ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 50 Years Ago: Vetoed Vote in France.

Editorial from Volume XIII, No. 1, January 7, 1961.

Ferhat Abbas and the FLN are not the only ones to be disappointed with the recent speeches of President de Gaulle on the subject of Algeria; the disappointment is fairly general within and without Algeria and France. It had been widely expected that the President’s rather eventful visit to Algiers a few weeks ago would have a chastening effect on his thinking, and that at least the one point on which this would have made him more realis-tic than before would be the absolute need to recognise the indispensability of negotiating directly with the FLN as an essential party in a new Algerian Government. The speeches have strangely belied this expectation. The President has been talking as if the FLN nev-er existed. Does he really believe that it will be possible to set up his semi-autonomous Government in Algiers without in any way associating the nationalist rebels with it? The natural and automatic effect of this curious omission in his speeches has been to make Mr Ferhat Abbas frankly contemptuous of the referendum which has already begun this week. He has called upon his followers, and indeed to the Algerian Muslims generally, to boycott it completely and to have nothing to do with it in any way. Certainly the referen-dum is a queer experiment from this point of the nationalists. One of the two points on which it seeks France’s “massive and forth-right” approval for the President’s Algerian policy is unnecessary; the other is unworka-ble. The superfluous point is the one that asks the country to endorse “the principle of self-determination” for Algeria – a strange endorsement to ask for a Government which has already shown in practice in many parts of Africa that it represents a people who rec-ognise the self-determination principle for erstwhile colonies. Moreover, in the case of Algeria, it is not so much the principle of self-determination as its application that presents the greatest difficulties.

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