Algerian Revolution, 1954

Algeria had been occupied as a French colonial possession since the 1830s; however, since 1848 it held a unique status as “an integral part of France.” Many Algerians fought for France during both the First and the Second World Wars, and these experiences contributed to a growing sense of nationalism and a desire for independent national sovereignty among many Algerian intellectuals. After WWII, France extended citizenship to all Algerians, further contributing to the sense among some Algerian nationalists that an independent Algerian identity would be increasingly difficult to distinguish from that of France. Uprisings and protests against the French colonial authority had occurred sporadically throughout the 1920s and 1930s, but it was with the 1954 foundation of the National Liberation Front (FLN) and its armed wing, the National Liberation Army, that the movement exploded into a full scale civil war. On November 1, 1954, the FLN issued a proclamation calling for the restoration of Algerian sovereignty and democracy within an Islamic framework and launched a series of attacks across Algeria, many against civilian targets. The conflict quickly turned into a war over the hearts and minds of the Algerian people; the FLN worked to convince labor unions and students’ associations to fight for national independence while the French authorities, through the leadership of governor general Jaques Soustelle, embarked on a campaign of reform to improve social well-being among the Muslim population. Guerrilla and counter-insurgency warfare raged for the next seven years, during which time the war became increasingly unpopular in France. The social and economic crisis of May 1958 prompted a change in French leadership, bringing the popular WWII hero Charles de Gaulle back into power. By the fall of 1959, de Gaulle was beginning to advocate for self-determination in Algeria, and issued a referendum on the question in both France and Algeria in January 1961. Algerian self-determination received widespread support from both the French and Algerian populations, and the de Gaulle government began peace negotiations with the FLN. Algerian independence was officially recognized on July 5, 1962.

algeriaThe principles and symbols of the French Revolution were incorporated into the Algerian independence movement, as evidenced in this 1961 poster.

Proclamation of the National Liberation Front, 1 November 1954
Soustelle: Speech to the Algerian Assembly, 23 February 1955
PM Mollet’s broadcast to the Algerian population, 28 February 1955
Mendé-France speech to the National Assembly (excerpt), 12 November 1955
Letter of a few intellectuals, about Algeria, 14 November 1955
Soustelle: Declaration made on 20 May 1955
Soustelle: Declaration to Radio Algeria, 26 January 1956
Open Letter from Henri Maillot, 1956
Editorial of the First Issue of “El Moudjahid,” 1956
Appeal of the FLN to Our Israelite Compatriots, 1 October 1956
Letter to the Europeans of Algeria, 7 October 1957
President Charles de Gaulle’s broadcast to the people of France on the Algerian Crisis, 1959

Proclamation of the National Liberation Front, 1 November 1954 Top

Source: Bruce Fetter, ed. 1979. Colonial Rule in Africa: Readings from Primary Sources. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

To the Algerian People!

To the militants of the National Cause!

After decades of struggle, the National Movement has reached its final phase of fulfillment. At home, the people are united behind the watchwords of independence and action. Abroad, the atmosphere is favorable, especially with the diplomatic support of our Arab and Moslem brothers.

Our National Movement, prostrated by years of immobility and routine, badly directed, was disintegrating little by little. Faced with this situation, a youthful group, gathering about it the majority of wholesome and resolute elements, judged that the moment had come to take the National Movement out of the impasse into which it had been forced by the conflicts of persons and of influence and to launch it into the true revolutionary struggle at the side of the Moroccan and Tunisian brothers.

We are independent of the two factions that are vying for power. Our movement gives to compatriots of every social position, to all the purely Algerian parties and movements, the possibility of joining in the liberation struggle.

GOAL. National independence through: 1) the restoration of the Algerian state, sovereign, democratic, and social, within the framework of the principles of Islam; 2) the preservation of all fundamental freedoms, without distinction of race or religion.

INTERNAL OBJECTIVE: Political house-cleaning through the destruction of the last vestiges of corruption and reformism.

EXTERNAL OBJECTIVES: 1) The internationalization of the Algerian problem; 2) the pursuit of North African unity in its national Arabo-Islamic context; 3) The assertion, through United Nations channels, of our active sympathy toward all nations that may support our liberating action.

MEANS OF STRUGGLE: Struggle by every means until our goal is attained. Exertion at home and abroad through political and direct action, with a view to making the Algerian problem a reality for the entire world. The struggle will be long, but the outcome is certain.

To limit the bloodshed, we propose an honorable platform for discussion with the French authorities:

1. The opening of negotiations with the authorized spokesmen of the Algerian people, on the basis of a recognition of Algerian sovereignty, one and indivisible.
2. The inception of an atmosphere of confidence brought about by freeing all those who are detained, by annulling all measures of exception, and by ending all legal action against the combatant forces.
3. The recognition of Algerian nationhood by an official declaration abrogating all edicts, decrees, and laws by virtue of which Algeria was “French soil.”

In return for which:
1. French cultural and economic interests will be respected, as well as all persons and families.
2. All French citizens desiring to remain in Algeria will be allowed to opt for their original nationality, in which case they will be considered as foreigners, or for Algerian nationality, in which case they will be considered as Algerians, equal both as to rights and as to duties.
3. The ties between France and Algeria will be the object of agreement between the two Powers on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

Algerians: the FLN is your front; its victory is your victory. For our part, strong in your support, we shall give the best of ourselves to the Fatherland.

Soustelle: Speech to the Algerian Assembly, 23 February 1955 Top

Source: Jaques Soustelle. 1956. ”Aimée et Souffrante Algérie,” Paris: Librarie Plon. [My translation]

I will not hide my emotion when, through you, I resumed contact with the Algeria I knew for the first time, a dozen years ago.

