France History - Algerian Politics and the Vain Search for a Solution

France History – Algerian Politics and the Vain Search for a Solution

Strengthened by the success obtained in the referendum, De Gaulle went to Algeria for the fourth time, where he announced the Plan of Constantine for the economic and social development of the country (2-5 October 1958). On 23 October he launched an appeal to the rebels for a “paix des braves” and invited the leaders of the rebellion to come to Paris to discuss the technical modalities of an armistice. This program, which found opposition only in the French far-right circles, was rejected by the Algerian National Liberation Front which made it a condition for the discussion not only of the military but also of the political aspects of an armistice. After a fifth trip to Algeria, De Gaulle returned the administration to the civil authorities: Paul Delouvrier was appointed general delegate of the government (12 December). On January 30, 1959, gen. De Gaulle, during his first broadcast press conference, spoke again of a “political solution for the the stalemate (the struggle continued in Algeria with the usual trickle of attacks and bombings) caused, for opposite reasons, a certain discontent at the two extremes of the political spectrum, and new concerns among the central parties. The government then asked the National Assembly to pronounce on its Algerian policy, and obtained 476 votes against 53. The “Jumelles” operation launched (July 22) by the military command to free Kabylia from the rebels, did not achieve its goal. After a new trip to Algeria (27-30 August), De Gaulle solemnly proclaimed (16 September 1959), in the course of a declaration on radio-television, the principle of self-determination. It will be up to the Algerians, he said, to decide their fate, no later than four years after the restoration of peace. They will be called upon to choose, by referendum, between “Frenchization”, independence, or association with France.

No French government had ever gone that far. The so-called Algerian Provisional Government, an emanation of the FLN, approved the recognition of the principle of self-determination, but renewed its request to participate in the discussion of the political conditions of the armistice.

After a new appeal by De Gaulle for the “peace of the brave” and after a new invitation to the representatives of the FLN to come to Paris to discuss the military conditions of the armistice (10 November), the Algerian provisional government decided to appoint as its delegates, Ben Bella and four other members of the FLN, detained in France. De Gaulle refused and added that he would only recognize delegates belonging to the fighting forces.

According to, the policy adopted by De Gaulle favorably impressed international observers, so much so that at the UN (13 December) the motion of the Afro-Asian countries, in favor of the immediate start of negotiations between France and the FLN on the basis of self-determination, did not obtain the two-thirds majority required. But it provoked lively opposition within and above all in the circles of the colonists of Algeria. Faced with the probability of losing the pre-eminent positions enjoyed in Algeria, and being overwhelmed by the Algerian votes in the referendum, this opposition did not hesitate to take sides against De Gaulle himself. The inauguration (5-6 December) of the Hassi-Messaoud-Bougie pipeline, thanks to which the immense oil riches of the Sahara were connected to the Mediterranean,

The note of precariousness with which the year 1959 ended with regard to the Algerian problem did not change during 1960. It dominated and determined the politics of France, both internal and foreign: De Gaulle continued in the search for a solution. to remain caught between the need not to upset the million “settlers” and the military and the right, on the one hand, and the need, on the other hand, to adapt also in North Africa to the aspirations of the collapsing colonial world. Hence, on the international level, the politics of power and prestige that led him, after the failure of the “summit” (Paris 16-17 May 1960), to tread the hand against the UN (which he considered unable to intervene in great power conflicts) and to ask for the revision of NATO, pursuing, meanwhile, against the principle of integration, an exclusively French defense program, even nuclear; about Europe, he raised the idea of ​​a political “confederation” limited to six, destined to absorb all European organizations (press conference of 5 September 1960). This stance only accentuated the diplomatic isolation of De Gaulle’s France despite the Franco-German approach.

This isolation of De Gaulle was also manifested on the internal level; if, in January, after the failed revolt in Algiers, he had the whole country with him again, a few months later – also as a result of the failed approach with the Algerians of the FLN (June 1960) – he found himself having to make facing a triple opposition: the far right. the settlers and the ultras – in collusion with part of the army – are always ready to take the field; the extreme left wants immediate negotiated peace for Algeria, but with the intention of overthrowing De Gaulle’s personal power; finally, there is perhaps a more firm opposition, ranging from the socialists to the independents, determined to give battle to De Gaulle in parliament, above all in terms of foreign policy.

Beyond these oppositions, De Gaulle continued on his way and, after Ferhat Abbas’s declarations of 31 October which seemed to close the door to a negotiation, on 4 November 1960 – even in the face of the possibility of an internationalization of the Algerian conflict – he envisaged the creation of an “Algerian Republic” which should be “decided by self-determination and could be built either with France or against France” and, in any case, without the FLN The opposition of civilians and above all of the military it was not long in coming, with the protest of General Salan and above all of Marshal Juin (11 November) for which to believe that Algeria can leave the sphere of the Republic means to endanger France, Europe, the free world “.

The ambiguity of the formula “Algerian Republic” (a body which should decide, by itself, the degree of its ties with France, once peace is reached) and the opposition mentioned above, have not disappeared with the referendum of 8 January 1961: with it De Gaulle, bypassing the forces and political parties, appealed directly to the country to obtain the premise of consensus necessary for the continuation of his policy. The votes obtained give a total of over 70% for the yes, overall in the metropolitan area and in Algeria; but it should be noted the high level of abstentions among the Muslims of Algeria (about 2 million) which brings this total down to 55% and, with regard to Algeria alone, to less than 40 %. Nevertheless, it can be said that the referendum marks the defeat of extremist politics and that the French hope that De Gaulle will thus be able to solve the Algerian problem, and find the longed-for “third way” of peace, previously non-existent, between an Algerian Dien Bien-Phu and the écrasement, which proved impossible after six years, of the revolt. This result has undoubtedly given strength to De Gaulle’s line and perhaps made the FLN leaders themselves less intransigent, in view of a solution to the conflict that would lead Algeria, and with it the Republic, truly to peace.

France History - Algerian Politics and the Vain Search for a Solution