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Experiences of Algeria and Tanzania: Lessons to be drawn

Could these experiences, that failed to achieve the objectives the countries set for themselves, have succeeded?

Both countries' experiences were conditioned by two basic factors: 1) staying within the capitalist system such as it functions worldwide with no hope of seriously altering its basic laws. Even between 1974 and 1976, the high point of the struggle for the new international economic order (NIEO), to believe that North-South relations could be modified by the replacement of links of dependence by links of interdependence suggested either naively or delusion. But the dominant fractions of the ruling classes that drew up the agricultural policies analysed here acted as if they could remove agriculture from the logic of the global functioning of the system into which their economies and their agricultures were integrated. They made two fundamental mistakes: they overestimated the capacity of the state to centralize the surplus: and they underestimated the role of property relations in agriculture during the transition period.

For these elites, the state could centralize the surplus and devote it to accumulation without arousing insurmountable contradictions in the global system where such a use necessarily involved capital owned by businesses competing with one another. They believed that the state's legal ownership of the means of production was enough to give it a sufficient social and technical capacity to ensure the transition from the position of peripheral economic formation to one of central formation. This was to forget that this happens only when nationalization is a part of the processes necessary for this transition (which requires delinking) and in itself is not a sufficient condition.

The second erroneous conception concerns the place of private ownership and even petty agricultural capitalism during the transition period, when three models are conceivable: large-scale state ownership, co-operative ownership of labour and hence of the land, small-scale private ownership which may include limited kulakization, the state having the means to direct production towards the realization of national and popular objectives. The essential question is: what model is best adapted to the imperative of controlling the process of accumulation? Obviously, there is no single answer, especially as in reality the three models can co-exist. In each concrete case, the problematic of the dominant model must be resolved.

If the first model is dominant in a typical African country (that is non-industrialized and with a low and unadapted technological capacity) it will have great difficulty in ensuring technical and financial control of its agriculture. Moreover, to turn the peasants into wage workers prematurely involves costs that the economy cannot sustain.

If the collectivization of property encounters a great deal of resistance, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, the main reason is, that outside Ethiopia, communal appropriation of the land without the labour has been the rule in the history of the peoples of these areas. There has thus been no expropriation which would prepare the 'Landless' to accept collective ownership in preference to private ownership.

Integration into the world capitalist system has only modified mentalities and behaviour in this respect in a few areas of southern Africa. In relation to the problem of gaining control of the process of accumulation, one advantage of collective ownership is that it facilitates mobilization of the labour force for large-scale public works, as in the people's communes in China. This model may, however, be enduringly dominant only if the whole of the social formation delinks from the dominant system. If it fails to do so, the effects may be paralysing.

While the dominant model is communal ownership and limited kulakization (with no commercial alienation of agricultural land), the fact that accumulation occurs in small plots makes rapid mechanization and mobilization of the labour force for large-scale public works rather difficult. Conversely, family ownership of the land is a powerful stimulus to the adoption of land- and labour-intensive techniques. Generally, states fear the predominance of this model because of the autonomy it allows to peasants. But it has advantages, the most important of which is that it avoids the emergence of a gap between urban and rural incomes, if the peasants enjoy ample freedom to organize. It can, of course, co-exist with service co-operatives.

Whatever the dominant agricultural model chosen, remaining in the capitalist system whose basic laws cannot be modified, when it those very laws that block the process of an accumulation controlled in the periphery, constitutes an insurmountable obstacle.

If Algeria and Tanzania were, despite everything, able to attempt developing an autonomous agriculture in economies that were not autonomous, it is because of special circumstances: the possibility of having financial means of accumulation that did not result from national labour, whether agricultural or industrial. Algeria had oil rent, and Tanzania, as we have seen, had access to particularly large-scale external 'aid'. From this point of view, the availability of these un-produced riches led the elites to adopt development strategies in general and agricultural strategies in particular that may have postponed, rather than hastened, the objective of the transition to development.