It is here, in Algier, that France is again a State, that it again finds its sovereignty, that it has restored here on African soil the latest laws of the Republic.

These same walls still resound with the historic words of General de Gaulle as he announced to the world that France had regained its rightful place among freedom-loving nations. It is here that around prestigious chiefs, the African army was restored. The names of generals Monsabert, Giraud, Juin, de Lattre de Tassigny, remain in our memories bound to this epic resurrection had reappeared on the battlefields of Italy, France, and Germany, the flags of our armies, carried to the height of the fighting by the sons of Algeria, fraternally mixed once more in hope and sacrifice. Do not forget this is unique in the history of mankind: a invaded and subjugated Metropole which was finally liberated by its children overseas. Two days ago, in the Aures mountains, I shook hands with a few veterans of that war; I saw their decorations and traces of their injuries. How can we not be attentive to the fate of the French native who poured their blood for a homeland that they discovered even as they liberated it?

…Since I speak of the African army, I want to express my desire to see her again, returning more to its standards, combining a mission of strictly peacekeeping and sovereignty, of the useful work of those in training leadership, and fellowship in the camaraderie of arms which it has for so long so effectively discharged.

I wish to also express to all those who, at one point, served in its ranks, and the Muslim veterans in particular, the care and concern that the Government intends to show them.

Nothing could be more false and more tragic than to oppose, because of painful these events, the two communities, which together constitute the French Algeria.

Just think calmly about what has happened, consider the lists of dead and wounded, unfortunately too long, observe the way things presently are with terrorist activities, to arrive at the conviction that there is not, and has never been such an opposition. These are not the original French natives who rose against the French metropole home, but a highly contained minority which directs its blows simultaneously against each and against each other.

The two communities have the same opponents. Between them there must not exist suspicion nor fear. Take care not to let ourselves be dragged into the vicious cycle of violence or fear.

To the indigenous people of whom the vast majority have remained deaf to the calls of the agitators, I say to you: have no fear, France protects all of its children. It does not confuse the innocent with the guilty. It will make peace, and in peace it will guide you to a better future.

…The metropolitan French home that embraces the concern – and not make it their grief? – I address in order to confirm, if was necessary, the unwavering desire of France: nothing will be neglected to restore order in the country and in our minds.

Is it necessary to recall the magnitude and speed of the effort made by the Metropole from the first moment? Since then, all the energies of the government have been stretched towards this goal. No doubt, no uncertainty must exist in our unyielding determination to remove Algeria from the terrible aftermath as some would make it.

France is here at home, or rather, Algeria and all its inhabitants are an integral part of France, one and indivisible.

This is the alpha and the omega. All must know, here and elsewhere, that France will not leave Algeria more than Provence or Brittany. Whatever happens, the fate of Algeria is France.

Yes, gentlemen, the fate of Algeria is French! This means that a choice has been made by France, – the choice is called integration.

On this road, we must commit ourselves without reservation and without return.

Undoubtedly, it is not a question to close our eyes to the realities, and avoid a mechanical application to this African land that which has been developed and realized elsewhere. Instead we must take the fullest possible account of the of the geography, the history, and the ethnography specific to this region.

But, given all this, to achieve this goal is marked: make every day a province of Algeria, original course, but fully French.

It is towards this goal that we must walk, it is in this sense that the line is part of progress.

Integration is not uniform: it would be wrong to put Algeria on the Procrustean bed of a purely legal certainty and without being in touch with reality, but we must take as a clear and definitive rule that any step forward can only go in this direction, and must take a step each day.

This must be done empirically, to better changing circumstances, but never losing sight of the term that is assigned.

For those who may be surprised of such a position, it would be easy to remember that metropolitan France, now so strongly integrated in all its parts, was formed, over the centuries, from provinces in which lack of communication from Paris was far more than from Algiers today, where the laws, currencies, and customs were completely different, and where the central government was only weakly represented.

In the France of the old regime, the old province of Midi montagnarde, from where I came from and is my home, long rebelled against royal authority and spoke the langue d’oc, and was excluded from France, until the most recent era.

In today’s world, where distances have shrunk and communication of thoughts are instant, Algeria is closer to the Metropole, materially and intellectually, than Nimes or Toulouse two centuries past to the Ile-de-France.

Keep in mind this vision of necessary evolution: it teaches us that time works for those who respect it, that is, for those who do not lose it…

PM Mollet’s broadcast to the Algerian population, 28 February 1955 Top

Source: Keesing’s Record of World Events. Volume X, June 1956, Algeria. Page 14913

After reiterating that “France recognizes and respects the personality of Algeria,” but that “Algeria is and will remain indissolubly linked with metropolitan France,” the Prime Minister continued: “The definitive future status of Algeria will be fixed by free discussion with the elected representatives of the Algerian population. It will assure to the Moslem community recognition and respect for their distinctive characteristics and their rights, and to all equal justice, whether it is a question of ensuring respect for law, political democracy, or social democracy … All the Government’s actions are intended to make free elections possible, but they cannot be held until peace is restored….To Algerians of European origin the Government declares: Your lives and those of your families, your property, and your rights will be respected….But the Government also expects you to accept its policy of progress and to co-operate in carrying it out, so that an equal division of resources, labour, and responsibilities with your Moslem brothers may be attained. To all the Moslems of Algeria I repeat, in the Government’s name, this solemn undertaking: the guns must be silent, and then free and fair elections will be organized within three months after the fighting and acts of violence have ended….France sincerely and generously offers you justice and equality. If, however, you were to reject them, if you were to allow the gap to be widened, if you were not to agree with us in preventing further crimes such as all religions and laws condemn – crimes against women, children, and the aged – France would be forced to mobilize all her resources to ensure the security of the population.

