MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: FI: USFI: 1963-1985: The Progress and Problems of the African Revolution
The 8th World Congress of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International—1965
The Progress and Problems of the African Revolution
Adopted: Adopted, June 1965.
First Published: Spring 1966
Source: International Socialist Review, New York, Vol. 27, No. 2, Spring 1966, pp. 49-66.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Daniel Gaido and David Walters, December, 2005
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2005. You can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders above.
Some ten years after the process of the formation of independent states began on a big scale, the African reality shows considerable differentiation. Nevertheless, while acknowledging their approximate and provisional nature, it is possible to take the fundamental tendencies and common or analogous elements and place them in definite categories or groups.
More concretely, three major sectors can be distinguished: the Africa where colonialism and racism still survive, the Africa of outright neocolonial structure, and the Africa where revolutionary transformations are occurring. An analysis of situations and tendencies in a certain number of countries in each of these sectors will provide us with a rather extensive picture, and enable us to single out the basic tendencies and work out some essential conclusions.
I. COLONIAL AFRICA
Colonial Africa, which geographically coincides in large measure with southern Africa, includes essentially South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). We will briefly analyze here the two epicenters of South Africa and Angola.
The dominant feature in recent years has been the aggravation of national and economic oppression imposed on the indigenous population of South Africa by apartheid rule. Against this, violent forms of struggle have developed, representing a break with the methods advocated in the past by broad sectors of the nationalist movement; and, in principle, a turn was made in this field by the African National Congress (ANC) and the Communist Party (PC).
However, the liberal sectors in particular sought to draw advantage from acts of violence conducted in distinct separation from a broad mass movement. The hopes of those who thought that acts of sabotage would be sufficient to set off the powder keg have proved to be unjustified. The revolts which broke out at different times in isolated regions met with very harsh repression and were thus crushed.
Generally, the fundamental elements of the situation in South Africa remain unchanged. The presence of a high percentage of white masters inevitably points to a perspective of long, stubborn struggle. But, on the other hand, an economic and social structure relatively advanced for an African country, the lack of a genuine indigenous bourgeoisie, the existence of a quite large mass of proletarians and very broad masses of poor, even proletarianized peasants, are also factors of a nature to stimulate the revolutionary anti-capitalist and socialist dynamics of a revolution starting off as a national and democratic revolution.
In the final analysis, it is precisely the presence of these factors that explains both the scheme for a neocolonialist operation with the intervention of sectors of world imperialism and the extreme caution of the “liberal” bourgeois forces in opposition to the present racist regime. The neocolonialist operation envisages replacing apartheid rule by the granting of a few “liberal” political rights to narrow layers of the indigenous population.
The neocolonialist operation is, in fact, running into serious obstacles, all the more so since no one can guarantee that the process, once launched, would stop at the point desired by certain “liberal” forces. Nevertheless, the possibility of success cannot be ruled out, particularly if certain conditions were fulfilled. A success would obviously affect the whole development of the revolution in South Africa.
In any case the task of the revolutionary forces at the present stage is to struggle in such a way that Verwoerd’s possible downfall would involve the unleashing of a process of permanent revolution and not the reorganization of the country on a neocolonial basis. In relation to this aim, a struggle limited to acts of sabotage or to isolated actions is ineffective, even favorable to the projects of the neocolonialist forces.
For this reason it is insufficient to take a position in favor of armed struggle. In truth, it is not at all simply a problem of method but primarily one of content. A neocolonialist and liberal wing can, it is obvious, conclude that in the complete absence of any legal avenues at all it is necessary to fight Verwoerd by means of armed actions, yet its basic orientation would remain fundamentally opposed to that of a mass revolutionary movement.
In reality, it is not possible to counter the neocolonialist maneuver and actually launch the process of the South African revolution except through a movement based on the broad masses, particularly the peasant masses. The touchstone for a revolutionary leadership is its capacity, starting from a mobilization for democratic and national liberator aims, to assure at each concrete stage the slogans and actions capable of simulating the anti-capitalist dynamics of the struggle.
The progress realized among the peasants and in the reserves by sectors of the vanguard and the maturing of a considerable number of cadres in the mass movement are unquestionably positive signs.
The formation of a united front of the forces struggling against apartheid and imperialism remains a primary necessity, if only because of the bitterness of the prospective struggle which thus necessitates organizations functioning on a national scale. But no united front would be worth anything, or could accomplish the tasks for which it was set UP, if the preliminary condition were not met of breaking with all the agents of imperialism and neocolonialism including the indigenous and liberal agents. Revolutionary Marxists are partisans of that kind of united front and offer their active support to all those who actually struggle, no matter what their specific orientation may be. They support in particular the vanguard sectors of the South African movement which are closest to the line of the permanent revolution and which have already succeeded, thanks to stubborn and courageous struggle, in gaining real mass influence, especially among the peasants (above all APDUSA, the African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa) and the other organizations affiliated to the NEUM (Non European Unity Movement).
The national Angolan movement has undergone many vicissitudes because of internal as well as international reasons.
The massive effort of Portuguese imperialism, backed by its allies, has not succeeded in crushing the resistance of the Angolan people but it has been able to contain it at certain times. The developments in the Congo situation like wise had a negative influence, particularly after Tshombe, who is directly linked with the Portuguese, came to power.
Finally there has been the obstacle of the struggles within the national movement and its cleavages, the alternating positions taken by certain African states and the rather heavy intervention of the Soviet bureaucracy, which participated in the effort to discredit the GRAE (Revolutionary Government of Angola in Exile) and the FLNA (Angolan National Liberation Front).
In the case of Angola, the neocolonialist margin of maneuver (up to now very uncertain and vague, probably more under North American than Portuguese inspiration) has been quite limited. An indigenous bourgeois class that could serve as a social and political base for a possible neocolonialist operation does not exist in even embryonic form.
The defeat of colonialism—which would be the result in any case of a broad mass mobilization, particularly the peasant masses—would create a political and social vacuum that would strongly stimulate the anti-capitalist dynamics of the process. In an independent Angolan state, the specific weight of the masses, the peasant masses in the first place, would be determining and the masses would be pushed from the first phases to translate their victory into economic and social terms.
From this it follows that the revolutionary Angolan vanguard must set about elaborating a perspective of permanent revolution, clarifying in a systematic way the need for the national liberation struggle to have an anti-capitalist and socialist content. Some of the militants and nuclei have already reached this conclusion, utilizing the criteria of Marxist analysis and adopting socialist conceptions.
It also follows that the masses, during a probably rather long struggle, undergoing an immense experience, will not tolerate being robbed of their victory. This means that the necessary clarification and the possible elimination of opportunist or cowardly leaders, under the influence of forces foreign to the revolution, will be achieved during the struggle itself, in accordance with its own logic.
It is clear that a genuine revolutionary Angloan leadership does not yet exist and that internal conflicts and struggles of the nationalist movement will probably continue to appear for a whole period. In determining which field of action they will give preference, the fundamental criterion for revolutionary Marxists is who at a given stage exercises real mass influence and who is actually fighting, because that is where the logic of the revolutionary struggle most easily permits the formation of a revolutionary vanguard. The line of a leadership or a few leaders cannot be a decisive criterion, all the less so in the case of insinuations or suspicions about this or that person.
In the fifth year of the Angolan struggle, the following objective balance sheet, by and large, can be drawn up:
(a) The armed struggle inside the country is continuing and has even undergone a revival recently. The Angolan armed forces outside the country continue to exist, despite the grave limitations imposed on their struggle by the reactionary Congolese governments.
(b) The armed struggle inside Angola—which is being conducted especially by forces of peasant social composition—is being organized essentially by the FLNA, which represents the base of the GRAE. The MPLA (People’s Movement of Angolan Liberation) succeeded during 1964 in establishing a base in the enclave of Cabinda where contingents of the FLNA were already in existence. Despite the considerable backing the MPLA has abroad, particularly from the Soviet bureaucracy, it has not been able to reverse the existing relationship of forces and cannot be considered at present as representing more than a minor component of the Angolan movement so far as mass influence is concerned.
(c) On the plane of conscious leadership, the MPLA claims to have a more progressive, even socialist, orientation. However, this has not prevented it from having ties with dubious formations and from continuing to follow a confused line. Its relative strength in negotiations is derived less from its intrinsic influence than from the support granted it by the wing of the Communist movement adhering to the Soviet bureaucracy.
Due to its size alone, the FLNA appears more heterogeneous than the MPLA, including the leadership level. A whole series of its elements have not crystallized politically, move in zigzags, work in a completely empirical way. It is very likely that some of them have been under American imperialist influence in the past or still are. However it would be a mistake not to note that certain representatives of the FLNA are capable of evolving. It would likewise be an error to leave out of consideration the fact that after splitting from the MPLA, a series of vanguard elements with a Marxist education and having a quite left orientation have entered the FLNA.
(d) The attitudes of certain African states, including the more progressive, or those considered to be more progressive, have changed position on the Angolan national movement abruptly at times and without clear explanation. Their attitudes thus cannot be taken as a reliable criterion. No doubt particular diplomatic or tactical considerations have come into play most often, taking precedence over an analysis of the actual forces, the relationship of forces and the dynamics of the movement.
Without hiding its criticisms and while developing its own concepts on the nature of the Angolan revolution, the Fourth International will continue to solidarize with the forces in actual struggle, which are primarily the peasant forces organized at the present stage essentially in the FLNA. The Fourth International holds that the unification of the FLNA with other existing forces (which the FLNA says it favors in principle) would prove profitable, naturally on condition that it be realized in the struggle, on the basis of a clear anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist program, without which the indispensable unity in the armed struggle would suffer.
An upsurge of the struggle in the other Portuguese colonies, particularly in Mozambique (in so-called “Portuguese” Guinea the movement has already reached spectacular dimensions) would multiply difficulties for the colonialists, could lead them to give up certain positions and possibly offer some compromises-with the aim of strengthening the most important rampart. For a whole series of reasons, both geographic and economic, it is most likely that Angola will prove to be the place where the Portuguese will decide to hang on to the end. From this viewpoint, too, the perspective of a prolonged struggle is justified.
II. NEO-COLONIAL AFRICA
The countries that can be listed in this category—the countries of North Africa like Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, most of the former French colonies of West Africa, the former British colonies in the same region like Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the Congo, countries of East Africa like Ethiopia, Somalia and the former British colonies there, etc.—shows in itself the broad character of this classification and the rather wide differences that are involved. We will limit ourselves to referring to a few of the more significant cases in the various zones.
The Congo offers in concentrated form the multiple contradictions of an Africa in upheaval in the process of emancipation. The central government rests in the hands of the man most detested by the African revolutionists and even by certain moderates, and vast regions are the scene of a ferocious war, the current situation being due just as much to foreign intervention as to the limitations and internal conflicts of the forces on the scene.
The struggle in the Congo is not only for the territory itself. Involved in this struggle is the threat of consolidating a counterrevolutionary government that would bear down on other African countries and accentuate the differences in the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the governments of the Organisation Commune Africaine et Malgache (OCAM), first making an alliance with Tshombe, then Kasavubu and finally Mobutu.
