Fanon said: « pay attention to the emergence of business managers of the West in the new independent countries »
Mohsen Abdelmoumen: What is your reading of the geopolitical situation that prevails in Syria at the moment?
Dr. Saïd Bouamama: The situation in Syria is at first a situation of failure of imperialism. In fact, what is happening in Syria has been an attempt to destabilize the Syrian state by supporting jihadist groups. We think what we want from Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but he has made a great service to mankind by stopping this destabilization and this attempt to balkanize Syria. Because in reality, it is a balkanization. If we look at all the last wars, what I call the new colonial wars, what is left? Iraq is cut in pieces, Afghanistan is a complete chaos, in Somalia it is the slaughter, and Sudan is cut in two. In reality, there is such competition today between great powers that, in order to continue to make profits, it is necessary to destabilize states that may be states of resistance or states that do not accept the rules imposed by a number of large countries. This is what happened in Syria whose stake was first of all the control of the region and the access to the regional geostrategy, that is to say the control of the oil resources of the region.
How do you explain that the Trump Administration threatens to strike at the positions of the Syrian Army, Iran and Russia even though in reality, those who are encircled in Idlib are for the most part terrorists of Al Nosra and Daesh? Saving Idlib, isn’t that saving al-Nosra and Daech? Does the US want to save the imperialist soldiers al-Nusra and Daesh?
I think we need to become lucid and stop being naive. There is no consistent fight against terrorism on the part of the United States. In reality, they fight it when it suits them and they support it when it suits them. And it’s not new. It must be remembered that the first great advances of the so-called jihadist groups was in Afghanistan, and the pretext for supporting them was to oppose the Soviet Union. We must not forget that whenever the interest of the United States requires destabilization, they let these groups do. They are only fought when the interest of the United States is in question, and therefore there is not a consistent fight of the United States against them. There is a fight at a time, in pieces, and a support at other times. It’s important to keep in mind that the United States does not have a coherent policy, they know only the politics of their economic interest, even in destroying countries and provoking the massacre of the populations, and if it is necessary for that by supporting terrorist groups, well, they do it. Unfortunately, it was done before Syria and if we are not able to immunize, it will be done again elsewhere.
I interviewed Noam Chomsky a few years ago and he told me verbatim that Syria was going to be divided into several areas. There is currently an US redeployment in northern Syria. Do not you think there is a risk of total confrontation, especially between the United States and Russia?
In fact, the US project, at this stage, is part of a long process of destabilizing all states with an economic size, a geographical area and oil and gas wealth or strategic minerals to balkanize them, to cut them into several pieces, because it’s easier to maintain domination in chaos. And so, we had a number of wars before. With Syria, it is the same project today, but there are other countries and, in particular, there is the will to balkanize Iran. Let us not forget that the United States has not given up on destabilizing Iran. But Iran, in terms of balance of power, is another matter and the United States is extremely cautious. Russia has understood this very well and has made agreements. Russia is not naïve and understood if it continued to let this balkanization, it could be balkanized itself, this is the big project of the United States – and so Russia has understood very well that its interest was to stop this process.
Before the Chechen sector enters the game?
Exactly, and that is why we have such strong support from Russia to Syria and that agreements with Iran exist.
The Russians regard Syria and Iran as strategic depths.
Exactly. It’s like it’s an inside front. And the Russians are right. Every decline before the balkanization offensive is, in the long term, the danger of war with Russia which is increasing. And whenever there is a failure of this project of balkanization, it is the danger of war that recedes. And today, the good news is that they did not succeed in Syria. And so, it makes them a bit more cautious, but of course they do not give up.
Do not you think that Algeria is another target of imperialism, especially US and Israeli?
Of course, it is a target and we can even say that if Syria had been defeated, Algeria would be the next target country. There is Iran and then Algeria. There are not thousands of other countries that have this geographical area and this economic depth, so Algeria is on the line of fire. Besides, there is a man to listen to, even if he is an idiot, it is Bernard-Henri Lévy. He often comes to unveil the strategies of imperialism because he wants to strut. This man has nevertheless declared publicly that Algeria actually means three countries and that it was necessary to separate South, North and Kabylia, in three countries. We can see that behind this, there are spaces, places called think tanks in which they think about different types of divisions, and in Algeria, there is actually a cutting plan. If Algerians stop being patriots and to defend the integrity of the territory, excuses will be found to intervene.