Mendé-France speech to the National Assembly (excerpt), 12 November 1955 Top

Source: Alistair Horne. 2006. A Savage War of Peace. New York: New York Review of Books, p. 98.

One does not compromise when it comes to defending the internal peace of the nation, the unity and the integrity of the Republic. The Algerian departments are part of the French Republic. They have been French for a long time, and the are irrevocable French…. Between them and metropolitan France there can be no conceivable secession.

This must be clear once and for all, in Algeria and in metropolitan France as much as in the outside world. Never will France – any French government, or parliament, whatever may be their particularistic tendencies – yield on this fundamental principle.

Mesdames, Messieurs, several deputies have made comparisons between French policy in Algeria and Tunisia. I declare that no parallel is more erroneous, that no comparison is falser, or more dangerous. Ici, c’est la France!

Letter of a few intellectuals, about Algeria, 14 November 1955 Top

Source: Jaques Soustelle. 1956. ”Aimée et Souffrante Algérie,” Paris: Librarie Plon. [My translation]

I’ve read a manifesto against the war in Algeria signed by many men that I respect and who are some of my closest friends.

I give this text the most serious attention. Even as I am committed into the action, I am also a university teacher and writer. I believe in the intrinsic value of thought, of research and reflection. I am sure that we have a role to play in public life, be it by trying to substitute vague, passionate images that are the standard instruments of politics with notions of decency, precision and rigour for which our profession stands.

It seems obvious to me that if intellectuals appear as such in politics – as some do in this appeal – they are justified if they behave in the circumstances, more than ever, as intellectuals, that is to say with the aim of honesty and clarity that is our mark. Otherwise, their intervention would have no more value than plumbers, metal workers, or funeral directors, professions that are as respectable in and of themselves as our own.

The opinion attaches more weight to the words of professors from the Sorbonne than to those of grocers or adjusters: this is obviously because it expects that the intellectual effort of information and impartiality which provides a particular value judgment.

It also seems to me that intellectuals, in taking a public position, have the duty, more than others, to be scrupulous both in their factual knowledge and the interpretation that they give. Otherwise, we fear to think that it is a hoax, consisting in giving advice seriously as the ponderings of intellectuals, when it is in fact, the opinion of a citizen just as the rest.

These are the thoughts that came to my mind when I read the manifesto in question. I know that out of respect for the truth, and with careful meticulous verification, the signatories of this text are reluctant to take for granted social and historical facts, and more, before providing a theoretical interpretation, but I am amazed by the lightness and lack of seriousness that characterizes this proclamation, which is rich in peremptory assertions, but also ambiguous, and whose brassy and bombastic style strikes me as an impropriety.

The analysis, in fact, highlights the weakness of the central argument, which is nothing more than hollow demagogic slogans.

We begin by positing that there is a war in Algeria. This assertion, which curiously joined those ultra-colonialists, deserves further discussion. Our era knows many situations that are not peace without being at war. A state of sporadic and variable insecurity, of individual attacks, of ambushes and fires, is that war? Without doubt, you will say that it is a matter of definition. But in this case, to merely call what is happening in Algeria a “war” is a gesture and a choice. A campaign intended to frighten the public and trigger a wave of defeatism, the launch of “the Algerian war” makes an important contribution: the more so that in the same sentence it binds the “war” to the use of the quota. We are careful to say – although this is the evidence – as available conscripts are recalled, have engaged with the enemy is only a very limited proportion, and their mission of protection is intended to prevent war rather than to cause it, and that the greater the troops are used in Algeria, the less likely it is that a real war will explode.

So there from the beginning and the most important point, a misunderstanding – involuntary? – which consists in this, that we arbitrarily named “war” a very particular situation, and instantaneously the word is taken in its full sense and usual procession with all the images it evokes. This sleight of hand is obviously intended to create a guilt complex. Any result follows naturally from this first option.

But before I go I have a question: where, when, and how have the authors of this text bothered to study and analyze the situation in Algeria before making a decisive judgment on it? Did they use the methods of historians and philosophers, or were they merely reading from their diary?

Allow me to remind you that I am somewhat researched on all of these events and have devoted some thought to them. The authoritative argument not playing us, I have to say that even the most prestigious names can take the place of evidence.

But to continue. This “war” they say is unjust because it is waged against men “whose crime is to adopt our own principles.” This statement calls to my mind two points.

First, it is not unreasonable to seek whether the current situation was triggered by an assault on our part or on the part of others. Two dates are important in this regard: the 1st of November 1954, and the 20th of August 1955. Between these dates, and since the second event, there has been a long series of attacks, kidnappings, assassinations, and arsons. But what is certain is that these aggressions have always been initiated by our opponents. Our actions are defensive: it is in the same circles that some reproach us.

Were these attacks triggered – and are they in fact justified – by “our own principles?” This is where the most serious misunderstandings lie.

“Our principles” (and I suppose that means the cause of liberty, of democracy, and of respect for man), do they justify the racist fury and fanaticism that have been sated by the massacre of the European El-Halia workmen and their families? Murdered and mutilated passersby in St. Charles and Bugeaud, children (including a four-day old infant) slaughtered at Ain-Abid, they were sacrificed to the rights of man and of the citizen? Is it consistent with the ideas of tolerance which we profess to cut with scissors the lips of smokers and cut the nose of tobacco auctioneers? The excitement of racial and religious hatred against the boycotted non-Muslims, Mozabites regarded as “heretics”, the systematic destruction of schools in areas where they serve only the Arab or Berber population, the annihilation of fellah collective farm equipment – what does all this have to do with “our own principles?” Perhaps they have changed without my knowledge: I remember a time when French intellectuals stood against precisely this type of ferocious Hitleresque darkness, which no doubt, among all the contemporary movements, comes closest, by its exclusiveness and contempt for human life, to the C.R.U.A.

