(my work on this translation began in April 2018; this is work in progress, in more ways than one, so please be patient… if you want to know how the war ended, go to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algerian_War; this is the draft which I plan to continually revise/edit/improve)
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Among modern histories of liberation struggles and wars of anti-colonial movements, as well as among histories of peoples’ movements of Asia and Africa, and histories of various developments and processes that occurred after World War Two, a special place belongs to the Algerian Revolution. The Algerian Revolution is one of the most prominent and most characteristic revolutions based on the conditions from which it sprung, on its preparations, motives of the revolutionary actions and on the experience which it brings to the international and global understanding of liberation movements.
This topic was a special interest of research for the author because he had an opportunity, as a journalist and a historian¹, to follow the Algerian Revolution from its inception; to be in contact with people who lead it; to be with the fighters and the people and their armed struggle; he also had an opportunity to be present during political and diplomatic activities from their beginnings, which accompanied this armed struggle and revolutionary activity of the whole people.
It has also been necessary to give my own contribution to the study of the revolution of 1954-1964, as well as to the study of the rich history of Algeria because of superficial, unscientific and biased/one-sided interpretations and even intentional falsifications of Algerian history by politicians and journalists ideologically and politically tied to colonialism. These interpretations impeded the development of the revolutionary consciousness of the Algerian community, and the formation of the revolutionary movement of Algeria.
¹Being an historian by calling, as soon as I became physically distanced from Algeria (after it gained independence) in 1962, and while I was still inspired by the epic heroism of the Algerian people, I felt responsible to contribute to the study of the history of the revolution, objectively, using scientific methodology and approach.
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Furthermore, in the works of its ideologues and many historians, French imperialism promoted the thesis of Algeria as a country and community without its past and traditions, whose history begins only with the arrival of the French conquerors. According to that interpretation, no one in Algeria is a true native, so “all nations of the world,” and especially those of the Mediterranean – whose representatives came together with the French conqueror–have as much right to the Algerian soil, to its past and present, as the native population which immigrated here just as the Europeans did.2
A large number of French historians are of the opinion that, up to the French conquest of 1830, one could talk only about Turkish rule in Algeria, which was antagonistically oriented towards both the native population and France, and Europe as well. Historians G. Gautherot, G. Esquer, Grammont and others, claim, for example, that the French campaign of conquering Algeria was aimed not against the native population but against the thin layer of the Turkish rulers and their hirelings—Janissaries.3 But at the same time, they do not insist on the existence of some kind of a direct control that the High Porte exerted over the Algerian dey. The fundamental thesis that neither the country of Algeria, nor its community and people existed before the arrival of the French remained. Having adopted this point of view, and at the moment when it was necessary to find the solutions for the problems caused by the Algerian uprising, (i.e., to negotiate with the Algerian people over the independence and sovereignty of their country), the President of the French Republic, General De Gaulle, stated on Sept. 16, 1959 that, “There has never been an Algerian state, in any shape or form.”4 Thus, the conclusion that, in Algeria, the principle of self-determination cannot be established in relation to the native population as a whole, but only in relation to individuals representing various ethnic, linguistic, racial, and religious groups. The aim of this position was to impede an understanding of the true nature of the community in Algeria.
2The official textbooks on Algeria, up to 1962, which elaborated these theses are: S. et Chaulanges, Cours élémentaire, Delagrave, 1949; Ballot et Marc, Cours moyen; A. Colin, Paris 1953; Kuhn et Ozouf, La géographie au certificat d’études, Delagrave, 1949.
3Gustave Gautherot, La Conquete d’Alger 1830, Paris 1929; Gabriel Esquer, La Prise d’Alger 1830, Alger 1923; 1856, 1867; H. D. Grammont, Histoire dAlger sous la domination turque (1515—1830), Paris, 1887.
