ADAM AND JORN: DO YOU HAVE A COUNTER-ANALYSIS?
Louis N Proyect
lnp3 at columbia.edu
Mon Jun 24 07:14:05 MDT 1996
Perhaps Adam deleted this by accident. If he did, I would appreciate a
review of this and some commentary. I don't expect him to offer a Marxist
analysis of Algeria since he wouldn't know where to begin, but I guess his
usual schematic rejoinders will have to suffice.
Algeria: A Class Analysis
There has never been such a thing as a purely proletarian party with a
purely revolutionary program and the FLN of Algeria was no
It contained political contradictions between Marxist and bourgeois-
nationalist groupings. These contradictions were most often expressed
through the words and actions of the revolutionary government which
acted at cross-purposes. The Tripoli program of 1962 stated that "it is
the peasants and the workers who are the active base of the movement"
and called for socialism. Its action would often belie these words.
The leadership of the FLN had an ambiguous relationship to the mass
movement whose name it spoke on behalf of. In 1962, for example, a
major crisis broke out between the Ben Bella and Ben Khedda factions
over who would control the military arm of the movement. This crisis
reflected personal rather ideological differences. The struggle
eventually took a violent turn and 3000 combatants died. The masses
demanded an end to the power struggle and called out 'Barakat seba
senin' (seven years is enough!) in reference to the bloody civil war
This was not an auspicious beginning for a new revolutionary
movement that intended to build socialism in Algeria.
The Evian agreements of 1962 marked the formal end to the war of
independence with France. The FLN allowed France to maintain its
naval and air force bases for fifteen and five years respectively. A more
insidious legacy of the colonial era, however, was the persistence of
the bureaucratic machinery of the old colonial state. It was not to be
smashed but preserved and modernized. Seventy-seven percent of the
new Algerian state personnel holding managerial positions owed their
appointments to the colonial administration. This layer was
augmented by FLN officials from exile in Tunisia and Morocco whom
the Evian agreements recommended be trained in France. All of this
would be analogous to, for example, a decision by the Vietnamese to
retain most of Thieu's bureaucracy and to train new hires at American
universities after the US had been expelled.
The development model chosen by the new revolutionary government
had been conceived by Belgian economist Destane de Bernis whose
goal it was to address Algerian needs specifically and the Third World
in general. The FLN turned these ideas into a doctrine. The basic
premise was that a modernized Algerian economy that achieved rapid
industrialization would achieve a high degree of growth that would
enable the peasant masses to be absorbed into the new economy. To
reach this goal, the most advanced technology would have to be
Not much analysis was done on the impact this path would have on the
working-class or peasantry of the nation. It was the nation as nation
that took precedent. Bernis would not let anything stand in the way of
this modernizing model. He said, "We have decided that our
equipment has to be ultra-modern, because it is more profitable in the
middle term. We cannot accept machines dating from the 1940s, even
if their use would provide jobs for a greater number of workers."
The lack of sensitivity to the needs of the working-class has to be
understood in terms of the character of the new state which is
composed of bureaucratic-military cadre of the FLN and officials from
the colonial administration. While gestures toward self-management
of firms and farms were made, the "socialist" government of Algeria
appeared more interested in the quantity of growth rather than its
quality. In this respect, it shared many of the characteristics of less
progressive states in the region that were following a "modernizing"
agenda, such as Iran and Iraq.
Simultaneous with the technocratic approach to economic
development that was taking shape in huge oil and chemical state-
owned enterprises, Algeria began to witness the emergence of a private
sector. The state sector actually began to fuel the growth of the private
sector. Capitalism had never been abolished in Algeria, as it was in
Cuba, so there ample opportunities for it to grow in the booming
energy-based economy. An Algerian radical newspaper commented in
1983 that "Not only old agrarian and commercial capitalists have
invested, but also party cadres, veterans of the liberation war, and even
public sector cadres."