From the point of view of imperialism, the Congo of the late fifties had reached a point where domination in the old style could not be continued any longer; nevertheless hardly anything had been done to prepare an alternative of even the most fragile kind. Because of this, particularly because of the absence in the Congo of even an embryonic indigenous ruling class, the 1960 operation ended in a chronic crisis. Not even the most moderate neocolonialist setup could be stabilized, so that in 1964 the imperialists went back to direct intervention, hardly camouflaged behind the hypocritical mask of rescuing whites and helping the “legal” government of Tshombe.
As for the anti-colonialist Congolese forces, their fundamental deficiency has been the absence of a genuinely unified political organization, the Lumumbist organization itself having only limited forces. That is why the solution envisaged at the “round table” quickly blew up and Lumumba, the only figure in position to play a national role, was eliminated.
For a whole period, the splintering of the movement and the lack of leadership slowed down resumption of the revolutionary struggle. The resistance could pick up again only later, first on a local and regional scale. The most concentrated proletarian force—in the Katanga mines—could play no role because of the pressure brought to bear by the whole colonialist and Tshombist machine. There is no doubt that the absence of a national party was due in the final analysis to the tribal divisions and the backward character of most of the country.
It must nevertheless be added that the international forces interested in counteracting the negative evolution of the Congo—the progressive African states and the workers states—even if one leaves aside the criminal responsibility of the Soviet bureaucracy in facilitating the intervention of the UN in July 1960, could not or did not want to contribute in a decisive way to lancing the Congolese abscess, even if they have granted the insurgents considerable aid since then.
As a result of the events at the end of 1964, the struggle has become explosive for imperialism and neocolonialism, and, in short, more to the advantage of the revolutionary forces that have sprung up in different zones of the country. Thanks to a brutal and cynical policy, which does not bother about any camouflage and completely accepts the logic of a war of extermination, conducted particularly by foreign mercenaries, Tshombe reconquered some positions; but only partial successes are involved. His inability to stabilize his positions to any extent, the rapid resumption of inflation, his encounters with Kasavubu and the Bakonsro tribal forces led to his downfall.
The deficiencies and weaknesses of the national movement have not been overcome, however. Coordination and unity are not yet assured. This is not specially due to the quite real geographical difficulties. Grave political differences remain. The reaction to the “Adoula” plan to stop the armed struggle in return for a neocolonialist solution spoke eloquently in this respect.
If there is an intransigent wing that wants to go all the way and reject an equivocal solution (Mulele), there is also another tendency, represented at the top and even in some sectors of the combat forces (for example, Gbenye), that is willing to accept a moderate neocolonialist solution in the final analysis. But such a solution would be impractical or short lived. The centrifugal tendencies would quickly reappear, the struggle would be resumed and the only result would be a grave division and confusion in the nationalist movement.
The only feasible solution is to defeat not only Tshombe, Kasavubu and Mobutu, but especially the domestic and international forces behind them. Such an outcome is possible only through the united national action of a revolutionary army-helped militarily by revolutionary Africa and the workers states—on the basis of a political movement that struggles to uproot the imperialist domination (expropriation and nationalization of foreign holdings) and to eliminate the indigenous bureaucracy, allied to the neocolonialists and incapable of governing the country.
The present attitude of the African states is contradictory. The OAU has zigzagged; the neocolonialist states with moderate governments support the “legal” government; some progressive states of Africa grant the indispensable aid. Thus, not only are antagonistic internal forces in opposition to each other in the Congo, but also the different African tendencies, plus, of course, international forces. Hence the significance of a struggle whose possible victorious outcome could very shortly modify the tendencies in southern Africa, by creating the preconditions for the collapse of the most reactionary rampart on the continent.
Nigeria, in the British scheme of things, was to play the role of a pilot test in neocolonialism. It is by far the most populous country of Africa, centrally situated, and, thanks to these factors capable of greatly influencing the general evolution of the continent. Moreover a series of conditions existed that could justly be considered to be favorable from the neocolonialist point of view:
(a) The presence of a considerable amount of foreign capital in industry and finance as well as agriculture (plantation ownership).
(b) The existence of a relatively substantial nucleus of an indigenous ruling class in comparison with other African countries.
(c) Sufficient differences within this class and among the different zones of the country to assure the possibility of diversionary maneuvers to prevent the process of national anti-imperialist unification from coming to a head.
(d) The prior formation of a political layer, trained in the British school, a layer that even included some of the moderate trade-union leaders.
(e) Considerable economic resources, open to foreign exploitation.
All of this was crowned, so to speak, with another essential element: Independence was handed down without a revolutionary struggle involving the masses in a big way.
Five years after independence, Nigeria remains under neocolonial rule, suffering from a conservative, even reactionary government. No measures have either been taken or projected with regard to the imperialist holdings or in an at all progressive direction. In the field of foreign policy, Nigeria continues to take retrogressive positions, especially in relation to the most burning African problems, thus constituting one of the strongest counterweights to the action of the progressive African governments.
Nevertheless, the situation is far from having crystallized. In fact, as the events at the end of 1964 and beginning of 1965 showed, the country is undergoing a profound crisis. The regime is completely unstable, the ruling-class forces-even those that constituted the base of the governmental system for a whole period-are divided and in sharp internal struggle. Mass opposition, particularly in the most developed regions, is growing.
The political topography remains fragmented and contradictory (different and opposing Political forces rule in different regions) and the unity of the federation itself is threatened. The British-style democratic parliamentary structures are only a masquerade, as is proved by the colossally fraudulent elections among other things, the measures taken against political opponents, even the most moderate, the harsh repression of representatives of the vanguard of the labor movement. In reality, the entire foundation of the political system inherited from the British empire is extremely precarious.
All this obviously reflects the structure of Nigerian society. The country is politically divided, even at the ruling-class level, because the degree of economic and social development is quite differentiated. As against the relatively developed regions stands the North, where feudal-type relations are still prevalent. In this context, tribal and religious factors play a big role. Of course this does not mean that the situation is completely static.
On the contrary, Nigerian society is in movement and capitalist relations have begun to penetrate even the North. However this penetration is not wiping out the influence of the feudal elements. What is occurring instead is a symbiosis such as other societies have undergone during transition periods (for example, feudalists also become contractors; the breakup of communal structures occurs in favor of tribal chiefs who seize the land, etc.).
A highly progressive element, one capable of playing an even bigger role in the future, is the dynamism displayed by considerable sectors of the urban masses, those most integrated in the modern economic web (e.g., the Lagos dockers strike, the June 1964 general strike, etc.).
Due to this situation and also to the international experience accumulated by young cadres (particularly during studies in Europe), vanguard groups already exist in Nigeria that proclaim themselves to be Marxist or revolutionary Marxist, who criticize the British-type trade unionism and who are wrestling with the vital problems of the Nigerian revolution and big international questions, going through conflicts and splits in the process. Among the recent experiences that should be mentioned in this respect are those of the Socialist Workers, Artisans and Farmers Party (SWAFP) and the Nigerian Labour Party (NLP).
An essential problem remaining to be clarified is the attitude to be taken toward the national bourgeoisie, which in Nigeria is not as spectral as in some other African countries, and which in any case has already revealed beyond mistake its conservative and pro-imperialist nature. Thus the problem is not at all to seek an alliance with this social layer-as the Nigerian partisans of the line of the Soviet bureaucracy maintain-but to appeal to the sectors of the people still under the influence of a vaguely progressive outlook (for example, the Action Group) on the basis of a revolutionary platform and to organize them under a consistent socialist leadership.
This specification is imperative in the more general case of the fundamental problem of the alliance with the peasant masses who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population and who are quite variegated socially (extending from agricultural laborers on the plantations to the classical poor peasants and serfs of the feudal zones). The elaboration of a transition program for the agrarian revolution and the mobilization of the peasants (who in part still constitute the base of the most conservative tendencies) are key tasks for the Nigerian vanguard.
In East Africa, the rampart of conservatism is the kingdom of Ethiopia, a backward society featured by feudal-type relations on which rests a genuinely despotic political regime. The feudal class welded together around the Negus and his family aims at consolidating its position through an alliance with foreign capital. The industrial sector, still quite limited, is entirely in the hands of capitalists of other countries who enjoy very favorable conditions for their investments.
The prestige acquired at the time of the fascist aggression, and especially the hypocritical position in favor of unity voiced at meetings of the African states by the emperor, constitute a cheap “progressive” ideological cover that among other things diverts attention from the concession of military bases in Ethiopia to American imperialism.
The revolt in 1960 was a preliminary grave sign of the tendencies undermining the kingdom’s system. The quick defeat of the revolt is ascribable to its timorous character and to the nature of its leadership which had neither the ability nor the wish to bring broad sectors of the masses into action. More recently other straws in the wind have appeared insubordination of military contingents; student actions; peasant demonstrations; strikes, occasionally led by militant underground trade unionists, at other times occurring in more open and spectacular ways (for example, the Ethiopian Air Line strike in 1964).
The opposition, extending from the most moderate positions among the “enlightened” sectors of the upper layers to the armed resistance of sectors of the people, primarily peasants, is even expressed in organized forms. The Ethiopian People’s Movement Council (EPMC), holding to a program of advanced views and having cadres close to Marxist and revolutionary Marxist concepts, represents at the present stage a broad vanguard.
Its struggle for a republic, for the abolition of the feudal system, for a radical agrarian reform, for really popular government, against American imperialism and neocolonialism constitutes a foundation corresponding to the needs of the Ethiopian revolution at the present stage. The solidarity of the revolutionists of Africa and the entire world toward the EPMC and all those who are struggling with analogous aims is all the more necessary in view of the fact that the Ethiopian opposition has been received with coldness, if not hostility, by the most advanced African states and leaders due to their desire to avoid any diplomatic complications in their relations with the imperial government.
An important aspect of the situation in Ethiopia is the existence of strong national minorities struggling either for autonomy or for separation from the kingdom. In the case of Eritrea the movement has mounted armed peasant guerrilla actions for several years and has projected a political line of socialist coloration.
Former French Colonies
The former French colonies are, together with Nigeria, the main links in the neocolonial system of West Africa. Granted independence from above, without big struggles and popular victories, on the basis of a compromise with the former imperialist master, these countries have offered a favorable soil for neo-colonialist operations, first of all because of their artificial boundary lines, their Balkanization. It can be said quite aptly that for them independence amounts to a flag and a national anthem.
The economic positions of foreign capital, most often French, have been maintained. At the same time, nuclei of often rather substantial indigenous exploiting classes have been consolidated (landlords, merchants, small industrialists, entrepreneurs in transport, intellectuals with a Privileged standard of living and an aristocratic outlook, etc.). The tribal divisions, despite their declining influence, have been kept up in order to be utilized for conservative aims by the indigenous privileged layers and imperialism.
