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'L'algerie en 1995 - La Guerre, l'histoire, la politique.'

Reviewed by Yahia H. Zoubir

The period 1994-1995 in Algeria was marked by an extraordinary level of violence that led to the deaths of thousands of Algerians, mostly civilians. Far from being a journalistic account of the events that occurred in that period, the Algerian-born French historian, Benjamin Stora, provides an analysis that seeks to explicate current developments from a historical perspective. From the onset, he rejects the commonly accepted view that Algeria's history begins with the FLN FLN Flown
FLN Filamin
FLN Front de Libération Nationale (National Liberation Front; political party, Algeria)
FLN Frente de Liberación Nacional (Spanish: National Liberation Force) 
 (p. 14), an interpretation which made the war of liberation
For the Napoleonic "War of Liberation", see War of the Sixth Coalition.
A War of liberation is a conflict which is primarily intended to bring freedom or independence to a nation or group.
 the focal point focal point
See focus.
 of history. The result, he writes, is that both the opposition and the regime seek to legitimize le·git·i·mize  
tr.v. le·git·i·mized, le·git·i·miz·ing, le·git·i·miz·es
To legitimate.

 their existence in relation to the wartime Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), 1954-62. In Stora's view, the fixation with this epoch has been such that all other major events that preceded 1954 have been deleted from Algerians' collective memory. He argues that all transmitted history was focused almost exclusively on nationalism, legitimized essentially by the war against France (p. 16).

In this study, Stora offers a thorough analytical survey of the situation that prevailed in Algeria until mid-1995. But although he might be faulted for having tried to cover too many aspects of this crisis, thus leaving many questions unanswered, Stora provides an interesting explanation for the violence which dominated the country.

Again, he sought the origin of the recent violence in the history of the nationalist movement
For nationalist movements in general, see Nationalism.

The Nationalist Movement is a controversial Mississippi-based organization that advocates what it calls a "pro-majority" position.
. From his perspective, today's recourse to violence in Algeria finds its roots primarily in the regime's glorification glo·ri·fy  
tr.v. glo·ri·fied, glo·ri·fy·ing, glo·ri·fies
1. To give glory, honor, or high praise to; exalt.

 of the war against France, for "the memory of the war of independence is transmitted in an exaggerated, legendary, heroic fashion, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 a central theme: France was defeated militarily, beaten with weapons" (p. 24), thus concealing the fact that other political means were at play. Stora concedes, however, that Algeria's history of violence began with the country's encounter with France in the 1830s (pp. 24-5). Algerian victims of France's violence turned this very same violence against the French to free the country. Unfortunately, the nationalist movement itself was characterized by violence which was used among "brothers" to eliminate ideological opponents and groups (p. 56). Stora argues that the recourse to such violence in this case was due to the "depersonalization depersonalization /de·per·son·al·iza·tion/ (de-per?sun-al-i-za´shun) alteration in the perception of self so that the usual sense of one's own reality is temporarily lost or changed; it may be a manifestation of a neurosis or another " caused by the colonial system. The violence used by the colonial system was absorbed and compressed by the authoritarian state Noun 1. authoritarian state - a government that concentrates political power in an authority not responsible to the people
authoritarian regime

authorities, government, regime - the organization that is the governing authority of a political unit; "the
 which was erected in the post-colonial period (p. 57). The Algerian state's resort to violence (assassination Assassination
See also Murder.


Fanatical Moslem sect that smoked hashish and murdered Crusaders (11th—12th centuries). [Islamic Hist.: Brewer Note-Book, 52]


conspirator and assassin of Julius Caesar. [Br.
 of political opponents, depriving citizens of their liberties), led to counter-violence against the state. The most catastrophic example was the massive social explosion in October 1988. Stora argues that this is a classical phenomenon in one-party authoritarian regimes: "If a society does not have intermediary bodies and systems of representation-mediation (parties, unions, associations...) to express themselves, violence will erupt" (p. 57). Stora makes the point that today's Islamists, the major organized opposition force to the regime, have wrongly interpreted the Algerian war Algerian War
 or Algerian War of Independence

(1954–62) War for Algerian independence from France. The movement for independence began during World War I (1914–18) and gained momentum after French promises of greater self-rule in Algeria went
 of independence in religious terms, i.e., as a Jihad (religious war). But, again, he blames the FLN for this state of affairs, for the wartime movement used religious symbols to mobilize the population against the French (e.g., banning of alcohol and tobacco in the name of Islam). In his view, in the areas they control today, the Islamists have reproduced the same model and added the mandatory wearing of the veil for women (p. 54). Undoubtedly, Stora provides a credible explanation for the origins of violence in Algeria, although he fails to mention that the violence used by the Algerian state is different in nature and with no common measure with that used by the colonial system against Algerians.