Colonel Boumedienne hailed this process. "National capital must play
its role and accomplish its duty to the nation, the state is disposed, on
its part, to supply it with all guarantees in a defined framework. It is
not in the interest of the country that (private) capital remain
The private sector has grown steadily in Algeria. Charts available in
Rachid Tlemcani's book "State and Revolution in Algeria", the source
of the information in this post, end prior to 1986, the publication year.
The trend is obvious, however. In 1982, private industry accounted for
40% of all jobs in transportation, 70% in agriculture and 75% in
commerce. The US embassy in Algiers published a report the same
year that pointed to the existence of 315,000 capitalist firms.
There are class loyalties between the bourgeoisie who run these firms
and the petty-bourgeois bureaucrats who run state industry. Both tend
to view labor as "inputs" to an economy that will produce growth for
the nation rather than as an end in itself.
Not only does the state sector have a compromised relationship to the
domestic private sector, it is linked to international capital in a way
totally unlike state firms have been in Cuba up until recently. The state
firms in Algeria owe their existence to loans advanced by imperialist
banks. The class relationship that underlies this debt is entirely
different from those that Cuba owed to the former Soviet Union.
Imperialism uses these debts as leverage to accelerate the
bourgeoisification of Algerian society while a similar process never
took place in Cuba.
In 1975, foreign debt amounted to $504 per Algerian citizen. This
amounted to approximately half the per capita income of the urban
population and the equivalent of the entire peasantry. The World Bank has
fostered a typical dependent relationship with Algeria. At the end of
1982, it agreed to fund eleven big development projects, as well as
provide nearly a billion dollars for various social projects in Algeria.
Private banks have also taken advantage of investment opportunities in
Algeria. In 1979, Sonatrach, a big state enterprise, borrowed one-half
billion dollars from a consortium that included Chase, Citicorp and
United California Bank.
Algeria's dependency on the United States has not only been tied to
financing of major state projects. It has also been reflected in foreign
trade. After France cut off oil imports from the former colony, the
United States stepped into the breach. Big delivery contracts were
signed with Exxon in 1972 and Gulf in 1982. Around this time, the
US was taking over half of all Algerian oil exports and US companies
had large contracts to develop new energy sources. Less than 2% of
Algeria's trade was with Third World countries and only 5.7% and
1.2%, respectively, of its exports and imports were with the Soviet
bloc in the early 1980s.
The final thing to consider is the relationship of the Algerian state
sector to the high-technology engineering companies who were
invited in to exploit the natural resources. 95% of the contracts are
awarded on a bid system. Once the contract is won, the foreign firm
takes total responsibility for the implementation. They hire and impose
work discipline in the areas under their jurisdiction. They function as
capitalist enclaves in the state sector. Firms like Brown and Root and
George Bush's Zapata have established profitable footholds in Algeria
with no regard for either the needs of the Algerian workers or the
long-term viability of the Algerian economy. "Socialist" Algeria is as
much of a boondoggle as Saudi Arabia for these smooth operators.
The technocratic model adapted by Algeria in combination with the
powerful private sector have led to explosive social contradictions.
Since the development model is based on heavy industry using high
technology, unemployment has grown into a severe problem. Highly
automated oil refineries are just not labor-intensive. The consequences
were that in 1977 unemployment amounted to 18.6% percent of the
economically active population.
As the oil boom has wound down, the Algerian economy has also
suffered. The debt crisis has accelerated and social and economic
misery has increased. This has led to growing polarization between the
FLN bureaucracy/national bourgeoisie and the masses. It has more recently
developed into a bloody civil war in which the "socialist" armed forces
are pitted against Islamic fundamentalists. The fundamentalism, of course,
is fuelled by resentment toward the hypocritical ruling-class.
These are the class realities of post-independence Algeria. It has
everything to do with the ravages of the world capitalist system, which
Algeria has been tightly integrated with from its infancy.
When I analyze the Cuban revolution, it will be obvious that none of
these contradictions--until recently--were able to take root. Capitalism,
both internally and externally, have been a problem in Algeria from
the beginning. Cuba was a different story. I will present these details
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