An important role-relatively new in relation to the period before independence-is being played by the bureaucratic layer in control of the state whose social privileges are based on this control. In other countries or at other times, layers of this kind either underwent osmosis with the economic forces or crystallized out as an instrument of economic expansion, giving birth to and nourishing what could be called a bourgeoisie of bureaucratic origin (e.g., the Mexican experience of the forties and the Indonesian experience after the departure of the Dutch).
In other instances, these layers acquired a Bonapartist political physiognomy instead, seeking to balance between the different indigenous privileged sectors, imperialism and the mass movement. In general these layers swell completely out of proportion to their real functions and assume privileges for themselves that are all the more hated in view of the miserable standard of living of virtually the entire population. They display the most notorious corruption and malfeasance in office.
These two variants are to be found in the countries of neocolonial structure in West Africa. On the international level, these countries are tied to imperialism through France and through the Common Market. They represent the conservative wing of the African states, being surpassed in this only by the racist government of Verwoerd.
In such a situation the single party is an instrument par excellence of political control and repression. Any signs of opposition are harshly crushed even by figures who like to present themselves as the sponsors of a “democratic” and “non-totalitarian” Africa. In the final analysis this is a product of the intrinsic weakness of these systems which are incapable of freeing themselves from foreign domination, of guaranteeing the indispensable economic takeoff, and of ameliorating however little the standard of living of the masses.
(Occasionally a decline in the standard of living appears, due to the fact that the dissolution of the former pre-capitalist economic and social forms destroys certain possibilities of cooperation in eking out a living without assuring by way of compensation new openings, particularly through absorption into the expanding modern sectors.)
This does not mean that it is excluded that a precarious, crisis-ridden situation cannot be prolonged for a time by maintaining the present regimes (which could include changes at the government level and in political personnel). A radical reversal of the situation will not really be possible until after imperialism is defeated in other sectors of Africa and the world or until the oppositional forces become capable of developing a consistent line of opposition and of establishing solid ties with the masses, especially the peasants, or through a combination of the two.
In north Africa neocolonialism established two relatively solid bases in Morocco and Tunisia where formal independence was gained following the struggle of a national movement but where economic power remained in the hands of privileged indigenous layers as well as foreign owners, often resident in the country.
The balance sheet of the years of independence is clear, confirming the easily made forecasts. The two countries have not overcome economic stagnation. A certain limited development, quite artificial in nature, has affected only very thin layers in the towns. The proletarian and plebeian masses, and the broad mass of the peasantry still suffer the utmost destitution.
In addition to the blindness of certain layers wedded to the status quo, it is this situation and the deep discontent of the masses that are at the bottom of the developments in the past year in Tunisia, among other things the crisis among the trade union leaders and the relative shift to the left undertaken by Bourguiba, who still retains considerable influence.
In Morocco the task of the conservatives is more difficult due to the fact that a rather large working class exists there, concentrated and organized, while power is held by a leadership, the prestige of which does not derive from any participation in the struggle for independence. Hence the very sharp character of the social and political conflicts, the much clearer differentiations, including those in the ranks of the opposition, and the violence and repression employed by the regime where the king remains the pivot although his authority has been weakened. The recent explosion in Casablanca foreshadows the grave conflicts now maturing.
In the case of Morocco, it is particularly clear that the sole perspective for real progress is an anti-capitalist struggle for socialist solutions. Any strategy aiming at collaboration with the so-called national bourgeoisie will prove to be impractical and fictitious, because the existing system of exploitation and oppression is exercised directly—even if in good part for the benefit of foreign capital—by indigenous owning layers, including a bourgeois layer, and the struggle against them cannot be separated from the struggle against the landlords and the foreign proprietors. These demands are objectively reflected in the socialist orientation adopted by the socialist Union Nationale des Etudiants Marocains (UNEM) and the position taken by the trade unions favoring workers self-management of industry.
VI. AFRICA IN REVOLUTIONARY TRANSFORMATION
The countries in this category reached independence through mass struggles, have adopted progressive, anti-imperialist and even anti-capitalist measures, and, at least at a certain stage in their evolution, have played a role in the breakup of the colonial and neocolonial system.
The most significant experiences up to now have been those of Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Egypt, Zanzibar and the Algerian Revolution. (A genuine revolution occurred in Zanzibar in 1964. But the situation was complicated by the fusion of Zanzibar and Tanganyika which, at least at this stage, had the aim and in part the result of putting a brake on the Zanzibar movement.)
Mali gained independence following a gradual process, but through the action of a centralized and militant political party having a rather advanced ideology. This means that Mali never experienced the political vacuum suffered by other African countries or the conservative retrograde evolution of which the parties of West Africa were protagonists although they were connected for a rather long period with the Union Soudanaise—Rassemblement Democratique Africain (US-RDA).
When independence came, Mali was an extremely backward country, with an almost completely agricultural and subsistence economy (around 80 per cent). It was the same five years later, the proportions of the different economic sectors not having changed.
The Malian leadership adopted a line rigorously favoring a mixed and planned economy. So far as the expansion of production is concerned, this has not yet yielded substantial results. The growth of production has been limited, having been deliberately and to a large degree inevitably concentrated in the agricultural sector. Most often the increases have been absorbed by a rise in consumption. This has meant stagnation in means for investment.
In industry, trade and transport, the government has affirmed the primacy of the state sector. Companies have been set up that belong completely to the state or in which the state holds the majority of shares (ENCON, SEMA, RTM, SOENA, etc.). The same system has been adopted for the banks (People’s Development Bank, Malian Bank of Credits and Deposits).
A state company has also been formed for investments, but private initiative continues, regulated by a statute on investments. In principle it is to come under state control in ten years. An important role is played in addition by Somiex, an export-import company that is supposed in principle to exercise a kind of monopoly over foreign trade. However, Somiex has not eliminated private trade, which continues, even in the form of trade carried on by foreign companies.
In the countryside, the regime chose the road of using and gradually transforming the communal tribal structures by introducing what is called the “collective field.” It should be recalled that before independence, the land already belonged in substance to the peasants, the privileges of the traditional chiefs having been considerably curtailed. The experience with collective fields remains limited, however, since on the one hand it is not general and on the other only a quite modest part of the labor of the peasants is devoted to this sector.
The backbone of the independent regime is the single US-RDA party, led by cadres with a trade-union and Marxist education (insofar as an education acquired in the circles of the French Communist Party can be called Marxist), who have adopted democratic centralism and elaborated an indigenous version of Marxism. According to this, Mali is a society without classes, whether feudalistic or capitalist, which is gradually moving toward socialism.
In such a society, the tasks which it is the lot of the proletariat to carry out in industrial societies are accomplished by a people’s movement that is not specifically proletarian, the vanguard of which is composed of white-collar workers, teachers and manual workers allied with other layers of the population (peasants and artisans). In other words, these layers of the people are supposed to represent the historic equivalent of the proletariat. Referring to Lenin, the theoreticians of the Malian party explain in addition that it will be possible to “leap over” the capitalist stage and advance towards socialism without passing through the other historically antecedent stages.
It is not denied that social differentiations can come about (by the formation, for example, of commercial layers and bureaucratic layers detached from the masses), but it is held that the fundamental dynamic is counteracting these tendencies.
The concept concerning trade unions merits attention. The Malians reject any reference to the traditional role of trade unions and set education and propaganda as their essential tasks (education in a trade, campaigns for production, etc.). “Laborite” tendencies are violently under and strikes are denounced as completely counterrevolutionary. Trade unions are denied any role in the struggle over division of income and even in the defense of employment levels. This is carried so far as to include in trade-union tasks the duty of explaining the need for a wage-freeze (in fact, after independence, even wage reductions occurred).
Mali thus presents quite specific features and its sociological classification does pose a problem. It is clear, in fact, that it has no genuine indigenous capitalist class (either industrial, commercial, or landholding) and one cannot speak of domination by foreign capital. In this way it cannot be affirmed that the present political ruling layer directly serves capitalist or imperialist interests. However, a rather clear social stratification exists that does entail class conflicts.
First of all the state companies by their very structure do not exclude the participation, if only as a minority, of private interests. Secondly, a private sector exists; the commercial layers in particular enjoying privileged conditions which Somiex has not suppressed. Thus capitalist profits are formed in all these sectors and the social layers which get them have interests opposed to those of the other social groups in the country.
On the political level this is occasionally concretized in reactionary movements. It is necessary to take into consideration finally that even if the few existing foreign activities be left out of account, Mali, as a backward country which must face the advanced countries on the world market, suffers indirect exploitation by international capital. It is moreover an associate member of the Common Market.
As for the rural sector, there are few cooperatives or collectives, the traditional structures still predominating. An agricultural society of this kind may not experience the tragic conflicts of a capitalist society or a society in transition to capitalism, but it is condemned by and large to immobility and, in the final analysis, cannot avoid a whole series of imbalances following the finally inevitable breakup of the former equilibrium. The circle of the subsistence economy is no longer a closed one, and problems of displacement arise which purely negative measures obviously cannot resolve.
The political ruling layer, the source of which is in general the party and trade-union apparatuses (at the top, moreover, the same people are often involved), receives its income on the basis of the functions it performs in the state, the government, the economic machine, etc. In the given context, it is inevitable for tendencies toward the crystallization of privileges to appear despite the real or claimed equalitarian orientation of some of the leaders. Inevitably this layer is led to exploit its positions of power in order to assure for itself a stable standard of living distinctly higher than that of the rest of the population. The official documents themselves indicate that such tendencies have already become established.
As against this, the tendency for the positions of political-bureaucratic privilege to fuse with the positions of privilege of economic origin, although inherent in this kind of society, has not separated out in a distinct way up to now. This could occur in the future, for example, by the overlapping of the commercial sectors with sectors of members of the political apparatus.
Moreover, cases of corruption, officially denounced, do not constitute incidental phenomena but have a deeper significance. In actuality, where an osmosis is not occurring between the political rulers and the owning layers in which certain privileges cannot be, or cannot yet be, legalized and consolidated (particularly because it would be politically inopportune), the “illegal” avenues and a hypocritical cover constitute an almost obligatory variant.
In any case it is clear that in the final analysis the social nature of the ruling layer of Mali will be determined by its concrete content; i.e., the kind of relations of production and social stratification which it objectively maintains and consolidates. Only a revolutionary mobilization of the masses, bringing forward a revolutionary leadership, could open up the perspective of a workers state. Despite its specific traits and the progressive measures that have been carried out, Mali remains within the framework of structures fundamentally of the past.
Guinea achieved independence by voting to secede from the “French Community” in the Gaullist referendum of 1958. Its evolution has been analogous to that of Mali in a number of ways:
(a) An economic structure in which the agricultural sector and a subsistence economy hold preponderant weight.
(b) The absence of an indigenous owning class (landowners, industrial capitalists, etc.) and the existence of a political ruling layer whose base is in the state apparatus, the government and other political structures.
(c) A breakdown of the domination of the traditional chiefs before independence was achieved and a substantial restoration of the land to the peasants.
(d) The decisive role of a single party led by men who had a Marxist education and who worked out a specific analysis of their society.