The various letters and documents that have fallen into our hands to Djeurf, Montcalm, and El-Arrouch, statements of leaders and prisoners, those who Cairo and Syrian radio leave no doubt about the goals pursued by the triumvirate of which Benbella is the visible head: total destruction (the Nazis had a word for it) of everything that is European in North Africa, killing all of French origin and Muslims who do not bow, forced conversion to Islam of the survivors, and establishing a theocratic and racist member of the Arab League. These documents are known and I will make them available to those who are interested.

It is true that there are men in Algeria who stood, on behalf of “our principles” against the remnants of colonial rule: but they are not identical to the rebels, and we do not have the right to confuse them. Here we touch upon another mistake of the authors of the manifesto: that which consists of an inextricable involvement in what I call democratic opposition by the proponents of medieval tactics. The latter, them, make no mistake: paragraph 12 of the instructions sent by Benbella to Cairo, has it not ordered that they slaughter “all those who would play the role of valid interlocutors”? This directive has also be used at the beginning of an execution August 20 in Constantinople, when a terrorist commando murdered the nephew of Ferhat Abbas.

The following paragraph of the manifesto attacks “shameful” methods that would make many of our soldiers “war criminals.” The excessiveness about this distresses me. Alas, an individual cannot guarantee that in the fever of combat, the result of an insurgent ambush, that a soldier will override his mission to prevent women and children from being exposed to mutilated corpses. But I want to bear witness to the human rights leaders, I know what ongoing orders they give to avoid any excess. I know that the small French contingent were not murderers, and although we do not have the right to be free from such insult, although this protection exists in Paris, as comparing them to the S.S.

But mostly I am surprised that intellectuals, who should be mindful of all aspects of a painful problem, deliberately take no action – one could say that is the sole mission – of the officers of Algerian Affairs (zero last February, over two hundred today) who have no other mission than to keep the peace. Far from us to shame, this should ensure in all of us a sense of pride.

The appeal adds that we may “lose honor.” There are many ways of losing our honor; one of these would be to abandon not only 1.2 million Europeans, but also millions of Muslims, to torture, mutilation, and death. Do not forget that the average rebel kills four or five Muslims for every European, not to mention those that they disfigure and torture, and those thousands from whom they extort and ruin. I know that they sought to give the impression that Muslims were assassins were “agents of the Administration”; I will begin by saying that to be a book-keeper or railroad agent is not a crime which leads to the death penalty. But the facts themselves speak against this version. I saw, alas, too many old people and children murdered by Muslim fellaghas, too many harmless peasants slaughtered, to have any doubt about it. Deliberately, methodically, the rebels are committed to dominate by terror. Would it conform to “our honor” to be weary?

After the critical portion that I just discussed, the manifest proceeds to what might be called the constructive part of the presentation. And I can only express my disappointment at the weakness, if not destitution of the ideas expressed. That we must seek “peace in accordance with the fraternal nationalities,” that “the existence of non-Muslims… is one of the elements of the problem,” that “the aim is to achieve full reconciliation between these populations,” to push open doors. It is also, I fear, an evasion: and my fear was confirmed when I read the following paragraph, that the undersigned do not offer reforms or plans or solutions. So why appeal? Is it just to say that France is wrong – because it is understood that, for some, it is always wrong?

It is true that we offer the panacea: the negotiation. But since it is said neither who (because of grace, do not take this concrete proposal for a vague catch-all phrase for “the qualified representatives”), nor what it is confined, in fact, present as a solution that is precisely the problem. Unless – but then why not say so honestly? – It is considered that the quality of “qualified representative” rightfully belongs to terrorists. Again the question arises, the need to know, how many farms burned or farmers slaughtered makes one a “qualified representative”?

One could, in fact, address the problem of representation with free elections, the electoral colleges, or implement reforms to overcome the bloody rut CRUA in Algeria has committed. It would have been doing something useful. I regret that we did not even try.

The manifesto ends with a number of slogans that are, I guess, what might be called the immediate program of its authors. Like all slogans, they may be useful to throw to a crowd in a public meeting. Apart from this, they are not worth the paper on which they are written.

“Immediate Negotiations”? As I have already said, that assumes the problems have been solved.

“No racial discrimination”? All my life I have fought against racism. I hate it wherever it exists, and I fight among Europeans when they give way to it. But I am forced to recognize that today’s racism par excellence is in front of us.

“Cessation of repression; cessation of the state of emergency; release of the quota”? These slogans have, objectively, in the present situation, only one meaning: termination of our resistance, abandonment of an entire people to a dictatorship of terror. If this is what you want, it must be admitted. For my part, I refuse, and I suggest that if any of the signatories was in my place, he would decline at the wave of blood that would break our capitulation of Algeria. Because it is indeed a capitulation.

It is not without regret that I have come to respond – in a personal capacity – as the man I am and who remains true to himself – to those who have signed the manifesto and including perhaps some who know me who will be shocked by my candor. But I have always believed that our duty, which our profession makes us to think clearly, was to discuss frankly and without reluctance the battle of ideas.

