A Critical Evaluation Of Charles De Gaulle

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A Critical Evaluation Of Charles De Gaulle’s Handling Of The Algerian Insurrection Essay, Research Paper The 1950s was not a particularly good decade for France. The Fourth Republic, which had been established in the aftermath of the Second World War, remained unstable and lurched from crisis to crisis. Between 1946 and 1954, there had been a war in French Indo-China, between a nationalist force under Ho Chi Minh and the French. The war was long and bitter and towards the end, the French suffered the ignominy of losing the major fortress of Dien Bien Phu to the guerrillas on 7 May 1954. An armistice was sought with Ho Chi Minh, and the nations of North and South Vietnam emerged from the ashes of the colony. It is entirely likely that the success of the guerrillas influenced

the Algerian insurrectionists, the National Liberation Front(FLN), in tactics and in the idea that the time was ripe to strike. It is clear that the FLN employed similar methods to those developed by the nationalists under Ho Chi Minh.1 For several months, France was at peace. The insurrection began on 1 November 1954. The insurrection precipitated the fall of the Fourth Republic. Charles de Gaulle, hero of the Second World War, became President of France in 1958, and was intent on securing a political solution to the insurrection, rather than one based on force. His efforts were largely successful in avoiding a civil war in France, and ending the insurgency – although it took four years to do so. It has been estimated that more than a million Algerians died in the

insurrection.2 Before 1954, Algeria was not considered to be a French colony – rather it was seen as an integral part of France. The region was composed of departments, like those of the mainland. There were over a million white French nationals living in Algeria at the time and around eight million Muslims.3 This was a greater proportion of French nationals than in the other major North African colonies of France – Morocco, and Tunisia.4 Although there were benefits to remaining with France, the colonial administration was heavily weighed against the Muslims – particularly with regards to voting rights. In 1936, for instance, the Popular Front Government of Blum introduced legislation to the Assembly proposing to extend French citizenship to over twenty thousand Algerian

Muslims.5 The initiative failed when all the European mayors of Algerian towns resigned in protest. After the First World War, a number of Algerian political parties with nationalist interests began to emerge, one of the first being the Algerian Communist Party (an adjunct to the French Communist Party) in the 1920s.6 A number of other parties were formed and, much later, some coalesced into the Revolutionary Committee for Unity and Action (CRUA) in March 1954. This organisation was backed by President Nasser of Egypt and other countries of the Middle East.7 The leaders of the CRUA met in Switzerland on 10 October 1954, they created the FLN, and planned the rebellion to begin on 1 November. The insurrection had continued for three and a half years before the end of the Fourth

Republic. Between the start of the crisis and May 1958 (the fall of the Republic), there had been six different French governments.8 France had been at war more-or-less continuously since 1939. French public opinion was shifting, especially after the humiliating back-down from the attack on Egypt (which supported the Algerian FLN) in the Suez Crisis of 1956. There had also been revelations, despite censorship, that the French military was employing torture in the war.9 Concerns were growing about whether the military was fully under the control of the civilian government. Such concerns were exacerbated by the Faure Conspiracy. The conspiracy was discovered in January 1957, when the second in command of Algiers, General Faure, was discovered to be in contact with extremist