Ferhat Abbas believed in the peaceful solution and that the French are willing to co-operate with the Algerians. With this co-operation, he thought, it was possible for all to live together. He was brought up and thought to believe in democracy and parliament, to look for these in a peaceful fashion and that the people have to be asked what to do with their country and not to be terrorised to be convinced differently.
However in the 1950’s we can see a clear change, a turn in his thoughts.
He accepts more violent ways in order to gain what he believes in. In order to explain the change in attitudes of Ferhat Abbas it is important that we first look at his background. In 1899 Ferhat Abbas was born. He had, like many others, received entirely French education at Constantine and at the University of Algiers. After finishing his studies he had served the French Army for two year after which he founded a pharmacist shop in Setif.
There he also founded a student union which was a start of his political career.
Soon he was accepted into the city Council where he fought for the emancipation of Algerians from the French. In 1938 Abbas founded the Union Populaire Algerienne which peacefully fought for the equal rights of Algerians and French. Believing in the possible co-operation of French and Algerians he had, fought alongside the French. Political Career During the war Abbas still continues his work towards the equality.
In 1943 he wrote the ‘Manifesto of the Algerian People’ which was than proclaimed and several times sent to the French authorities.
“The French colony only admits equality with Muslim Algeria on one level; sacrifice on the battlefields.” This manifesto represented some very revolutionary ideas and proposed the equality of rights and “immediate and effective participation.”
Also in this manifesto Abbas continuously condemns the French oppressive colonialism and even asks for the self- determination of the whole population as a different culture. Soon afterward he wrote an addition to the manifesto in which he sees the Algeria as the country separate from France. In the book ‘A Savage War of Peace’ his attitude is described as following: “Of pacific temperament, although he was a skilful debater, he was no rabble- rouser…”(Horne,1979, p.40).
On its rejection by the French governor general, Ferhat Abbas and an Algerian working-class leader, Messali Hadj, formed the Amis du Manifeste et de la Liberte (A.M.L. ; Friends of the Manifesto and Liberty), which envisioned an Algerian autonomous republic federated to a renewed, anti-colonial France. This party saw that the Algeria should be decolonised and that the French should leave the ruling to the Algerian people. Mesaslli was a trouble maker and believed in constant activity of the party in order to gain attention needed. The activity mostly was in the form of open speeches and leaflets. It did gain lot of support but also attracted the attention of the French. Soon the French dealt with the A.M.L.
The ideas were to rebellious for the authorities to overlook. Abbas was imprisoned for a year. In the prison he meets other politicians with the similar ideas like himself. Also when Abbas was thrown to prison his party, the A.M.L., was abolished. The U.D.M.A In 1946, after a year of imprisonment Ferhat Abbas founded the Union Democratique du Manifeste Algerien (U.D.M.A. ; Democratic Union of the Algerian Manifesto), which advocated co-operation with France in the formation of the Algerian state. This union has many times tried to propose the agreement with the French whereby the power could be shared.
On one meeting he said: “It is a hundred and sixteen years that we have been waiting this moments, that is to say the opportunity of being here and making ourselves heard among you….Therefore, have patience, I ask and beg of you…We are but a very small minority. Be generous…!” (Horne, 1979, p.73).
Again the propositions were rejected. Ferhat Abbas tried further to perceive his views in his peaceful and democratic fashion only to be ignored again. The best proof of his belief into the French is his speech to the Assembly, and the French, in 1954: Ferhat joins F.L.N. Abbas’ moderate and conciliatory attempts failed to evoke a sympathetic response from the French colonial officials, and in 1956 he escaped to Cairo to join the Front de Liberation Nationale (F.L.N.), an Algerian organisation committed to revolutionary struggle for independence from France founded in 1954.
In 1956 we can see the change in Abbas’s attitude. In that year he joins the F.L.N. which was committed towards the similar views as him but believed in different techniques in gaining them. F.L.N. believed that the use of aggression and violence was necessary to convince the French that the people want independence. They often used urban guerrilla techniques to sabotage the French.
These techniques included hidden bombs in French buildings, killing of the street police, smuggling weapons, … F.L.N. believed in forceful action which could paralyse the whole Algerian system. Abbas himself gave a speech in which he approves the change: Why did Abbas change his views? There are several of factors which made Abbas switch sides from pacific to a more radical and liberationist stance in such a short notice.
