On the Death of an Old Militant

On the Death of an Old Militant

Messali Hadj, father of the Algerian nationalist movement and one-time charismatic leader of the Algerian people—in Algeria itself, but particularly among those Algerians who had gone to work in France during the colonialist days—died in France on June 3, 1974, at the age of 76. His death, virtually ignored in the French press and totally ignored in the world press, ought not to pass unnoticed. Messali Hadj was a striking figure, a Za’im, to employ the Arabic term. He stood for something independent Algeria has yet to find—a socialist Algeria within a democratic framework—and this, in fact, was his program for the entire Maghreb of North Africa.

Perhaps the outstanding characteristic of Messali’s movement was its popular foundation, the fact that most of its members and supporters came from the Algerian poor, working-class nomads who had drifted over to France to work in the bottom layer of French industry. Messali himself had worked for years in the Renault plant and never lost touch with Algerian proletarians. Although he lost out in the bitter internal struggle that split the nationalist movement, he never ceased to represent its democratic and socialist spirit as opposed to the Muslim nationalism represented by his opponents

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