Ahmed Ben Bella 1960

On the Manifesto of the 121

Ben Bella

Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org.

As it did for many Algerians, the Manifesto of the 121 resounded like a thunderclap for us, the leaders of the Algerian Revolution. It has to be recognized that this courageous stand protected us against feelings that were not at all nice, against hatred. The liberation struggle was terrible; we were battered, wounded by colonization. This manifesto reminded us that the war that struck us did not sum up the French people; there were Frenchmen who were at our side under horrible conditions. The French people were also a great people, bearer of a rich history and a genius all their own. We were not alone. They weren’t traitors; on the contrary, they expressed the best of France. We knew this, and that is why we were moved. These men and women rose up against something they thought abominable.

All the obstacles of the era must be remembered. The march towards independence wasn’t easy. The war did not unfurl continuously; forceps were required for this childbirth. It was very difficult. There were tough periods, abrupt halts, steps forward. But this movement of the Fall of 1960 showed that something was happening in France. The manifesto marked a stage in the end of colonialism. The 121 intellectuals, our lawyers, as well as the “valise carriers” [1] became more than our friends, they became part of our flesh. They illustrated the raising of consciousness, the “point omega” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin spoke of, where the human being reaches the highest degree of spirituality. We admired them, we loved them, and we knew that it was difficult for them. They confirmed for us that the human being is everywhere present, and one should never despair of him.

I was in prison when these events occurred. But I, too, knew this solidarity. I remember they had transferred us to a prison near Saumur. The Organisation Armée Secréte[2] had plans to liquidate us in our cells. We knew about this. I won’t say what our lawyers did for us: this must remain secret. But I can say that we had prepared our escape to save ourselves from this attempt. In the end, this wasn’t necessary.

I remember the “valise carriers” and the lawyers with emotion. They were the best of Frenchmen, the best of Algerians.


1. The valise carriers (les porteurs de valises) were French men and women who supported the FLN, transporting arms and funds for the organization.

2. Right-wing terrorist group that fought to keep Algeria French.