National Democratic Revolution in Algeria

National Democratic Revolution in Algeria

 

The Algerian Revolution began on Nov. 1, 1954, with the uprising of several hundred Algerian patriots against French colonial rule. The revolution was led by the National Liberation Front (FLN), which was founded in 1954 by Algerian nationalists. It was provoked by colonial oppression and the sharpening of national and social contradictions between the overwhelming majority of the Algerian people and the handful of colonizers who ran the country.

In the first stage of the revolution (1954–62) the Algerian people fought a national liberation war that was also anti-imperialist, antifeudal, and generally democratic. The main social base of the revolution was the peasantry, which had an interest in abolishing the coercive rule of the French capitalist companies, the European colonists, and the native Algerian feudal lords. The peasantry and urban petit bourgeoisie were the backbone of the FLN. Economically and numerically weak, the national bourgeoisie had little political influence, and only its more radical elements joined the FLN. The proletariat participated in the revolution, but lacking national and social homogeneity, it did not play a major role during the first stage. A third of the proletarians were Europeans, and a significant proportion of the Algerian workers were agricultural laborers, whose status was close to that of the poorest peasants. The Algerian Communist Party supported the FLN politically and militarily. In September 1958 the Algerian Republic was proclaimed, and the Provisional Government formed.

During the war of 1954—62 broad strata of the Algerian population took part in military operations with the National Liberation Army (ALN), which was founded under FLN leadership in 1954, as well as in the work of underground political and administrative organizations established by the FLN and in demonstrations, boycott campaigns, protest strikes, and similar actions. The French forces in Algeria (800,000 men in 1958, including half of the French Navy and two-thirds of the Air Force) dealt savagely with the Algerian patriots but did not succeed in suppressing the revolution. Despite the severe losses sustained during the war (1.5 million killed, approximately 2 million confined in concentration camps and prisons, and 9,000 villages destroyed), the Algerian people were victorious. In March 1962 the French government and the Provisional Government of Algeria signed agreements on a cease-fire and self-determination by referendum. In the referendum held on July 1, 1962, 99 percent of the Algerian people voted for independence, which was recognized by the French.

After independence had been gained, the second stage of the revolution began. It was characterized by the differentiation of the social and political forces that had fought together in the FLN. Those who favored continuation of the revolution were victorious. Because the chief exploiters of the Algerian people were the European capitalists and colonizers, the anticolonial war gradually took on the features of an anticapitalist struggle. The Tripoli Program of the FLN, which was adopted in June 1962, proclaimed the beginning of “conscientious creation based on socialist principles and popular sovereignty,” the nationalization of the key branches of the economy, the necessity for agrarian reforms based on the principle of giving “the land to those who work it,” and “a policy of planning, with the democratic participation of the workers in the management of the economy.” As early as the spring of 1962 a spontaneous movement developed among the workers to occupy the abandoned farms and factories of the European capitalists and colonists who had fled the country. These enterprises came under the control of workers’ self-management committees.

From 1966 to 1968 the mines, insurance companies, banks, and basic branches of industry, which had formerly been controlled by foreigners, were nationalized. In 1971 the oil fields were partly nationalized. Petroleum production is controlled by the Algerian government, which holds 51–75 percent of the shares in various oil companies. The state sector plays the leading role in the economy, accounting for approximately 90 percent of the output of industrial goods in 1973. Under an agrarian reform law passed in 1971, distribution of land to the peasants began in 1972. As of 1976, 1,200,000 hectares had been allotted to approximately 110,000 landless peasants, the overwhelming majority of whom formed 6,000 cooperatives. Limitations on the maximum size of landholdings were established in 1973. Under the Charter of the Socialist Enterprise (1971), the rights of the workers in the management of enterprises have been gradually extended. In 1974 abolition of taxation of the peasants was announced. Revolutionary changes were confirmed in the Charter of Algeria of June 1976 and in the new constitution adopted in November 1976. However, progressive measures are encountering resistance from forces hostile to the revolution, such as large landowners and wealthy property owners.

REFERENCES

Bondavenko, I. I. “Sotsial’no-politicheskie preobrazovaniia v Alzhire.” Narody Azii i Afriki, 1976, no. 1.
Kolesov, V. P. “Voprosy nekapitalisticheskogo puti razvitiia Alzhira.” Vestnik MGU, economics series, 1969, no. 4.
Landa, R. G. “Novaia ekonomicheskaia politika Alzhira (1965–1969 gg.).” Narody Azii i Afriki, 1970, no. 1.

R. G. LANDA [17–1075–2; updated]

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