dedicating to the start-up of the Union and establishes links with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). Patriotic strikes supported by the union lead to a mass arrest of the leaders on May 23 and 24, 1956. Aïssat is arrested with some 40 trade unionists. Suspected of being a member of the Coordination and Execution Committee, he is tortured by French paratroopers of Colonel Bigeard who will never know that Aïssat is affiliated to the National Council of the Algerian Revolution. He is charged with breaching the external security of the French State and is incarcerated until his acquittal on January 13, 1959. He is arrested again on his release from prison and transferred to Birtraria prison. On January 17, he is hospitalized for severe burns. The French army declares that he wanted to commit suicide, which denies Aïssat, and then claims that the prisoner set fire to his bench by smoking. The ICFTU takes vain steps to transfer him to a hospital for severe burns and alerts public opinion on the fate of the trade unionist. Aissat Idir succumbs to his wounds between July 25 and 27, 1959, at 44 years old, raising a wave of indignation in the international trade union.
After this evocation of two illustrious men who sacrificed their freedom and their lives for an ideal of justice and freedom, it is difficult to descend into the mire of villainy and treason of which the standard bearer is Abdelmadjid Sidi Saïd, Algerian « Unionist » and secretary general of the UGTA which I mentioned above the life and commitment of the founder. Sidi Saïd, this false unionist, is a class traitor who ended up supporting the oligarchs and their chief Ali Haddad, boss of the FCE (Business Leaders Forum), a mobster who regularly makes the news for his misappropriations, embezzlements, capital leakages, and who rebelled against the Algerian government which gave him everything. Close to the clan of the Bouteflikas, Ali Haddad stole billions of dollars to Algeria in obtaining public works projects in OTC, by borrowing from banks ($1 billion that he does not repay, thus putting banks in trouble), pocketing advances without carrying out the works that he is responsible for or dragging them for years and by botching them. Furthermore, he does not pay his taxes. He acquired various properties abroad including, among others, a luxury hotel, the Palace Hotel in Barcelona, for €68 million, as well as a bank and a ceramic factory, still in Spain. Of course, all this is a drop of water in an ocean of bank notes stolen by this crook who began his business during the black decade by trafficking with terrorists. Today in disgrace, Ali Haddad is called to order each day with formal demands from various ministries (Defense, Public Works, and Hydraulics) so that he finishes the works which are stationary for years. But this notorious economic criminal, rather than keeping a low profile, rebels and attacks the Algerian government, claiming to it ten billion dinars (± US $ 100 million) of unpaid.
Sidi Said, supposed to defend the workers, ganged up with this Mafia boss in what is nothing but a coup attempt by the oligarchy to preserve itself investigations conducted against them. This is an unprecedented situation where the general secretary of a large union turns out to be a offender who has accumulated billions throughout his twenty years at the head of the UGTA, who diverted the social works of Algeria Post to the amount of 400 billion cents (± $3,600,000) to, among other things, acquire real estate in France. Sidi Saïd had already distinguished himself during the Khalifa trial when he confessed to having squandered the money of the CNAS (national social insurance fund) of which he was president of the Board of Directors, by transferring several million dollars, by means of a false report, to the bankrupt Khalifa Bank. Sidi Said also favored his sons who are business leaders and do business with Ali Haddad and members of his FCE. He has succeeded to Abdelhak Benhamouda, an honest trade unionist, a martyr murdered in 1997 by the terrorists, who has always defended the workers. Flouting his mission, Sidi Said used the UGTA in order to enrich himself by mafia practices to the detriment of the Algerian workers. He deserves a punishment. The name of this bandit should no longer be associated with the glorious name of the UGTA. This traitor must be brought to justice with all the other black sheeps who have plundered Algeria. The purge begun by the Algerian government must extend to all those who have squandered the money of the people and to all those who have allowed this to happen. We want that these people are judged and punished; otherwise all this agitation is just smoke and mirrors.
Sidi Saïd, I know you very well, you are a coward, a traitor. Remember, ya El Roumi. You feared my words, words that have always supported the Algerian proletarians, and I am proud to have frightened you and defended the struggle of the Algerian workers. You and your fellows are sold you to the oligarchs for privileges, you wanted to get a job for your son at ETRHB, the Ali Haddad’s company, a villa in Club des Pins, bodyguards, and I don’t forget that you regularly offer checks to journalists who shine your shoes. The moment of your departure has arrived and everyone will be happy. Corrupt people like you and your accomplices are the gangrene of my country. Your end and the neutralization of your masters is a historical necessity.
Although this « clean hands operation » of Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune looks like an attempt to return virginity to Said Bouteflika in view of the monarchical succession of his brother, or to prepare the 5th mandate of Abdelaziz Bouteflika with a new casting, we can only encourage the Prime Minister to continue hunting down the corrupts, although he seems to have stepped back by inviting Ali Haddad and Sidi Saïd to a meeting this Sunday 30. If, on the other hand, this operation is completed, no one will mourn these scoundrels; on the contrary, we’ll be glad to seeing these economic predators in prison. I have not stopped fighting the oligarchs through my articles, especially Ali Haddad, the Said Bouteflika’s nominee. The events give me reason and I will not sulk my pleasure. However, we want the head of those who have allowed the rise of Ali Haddad, Ouyahia, Sellal, Ould Abbes, Bouchouareb, Mohamed Laïd Benamor, Chakib Khelil, Tliba, Amar Ghoul, Kouninef brothers, Takhout, and so on. Without forgetting Amar Saadani who disappeared from the radars but diverted the funds (US $27.5 million) from the farmland and was never punished, nor Ould Kaddour, the current CEO of Sonatrach, although he was imprisoned for intelligence with the enemy, nor Anis Ramani, alias Mohamed Mokadem, a prostitute of the press which has been enriched in a few years and whose WikiLeaks cables reveal that he is a acolyte of the US services. All these oligarchs built an empire under the era Bouteflika in bleeding Algeria dry, starting with the younger brother of the president, Said Bouteflika, head of this mafia gang. Let us not forget that the Bouteflika clan has dissolved the SIE (Economic Intelligence Service) coming from the control of the DRS (Department of Intelligence and Security) to prevent investigators from investigating and bringing to light the various abuses perpetrated by these corrupt people. Many of the DRS’s valuable and honest officers found themselves either in prison or early retirement, when they had only done their duty. It would take thousands of pages to list the exactions, embezzlements, betrayals, capital flights, overcharging, and so on, of these white-collar gangsters. All of them must be tried and why not in popular courts. From the moment when these scoundrels claim to belong to the clan of Said Bouteflika, that this one be also brought to justice! All of them must be punished and thrown into prison, their property seized by the State. The money they stole from the Algerian people must be returned, their bank accounts abroad must be frozen and the money repatriated. We must neutralize the corrupts, the survival of our country depends on it and it is our duty to our martyrs.
Published in American Herald Tribune, July 29, 2017: http://ahtribune.com/world/africa/1813-eugene-debs-aissat-idir-sidi-said.html
In Palestine Solidarité: http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.300717.htm