Financing accumulation in agriculture with receipts from mineral or energy resources exports can lead only to the breakdown of agriculture. The centralized character of the rent automatically reinforces those fractions within the ruling classes that want to spend it on prestige activities, at the expense of those who want to use it as a scarce resource. In Algeria, Bedrani has distinguished two groups: within the state, an industrialist fraction, advocates of decentralizing decision-making and efficiency, and an 'agricultural' fraction (in the sense that it prepares and executes agricultural policy, not that it represents the interests of agriculture) that advocates waste. He considers that the struggle between the two fractions for control of profits or the surplus 'wins out over the logic of increasing production, which is the aim of development strategy.30

In my opinion, this happens because, by its nature, oil rent strengthens the position of the fractions in favour of expenditure, since it accumulates by itself without really resulting from labour. Going beyond most Algerian researchers. I would claim that the proposal to finance accumulation by oil receipts bore within it the seeds of the subsequent crisis of Algerian agriculture. The existence of this rent made possible the political marginalization of that fraction of the population - the landless peasantry and the small-holders which had fought most for national liberation.

It made possible the formation of the important stabilizing stratum of permanent wage-workers and co-operative members in the state agricultural sector. But, according to Bedrani, these wage-earners are not sufficiently productive since the management system established 'enables them to develop a greater range of capacities to resist the exploitation of their labour than under the lash of the settler'.31

Tanzania had the possibility of obtaining massive aid from abroad, this aid also acted as a rent. It strengthened the power of the class fraction that advocated ignoring both the objective of full employment of the labour force and the development of export crops. In the initial phase of the transition, Tanzania could finance its purchases abroad only by exporting agricultural commodities; that was simple common sense. This effort is perhaps all the more vital in countries that have chosen to give priority to the food sector than in those that have chosen to place the main stress on export commodities.

For a progressive African country that does not want to take the Algerian or Tanzanian path, a gradual delinking is essential. Delinking will make it possible to draw up a model for income distribution and a model for controlling consumption; it will make it possible to envisage full employment of the labour force and gradually to create new production capacities. In such a model, and in a first stage, most vital imports will be paid for by export receipts from agricultural commodities, in the broad sense, and craft products. In so doing' the country will naturally be a victim of unequal exchange, but unequal exchange causes the reproduction of underdevelopment only for countries that have not delinked. In the problematic of delinking, the use value of imported items plays a more important role than the exchange value.

From the preceding discussion, it follows that planning cannot be reduced to a global exercise and sectoral planning cannot be considered principally from a technical angle. A planning process is characterized first by the dominant mode of production and the socio-economic system of which it is part, and second by the socio-economic or even political content of its objectives: its techniques, which often change rapidly with information and the trade cycle, come only in third place.

a) Let us take the experiences of the central capitalist countries. Since the Second World War, economic policies to promote or diminish growth have been remarkably effective at the national level and even in the regional framework, as the example of the EEC shows. They enabled decolonization to succeed, and avoided an economic Bandung after 1973 by considerably reducing the growing elasticity of raw materials and energy sources. In short, those countries succeeded in overcoming the contradictions between growing socialization and maintaining decentralized decision-making over the allocation of productive forces, between the world scope of accumulation and the national dimension of political struggles. Even when they were taken by surprise by the countries in the periphery, they succeeded in turning the situation round in their favour. The same happened when the social upheavals of 1968 almost demolished capitalism in some countries, such as France. It is in this context that the effectiveness of techniques and even the relevance of theoretical analyses must be situated.

During each phase, the objective of economic policy was to maintain the mode of production and the capitalist system. The concrete objective was to ensure the local domination of a capitalist class. During the long phase of growth which ended in 1975, the tools used were above all Keynesian, and they were applied essentially nationally; the forecasts bore only on a single alternative, as if the future was known (in fact, comparable growth rates and a great expansion of trade justified this hypothesis as regards the future). Since the beginning of the present crisis, techniques have been changing. Instead of stressing those that legitimize the maximization of demand (Fordism), stress is put on those that minimize the costs of production (supply-side economics).

In planning, the fact that the laws of capitalism have a worldwide character is increasingly taken into account: an approach inaugurated by the Club of Rome. The technique of the choice of the single alternative was replaced by the technique of the simulation of several scenarios, of which one is desirable. It is an error to deduce, as does Jacquemot.32 from these technical changes the conclusion that there is a crisis of planning of accumulation in the centre, since we may observe that even during the current crisis the central countries continue to control the process of accumulation at the level of the system and to produce techniques adapted to circumstances: that is the main point.