During the first phase of its independence, Guinea played a vanguard role in Africa. In the economic field, the new regime envisaged economic planning and a considerable rise in the rate of accumulation, asserted the primacy of the public sector, represented by nationalized industries the construction of which was projected by the State Bank, by the Guinean Department of Foreign Trade (an export-import company whose aim was to assure an extensive state monopoly of foreign trade) and by the Guinean Department of Domestic Trade whose aim was to control domestic trade.
At the same time, the formation of mixed international companies was envisaged (Guinea’s participation to be 50 per cent), price regulations were introduced, and wage increases were passed. In the countryside measures of a cooperative type were advocated. The “human investment” was to be one of the important elements in the economic takeoff. In the field of international relations, Guinea signed agreements with the USSR, China and other workers states and became one of the main spokesmen of revolutionary Africa and African unity.
Subsequent evolution did not continue along this line, reassuring those who feared the birth of a “Communist” state in West Africa. This has also been reflected in foreign policy, where the retreat has at times taken spectacular forms.
In the economic field, the relative isolation imposed by imperialism in the first phase cost the country dearly-a monetary crisis was accompanied by a crisis or by stagnation in production. In industry little progress was made. Aside from isolated achievements (a cigarette factory, the Lumumba printing plant), advances were limited to the infrastructure (docking and airport facilities in Conakry, etc.).
In the agricultural sector, coffee production, which was scheduled to rise, took a sharp dip during the three-year plan, due among other things to a plant disease. Control over foreign trade turned out to be largely formal. The wholesalers and the retailers rule the roost. Speculation and smuggling (particularly in rice) have caused serious losses to the national economy. Statized domestic trade went bankrupt and was largely ended by 1963. The freezing of prices failed also.
A situation of scarcity followed which still remains. The gravity of the general economic situation, the extensiveness of smuggling, the wide speculation in money led to the new measures in November 1964 (re-issuing of commercial licenses, checking of the wealth of party functionaries and officials, capital punishment for illegal trade, etc.), all of which were more spectacular in appearance than in real influence.
But the main element of the situation in Guinea is the fact that the exploitation of the mineral resources and industrial production remains entirely under the domination of foreign capital. Even in the radical periods, assurances and guarantees were still given to foreign capitalists. Significantly, the 1960 measures included a major exception in favor of the mining companies, the insurance companies, the air and maritime transport companies and the banks.
Later a very lucrative investment law was adopted. In 1963 they even went so far as to denationalize the diamond mines. In November 1964 handicraft diamond operations were banned. The fact is that the basic resources of the country (bauxite, alumina) are exploited by the big international companies, with greater and greater participation by the Americans along with the French, the Swiss, the English and the Germans. For the exploitation of iron ore, a foreign French-British company has entered the scene ( Societe de Conakry) to join Fria, Pechiney, Harvey Aluminium, etc., in exploiting the country.
The picture as a whole is thus clear. Guinea is a neocolonial state in the sense that foreign companies draw profits from it, that international and indigenous merchants take a commercial profit-often exorbitant-that raw materials flow to the world market under the well-known disadvantageous conditions, involving the collection of surplus value by international capital in this form, too. And a big part of the agrarian economy is stagnating at the subsistence level.
The ruling political layer has crystallized progressively through a series of privileges, associated in origin, in Guinea as elsewhere, with the exercise of functions (advantages drawn from the very high remuneration granted to functionaries in the colonial administration, even special remuneration granted retroactively, material advantages more or less in accordance with posts in the hierarchy, etc.).
These positions have been consolidated on the economic level. Modest forms of accumulation (purchase of apartments from which rent is drawn) are sometimes widened and made clearer (birth of a merchant who is at the same time a government official), extending to the very significant symbiosis of government officials in business administrations and their gaining the status of stockholders. In these cases, the genesis of a bourgeoisie of bureaucratic origin is visible concretely.
This whole process has been accompanied by a hardening of the bureaucratic apparatus and the adoption of repressive measures with regard to opposition demonstrations which can in no case be confounded with reactionary or pro-imperialist intrigues.
Ghana gained independence on the basis of an agreement with British imperialism, but only after years of struggle and mobilization of the masses led by the revolutionary nationalist movement.
Marked from the beginning by prominent neocolonial traits (predominance of foreign capital, inclusion in the pound sterling bloc, presence of British administrative and military personnel, etc.) the new state moved rather rapidly toward very broad “Africanization.” and particularly in 1962-63 adopted a series of radical measures. At the same time the governing group around Nkrumah tightened its control more and more, suppressing opposition of any kind, severely disciplining the trade unions, reducing elections to a pure formality and imposing a frenetic cult of the head of the state.
Following all the measures of expropriation and reorganization directed against the sectors of foreign capitalism, the economic and social reality of the country presents the following picture:
The agricultural sector continues to play an absolutely predominant role with a considerable percentage of subsistence economy and a virtual monoculture of cocoa. However thanks to the Cocoa Marketing Board, the domination of foreign middlemen has been broken and the government now buys the cocoa beans from the producers at a stable price for a whole period and sells them on the world market itself.
Thus the producers are not affected in an immediate and direct way by the oscillation of prices on the world market even if the very steep decline in recent years has meant catastrophic consequences for the Board and thus for the Ghanaian government. As for the structure of domestic production in the countryside, the government has promoted cooperatives of quite varied extent, which, however, include considerable economic and social differences. Alongside the cooperatives exist big indigenous landlords who employ wage labor, very often on a seasonal basis.
In industry and transport there is a rather large sector composed of completely government-held companies and mixed companies (the former being run generally with substantial liabilities). The expropriated owners have in principle been indemnified with interest-bearing state bonds (in the case of some mining enterprises the state simply bought them). Particularly in the most recent period, an indigenous capitalist class has developed in the consumer sectors of industry where they are protected by restrictions on imports. In trade there is a broad layer of people who often gain considerable commercial profits.
Finally, very large foreign properties remain (mines, for example) and American capital owns the Valco Company project for the exploitation of aluminum, which is linked in turn to the success of the Volta River project.
In addition in Ghana there is a bureaucracy of the state and the party which is guaranteed substantial privileges, corruption in office being included. Individuals in this category at times succeed in accumulating fortunes. This constitutes the basis of a genuine bureaucratic bourgeoisie.
As for the bottom layers living in the cities, the plebeian masses are without stable resources as in all underdeveloped countries, unemployment reaching high levels and wages being held to a minimum, as the official reports themselves show.
In the picture as a whole, the official “scientific” socialist ideology has no correspondence with the reality. It is true that in international politics and in Africa, Ghana has often taken really progressive attitudes and the structural changes noted above are not negligible. However the structure of the country remains essentially neocolonial—considerable profits are drained away by foreign capital and the subordination to the world market involves real plundering.
Industrial and commercial profits go to the indigenous capitalist sectors and in the countryside likewise privileged layers exist. On the political level it cannot be said that the popular masses and the workers, in the name of which the dominant party nevertheless claims to speak, hold any real power or exercise the right to genuinely democratic means of struggle, since the bureaucracy of the state and the party exercises very rigid control, at times employing severe repressions.
Egypt differs markedly from the other African countries, having a much more advanced economic structure in which the specific weight of the industrial sector has grown considerably. The transformations of the most recent period have thus occurred not within the framework of a little developed or fluid primitive society, but in a society penetrated by capitalism in all its classic forms for many decades.
The development of Egypt after the revolution of 1952, represents without any doubt an exceptional historic phenomenon. The revolution began under a revolutionary petty-bourgeois leadership that revolted against the incapacity and corruption of the old regime. It proposed to modernize the country by striking at the old conservative and parasitic classes and by stimulating economic progress and particularly by seeking to end the imperialist domination.
Playing a pre-eminently Bonapartist role, this leadership objectively favored the strengthening of the industrial bourgeoisie in relation to the other ruling layers. It brought about, first of all, a change in political personnel at the top, began a series of reforms, struck directly at British imperialism and made itself the spokesman of the aspirations for Arab unity. These aspirations met with a favorable echo among the masses, but corresponded also to the aims of at least a part of the bourgeoisie, for whom the creation of a united Arab state would provide a considerably wider market.
The anti-imperialist measures - of which the nationalization of the Suez Canal was the most spectacular - strengthened the new regime, whose prestige spread to the other countries of the Middle East. The first agrarian reform was unquestionably of moderate nature, since it assured substantial indemnification, distributed but a very limited percentage of land, and brought no benefits to the great majority of poor peasants and field workers.
But, among other things, owing to the reduction of land rents, the class of landowners was hard hit both economically and politically and could no longer regain its position. The unification with Syria, undertaken after much hesitation, again increased Nasser’s prestige for a time. It was greeted not only by the Egyptian bourgeoisie, but still more so by the Syrian bourgeoisie who considered it the only healthy course at a particularly critical conjuncture.
But measures taken in the first stage of the revolution did not give the results the leaders counted on. The old ruling classes maintained a hostile attitude. Despite the precautionary measures taken by the group in power, the capitalists involved in the state sector resorted to obstruction or blackmail, even refusing the necessary economic aid on certain occasions. Last but not least, capital did not flow toward the modern economic sectors; its owners generally preferring speculation or real estate.
Nasser had no way out but to widen considerably the state sector and to attempt to consolidate his position by winning mass support. A major measure was taken in 1960 with the nationalization of the Misr Bank, the pivot of finance and industry in Egypt. The Syrian affair—in which the downfall of Nasserism was threatened—gave a decisive impulse toward the new course which was concretized in the radical measures of the years 1961, 1963 and 1965.
Thus, not only was a second agrarian reform undertaken, but at the same time the state established its control over 80 per cent of the means of production; i.e., over all of heavy industry, the big banks and wholesale trade. The percentage of state investments rose, in relation to total investments, from 82.6 per cent in 1961-62, to 93.7 per cent in 1963-64. Imperialist ownership virtually disappeared.
At the same time, the regime posed the problem of renovating the political structures. The Nasserite movement was reorganized. In the national assembly, a formal majority of seats was granted to the workers and peasants. Rights were granted to the workers in the facĀtories. A percentage of the profits was earmarked to be used for the needs of the workers; and minority participation by workers, chosen through elections, was envisaged on management boards.
Parallel to this, the ideological evolution of “Arab socialism” became noticeably more anti-capitalist. Nasser’s socialism now advances the idea of a society characterized by the transfer of the means of production to the state, centralized planning, the continuation of small and medium land holdings, and the development of cooperation. However, up to now cooperation has been limited to the buying of machines, fertilizers, and to the financing and sale of products.
Egyptian society is thus in a process of transformation that raises the question of its fundamental class nature. Some who characterized Nasserism as reactionary only yesterday are today ready to proclaim that Egypt is on the road to socialism; but even for those who have not conceded to impressionism or to diplomatic or propagandistic considĀerations, the question is raised whether the capitalist regime has been done away with and whether a workers state has been instituted.
There is no doubt that the petty-bourgeois revolutionary leadership that came to power in 1952 has undergone a profound transformation, becoming extremely radical. Does this mean that the creation of a workers state has occurred? No; for the following reasons:
(a) The agrarian structures do not include any collectivism sector, being based essentially on private property (cooperation not being practiced on the level of production), and the free buying and selling of land by the bourgeoisie up to a certain ceiling has not been excluded. This involves maintaining a high ground rent collected by private proprietors.