For my part, I am of those who has been prepared between 1936 and 1940 against the peril of dictatorships from outside and inside, against racism and intolerance: I have not changed. I fight against the spirit of defeat and abandonment that led France to deliver Czechoslovakia, to permit the remilitarization of the Rhineland by Hitler, leaving the Axis harden and create disarray in the face of democracies: I have not changed. From 1940 to 1944, I was one of those who obstinately refused all of it, and despite the capitulation, I did not change.

If we now sum France, in the name of medieval totalitarianism, to renounce not only Algeria, but in fact itself, I will not comply. The work of political and social progress was accomplished in Algeria, after too many delays, we must remain there; to give in to terrorism would forever condemn it.

Soustelle: Declaration made on 20 May 1955 Top

Source: Jaques Soustelle. 1956. ”Aimée et Souffrante Algérie,” Paris: Librarie Plon. [My translation]

I come back to visit some of the most exposed positions South of Constantine, on the periphery of the Aures Mountains and Nementcha. For some time, rebel activity has been manifested with the actual intensity of trade; and fighting has been engaged in almost every night.

I cannot ignore the situation. It is disturbing that in a significant part of the department of Constantine, bands of outlaws are active and engaging in ongoing recruitment. These bands occasionally adorn themselves with the title of National Liberation Army. In terms of liberation, the bring only oppression and terror. They call themselves national, and drawing their directives from abroad, they slay their brothers in religion. They make their way through fires, looting, and crime.

…It has now been three months since I arrive in Algier. From the beginning, I knew I would have to face a triple task: first to attack and reduce the evil itself, while at the same time and in the immediate future, bring emergency remedy to the most serious deficiencies of our economic and social situation, and ultimately find and tackle the root causes, the reasons, and the pretexts for these problems. This threefold concern has never left.

I could measure with all clarity that what held all of these together were troubled regions where there lived a very unhappy population, where the absence of roads and tracks, the scarcity of schools, and the ways of poverty, opposed a barrier to progress and civilization. It must be said: The Aures, the North Constantine, and other parts of the country are still under-equipped and under-administered. A large area of 100,000 souls, moreover rendered impenetrable by rugged landscape, there is only an assistant director and some teachers of a school, this is what explains many events. Such regions, and it is a lived reality in a world of its own, which would lead to a prelude and real dissent, fueled by foreign enemies of France and protected by no means communication.

So my first order was to open modern civilization to these poor regions, to advance the roads, establish the schools, to give the population additional ways of existence, and to restore effective administration and tutelary. Plans have been developed and approved and will be applied relentlessly and in opposition to troublemakers who are also perpetrators of misery. But we need men, and this is where the greatest difficulty arises. Algeria, we must recognize, still has an insufficient administrative framework. Those who used to be called administrators of mixed municipalities were seen abandoned, condemned to gradual extinction, as if Algeria could do without to them. It was necessary to recreate an administration in deprived areas, but where to find the artisans? I had to appeal in the immediate future, the officer corps of indigenous Affairs of Morocco, not forgetting what he owed to Algeria, brought me for a temporary period, a welcoming assistance.

…But if we intend to perform more than ever that peaceful mission was the respect of the people of good will, we also intend to deal with merciless rigor those who defy the law and stand against our authority. In agreement with the Government, I gave the necessary orders for those rebels whose weapons were seized to be punished mercilessly and without delay and also that their accomplices are to be prosecuted and punished. Any liability incurred under any form whatsoever, by any person who supports or aids an outlaw will be sanctioned without weakness.

Because a showdown has been engaged in the challenge we face, we will win to put an end to fear and restore peace. I now address the whole Algerian population, whether of European or Muslim origin, I say to them: in this struggle, our interest is the same. All must contribute to trust, to give into defeatism is to play into the hands of the rebels. The Government has decided to recall the colors of the Algerian contingent that will take part in the defense of their homes and their land. Under the control of military authorities, populations are associated with their own defense. Everything will be done to ensure that those who sow in fear can reap in peace.

Nobody has the right to doubt the willingness of the Government or put an end to my insecurity, or to barter assistance. The union of all for the good of all is a duty today. I ask, I will require if necessary, I will impose if I do, that this duty is fulfilled, because it is for the salvation of Algeria and France.

Soustelle: Declaration to Radio Algeria, 26 January 1956 Top

Source: Jaques Soustelle. 1956. ”Aimée et Souffrante Algérie,” Paris: Librarie Plon. [My translation]

Tonight, I speak in particular to my fellow Algerian Muslims. I would like to speak about the great drama of the schools.

Because it is their schools that are destroyed, night after night, by terrorists. These are schools in farmlands and in mountains with few Europeans. These were small schools in Kabylia, for Arabs, and they are fewer now that they have been burned. When I took the detour routes through Kabylia, from the Aures, in the Constantine region, last year, I was able to spend some time with the members of the djemaâ [community/religious gathering] with the community leaders and farmers, and they always asked for more classes, more teachers, and more schools. A hundred times I was seized with deep emotion on hearing these very poor men, with overwhelming material worries, show me that before anything else, they want more education and more enlightenment for their children. The Algerian people understand that the development and knowledge is the necessary condition for advancement and progress. That is why Algeria has not stopped asking for even more schools, and occasionally when a school was built in a distant village, it was a common victory for all of French Algeria, Europeans and Muslims alike, against the common enemy which is ignorance.

The Metropole has greatly contributed to make the construction of more schools possible. This year, our plan has doubled last year’s forecast. Whenever a school arises, do not forget that the French of France, the workers of Lille, the peasants of Burgandy, the merchants of Leon, the professors of Paris, have brought their offering. This is the solidarity of nation that unites us all, regardless of origin.

