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Algerian National Movement Currents

The First World War, witnessed the participation of thousands of Algerians on the side of French forces, and France's initiation of a policy of reforms, such as the 1919 reforms, as well as the regulations and texts approved by the Allies at the Versailles Conference regarding the right of colonial peoples to self-determination. Following its end, Algerian political activity has emerged, resulting in the formation of several political currents and parties.

First, the Egalitarians 

1.   Their founding circumstances

Several circumstances contributed to the emergence of Amir Khaled movement in the early twentieth century, the most significant of which are:

  • The end of WWI and the return of Algerians who had served in the war.
  • Declaration of US President Wilson's principles, including the right of peoples to self-determination.
  • In December 1919, municipal elections were held in Algiers, and Amir Khaled defeated the integrationists.

All of these factors contributed to the formation of Amir Khaled's movement, known as the Reform Party or the Equality Movement. Amir Khaled took advantage of his grandfather, Amir Abdelkader's, struggle as well as a void in Algeria's political leadership.

2.               Their program 

Amir Khaled movement's program was based on the demand for equality in rights and duties between Algerians and French, as well as the implementation of political reforms affecting restraining laws, and it is clear from the movement's demands that it is a national political movement. Amir Khaled opposed the elite group's integration policy and called for a reform program based on the idea of equality between Algerians and French, the application of common law to Algerians without discrimination, and the opening of jobs to Algerians. In his letters, Amir Khaled had specified Algerian demands; in his letter to Wilson (the American president), he defended Algerian political rights; and in his letter to Herio (the French President), he included Algerian basic demands and titled it "Our Basic Demands Program." In its introduction: 

  • Algerian representation in the French National Assembly in proportion to the proportion of the colonizer.
  • Repeal all restraining laws.
  • Lifting barriers to entry for Algerians to all jobs.
  • The separation of Islam from the French state

3.               Their historical path

Between 1920 and 1923, the equality or reform movement remained a political event thanks to Amir Khaled's reformist stances, which took advantage of all political opportunities to present his demands. So, he addressed French President Millerand during his visit to Algeria in the spring of 1922, and his speech was significant in terms of the ideas advanced. A year later, France decided to exile Amir Khaled (1923). Despite his exile, Amir Khaled maintained his political activity by attending political conferences. In 1924, he also wrote to Prime Minister Hirio, and from Alexandria, the emir continued his correspondence and reform movement demands, which is why France barred him from entering Algeria until his death (1936).


Secondly, the integrative current:

Federation of Elected Muslim Algerians

1.   Founding circumstances

It was founded in June 1927, by Algerian representatives elected to French councils at the time and was regarded as an extension of the Algerian youth movement, which dates back to the early twentieth century. This federation emerged as a response to an organization formed by Algerian mayors in the 1920s. This federation was formed from three independent federations, Constantine, Oran, and Algiers, with the goal of representing the people in Parliament, and the Constantine Federation, led by Dr. Ben Djelloul, was one of the most active. The Federation's first congress was held in January 1928, with 176 deputies from various regions of the country in attendance. The Federation was led by Chrif Cisban at first, and then by Dr. Ben Djelloul, who was very active during his reign and achieved great results in municipal elections and prefecture "Wilaya" thanks to a group of educated elite, such as Ferhat Abbas, Dr. Saadane, Dr. Ben Touhami... etc.

2.               Program 

Among the fundamental demands adopted by the federation in its political programs is the issue of people's representation in parliament, as well as the unification and coordination of the efforts of Algerians elected to parliament to defend their rights. It adopted a policy of inclusion and equality in rights and duties between Algerians and French, as well as a demand for the repeal of exceptional laws. The demands of the federation of elected Muslims can be limited to:

  • Demanding Algerian representation in various French councils.
  • The abolition of exceptional laws. 
  • Increasing the representation of Muslims in elected councils.

Thus, it did not aim to work with the popular masses in order to prepare them politically, but rather to integrate the educated elite with French culture into French society. As a result, both parties rejected it: Algerians because it does not express their demands, and settlers who oppose the idea of equality between Algerians and French. El-Takadoum newspaper was the mouthpiece of the Federal, and among the most prominent editors in it was Ferhat Abbas and Dr. Ben Djelloul. The Federation of Elected Muslim Algerians stayed on the same path it had taken since its founding until its dissolution in 1941.


Third, the independence movement

1.   Founding circumstances

In June 1926, Algerian immigrant workers in France founded l’Etoile Nord Africaine, and the party's leadership was handed to Mr. Abdelkader Hadj Ali, with Amir Khaled chosen as the party's honorary head. Among his most prominent officials were Mr. Messali El-Hadj, who would later become the party's leader in 1927, as well as Belkacem Radjif and Ammar Aimach. Initially, it represented Tunisians and Moroccans, but they withdrew in 1927, leaving l’Etoile Nord Africaine as an Algerian-only party. At first, there appeared to be a great rapprochement between the l’Etoile Nord Africaine, the French Communist Party, and the communist-affiliated trade unions. 

In a couple of  years, l’Etoile was able to become a political force and put an end to the political stagnation in Algeria through gatherings and participating in international conferences. The star witnessed a transformation in his ideas and political demands, from a labor movement defending the rights of migrant workers to a national political party with clear demands regarding the Algerian issue, as witnessed by the Brussels Conference in 1927 and Messali El Hadj's intervention in favor of the Algerian cause. To convey his ideas, the party published the star's activities and ideas in a national newspaper in Paris.

2.               Their program 

After the Tunisian and Moroccan brothers left l’Etoile Nord Africaine and Messali El-Hadj took over, The program of Etoile Nord Africaine became clear in demanding Algeria's independence from France and raising national demands with French authorities on multiple occasions. The demands of l’Etoile Nord Africaine can be limited to Algeria's complete independence, the withdrawal of French forces from it, the abolition of the people's law, the restoration of Algerians to their confiscated property, and the guarantee of Algerians' right to education while opening the way for freedom of the press and the exercise of political and trade union rights. This revolutionary national program pricked the colonial authorities' throats, who were accustomed to hearing the voices of those calling for integration from members of the Elected Algerian Muslim federation and some members of the elite. As a result, colonial authorities began to restrict l’Etoile Nord Africaine and its leader, Messali El-Hadj's, activities.

3.               Its historical path

Due to the clear star program, which is required for Algeria's complete independence, the party has faced many harassments since its inception, as the French authorities dissolved the star in 1929, prompting it to reappear under the name of the glorious North African Star until 1933, when it took a new name, People's Assembly Committee. The Glorious Star of North Africa program was similar to the previous one, and as a result of this activity, the French authorities issued varying sentences against the star's leaders, the first of whom was Messali  El-Hadj, who was sentenced to a year in prison in 1934.

After his release from prison, Messali renamed the party the National Union of North African Muslims. The French authorities tried to arrest him again in 1935, forcing him to flee to Switzerland, and he stayed there until the Popular Front government showed up and issued an amnesty to all politicians, at which point Messali returned to Algeria. However, the honeymoon period between the Popular Front government and the star did not last long, and they decided to dissolve it on January 26, 1937, which is the last new path of the political star, so another new party is formed: the Algerian People's Party "P.P.A" in 1937.

Following developments in the Algerian political arena during 1930s, such as the holding of the Islamic Conference in 1936, and the arrival of the Popular Front to power in France. Then the disappointment of the Algerian national movement in the promises of reform by the Popular Front, and as a result of the dissolution of the l’Etoile Nord Africaine in 1937, former fighters of the star met to re-form a new national party, the Algerian People's Party.


Algerian People's Party 

1.   Founding circumstances

The Algerian People's Party was founded in France in March 1937 as an extension of the l’Etoile Nord Africaine. More than 300 activists attended the founding meeting, and Messali El-Hajj was elected president of the party, which quickly decided to relocate its operations to Algeria following the latter's return on June 18, 1937. The People's Party has grown into a powerful political organization and a purely national movement, known for its strong organization and widespread presence in all Algerian cities, thanks to the star's former fighters and political experiences. The People's Party published several newspapers to spread its ideas and principles, including "El-Oumma, El-Chaab (The Nation, The People)," which Moufdi Zakaria edited. These newspapers were written by prisoners from El-Harrach prison and given to militants around the world to print and distribute.

2.               Its program 

Since its inception, the Algerian People's Party had its own slogan: "No integration, no separation, but liberation." 

In order avoid a direct confrontation with French authorities, similar to what happened to the star, the party believed in the slogan "rights are taken, not given." It appears from the Algerian People's Party program that it represented the revolutionary national movement of the 1930s as a clear discourse and its adoption of purely national demands represented in: 

  • Creation of a government independent of France.
  • The establishment of an Algerian parliament.
  • Respect for the Arabic language and Islam.
  • Cancellation of the people's law and all exceptional laws.
  • Ensuring freedom of education and freedom of the press… 

In addition to other demands made by the party in various situations and published in its own newspapers.

