When Algerians took to the streets

When Algerians took to the streets

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Riot in Algiers, 1960

Dominique Berretty · Gamma-Rapho · Getty

The demonstrations that rocked Algeria from February 2019 until the pandemic forced them to stop in March 2020 recall important events in Algeria’s struggle for independence which remain little understood.

On 11 December 1960, when France claimed victory over the ALN (National Liberation Army), the armed wing of the FLN (National Liberation Front), Algerians took to the streets in their thousands to demand independence. People from shantytowns and poor neighbourhoods, including many elderly, women and children, risked their lives by converging onthe European quarters of the big cities. The protests met with brutal repression, which the French government has covered up, but they succeeded in upsetting the colonial order and securing independence, and show the decisive role that the working class played in that struggle.

The uprising came during President Charles De Gaulle’s tour of Algeria to rally support for his ‘third way’ solution for a transition to an ‘Algerian Algeria’. De Gaulle’s strategy, as in the other Sub-Saharan countries that had won independence from French rule, was to promote the installation of a vassal administration to defend France’s political and economic interests. This plan was frustrated by nearly three weeks of (often violent) protests along the tour route and across the country. De Gaulle was forced to avoid major cities, cut short his tour and resolved to negotiate with the FLN.

De Gaulle’s visit coincided with that year’s UN General Assembly, which produced two resolutions with a bearing on the Algerian question: resolution 1514, the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (adopted on 14 December), and resolution 1573, on Algerian self-determination (19 December), which recognised ‘the right of self-determination as the basis for the solution of the Algerian problem’. With journalists from around the world reporting on the uprising, France could hardly continue to claim it (…)

Full article: 1 902 words.

Mathieu Rigouste

Mathieu Rigouste is a researcher and the author of Un seul héros, le peuple: La contre-insurrection mise en échec par les soulèvements algériens de décembre 1960 (One hero, the people: The counter-insurgency thwarted by the Algerian uprisings of December 1960), Premiers Matins de Novembre, 2020.

(1Henri Alleg (ed), La Guerre d’Algérie, tome 3: Des complots du 13 mai à l’indépendance: Un État vient au monde (The Algerian War, volume 3), Temps Actuel, Paris, 1981.

(2Fanon edited this, his last book, after the Algerian uprisings of December 1960.

(3James C Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, Yale University Press, New Haven/London, 1990.

(4‘11 décembre 1960: Le Diên Biên Phù politique de la guerre d’Algérie’ (11 December 1960: the Algerian war’s political Diên Biên Phù), Naqd, Algiers, 2010.

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