I read on an Academic site in the USA that: “Albert Camus supported French colonialism”. That struck me as grotesquely incorrect. An horrendous statement. (And I am not particularly in love with Camus’ work.)
Unsurprisingly, my retort was not published. Amusingly the initial essay was called “Stifling Discourse On the Left”.
Why was I stifled? Because it’s obvious to all “bien-pensants” (well-thinkers) that the stifling French rule in Algeria was a terrible, colonial thing.
Once a citizen of the USA expressed that opinion, that the colonial French deserved what had happened to them in Algeria. He was a geologist, an old friend of my dad. You know, the way friends are made in the USA: fair weather, and not too deep, politically correct in all American ways.
My dad an Algerian born geologist who discovered Algerian oil and gas (while employed by an Algerian oil company). He found the verbal trashing of his homeland inspiring. He retorted: “Certainly, there would have been no civil war in Algeria, if the French had killed all the Natives, the way it was done in the USA”.
The American “friend” was not amused at all. He and his family ceased all and any contact with ours. So much for the great American friendship. His name was Birdstall.
Camus was brought up by his mother in Algeria, where he was born, under extremely modest circumstances. Poorest of the poor. Saved by the Republican educational system (when it still worked). To call Camus’ family background “colonial” is an insult.
The excuse to trash Camus is always the same. After he got the Nobel in literature, a student called on him to take a stance about the civil war in Algeria. Camus retorted, off the cuff, that: ”Si j’ai a choisir entre ma mere et la justice, je choisirai ma mere” (or words to this effect). “If I have to choose between my mother, and justice, I will chose my mother.”
Well, “justice” is a social construct. One may well find oneself in conflict with it. Just ask dozens of millions of Mitteleuropa citizens, in the 1930s and 1940s. Or any country, just before a revolution. Algeria was in a revolution in the 1950s, justice was taking a back seat to motherhood.
It has become common opinion that the good guys were from the Front National de Liberation. The opinion was all the more common as it advantaged the USSR… and the USA.
However, most people living in Algeria did not support the FNL. How do I know this? Among other things, there was a vote! In the early 1960s, more than 60% of the Algerian population voted for the new French Constitution.
That was the first, and last free vote Algerians would get.
As The Economist put it in 2001: ”… given that the French army by the end of the 1950s had more or less won its war in Algeria, why did Algeria nonetheless gain its independence? If Mr Stora is puzzled, Mr Wall is not… French public opinion was sickened; the French intelligentsia was outraged by the practice of torture; and, “just as important”, America could not accept French policy.
Did Charles de Gaulle, summoned back in 1958 to meet France’s constitutional crisis and end the Algerian war, realise all this? Conventional wisdom is that he was France’s far-sighted saviour, accepting almost from the outset that the loss of Algeria was inevitable. Mr Wall, having trailed through both French and American archives, disagrees. De Gaulle’s acceptance of Algerian independence was a belated pragmatism, forced on him by his failure to win over the Americans, first under Eisenhower and then under Kennedy.
…pessimistic implications for the future… the United States was a critical force in pressing France to accept Algerian independence.”
That’s also my opinion. To make matters worse, the average French population was anti-Algerian racist (both against Muslim and Pieds Noirs)… And so was De Gaulle (who made very clear racist statements).
That was not just criminal, but thoroughly idiotic.
Why? Because it made a travesty of reality under the guise of political correctness, when all it was reflected a subjugation to the USA’s White House, and its attached plutocratic Congress.
What was the idiocy?
Most people in Algeria who did not support the FNL. (Nor did they support the French colons, who were a small, distinct class… And they did not support those colons for the same reasons that they did not support the FNL).
Sartre, and many “intellectuals” support of the extremely cruel FNL was an offense against civilization (later pursued with Sartre’s support of hard core “Maoism”).
The FNL advocated publicly terror torture of toddlers. That some elements in the French army used torture on some terrorist suspects is a separate issue. The French army never advocated publicly to torture toddlers.
Do you want to live in a country where the leaders have advocated torturing toddlers? Few would. So, when De Gaulle, on orders from the USA, gave Algeria to the FNL, he was being treacherous and stupid: of course most Algerians wanted to move to France, as being overruled by blood thirsty tyrants had little appeal.
So De Gaulle did his best to prevent that mass exodus. Still, the pressure is still on, and 52 years later, it’s much easier for an Algerian to immigrate to the USA, than to France.
And guess what? The present president of Algeria, Bouteflika, a corpse in a wheelchair, is an ex-general from the original FNL.
So what of Camus? In truth Camus begged to differ with most of the French intelligentsia, which was more into being a well thinking herd, than really thinking, and this is why he got trashed. Still is.
Camus wanted the Algerian Civil War to stop. Camus wanted the Republic to be strong, and motherly. But the Republic is relatively weak, and getting weaker. Those who conquered entire continents (Anglo-Saxons, Russians) are stronger. Their reasons are thus better. If nothing else they sit on all that oil and gaz. Even if the ground explodes cataclysmically, nowadays, with all that warming:
(Thanks to Alexi Helligar for informing me of this!)
It does not matter. The ground explodes? War is their friend. Let there be war. It’s just a matter of not being on the losing side. A chorus of well-paid intellectuals singing their praises, is most helpful. Yesterday the Bible, today those who recite their well honed version of history.
Dragging Camus in the mud by modifying his beliefs is deeply dishonest. So was the devastation of 1962, when many populations which lived in Algeria before Islam was invented, and Arabic written, 3,000 kilometers away, found themselves in a worse tyranny than they were under Paris’ boot. (Only the Jews could flee in majority; many ended in Israel.)
The future of Algeria? Just wait for the oil and gas to run out. Then the other shoe will drop.