The Fallacy of Defending Democracy With Repression: Algeria

Writing about the French terror campaign to defeat the terror campaign of the Algerian independence forces (the 20th century one that almost destroyed the struggling French state), Albert Camus made a last-ditched effort to persuade his two homelands—France and Algeria—to overcome their clash of civilizations. In the event, of course, France would not compromise* but managed to cut its losses and get out of Algeria before it collapsed; Algeria would not compromise and gained independence but set itself up for dictatorship followed by, in the next generation, a new wholly domestic terror campaign plus domestic mini-clash of civilizations. How much of the current Western-Islamic clash might have been evaded if Camus’ biracial dream had come true, the world will never know.

…la lutte armee et la repression ont pris, de notre cote, des aspects inacceptables. Les represailles contre les populations civiles et le pratique de torture sont des crimes don’t nouse sommes tous solidaires….nous devons du moins refuser toute justification, fut-ce par l’efficacite, a ces methods. Des l’instant, en effet, ou meme indirectement, on les justifie, il n’y a plus de regle ni de valeur, toutes les causes se valent et la guerre sans buts ni lois consacre le triomphe du nihilisme. [Albert Camus, Chroniques algeriennes 1939-1958 (Gallimard, 1958), 15.]

…peut-on survivre comme people sans render justice, dans une mesure raisonnable, a d’autrres peoples? La France meurt de ne pas savoir resoudre ce dillemme. Les premiers veulent l’universel au detriment du particulier. Les autres le particulier au detriment de l’universel. Mais les deux vont ensemble. [20.]

…le role de l’intellectuel est de discerner, selon ses moyens, dans chaque camp, les limites respectives de la force et de la justice. [24.]

* More accurately, as Camus describes, France’s half-hearted efforts to lessen anti-Algerian repression always came–in the face of French settler opposition to equality–a generation too late to persuade Algerians of French good faith.

One comment on “The Fallacy of Defending Democracy With Repression: Algeria

  1. […] …peut-on survivre comme people sans render justice, dans une mesure raisonnable, a d’autres peuples? La France meurt de ne pas savoir resoudre ce dillemme. [See William deB. Mills, “The Fallacy of Defending Democracy With Repression: Algeria,” in Historical and Literary Lessons.] […]

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