Who would you have supported in the Algerian War of Independence?

Who would you have supported in the Algerian War of Independence?

  • The Algerian FLN

  • The French


Results are only viewable after voting.

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,286
SoCal
I made the last poll in regards to this, what, four years ago and thus I feel that it's time for a new poll in regards to this--as per Naomasa's advice. After all, we had some new people join this forum over the last several years.

Anyway, once again, I personally voted for the FLN--albeit reluctantly. I think that Algeria should have had the right of national self-determination just like the rest of the Maghreb did. The fact that northern Algeria was officially a part of France shouldn't be any more decisive IMHO than the fact that Ireland was officially a part of Britain until the 1920s. Even under a more limited approach to national self-determination only in regards to populations that have lived somewhere for an extremely long time (as opposed to national self-determination for recent immigrants and their descendants), one would think that Algerian Muslims would qualify for this considering that AFAIK most of their ancestors have lived there for centuries--if not even longer than that. Algerian Muslims do appear to have at least mostly wanted independence and they were an extremely solid majority in Algeria--being something like 90% of the total population (of course, perhaps something like 10% of these would have been harkis, which would have still resulted in something like 80% of Algerians being in favor of independence). Honestly, I'd also be willing to apply this logic to the US. While I wish that the US would remain united as one country, if such an arrangement genuinely couldn't permanently work--with the majority of the population in a particular (at least non-landlocked) US state wanting secession, I'd certainly personally be open to granting them this right--at least if an agreement was made with them beforehand in regards to this in regards to their debts, assets, et cetera. (The Confederacy, of course, would not count for this since it supported slavery and oppression of blacks. Indeed, the Union was the right side to back in the American Civil War, IMHO.)

I'd also support Algerian independence because I, like French President Charles de Gaulle, would want to preserve France's European character. As De Gaulle said, successfully integrating ten million Algerian Muslims--a population that was rapidly growing at the time--would have been quite a challenge for France. (Unlike De Gaulle, however, I would have taken in the harkis on moral grounds and also due to their numbers being much more manageable.) In fact, this is the same reason that I would have supported the partition of India--albeit not the extremely negligent way that it was actually executed. Multinational countries such as the US can certainly be extremely cool, but sometimes one does have a longing to preserve the character of one's country--just like a Slovenian could oppose having ten million Italians and/or Germans move to his or her country and overwhelm and severely outnumber the existing Slovenian population. So, yeah, giving a country to both the Algerians and European French people seems like a pretty good deal. Economically speaking, Algeria doesn't actually appear to have performed worse than Tunisia or Morocco did in the decades after independence. (Algeria's underperformance in comparison to France, of course, can be explained by its lower human capital.)

One thing that I really do dislike about the Algerian FLN is their use of terror against civilian targets. I understand that France initially wasn't exactly willing to discuss Algerian independence, but if the Algerian FLN felt compelled to resort to terrorism, they really should have limited themselves to French military targets as opposed to targeting civilians. I get their logic--they wanted to provoke the French into a brutal response that would then get more Algerians to support the FLN. I just don't think that this was a very moral thing to do on their part. Another thing that I dislike about the Algerian FLN is the fact that they refused to allow the pieds-noirs to stay in Algeria after independence (apparently even if they would have renounced their French citizenship and taken a loyalty oath to Algeria)--instead giving the pieds-noirs the choice of "the suitcase or the coffin." :( It makes one wonder whether France should have chosen some small part of Algeria--such as the Oran area--resettled the remaining pieds-noirs there, and insisted on keeping it after Algerian independence--like Spain did with Ceuta and Melilla. Still, France might have been unwilling to ruin relations with the newly independent Algeria over such a small piece of territory--with the option of resettling the pieds-noirs en masse in France might have been perceived as being more convenient for France.

So, yeah, I'd have supported the Algerian FLN--albeit reluctantly due to the things that I mentioned in the paragraph right above this one. I would think that Algerians deserve their own state but would also want to ensure that France remains a European-majority country and would also be wary of subsidizing Algeria for decades (which would probably be necessary if Algeria remained a part of France due to its much lower quality of life--just like for French Guiana) if I was a French person. After all, from a historical perspective, Algeria wasn't actually a part of France or even under French rule for that long--132 years in comparison to over a millennium where France didn't actually rule over Algeria. This is a far cry from, say, the Loire Valley--which had been under French rule for centuries--if not even longer than that!

Anyway, what are your own thoughts on this?
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,777
Cornwall
I thought we'd discussed this heavily this year already - but time flies!

I dont want to go over old ground but when you say 'Algeria' was only part of France for 132 years - well it wasn't really anything before that to be honest, it certainly wasn't 'Algeria' - part of it was in Morocco and there were variable independent states in Tremecen, Algiers, before that a whole host of Empires knitting together all the towns and areas. EG Almohad, Ottoman , Morocco, Fatimids, Abassids even bits of Spanish

'Algeria' was a new country, sort of formed by France (they chipped a bit off Morocco and incorporated berber-tuareg areas etc) and the independent state came out of that.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,286
SoCal
I thought we'd discussed this heavily this year already - but time flies!
It was actually in mid-2015; see:


So, yeah, over four years ago.

