by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
Last week French President Emmanuel Macron admitted for the first time ever that France used torture systematically during the Algerian War for Independence.
This has earned Macron and France international plaudits for “bringing the country closer to grappling with its colonial past”, “righting a historical wrong” and other such total nonsense.
I covered the story for PressTV, and alongside both Algerian and French-Algerian journalists, and our response was one of exasperation and infuriation. This sentiment was not broadcast in seemingly any English-language media, and only passingly referenced in any French ones.
The announcement is nonsense for many reasons. Let’s answer the most important question: “Why now?”
This is the real answer to “why now”, and you won’t find this in any mainstream media, is: everybody is dead!
Algeria reclaimed their independence 56 years ago, after all. This means the guilty French soldiers who were the torturers are dead, the guilty French military commanders are dead, the guilty French politicians who encouraged and then covered up the torture are dead, the witnesses are dead, the Harkis (Algerians who fought on the side of the French) who helped with the torture are dead, the spouses of the slain Algerians are dead, the brothers and sisters and parents of the dead Algerians are dead.
Everybody who was involved is dead, and if they aren’t dead – half of them have their memories muddled by old age and the other half are just happy they wake up every morning and can still get vertical.
There will be no investigations or parliamentary committees, and also no criminal or civil trials – how can you have such things when there are no plaintiffs or defendants anymore? And it’s not as if White countries get tried at the Hague, anyway.
For the same reason – there will be no reparations to the victims, as those who survived the torture are dead.
So France clearly had nothing to lose – dead men tell no truths.
France’s mea culpa arrives 23 years after France admitted to rounding up 75,000 Jews for German death camps during World War II.
First of all, 1.5 million Algerians died during their war for liberation, so what France did was 20 times worse to Algeria than what they did to the Jews. I always put these types of “total fatality discussions” in this context: imagine you are a Jew in a bar, and in this bar there are also 20 Algerians – would you feel comfortable boldly proclaiming that France did worse to the Jews than they did to Algerians? Not if you were remotely reasonable or honest.
But the main point is: France waited 50 years to admit what everybody knew about shipping Jews to their death, so it was the same thing with this case – they were all dead, too. No reparations, nobody went to jail. Algerians had to wait 56 years, so Muslims can’t really claim a major difference here; there is a clear pattern, and it follows the capitalist-imperialist pattern I have just described – wait until there are no consequences, and somehow reap applause from an obsequious, colluding media.
The question in 2018 for capitalist-imperialist France is about avoiding reparations, guarding its self-image and maintaining its global image of moral superiority (repeated advertising works!).
Domestically, Macron’s approval rating is now down to a stunning, but deserved and easily-explainable, 19% – he is down from even the 24% of hard-core Macron supporters who actually voted for his policies and personality; he needs to win some Franco-Muslim approval and, as I said, there are no actual repercussions to this admission.
So Macron and France tell everybody that the sky is blue, and you will be very hard pressed to find anyone not praising them to skies, much less questioning their motives.
Another key question: Why Maurice Audin?
The admission came during a personal visit from Macron to the home of the widow of Maurice Audin, a 25-year old Communist and anti-imperialist who was “disappeared” during the Battle of Algiers in 1957.
Why Maurice Audin and not someone else?
Easy: Audin was the son of a pied-noir colonist from Lyon. He wasn’t even Algerian, as he was born in Tunisia; his mother was Algerian, but in most Muslim countries citizenship is determined by the father’s side. Similarly, one is a Muslim if one’s father is a Muslim; for Jews make a similar determination but via the mother. Media routinely described Audin as “European” and “French”.
The point is: to make their confession, the Macron administration chose a half-White, Christian/atheist/Communist person in a country dominated by Brown Arab Muslims and Algerian Islamic Socialists. It’s true that French media has often made noise about the case over the years – well, he was “White”, after all. And you don’t deny a White person their justice and rights, as we all know.
So by making the admission in the context of clarifying the French state’s orchestrated murder of Audin, France is actually able to stroke their own ego because they are focusing on a true leftist and a martyr: “Audin was one of the few Europeans in the country to support Algerian calls for independence,” per the BBC. LOL, Audin was not at all representative – this is like how France talks about “La Resistance” during WWII much more than Vichy France.
