May 102009

(asked by db from??? Maybe it’s the same David B than previously)

I would like to know your opinion on France’s role in Algeria during the 1950s (actually during Algeria’s war for independence), as well as their previous occupation of the country since about 1860 and Napoleon III.

(…) I feel like there’s enough America bashing for the moment, I’d like to see some France bashing too (although you did say that history books and teaching programs are biased the world over, which is quite true).

Hope you’ll satisfy my request.

(without bashing me, as can happen so often in such online discussions and debates)

Don’t worry about being bashed, I don’t know why I would do it as your question is very interesting (and is a welcome and healthy change from the “I’m dating a Frenchman” type of questions). And I do American bashing only when necessary, on that topic, the US doesn’t come into play, so I don’t need to bash them (and if I bash America a lot, it’s because “qui aime bien, châtie bien” as we say in France).

That being said, your question is hard to answer as you’re asking my opinion on the thing, and I’m no historian (and if you want simple facts, I guess Wikipedia and other sites can do the work better than me).

So what do I think about the colonization of Algeria and, well, the rest of colonization in general?
I think colonization was unacceptable. I guess I can’t develop the issue more. Maybe I can say that I understand it in the context of the 19th Century, but that doesn’t make it OK nonetheless (wow, I hadn’t use “nonetheless” in years).

And as far as the Algerian war in concerned, same thing. It’s one of the stupidest things France has ever got involved in.
Once again, I understand the logic behind it. France’s influence and power in the world had been seriously damaged in the wake of WW2, and some people couldn’t accept the fact that a territory that they considered as part of France wanting to be independent.
For those who don’t know it, contrarily to most of the colonies that were just that, colonies, Algeria had been fully integrated as a part of France, and this is why there was a war there and not for the other colonies (the rest of Africa became independent quite peacefully), Indochina being another issue, and more some sort of epilogue of WW2 as well as a prologue of the Cold War.

For you Americans (no bashing, I promise), it’s a bit like Hawaii was asking to be independent. I don’t think many Americans would be OK with this.
OK, I admit, the comparison is not exactly the same as native Hawaiians have the same rights as other Americans living in Hawaii if I’m not wrong.
What about if the Navajos proclaimed the independence of Arizona? Maybe it’s more similar to what happened in Algeria.

But in the end of the day, this war was unacceptable as well as pretty much everything that was going on in Algeria at the time:
-Despite the fact that Algeria was considered as France, not everybody was equal there: native Algerians didn’t have the same rights as European French.
-European French were literally plundering all the riches of the country, and only them would benefit from them.
-Once again, oil was a major issue there, as if Algeria had been incorporated in French territory (and not the rest of the African colonies), it’s not only because a lot of European French had moved there (more than a million people at the time of the war, most of them being second or even third generation), it’s also because Algeria was the only source of oil France had without having to import.

I don’t know if that answers your question. There’s obviously much more to add to the topic if we go into details, in which I could go if necessary.

More Questions Answered:

  2 Responses to “What’s your opinion on France’s role in Algeria in the 50′s and the war.”

  1. Hi there, interesting post. I just want to clarify one thing - I understand the point you were making in referring to the Navajos seceding from Arizona, but in fact they (and all the other tribal nations in the USA) are already independent. Tribal nations (“nation” is not the same as simply “tribe”) are tribes recognized by the federal government of the US as sovereign nations. Meaning, we are actually independent nations within the USA borders, with our own governments and regulations. It’s kind of confusing, even most Americans don’t understand it. We are American citizens, and subject to federal laws (and taxes), but not to those of states. The subject gets a lot messier, but that’s the basics.

    But like I said, I understand the point you were making. When I lived in Bretagne, I thought it was pretty funny that there is a “Breton Liberation Organization” (although their main activity just seemed to be spray-painting graffiti on signs), and that so many Breton people still consider Bretagne an “occupied territory” and not truly part of France, though most of them wouldn’t actually consider seceding. I guess they just like to gripe about it.

    - Grace

  2. It’s interesting to recall that it was de Gaulle who decided to evacuate the French from Algeria and surrender the province. For this I believe he was targeted for assassination by the OAS. He also extricated France from Vietnam. He also warned Kennedy not to get involved there, sage advice we stupidly ignored.

    This is interesting because de Gaulle is often portrayed as a dyed in the wool France-first unreconstructed imperialist, yet in reality he oversaw the destruction of the French empire.

    The real issue remaining over the French in Algeria is the extensive torture carried out by French forces, and the continued protection granted to France’s torturers by the French government. It’s hard to be taken seriously on the issue of human rights when this remains the case.

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