Algeria – November 1, 1954: And the people will rise up!

AA / Hatem Kattou

During the night of Sunday to Monday November 1, 1954, several dozen armed actions, particularly in the Aurès (east) were carried out almost everywhere in Algeria, at the time a French colony, to thus be the beginning of what will become one of the bloodiest and greatest uprisings and revolutions of the 20th century.
Indeed, a quarter of an hour before “H” time, i.e. on Sunday October 31 at 11:45 p.m., a homemade bomb was planted on the road linking the towns of Boufarik and Blida (a few tens of kilometers south of Algiers) as well as on the Ager-Oran railway line, a metropolis in the west of the country.
Not being fortuitous, the choice of the date of November 1, which corresponds to the Catholic feast of All Saints (the feast of the dead), is symbolic. Above all, this choice has seen a people resuscitate and rise up to aspire to a dignified life, far from the yoke of humiliation and colonial oppression that came to claim to civilize indigenous populations.
As it is laborious, difficult and tricky, if not impossible, to define in a few lines or pages this triggering event of the “Events of Algeria” (we appreciate in passing the bitter euphemism used by France), we will try, within the framework of a subjective choice and an effort of synthesis to return to some facets of this major event and which inspired so many other struggles.

– The Call: this founding text to accompany the armed struggle

The instigators of the struggle were not content to engage in armed combat against a colonial empire but showed lofty spirit and a certain intellect by addressing the conscience of an enslaved and dominated people.
This text is none other than “The November 1 Appeal” broadcast on the very day of the launch of the armed struggle.
Two major elements characterize this founding Call. The first is that from the second paragraph, he explicitly evokes the decades of struggle, thus not denying the past battles, which in truth have never stopped, or even very little, since the beginning of the occupation in July 1830. .
Moreover, the editors of the Appeal who evoke this “people united behind the slogan of independence and action”, admit in a pithy but oh so illustrative sentence and filled with resolution and determination “that is true, the struggle will be long but the outcome is certain”.

– The heavy toll of war

Not one Algerian family has not been bereaved by the loss of a loved one who fell in combat, or even worse, by the disappearance of one of its members whose fate remained and still remains unknown, without burial or documents. attesting to his death or execution.
Indeed, the number of missing and dead was close to 1.5 million people according to Algerian sources. On the opposite side, that of the French authorities or historians of France, it is “admitted” that no fewer than 300,000 to 400,000 Algerians perished, compared to 27,500 soldiers and 2,800 civilians among the Europeans and the Pieds-noirs.
This war of figures, and independently of the accuracy of the balance sheets, and their manipulation for propagandist or glorification or even or de-dramatization purposes, shows that this confrontation, unequal, in view of the balance of power, had generated human heartbreak and gaping wounds that have remained open for many decades, or even have never healed.

– Torture: an institutionalized practice and a state policy

Worse than the summary and extra-judicial executions, and other assassinations targeting a prominent activist or an entire village, it is the acts of torture that targeted independence activists and freedom fighters that will remain etched forever. , like indelible traces on the pediment of the Republic of a France champion of democracy and human rights.
Indeed, France had erected an institutionalized system in Algeria and far from being “a drift or a hazard of the war” as some claimed. It is about torture where barbarism disputed it with horror.
From the bathtub and the drudgery of wood to gene and truth serum, including rape, hangings, nail pulling and the guillotine, France has doubled its ingenuity to invent and sophisticate methods of torture. , as abject as each other, even raising reactions within the metropolis where intellectuals rose up against these medieval practices.

– Primacy of the political over the military

Despite the onset of a relentless armed struggle against a colonial army and a NATO member country, the architects of the Algerian nationalist struggle have grasped, with accuracy and intelligence, the relevance of political action and its importance. both internally nationally and on the regional and international chessboard in order to attract the adhesions and support for the fight of the Algerians.
It was during the Soummam congress, held in August 1956, in the eponymous valley and more precisely in the village of Ifri (in the region of Petite Kabylie), with the beard and the nose of the French army, that the leaders of the National Liberation Front (FLN) secretly organized a major meeting.
This Congress made it possible to “structure” and organize the Algerian revolution, by emphasizing the primacy of politics over the military and by giving the Revolution the means to have a national base and to assure it a presence on the international level.

We have flown over, in what precedes, some of the multiple aspects of the Algerian Revolution, started in November 1954, although this pivotal and founding event, which was the object and the center of interest of tens of films ( including that of the Battle of Algiers, produced in 1966 by the Italian Gillo Pontecorvo, or even Opium and the Stick, Palme d’or at Cannes in 1975), hundreds of documentaries as well as thousands of scientific articles , theses, books and works of all kinds, deserves much more to identify most of these facets.
Indeed, we can speak of the diplomatic dimension of the Revolution and of its action, already initiated at the Non-Aligned Summit in Bandung in 1955, until cornering France, thanks to the hard work of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (GPRA), in the very lair of the UN with the help of some Arab States, such as Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Egypt and the support also of the countries of the bloc of the is in Europe and China.
We will also be able to highlight the genius of certain leaders of the FLN and the ALN (National Liberation Army), who set up, when the Algerian State did not yet exist, an intelligence service effective and most formidable.
Another stroke of genius was that of setting up a competitive Algerian national football team made up of professionals all playing in the French championship and some of whom played and were indisputable holders in the French team. This project which carried the voice of Algeria so much and which brought so much to the Revolution with a certain psychological and social impact in France and all over the world, thanks to the technical prowess of the “dribblers of Independence” but also to their political maturity and their nationalist consciousness.
We can spread out even further by returning to the media dimension with the creation of the Al-Moudjahid newspaper, mouthpiece of the Revolution, in Algiers at first before it was transferred to Tunis in 1957, or even the launch of the “Voice of Algeria” (Sawt al Jazair) on Radio Tunis with the bewitching voice and mobilizing verb of Aissa Messaoudi, the zeitounien.
So many facets and aspects, so many women and men, freedom-loving and thirsty for dignity, who have consented to heavy sacrifices and who have engraved in gold letters and for eternity their acts of bravery in the Pantheon of combat, so that the Algerian Nation may live – some of which deny its right to exist, more than six decades later – and to which the Fatherland is grateful.
However, if there is a name to remember from a single combatant, it will be that of the Algerian people, the only hero, who with bare hands, in destitution and the most total material misery, knew how to rise up and train, by “aspiring to live” with dignity, to “break the chains” and see “the darkness dissipate”, thus responding to the call of his destiny.


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Algeria – November 1, 1954: And the people will rise up!