Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Nov 19 07:04:48 MST 2002

Shane Hopkinson wrote:
>   Recently I wrote my PhD on Fanon who was involved in the
>   Algerian revolution. He was one of the first in these
>   independence struggles to argue that the elimination of
>   the colonisers was not enough and they would only be
>   replace by local others. Many looked to the Algerian revolution,
>   which was led by people who said they were socialists, as
>   a source of inspiration. With hindsight it is clear that
>   the military seized power and attempted to modernise the
>   country using the state but it was never 'socialist' it was
>   a way of managing the bourgeois transition (industrialising
>   agriculture, creating a proletariat, primitive accumulation)
>   which they did fairly badly given their oil wealth.


There has never been such a thing as a purely proletarian party with a
purely revolutionary program and the FLN of Algeria was no exception. 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. 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
with France. 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 utilized. 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.



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