Friday, September 02, 2011

Algerian Memories

WITH Libya's NATO-backed rebels still not confirmed in power or able to restore things like water supplies, it was a bit alarming to hear them threatening neighbouring Algeria by saying it was guilty of "an act of war" simply by allowing members of the Gaddafi family to take refuge.
Particularly as some of the Libyans are reputedly from the same Afghan war jihadi background as already gave Algeria such grief.

It is also a bit nauseating to see Sarkozy and co. licking their chops at the prospect of big contracts and oil concessions in Libya, while people there are still desperate for life's essentials.

Those who remember what France was like when it was the colonial power in the Maghreb, and the fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen one of many officers waging war and terror against the Algerian people may also remember the name Henri Alleg. He was one of the French Algerians who did stand up for the Algerian people's rights, and his book La Question, (1958) describing how he was tortured by the French paratroops, was banned in France, but became an international seller. The second edition had an introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre. I was still at school when I got hold of a copy of Alleg's book and so I'd guess he contributed to my lasting political outlook.

It was with particular pleasure therefore that I received the latest issue of Socialist History , no.39, which is commemorating the 1954-62 Algerian struggle and has an interview with Henri Alleg, still a member of the French Communist Party, although not uncritical. As well as telling us more about the Algerian struggle from his angle, it reveals the fascinating (for me!) fact that Alleg was born in 1921 neither in France nor Algeria, but in the East End of London.

I was also interested by what he has to say about Jose Aboulker, whose name I knew from reading about the 1942 Algiers rising against the Vichy. Timed to coincide with the Allied Operation Torch and landings in Algeria, this succeeded beyond the rebels' dreams in that they captured the Vichyite Admiral Darlan - only to have the Americans put Darlan in charge of Algeria and keep the rebels and leftists locked up. Perhaps this is why US and British histories often don't mention it.

What I had not realised was that Aboulker went on to emerge as a left-wing deputy and spoke out about the post-war Setif massacre, and Algerians' aspirations for independence.

This issue of Socialist History also has articles on Franz Fanon, and on Algerian immigrant workers in France, and a first-hand account by Rose Appel of experience in a Nazi labour camp.

Those who like me have seen the reluctance of many on the Left to acknowledge the ill-treatment of liberation fighters by SWAPO in Namibia will be please d to see an article by Henning Melber "On the limits to liberation in Southern Africa" which deals frankly with this.

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At 9:13 PM, Anonymous skidmarx said...

You're an excellent and informative writer, and I hope the lack of comments doesn't indicate a lack of readership.


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