Here are today systematically, terrorists burn these schools who were the testimony and the symbol of culture, understanding and peace. How could they claim to act on behalf or in the interest of the Muslim people? These people want to get to know to live better, they want to force him to wallow in ignorance. The people want peace in harmony, they want war without end, without any other result than to spread ruin and death.

My dear fellow Muslims, these people who are destroying schools do not bring happiness. They are unable to help you improve your everyday existence. They do not know that demolish and burn.

We have many things to do together so that life becomes better for all in Algeria, and first for you. We all realize was that France has always wanted: the equality of rights and duties among all its son, without any discrimination based on the origin of man, in accordance with the tradition and espirit de la Republique. This is difficult, of course, but it is the salvation of Algeria that order.

If all men of good will there is in this country, all reasonable men agree to work together despite the destructive and violent, then we will win the confidence in justice and in friendship.

Open Letter from Henri Maillot, 1956 Top


The French writer Jules Roy, an air force colonel, wrote a few months ago: “If I were a Muslim I’d be on the side of the fellaghas.” I’m not Muslim, but I am Algerian of European origin. I consider Algeria to be my homeland. I feel that I should have the same obligations towards it as all of its children. At a moment when the Algerian people has risen up to free its soil from the colonialist yoke, my place is at the side of those who have taken up the fight for liberation. The colonialist press cries out “treason,” while at the same time it adopts the separatist appeals of Boyer-Bance. It cried “treason” when under Vichy French officers passed over to the Resistance, while it served Hitler and fascism. In truth, the traitors to France are those who, in order to serve their selfish interests, disfigure in the eyes of the Algerians the true face of France and its people, with its generous, revolutionary, and anti-colonialist traditions. What is more, every progressive in France and the world recognizes the legitimacy and correctness of our national demands. The Algerian people, so long scorned and humiliated, has taken its place in the great historic movement for the liberation of colonial peoples which has set Africa and Asia ablaze. Its victory is certain. It is not, as the big landowners of this country would like to have you believe, a racial combat, but a fight of the oppressed without distinction of origin against their oppressors and their lackeys, without distinction of race. This isn’t a matter of a movement directed against France and the French, or against the workers of European or Israelite origin. They have a place in our country. We don’t confuse them with our people’s oppressors. In carrying out my act, in delivering to the Algerian combatants the arms they need for the fight for liberation, arms that will be used exclusively against the military and police forces and their accomplices, I am conscious of having served the interests of my country and my people. Including those of the momentarily misled European workers.

Editorial of the First Issue of “El Moudjahid,” 1956 Top


It is about time that an organ of resistance fighters comes to be, to fill a certain void in order to make known to the Algerian people in struggle, and to a world polarized by the war in Algeria, the voice of our fighters. “El Moudjahid,” added to “Résistance Algérienne” will be the official voice of the FLN, and the mirror of the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN).

The immense political importance of the current war, the prestigious exploits of the Moudjahidines, the untold suffering which the Algerian people suffers with a rare spirit of sacrifice at the hands of imperialist soldiery, need to be made known.

To be sure, the truth about the glorious acts of our fighters appears even through the official French lies, the news appearing in colonialist newspapers, and the disarray of the French government. To be sure, the correctness of the revolutionary politics of the FLN is no longer in question. To be sure, the ferocious repression under the sinister stick of Mollet-Lacoste does nothing but galvanize the Algerians in the war for their liberation. So many clearly obvious factors suffice, in themselves, to assure the most skeptical of our inevitable victory. If the entire truth was known in all its detail, the most skeptical would become the most enthusiastic; the most indifferent — but do they still exist? — would rush to our side; the pacifist world, which still believes in the so-called liberalism of the French government, would see its hair stand on end before this unspeakable war, which the rulers impose in contempt of the right of peoples to self-determination, and in permanent violation of the international conventions which rule the conduct of conflicts.

The propagation and spreading of the truth on the War of Independence, of its goal for peace, prolongs the military successes of the ALN and consolidates the unity of the Algerian people, that unity in combat and sacrifice of which is capable only a people able to rule over its own destiny. This is the basic need that “El Moudjahid” will attempt to meet.

Some will doubtless be surprised by the choice of title, which they might believe inspired by a form of political sectarianism or religious fundamentalism, when our goal is to liberate ourselves of de-nationalising colonialist restraints, and for democracy and equality among all Algerians, regardless of race or religion.

We must respond. The word “jihad” (holy war) from which “el moudjahid” (fighter for the faith) derives, has always been, because of an anti-Islamic prejudice that dates from the Crusades, taken in the Christian West in a limited and restrictive sense. It is taken as a symbol of religious aggressiveness. This interpretation is rendered absurd by the very fact that Islam is tolerant, and the respect of religions, in particular Judaism and Christianity, is one of its fundamental precepts, something which, in fact, has been in practice over the centuries.
“Jihad,” reduced to its essential element, is quite simply a dynamic manifestation of self-defense, for the preservation or the recovery of a heritage of superior and indispensable values for both the individual and the group. It is also the will to continually perfect oneself in all areas.

It just so happens that Islam was in Algeria the last refuge of these values hounded and profaned by an outrageous colonialism. Is there any reason then to be surprised that , in recovering a national consciousness, it contributes to the victory of a just cause?
Thus, the word “jihad” has necessarily evolved with time, and its meaning becomes more clear. Adapting itself to the modern world, in this mid 20th century which more particularly concerns us, it puts in ever clearer relief the unshakeable will, the concentration of effort, the sprit of total sacrifice up to martyrdom, to totally destroy the existing retrograde system. It doesn’t include any religious or racial hatred, any form of exclusivity or conformism, if only that of the unity necessary for final victory.

