Boumediene on zeal

In this speech Houari Boumediene (1932-1978), former President of Algeria (1965-1978), uses interesting devices to lament the loss of revolutionary values and zeal among the Algerian population following independence. He accosts the manner in which “independence has made us soft,” thereby lessening the appreciation for revolutionary struggle. Alluding a Qur’anic verse (in which Moses tells the Jews to head forth into the Promised Land prepared to fight for it and respond that God should go forth and take it, rejecting the armed struggle), he notes that in the times of the Revolution the people “did not say ‘let our God go forth to the Promised Land and take it for us,’ they said ‘let us go forth and fight the jihad [for independence].'” He goes on to say that the common man was ready to “set out from Wilaya four [the FLN district responsible for Algiers during the Algerian Revolution] with his rifle” ready for revolutionary combat. Such zeal, Boumediene argues, is fading after independence, and must be rekindled. Such enthusiasm (seen in both the deposed Ben Bella regime and clearly Boumediene’s) for the struggle of national liberation is what motivated Algeria’s staunch support for rebells in the Portuguese colonies (especially Angola and Mozambique), South Africa, and (partially) the Western Sahara. It was also the impetus behind the strong Cuban-Algerian and Sino-Algerian (more so under Ben Bella, who often sported Mao-style tunics) partnerships, which are some of Algeria’s strongest and longest lasting international partnerships. Interestingly, he admits that “some measures taken during the Revolution were harsh,” but the reality of the situation necessitated such measures.

11 thoughts on “Boumediene on zeal

  1. He also advised a palestinian leader to murder arafat.
    Algerian have all the latitude to appreciate his heritage:

    200000 deaths and Algeria for ever a bottom of the world country. Nothing speeches could do to rescue it.

  2. Boumediene has his share of responsibility, but he died in 1978, those deaths occurred in the mid-90’s and a bunch of other people share that responsibility.

  3. Karim,
    If he left us a transparent democracy we would not have had those 200000 deaths.

    He left us an opaque system. When something starts well usually ends well. The opposite is true as well.

  4. “If he left us a transparent democracy … He left us an opaque system. ”

    Tren, this exchange of political freedoms for economic prosperity is hardly an arrangement unique to Algeria’s development (Russia or China anyone?). Boumediene’s great leap forward (or whatever you want to call it) was a time I would wager a good deal of older Algerians look back at fondly, especially given recent history.

    My point here is not to defend one arrangement over the other. On the contrary, it is the Boumediene tabling of political freedoms that increased the military stranglehold on politics, set events in motion to lead to the 1988 riots, and of course, the subsequent abortive attempts at reform. My only point is that I’m not convinced there was any magical cocktail of politics and economics that could have led to progress in both areas without taking away from the other. Whether we like it or not, one could certainly make the case that the FLN needed a strongman to take the reigns and purge dissenters so that the nationalist movement would not be derailed just as it was getting off the ground. For a country like Algeria, that seems so often on the cusp of implosion, how do you pull off the lid without the contents boiling over?

    This is not a defense; it is merely an analysis.

  5. Brian,

    Benbella and Boumediene and Bouteflika haijacked the revolution ideals. They did not fire a bullet while waiting their turn in peacefull Morrocco. All the true revolutionaries of Algeria were murdered during the war. At the end of the war there was not an islamist in site. Algerian were way way advanced. Women did not wear burqa’s to fight agaist independence.

    Many in the west believe islamism and irrationality sprang out of nowhere. They are taught in schools. Agerians know their school is an islamist and terrorist factory.

    In 48 years of independance we finally caught up with Saudi Arabia. We advanced backwards because of the like of Boumediene and Benbella who implanted baathism in Algeria. But Algeria will eventually make it again.

    I cannot give credit to a man who advised a palestian leader to murder an other palestinian leader. Murder is murder.

    Boumedien murdered Algerians in exile like Krim Belkacem, a man who’s all life was to liberate his country. Boumedien had an army, secret police and what not and murdered a defenseless man in his hotel room in Germany.

    He seeded the grains of wrath in his days. The people had to do the harvesting:more than 200000 deaths.

    The reason it seemed to work at the begining because Algerians just came out of a bitter war and had hope things may change for the better.