(b) Bourgeois layers of various origin remain which receive returns of a capitalist nature. They are often state “rentiers.”
(c) Finally private sectors remain (small and medium industry, trade, real estate).
(d) The state structure inherited from the former regime remains largely intact.
(e) There are no organs of workers power, no independence of the trade unions in relation to the state, no independent workers party, and no socialist consciousness among the broad masses.
None of these factors should be taken independently of one another, but in their dialectical interaction they determine the social and political situation as a whole, all the more so in the absence of any revolutionary mass action.
Under these conditions, despite the sweeping statization of industry, commerce and banking, Egypt still faces the problem of making a qualitative leap in order to establish a workers state. As yet, history has not furnished us with an example of any country achieving this without a deep-going revolutionary mobilization of the masses except where the change has been accomplished through the military action of the Soviet bureaucracy. Egypt will not prove to be an exception to the rule.
Many forces are pressing Egypt in the direction of a new revolutionary upsurge—the objective demands of economic development, the weakness of the old ruling classes, the country’s position in the international situation, the pressure of the masses of workers and peasants.
But there are powerful obstacles also—the extremely bureaucratic character of the Nasser leadership, its active opposition to revolutionary mobilization of the masses, its deliberate policy of blocking the development of an alternative revolutionary-socialist leadership, the powerful levers still in the hands of imperialism (military diplomatic pressure, plus concessions such as shipments of food), and the pervasive counterrevolutionary influence wielded by the old state apparatus.
In addition, the fresh bureaucratic layer crystallizing in the state apparatus is closely linked with the directing apparatus of the economy, giving it a vested interest in maintenance of the status quo. This layer is on the whole a conservative force despite its capacity to use a revolutionary and socialist phraseology and even to take quite radical measures.
Nor should it be overlooked that the Egyptian process continues to develop under conditions that are difficult from many angles. The rate of growth in production remains limited, not even expanding as rapidly as the population. Thirteen years after the downfall of Farouk, per capita income remains stagnant, even if in some sectors, particularly the cities, some improvements have occurred. Unemployment and underemployment remain tragic. Foreign aid-even though above that enjoyed by many other countries-is not an inexhaustible source and cannot by itself substitute for the impetus that could be provided by establishment of a workers state.
The outstanding feature of contemporary Egypt is its ripeness for the establishment of workers state and the ease with which a proletarian victory can occur there with the resurgence of the masses.
The Algerian Revolution
Without repeating in detail the analyses made in many previous documents of the International, the fundamental features of the Algerian revolution before independence was won can be summarized as follows:
(a) From the very fact that it unfolded in a country occupied by a mass of foreign colonialists and against a big imperialist power committed to defending its positions to the end, the depth and duration of the Algerian revolution was translated into a profound mobilization of the masses and various social layers.
(b) Beginning as a national liberation movement, the revolution involved from the beginning two components of opposite tendency: On the one hand, the disinherited peasant masses (the majority of the fighting army), the toiling and plebian masses of the cities, and the radicalized petty-bourgeois layers for whom the struggle had both a national democratic and social content; on the other, the very thin layers of the indigenous bourgeoisie and well-to-do petty bourgeoisie whose aim was formal political independence and the replacement of the ruling colonialist class by a native ruling class.
(c) Despite certain progressive positions (with regard, for example, to the need for an agrarian reform), the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) in itself was a socially undifferentiated front with vague political contours. For a considerable time it succeeded in presenting itself publicly as fundamentally united.
Unity of this kind, which was maintained moreover by a rigid apparatus, bureaucratic methods of leadership and compromises at the top, did not at all prevent a process of differentiation from occurring among the various military sectors and among the various levels of the movement as well as conflicts over orientation in the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA) itself, where in general the moderate wing held sway.
Following a protracted development of grave contradictions (among other things different and even opposing attitudes towards the Evian agreement) topped by the urgency of the problems in the political and economic vacuum that appeared at the end of the colonial domination due to well-known conditions, the FLN burst into fragments with the breakup of the government and the division of the military forces.
The crisis in the summer of 1962 developed along lines that were sometimes unclear, involving among other things equivocal and ephemeral alliances and the momentary passivity of healthy elements and forces, but it marked fundamentally a victory for the Ben Bella-Boumedienne team, which, at the time, at the level of the mass forces, was the most conscious and most resolute expression of the outright anti-neocolonialist, revolutionary-democratic and socialist-minded orientation.
Thus the second stage of the revolution opened, featured by a dynamics tending to cross over to socialism. It was primarily the vacuum created by the emigration of the colonialists that determined the mass actions and the decisions by the leaders that led to the rapid social deepening of the revolution.
The rising curve reached its climax in March 1963, extending to the new measures of expropriation taken in October the same year. The landholdings of the colonialists were expropriated in their entirety, the Algerian landholders being hit at the same time. A part of the industrial sector was also taken away from the former masters. The expropriated sectors were turned over to self-management by the workers under very advanced forms.
Particularly during the decisive weeks of March-April, the adoption of all these measures was accompanied by immense mass mobilizations, in which the union of the most advanced wing of the leadership with the masses occurred at the highest pitch. This wing, expressing the interests of the workers and peasants up to the government level, drove the conservative and pro-bourgeois elements away from the Political Bureau and the government.
At the same time, the Ben Bellist nucleus and a rather broad layer of cadres developed their own ideological concepts, going as far as to adopt ideas close to revolutionary Marxism on certain problems and to critically considering some of the main experiences of the international labor movement and of the establishment of workers states. The Algiers Charter, approved by the April 1964 congress, was the ideological expression of this process of growth.
In noting this process, the United Secretariat of the Fourth International called attention in February 1964 to the fact that a Workers and Peasants Government had been established in Algeria. Among other observations, the United Secretariat declared:
“As is characteristic of a Workers and Peasants Government of this kind, the Algerian government has not followed a consistent course. Its general direction, however, has been in opposition to imperialism, to the old colonial structure, to neocolonialism and to bureaucratism. It has reacted with firmness to the initiatives of would-be new bourgeois layers, including armed counterrevolution. Its subjective aims have repeatedly been declared to be the construction of socialism. At the same time its consciousness is limited by its lack of Marxist training and background. The question that remains to be answered is whether this government can establish a workers state. The movement in this direction is evident and bears many resemblances to the Cuban pattern. A profound agrarian reform has already been carried out, marked by virtual nationalization of the most important areas of arable land.
“Deep inroads have been made into the old ownership relations in the industrial sector with the establishment of a public and state-controlled sector. Yet to be undertaken are the expropriation of the key oil and mineral sector, the banks and insurance companies, establishment of a monopoly of foreign trade and the inauguration of effective countermeasures to the monetary, financial and commercial activities of foreign imperialism.”
Through the 1963 measures, Algeria thus entered a phase of revolutionary development characterized among other things by the following elements:
(a) The positions of colonialism were eliminated in the agricultural sector of the economy and dealt a serious blow in the industrial sector.
(b) The indigenous landholding bourgeoisie were likewise dealt some blows, while certain measures, apparently secondary, were passed which in principle can hinder or block the process of embryonic capitalist accumulation and possible consolidation of indigenous bourgeois nuclei (expropriation of movie houses, hotels, cafes, etc.).
(c) In the most dynamic and economically most important sector of agriculture (most important likewise from the angle of the formation of the surplus product) not only was ownership, both landlord and capitalist, ended, but forms of democratic management were introduced capable of assuring consolidation of the mass bases of the revolution.
(d) On the economic level in general, a mixed economy was envisaged in which the public sector—government operated or self-managed—was conceived as coming to be the most dynamic, the specific weight of the private sector being gradually limited.
(e) The Algerian state established international links with the workers states, involving particularly Cuba and its revolutionary experience, and placed itself in the vanguard of the progressive African front.
However this process did not develop in a straight line. In fact, a period of slowing down, of pause, even of stagnation, opened after the rise of 1963. This cannot be explained solely as due to the objective need to “digest” the results already achieved nor due to the unquestionable existence of serious obstacles. The subsequent progress of the revolution has been held back particularly by social and political resistances.
The forces hostile to the new measures (for example in the area of agrarian reform) have made gains. This was not in contradiction to the successes won by the regime in its struggle against the open and illegal opposition. The extreme right wing (Chaabani) could not gain any serious base. The Kabyle wing (Ait Ahmed) had no real perspective, being compromised by a whole series of actually counterrevolutionary attitudes and its taking to the road of adventure. The sector headed by Boudiaf did not elaborate a line and lost all prestige.
The forces hostile to the revolution, both on the domestic and international level, never seriously counted on these opposition movements and, beginning with 1963, chose the tactic of obstruction, sabotage and struggle within the regime, its state apparatus and even the party.
The FLN congress in 1964 was significant in this respect, the conservative and rightist elements not engaging in struggle over the program-adopting it unanimously and without much discussion—but infiltrating into all levels of the party, including the Political Bureau, acting as a brake and as a stubborn opposition which clearly gained results. French imperialism itself has followed a line up to now not of rupture but rather of seduction, of setting conditions, of pressure extending from blackmail to threats of rupture.
Due to the pause during 1964 and the beginning of 1965, in which some measures were passed that were more spectacular than of real import (such as the expropriation in October 1964 of collaborators with the counterrevolution), the economic and social structures of Algeria became relatively crystallized into a series of different and opposing sectors. If, in a stage of overturn, the relative rise of percentages is more important than the absolute figures, in a static period it is the absolute proportions that represent the decisive criterion.
Algerian society was marked by the coexistence and conflict of different and antagonistic forces and sectors. On the one side stood; (a) the modern, self-managed agricultural sector; (b) the self-managed industrial sector; (c) the state industrial sector; (d) the state sector of transport and services; (e) the secondary self-managed sectors.
Against these there remained: (a) a considerable agricultural sector dominated by Algerian landowners; (b) the private capitalist sector, which includes industries, banks, commercial enterprises; (c) the sector of foreign capital (oil, gas); (d) the still heavy weight of French imperialist aid (direct subsidies to the budget and investments) and American aid (distribution of food to the mass of unemployed); (e) the quantitatively preponderant sector of agriculture which was not touched by the agrarian reform and which includes the gamut of poor peasants and small peasants in general. At the same time Algeria remained integrated in the zone of the French franc and a very high proportion of its foreign trade was with France.
In the social field, the following class interests and social layers stood in opposition: (a) the industrial working class and the workers of self-managed farms; (b) the poor peasants; (c) the poor masses in the towns; (d) the urban petty bourgeoisie (white collar workers, intellectuals, etc.); (e) the big and middle Algerian landowners; (g) the well-to-do petty bourgeoisie; (h) international capital (oil companies, banks).
This general outline is sufficient to show that criticizing the prolonged pause of the revolution did not signify indulging in revolutionary phrase-mongering but was based on recognizing that in the absence of fresh measures breaking things UP, a situation was crystallizing in which capitalist-bourgeois relations, including the presence of foreign capital, remained preponderant.