But the fact that it was a “Maurice” and not an “Abdelkader” must drastically shape the context and reception of this nonsensical applause for France’s admission. All Muslims in France knew: there is NO WAY Macron is going to genuflect at the home of an “Abdelkader”.
These are the kinds of things which Western leftists totally ignore, even though it is really quite a basic analysis of the machinations of a capitalist-imperialist government.
The US left-wing publication The Nation even falls victim to this: “Maurice Audin is the symbol of all of the others,” they quote French historian Fabrice Riceputi as saying…and they leave it unchallenged, even though putting a (half) White face as the symbol of 1.5 million dead Algerians is obviously a right-winger’s dream outcome!
The Nation’s final quote is even worse, from a leftist perspective: “Rim-Sarah Alouane, a French-Algerian doctoral candidate in comparative law at the University of Toulouse, described her family’s exaltation at the news: “Every French-Algerian, or every Algerian, has in some way been affected by the war—an open wound that has never been healed.” She said she hopes that maybe “this is the medicine that everyone has been waiting for, and the process of healing can move forward can finally take place.”
That should not be the last word in a leftist reporting of this event. As I said, none of the Algerians I know were “exalted” by the news, nor should they be, because it was done in a way to distort the racist, imperialist reality of French guilt as much as possible. Leftist media must conclude that the “systematic torture” confession is really mostly insulting propaganda and not the “medicine” which is needed to reform France’s reactionary tendencies and policies nor enough balm for countless Algerian families living with horrific tragedies.
‘Open archives’ and some Arizona swampland I’m happy to sell you
Macron claimed he would open the state archives on the Algerian War for Independence, but I have heard that from French presidents before. Frankly, I don’t believe it now: I think there is no way that France is going to publish the honest accountings of the murder of, what, ten thousand, a hundred thousand unaccounted, mysterious and illegal deaths?
That means such stories would be in the French media daily for seemingly years, each more shocking than the next: thrown off a helicopter into the mountains, electrocuted to death, the death of women and children, etc. France is England – meaning it is not dominated by tabloid news – but such stories would inevitably make it into the mass media. There is no way – given that France is capitalist, and thus makes efforts to exacerbate identity politics and ethnic, religious and gender divides – that France is prepared to live in honesty day after day about Algeria.
So I will believe that Macron will open state archives completely when I see it – call me skeptical, but at least I am not reaction like nearly all other Western journalists, who act as if it has already been done!
Furthermore, I am right to be skeptical of Macron: He has already made bold claims on the Algerian War for Independence only to reverse course. During the election campaign he called France’s war to keep occupying Algeria a “crime against humanity”, only to immediately backtrack the next day following right-wing outcry. During his state visit to Algeria he avoided the question, and even rudely responded to a young Algerian who dared to bring it up to the mighty French president.
What I can say on the positive side is that this – after 17 months – is the first move by Macron which I can almost definitely say that Marine Le Pen would not have done.
There’s a slight possibility that Le Pen could have made the same admission – admitting guilt in the circumstances of the death of one half-White colonist – and made the same phony promise to open up the archive just to win some international plaudits. But for Le Pen to fully open up the archives would mean she’d have to give up the evidence which would implicate her own father; they may have had a falling out, politically, but I doubt that happens. Furthermore, she’d alienate much of her own hard-core base who want nothing to do with talking about the crimes of French colonialists, and I am not referring to neo-Nazis here but to the average unreformed, jingoistic Frenchman and Frenchwoman, of which there are many millions, due to the failure of leftism here.
It must be touched upon: Macron makes this “confession” about Audin and systematic torture, which allows everyone to believe that France has “learned” from their mistakes – and yet it was Macron who made nearly all the extraordinary emergency powers of France’s 2-year state of emergency (a legal legacy inherited from the War for Algerian Independence) common police practice (I think Le Pen would have been thwarted in this). Macron’s actions towards Algerians and Franco-Algerians still remains in the negative, overwhelmingly, as 99% of the thousands of victims of the State of Emergency arrests and house arrests have been Muslims – therefore around 40% of the victims have likely been of Algerian origin). If we want to talk about Macron’s relation with Franco-Algerians, this issue cannot be overlooked.
