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International Socialism, Winter 1963/4


Dennis Anderson

Letter from a Reader


From International Socialism, No.15, Winter 1963/4, p.37.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Having just read International Socialism 14, I find myself disagreeing with almost every word written in it. Having neither the time nor the desire to reply to every article, I will confine myself to your comments on the Algerian Revolution. It is first of all rather flattering to hear those who support the Algerian Revolution in this country termed as a ‘populous generation’. I only hope they will become more so. You seek to attack not the deficiencies of the Algerian Revolution, its lack of a mass Marxist Party, its lack of full political workers’ democracy, but channel your attack on its most positive and promising aspect: the Workers self-management committees, which you term ... ‘a conspiracy against Algeria’s workers as pernicious as the French conspiracy before it ...’! It is interesting first of all, that you do not deny that the Workers Councils and Management Committees are in fact really elected by the permanent workers of the enterprise. You do not state what are the powers of these Management Committees. Let me quote the Decree: ‘Article 16: The Management Committee assumes the task of managing the enterprise or undertaking and particularly:

Such powers seem to me give the Management Committees, democratically elected by the workers, full legal authority to manage their factory or farm.

It is true of course that such a plan for an enterprise must conform in general to the National Plan. If that were not so, of course the National Plan would not exist. Is International Socialism against national planning? I don’t think so. The question then is how this National Plan is decided. Of course here we come across the fact that there is no National Plan in Algeria today, and so in fact the way it is to be decided has not yet arisen. It is then ridiculous to say they have no ‘right to influence the plan’ ... the question has simply not yet arisen. No doubt when it does there will be a struggle around this question and the need for a democratic machinery to determine the national plan will be raised by the Left-wing of the Revolution. From the tone of your comments I receive the impression that you oppose the interference of the State in the individual factory, and even oppose the interference of the State in the economy at all! I, personally, do not support the Anarchists on this question! I fear that for some time the State, democratically controlled by the workers through their Soviets must play a leading role. The Director, responsible to the State as a whole, to the working-class as a whole, has the duty to see that in an economy of scarcity, the individual workers obey the general line of the working-class as a whole. I do not say that we have working-class democracy in Algeria today, but nor would I say that we have a hardened bureaucratic dictatorship. What exists is a Revolution in progress. We must seek to support in that Revolution the left, the democratic-revolutionary wing, against the bureaucrats. And comrades, it is precisely in the sphere of self-management that the left-wing has its base! Recently there was held the first National Congress of Peasant Self-Management Committees. 3,000 delegates attended and engaged in fully free discussion and criticism. This Congress represented the first mobilisation of the most conscious elements of the working masses, and its decisions represented victory for the revolutionary left wing against the bureaucratic wing. The Algerian Socialist Revolution in progress to the establishment of a Worker State faces many problems, particularly due to its economic backwardness. This very economic backwardness favours the bureaucracy, and the struggle against bureaucratisation will be a continuous one. Marxists in Britain must seek to strengthen those who oppose this bureaucratic trend, supporting vigorously the self-management committees and their extension. The degree of political democracy is greater than in any existing Workers State, but still leaves much to be desired. Not that ‘workers’ democracy’ finds its true expression in parliamentary ‘democracy’, but in the right of formation of political parties pledged to the socialist revolution and the evolution of a soviet-type political democracy. Let me say that if Ben Bella is for a ‘one-party’ regime, he is equally for the right of tendency inside that Party, which in fact exists. The mistake is to believe that tendencies can be allowed without also the logical right to form parties. The release of Boudiaf and his comrades is in any case to be welcomed.

What strikes one about your criticisms is the fact that they do not refer to any specific example in Algeria, but rather to documents only. Of course, this is necessary, but you must see how the reality is as well, and how the class forces are evolving. Only then can you shed fractional scales from your eyes.

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