The orientation placing the collective sector in opposition to the private sector has no real progressive content—in the Algerian context—unless a constant change in the relation of forces occurs and the collective sector is actually conceived as an instrument to wear away the private sector. If this does not occur, the state collective sector can become either complementary to the private sector—in the final analysis in the interest objectively of preserving the latter—or can be partially or gradually reabsorb-ed in the private sector insofar as this proves to be profitable.
The problem is particularly serious for the collective self-managed sector since the private sector is specially interested—more from the political and social angle than the economic—in bringing it into difficulty. As long as the private sector remains preponderant in industry, finance and trade, as long as there is no genuine monopoly of foreign trade, as long as planning has not been introduced to block or control the free play of the market in accordance with the logic of capitalism, self-management will be gravely handicapped and threatened with bankruptcy or with being drained of its revolutionary social content.
The delay in carrying out a new radical agrarian reform was damaging on the political level, since it opened up fissures in the revolutionary front. Since the new regime failed to improve their economic and social conditions, although they had made a major contribution to the armed struggle, the landless peasants were no longer inclined to give active support to the revolution.
In addition to the resistance already referred to of the conservative social layers, two factors served in particular as a brake in the revolutionary process: the composition and structure of the state apparatus and the government in general and the defectiveness of the party.
The state and government structure remained essentially as it was set up by the colonial regime. This meant that far from being a means of transmitting the will of the masses and an instrument for translating a revolutionary orientation into practice, this apparatus constituted a barrier separating the masses from the real exercise of power, a means of paralyzing and rendering null decisions that were correct in the abstract, an arena for the crystallization of conservative and reactionary forces and tendencies.
The integration into this apparatus of elements who participated in the struggle for freedom did not bring about any qualitative change, the problem being political, social and structural, not one of the composition of the personnel. In fact it is the logic of the apparatus, as it was constructed, that is operating and it is precisely through the medium of this apparatus that the conservative forces, including the foreign ones, express their influence and maintain political force, whatever the composition of the government and the executive power may be in general.
In the case of Algeria, the question of the apparatus is also important in another way, since it engenders and consolidates a bureaucratic layer which, in the absence of democratic structures based on the active and decisive participation of the workers and peasants, is concentrating enormous power in its hands, inevitably nourishing privileged positions. Although certain nuclei of the FLN, including the tops, were aware of the problem in theory, the bureaucracy developed and became relatively crystallized.
To the old layers of the colonial period were added new layers, issuing from the ranks of the revolution. Thus another element must be included in the Algerian social stratification: a bureaucracy of the state, the government, the growing economic apparatus and the military apparatus, a bureaucracy that in reality enjoys a privileged share of the national income, even if the quantity is still modest, and that holds a position of strength in relation to the popular masses.
The right wing of this bureaucracy is trying, in a more or less conscious way to consolidate a neocolonial type regime. Its left wing is partisan to an authoritarian bureaucratic socialism. Objectively both of them play a conservative role. The left wing itself not only is opposed to constructing a socialist society based on the self-government of the masses, but is also blocking the elimination of capitalist and imperialist structures, the survival of which is not necessary, however, to maintaining its own functions and privileges.
The fact that the problem that exploded in the summer of 1962—of reconstructing the FLN on a new basis—was not resolved and that the party still functioned in a precarious and bureaucratic fashion, with real activity concentrated particularly at the top, served as a concomitant factor in reinforcing the bureaucratic tendencies as well as the uncertainties and the retreats of the stage that followed the measures of 1963.
The same can be said of the trade unions whose profound crisis was not overcome and whose main deficiencies were recognized officially, so to speak, at the March 1965 congress. In reality, the bureaucracy was rooted in the party as well as the trade unions, the proclamations about the need to separate the state apparatus and the party apparatus remaining without practical results up to now.
The political and leadership system adopted entailed, moreover, the logic of a Bonapartism personalized to the extreme. The real power of decision-of decision and not of application, since after a decision forces came into play to block or neutralize it-was concentrated in the Central Committee and particularly the Political Bureau to which all the other bodies, from parliament to the trade-union leaderships, were subordinated in the final analysis.
The multiple functions and omnipresent activity of Ben Bella by themselves stamped and symbolized the Bonapartist concentration. In certain situations of confusion and general deficiencies, this Bonapartism was able in the past to play a positive role objectively, particularly when the Bonapartist action, in conjunction with the movement of the masses, broke the conservative resistance. But it is obvious that it could not be conceived as a permanent element, as the norm in the exercise of power. In the long run, it could only be risky and of benefit in particular to the conservative bureaucratic forces.
The June 19 Coup
Despite its sudden and unexpected character, the coup d’etat of June 19 was the culmination of a situation which had already seriously deteriorated and in which different and even opposed forces were looking for a way out of the blind alley.
Within the leading group itself, behind the facade of unity around Ben Bella’s Bonapartism, tendencies and groups were involved in a stubborn struggle which sometimes came to the surface (for example at certain trade-union congresses). The prevailing disorder, particularly in the economic structure was taken by a bureaucratic tendency rooted in the economic, governmental and administrative machines as the basis for driving for centralist solutions and abandoning or at least rigorously restricting the experience of workers self-management which it considered to be a failure, an element of disintegration and chaos and even a luxury that the country could not afford.
Another tendency—of which men like Mohamed Harbi and Hocine Zahouane were the best known spokesmen—were not only for the defense of workers self-management but fought for a real application of the March decrees, for democratization and effective functioning of the trade unions. At the same time they also raised the problem of radically transforming the state apparatus. In the army, tendencies crystallized around Boumedienne which were dissatisfied with the lack of a clear orientation, with the degeneration of certain political circles that had lost the zeal of the revolutionary period, with the continuing economic imbalances which were even tending to become worse in the country.
They came to the conclusion that more authoritarian solutions were required and that all the elements who were exercising an influence on Ben Bella and his limited team, which they considered harmful, would have to be eliminated. In addition to all these tendencies whose positions were the same as that of the regime installed at the end of 1962, there were still other groups and figures of the old opposition (Boudiaf, Ait Ahmed, Khider, Ferhat Abbas) who, with but few exceptions, were in almost complete isolation.
With regard to the social classes and layers more specifically-the landed proprietors, the native bourgeoisie, the shopkeepers and other petty-bourgeois strata; i.e., all those who had already been hit or who considered themselves threatened by the regime-these continued to remain hostile despite the prolonged lull in the revolutionary process.
At the same time a rather open opposition, violently opposed to any kind of modernization of ideological views and customs, appeared among the religious sectors linked to the privileged layers. In this field, Ben Bella’s attempts to flatter the Moslem circles by concessions and to counteract their conservative weight by propagandizing for a so-called socialist interpretation of Moslem texts failed pitifully.
As for the masses, the delay in the new agrarian reform, which was frequently promised but always postponed, and the persistence of crying inequities between the situations in the cities and hilly regions on the one hand and most of the other sectors on the other led to passivity among the majority of the poor peasants and loss of interest in the revolution.
At the same time the complete failure to apply the March decrees, bureaucratic maladministration, the delays in the distribution of bonuses, sowed some demoralization even among the layers of agricultural workers in the self-managed sector, who were main beneficiaries of the revolutionary measures of 1963. The most positive developments since the end of 1964 occurred among the workers in the self-managed sector and even in the state and private sectors-strikes against the employers and machinations of the bureaucrats, lively discussions, critical ferment, movements supporting the left wing, particularly in the trade-union congresses.
Finally in the petty-bourgeois urban circles, especially among the students, the regime retained considerable support, but this sector also voiced criticisms from the left.
The objective combination of all these elements, particularly the passivity of the masses—for which Ben Bella both bore responsibility and fell victim due to his failure to appeal for action from the masses even when he must have realized that a serious crisis was imminent—made the June 19 coup possible and its success relatively easy.
The representatives of the old oppositions had no hand whatsoever in the June 19 coup, as events very quickly demonstrated. Likewise it cannot be said that the indigenous conservative layers, the forces most interested in crystallizing a neocolonialist society in Algeria, played an active part. Nor does it appear that there was direct intervention on the part of foreign conservative and reactionary forces, since the misgivings of the imperialists had been relatively allayed for some time by the attitude of the Algerian leaders and in any event they did not wish to risk a repetition of the Cuban business.
Thus the coup was primarily an undertaking of the Boumedienne group which had established a fairly strict control over the army since 1962 and which could count on collaboration from the best known representatives of the bureaucratic wing, without mentioning the inevitable retinue of careerists whose ambitions were threatened or had been frustrated. The precarious position of the trade unions caused them to be completely passive at the time of the coup; since then they have supported the regime but without any enthusiasm.
In other words, the overturn was prepared and headed by men who were in the forefront in establishing and consolidating the regime and who in principle should not be regarded as deliberate promoters of neocolonialist and pro-imperialist solutions. Nevertheless the coup marked a turn to the right, a backward step in relation to the past, regardless of the subjective intentions of some of its organizers. The following points must be emphasized:
(a) The Ben Bella regime was established on the basis of the mobilization of the masses, although this movement was restricted to the critical turning points and became exhausted some time ago. The Boumedienne regime was installed thanks to the action of an army, which while having a revolutionary origin and still being responsive to the pressures and influence of the popular masses, enjoys relatively privileged conditions so far as the cadres are concerned.
(b) During the Ben Bella period, the functioning of the party and the leading bodies of the state were certainly not guided by the criterion of revolutionary democracy; and the way the new crew came to power was such as to still further reduce their role, to increase the distrust and skepticism of the masses, and to further restrict the participation of broad sectors from political life.
The reorganization of the party has been effected by purely bureaucratic methods, including putting a military man at the head, while certain so-called national organizations (particularly that of the students) have been subjected to still more revolting interference. The trade unions themselves despite the extremely timorous attitude of the leaders have also been subjected to pressures of all kinds and bureaucratic measures which have in addition led to the elimination or spontaneous withdrawal of a whole series of cadres, among them the most valuable.
(c) On the ideological level an attack has been unleashed against Marxism, while at the same time a campaign is being waged for an “Arab” or “Algerian” socialism or for an utterly vulgar pragmatism. These have been fed by feelings of hostility toward concepts and organizations summarily condemned as alien to the traditions of the country.
(d) While praise of self-management has not been given up, the emphasis is now placed on the criteria of profitability and efficiency. The result of this has been that not only has no step been taken to get out of the existing blind alley but that workers self-management is threatened more than ever. Certain measures, although isolated ones for the time being—for example, the return of the Norcolor factory to the former owners—bode ill for the future. As for the agrarian reform, the vehement denunciations of the inequitable conditions in which the bulk of the poor peasants find themselves have not yet been followed up by any concrete action.
(e) Ben Bella’s attempt to create a people’s militia ended in an almost complete fiasco. But the new regime undertook their outright liquidation. In reality the “danger” of an effective militia organization undermining the power of the army was one of the most decisive motives in Boumedienne’s action.