I dont want to go over old ground but when you say 'Algeria' was only part of France for 132 years - well it wasn't really anything before that to be honest, it certainly wasn't 'Algeria' - part of it was in Morocco and there were variable independent states in Tremecen, Algiers, before that a whole host of Empires knitting together all the towns and areas. EG Almohad, Ottoman , Morocco, Fatimids, Abassids even bits of Spanish
That's only telling a part of the story, though. Yes, historically speaking, Algeria was fragmented into various parts. However, in the 16th century, almost all of coastal Algeria (everything other than Oran, I believe) came under Ottoman rule:



Indeed, Algeria's coastal areas were a part of the Ottoman vassal state known as the Regency of Algiers for over three centuries:




Even Tlemencen became part of this Regency in the mid-16th century. Morocco does appear to have controlled parts of Algeria in the past, but the parts that it controlled very late (such as in the 18th and 19th centuries) were primarily interior desert areas as opposed to the Algerian coastline. As you can see on this map, Algeria's coastline is the core of Algeria--with its interior desert parts not actually having that many people:



So, in other words, while Algeria has been historically disunited, its coastal areas actually did experience significant unity in the three centuries or so that they were under Ottoman rule. Thus, one could perhaps argue that the Ottomans paved the way for the modern Algerian state and for the modern conception of Algeria.

'Algeria' was a new country, sort of formed by France (they chipped a bit off Morocco and incorporated berber-tuareg areas etc) and the independent state came out of that.
Yes, France added some interior desert areas from Morocco to Algeria and also expanded Algeria deep inside of the Sahara Desert. The Algerian coast was unified under the Ottomans, but France expanded Algeria even further. Of course, as I wrote above, the interior desert areas of Algeria account for most of Algeria's territory but not for very much of Algeria's population.

Anyway, maybe it would have been more prudent for France to see if the people in the Sahara and in the Algerian territories that were previously part of Morocco wanted to become an independent state (in the case of the Saharans) or return to Morocco before France actually withdraw from Algeria. That said, though, AFAIK, there was no large-scale demand among Algerians for a separate Saharan state or to return some Algerian territories to Morocco.

Also, interestingly enough, this expansion into the Sahara wasn't only done in regards to Algeria. Rather, it was also done in regards to Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and possibly Tunisia as well. For instance, when Italy conquered Libya in 1911-1912, it only conquered Libya's coastline--with it only conquering Libya's Saharan interior later on.
 
Oct 2019
12
Hainaut
Two problems for me:
-the title of the topic isn't really historic. Because, he is not the aim of an historian to take side with someone. An historian must be neutral. Especially when events are really close to us like this one. For instances, yesterday was the national day in Algeria. And the French president have wished an happy fest to Algerian people: it's the birth of a little controversy lead in part by "far-right". This topic is always a taboo and a hot topic in France (it's perhaps "our Vietnam", more than Indochina war.).

-I am not a specialist, and it's really not my favorite topic. But, I think this war war more complex than a war between FNL and French. Indeed, there were in facts several wars, and even civil wars in the same conflict. In war between different nationalist movements (FLN, MNA, PCA...) with different methods and point of view about the kind of independence, which gave thousands of victims, a war between pro-France muslims against Algerian nationalists , a war between France and some pieds noirs and French rebels who take side for independence, a war between France and OAS...

132 years, it was short of course, but quite enough for some families two have three or four generations in Frenchs departments of Algeria, and lost their links with Metropol, and in opposite to give the time for a lot of muslim familles to became French (some of them are always in French army, son after son, don't tell them that Algeria wasn't France ;)..).
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist and Tulius

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,286
SoCal
Two problems for me:
-the title of the topic isn't really historic. Because, he is not the aim of an historian to take side with someone. An historian must be neutral. Especially when events are really close to us like this one. For instances, yesterday was the national day in Algeria. And the French president have wished an happy fest to Algerian people: it's the birth of a little controversy lead in part by "far-right". This topic is always a taboo and a hot topic in France (it's perhaps "our Vietnam", more than Indochina war.).
It's sometimes a bit hard to detach historical events from our personal views, though. Personally, when I look at historical events, I try to view them objectively, but I nevertheless often have a particular point of view to which I am more partial towards. This is true for Manifest Destiny, for the partition of India, for the Vietnam War, for the Algerian War, et cetera.

-I am not a specialist, and it's really not my favorite topic. But, I think this war war more complex than a war between FNL and French. Indeed, there were in facts several wars, and even civil wars in the same conflict. In war between different nationalist movements (FLN, MNA, PCA...) with different methods and point of view about the kind of independence, which gave thousands of victims,
Yep--it's quite sad that the FLN murdered both members of other Algerian liberation groups and its own members who advocated in favor of a more moderate policy. :(

a war between pro-France muslims against Algerian nationalists ,
Wasn't that a part of the main Algerian War, though--with the harkis fighting on the side of the French against Algerian nationalists?

a war between France and some pieds noirs and French rebels who take side for independence,
What's the story behind that? I mean, I know that French mathematician Maurice Audin was tortured and murdered by the French due to his support of Algerian independence:


I'm presuming that other French and pied-noir supporters of Algerian independence sometimes shared his fate? :(

a war between France and OAS...
Yep--a war in which I would certainly support De Gaulle's France.

