Peace, it seems, is coming in Algeria. But with it, one may fear, a frightful showdown between the French civilian and military extremists and the French government—which, in turn, may make the actual implementation of peace more difficult. And it isn’t even a clear showdown, with clean lines cut between the loyal forces and the rebellious ones. Everything is often so confused that one wonders who is acting for whom and why . . .
For people in Britain who have followed the vicissitudes of France only through the daily press, the French situation must be bewildering. The facts, of course, are clear; but the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ must seem mysterious, and I realise many anglo-saxon minds must ascribe them to gallic love of complication. Exactly what aims has General de Gaulle been pursuing in Algeria and is it possible for him to make peace there? Are his power, regime and even his person threatened by the military and civilian fascist organisation called ‘O.A.S.’ (The Organisation of the Secret Army)? If so, why does he keep around him ministers, civil servants and military men whose loyalty seems so doubtful? When fascists organise meetings, where the name of De Gaulle is vilified and those of the rebel military leaders in Algeria are extolled, these meetings are authorised and protected by the police; when large masses of people demonstrate peacefully in the streets, against the fascists and therefore on the side of the government, the government’s police attacks them savagely, wounding many, killing some. Why?
The government keeps in Algeria hundreds of thousands of young Frenchmen doing their military service in the army; all are loyal to the government, even if many are Republicans and have doubts about the effectiveness of De Gaulle’s policy; however, under the protection of this armed force, the fascist rebels have practically seized control of the
No real effort is being made to purge them. But even worse, colonels, generals, majors, etc., known as republicans, or only even as loyalists have been, if not purged, at least removed from positions of influence. Why? This general lack of authority, this philandering with one’s enemies, make the government’s actions in Algeria look utterly absurd: Lewis Carroll’s maddest dreams seem sane in comparison. The government pretends to go on exercising its authority in Algeria, the money on which Algeria lives, and the official pay received by civil servants and military personnel comes from France, all official business, from the smallest act of administration to the most far-reaching decisions is still being done in the name of France—yet the central organs of administration have had to flee from the town of Algiers and establish themselves in a kind of stronghold in the countryside, ‘Rocher Noir’. And the fight against the fascist rebels is carried out in Algeria by secret agents operating in disguise, as they would in an enemy country . . .
Yes, all this looks as if it had been invented by a madman and no wonder foreigners shake their heads in despair. Even in France, not everybody can see through this maze of absurdities and contradictions. Some are tempted to attribute the whole design to actual pathological madness of the Chief of State; others credit him with some dark and secret design by which he intends to deliver France to complete fascism. Everything, however, is more complicated. Yet the whole complexity can be unraveled, provided one follows a few simple threads which run through the whole fabric. I will try to pick out these threads in this article.