According to you, are our revolutions, Algerians and Africans, completed? Do not you think that we need a second wind to our revolutions to complete the struggle of our ancestors?
It is absolutely necessary. First, we do not must feel guilty. We’ve come from so far. We must not underestimate what was the colonization of Algeria and what was slavery for the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. That is to say that the work is immense to recover from such a trauma. We must not say « we are zero », etc. On the other hand, it is clear that the emancipatory project that led to independence was a project that required going much further than what we have done today. Issues as important as the issues of economic development, the distribution of wealth, the involvement of people in decisions, are still tasks ahead and so, yes, there is a need for a second wind. We also know that independence has given birth to a whole series of parasites, people who take advantage of the state apparatus to divert income, etc. and so there is indeed a need to refocus the process on those who have actually done it, those who have an interest in leading Algeria to real independence.
That is to say, if I understand you correctly, the sincere Algerian patriots who can find themselves among the young, within the population and the healthy vital forces of the nation?
Absolutely. And the matter of youth is of course an essential issue. When a part of the youth turns to the jihadists, we can not pretend that it is not important. This means that we have failed on a number of things and we must resume the fight. You know, young people just want to build their future. It is when the future becomes unthinkable, when they can no longer imagine it, that they turn to the past and that charlatans can come to divert their legitimate anger. And so, yes, there is need to take this breath and there is need to recover the dynamics of the first two decades of independence. Remember the atmosphere when young people graduated from university in the years 1974-1975. It was full of hope for the future, it was the idea of building the country, it was the idea of agrarian reform and going to see the farmers, etc. We have to find that breath that has been lost notably because of parasites who have hijacked the process.
Do not you think that there is a real danger due to the various separatist movements in Algeria? Should the political and economic elite not be self-critical and remain alert to the geopolitical challenges that lie in wait for us? Can Algeria, according to you, go towards a gradual positive change well controlled without being afraid? Second question: has the red and black decade not vaccinated us against Islamist terrorists?
On the first question, yes, there are real dangers with the separatist movements, which nevertheless remain extremely minor, including in Kabylia.
And in Ghardaia.
Yes. In fact, one of the reasons for the development of these movements is that we have been shy about the issue of identity. Today, things are catching up, the Amazigh language is recognized, etc. but it took too long for it and when a right claim is not taken into account, charlatans can come to pick up the frustration. Algeria is pluricultural and multilingual and it is a wealth. There is no reason to consider this as a weakness, therefore, it must be accepted and pull the rug from under the feet to all who would like to exploit this issue.
On the side of the elites, there is no secret, all those who are attached, whatever their political and economic opinions, to the territorial integrity of Algeria and to true independence, must have in mind that this can only be done if there is a minimum of economic redistribution. That is to say that if there is no economic redistribution, if poverty sets in, if people are in misery, charlatans can come again instrumentalize. That’s why our youth, even the one who listened to charlatans, is first and foremost a victim because in reality, if it had could thought about her future, it would never have listened to these thugs.
You talk about the 1990s. Today, when we talk about the presence of Algerians at Daesh, they are very minority in comparison with the other peoples of the Maghreb.
How do you analyze this? Have not we been vaccinated by the red decade?
Unfortunately, you are never totally vaccinated. But this has developed real resistance mechanisms and you must know that people who, at first, were able to listen to charlatans, turned away when they saw what this project of society was. There have been entire regions where huge votes have gone in favor of charlatans and which today do not want to hear about these people. So, we can see that it was a popular experience and, yes, there are antibodies in Algeria, stronger than in other countries, because there was this tragedy. We paid a high price for it. But be careful, as long as the causes are untreated, the disease can always come back and we return to the previous question about the distribution of economic wealth.
A fifth term of President Bouteflika is evoked. Do not you think that the time has come to accompany a process of renewal of the entire political class in Algeria, even at the level of “the opposition”, because, for me, the crisis is not only at the level of power, but also at the level of “the opposition”? Should the fifth term not be abandoned to inject new blood into Algeria and vaccinate the country against various risks, both internal and external? Should we not abandon this alternative of an additional term of the current president and go towards a change piloted – why not – by the army which remains the most structured force in Algeria? What is your opinion on this subject?
