The Battle of Algiers

Reviewed by Jimi Cocking, SP supporter in Tasmania, Australia

The Battle of Algiers is a must for all revolutionaries.

Oscar-nominated and winner of the Golden Lion (Grand Prize) at the Venice Film festival, The Battle of Algiers depicts with chilling realism the struggle of the Algerian people against their French colonial oppressors.

The story begins in 1957 with French paratroopers closing in on the last free revolutionary in Algiers, Ali la Pointe. The audience is then thrown back three years earlier when urban warfare was first used as a tactic by the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). What begins as sporadic killings of police soon becomes a bombing campaign where a French café, a teenager's hang-out and an Air France office are! targeted with Algerian women disguised as Europeans carrying out the operation. However, the French bite-back with the insertion of hundreds of paratroopers with a mission of quashing the rebellion and winning what appears to them to be isolated incidents non-representative of the general population.

Written in prison by Saadi Yacef, himself a FLN boss, who also plays rebel leader, El-hadi Jaffar in the film, The Battle of Algiers, is extremely timely in this age of 'terror'. The French commander's assertion that in the combat of terror you must accept all the consequences‚ including the torture of prisoners, it is hardly surprising that the Pentagon screened the film to educate the potential Baghdad occupiers.

Urban guerilla warfare is the most dangerous form of armed insurrection, as we are seeing in Falluja, and Algiers was no exception. The film does not glorify the war but relates to its necessity in bringing about change in Algeria. As with the world-wide class war necessary to halt the neoliberal expansion and infection of our industry, environment and our society, non-violent but forceful means will achieve our liberation from corporate imperialism.

Further information on the struggle for independence in Algeria can be found by reading anything by Frantz Fanon, the esteemed psychiatrist and revolutionary FLN fighter.

Ciaran Mulhollland reviews Frantz Fanon: A man who always asked questions ‘Frantz Fanon: A Life’, by David Macey. (Published by Granta Books, London, 2000 (paperback edition, 2001)

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