What would a leftist government response have looked like?
The reality is that meeting this admission with condemnation and opprobrium is the only way Macron’s promises actually get fulfilled and the scales of justice begin to be balanced. Therefore, not patting France on the back – but demanding more – is the only way forward after the admission…yet the response has been exactly the opposite – a false sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction.
Certainly, there would also be a recognition that, LOL, Algeria is just the tip of the iceberg! What about the unsolved murders and “systematic torture” elsewhere in French colonial North Africa, West Africa, Polynesia, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, Guyana and Southeast Asia? Read your favorite mainstream account of France’s confession and this point is nowhere to be found, even though we are talking about how many millions and millions of innocent lives. A leftist leader would have brought this fact up, and he or she would have pointed out to conservatives that this is not “anti-patriotic” but “anti-jingoistic” – France is not perfect just because it is France, and they have been atrociously wrong all over the world.
A leftist response would also have included something which is totally, totally unthinkable in French politics, and I am referring to making a statement such as this:
“You 800,000 pied-noirs who returned to France – you guys are really screwing up France’s politics today because you refuse to admit your right-wing guilt and renounce your reactionary, capitalist-imperialist beliefs. Now you know that you have not been received as refugees or anything as bad as that, and we are tired of the way you have changed the political balance all over southern France. Just admit that you have been misled by right-wing imperialism, and let’s move on – which means you finally STOP rationalizing the behavior of your politically unenlightened ancestors (like so many humans), and finally STOP resisting an honest reckoning.”
But that will never happen…and these returned imperialists will continue to have a hugely outsized and negative effect on French politics similar to the rabid anti-socialists in Miami, Florida.
A leftist media response would have looked…well, like this one here, but better. And such responses would appear week after week after week until French state promises became realities.
There certainly would have been no moral equivocation such as in The Guardian, which is the “center-left” paper in the UK (“center left” in the UK being equivalent to “center-right” in the colonized world….): “The Algerian war of independence (1954-62) was a complicated colonial war marked by the brutality of both sides.”
The existence of brutality in the expulsion of foreign invaders cannot rendered equal with the 1.5 million deaths of Algerians at the hands of the French…and yet that’s what The Guardian did – they try to make it “complicated” when it was anything but. That’s “objective journalism” for ya, and typical fake-leftism as well.
In the end, no matter how hard White France tries to co-opt leftism – and that is what is happening with the selection of Audin – all praise goes to Algeria in the Third World and the Muslim world. There would be no Iranian Revolution without their inspiration, undoubtedly. Algeria moved beyond Nasserism and into a truer socialism for the first time in the Muslim world. Algeria was the true “Mecca of Revolutionaries”, a well-known phrase which was the title of a recent French documentary, but even that is an Islam-obsessed statement – it was the global center and school of leftist revolution after it won independence: Cuba’s comparatively bloodless resistance (5,000 Cubans killed) could not compare with what Algeria had to teach about armed resistance to imperial occupiers.
It is unfortunate that this pre-eminence arrived during an era when Krushchev had just solidified his revisionist doctrine of “peaceful coexistence” – instead of learning from the Muslim World, European leftists decided to freeze their leftist advances…and have been regressing and losing ever since; they did not realize that capitalists would never honor their end of “peaceful coexistence”….
Even the revolutionary Algerian government kowtowed to the Soviet “grand-masters” and by 1966 had adopted a stance of “peaceful neutrality” (“neutralisme pacifique”), but it is hugely significant that they are still run by the National Liberation Front. Of course, everyone in the West, leftists included, will now chime in here with the omnipresent Western propaganda about how Algeria’s FLN today is “fake-leftist” or something similar…LOL, the irony is rich. But go back to thinking that Macron has a made a major step forward, that Audin was chosen by chance, that the archives will be fully opened, and that France is still socialist but Algeria is not even close.
It’s great that France has cleared up the death of Audin – 1,499,999 to go.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.