In any case, I am completely opposed to the idea of a fifth term. Today, Bouteflika symbolizes the freezing of several trends and it does not make it possible to build anything. I also think that there is a gap between the entire political class and the civil part of the nation. We must succeed in bringing to the political class all these young union activists, these doctors, all this generation that was born after. We must pass the baton on the basis, always, of territorial integrity and economic independence. It is time for a new generation to emerge.
The President Bouteflika is very sick, very tired and he should give way to someone else. It’s common sense. What is your opinion about that?
Absolutely. It is an absolute necessity and we must also question the image we give to our own people and other peoples by keeping a sick president at all costs.
To say that we are against a fifth term is not to be unpatriotic or anti-national, on the contrary, we serve our country. Do not you think that those who are against a fifth term are the real patriots?
Absolutely. I think being a patriot today means being against the fifth term. Of course.
There is a country whose people are legally killed, it is Palestine. Do not you think that Israel, in addition to being a rogue state, is reaping all the benefits of the problems associated with the various US strategies to balkanize the Arab-Muslim region?
Of course. Why was there so much support for the creation of Israel as a state and then? It is simply because this state serves as a bridgehead for all interventions, all strategies of interference, and so on. And so, we should not consider the fight as being only between Palestinians and Israelis. In fact, in confronting Israel, the Palestinians – and that is why it is a central cause in the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle – clash with the entire imperialist camp. And Israel is not isolated, because precisely, there is this support. In reality, let’s imagine that tomorrow there is a democratic and secular Palestinian state, where Muslims, Christians, atheists live together, the end of Israel would mean that the whole imperialist strategy has failed. Israel is a tool of the great powers and of course benefits from imperialist strategies.
What’s left of Frantz Fanon’s message?
Unfortunately, Fanon’s message has been largely forgotten. Fanon said: « pay attention to the emergence of business managers of the West in the new independent countries », that is to say people who will do the work the West did before with its army. It tends to be forgotten. The message of hope is that, on Frantz Fanon in particular, we see his name come back while he had completely disappeared. A new generation rediscovers Fanon, unfortunately after several decades of forgetfulness, and we see more and more Fanon quoted and more and more young people take back his image. There is a return to Fanon and this is good news.
What prompted you to write your book “Manuel stratégique de l’Afrique“?
What prompted me to write this book was the tiredness of the wars that followed each other. And in « wars », I put the black decade in Algeria until the French intervention in Mali. The question was « what is happening on this continent? » and the need to answer all the theories that were given to us, which were culturalist theories, that is to say we were told the war in Algeria as an opposition between Muslims and military, elsewhere we were told that it was tribes that were fighting each other. All of this seemed completely wrong to me in relation to the realities. So I went to look at what was common in all these wars. Of course I had intuitions and I actually came across the confirmation of my intuitions. All these wars have one thing in common: the economic challenge. Whether in Algeria, we must have in mind the interests of the major powers for Algerian oil and gas, whether it is in the Congo with these wars that do not end, and the wealth of the Congo. In fact, the African continent is the richest continent and the continent where we still make discoveries of ores and oil in the sea off shore, and it is therefore an enormous challenge for the great powers and there are wars to control the spaces of raw materials. In addition, the great fear of Western countries was the emergence of new countries like China, India or Brazil that trade with African countries and trade with more egalitarian rules and with less domination. And, indeed, it is the direct interest of the great imperialist powers that is at stake. When Algeria makes a contract with China for the construction of roads, etc., you imagine that those who used to consider Algeria as their market are not happy. When it is the Congo that has a contract, Belgium can not be happy. And so, there are these two factors that combine and explain the African drama, because it’s a real drama. From Algiers to the Congo, there have been dozens of wars since independence, and I have only spoken of wars since independence, I did not talk about wars of independence. I just reported the ones from 1960 until today. All these wars are the same.
Why did you choose the Investing’action editions of our friend Michel Collon? Have other publishers refused to publish your book? Is your book disturbing? Have you been censored?
