Ben Bella on "national liberation"

Wanted poster for Ben Bella

Ben Bella, a leading figure in the Algerian Front Liberation Nationale during the struggle against French colonialism, speaks of his disillusionment following their success. Ben Bella became President of newly independent Algeria in 1962.

Submitted by Red Marriott on January 28, 2007


Ben Bella on "national liberation"

Q: What are the main lessons you've learned from your experience?
A: These days I use a formula which summarize what I've come to: The single party is the single evil. Earlier I didn't have the tools for understanding this evil. The FLN had become a monster. The organization formed in the struggle for independence was not the same as the one ruling Algeria. The whole superstructure, the Party, the Parliament, et cetera, had become a hindrance.

It was during my 1962 tour of the country, after the decrees on self-management of land by peasants, that I realized this change. There was great energy among the peasants and the workers. We would have had to set aside the bureaucracy, form revolutionary committees and expand self-management to take advantage of this dynamism. The Parliament and all those structures - excuse me, but they're all bullshit.

Unfortunately, I chose the wrong camp. I hesitated in sweeping aside all that hindered these possibilities.

Q: I heard you say earlier that socialism existed nowhere in the world...
A: That's true. I'm not talking about what's in the blueprints. I'm talking about living socialism. You see what's happened since 1917. Do you see socialism? Still, I'm faithful to the ideals of socialism, to the struggle against the exploitation of man by man. But it should be understood that there's not just one form of exploitation. There is also exploitation by bureaucratic apparatus.

Q: This is a very negative view of the achievements of national revolutions...
A: They have all failed. As long as we have not broken the world capitalist order, we remain exploited by the mercantile relations of production. Even in the "socialist" world you find these types of relations. Inside COMECON (The Council for Mutual Economic Aid of the Soviet bloc countries), for example, or between the Soviet Union and the Algeria that I was President of.

From No Middle Ground - San Francisco USA, Fall 1984/Winter, 1985 (original source of interview unknown).