“You Are Beautiful like a Comité de Gestion”: Self-Management in Algeria and Yugoslavia



Shortly after the Revolution, Algeria’s ties with Yugoslavia allowed for socialist practices to be implemented in Algerian farms and factories, in particular “auto-gestion” (workers’ self-management). Importantly, as Muriam Haleh Davis explains in this text, Yugoslavian models of socialism also allowed for a valorisation of religious practice, as opposed to Soviet and Chinese paradigms.

On April 15, 1965, Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito arrived in Algeria and was personally greeted by President Ahmed Ben Bella at the airport. The front page of the newspaper of Algeria’s main trade union, Révolution et Travail, lauded this historic meeting. It noted that the Yugoslavian model of socialism had become an “important source of inspiration for the international workers movement.” Publications with different ideological orientations had been referencing Yugoslavia’s brand of socialism since independence; the Arabic-language Al-M’arifa, which was published by the Ministry of the Habus, admitted that “If every age has an [ideological] ‘fashion,’ the fashion of this age is the understandings of socialism.” While the article invoked Tito and Gamal Abdel Nasser as two possible examples of socialist regimes, many of the publication’s columns advocated that Algeria adopt a socialism rooted in Islamic values.

In the early 1960s, Algeria and Yugoslavia adopted workers’ self-management as a model of economic organization that was inspired by socialist utopian traditions, rejecting the hegemonic iterations of communism stemming from the Soviet Union or China. In theory, this meant giving workers an active stake in the running of farms and factories and the comités de gestion served as the basis of collective organization. By resisting top-down statist orientations, self-management also provided a blueprint that would reflect the cultural and historical specificities of each nation. The Algiers-based leftist newspaper Révolution Africaine saw the transformation of the Yugoslavian salaried worker into a genuine “gestionnaire” (manager) as serving to “essentially modify the psychology, the personality, the material and political situation of workers and of all those who work, including the relations among men.” Ahmed Mahsas, who ran the National Office of Agrarian Reform wrote that by adopting self-management Algerians had broken with scientific socialism and “take[n] into consideration the reality of the society, its positive values and the real problem of development.”