No, I have not been censored. I did not even think of presenting this book to other publishers for the simple reason that I know very well where we are today in many publishing houses on anti-imperialist issues. This project was born following a number of articles that I wrote on the news and where, while talking with Michel, he told me:”But Saïd, you do not realize, you told us about Algeria, you told us about Congo, you told us about this and that, when do you make us an overall book?” This is how this book was made. Quite frankly, I do not see major publishers taking it back today. It is unimaginable in the French-speaking world. It is different in other countries, for example in England.
Or in the United States.
Yes, in the United States, it would be different, but in the French-speaking world, it is clear that publishing houses today are closed on these issues.
What the committed, anti-imperialist, intellectual that you are, can say to the anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist resistance fighters?
That we must never despair of peoples. There are times when we believe that things are over, there are times when we despair of seeing failures, but in reality, as long as oppression exists, resistance exists, and we are sometimes surprised that two years after our despair, well, there is an offensive in a country we did not think at all. I think we came out of the recoil period. We must not underestimate what happened in Syria, which is the end of this process of decline; we must not underestimate the resistance in Latin America, Venezuela, Nicaragua, etc.
In Cuba, yes. All this points to one thing: since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were going from recoil to recoil, people were losing, losing, losing. And there, there is a stop. Of course, we have retreated so much that we have trouble to learn the facts. But if we combine all this, if we look at the struggles in all countries, we see a youth that mobilizes, etc. So, yes, in the short term, at a year or two, there is no immediate change, but we see that people are beginning to learn from this period of twenty-five years of decline. And today, we have breakpoints. For example, they eliminated Gbagbo, but look at the number of protesters demanding that Gbagbo come back. It was unimaginable a few years ago. And so, we can see that something is moving in anti-imperialism and I think we are entering a new mobilization sequence. That’s for the southern countries. For here, it’s to us to be up to it, to live up to the challenge and to make known the struggles that will develop.
Do not you think that we need a global anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist front that will be decisive in the struggles ahead?
My previous book, just before the last one, is a book called « La Tricontinentale : les peuples du Tiers-Monde à l’assaut du ciel « . Why did I write this book? Because the tricontinental conference in Cuba in 1965-1966 was the moment in which there was a unity of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and that at the same time, all the progressive movements in Europe were in support of the Tricontinentale. It was the moment when we were furthest, I think, in this movement. If I wrote this book, it’s because I think it’s time to find that kind of dynamic.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Dr. Saïd Bouamama?
Saïd Bouamama is a sociologist, activist and political Algerian residing in France. A doctor in socio-economics, he has written mainly on topics related to immigration, such as discrimination and racism. As one of the founders of “the Indigenous of the Republic” movement, he is also affiliated to the CGT (General Confederation of Labor), one of the spokespersons of the Committee to support undocumented migrants in Lille (France), and a member of the Communist Coordination. Member of the Association Intervention Formation Action Recherche (IFAR), he is responsible for research and the training of social workers. He is also a member of P.H.A.R.E. (Praxis History Action-Research Popular Education for Equality), organization of sociological intervention that he co-founded.
He is among the founders and animators of the United Front of Immigration and popular districts created in 2012 following two national rallies: the social Forum of the popular districts and the national Meetings of the immigration’s struggles.
He committed to the release of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah on several occasions.
He wrote several books, including: Dictionnaire des dominations de sexe, de race, de classe, Collectif Manouchian : Saïd Bouamama, Jessy Cormont, Yvon Fotia, Édition Syllepse, 2012 ; Femmes des quartiers populaires, en résistance contre les discriminations, women of Blanc-Mesnil with Saïd Bouamama & Zouina Meddour, Le Temps des Cerises, 2013 ; Figures de la révolution africaine. De Kenyatta à Sankara, La Découverte, 2014 ; La Tricontinentale. Les peuples du tiers-monde à l’assaut du ciel, CETIM et Syllepse, 2016 ; Manuel stratégique de l’Afrique Investing’Action, 2018.
Published in American Herald Tribune, October 02, 2018: https://ahtribune.com/interview/2511-said-bouamama.html
In French in Palestine Solidarité: http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.031018.htm