ANNABA, ALGERIA, July 12 — A strike by 250 phosphate company workers at the port installations here proves once again that nationalization of industry is just another form of capitalist exploitation and rule.
On June 5, 250 workers shut the Installations Portuaires de Annaba (IPA), a subsidiary of the Ferphos Group — one of many of Algeria’s state-owned companies — and have blocked all exports since.
The workers are making the same demands they advanced in a 2011 strike which saw every company promise broken, including: changes in the wage scale plus a guaranteed bonus and promotions; rectifying working conditions which are endangering workers’ lives due to collapsing tunnels; on-the-job illnesses involving dermatological and respiratory problems; and broken locomotives hauling the phosphate on run-down railroad tracks.
Six IPA strikers told the El Watan newspaper (7/9): “We’ve been on strike for over a month, and no official notice has been taken….Ferphos is a rich company. This wealth profits others and not us poor workers. In addition to the precarious wage situation that we’re locked into, our working conditions are inhumane, worthy of slavery….Are we subhuman? In the eyes of our director…we are subhuman since he has not hesitated to use disrespectful and insulting words about us.”
Algeria’s state-run companies were the product of the overthrow of French colonial rule which ended 50 years ago (depicted in the famous film “Algiers”). While much was made of a national liberation movement freeing workers from the imperialist French bosses, the latter were merely replaced by local bosses who have run these nationalized industries in their own class interests.
In 2011, the Ferphos Group and its holding company had sales of nearly $100 million, from which they netted substantial profits. They made out like bandits by gaining a good share of the market because of the turmoil surrounding their three main Arab Spring rivals, Tunisia, Syria and Egypt. The slowdown of phosphate exports from those three countries — amounting to over six million tons — opened the way for Algerian phosphate.
But, of course, it was not the workers who profited from this, it was the Algerian state capitalists who continued to exploit the working class, leading to their two strikes. So with all the hoopla in the bosses’ media about the Arab Spring “freeing” these workers of dictatorial rule, capitalist exploitation simply continues under the façade of nationalization.
Meanwhile, the union fakers are in cahoots with the bosses, fearing to even publicly back the strike because it might cost them their jobs as “union leaders.” The rank and file can only depend on themselves, not these union traitors.
The only chance of the workers winning some of their immediate demands is by spreading the strike to all of Ferphos Group’s subsidiaries and to all of the workers involved in the industry. Yet the real solution lies not in these nationalist movements nor in clerical rulers (like in Iran) but in a class revolution that destroys the profit system, its bosses who run it and their state apparatus that enforces it. That’s communism, and requires the leadership of a communist party. Reaching these workers with that understanding is a task to which the Progressive Labor Party is dedicated.