Allison Drew
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Sparking an insurrection
Pressure from the countryside
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When the FLN launched armed struggle in November 1954, Communists were divided over participation in the guerrilla war. Rural Communists who worked with peasants and agricultural workers welcomed armed struggle from the start. But increasingly autonomous vis-à-vis the PCF, the PCA committed itself fully to the national liberation struggle. In June 1955 the PCA’s central committee agreed to form armed units – the Combattants de la libération [liberation fighters]. A minority of Communists argued that the Party should dissolve and that its members should join the FLN, but the majority agreed on the need for an independent communist party. The French state, concerned about communist-nationalist collusion during the Cold War, engaged in the fierce repression of communists. When the first Communist maquis was smashed, the Communist armed units merged into the FLN’s Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN). However, the PCA was caught between the French state’s fear of Soviet expansion and the FLN’s intolerance of Communism and political pluralism. Despite the merger of Communist fighters into the ALN, they often remained suspect in the eyes of ALN leaders, a suspicion that deepened after the 1956 Soummam Congress.

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