The War in Algeria 1961
Source: Sylvain Pattieu, Les Camarades des freres. Aris, Syllepse, 2002;
First Published: Quatriéme Internationale no. 14, November 1961;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor.
Put on trial for his part in a plot involving the fabrication of counterfeit money, Pablo and his comrades took advantage of the trial and used it as a political forum.
I don’t have a strictly private life. For many years the apartments I’ve lived in with my wife were open to the members of our organization, to our friends and our political sympathizers, to a great number of people. During the war and the Nazi occupation of Europe, Israelites or men of the Resistance of all nationalities hunted by the Nazi services naturally found refuge at our home. When the Algerian revolution began in 1954, and Algerian militants were in turn pitilessly hunted down by the police services and terrorists under the orders of colonialism, my wife and I told the Algerian comrades to do us the honor of considering our home at their entire disposal. It was the same in Amsterdam.
We hope to continue in this way until the end of our days, today aiding our Algerian brothers to the best of our abilities, tomorrow our black brothers of Angola and South Africa, our Indio brothers of Latin America, our brothers from everywhere, oppressed and exploited men fighting for the liberty and dignity of man.
This attitude came to us naturally, and not at all through any special merit. Personally, I always felt myself to simply be a man who had completely made his own the wisdom contained in the verse of our poet of Antiquity, Menander: I am a man, and nothing that is human is foreign to me.
But, during the long life I’ve lived in the organization in which I have the honor of being a member, while trying to dominate the egoistic and narcissistic tendencies of our being, I’ve also learned how to accomplish those things necessary in relation to a political and social goal, and not only those things that were personally agreeable and easy. I at least wanted to act in accordance with that rules of social morality, more or less successfully. I lived the cataclysm of fascism in Germany and Europe of the 1930’s as a militant, and I also lived through the cataclysms of the Second World War as a militant. From all this I drew the conclusion that a certain dose of personal courage, intelligence, and critical spirit is necessary in order for every citizen to have the freedom to live, for the horrors of war to be avoided, so that society not fall under the yoke of privileged bureaucratic minorities. Neither the danger of fascism nor that of war and dictatorship are absent in the current world. This can be clearly seen in what is happening in France, in what’s happening in Africa from Algeria to Angola and South Africa, in what’s happening in Latin America, from Cuba to Chile, in what’s happening with East-West relations, from Laos to Berlin.
I will limit myself to a few words on the Algerian drama, which is at the heart of the affair that you are judging, Monsieur President, Messieurs Judges. I wonder if the Christian and civilized men and women of Western Europe, wallowing in their current relative material comfort, realize deep down what has been going on for the past seven years in Algeria, what is currently happening in the hell of Angola, or the drama, for example, of the Congolese children dying of hunger in the thousands. If they realize to what point our civilization is only a matter of an epidermis that it suffices to scratch for an incredible potential for cruelty, violence and injustice toward our brothers – the people of color cruelly oppressed and exploited – to escape.
Have we in Western Europe truly realized the horrors of the colonial war in Algeria, that fact that there have been seven years of massacres and torture, around a million deaths on the Algerian side, more than two million poor peasants chased from their villages, displaced, “regrouped” in temporary camps, more than 250,000 Algerian refugees in Morocco and Tunisia, most of whom are elderly, women, and children who are war orphans, more than 300,000 Algerians in prisons and concentration camps in France itself? Yet these figure appear in the official French press and in the countless literary and other documents that have been produced by this colonial war, the most atrocious of our century.
Can we simply close our eyes on these facts and each of us “peacefully” live his selfish little life without bothering with the “demon of politics?” I don’t think so. I firmly believe that politics, i.e., the science of the knowledge, the organization, and the management of society, must occupy a primordial place in the life of every free and critical being, in order to avoid disasters, to lead humanity as quickly as possible towards the abolition of oppression, exploitation, and to the most complete possible flourishing of the individual.
Monsieur President, messieurs judges, for the past 32 years, from the beginning of my life as a conscious being, I have had the honor of being part of the historical movement created by Leon Trotsky and currently known under the name of the 4th International. It was in the ranks of this movement that I learned the true meaning of the combat for socialism and the socialist society of tomorrow. This meaning was momentarily obscured by the traits of degeneration and bureaucratic deformation that the backward character of Czarist Russia and the prolonged international isolation of the October revolution imprinted upon workers’ power, in the USSR and elsewhere during the Stalin era.
But we have already impetuously, irreversibly entered the era of the world-wide expansion of the socialist revolution, which will give a victorious vigor to all the fundamental ideas in the matter of socialist economy, democracy, and culture elaborated and defended against all odds for many decades by Leon Trotsky and the 4th International.