Algeria – Hirak and nonviolence: a Sharp’s prism

Since the starting point of the Revolution of Smiles, or Hirak Movement, on February 16, 10 days after the news of the dynamic president Bouteflika’s candidacy for presidency, the structure, the significance and the leading of this protest has been astonishing, for many reasons.

First, for the non-violent trend and aspect of it, that leads me to think about Gene Sharp’s theory, known to have been used in Tunisia and in Egypt during last protests. He identifies the source of the State power as multiple, and its efficiency able to be deleted: authority, adhesion, competences, materialistic means and sanctions are the pillars of the exercise of power, and have at their disposal series of specific systems to reach efficiency. What happens if they disappear?  The power simply doesn’t exist anymore, and here stands the open window for any change caused by the streets protests. This is in my opinion a very theoretic point that have been applied in an admirable way in Algeria: by combining a constant nonviolent discipline, action and resistance, a solidarity and an unnamed braveness, they are exposing the repression and the cause they fight for, to the world’s lights. This is the root of an opinion’s shift, as well as an attacker-attacked relationship shift. By the transitionally made and progressive withdraw of support that gives these media lights upon the practices of the attackers (State- decision making powers, powers- police), the legitimacy and the efficiency of the Power is reduced. The more revolted is the international community, the more an implicit and transparent pressure is felt in the given State. The more the protesters are forcing respect and admiration in their nonviolent behavior, the more people are condemning the other parties .The less discussions about fairness of police violent interventions there are, the more credit there is for the struggle. This is as simple as this, and this is the way taken by Algerians. In last April, indeed, streets were immensely crowded by walkers asking for politician’s resignations (the interim president, the prime minister, and the head of the constitutional council, accused among others of corruption). Tear gas and water cannon were then used incessantly to stop their quest; to them were answering the harmony of a pacific slogan “Silmiya, Silmiya” (peaceful). So far, this hymn is a constant shield against the repression, which is another crucial point of the successful revolution theory of Sharp: he thus wrote in the Chapter 10 about the necessity of an increasing repression of the non-violent action “without willingness to face repression…the nonviolent action cannot hope to succeed”.

But we are forced to concede that despite hazards of all kinds, manipulations, provocations, repressions perpetuated, the Hirak continue its unwavering nonviolent and politicized way, unfailing. Despite the refuse from the Head of the Army to free the imprisoned strike leaders, despite the violence towards the civilians the heavy compromises each of them made to manifest their anger, they’re still going ahead, as on-going investigation is on the other hand leading political and elite figures to be arrested: in May, Algeria’s richest businessman and three other billionaires were indeed arrested in an investigation on the grounds of corruption. Which future could be drawn for the Hirak? After some events like the repression of the students, or the closing of Algeria from any outside arrivals by Salah, the main risk is then the radicalization, and the immediate reaction of indignation and more violent protest. But, and as I tend to quote in these dual side situations, Holderlin –often himself relayed by Heidegger- wrote “Where is growing danger, grow also what can save”. This violent and constant repression should, and will surely be, used by the movement to gain maturity and strengthen its vision:  the legal Order has to be faced through its own coalition power, without a direct contradiction of it.

The legitimacy of the state must be sucked until stocks run out, for lack of support and approval. It is by remaining in their place and status as a citizen, challenging and respecting their rights and duties, that the abusive system coming from the executive power can be turned against itself. Gene Sharp plans at the end of the protest period, when all the classes will have joined the fight, that the police itself will be caught in the realization of the absurdity of its mission. And in Algeria, few months ago, the judiciary class already demonstrated in the streets, shoulders to shoulders with the walkers. When all the pragmatic aspects are set aside, when all the roles are dismissed (students, mother, cashier, or fisherman) for the benefit of the one of the demonstrators, it is that one has nothing to lose, and then everything is possible, nothing else matters except the struggle. The coercive force is then confronted with the inevitable thought which in its mission is forced to forget: where is my interest? When the government has no more adherents and no more international support, power is in the hands of the people, and interest then becomes common again: building a fair democracy, with a meritocratic elite formation, guaranteeing Human Rights, environment consciousness, economic prosperity, and equality.

“Passivity, submission, cowardice have nothing to do with the nonviolent technique” Gene Sharp

1 Comment

  1. Trav

    Unfortunately the #Hirak protests have been stoppen by a feroce repression led by the military regime.
    The ex-Presudent Bouteflika was “replaced” by a n incompetent other president Tebboune…
    The Military regime is still in Power.

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