The Permanent Revolution in Algeria

(December 1959)

From Fourth International (Amsterdam), No. 8, Winter 1959–60, p. 58.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

L’An Cinq de la Revolution
by F. Fanon

Le Front
by Robert Davezies

There is already a rich body of literature on the Algerian revolution. Various documents and eye-witness accounts, sociological studies, and novels by Algerian and other writers, have appeared in abundance since 1954 to throw light on the meaning, the prospects and the glory of the Algerian revolution.

Here now are two books which complement each other in testifying at once to the profundity gained by the revolution after more than five years’ heroic and tenacious struggle – without precedent, as a matter of fact, in the history of the colonial peoples – against the major forces of the third of the three great capitalist Powers, and to the epic already written by this revolution.

It is no longer simply a struggle for national independence. The Algerian people, expressly held by its oppressor, imperialism, in a very anachronistic economic, social and cultural status, in the course of its liberation struggle is shattering on every side the superannuated social structure fettering its progress. Through blood, fire, sacrifices and the most atrocious sufferings, these mountain peasants, as poor as they are proud, these workers from the Algerian towns and from the metropolis, have leaped in the space of a few years over the stages of colonial barbarism to land eager for knowledge and progress, in the very heart of the most advanced problems and aspirations of our century.

This is the living permanent revolution which from an united anti-imperialist national struggle, is transforming itself irresistibly into a profound social revolution in the quest for its true nature and achievement – as a proletarian and socialist revolution.

Frantz Fanon’s book perfectly illustrates the profound upheaval wrought in the Algerian family, and in the mode of life of the people in general, under the colonial yoke: the extraordinary, irresistible advancement of the women and the youth, the familiarisation with technique and science in the service of revolution, the marked stripping away of the “mental sedimentation and spiritual and intellectual arrest” of the Algerian people “imposed by 130 years of oppression.”

This book by a learned doctor pulsates with knowledge, amounting almost to expertise, of the social and psychological terrain it minutely explores.

Robert Davezies’ book is made up of a series of raw recordings of men, women and even children of the revolution, which in their poignant simplicity sketch the most sober tableau of the Algerian epic, and of the organization which directs it: the FLN.

Robert Davezies has had the happy idea of letting rank and file trade-unionists, Algerian refugees in Tunisia and Morocco, Algerian girls and boys, djounoud and djoundia [1] of the interior, and political cadres of the FLN speak for themselves. This results in singular, dramatic intensity of a high political and social interest. Wonderful, heroic figures – women, young girls, boys and men – stand out.

But the main interest of the book lies in the explanations it gives of the profound motives activating the Algerian fighters, and of their hopes.

Here is the trade-union cadre, working in Algiers and Paris, preparing the revolution, throwing himself into it body and soul once it explodes.

“It is a peasant revolution,” he declares, “essentially a peasant revolution.” There is much talk among the djounoud of “the future Algeria,” declares another. “They speak much about this, and first of all they speak of the agrarian reform: the land was stolen from us; it must come back to us. We will not lay down our arms before we get the land.”

The djounoud want “to build a republic for the people, an authentic republic: it is necessary to tackle the problems at rock bottom, to carry the struggle for independence through to the end. And to do that, to fight for mastery of the people over the mines, the oil, the factories and the banks.”

Another affirms: “The feeling of us all is that the real fight will begin after independence, and everyone is getting ready for it.”

The agrarian reform, the redistribution of the land grabbed by “the big companies, the big settlers,” will be “the basis of the Algeria of tomorrow.”

More than the djounoud, it is the entire people who are claiming back their land. “There is no idea of revenge among the people, but only a desire for justice: their land, which was stolen from them, they will take back by force of arms.”

The theme of the peasant character of the revolution and of the bold agrarian reform, “the first object of the revolution,” recurs in most of the recordings. Social and political preoccupations, in the proportion and measure that the struggle is prolonged and experience is ripening, become pressing.

After a clear fashion the revolution is being politicized and deepened, following its own logic, that of the permanent revolution which proceeds inexorably from its national to its social stage.

All the testimonies here recorded, whether among the djounoud and the peasants of Algeria, or among the thousands of militants of the FLN organized in the prisons of France, agree on the extraordinary social and political maturity of the rank and file of the Algerian revolution.

It is up to the French and European working-class movement to shake off its present torpor and effectively come to the help of its class brothers who are fighting imperialism, hastening thereby the victorious development of socialism, in the one case as in the other.

December 1959


1. Men and women partisans.

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