Algeria 1956

Open Letter from Henri Maillot

Source: El Watan, June 18, 2007;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike)

The Maillot Affair shocked France. Henri Maillot, Algerian born and of European origin, was shaken by what he saw of the war as an officer cadet in the French Army. Called to the colors a second time he decided to serve in order to steal arms for the FLN. On April 4, 1956 he succeeded, stealing a truck containing 132 machine guns, 57 rifles, and a supply of hand grenades. Tried in absentia, he was sentenced to death on May 22, by which time he had already joined the Communist maquis fighting alongside the FLN. Tracked down by the French army, he and four of his comrades, including the Spanish Civil War veteran Maurice Laban were killed in a battle with the French forces on June 5, 1956. He sent a mimeographed copy of the following letter to the major French dailies after his theft of the munitions.

The French writer Jules Roy, an air force colonel, wrote a few months ago: “If I were a Muslim I’d be on the side of the fellaghas.” I’m not Muslim, but I am Algerian of European origin. I consider Algeria to be my homeland. I feel that I should have the same obligations towards it as all of its children. At a moment when the Algerian people has risen up to free its soil from the colonialist yoke, my place is at the side of those who have taken up the fight for liberation. The colonialist press cries out “treason,” while at the same time it adopts the separatist appeals of Boyer-Bance. It cried “treason” when under Vichy French officers passed over to the Resistance, while it served Hitler and fascism. In truth, the traitors to France are those who, in order to serve their selfish interests, disfigure in the eyes of the Algerians the true face of France and its people, with its generous, revolutionary, and anti-colonialist traditions. What is more, every progressive in France and the world recognizes the legitimacy and correctness of our national demands. The Algerian people, so long scorned and humiliated, has taken its place in the great historic movement for the liberation of colonial peoples which has set Africa and Asia ablaze. Its victory is certain. It is not, as the big landowners of this country would like to have you believe, a racial combat, but a fight of the oppressed without distinction of origin against their oppressors and their lackeys, without distinction of race. This isn’t a matter of a movement directed against France and the French, or against the workers of European or Israelite origin. They have a place in our country. We don’t confuse them with our people’s oppressors. In carrying out my act, in delivering to the Algerian combatants the arms they need for the fight for liberation, arms that will be used exclusively against the military and police forces and their accomplices, I am conscious of having served the interests of my country and my people. Including those of the momentarily misled European workers.