Algeria: According to Lakhdar Bentobal, the National Liberation Front said from within - Jeune Afrique

Algeria: According to Lakhdar Bentobal, the National Liberation Front said from within – Jeune Afrique

Books about the war in Algeria, including on the Algerian side alone, there are already hundreds and hundreds of all kinds: more or less comprehensive accounts of the entire conflict or this or that episode of the struggle for independence, memories of the mujahideen or politicians (mainly from the front national liberation but sometimes also from the Christian movement or the communist sphere), essays on the near or distant origins of the war and on its course and extension after independence…

But there are still “holes” for those who want to know what happened since the beginning of colonialism in 1830, but also and first of all within the National Liberation Front during the war of liberation, from 1954 to 1962. Among them, certainly, relate the memoirs of the main actors of the armed struggle , those who were “in business” and could thus tell in detail what they did and what they saw.

unpublished document

If, among others, the two former presidents of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic, Farhat Abbas and Benyoussef Benkhedda, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the same government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Saad Dahlab or the former “President” of the second term Ali Kafi have certainly written books, it is about articles, which She is undoubtedly very interesting but very subjective, more so than stories and texts. Of course we will not be able to read, write or narrate the memoirs of Larbi Ben M’hidi, Abban Ramadan, Zygot Youssef, Mustapha Ben Boulaïd or Amirouche, all those leaders who disappeared during the war. enmities.

No more than those of Karim Belkacem, Abdelhafid Boussouf, Ahmed Ben Bella, or Houari Boumediene, to name a few of these four major players in the war up to 1962, who died long after the war. Independence leaves nothing to feed historians All of these would like to know how the struggle was thought, organized and implemented by the leaders of the National Liberation Front. This latest edition is in two volumes Ghazir (published by Shehab). subordinate The memoirs of Lakhdar Bentobal, the nationalist and independence activist since his youth at the end of the 1930s, are a real event. The Algerian politician was a direct witness to the fighting of the FLN, which he led on the ground in Constantine in the mid-fifties, and then to the movements of the People’s Liberation Army, which was constantly one of the main chiefs from 1958 until 1962.

Boumediene, Farhat Abbas, Ben Bella …

If the document is exceptional by its very existence, and has no real equivalent to clarify the course of direction of the FLN from 1954 to 1962, it is also exceptional in its content from beginning to end. The novel that Bentobal gave to historian Dahu Djerbal for six years between 1980 and 1986 already bears the mark of the author, a “pure and solid” man who wanted to be a relentless follower of the revolutionary line among the separatists, close to the people and especially the rural people. A man who never hesitated to reveal his view, in general, very extreme, towards other national leaders, and towards the end of the war, during the negotiations in which he participated, against the representatives of the French state. And who, removed from power after independence, was undoubtedly more inclined to speak without filtering and without taking into account the “official” version of history imposed by the regime.

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Documentary: Algeria’s war at the hands of those who lived it

This certainly explains why it took nearly forty years to have access to copies of these notes, which the author’s family, contrary to his will, did not want to allow. Where did this post finally come from without the consent of this post.

The images that Ben Tobal gives us here and there of his fellow fighters in situations of power are unfriendly and sometimes fierce. Thus Boumediene is distinguished, among other things, as being thirsty for power since the time of the famous “meeting of the ten colonels” of the National Liberation Army (ALN), at the end of 1959, and that he is capable of “treachery during”. The execution of Captain Al-Zubayr at his request, early 1960, in violation of solemn promises to spare him.

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Algeria: Jeune Afrique, BBY, and “3 Bs”

Farhat Abbas also does not escape criticism. He was described as “the concessioner” because he was willing to make concessions during peace negotiations over the Sahara (“You can’t sacrifice yourself for sand,” he would say to a terrified Bentobal). Wheelchair is considered “too superficial”. For Ait Ahmed, his study, which suggests giving a North African dimension to the Algerian revolution, is “perverted”. Ben Bella is described as willing to do anything to find himself at the helm of the country, Belkacem Karim, as he is obsessed with his desire to lead the GPRA. Muhammed Khader is “a versed in turmoil” and “has no status as a statesman”. And Amirush cannot understand how he was manipulated during the terrible purge that he ordered against all the “intellectuals” in his state, in 1958 and 1959, which caused the deaths of thousands of Mujahideen…

