Academic journal article Humanity

From Boumedienomics to Reaganomics: Algeria, OPEC, and the International Struggle for Economic Equality

Academic journal article Humanity

From Boumedienomics to Reaganomics: Algeria, OPEC, and the International Struggle for Economic Equality

Article excerpt

In the first satellite pictures taken from the Apollo 17 in 1972, Earth was shown as a weightless sphere covered in clouds and unified by the blue oceans. The picture came with an important message, appearing as it did in the same year as the Club of Rome Limits of Growth report: humanity had common interests and these interests lay in the need to preserve the limited natural resources of the planet from the danger of overexploitation and overpopulation. An even more important image of the Earth was produced only some months after the Apollo 17 pictures. In May 1973 the German historian Arno Peters presented a new world map that was supposed to revolutionize the, up to then, widely used Mercator projection. Peters accused Mercator's 1569 projection of being too "Eurocentric" and remarked that it distorted the geometry of the world in favor of the European colonial masters of the time. He argued that his own projection, which gave prominence to the global south, and in particular to Africa and Latin America, was much fairer to the Third World. In his "equal area" projection Peters effectively redistributed land from the global north to the global south and in so doing embodied much of the spirit of the age: the struggle for equality and redistribution in favor of the poor.1

Henry Kissinger had fantasized that 1973 would be remembered as the "Year of Europe" and of a renewed Atlantic partnership. It ended up being the "Year of the Global South" and of the cooperation between oil producers and the rest of the developing countries. The main reason that 1973 turned out to be quite different from what Kissinger had dreamed-closer in fact to Kissinger's nightmare-was the quadrupling of the price of crude oil in December 1973. This pivotal episode, widely known and vulgarized in the industrialized countries as the "oil shock," is better known in oil-producing countries as the "oil revolution."

The unilaterally imposed oil price revolution was seen by the developing countries of the south as the economic equivalent of the Vietnamese military success against the apparently invincible U.S. army. It was a victory of the poor against the superior technological and economic power of industrialized countries. Even though non-oilproducing developing countries should have been extremely concerned for their worsening trade balance, the solidarity with oil-producing countries was next to unanimous in the aftermath of 1973. Mahbub ul Haq, the Pakistani economist and Word Bank director, a key voice for the south in international economic institutions, recalls

the rather gloomy, despairing days of late 1972 and early 1973 when the concerns of the Third World were being summarily brushed aside from the crowded agenda of the powerful and the rich nations. We were not aware at that stage how quickly the environment would change by 1974, as a result of the OPEC action.2

Well before 1973, certainly since the creation of the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1964, developing countries had come together to voice their concern for the structural inequality between poor and rich countries and against the increasingly harmful terms of trade against the products of the global south. But up to 1973, even though the "struggle against imperialism" slogan had achieved a wide audience, especially through the actions of the youth movements and NGOs, the Third World seemed stuck because of its lack of negotiating power. After 1973 a new age of international cooperation and fair redistribution of global wealth seemed imminent.

If 1973 was to be the dawn of the age of equality between north and south, and oil a key weapon in the struggle for worldwide redistribution of resources, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a raw materials organization created in i960, found itself-mostly unwillingly-at the very center of the struggle. Within OPEC, Algeria and its ruling Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) elite was the relentless motor of international cooperation to change the terms of trade in favor of the south. …

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