To return to agriculture. Following the Second World War, this sub-sector experienced unprecedented advances in productivity. The result was a fall in the value of the labour force, a fall favourable to accumulation. Conversely, spontaneous evolution led to the emergence of a gap between urban and rural incomes, leading to an excessively large drift from the rural areas. The solution was found in the expansion of demand through. 1) the development of an industry capable of endlessly diversifying how food was packaged; and. 2) the quest for external outlets. These policies succeeded so well that they created a phase marked by surpluses of food products, which could only be absorbed by the periphery. This new situation was one of the key causes of the crisis of agriculture in the periphery, particularly in Africa.33

Where does this capacity for self-regulation of accumulation, even through crises, come from? Apologists of the system put forward theoretical or technical arguments. For them, better knowledge of the workings of economies made possible by Keynesianis, for example, and more abundant and better processed statistical information played vital roles. In reality, the theories concerned and the tools that they make it possible to use, derive their effectiveness above all from the autocentred character of the economies to which they are applied. Proof of this is that technical forms of planning vary greatly from country to country. France adopted a highly formalized approach, both in the technical preparation and in the political co-operation between state, employers and trade unions. Japan has no formal plan but undeniably it is perhaps one of the most planned countries in the world, thanks to its Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).34 In the United States there is apparently neither global nor sectoral economic planning, but the press tells US every day that the level of cereal and dairy production there is determined to a large degree by the government's political decisions. The examples show, a plan need be neither formal nor public. Alongside these often informal, but effective, planning systems, are the sometimes very formal but ineffective plans of African countries.

The content of the planning system in Africa is provided by the extraverted character of the economies, and the social and technical weakness of the ruling classes in matters of accumulation. The continent specialized in the export of agricultural, mineral or energy products in the framework of very small nations. Impoverishment and the tendency towards a structural imbalance of payments and even of public finances are the result.35 It follows that the objectives of planning are not necessarily given by a structure to be reproduced. Two alternatives are possible: to accept this subordinate specialization and impoverishment of peoples, or to challenge them root and branch.

When new leaders accept the colonial model of accumulation the technical exercises of planning at the macro-economic and sectoral level are of no interest. Absence of control of the conditions of accumulation means that the use of neither Keynesian nor neo-classical tools is legitimized. That is why the big international institutions that have become the de facto planners in Africa (so weak are the local social classes) propose only analytical techniques for projects that have their own logical relationship with other units of production, usually situated in the centre.

When, on the other hand, the local ruling classes want to challenge the existing status quo, their intention is not to make global planning simply an efficient exercise for creating an autonomous economic base: at the same time, however, they reject delinking. The result is confusion, for the political will for radical transformation runs up against the capitalist laws that govern the system as a whole.

Since the crisis, and above all since the worsening of the external debt situation in the early 1980s, the principal problem seems to be debt repayment. Now, there are 'structural adjustment plans', officially aimed at restoring the continent to the growth rates of the 1960s, but whose most important objective is to oblige African countries to deal with their debt by making up for the deterioration in the trade terms by increasing production. The differences between the two categories we have just distinguished are becoming blurred. The grand world-wide scenarios slot them in indifferently.

For agriculture. African planning in those countries that have chosen to continue the colonial model, has consisted in setting growth rates and seeking the means to achieve them. These rates are often irrelevant because the priorities are set by the evolution of external demand. Achievement of the rate does not necessarily mean that it results from the changes desired. 'The advantage' in this case is that the approach does not go against the underlying logic of the global system of which it is part. If it happens that the local ruling class opportunistically exploits a peak of strong external demand, success may then be wrongly attributed to the application of 'planning techniques'.

Agricultural planning in countries that have opted for 'autocentred development without delinking', like Algeria and Tanzania, also gives excessive importance to the technical exercise. In fact these regimes are more likely to accumulate productively in industry than in agriculture, which sector is the most difficult to transform for historical, sociological and psychological reasons.

