The text of the Declaration supporting the right of French students to refuse call-up in the Algerian War, signed originally by 121 intellectuals
a very important movement is gaining ground in France, about which French and international opinion must be more fully informed, at a time when new developments in the Algerian war should lead us to realise, rather than forget, the gravity of the crisis which began six years ago.
More and more Frenchmen are being prosecuted, imprisoned, and sentenced for refusing to participate in this war or for having assisted Algerian combatants. Their reasons, distorted by their opponents, but watered down as well by precisely those whose duty it is to defend them, remain in general misunderstood. It is, however, not enough merely to mention that this resistance to the public authorities is considerable. It is a protest on the part of men whose honour, and whose clear conceptions of the truth, have been affronted; it has a meaning which transcends the circumstances in which it arose, and which must be kept in mind, whatever events may lead to.
For Algerians, the struggle carried on either by military or by diplomatic methods involves no ambiguity. It is a war of national independence. But what kind of war is it for the French? It is not a foreign war. French territory has never been threatened. More than this: it is conducted against men whom the State affects to think of as French but who, precisely, are struggling to be so no longer.
. . . Neither war of conquest, nor war of “national defence”, nor civil war, the Algerian war has, little by little, become an action run by the Army and by one caste, both of whom refuse to yield to this uprising, the sense of which even the civil authorities, conscious of the general downfall of colonial empires, seem ready to acknowledge.
Today, this absurd and criminal conflict is principally kept alive by the wishes of the Army; and because of the political function which several of its high-ranking representatives make it fulfil, this Army, at times openly and violently flouting every law, and betraying the mission which the country has entrusted to it, is compromising and risks corrupting the nation itself, by forcing citizens under its orders to be accomplices in factious or degrading measures. Need we remind you that 15 years after the destruction of Hitler’s regime, French militarism, in meeting the demands of this war, has re-established torture and made it once again a European institution?
Such are the conditions in which many Frenchmen have been led to re-examine their sense or values and of traditional obligations. What is citizenship if, under certain circumstances, it becomes shameful submission? Are there not cases where the refusal to serve is a sacred duty, where “treason” means a brave respect for what is true? And when, according to the will of those who use it as an instrument of racial or ideological domination, the Army declares itself in overt of covert revolt against democratic institutions, does not revolt against the Army take on another meaning?