Allison Drew
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‘This land is not for sale’
Communists, nationalists and the popular front
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In the 1930s impoverished rural Algerians swarmed into already densely-populated urban areas. The traditional medina became both ruralised and Europeanised. The new urbanites maintained tight networks with their rural relatives, linking town and countryside ever more closely, while urban public space expanded. Initially, in the late 1920s, the Communist demand for independence had led to their severe repression. However, as public political space expanded in the mid-1930s, the Party attracted Algerian members precisely because of its call for independence; an autonomous Algerian Communist Party was launched in 1936. Although most Algerian nationalist leaders were not then calling for independence, appeals to fight colonialism and to demand independence struck an emotional chord with politicised Algerians. Nonetheless, the Comintern’s popular front strategy, developed in France, had an inherent European bias. This partiality was seen both in the focus on an anti-fascist struggle based primarily in a Europe dependent on colonial resources and in the damping down of the demand for Algerian independence to avoid alienating European settlers concerned with fighting fascism. Thus, the PCA’s organisational autonomy did not mean political autonomy.

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We are no longer in France

Communists in Colonial Algeria


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