algeria war

“Ici on noie les Algériens” - “Here we drown Algerians

-Graffiti on the Saint-Michel Bridge, after the massacre
 

The Paris Massacre of 1961

In 1961, France found itself embroiled in a fierce counter-revolutionary war against its colony of Algeria. The war started in 1954, and as it dragged on, anti-Algerian laws and attitudes seeped into mainland France. In retaliation of the brutal suppression of the Algerian independence fighters, several police buildings were bombed in Paris. French police began to ruthlessly target Parisians with Algerian backgrounds; other minorities, like Moroccans, Tunisians, Spaniards, and Italians, were sometimes targeted out of ignorance. Those stopped by police were met with harsh interrogation and outright violence - a disturbingly common method used by French police was to beat, handcuff, then throw a suspect into the Seine, effectively executing them through drowning. Established law followed this trend, and by 1961, it was illegal to merely protest against the Algerian War.

On October 5th, a general curfew of 8:30 PM was enforced against all “Algerian Muslim workers,” “French Muslims” and “French Muslims of Algeria.” Pro-Algerian movements urged Parisians to protest this curfew on the night of the 17th. French police responded by mobilizing some 8,000 + police officers and riot suppression specialists and blocking access to the capital by severing all routes of ingress and egress. Out of the 150,000 Parisians who had Algerian backgrounds, about 40,000 assembled to protest on the night of the 16th. French police cracked down, arresting some 11,000 of the protestors.

However, some 4,000 protestors avoided arrests and were able to peacefully protest on the Grand Boulevards. Stopped by police at the Opéra de Paris, the protestors turned around and reversed their route.

The massacre began shortly after. Near the Rex Cinema, police open fired on the crowd with live ammunition, then charged. A similar scene unfolded on the Neuilly-sur-Seine, with protestors being shot and beaten without cause. French police began to throw dead or unconscious protestors into the Seine, sometimes within sight of the Notre-Dame.

Other protestors were arrested and brought to different locations, like the Palais des Sports, Stade Pierre de Coubertin, or various police headquarters. For almost a week, the prisoners were beaten and tortured, or outright executed. French police who carried out the acts were noted to have stripped all identification off of their uniforms. Bodies and half-alive prisoners were dumped into the Seine at night.

For weeks, bodies washed up on the banks of the Seine. The entire massacre was deliberate and planned, penned and ordered by the head of the Parisian Police, Maurice Papon. Papon would receive the Legion of Honour from Charles du Gaulle later that year.

France never officially recognized the existence of the massacre until nearly four decades later, in 1998. However, official statements only mentioned 40 dead, when other estimates place the toll at closer to 200.

In 1998, Maurice Papon was first convicted of crimes against humanity due to his aiding in the deportation of French-Jewish citizens during the Vichy Regime. In 1999, he was also found guilty of perpetuating the 1961 massacre. He lost all rank and decorations, including his Legion of Honour, but was released in 2002 on the grounds of ill-health.

The Paris massacre of 1961 refers to a massacre in Paris on 17 October 1961, during the Algerian War (1954–62). Under orders from the head of the Parisian police, Maurice Papon, the French police attacked an illegal demonstration of some 30,000 pro-independance Algerians. After 37 years of denial, the French government acknowledged 40 deaths in 1998, although there are estimates of over 200.

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The Battle of Algiers is still one of the only works of war cinema that thoroughly understands the architectural character of a city in combat, at once meticulously structured (through checkpoints, barriers, and routine patrols) and conspicuously impromptu (through the increased presence of bombed-out structures, burning cars, and rubble piles). The familiar layout of Algiers, with its automobile-lined boulevards, neoclassical structures, and wide open spaces, begins to readjust before our very eyes into an arena of chaos, debris, and collateral casualties. Watching the film now, after so many other popular films and latter-day television series have faithfully duplicated its look and feel, it is all too easy to take for granted just how revolutionary a filmmaking document Pontecorvo had created, a visual groundbreaker made all the more monumental for the atypical coherence of its storytelling.”

Read: BOTH SIDES NOW: ON THE POLITICS OF REPRESENTATION IN GILLO PONTECORVO’S THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS by Matthew Eng

A soldier of the Polisario Front holds her child and a rifle during training in the Western Sahara, December 1978. The Polisario are a Sahrawi liberation movement who fought against Moroccan control of the Western Sahara from the 1970s to early 1990s. Female soldiers were key to defending the the Tindouf refugee camps during the conflict and today the women’s wing of the Polisario contains around 10,000 members. 

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53 ans d’indépendance.

Honneurs à nos chouhada qui ont payé de leur vie pour que l’Algérie vive.


“Nous sommes chez nous. Nous ne pouvons aller ailleurs. C’est cette terre qui a nourri nos ancêtres, c’est cette terre qui nourrira nos enfants. Libres ou esclaves, elle nous appartient, nous lui appartenons et elle ne voudra pas nous laisser périr. L’Algérie ne peut vivre sans nous. Nous ne pouvons vivre sans elle."  Ferhat Abbas

While we’re on the topic of white devilry here’s something I’ve wanted to talk about for a while.

So all of the Europeans justified their imperialism under the guise of ‘we’re civilizing these people’, right?  And the French moreso than most, they developed a very centralized colonial administration nominally aimed at bringing the peoples of Africa and Asia out of their presumed pre-modern state.  And teaching French was (again nominally) the largest part of this, since education and economic development was supposedly a large part of the French colonial project.

However, in 1956 (two years before the collapse of the Fourth Republic over the war in Algeria and six years before Algerian independence) it was found that, in Algeria (the most 'developed’ and intensively colonized place in Africa)

“[The Tillion Report found] about three quarters of the Muslim population was illiterate in Arabic, and ninety percent in French.  Although France appeared to be spending more on Algeria, in real terms - because of the depreciation of the Franc - the sum earmarked for 1953 had not exceeded that for 1913.” (Alistair Horne, A Savage War Of Peace, page 110)

That is that the crown jewel of France’s civilizing mission featured a population where nine tenths were illiterate in the language which was supposed to be civilizing them.

Colonization is not, and has never been, about 'civilizing’.  The educational and developmental aspect has always been there to legitimize the actual function of colonies, which is economic domination.  If we use this as our lens of analyzing European imperialism, the fact that India’s GDP didn’t grow through the 19th century (despite being 'developed’ by the most developed country in the world) and that Algeria had mass illiteracy into the 1950s (despite being 'educated’ by a country which viewed education as its form of the white man’s burden) seems not like some weird factoid or contrarian piece of trivia, rather it works into the nature of imperialism.

Mod R

US made corsairs were used for close ground support. You can see the interesting marking of the aeronavale. Such planes were usually operating from aircraft carriers but their took of from land when flying in Algeria to reduce costs and grant them a better effective flying range. They were remplaced later by Skyraiders that had better firepower.