4 Le Monde, 17, September 1959.
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Such attitudes were based upon widely disseminated works of the ideologues of French colonialism, in particular Jacques Soustelle according to whom there had never been an Algerian people, so therefore no one in the whole Algeria was even aware of their existence (5), and the armed rebellion of 1954 was the act of a Pan-Arab conspiracy (6). According to E. F. Gauthier, the French, the masters of Maghreb, came to Algeria after the Turks, whose rule followed the Arab rule, just as the Arabs came after Byzantium, and the Byzantines came after the Vandals, who came after the Romans, who came after the Carthaginians. In other words, there has been a cascade of foreign domination which has never been interrupted, not for a moment, either by local autonomy or by some independent state. In addition, foreign conquerors have never been kicked out of Algeria by some native rebellion; they have always been directly expelled by another conqueror, the heir of an earlier conqueror. No other country in the world — Gauthier tells us — has been so predisposed not to be an independent community, as Algeria has been, as this curious inability to exist as an independent community has already been confirmed for two thousand years. (7) According to J. Despois, Algeria is a country without any geographical and historical cohesion, and it only got its name and unity from the French. (8) French colonialism created its own analyses of Algerian past in such manner, and those analyses were to provide perspectives to colonialism and to answer questions about the future of colonialism.
(5) Ferhat Abbas contributes to this thesis in his early articles where he claims that there is no Algerian people. Ferhat Abbas, Le Jeune Algérien, Alger 1931, L’Entente, Alger 1939.
(6) J. Soustelle, Aimée et souffrante Algérie, Plon, Paris 1956, 142-221.
(7) Une œuvre francaise: l’Algérie. Conférence organisée par la Société des anciens élèves de l’école libre des sciences politiques. Paris, 1929. The speech by E. F. Gauthier, University of Algeria professor, 293.
(8) J. Despois says: “Turkish Algeria was an artificial construction inherited by the French. Three Turkish provinces became three French departments, but Algeria was not homogenous. Some neighboring tribes did not even know each other.
Algeria was a country without geographic and historical cohesion. The Turks artificially divided it, and Algeria should thank France for giving it its name, marked the borders, organized administration modeled upon its own, brought many settles and introduced new industry. Outside of Europe, there is not one Islamic country where the population is in such close contact with the Europeans and under their cultural influence.
Algeria with its neighbors was a theocracy. The Turks managed to create a very fragile, though well- organized military protectorate in the central region of Maghreb. Without the dey and his government, Algeria soon revealed its true nature to the French—an inorganic collection of tribes and villages which had no basic skeleton that the new administration could bolster itself. Jean Despois, L’Afrique du Nord, I, Paris, 1958, 162-164.
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“Never has imperialism falsified history as brutally as was the case in Algeria. Never has it generated so many obvious falsehoods with so much persistence and so much stubbornness,” states an article in El Moudjahid – abbreviated as E.M.), the official organ of the FLN. The anonymous writer, reporting on the inspiring thoughts of the revolutionaries, thoughts born in the heat of the struggle and without a possibility of scientific research, points out that the imperialist thesis which denies the existence of the Algerian nation has been widely accepted on the French left as well as it has been infected by the imperialist ideology “because of their ignorance of history or because of the mistakes in regards to their perspective.” Criticizing the position of the French Left, and especially the position of the French CP [communist party], El Moudjahid presents an interesting idea that the communists were unable to see that “one of the main generators of the national Algerian struggle was exactly the idea which Algerians themselves are creating from their past.” The Left underestimated the role of national culture, of spiritual and historical values that enabled Algerians to preserve their pride and maintain the belief in their homeland even during the most difficult moments of colonialism. Algerian nation is not some recent innovation of yesterday; it is not a straw for which Algerian people grasps in order to free themselves from the repulsive exploitation suffered under colonialism,” El Moudjahid writes at the moment of full-blown revolution, in 1958. (9)
According to the Algerian perspective, such is the state of science dealing with the history of this country, although there are exceptions like Mostefa Lacheraf, Charles-Andre Julien, and other Algerian and French scholars who did their research conscientiously. Because of all these factors, the author of this work faces the necessity to examine Algerian past scientifically; such an examination would clarify various phenomena and specifics of transitioning to the armed rebellion, of leading the war of liberation, of winning it, and of socialistic reconstruction of an independent Algeria, which would thus be a logical result of such development. My examination of the problem followed genetic, and not illustrative, components of viewing the historical conditions continuity which represents specific phases in the development of the Algerian community, its continuous non-interrupted maturation following the motifs and inevitability of
(9) El Moudjahid (the official organ of the FLN), February 1, 1958.
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revolutionary action. In order to describe our approach to this complex topic, its sources and literature, it should be said that this work, a doctoral dissertation in its first version, consists of three parts: Algeria within the Ottoman Empire framework; Algeria under the French rule; Nationalist movement and the Algerian revolution.As these periods are three separate though closely related, literature and primary sources available for each period were specific.