Country Listing

Algeria Table of Contents



The FLN uprising presented nationalist groups with the question of whether to adopt armed revolt as the main mode of action. During the first year of the war, Abbas's UDMA, the ulama, and the PCA maintained a friendly neutrality toward the FLN. The communists, who had made no move to cooperate in the uprising at the start, later tried to infiltrate the FLN, but FLN leaders publicly repudiated the support of the party. In April 1956, Abbas flew to Cairo, where he formally joined the FLN. This action brought in many évolués who had supported the UDMA in the past. The AUMA also threw the full weight of its prestige behind the FLN. Bendjelloul and the prointegrationist moderates had already abandoned their efforts to mediate between the French and the rebels.

After the collapse of the MTLD, Messali Hadj formed the leftist National Algerian Movement (Mouvement National Algérien-- MNA), which advocated a policy of violent revolution and total independence similar to that of the FLN. The ALN subsequently wiped out the MNA guerrilla operation, and Messali Hadj's movement lost what little influence it had had in Algeria. However, the MNA gained the support of a majority of Algerian workers in France through the Union of Algerian Workers (Union Syndicale des Travailleurs Algériens). The FLN also established a strong organization in France to oppose the MNA. Merciless "café wars," resulting in nearly 5,000 deaths, were waged in France between the two rebel groups throughout the years of the War of Independence.

On the political front, the FLN worked to persuade--and to coerce--the Algerian masses to support the aims of the independence movement. FLN-oriented labor unions, professional associations, and students' and women's organizations were organized to rally diverse segments of the population. Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist from Martinique who became the FLN's leading political theorist, provided a sophisticated intellectual justification for the use of violence in achieving national liberation. From Cairo, Ben Bella ordered the liquidation of potential interlocuteurs valables, those independent representatives of the Muslim community acceptable to the French through whom a compromise or reforms within the system might be achieved.

As the FLN campaign spread through the countryside, many European farmers in the interior sold their holdings and sought refuge in Algiers, where their cry for sterner countermeasures swelled. Colon vigilante units, whose unauthorized activities were conducted with the passive cooperation of police authorities, carried out ratonnades (literally, rat-hunts; synonymous with Arab-killings) against suspected FLN members of the Muslim community. The colons demanded the proclamation of a state of emergency, the proscription of all groups advocating separation from France, and the imposition of capital punishment for politically motivated crimes.

By 1955 effective political action groups within the colon community succeeded in intimidating the governors general sent by Paris to resolve the conflict. A major success was the conversion of Jacques Soustelle, who went to Algeria as governor general in January 1955 determined to restore peace. Soustelle, a one-time leftist and by 1955 an ardent Gaullist, began an ambitious reform program (the Soustelle Plan) aimed at improving economic conditions among the Muslim population.

Data as of December 1993