Source: Alger Républicain, May 18, 1945;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org.
In the spring of 1945, as the war was winding down in Europe, demonstrations took place in Algeria calling for independence. In April Messali Hadj, the best known of Algerian leaders, was arrested and deported.
On May 1 a demonstration in Algiers organized by the Parti Populaire Algerien led to 11 deaths. A follow-up demonstration was scheduled for May 8 in the city of Setif. It was met by the police, and violence broke out, resulting in the death of 27 Europeans, including the Socialist mayor of the city. The demonstrations spread throughout the Depatment of Constantine, and within a few days 103 Europeans had been killed. This is the first bloodshed of the war that was to officially start nine years later. Alger Républicain, the semi-official newspaper of the Algerian Communist Party, published this editorial on the events and their aftermath.
As the news becomes more precise, and as spirits regain their calm, we can more clearly see that the Algerian populace were victims of an evil blow prepared by criminals who, for various reasons, saw it in their interests to see this succeed.
The objectives that were aimed for are clear: it’s a matter of digging a ditch between the different ethnic elements of this country and drowning in blood the work undertaken by the new France.
For we democrats the first thing to be done is to avoid being satisfied with explanations based on immediate appearances, nor to allow the voice of reason to be stifled by impulses born of panic and hatred.
The rioters and the assassins should be punished in conformity with the law. But it shouldn’t be thought that an increase in repression constitutes a remedy that can prevent the return of this catastrophe. For as history shows, it is exactly the contrary that is true. Force in service to justice increases respect for the latter. But violence that goes beyond the needs of justice provokes violence in a vicious cycle.
It’s precisely deeper into this vicious cycle that some would like us to sink. We will know how to foil their plans. We will put up a barrier against the wave of racial hatred that they are trying to symmetrically develop among different elements of the Algerian population. Nothing is lost and, as always in extreme circumstances, it could even be the case that good will come of this evil, for we have tragic proof of the perils Algeria must face because of the work of provocateurs and those who would starve us.
There is no race war in this country; there is only a plot that has attempted to have one break out. It’s up to the legal authorities to smash this plot. They will be able to do this if they know how to have confidence in the people and in democratic organizations, for racist agitation is not born within the masses.
All can now see that the only progress possible for Algeria is through unity with French democracy. But all can also see that it is urgent that democracy truly penetrate this country and that it dissipate the vestiges of a bygone past.