132 years, it was short of course, but quite enough for some families two have three or four generations in Frenchs departments of Algeria, and lost their links with Metropol,
I don't know if they completely lost their links with the French metropole. I mean, they were able to vote in French elections. Of course, it's worth noting that some of the pieds-noirs weren't actually French in ethnic terms but rather Italians, Spaniards, and Maltese who immediately immigrated from their home countries to Algeria (and their descendants, of course)--without any stop whatsoever in the French metropole.

and in opposite to give the time for a lot of muslim familles to became French (some of them are always in French army, son after son, don't tell them that Algeria wasn't France ;)..).
Just how many Muslim Algerian families became French during the colonial era? I know that France gave Muslim Algerians citizenship en masse in 1947 (albeit with France continuing to engage in gerrymandering afterwards that made their vote worth much less than the vote of pieds-noirs), but in spite of the harkis being French citizens, France wasn't actually very eager to allow them to resettle in France en masse--hardly a treatment that a decent state gives its citizens. For instance, had Scotland seceded from the UK, any Scot who would have wanted to remain under British rule would have presumably had the option of moving to Britain; as in, Britain wouldn't have closed its doors to any Scots who wanted to relocate after Scottish independence--at least not to my knowledge.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,286
SoCal
For what it's worth, I do think that the pieds-noirs should have been allowed to stay in Algeria after independence--at least if they would have taken a loyalty oath to Algeria and perhaps renounced all of their other citizenships (though I really don't think that the last part here should have been necessary). I mean, their numbers in a percentage-sense weren't too large (they were something like 10% of the total Algerian population during independence--so, certainly not a demographic threat to Muslim Algerians) and they could have perhaps been of use in regards to things such as industrialization and improving the Algerian economy. Of course, even if the FLN didn't forcibly kick them out en masse but instead allowed them to stay, I suspect that the situation of the pieds-noirs would have been similar to that of Chinese Malaysians--as in, with affirmative action against them and in favor of the indigenous majority and with some and perhaps even many of them nevertheless voluntarily deciding to emigrate.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,024
Portugal
Two problems for me:
-the title of the topic isn't really historic. Because, he is not the aim of an historian to take side with someone. An historian must be neutral. Especially when events are really close to us like this one. For instances, yesterday was the national day in Algeria. And the French president have wished an happy fest to Algerian people: it's the birth of a little controversy lead in part by "far-right". This topic is always a taboo and a hot topic in France (it's perhaps "our Vietnam", more than Indochina war.).

-I am not a specialist, and it's really not my favorite topic. But, I think this war war more complex than a war between FNL and French. Indeed, there were in facts several wars, and even civil wars in the same conflict. In war between different nationalist movements (FLN, MNA, PCA...) with different methods and point of view about the kind of independence, which gave thousands of victims, a war between pro-France muslims against Algerian nationalists , a war between France and some pieds noirs and French rebels who take side for independence, a war between France and OAS...

132 years, it was short of course, but quite enough for some families two have three or four generations in Frenchs departments of Algeria, and lost their links with Metropol, and in opposite to give the time for a lot of muslim familles to became French (some of them are always in French army, son after son, don't tell them that Algeria wasn't France ;)..).
Good post, Cyr R, I mostly agree, the first item is quite well noted! Taking sides is not historical per se, it is political.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,286
SoCal
Good post, Cyr R, I mostly agree, the first item is quite well noted! Taking sides is not historical per se, it is political.
If taking sides in historical wars and historical disputes is unhistorical, then an awful lot of us are being unhistorical.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,024
Portugal
If taking sides in historical wars and historical disputes is unhistorical, then an awful lot of us are being unhistorical.


Indeed. An awful lot of us aren’t historians either, or at least aren’t historians while posting. Most of us are just people that like the stories of history.



When I was taught the Historical Method nobody mentioned to me that I should or could take sides. And I never read that in any work about the theme.

Wikipedia has a quite reasonable article on it: Historical method - Wikipedia



On other perspective, I wrote in this forum a while ago a more prosaic analogy:

After a football match is over and you know the score but you didn’t saw the game, you are seeing it recorded… it is rational to take sides? To “hope” that one of the sides wins or loses? It already happened and you know the result! Taking sides will not alter that.



Furthermore, often the things aren’t black and white, there are more than two teams. In the example that you gave, in political terms we could, at the time, support Algeria’s independence, but not necessarily want the FLN in power.

Another analogy, before 1974 many people in Portugal wanted the independence of the colonies. That didn’t make them supporters of the guerrilla movements. They just wanted a different path.

Taking a turn back: Studding and understanding the paths that those people wanted is in the field of History.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist