Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1604      July 31, 2013

Henri Alleg: His horizon – Peace, Socialism, and Fraternity

Henri Alleg denounced, without exception: imperialist wars, torture, and the logic of apartheid.

How to put words to the sadness that seizes our hearts? Henri Alleg departed as he had arrived, with discretion. He never recovered from the departure of his dear Gilberte, his wife, his comrade in battle, who died in April 2011.

Nevertheless, despite his chagrin, he continued to give testimony, to organise politically. Never tiring. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence, Henri Alleg made sure he responded to all requests to appear, to participate. But during his public appearances he rarely spoke of the past. A militant journalist, attentive to movements world-wide, he spoke of the present.

He always denounced imperialist wars and those lawless zones such as Guantánamo or the secret prisons of the CIA, put in place by the US administration in order to practice torture with impunity. He spoke of the colonial domination exercised by the state of Israel over the Palestinian people. He spoke of Iraq, of Afghanistan. He spoke of the neo-colonialism that asphyxiates Africa. A militant Communist, an internationalist, he had for horizon – peace, Socialism, and fraternity between men and between peoples.

When he evoked the war in Algeria, it was never in order to evoke his own experience of torture – on this, he had said all in his book The Question. Henri Alleg passed into the hands of torturers of the French Army, just as had thousands of Algerian patriots. It is for them, for those shadows reduced to silence, that, throughout his life, he continued his battle for the truth. He knew better than anyone else the open wounds that we have inherited, we, the children and grand-children of Algerians who underwent torture with the gégène*.

Right to the end, never giving up, he fought the revisionism that the French far right is always ready to exalt as the “positive aspects” of colonisation. For him, colonialism was always a synonym of apartheid, of exploitation, of theft. In his eyes, the racism rife in France is a deadly heritage of colonisation. He had an awakened consciousness of the fractures that the conflicts of memory concerning the war in Algeria continue to leave as an imprint on French society. His life, his struggles, at the crossroads of many worlds, were the very antithesis of chauvinism, of colonialism, of logics of exclusion.

Communist to the end, Henri Alleg did not live in the nostalgia of previous socialist experiences; he simply remained faithful to the idea of a world freed from capitalism, liberated from a system that engenders nothing but devastation. “Myself also, I made the point. But I believe that disillusion should not shake our conviction that we can change the world …” he confided to us in 2010.

“We should make our own final analysis of historical experience, never rallying peaceably behind the discourse of those who have always combated us. We see it today: the capitalist system destroys those who take their system to be inevitable. We must continue this combat for another society. There is no other battle worth its salt.” These battles remain. Like the memory of his smiling face and his sly regard.

* The gégène is military slang, diminutive for “generator”, referring to the portable dynamo designed to provide power for telephones in non-electrified regions. It was used for torture, applying an electric current to various parts of the body.


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