The Battle for Internationalization and Independence



The Algerian Revolution was, of course, a battle in Algeria and, to a lesser extent, in France. Yet, it was also an international fight between the FLN and its supporters and the French state and those eager to learn from its counter-revolutionary doctrine. Samia Henni describes this battle and its legacy from the 1960s all the way to the ongoing Hirak.

The Algerian Revolution, or the Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962), was waged against the tumultuous backdrop of the Cold War. It was not only a war between French army officers and the Algerian Armée de libération nationale (ALN, or National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Algerian Front de libération nationale—FLN, or National Liberation Front); it was also a conflict between the French civil and military authorities, among French army officers, between the French Left and Right, between French communists and leftists, between French Gaullists and right-wing parties, between the Eastern and Western blocs, and among Algerian elites. However, until 1999, the French government euphemistically called the war “Les opérations de maintien de l’ordre” (“operations for the enforcement of law and order”), “Les évènements d’Algérie” (“Algerian events”), or “La question algérienne” (“The Algerian question”). In France, and thereby in most Western countries, the term “war” was formally recognized 37 years after the ceasefire in 1962, when on October 18, 1999, under the presidency of Jacques Chirac, the French authorities finally approved the use of the appellation “La Guerre d’Algérie” (“the Algerian War,” alternately translated as “the War for Algeria”) at French schools and in official terminology.

This armed conflict granted Algeria its independence from France after 132 years of colonization, dispossession, and violence. While the members of the ALN, FLN, and pro-Algerian-independence movements sought to liberate Algeria, France’s civil and military representatives, representing either the left-or right-wing of the political spectrum, all fought to ensure that Algeria was dominated by French colonial rule and to protect French economic interests in colonized Algeria. To this end, the war for and on Algeria’s territory was essential for both the revolutionaries (pro-independence) and the counter-revolutionaries (anti-independence). Whereas the keyword for the revolutionaries was “dispersion,” for the counter-revolutionaries it was “concentration.” The French colonial authorities considered the entire population living in colonized Algeria, including French nationals, as potential suspects. The line of demarcation between friend and foe was blurred. No physical frontier separates the two camps. Accordingly, the battlefield was no longer restricted to simple territorial boundaries but, rather, encompassed the entire territory of Algeria.