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The true international community

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

A lot has happened to me since my last post, but this pales in comparison to the scandalous treatment of Julian Assange over the Christmas period and the current uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.  Our brothers and sisters have gone onto the streets to say a collective no to decades of treatment by their governments that we in the UK cannot even begin to imagine.  Despite many interventions from the International Community, and so much I am sure taking place behind the scenes, it is the people themselves who are driving these revolutions, and it is up to us to support them.  Just as the case of Wikileaks has shown, popular revolts take many forms and start in the very places you would least expect them.  The true international community is all of us, we are all capable of collective action. 

One of course remembers the heroes of 1989 across eastern Europe, but more than this, I think of the struggle of the Algerian people to free themselves of the French.

Obviously there are many ways in which these events connect, but one way is through the philosopher Frantz Fanon, who went to Algeria and joined the FLN in the 1950s.  In his book ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, written in 1961, he develops his critical analysis of colonialism and it’s consequences, arguing that the only response to violent repression is violence.  This sort of thinking touches on existentialism and Sartre was a big fan.  if any book can tell us about the struggle for national liberation in north African and Middle Eastern countries  then this is it.  Even now we see the power of Fanon’s work, for example in analysis of the current situation (this article is worth a read):

 

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/201111413424337867.html

The resonance of Fanon’s writing is evident in one of the most inspiring films I have ever seen, Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers.  I understand that this film was shown at the Pentagon before the invasion of Iraq, as it shows what urban guerilla warfare looks like and how any resistance, in order to be successful, must have the support of the people.  This was also the lesson the British army and government learnt in Northern Ireland in the 70s.  Ultimately although the film is a call to arms, told in snapshots, following the events as both sides upped the stakes, with the French using the most horrendous torture tactics to get viable information out of detainees (also something practised in northern Ireland). Ultimately the French threw everything they had at Algeria and lost because they could never contend with popular revolt.  The French would have done well to remember that their own democracy was born from a bloody revolution, the ideals of freedom, brotherhood and the belief that a government is only legitimate if it has the consent of its people. Surely this irony could not have been lost on them.

In my next post I will continue with this theme and also say something about another very inspiring film set in Algeria, which is about a different kind of freedom.

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