    Boumediene was a patriot who loved his country who wanted it to progress. But his way. Refusniks were put in jail and tortured because he saw enemies everywere.

    A man can only be jugded by his legacy. What did he leave us. He left us with powerful woolfs.

    Even his right hand man(Bouteflika) will not utter his name or refer to him.

    We had one hope for Algeria and they murdered him live on tv. That was Boudiaf.

    Algeria today to succeed has to embrace some sort of federalism where regions will be left alone to compete.
    Kabylia can be used as a pilot project by granting it a large autonomie of decision away from the grips of Algiers.

    • Allah the Almighty alone knows who was behind the killing of Krim Belkacem(Allah yerahmou).
      If it was Boumediene who was behind it then I’d like to hear of the evidence that supports your claim.
      I am not saying he was the one who ordered the killing as I’m not saying he was not the one,all I’m asking you is to provide me with some sort of proof.
      As for the autonomy of Kabylia,I’m personally opposed to your suggestion cause autonomy is the seed of independence,today is the autonomy,tomorrow it will be the independence.
      Kabylians will ask for autonomy,then Chaouis will follow,afterwards it will be the turn of Chenoua,then the Touargs,the Mouzabites,etc…
      And Algeria will cease to exist and as an Algerian I do not want to see that happen

  6. Tren,

    On the whole I don’t disagree completely with you, but I still find it too easy to blame one man for everything. Boumediene was not alone in creating the system that rules Algeria even though he seemed to have full control of the situation at some point.

    Concerning the Islamist movement, its seeds were present at independence. Don’t forget that many of the Ulemas (such as Bachir Ibrahimi) were in touch with the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. Ibrahimi was put in house arrest as far back as 1963 and the Al-Qiyam organization that included most of the leading Islamist figures of the time was active at that time.
    http://tinyurl.com/52a7au

    As for federalism, or some variation, I like that option too, but I don’t think the current political climate is favorable to such an option. Most Algerians confuse autonomy with independence and react violently to that proposition. From a strategic point of view I don’t think it would be a good idea to put that too high on the agenda of any organization.

  7. Karim,

    Do not get me wrong Boumediene was a selfishless patriot who loved his country. But totaliarism will eventually lead to despotism.

    He deposed Benbella at a time when this despot was coming to the conclusion that power could be shared hence the legalisation of the ffs. That could have set us in a road to mutipartism and different opinions. Boumediene put a halt to that and lead us straight to the disasters of ‘socialsme scientifique’. Anyway that is now history.

    As for islamists (oulama then) were all for france policy of assimilation. The islamists today are rewriting algerian history
    as to portray themselfs as bearer of the independance torch and that is a blatant lie.

    Algerian fought France because of the inherent injustice of colonialism.

    Autonomie: What works for others should work for us.
    An autonomie modeled on Spain Catalunia will only put
    people in front of their responsabilities: work hard or perish.

    Currently the governement nominates governors ‘wali’ not on the basis of their competency but on the basis of their loyalty to the central governement. They have nothing to fear so why would they work hard to develop the region they are assigned to. Governors should be elected by regions. Autonomie can start there.

  8. You all a BOI how trying to look democrat and more open for who ever is reading your columns .who said boumedene did not fight or picked up weapons aginst the (…) french, and you keep mentioning 200,000 dead like they died for nothing most how died laid there life for a purpose that algeria will be algeria a home even for those who have double nationality if you know what i mean .
    And about legacy when did any algerian leader since the begining of time starting with massinissa and ending it with bouteflika live any legacy,who brought (FIS) to power it was WE who never stud up for his right and the right of seeing woman next door being beat up by her husband or seeing evil and not doing anything that was we WE REAP WHAT WE SOW and now 10 million left and 20 millions are living under the poverty line. let what is buried buried and let the dead dead as dead can`t defend themself .

  9. Despite the good things about Boumediene, not being a thief and his love to algeria, but he created an underground mafia and a police state which he was not aware of. He failed to implement what he was preaching and he woke up when it was late and this cost him his life. He played the wrong card when it was not the right time for it. The latter statement is from the inner circle of Boumediene (my uncle’s revelation).

    -Amine

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