Algeria History 1956

Jacques Duclos Explains the Communist Vote in Favor of the Government

March 12, 1956

Translated: for by Mitch Abidor;
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On February 9, 1956, the Socialist -led government of Guy Mollet introduced a bill giving the government “special powers” to act in Algeria. It asked for powers “enabling it to take all exceptional measures in view of establishing order, protecting persons and property, and safeguarding the territory.” In order to do this, it allowed for the call-up of reservists, the suspending of the guarantee of civil liberties in Algeria, and divided Algeria into three zones, in the third of which , “the forbidden zone,” populations were put in settlement camps and placed under Army control. The motion passed on March 12 by a vote of 455-76, with the French Communist Party voting for it. Jacques Duclos’ speech in defense of this vote was issued as a flyer.

Monday March 12, 1956, 4:50 p.m. Jacques Duclos steps up to the tribune. Total silence settles over the room. In several places in the speech, Communist applause is joined by that of Socialist, Radical and Rassemblement Democratique Africain deputies, while the deputies of the Right are dismayed.

Mesdames, Messieurs,

We have now arrived at the moment when the National Assembly is going to vote on the special powers project, a vote which the President of the Council has made one of confidence in his government.

As concerns the Communist Group, it has already made known its point of view on the Algerian problem, but I want to remind you of the essential points.

We declare ourselves to be in favor of the existence of political, economic and cultural ties between France and Algeria.

We consider this to be a position in conformity with the interests of the people of France and the people of Algeria, including the overwhelming majority of those of European origin. But such a policy can only be put in place if the Algerian people can freely decide on it. For this, the colonialist relations imposed by force on Algeria must be repudiated. The Algerian national fact must be accepted as soon as possible.

The French Communist Party considers that the government must engage in discussions with those against whom we fight, in order to arrive at a cease fire and an end to repressive measures.

This is the way to prevent young soldiers from being exposed any longer to death in Algeria. Many families anxiously await such a decision. There is no time to lose, and the settling of the Algerian problem must be quickly done or we risk seeing the aggravation of the situation.

The ultra-colonialists who organized the fascist demonstrations this past February 6 in Algeria [1], along with their agents in France, want not only to prevent an end to the war in Algeria, they want it to intensify; and they don’t hesitate to brandish the threat of separatism in order to impose their will at whatever price.

The comportment of the fascists and their lackeys should grab the attention of the working class and the mass of the people.

In such conditions, the unity in struggle of Socialist and Communist workers is necessary, and the French Communist Party is concerned above all to give this indispensable common action as much force and breadth as possible. (applause on the extreme left)

It is only natural that in their role of rabid partisans of the intensification of the war in Algeria and the installation of fascism in France, the fascists sitting in our assembly fight the government project.

Their objective is to replace the current Socialist-led government or to impose their own policy on it. The French Communist Party must take into account these moves, which aim to thwart the will expressed through universal suffrage and to orient French policy to the Right.

Reaction’s plans have as their objective the intensification and prolongation of the war in Algeria, by opposing any negotiations. They would also like to tear up the agreements concerning the independence of Morocco, to break up negotiations with Tunisia and, in doing this, dangerously worsen the situation in North Africa. (applause from the extreme left and from some Socialist benches)

These plans tend also to promote in France a policy of social regression, and to liquidate the first results we have registered. (applause from the same benches)

It is thus indispensable to preserve and consolidate all possibilities of unity of action between Communists and Socialists in order to foil reaction’s plans in all areas. (applause from the far left)

We are told that special powers are asked for in order to rapidly arrive at peace, and in order to, if need be, force the big landowners of Algeria to renounce their privileges; other, different, declarations have also been made. These relate to military measures, and these we cannot approve.

We consider that what counts above all is the unity of working class and popular action, and we are convinced that it will mange to rapidly impose a cease fire and the opening of negotiation, without which the Algerian problem cannot be solved. (applause on the far left)

We insist on reminding you that these objectives are in keeping with the electoral promises made by the men currently in power, and any government which will set out to put these promises in action will be assured of the enthusiastic support of the working class and the people of France.

We are certain that the Algerian national fact will, in the end, be officially recognized, which will allow us to quickly arrive at a solution in conformity with the interests of France and Algeria.

We have already been able to note that though certain declarations were made in the past relative to Morocco and Tunisia, declarations which were presented to us as definitively representing the point of view of France, important changes were nevertheless made afterwards. (applause on the far left) This evolution, whose necessity imposes itself on us, would be seriously compromised if French policy was tilted to the right, as certain reactionaries and fascists would like.

Such a policy, whose results we know in Vietnam, and whose evil doings in Morocco and Tunisia we can measure, have already cost France dearly.

We must prevent a return of this policy, and our will to ensure this has been taken into account in our decision to vote for the government. (applause on the far left)

Our vote will express our clear wish to block all of reaction’s maneuvers, by developing the unity of action of the working class and the popular masses.

Our vote will also express our firm resolution to neglect nothing in order to advance on the road that must and will arrive at a cease fire in Algeria, and in negotiations that will make of the Algerian people a friend and ally of the people of France. (applause on the far left and several benches on the left)

1. — On February 6,1956 Guy Mollet was pelted with tomatoes by right-wingers at a demonstration.