Algeria 1958

Minutes of a Meeting between the FLN and the PCF

Source: Les Porteurs de Valises by Hervé Hamon and Patrrick Rotman. Albin Michel, Paris, 1979.
Translated: for by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike)

On May 30, 1958, just two weeks after de Gaulle’s return to power, Francis Jeanson (who appears as “V.” in the following document) was delegated by the FLN to meet with PCF Politburo member Laurent Casanova (“L.” in the document) to discuss the possibility of common action. Jeanson, an associate of Sartre’s, was leader of the most important network of French men and women who provided material aid to the FLN.

  1. L. began by delivering a lengthy analysis of the current political situation. Under the cover of the Pfimlin government the French bourgeoisie has attempted for as long as possible to save something of the republican institutions. It turns to fascism unwillingly, for it fears the reaction of the French people. Nevertheless, it is forced to do so insofar as it no longer controls the levers of state, neither the police nor the army. The turning point in this direction was reached at the time of Pfimlin’s speech in favor of the reform of the constitution (May 24).

The role of the Socialists in this movement is quite complex. They played their role in support of the bourgeoisie. Auriol and Mollet were seen to actively participate in the negotiations to put de Gaulle in place. Nevertheless, in an affair of this kind some Socialists find themselves at the side of the Communists and are ready to defend democracy.

We will not be able to avoid a de Gaulle government. But it can’t last. Who will it rely on? On the rebellious generals, the paras, the torturers. It will find no support among the people. We can already see the beginnings of resistance, not only in the Party, but also among the masses: the information L. is able to obtain indicates this, and not only in Paris. (De Gaulle claims to want to build national unity, but without relying on the people. L. recalls that already in ‘40 he condemned the Resistance, which relied on the country itself and the maquis, and was a partisan of the re-conquest of France by armed forces stationed outside the country.)

  1. After having developed these themes, L. came to the subject of the discussion.

To start with, V. explained the positions of the FLN and on what basis he is charged with making contact with the PCF. Without a doubt, the Algerian comrades have many criticisms that can be made of the past attitude of the PCF and the French working class, which took so long to move. But the time for criticism has passed. Now more than ever it is clear that the French and Algerian peoples find themselves in the presence of the same enemy. It is only a republican government, relying on the working class, that will make peace in Algeria. V. demands that on this occasion the PCF unite two slogans: struggle against fascism, and independence for Algeria (not peace). L. acquiesces; all of this is within the current political line.

V.: there are currently 200,000 Algerians in France, disciplined and ready. These militants represent a certain force, a considerable force, one it would be regrettable and absurd to waste by throwing it into the struggle in isolation. But in the coming days the militants increasingly risk finding themselves exposed to provocations, and unthinkingly entering the fight. They are capable of significant actions, but if they are isolated they will be negative and in vain. In order to be truly effective and positive, if this force must intervene its action must be coordinated with that of the French people. In the current stage we are not yet at the point of violent struggle. But in preparing for this struggle we must, from this day forward, count on this force and work to coordinate its action with that of the working class.

L.: it is correct to seek to coordinate the two actions, French and Algerian. But before going much further there are nevertheless certain reservations to be made about the Front. 1. The FLN did not sufficiently cast light on the subject of the faked demonstrations organized by the ultras in Algiers. It did not explicitly denounce them to the Algerian people (not to mention the French people — but in fact this wasn’t its job). 2. As for its positions on de Gaulle and an eventual fascist government, it has allowed to take hold a certain confusion. Not only did texts clearly explaining the Front’s positions not appear, but a certain number of errors were made in this area (viz., the premier declaration of Abbas) that spread confusion in France at the most serious moment. This will doubtless be difficult to make up for.

L. specified that the methods of the Front and the PCF differ greatly: the Front works mainly through guerrilla methods and the clandestine struggle. It doesn’t publicly explain its positions and policies. As for the Party, it takes care to make things public.

V.: 1. This reproach is meaningless. It must be seen that the Front doesn’t work in the same conditions as the PCF. It is at war, and doesn’t have the same means of information to make things public. 2. In any event, the Front will not delay explaining at length its position on these different points. The staking out of a position was begun in the FLN’s communiqué published in L'Humanité, and then in the second interview given by Abbas (L'Observateur). 3. This is not the time for criticism. For the Algerians, the French working class is what it is, but such as it is it remains the natural ally of the Algerians. In this sense, and on this basis, V. is commissioned by the Algerians to make different proposals.

It is to be hoped that this discussion will be followed by other discussions, and that contacts will be made directly between Algerian leaders and those of the PCF. During these discussions the principles according to which united action between the PCF and the FLN should be envisioned will be specified.

L: Agreed.

V.: And then it is to be hoped that in a preparatory phase the positions of the FLN will be specified and explained to the working class, in texts distributed with the assistance of the PCF. Finally, the Algerians are ready to eventually accept material assistance from Communist militants, material assistance that will allow them to hold out in an increasingly difficult context, in the midst of provocations that they will not fail to be exposed to.

L.: That last proposition remains to be seen. It doesn’t seem to be currently practicable.


The practical modalities of the next discussion are fixed. This discussion is positive in that:

Nevertheless, the extreme “prudence” of the leaders of the PCF, and the real difficulties currently confronting the Party (even if it is in part responsible) precisely define the limits of this discussion. A lot of work remains to be done before arriving at a truly united action.