The lesson on this point is clear: planning that is technically weak but is part of the framework of an autocentred development with delinking is more valuable than technically successful planning that enhances extraversion and the risks of impoverishment of the people in the long run.

We can generalize socio-economic or simply social revolutions have been attempted in the periphery of the capitalist system from Mohamed Ali's Egypt in the early 19th century to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua today, by way of Japan, the Soviet Union and China, not to mention Cuba or Vietnam. Some have been successful, others have failed. On the whole, projects whose realization required recourse to a surplus originating 'outside' local agriculture and industry- mining or petroleum rent, financial reserves accumulated over an earlier period, transit taxes or dues, external loans sometimes in the form of 'aid' to finance accumulation - have failed. In the same way, experiences that counted on capitalist markets to realize their products in the framework of the international division of labour have also failed. Without the illusion that 'the outside world' had a positive role to play, these experiences would not have been attempted. The Algerian project that we have examined rested on oil rent; so did the imperial Iranian project in the 1970s. Tanzania obviously counted on massive external aid. Looking at Nkrumah's Ghana shows that the external reserves accumulated by the country during and after the Second World War played an essential role in the Ghanaian import-substitution industrialization strategy and in the role assigned to the world market. The Nasserite project in Egypt would not have been attempted without the hopes based on receipts from the Suez Canal and Soviet aid.

These experiences bore within them the seeds of failure. First, recourse to an 'external' surplus, in the sense defined above, produces, or maintains, relations between classes, and nations, that exclude the popular classes from the exercise and control of power. The state is not obliged to organize labour nationally in order to make possible the production of a surplus. In particular, national production of food staples, which can only follow from the agricultural revolution, is not imposed as an inflexible necessity; and an accumulation that excludes the peasantry, and thus has a very narrow social base, is fragile and impossible to carry through.

Then, the allocation of this 'surplus' necessarily pays special attention to the needs of social strata that want a model of accumulation involving either a model of social organization imposed from outside (large-scale external aid), or a model of technical articulation that encourages the import of technological packages (equipment, organizers, management models). This simply means that this allocation 'marginalizes' rural activity. The concentration of incomes, and of the power of access to services and goods as well as political power, resulting from this deepens instead of reducing the inequalities of productivity and incomes.

Worse, the more a project for transition counting on an unproduced source of financing (Nasser's Egypt. Boumédienne's Algeria, or the Shah's Iran) is consistent, the more its implementation involves the formation of an arrogant bureaucracy or even technocracy, incapable of satisfying the popular cultural demand. The cultural content of these experiences is in general very poor, oscillating between out and out Westernization and withdrawal into the past. The people's impression may then be that not only are they failing to materially en joy the fruits of transformations (which may indeed be very rapid), but also that they are losing their cultural identity. They may equally become a mass to be manipulated by groups with an objective interest in the perpetuation of underdevelopment, and also for the fundamentalist ideologues of all persuasions. The upshot then is that for two or three decades the state once again becomes a comprador state and the people wait for a 'strong' man to come and restore the situation.

In short, if one of the factors that we have listed as 'external' intervenes significantly in the conception of the transition strategy, the delinking will not be embarked upon.

In my view, it is thus possible to know whether a country is embarked on the path to transition out of the periphery. To do so, it is enough to observe how it expects to finance the increase in agricultural productivity, how its industrialization drive is oriented in relation to agriculture and what is its technological policy. If the increase in agricultural and industrial productivity, based on massive recourse to domestic know-how combined with selective importation of technology, is financed by the agricultural and industrial surplus, there may be reason to assume that the transition is underway. Both Japan36 and China or North Korea did this. Is it still possible?

The principal non-social constraint lies in the size of the country. For military as well reasons of economies of scale some authors consider that a population of at least 50 million is needed. In Africa, in that case, only a few countries are in a position to delink: Nigeria. Egypt, Ethiopia. Zaire. South Africa. Tanzania and, soon. Morocco and Algeria. In reality, this constraint is not absolute. Given certain conditions, countries with smaller populations can embark on the transition: the size of the population constitutes an absolute constraint only for countries with fewer than one million inhabitants. Whatever the case, political regroupings in Africa would make it possible to remove this constraint. For this reason, pan-Africanism remains an ideology of the future, conditional upon it becoming purged of its purely demagogic aspect.

