''The enemy of my enemy is my friend.'' This African proverb could be applied to the maneu-verings within the ruling Politburo of the Soviet Union.
Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, although absent from this week's plenum of the Communist Party's Central Committee, seems to have engineered a number of promotions within the party. The personalities involved suggest Mr. Andropov is slowly building his own power base within the upper reaches of the party hierarchy.
He is apparently choosing men who are allies only in that they and Andropov have common opponents: the supporters of the late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
Further, he is deliberately moving outside the central power structure to promote ''technocrats'' - even if they lack certain political credentials. Andropov may hope these men will implement his economic reform ideas and solve the country's formidable economic problems.
Sounds Byzantine? It is. But in the Soviet Union, politics are rarely straightforward.
The first major appointment is fairly routine: Viktor Chebrikov, head of the KGB, was named an alternate member of the Politburo. It is not unusual for the KGB chief to be in the Politburo, and Chebrikov has ties with Andropov, who formerly headed the KGB.
Western analysts say Andropov was also behind the elevation of Mikhail Solomentsev and Vitaly Vorotnikov to full membership in the Politburo. The Politburo is the ruling inner circle of the Communist Party, and therefore of the country.
The two men served together in key posts in the Russian Republic, the largest Soviet state. More important, they both had ties to Andrei P. Kirilenko, a former Politburo member who fell from favor during the last years of Brezhnev's tenure.
Some researchers say Kirilenko's supporters still form a sort of bloc within the party hierarchy. They are apparently pitted against the supporters of Constantin Chernenko, who succeeded Kirilenko as Brezhnev's protege.
But after Brezhnev's death, Chernenko and his supporters were outmaneuvered by Andropov and his supporters.
The scenario goes like this: Kirilenko's supporters need a new political mentor, Andropov needs a political base. Both want to head off the possibility of a political rebirth of Chernenko in the event of Mr. Andropov's early departure from the political scene.
The last major appointment was that of Yegor Ligachev as a secretary of the Central Committee. Some diplomats describe him as a ''technocrat'' with little political background. Some Western observers suggest that Andropov admired Ligachev's work as party first secretary in the Tomsk region of Siberia. They speculate that Andropov wants Ligachev to have a key role in efforts to revitalize the Soviet economy.
It is worth noting that from 1963 to 1965 Ligachev was a party worker in the Russian Republic. His supervisor? Andrei Kirilenko.