(f) Despite the official declarations to the contrary after some weeks of relative tolerance (except, to be sure, for the arbitrary treatment accorded Ben Bella and some of his closest associates), the new government adopted repressive measures striking particularly at left elements, Trotskyist militants and militants of the former Algerian Communist Party, including the use of torture.
(g) A gamut of groups and reactionary forces well disposed toward the coup d’etat, raised their heads, at times expressing warm support to the new regime and developing a rather explicit restorationist offensive. From this viewpoint, the June coup had the effect of still further depressing the mass movement and encouraging those forces most hostile to a socialist outcome of the Algerian revolution.
(h) Despite the official declarations designed to give assurances about the continuity of foreign policy, the fact is that since June 19 the relations between Algeria and the majority of the workers states have deteriorated and it is symptomatic that there has been almost a break with Cuba, whose experience had previously been considered as closest to that of Algeria. On the other hand, the relations with France and the United States have improved and the imperialist powers have clearly indicated that in their eyes the Algerian situation has undergone a rather positive evolution.
If the Ben Bella regime, after having carried out the revolutionary measures of 1963, became bogged down in a rather prolonged stagnation which represented a growing threat to the future of the revolution, there is today not the slightest indication of any intention to regenerate the movement and to prepare to deliver new blows to the indigenous exploiting classes and imperialism.
On the contrary, insofar as it inclines to express any line, the regime seems to envisage a reorientation on the basis of existing structures without undertaking any new deep-going agrarian reform, or envisaging any reduction of the private industrial sector, or any cutting loose from the monetary and financial tutelage of the French.
The Boumedienne government will try to achieve more effective functioning of the productive apparatus by leaving the relations of production and the proportions of the different sectors as they are, to utilize the greater advantages derived from the agreement with France on oil and gas, and to create a climate of greater “discipline” and “austerity.”
The government of Col. Boumedienne is thus proceeding along the line of jelling the status quo in the economic and social fields. Such a jelling signifies the relative maintenance and consolidation of the predominantly neocolonialist economic structures, involving the exploitation of the Algerian workers and peasants for the benefit not only of the indigenous possessing classes but also of foreign capital which controls veritable enclaves.
It signifies an inevitable further consolidation of the bureaucratic layers on different levels of the economic and political apparatus, with the tendency to transform them into a genuine bureaucratic bourgeoisie. It signifies an ever greater subordination of the masses to whom will be applied the proposed guidelines for discipline and austerity. In short, if the present tendencies continue, the new government, regardless of the ideas advanced by the authors of the coup, will assure the maintenance and functioning of a neocolonialist society with essentially capitalist structures.
In the last analysis, the situation can change only through the upsurge of a new mass movement, the resumption by the masses of active participation in politics. Such a development would inevitably generate a crisis in the present ruling group by creating differentiations among them which would facilitate the formation of a new alternative leadership.
The presence of a left tendency thoroughly aware of the dynamics of the struggle and the objectives to be achieved, and linked with the masses, is a requisite for success, that is, the culmination of the mobilization of the masses in the establishment of a workers state.
The platform of the revolutionary left trying to work for the triumph of an orientation corresponding to the fundamental necessities of the revolution must begin from this. It should be concretized around the following essential points:
(a) To stimulate a dynamic growth of the noncapitalist sector of the economy, the specific weight of which must constantly increase at the expense of the private sector. This means that it is necessary to envisage new expropriations in the industrial sector and the resolution of the problems of nationalization of credit and the commercialization of the products of the public sector.
(b) To give priority to the sector of self-management in the noncapitalist sector that already exists or that must yet be set up.
(c) In the sector of gas and oil not to accept the perspective of a crystallization of the present situation involving the formation of veritable imperialist enclaves. It is necessary to work for the deepening of the contradictions and the progressive erosion of the positions of international capital. Workers control should be the concrete form for carrying this out.
(d) To establish an effective monopoly of foreign trade and to introduce economic planning. Such measures have been shown to be necessary to prevent, among other things, the strangulation or the distortion of the self-managed sector. (e) To apply a radical agrarian reform in the sectors not touched by previous measures, by expropriating the big Algerian proprietors, introducing rigorous limits on the right to own land, banning the free buying and selling of land, reorganizing the traditional agriculture on a cooperative basis and modernizing it.
(f) To elaborate an over-all plan based both on the new agrarian reform, the human investment and industrialization, with the aim of absorbing in the near future unemployment and under-employment, the main plagues of the Algerian countryside.
(g) To completely rebuild the state and government apparatus by creating organisms of workers and peasants power and putting up a new government structure corresponding to the new economic structures, particularly the structures of self-management whose real functioning must be imperatively assured. To replace the present Bonapartist pyramid with a popular power built on a diverse and extensive framework.
To find at each stage the formulas and means best suited to realize this objective. To wage a stubborn struggle against bureaucratic privileges by stimulating the equalitarian tendencies (limitation of remuneration, necessary common sacrifices, participation by all in production, if only for limited periods, etc.).
To assure the defense of the revolution both externally and internally by genuine, nonprofessional workers and peasants militia.
(h) To rigorously separate the party apparatus from that of the state.
(i) To democratize the trade unions, the leaders of which must be elected by trade-union bodies, leaving out of consideration membership in the party. The right to strike must not be put in question by any a priori limitations. The decision as to the economic or political opportuneness of a strike must not be the prerogative of bureaucrats, or leaders at the top, or the state power, but should belong to the workers involved, who will know how to weigh all the implications of their attitude in each instance.
Self-management does not end the need to use the right to strike, economic highhandedness not having been eliminated on a national economic level. Trade unions should not be conceived exclusively as an instrument of education, of propaganda or of stimulating production, but also as an instrument of struggle against both the opposing classes and the bureaucracy, as an instrument of the workers in the struggle over distribution of the national income.
(j) To conduct a systematic campaign for a revolution in the field of customs, against all forms of traditionalism, and in the first place for the genuine liberation of the women in Algeria.
(k) In maintaining respect for the freedom of religion and opposition to any administrative or repressive measure in this field, it must not be forgotten that religion plays an objectively conservative role as an ideological cement. Thus, confusionist formulas must be rejected, and with all the more reason, state financial support in any form for a church or defense of any concepts in the field of customs that in the final analysis weaken revolutionary mobilization.
Africa today is the scene of conflict among social forces and political tendencies, which, while retaining their marked specific features, are part and parcel of the dynamics of the contemporary world. Problems are posed belonging to communal tribal societies, the struggle against colonialism, traditional racism and the new forms of neocolonialist exploitation at one and the same time as problems flowing from the formation of special social layers and the more general problems of transitional phases.
The continent is advancing deeper into a period of big overturns and profound transformations. On the one hand this is tied in with the transformations of the contemporary world, with the rise of the revolution in other areas of the globe, and with the development of the workers states. It flows on the other hand from the action of narrower domestic factors shaking African society, including the most backward sectors (penetration of capitalism, rapid general diffusion of a mercantile economy, dissolution of primitive tribal forms, exhaustion of the soil, demographic expansion, exodus from the rural regions, etc.).
With regard to the sector of Africa that is still colonial and racist, the resistance of the reactionary classes and forces cannot be regarded as simply a rearguard action. Historically the regimes of Verwoerd, Smith and Portuguese colonialism are obviously hopelessly doomed. But this does not necessarily imply victory for the anti-colonialist forces within the near future.
The fierce and stubborn nature of the resistance, the effectiveness of a very rigid and relatively solid apparatus of domination and repression, the quite considerable interests of international capital, including some that are important to its political strategy, justify the hypothesis of a very difficult and protracted struggle. In any case what is most important is that no major victory can be gained without mobilizing the masses, without big struggles, including armed struggles in particular, and without substantial material aid from the progressive African states and the workers states.
Mobilizations of this character are likewise necessary to avoid pseudo-liberal diversionary operations, such as those being prepared by certain forces in South Africa for example. In these instances, the problems of a consistent line of struggle, of active mobilization of the masses, above all the peasant masses, of careful delimitation with regard to forces committed to questionable platforms, are posed in a particularly sharp and urgent form.
In neocolonial Africa, the reality is quite varied and multi-form. Nevertheless, one general characteristic is observable—while international capital has a certain room for maneuver, it is difficult for it to consolidate a relatively stable indigenous base. Virtually all of the neocolonial regimes appear very precarious, resting on autocratic structures and under the constant necessity of using ferocious repression to smother any germ of opposition, however weakly organized. Revolts of broad layers of the population, of sudden revolutionary movements and abrupt reversals of the situation, are always possible.
The essential task of revolutionists in this sector of Africa is to work for the political crystallization and organization of oppositional forces among the urban workers, the plebian masses of the shanty towns, the agricultural workers of the plantations and the broad peasant layers. In certain cases, critical support must be granted to existing organizations, while trying at the same time to advance the work of political clarification.
Under certain conditions, the unions can be used effectively in mobilizing sectors of the masses and educating them. The program of struggle must place on the agenda the expropriation of international capital and whatever native appendages it has, a radical agrarian reform, and a struggle against the privileges of the bureaucratic summits of the state apparatus and the bourgeoisie of bureaucratic origin.
The countries of Africa in revolutionary transformation are not yet differentiated from the countries of neocolonial Africa in the field of economic structure and social base. The differences involve primarily the political context, the historical process, the specific genesis of independence, the degree of mobilization of the masses during the anti-colonialist struggle or at the present stage, the existence or absence of progressive political organizations playing a unifying role and offering a relatively homogeneous leadership with genuine mass influence.
Consequently, the objectives of revolutionary struggle in this sector can be identified in large measure with those called for in the neocolonial countries: elimination of foreign capitalist properties, agrarian reform, struggle against the indigenous capitalist layers, particularly the commercial layers, struggle against the privileges of the state bureaucracy, utilization of the unions to assure a more favorable distribution of the national income to the wage workers and the disinherited layers, effective monopoly of foreign trade, etc.
However, the strategic and even more the tactical orientation of this revolutionary struggle must be different. In certain cases the particular problem for quite a while will remain that of becoming integrated in the already developing struggle and participating as the most consistent elements, seeking to further the process toward its logical outcome while at the same time critically supporting the progressive measures adopted by the current leaderships (for example certain measures taken in Mali and Guinea during the period of upsurge). It is obvious that quite particular tasks are posed in Algeria and Egypt as indicated above.
The theoretical amplifications carried out by our movement on the basis of certain Asian experiences and the Cuban revolution are likewise pertinent in relation to Africa, particularly with regard to the dynamics of the revolutionary process, the fundamental motor forces, the special role of the poor peasants and the nature of the leaderships, which, under the pressure of objectively powerful factors and in conjunction with mass movements, can take a far-reaching anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist course despite their empiricism, their bureaucratic deformation and their non proletarian origin.
It is necessary to add however that in countries where a considerable communal sector exists, the revolutionary process will unfold in very specific forms; and it will probably be possible to a-void the conflicts and difficulties that are inevitable in countries of different historical formation and different agricultural structure.
