The Suicide of France

The Suicide of France

French public opinion, kept in ignorance of the true state of affairs by design and deceit, does not yet understand that the Sakiet bombing marks a decisive turn in the Algerian war. We have constantly maintained that a military Dien Bien Phu cannot possibly occur, and this is so. But more and more Sakiet appears as a diplomatic Dien Bien Phu. We cannot yet measure the full extent of its consequences. They will unfold in successive stages. But this much is clear.

France cannot possibly win a military victory in Algeria. On the contrary, the military difficulties can only grow from month to month. It is easy enough to scoff at Lacoste’s “last quarter of an hour” which already has stretched out to more than a year and a half, but only a few months ago the Algerian National Front (FLN) was declared to be finished and the war in Algeria won. Today it is more bloody than ever; even if individual terrorism in the cities appears on the wane, regular battles have resumed throughout the countryside and are spreading from east to west throughout the whole Algerian territory. It seems as if we experienced during the winter months a situation analagous to that which followed the military victories of General de Lattre in Tonkin when he tried to take advantage of them by immediately engaging in negotiations. His advice was not followed, and he died too soon to impose his policy. In Algeria, too, the opportunity to negotiate from strength was not exploited and seems now to have gone.

If, as seems possible and even probable, the greater part of the Algerian population, Moslem as well as European, is sick of the sufferings of war and ready to support the first one who offers a reasonable compromise, there are still two irreconcilable sides. But the irreconcilables among the French are older people who prefer to state their case on the streets rather than on the battlefield; a firm state could bring them to reason. By contrast, the extremist element on the Moslem side is represented by the youth; and those under twentyone constitute the majority of the population. As long as the military struggle continues, the FLN will have no problem in keeping its ranks filled, and recruitment in the coming generation will be limited not by the number of volunteers, but solely by the possibility of arming them.

With the prolongation of the war the organization of both sides perfects itself. The FLN’s arms become more plentiful and effective. In the same way as China was impelled to intervene more and more openly in the Vietnam war toward the end, more and more countries are now sending arms to the Algerian rebels. Even if we hermetically seal the Tunisian frontier, arms will be brought in by sea or through the desert. It is not possible to control effectively a territory which is defended by chains of mountains and which backs up to the Sahara.

At the point where military victory becomes ...

Socialist thought provides us with an imaginative and moral horizon.

For insights and analysis from the longest-running democratic socialist magazine in the United States, sign up for our newsletter: