1960s >> 1961 >> no-682-june-1961
Editorial: What next in Algeria?
The Algerian tragedy continues its melancholy course. Rising to high drama at one moment, it topples over into anti-climax and something often close to farce the next.
We are still too near to the event to know the full story of the “four days” last April. In fact, it is likely that we shall never know, so complex are its ramifications, so inextricably is it caught up in a web of intrigue, treachery, and fanaticism, so overlaid with high-sounding idealism and underlaid with the basest self-seeking.
Regardless of speculation de Gaulle proceeds at full speed to implement the plans he has been working towards ever since he came to power in 1958. The Army has played into his hands, its morale and self-confidence shattered, at least for the moment. The way has been left wide open to the objective he has sworn to achieve before he dies—the “decolonisation” (he uses the word as though he was talking of getting rid of a disease) of France. But he will need to move fast.
Wiser to the ways of the world of modern capitalism and more far-seeing than many of the ruling-class he represents, he sees the march of events and where they are leading. He knows that no Power in the modern world can hold on to its possessions according to the old imperialist traditions of the past. In the three years of his administration almost the whole of the former French empire has been granted independence. Of the former important territories of that empire, only Algeria remains. And, says de Gaulle, with that characteristically withering turn of phrase, devoid alike of delusion and sentiment, “l’Algerie de Papa est morte” — “Daddy’s Algeria is dead”!
Daddy’s Algeria may well be dead, but nobody knows what the new one will be like. De Gaulle is staking all on an independent Algeria still within the orbit and influence of French capitalism, as he has successfully achieved with the great majority of the other former French territories. What is supremely important now for the French ruling-class is to retain their control over the Saharan oilfields and the vast deposits of natural gas. not to speak of the mineral wealth they also hope to discover in the future.
That is the hope. But there are many perils and possible pitfalls ahead. Nobody can say what the talks at Evian between the French and the F.L.N. will bring. Nobody knows what the European settlers will do, particularly the fanatics among than — there is already evidence that these latter are prepared to go to any lengths to frustrate de Gaulle’s plans. Nor does anybody have any real idea of what is in the minds of the leaders of the F.L.N.. preoccupied for seven years in fighting a bitter war and now faced with sitting round a conference table. There is still a terrible possibility that the next news to come out of Algeria will be of carnage and devastation as to make even the last seven years of its sufferings only a prelude in comparison.
We know that history, by which we mean in this case the inexorable demands of capitalism, will catch up with Algeria, as it will with East Africa. Angola, and South Africa.
But what a terrible price it will have exacted in human suffering by the time it does so.