Revelations about war

As we can see, Ben Tubal is not spared the heroes of the War of Independence who were his fighting comrades. He also distanced himself from traditional rhetoric in the narrative of the war, from its inception until independence. What makes all the interest in his stories from the inside, full of unpublished information, about most of the decisive moments of this war, such as the “meeting of the 22” (in which the main “activists” of the Nationalist Party of Messali al-Hajj and then in complete crisis, the future leaders of the National Liberation Front, decided Definitively in the summer of 1954 the launch of the armed struggle against the colonizer), the outbreak of hostilities on 1 November 1954 with disappointing results in the Constantine region, the design and implementation of the August 1955 offensive in the same region – which spectacularly relaunched the War of Independence less than a year after it began – Preparation To hold the National Liberation Front conference in Soumam in secrecy inside Algeria. the summer 1956, which witnessed a temporary victory, due to the great regret of Ibn Tubal, for supporters of the superiority of “civilians” or “politics” over the “army” at the initiative of Aban Ramadan and his allies.

Press conference by Farhat Abbas, President of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA), in Tunis, September 29, 1959. Standing, wearing glasses, Minister of Information Mohamed Yazid. Seated, Karim Belkacem (third left) and Lakhdar Ben Tabbel (second right). © AFP

But also the revenge of the “soldiers” (and in particular, in the first place, Bentbal, an ally of Karim and Bossouf), who took de facto A power they will never leave again more than a year after the rule of Soumam overturning their decisions (particularly by prioritizing now “soldiers” over “civilians”, a decision with dire consequences for Algeria’s future), the creation of the GPRA and the ongoing power struggles within it or Between this government and many leaders of the ELN, the terrible period of independence fighters from the revival of the French army after General de Gaulle’s return to power in France in 1958 and the devastating attacks of the Challe Plan of 1959, the “meeting of the ten colonels” at the end of 1959, diplomatic initiatives For better support from the Soviets and the Chinese (for whom we like to send kinds of “international brigades” “in the theater of operations).

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Algeria: Ben Bella, Boumediene … The Evian Agreement and the battle between “politics” and “the army”

And finally all the episodes of secret or overt negotiations between the French government and the separatists in which Ben Tobal participated and which would finally see the FLN achieve all its war goals in 1962, starting with independence without the slightest loss of territory.

The mystery surrounding the death of Ramadan

Among all that has been revealed and the details contained in these accounts, it is undoubtedly necessary to set aside those related to the seizure of power within the National Liberation Front by the “soldiers” and in particular its consequences, that is, the elimination of Aban Ramadan at the end of 1957. We know that the assassination of The latter, for a time, the strongman of the National Liberation Front, at the hands of his fellow fighters, the circumstances of which were known, except for insiders, only long after the end of the war, remains highly controversial.

Why was it necessary to get rid of this man at all costs, whose status, integrity and revolutionary convictions were not denied by anyone? Among the leaders of the National Liberation Front decided to execute the organizer of the Somnam Conference? Were there other hypotheses to permanently remove him from power? How was it implemented? In the book, if he does not answer all these questions to the end, Ben Tobal, while reasserting, as he has already done, that he is certainly in favor of forcing the shelves of Aban, but personally against assassination, gives many compelling details about the collective responsibility of the key members to direct a front National liberation in this “case”. This undermines, if still necessary, the denial of Karim Belkacem, Mahmoud Sherif, or Ammar and Imran, who have often tried to absolve themselves of the crime.

Determined and unstoppable activists

What general impression do we get from reading the memoirs of Al-Akhdar bin Tabl? We were impressed first of all by what they reveal about the astonishing determination of all the patriots and independence fighters before and during this Algerian war, which needless to underline how lethal and often, even beyond the borders, of barbarism. We are equally impressed, even if it is not a revelation but an affirmation, often unpublished details to support, the bitterness of the enduring internal struggles within the National Liberation Front where the rules of accounts between leaders are ruthless and where – to use Mao Zedong’s expression – the revolution was not “like a party dinner”.

Finally, when it comes to the revolution, we can understand to what extent a “pure” such as Pentobal may have been disillusioned with post-independence Algeria, whereby the leaders did not satisfy him so much about what seemed to him essential, that is, only politics. At the service of the people away from personal rivalries.

Lakhdar Ibn Tabbel – Memories from within – 400 pixels, €15.99

Lakhdar Ibn Tobal – The Conquest of Sovereignty – 304 p.

Statement compiled, formatted and commented by Dahu Gerbal

Shehab Editions (October 2021, Mars 2022)

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