As we can see from before he had in many different ways attempted to convince the French government that the change is really needed and that if they will not allow it the conflict will spark off. These peaceful attempts were a failure. Another important factor was the assassination of Ferhat’s brother because it was believed that he was connected with the French in 1955 and this was blamed on French although it was a deed of F.L.N.
Many historians argue that Abbas was afraid for his own life from the F.L.N. and that this played a major role in deciding weather to join them. In 1955 Abbas takes a trip to France as the last attempt to peacefully gain some rights but he was just again rejected by the French authorities. This trip was Abbas’ last hope. When he got back the asked him: “Well, is it peace?” “He replied: ‘No, it’s war.’
Finally there was the gaining of independence by Tunisia and Morocco. These countries have managed to separate from the French and create their own government in 1956. This further convinced Abbas that he should change his tactics. The creation of F.L.N. has attracted many of Arabs and Abbas saw that joining with them would create a huge mass of people. Abbas had already considered to join the FLN and now was convinced. Same year he wrote in a newspaper: The change and acceptance of F.L.N. by Abbas was a huge step towards uniting the rebels against the French which made the actions and negotiations much more favourable for the F.L.N. with the French government.
Horne also states and emphasises this point: “Undoubtedly the most important single acquisition to the F.L.N. during this period was the person of the arch-apostle of moderation, Ferhat Abbas himself.” (Horne, 1979, p.140). Abbas’s work inside the F.L.N. and the G.P.R.A. In 1958, when the Provisional Governemnt of Algerian Republic (G.P.R.A.) was formed, Ferhat Abbas was declared a president. They were situated outside the country for their safety. Before even becoming a president of G.P.R.A. Abbas had already been contacted by the Fares, former president of Algerian Assembly.
Fares was a connection of Abbas to de Gaulle, French president. Still Abbas did not trust the French the way he once did: “…Fares informed Abbas…that de Gaulle was ready to ‘open serious negotiations with the rebels’. Abbas seemed receptive, declaring that he personally would be prepared to participate in ‘ any kind of conversation on neutral ground’.” (Horne, 1979, p.319) In the 1961 the open negotiations were organised between the provisional government and the French.
Due to French unwillingness to co-operate and the Ferhat Abbass’s huge demands the negotiations proved a failure. Than Ferhat Abbas resigned from the position of the president, but the people who accepted his government wanted to keep him in power so he was chosen a president of the Algerian Constutuent Assembly in 1962 after Algeria had gained it’s independence. Although Ferhat Abbas had made a alliance with F.L.N. he had never agreed with its policies. He was a believer in the parliamentary institutions and the constitution. But F.L.N. did not care for that.
The name of Ferhat Abbas was extremely famous and him becoming a member meant that lot of people who trusted hi judgement would join this is confirmed by Horne as well: “With Abbas as the front piece, however, a new and a seductive appearance of flexibility and softness of approach temporarily cloaked the G.P.R.A.” (Horne, 1979, p.317). Resignation from presidency When F.L.N. published an Algerian constitution without the help of the Constituent Assembly, Ferhat Abbas saw his goals much different than what he believed in and therefore he resigned. He hoped for a peaceful solution after which a democratic system would be established. Also he wished to have power spread out more and not so concentrated in the top of the government.
In 1963, with his resignation he was expelled from the F.L.N. The president in power, Ahmed Ben-Bella was a man with whom Ferhat Abbas did not agree. Ben-Bella was aware of the reputation that Abbas had with the people and therefore could not allow him to speak or write against him. Ferhat Abbas was placed, in Algeria, under house imprisonment for year. The changes in the attitude of Ferhat Abbas were caused by the series of attempts to negotiate and constant ignoring by the French government.
He understood that the only way to get the attention of the French would be to take some action. Since FLN was prepared to take action he had agreed to join it. The book “War in Algeria” yet states a rather different reason for Ferhat’s change of the attitude: “…though most escaped, Ferhat Abbas’ nephew was killed. Abbas himself was one of the designated victims. But he soon made his peace with the FLN, and joined them in Cairo…” (Jackson, 1977, p.172)
From the source we can see that the historian thinks that Abbas was scared for his own life. It explains that FLN had killed everyone who not only supported the government but did not wish to join their party. Abbas was one of them. In my opinion this does not seem quite true because as we saw before and after this incident Ferhat was not afraid to speak up and tell the people what be thought even for the price of his life. Even when he did join the FLN for that particular reason he would never become the president of that kind of the government unless he agreed with them.
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