So understood, “jihad” is a quintessentially liberal and open patriotism. It’s the soldier of the ALN, it’s the political activist, the liaison agent, the little shepherd who provides information, the housewife in the casbah who comments on events, the little schoolchild in Algiers who goes out on strike, it’s economic sabotage, the student who joins the resistance fighters, the distributor of tracts, the peasant who suffers and hopes along with his family. In a word, it’s that ensemble of efforts carried forward by the wheel of history, guided by the FLN, and converging on a single goal, the independence of the country.

That said, we must add that a war can never be holy enough against a colonial regime which after a cowardly aggression in 1830 has, for the past 125 years, tried to exterminate the Algerian people and, not being able to do so, has worked to despoil it and exploit it to the extreme, to maintain it in fetters, in an iron collar of political domination, to systematically violate its language, its religion, its traditions.

Today, this regime measures up to its predecessors in offering itself a last few minutes of massacres and atrocities against civilian populations, at the same time as it flees combat before our invincible “moudjahidines.”

In calling itself “El Moudjahid” this brochure does nothing but consecrate this glorious name, which since November 1, 1954 the good sense of our people has attributed to the patriots who took up arms for a free, independent, and democratic Algeria.
In the gigantic combat that will continue until victory, it takes its place in serving as the eye, the ear, the voice, the objective informer of opinion, the meeting place of resistance fighters and people. In this, it is already conscious of the role which falls to it. Let us hope it fulfils it. Until the end!

Appeal of the FLN to Our Israelite Compatriots, 1 October 1956 Top


The National Liberation Front, which has led the anti-colonialist revolution for the past two years, feels that the moment has arrived when every Algerian of Israelite origin, in light of his own experience, must without any ambiguity choose sides in this great historic battle. The FLN, authentic and exclusive representative of the Algerian people, considers it its obligation to directly address the Israelite community and to ask it to solemnly affirm its membership in the Algerian nation. This choice clearly affirmed, it will dissipate all misunderstandings and extirpate the seeds of hatred maintained by French colonialism. It will also contribute to recreating Algerian fraternity, broken by the arrival of French colonialism.

Since the revolution of November 1, 1954 the Israelite community of Algeria, worried about its fate and its future, has been subject to various political fluctuations. At the last meeting of the World Jewish Congress the Algerian delegates, contrary to their fellows from Tunisia and Morocco, pronounced themselves, to our great regret, for French citizenship. It was only after the colonialist-fascist troubles of February 6, in the course of which anti-Jewish slogans re-appeared, that the Israelite community took a neutralist attitude. Following this, a group of Israelites of all conditions, most notably from Algiers, had the courage to undertake a clearly anti-colonialist action in affirming its reasoned and definitive choice for Algerian nationality. These people have not forgotten the colonialist-fascist anti-Jewish pogroms which sporadically occurred, leading up to the infamous Vichy regime.

Without going too far back in history, it seems useful to us to recall the time when the Jews, held in less consideration than animals, didn’t even have the right to inter their dead, the latter being secretly buried during the night wherever this could be done, due to the absolute prohibition against the Jews having any cemeteries. At precisely this period Algeria was the refuge and land of freedom for the Israelites who fled the inhuman persecutions of the Inquisition. Precisely during this period the Israelite community was proud to offer its Algerian fatherland not only poets, but consuls and ministers.

It is because the FLN considers the Algerian Israelites the sons of our Fatherland that it hopes that the leaders of the Jewish community will have the wisdom to contribute to the building of a free and truly fraternal Algeria. The FLN is convinced that the leaders will understand that it is their duty and in the interest of the whole Israelite community to no longer remain above the fray, to uncompromisingly condemn the dying French colonialist regime, and to proclaim their opting for Algerian citizenship.

Patriotic greetings. Somewhere in Algeria. October 1, 1956

Letter to the Europeans of Algeria, 7 October 1957 Top


For the past three years Algeria has been the theatre of an atrocious war. Blood flows profusely, increasing both mourning and hatred. Insecurity reigns throughout the country, and you live in a state of fear. The lies that are poured out every day prevent you from seeing things clearly. Before anything else, you must know the truth that they are trying to hide from you.
No! Force can’t reduce the Algerians at will
● First, because the demands of a people to its own national life is natural and legitimate. Those who think they can crush the idea of freedom through violence are mad! The Algerians will not stop fighting until they are free
● Next, because it’s the entire people who fight behind the Algerian Resistance, a fact recognized by General de Bollardière when he said that the void in the population met by the French Army is infinitely greater than that in Vietnam.
Despite the presence of 500,000 French soldiers, despite the horrible repression, Lacoste’s “pacification” has failed.

No! The struggle doesn’t have a racial character

The Algerians aren’t making war on the French people or the Europeans of Algeria, but on FRENCH COLONIALISTS. Besides, isn’t it true that many European Algerians participate in this struggle alongside their Moslem brothers? They are Communists, liberals, Christians.

Some have sacrificed their life to this just cause, like Henri Maillot, Fernand Yveton, Maurice Laban, Raymonde Peschard. Many of them are in prison or in camps.

No! The Algerians don’t want to throw you into the sea!

All of the Algerian national organizations, without exception, have given the strictest assurances that all Algerians, without distinction of origin, will have the same rights and obligations in the Algeria of tomorrow.

As for those Europeans of Algeria who want to keep French citizenship, agreements with France could guarantee their legitimate rights and interests reciprocally with that of Algerians working in France.

Contrary to what colonialist propaganda wants you to believe, the future Algerian Republic will not be theocratic. The different Algerian national organizations have expressed this: it will be democratic and social.

