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International Socialist Review, Summer 1959


Lillian Kiezel

Algerian Realities?


From International Socialist Review, Vol.20 No.3, Summer 1959, pp.93-94.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Algeria – The Realities
by Germaine Tillion
Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1958. 115 pp. $2.50.

What can be done to achieve a sane solution to the war between France and Algeria?

Germaine Tillion recognizes that “we have finally got it into our heads that the colonial formula is as dead as a doornail now, and that a continuance of the status quo is no longer possible.”

Is some other formula workable that offers Algeria some improvements but keeps the country in subjection? “I do not think so, for our presence in our overseas possessions has had a profoundly disturbing effect on them, politically, socially, and economically.”

What, then, about granting Algeria her freedom? The trouble with that, in the opinion of this sociologist, is that with a population of ten million, Algeria is capable of feeding only two million.

So, to make sure that Algeria “has enough to eat,” she advocates “unity” with France. Her program would provide continuation of the right of Algerians to seek work in the French labor market, provision of 300,000 additional jobs through industrialization of Algeria, universal education and at least some reforms in agrarian relations.

She estimates that the program would cost France about 2,000 billion francs. Spread over four or five years, this “would come to approximately 400 billion francs a year, just about what the war is costing us now.”

This blueprint has some flaws. Since penetrating Algeria in 1830, France has never taken a philanthropic interest in the colony. What is there in the soul of the French banker today that would cause him to seek to bring Algeria up to the industrial level that, according to Germaine Tillion’s criteria, would entitle Algeria to be free?

And what about the aspirations of the Algerian people, who want to be free now?

The author’s sympathy with the oppressed is to her credit but she is naive in believing that the master-slave relationship can be ended by persuading the master to set his slave up in business – some years from now.

And she is not in touch with the realities of Algeria in thinking that people who have already made such heroic efforts to win freedom will forego independence in return for a “unity” that excludes self-rule.

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