Hegel once said that great, world-historical events and individuals occur twice. In The 18th Brumarie of Louis Bonaparte, Karl Marx remarked that Hegel forgot to add: "The first time as tragedy, the second as farce." One is surprised that a historian of Stora's caliber, who, incidentally, cited a passage from Marx's same text, would succumb to the prevalent simplistic sim·plism  
The tendency to oversimplify an issue or a problem by ignoring complexities or complications.

[French simplisme, from simple, simple, from Old French; see simple
 analogy between the Algerian war of independence and the current situation in Algeria. Stora insists that, although tempting, comparisons between two periods can be misleading (p. 37); yet, he devotes twenty-eight pages, in addition to many references throughout the book, drawing (mostly) the similarities, and differences, between the period 1954-1962 and the period since the interruption of the electoral process in January 1992. One cannot doubt that similarities exist between the two eras, but the utility for such an exercise in highlighting them is rather minimal, for it tends to overshadow o·ver·shad·ow  
tr.v. o·ver·shad·owed, o·ver·shad·ow·ing, o·ver·shad·ows
1. To cast a shadow over; darken or obscure.

2. To make insignificant by comparison; dominate.
, and justify in the eyes of some, the brutality of the colonial period. Stora himself denounces the nostalgic French who secretly rejoice to see a second Algerian war (p. 42). But, again, why this obsession of French intellectuals to drawing parallels between the two periods? It is not until the last part of the book that Stora provides a short, but sound, autopsy to explain the multifaceted reasons which have led to the current crisis: socio-economic difficulties; the decomposition of the welfare state; political illegitimacy illegitimacy: see bastard.
bend sinister

supposed stigma of illegitimate birth. [Heraldry: Misc.]

Clinker, Humphry

servant of Bramble family turns out to be illegitimate son of Mr. Bramble. [Br. Lit.
; the absence of genuine democratic forces; etc. Toward the end of his essay, Stora explains that a military solution in Algeria is impossible and that a political process is inevitable, especially one that includes the three main forces in the country: the FLN, representative of Arab nationalism; the FIS FIS n abbr (BRIT) (= Family Income Supplement) → ayuda estatal familiar  which represents Islam [an absurd affirmation]; and the FFS (Flash File System) Software from Microsoft that made flash memory look like a disk drive. It was superseded by the Flash Translation Layer (FTL) from PCMCIA and M-Systems. See flash memory. , representative of Berberity [another preposterous assertion]. Each of these three, according to Stora, represents in its own way heavy, historical trends of the Nation and of society (p.105). And, because the democratic pole for historical reasons continues to be weak, it is within these three forces that the solution to Algeria's crisis ought to be sought. There is no doubt that Stora saw the Sant'Edigio meeting between various opposition parties, including the FIS, as a potential solution to the crisis. However, following the presidential elections on 16 November 1995, which took place after this book was published, and the victory of the state's candidate, former General Liamine Zeroual, the situation in Algeria has taken on yet another momentum.

This is a very readable essay; but, various points made throughout the book could mislead readers who do not possess a sound knowledge of Algeria's past and current history. Whereas Stora had a good grasp of the former, his interpretations of the latter is in many respects quite questionable.

Yahia H. Zoubir is an associate professor of international studies at Thunderbird thunderbird

In North American Indian mythology, a powerful spirit in the form of a bird that watered the earth and made vegetation grow. Lightning was believed to flash from its eyes or beak, and the beating of its wings was thought to represent rolling thunder.
, The American Graduate School of International Studies, Glendale, Arizona.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Zoubir, Yahia H.
Publication:Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1997
Previous Article:Civil society in the Arab world: historical traces, contemporary vestiges.
Next Article:Islamic Identity and the Struggle for Justice.

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