Aftermath of the War
The war of national liberation and its aftermath severely disrupted
Algeria's society and economy. In addition to the physical destruction,
the exodus of the colons deprived the country of most of its managers,
civil servants, engineers, teachers, physicians, and skilled workers--all
occupations from which the Muslim population had been excluded
or discouraged from pursuing by colonial policy. The homeless
and displaced numbered in the hundreds of thousands, many suffering
from illness, and some 70 percent of the work force was unemployed.
Distribution of goods was at a standstill. Departing colons destroyed
or carried off public records and utility plans, leaving public
services in a shambles.
The months immediately following independence had witnessed the
pell-mell rush of Algerians, their government, and its officials
to claim the lands, houses, businesses, automobiles, bank accounts,
and jobs left behind by the Europeans. By the 1963 March Decrees,
Ben Bella declared that all agricultural, industrial, and commercial
properties previously operated and occupied by Europeans were
vacant, thereby legalizing their confiscation by the state. The
term nationalization was not used in the decrees, presumably
to avoid indemnity claims.
The FLN called its policy of widespread state involvement in
the economy "Algerian socialism." Public-sector enterprises were
gradually organized into state corporations that participated
in virtually every aspect of the country's economic life. Although
their activities were coordinated by central authorities, each
state corporation was supposed to retain a measure of autonomy
within its own sphere.
The departure of European owners and managers from factories
and agricultural estates gave rise to a spontaneous, grass-roots
phenomenon, later termed autogestion, which saw workers
take control of the enterprises to keep them operating. Seeking
to capitalize on the popularity of the self-management movement,
Ben Bella formalized autogestion in the March Decrees.
As the process evolved, workers in state-owned farms and enterprises
and in agricultural cooperatives elected boards of managers that
directed production activities, financing, and marketing in conjunction
with state-appointed directors. The system proved to be a failure,
however. The crucial agricultural sector suffered particularly
under self-management, partly as result of bureaucratic incompetence,
graft, and theft.
Data as of December 1993