But the peasant sectors there will play a much less important role as a revolutionary striking force. In Mali and Guinea, for example, the overturn brought about by the campaigns to defeat the traditional chiefs helped and enormously stimulated the struggle for independence, but at the crucial moments, the fundamental support came from other sectors (radicalized urban petty bourgeoisie, wage workers, plebian masses).
The problems posed by the survival, sometimes considerable, of tribal factors cannot be projected in broad general formulas, but must be examined in each concrete context. If, in principle, such factors will not die away until after the progressive dissolution of the old structures and the penetration of modern economic forms (industrialization, spread of the means of rapid transportation, etc.), their negative influence (disintegrating tendencies that objectively aid the maneuvers of imperialism and neocolonialism, etc.) can be counteracted by the action of national unifying political formations that overcome tribal characteristics in the composition of their membership as well as within their leadership.
A centralizing and unifying struggle against tribal limitations has a progressive meaning, of course, only if it avoids any repressive or administrative measures and is not a hypocritical cover for domination by a particular tribe. The advanced nature of the process in certain of the states of Africa in revolutionary transformation, including Mali and Guinea, is linked among other things to the existence of national centralizing political movements.
The African revolution as a whole is developing against the background of enormous revolutionary developments on a world scale, the lessons of which have been absorbed in an elemental way by the masses throughout the continent. “Darkest” Africa has become at the same time the Africa of the transistor radio, the Africa learning about guerrilla war from the Chinese and the Cubans. The masses are aware of the successes of the Soviet Union and how they came about, of the revolutionary victory in China and what this signified for a quarter of the human race, of the great liberating struggles in Vietnam.
Cuba’s brilliant example has inspired them. Imperialism stands as a colossal obstacle to progress, the main enemy to the great mass of people, the hated foreign colonizer who invaded the country and devastated it, pumping away its wealth and leaving it in poverty and desolation ravaged by innumerable social and economic ills. Thus socialism has become a popular goal even for those sectors barely emerging from the tribal structures of the stone age.
This great leap in the understanding of the African masses is one of the main sources for the enormous pressure in all these countries to expropriate the imperialist properties, to block the birth and crystallization of national capitalist sectors (or to eliminate them progressively where they exist), to carry out agrarian reforms, to introduce a monopoly of foreign trade and to block out economic plans, to strike at the power of the traditional ruling classes linked with the foreign imperialists and their economic system and to establish close ties with the workers states.
Such measures not only meet the objective needs of economic development in breaking through the ancient pattern of poverty and misery—they are immensely popular. That is why political leaders throughout Africa, who make any pretense at all of voicing mass aspirations, talk in terms of socialism. That is also why many of them are capable of undertaking radical measures.
But experience, fully confirming Marxist theory, has shown that measures along these lines are not stable unless they are backed by a profound revolutionary mobilization of the masses. The experience in Cuba, which is particularly germane for Africa, speaks for this in the most positive way. The experience in Guinea, on the other hand, offers negative evidence. In Guinea, where no profound revolution occurred, the apparently revolutionary measures proved to be without genuine substance, forms without much content, and they did not prove to be enduring. In Cuba, on the other hand, the deep-going mass revolution assured the stability of the revolutionary measures.
The lesson of Cuba and Guinea should not be lost on the African vanguard. In fact, it can be confidently predicted that as in Cuba, revolutionary readerships will rise in the very course of revolutionary struggles. The experience of Zanzibar is most enlightening in this respect, even though it occurred only on a small, almost laboratory scale.
Africa, so long considered in the white, imperialist West as the most backward of continents, will provide the world with some of the most inspiring examples of man’s capacity to leap across entire ages and to make unique contributions to the revolutionary heritage of mankind.
The problems of the African revolution cannot be posed exclusively from the angle of rejecting neocolonialism and struggling against bureaucratism in itself. Unquestionably, Africa has gigantic economic problems that involve extreme perhaps insurmountable difficulties even for countries possibly completely freed from any neocolonialist domination and organized democratically. These problems can be outlined as follows:
(a) The backwardness of some of these countries which lack even a minimum material infrastructure and the cultural knowledge necessary to put into operation contemporary techniques (existence of nomadism, illiteracy, extremely primitive agricultural technology, etc.).
(b) Economic growth, where it exists, is in any case slow and deformed. Most often it is not even succeeding in keeping up with the growth of the population.
(c) The margin for investment is narrow. Internal sources are generally insufficient and often, even leaving aside the growth of population, the increases in production are absorbed by increases in consumption that are objectively necessary, even to increase the productivity of labor.
Investments of the neocolonialist type, besides extracting surplus value from the indigenous workers, are incapable of bringing about an economic takeoff because of their limits, their unilateral character, the drainage of resources which they involve. With only a few exceptions, help from the workers states is limited (in addition aid is sometimes applied in a negative way) and it is difficult for such aid to play a completely determining role in the relatively near future.
(d) The problem of sources of accumulation is often complicated by the existence of very large, even preponderant zones of a subsistence economy and, more generally, structures involving stagnation in production. This is particularly negative due to the fact that in these countries the economic surplus can only come mainly from the agricultural sector. Nevertheless the problem can be solved in part thanks to the human investment, particularly in light of the existence of a relative abundance of land.
(e) The splintering of Africa into often very small states involves complex problems both on the plane of normal economic functioning (limited resources, too narrow markets, etc.) and on the plane of phenomena like smuggling, illegal exports, speculation in money etc., which often have grave effects on the economy in general.
(f) As backward countries furnishing raw materials, almost all the African countries participate in the capitalist market under unfavorable conditions and suffer the exploitation inherent in economic relations of this kind, even leaving aside the steep conjunctural drops in the prices of raw materials which sometimes affects the balance of trade, financial reserves, etc. (for example, the consequences for Ghana of the evolution of the price of cocoa).
All this shows in the most decisive way that the development of the African revolution is intimately linked to a whole series of inter-African and international factors. It is particularly clear that the fundamental economic problems cannot be resolved within the framework of the present national entities of separated economic structures, all the more so since many of the African states are artificial creations due to the imperialist insistence on Balkanizing them: i.e. the demand for African unity and the verification of the revolutionary Marxist concept of a Socialist Federation of African States; or at least, during a transitional period, the perspective of sufficiently large regional units and the need for a single world pooling of raw materials through collective action of the underdeveloped countries. The attempts made up to now have unfortunately failed, having had only a mere propagandistic scope. But they imply recognition of a fundamental tendency.
This also applies to the Organization of African Unity whose appearance was unquestionably due to the multiple demands for African unity—unity in the struggle against remaining colonialist ramparts, unity to counteract neocolonialist domination, unity for economic growth. However, the OAU was conceived with the objective of self-preservation by most of the governments belonging to it; that is why it has suffered setbacks and is now going through a crisis which could reduce it to a formula without any real content.
At the same time all this demonstrates that a major role could be played by the economically advanced workers states if they were to grant disinterested aid on a very big scale. In other words, African reconstruction requires access to resources such as could be provided by workers states in the industrialized countries of Western Europe and North America. In this way, revolutionary victories in this sector of the world correspond to very concrete and immediate interests of the African revolution.
The dynamics of the African revolution are thus in all respects the dynamics of permanent revolution. Within each country, the fundamental tendency is to cross over, i.e., to continue uninterruptedly from the bourgeois democratic stage to the socialist stage. At the same time the inescapable need to go beyond the frontiers of the national states becomes ever clearer.
This in no way means that the objective necessities will be automatically met. The necessity for economic growth and the satisfaction of elementary needs, which has pushed the masses into struggle, requires going beyond the bourgeois democratic stage and divisions along national lines. This implies—from the social and political angle—that an alliance with the so-called national bourgeoisie in carrying out the indicated objectives cannot possibly work out.
Nevertheless it goes without saying that the conservative forces, the national bourgeoisie, the neocolonialist can prevail thanks to a given relationship of forces. But in this case, there is no economic growth, no satisfaction of the elementary needs of the masses, the new ruling class having imposed structures that block any expansion of production and any amelioration of the standard of living as they seek to tie down the springs that have driven the process forward from the beginning.
The abysmal record of the Social Democratic and Stalinist parties in the West, during the different stages of the African revolution, compounded by the bankruptcy of the African reformist or Stalinist parties (particularly in Algeria and Egypt) gave rise to serious reservations with regard to Marxism among many African revolutionists—which has not prevented them, however, from feeling great respect for the USSR and still more for China and Cuba.
But from their own experience, they are coming more and more to the conclusion that the peculiarities of the revolution in their continent and in the various countries of this continent do not eliminate the profoundly integrated and combined character of the tendencies operating in the contemporary world which, in the final analysis, also determine African developments. In this way they will come to see the world-wide validity of Marxist concepts and its method.
The task of revolutionary Marxists is to struggle for policies that will enable the exploited masses of Africa to bring their revolution to a successful outcome, completely destroying the power of imperialism, the neocolonialist forces and the indigenous propertied classes. To accomplish this it is necessary to organize genuine revolutionary parties of the workers and the poor peasants, to fight for the complete expropriation of capitalist property, for genuine workers management of the expropriated enterprises, against any crystallization and consolidation of a privileged bureaucratic layer.
These tasks cannot be carried out effectively without directly participating in the struggles of the African revolution, without mobilizing the forces of the International in solidarity with this revolution, without the development of Trotskyist cadres among the ranks of the oppressed African masses themselves.
The Fourth International already has a positive balance sheet in this respect. From the beginning of the trade-union and political struggle of the Egyptian workers, Trotskyist cadres joined in the struggle for a revolutionary Marxist leadership.
The entire International participated in the defense of the Algerian revolution, and is proud to have been the first and for a long time the only tendency in the labor movement in many countries to come to the aid of the FLN militants during the most difficult period of their struggle.
The appearance of an independent workers movement in Nigeria, as shown in the remarkable general strike in 1964, led to the creation of the first Trotskyist nucleus integrated in the mass movement and trying to influence it in a revolutionary direction. In South Africa in particular the Trotskyist movement has a long tradition going back thirty years; it has many cadres tempered in a struggle that has been marked by an especially harsh repression; it has been able to win a place in the front ranks of the anti-imperialist organizations; and it has worked out, with the aid of the International, a correct line of armed insurrection based on the peasant masses. Here our movement is destined to play an important role in the vanguard of a revolution that will have an impact on all of black Africa.
The revolutionary Marxists participate in the national anti-imperialist liberation movement in every country. They grant critical support to every step forward taken by this movement under nationalist leadership in the struggle against imperialism and its neocolonialist agents (nationalizations in Egypt, Guinea’s leaving the zone of the French franc, seizures of imperialist properties in Tanzania, aid granted by Ghana to the Congolese revolution, etc.). At the same time they appeal to the masses of the people to press this anti-imperialist struggle forward to a complete break with foreign and domestic capitalism in order to achieve their own freedom.
In the course of this struggle, they seek to establish ties with the most radical and most conscious elements of the anti-imperialist movement, to educate them in the principles of revolutionary Marxism, to create together with them the first Trotskyist nuclei and to determine, on the basis of the particular conditions in each country, the ways and means to build genuinely revolutionary tendencies and parties.
Last updated on 11.19.2005