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Ian H. Birchall

A Study in Inevitables

(Winter 1963/64)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.15, Winter 1963/64, p.39.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Algeria & France: from Colonialism to Cooperation
Dorothy Pickles
Methuen; 30s.

In this book Mrs Pickles gives us ‘a brief study of only one aspect of the Algerian problem, namely, its impact on the politics of post-war France.’ It provides a useful and concise record of the main events of the Algerian war, and of the opportunistic reactions of politicians, Left and Right alike, to them – an interesting work to consult, but not really worth buying at the price. It contains no original factual material, and nothing that IS readers would recognise as analysis. On the one hand one could wish for more statistical, and especially more economic facts than we are given; on the other for a more critical attitude than we get in the treatment of the Manifesto of the 121: ‘The tone of the manifesto was both exaggerated and seditious. Even the most liberal and tolerant of governments could hardly be expected to permit freedom of opinion to go to such lengths.’ The Algerian war was the most savage and degrading of the many struggles in the death-agony of classical colonialism. Now that it is finished, and we can review the whole of it in retrospect, the picture is even more tragic, for we can see clearly the inevitables that dominated the situation. The realistic solutions of compromise and reform that were repeatedly proposed are shown to have been totally Utopian (like all ‘realistic’ policies). The hopes of the Left were likewise illusory – there was neither the will nor the possibility for mass popular defence of the Fourth Republic in 1958; how much less chance of French proletarian solidarity with the FLN. Only a prolonged and bitter conflict could operate the changes in consciousness necessary for a solution. It is a lesson to any in our movement who hope for rapid or easy victories.

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