As for relations with France, no Algerian patriot denies its necessity in the interests of Algeria itself.

You ask yourselves:

So why this cruel war?

Who is responsible?

It is those who, after having conquered a land that didn’t belong to them, have spent 127 years enslaving its people, degrading them, ridiculing them, refusing them any kind of dignity, sabotaging the few laws grudgingly granted by Paris, shamefully falsifying elections, refusing the most rudimentary instruction to the majority of Algerian children, denying all official rights to the Arabic language, and keeping the majority of Algerians in the most atrocious poverty.

It is the colonialists, the big bosses, the big landowners like Bourgeaud, shareholders of the big companies or banks, and financiers like Alain de Serigny, director of the newspaper the “Echo d’Alger,” who now lives in Paris.

Those who push for the prolongation of the conflict

Yesterday they served Hitler and Vichy in the name of French Sovereignty. Today, fearing defeat, they are preparing their fall-back position, exporting their capital, buying land in France and South America. This is the proof that your future doesn’t worry them.

They benefit from a privileged regime and exploit you the way they exploit — though even more ferociously — the Muslims. They claim to rule all, forcing merchants to close their stores whenever they want, lynching Muslims on the streets, kidnapping and executing people with impunity. The group that was responsible for the attack on General Salan [3](whose aide-de-camp was killed) has not yet been put on trial.

Hoping to preserve their privileges, they incite the prolongation of the conflict, and respond to the wish for negotiations of the Liberation Movement by
A regime of generalized terror

Bombings of mechtas that decimate the civilian population; doubtful “suicides,” like those of Larbi Ben M’Hidi and Ali Boumendjel; tragic disappearances, like that of Maurice Audin; tortures inflicted on any arrested suspect, the signs of which many Europeans bear on their flesh (from the Communist Gaby Gimenez to the Catholic Evelyne Lavalette, not to mention the editor of “Alger Républicain” Henri Alleg); death sentences and executions without proof of guilt; concentration camps; killing off of the wounded after combat, etc…

This horrible face of colonial war explains the fact that exasperated patriots answer by the bomb and the grenade. And how can we forget that there were several tens of victims of these attacks, while colonialist barbarism has already caused SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSAND DEAD, among the Algerians?

With the help of the Parachutists (many of whom are former Nazis) and the support of Lacoste, the colonialists have suppressed every vestige of freedom, preparing Algeria for the fascist regime they dream of installing in France. “Espoir,” the only liberal newspaper has been practically forbidden; the UGSA and UGTA unions have been dissolved. All liberals are considered suspect, watched, arrested.

For negotiations

You ask yourselves when will all this end.

By its refusal to negotiate or to apply the recommendation of the UN for a peaceful, democratic and just solution to the Algerian problem, the French government has prolonged the war. Bourgès-Manoury, put in the minority on the project of the loi-cadre, which was nothing but a pale camouflage for the benefit of the UN, has just resigned from the government.

On this subject, is it not particularly grotesque to note the efforts expended by the settlers to defeat that law or restrict its content? If it were true, as they claim, that all Algerians (“with the exception of a few fanatics”) are with them, why would they fear such a ludicrous law? In truth, and they know this very well, the entire people is behind the Algerian resistance. Nothing can stop it!


Thanks in particular to the actions of the PCF in defending the right of peoples to self-determination, and its taking in hand the true interests of the French people, the idea of negotiations is gaining ground in France, not only among workers — whose sons are killed here for the big planters and who have to pay two billion francs a day for the war — but also among patriotic individuals of all stripes.
Your place is not at the side of the ultras!

Only a noisy minority of ultras, in France as well as Algeria, opposes a negotiated settlement.
What do you have to do with them? Your future cannot be guaranteed by the current policy of force, or by the presence of 500,000 soldiers who, incidentally, France cannot keep here eternally. Your interests, and those of your children, is to integrate yourselves into the young Algerian republic of tomorrow, which will make room for all of its children.

In the near term, it is in your interest to separate yourselves from the racist demonstrations of the ultras, to disapprove of the positions taken by the organizations of fascist trouble-makers, which group together the Federation des Maires, the Comité d’Entente des Anciens Combattants, the Association des Etudiants and other committees which, all together, represent only a small minority of the European population of Algeria.

It is in your interest to firmly support all positive actions for the opening of negotiations, for an end to the war, so that freedom and peace, equality and friendship among all the children of Algeria will finally triumph.

President Charles de Gaulle’s broadcast to the people of France on the Algerian Crisis, 1959 Top

Source: The History Channel, speeches. Mutual Broadcasting System audio of Charles de Gaulle’s speech on the Algerian Crisis. [11 September 2012]

Today I wear my uniform as general to show that I am general of the army, as well as president of France. Some have taken the path of insurrection, they have fired upon troops and they have killed good soldiers. They have arisen with arms in their hands against the authority of France. They were initially assisted by the favorable uncertainties of some of the military elements, and they based themselves upon the feverish passions excited by the leaders. They have by all these means up till now obtained the support of a part of the European population. They presented the forced closure of the means of transport and of stores, and they have tried to produce a rupture of national unity, and have even aroused the indignation of the French nation. There isn’t a single man of good sense who will not be aware of the consequence that might flow from this horrible situation if it were to perpetuate itself. In the face of these blows upon France I address myself first of all to the French of Algeria, they have known me for a long time. On numerous occasions I have found myself among them, in particular during the war when a large number of its sons had fought in the Army of Liberation, or, after the May ‘58 troubles when I had taken the leadership of France in order to unite France on either side of the Mediterranean. And now an effort is being made to disrupt this unity which I hold very near to my heart.


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