The basic constraint is, of course, socio-political. To count only on the values produced through the full employment of the national labour force is possible only if the state becomes a national one, because it rests on a broad consensus that itself results from popular participation in the exercise of power, l his consensus, obtained on concrete questions touching on austerity, cultural orientation, distribution of the power of access to goods and services, is essential. Can it emerge only from a popular movement or can it be generated from the top? Because of the often repressive character of most present-day states and their subordination to the international system that sustains them, what characteristics will popular struggles, purged of all trace of fundamentalism, take on? These are questions to which it would be presumptuous to provide answers with assurance in a situation marked by the fact that, officially and with great fanfare, imperialist states are financing movements designed to destabilize progressive governments and, unofficially, wars between countries in the South and civil wars, the objective being in some cases the dismemberment of nations. But the forces favourable to delinking and an agricultural revolution conceived in a perspective of global development are at work on the continent.


1. Samir Amin. 'Questions posées par l'analyse de l'expansion mondiale du capitalisme'. UNU. Dakar. September 19X5, pp. 15-16.

2. Algeria. Ministère du Planification. Annuaire statistique de l'Algérie, 1977-78, p. 292.

3. UNCTAD. Handbook of Trade, 1980.

4. FAO. World Food Situation, 1983, annexes.

5. FAO. Production Yearbook, 1982.

6. S. Bedrani. L'Agriculture algérienne depuis 1966. Algiers. OPU.

7. Ministère de la Planification et de l'Aménagement du Territoire, Annuaire statistique de l'Algérie, 1977-78p. 171.

8. FAO. Fertilizer Yearbook, 1983.

9. Algeria. Ministère du Plan. Annuaire statistique. 1978.

10. Ibid.

11. Yash Tandon. 'Arguments within African Marxism: the Dar es Salaam debates'. Journal of African Marxists. 5. February 1984.

12. E. Hanack has applied the World Bank/lMF scenario to Tanzania in 'The Tanzanian balance of payments crisis: causes, consequences and lessons for a survival strategy', ERB paper 81-1.

13. B. Founou-Tchuigoua. 'Stratégie d'autosuffisance alimentaire et choix d'une cérále prioritaire au Sénégal'. World Congress of Sociology. Mexico. 1980.

14. FAO. Production Yearbook. 1983.

15. Y. Rweyamamu summarized this thesis in 'A neglected relation between agriculture and industry'. IDEP, 1975.

16. Ibid.

17. Ellen Hanack. l 8. FAO. Fertilizer Yearbook. 1983.

19. FAO. Trade Yearbook, 1975 and Trade Yearbook, 1982.

20. UNCTAD. The Least Developed Countries, Report. 1984.

21. Ibid.

22. Interview with Jeune Afrique, 326.9 April 1967, p. 21.

23. Arusha Declaration. Part two.

24. Ibid.. Part three.

25. J. Nyerere. 'National property', in Freedom and Unity, OUP 1966, as cited in A. Coulson. 1974, p. 79.

26. Sylvain Uffer. Ujamaa, espoir du socialisme africain en Tanzanie. Aubier, p 45.

27. Adhu Awiti. 'Luttes des classes dans la société rurale en Tanzanie, une étude de cas de Ismani-lringa', in Agriculture africaine et capitalisme, Anthropos 1975, p. 28.

28. René Dumont, interview with Demain l'Afrique, 45, 28 January 1980.

29. Henry Mapulo. 'Imperialism, the State and the peasantry in Tanzania'. UNU.. Dakar. January 1984. This paper is now Chapter 8 of this book.

30. Ibid.

31. Bedrani, op, cit.

32. Ibid.. p. 267.

33. Jacquemot, 'Crise et renouveau de la planification', Le Soleil. 20 August 1985, previously published in Revue Tiers Monde.

34. Bernard Founou-Tchuigoua, 'Crise agro-alimentaire africaine', IRES, Kinshasa, Lettre mensuelle, 8-9, 1983.

35. Samir Amin. Unequal Development.

36. Japan applied delinking between 1608 and 1945. China after 1945.

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