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Back to Brecon Politial and Theological Discussion Group, May-June 2005
Hugh Roberts
Articles on Algeria
The Algerian anti-colonialist struggle of the 1950s was one of the glories of recent Arab-Muslim history and in the 1960s, especially under the presidency of Houari Boumediène (1965-1978), Algeria appeared as a model of self-confident, independent, constructive socialism in the Arab world. In the 1980s, however, under the presidency of Chadli Bendjedid, the old pattern of dependency on the French began to re-emerge together with an economic policy more orientated towards the international market.
As part of a policy of undermining the older nationalist tendency of the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale, which conducted the war of independence), Chadli encouraged the growth of 'identity politics' - Muslim and Berber. In the 1990s, at the hands of radical Islamist 'Afghans' (fighters formed in the US sponsored war against the Soviet Union), Algeria suffered a collapse into chaos incomparably more terrible than the one-off terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon in 2001. But this apparent confrontation between political Islam and secular politics was complex and morally ambiguous given the refusal of the army to accept the victory of political Islam in the elections of 1991/2. No-one has done more than Hugh Roberts to unravel these complexities and to draw clear political conclusions from these events and we are very privileged to be able to include these extracts from his writing on this website.
Hugh Roberts is the author of The Battlefield, Algeria 1988-2002, Studies in a Broken Polity, Verso Books, London, 2003
Brief Chronology of events
Some abbreviations used in the articles
North African Islamism in the blinding light of 9-11 (a wideranging examination of the intellectual background to the emergence of Islamic radicalism)
The image of the French army in the cinematic representation of the Algerian war: the revolutionary politics of "The Battle of Algiers"
The Left and the Algerian catastrophe (the weakness of the international left's understanding of the Algerian catastrophe is based on the weaknesses of the Algerian left, chiefly the successors to the old Communist Party, demanding the 'eradication' of political Islam and the Front des Forces Socialistes, calling for conciliation with it)
France and the lost honour of Algeria's army (includes a discussion of the responsibility of the Algerian army for atrocities attributed to the Islamists; also a criticism of the idea that these atrocities should be investigated and judged by the international community rather than within Algeria itself)
Historical and Unhistorical Approaches to the Problem of Identity in Algeria