3.               Its political path

The party engaged in intense political activity, earning the people's trust and support, as well as expanding its popular base in various Algerian cities. In a short period of time, it grew into a popular national party with a thousand accounts, particularly among colonial authorities who were monitoring the militants' movements and activities. On September 26, 1939, the French authorities decided to dissolve the People's Party, imprisoning its leaders, and sentencing its leader, Messali El-Hadj, to hard labor. In the eyes of the French administration, this is how the People's Party page was turned, but national activity will take a different turn during and after World War II.

Fourth: The Reformist Movement

1.   Founding circumstances

The Algerian Muslim Scholars Association emerged in distinct circumstances, which can be summarized as follows:

  • France's centennial of occupation, 1830-1930, and what accompanied this celebration of pride in the elimination of the Algerian personality, particularly provocations by settlers.
  • Naturalization of all children born in Algeria to foreign parents, with significant administrative and service privileges.
  • The flagrant violation of citizens' basic liberties, harassment of the Algerian press and Arab schools, and the fight against the Islamic judiciary.
  • The emergence of a mass of educated French culture elites calling for Algeria's integration and assimilation into French civilization.
  • Encouragement of Jewish communities to dominate economic activities and special privileges after granting French citizenship

Under these conditions, the Association of Algerian Muslim Scholars was founded on May 5, 1931, in the capital's "El-Taraki" Club. It was formed by the most prominent Algerian scholars of this period, including: Abdelhamid Ben Badis, El-Bachir El-Ibrahimi, Etayeb El-Oukbi, El-Arbi Etbessi, Mbarak El-Mili, El-Amine El-Amoudi. Mr. Imran Ismail presided over the founding committee. A 13-member administrative board was formed, and despite his absence, Cheikh Abdelhamid Ben Badis was elected president of the association. Cheikh El-Bachir El-Ibrahimi was chosen as his deputy, and the association received accreditation from the French government due to the program's softness.

1.   Its program 

The Association of Scholars defined its program in its Basic Law, which included 24 chapters outlining the Association's work. The objectives of the association are expressed in its basic law as well as in the activities and writings of its members. 

At the forefront of these goals are the preservation of the Islamic religion, the fight against myths and heresies, the revival of the Arabic language and its literature, and the glorification of Islamic history and its relics. Even those who opposed its ideas witnessed this. Mr. Ferhat Abbas stated that the organization's goals were "the renewal of Islam, the struggle against the Almoravids, the tool of colonialism, and the formation of Arab cultural frameworks."


The president of the association explained its main objectives in an article: The Call of the Association of Muslim Scholars and its Origins. The association took clear positions on the political issues raised, and it opposed the integration policy advocated by the Federation of Elected Algerians, led by Dr. Ben Djelloul and Ben Touhamy, Farhat Abbas, and others. In 1936, the association recorded also an active role in the Islamic Conference.

The association relied on well-known means to disseminate its ideas, including the mosque, free schools for education and training, the formation of frameworks and clubs for cultural activities, and the press, particularly the newspapers El-Chihab and El-Bassir.


The association's distinguished activity put it in an unenviable position, as opponents of its activities emerged. In addition to the French administration's plans in the face of the Assembly of Scholars and the assassination of Sheikh Mahmoud Kahoul, there was opposition from representatives, men of corners, Almoravids, missionaries, and Christian clergy.

3.               Its political path

The association continued to operate through schools, newspapers, and clubs during the 1930s, despite harassment from the colonial administration and opposition from its opponents, until the outbreak of World War II, when it refrained from supporting France, reduced its activities, and suspended its newspapers, prompting the French authorities to exile Bashir Brahimi to Aflou. 

The association joined “Ahbab El Bayan” the organization founded by Farhat Abbas. After WWII, it continued its reform mission under the leadership of El-Bachir El-Ibrahimi until the outbreak of the liberation revolution on November 14, 1954, when Cheikh El-Ibrahimi issued the statement of the Association of Muslim Scholars from Cairo calling on the people to rally around the revolution. In 1956, the French authorities dissolved political parties, including the Association of Algerian Muslim Scholars.


Fifthly: the communist movement

With the increase of national political activity in the twenties and thirties, and the emergence of multi-directional national parties, the French left attempted to use this unique political circumstance to support its presence in Algeria through the communists. This French communist activity resulted in the establishment of the Algerian Communist Party in 1936 through the branch of the French Communist Party in Algeria.

1.   Founding circumstances

After the Algerian Communist Party remained a branch of the French Communist Party, an attempt was made in the early 1930s to structure it and give it an Algerian character in order to carry out its official activity within Algeria. The decision was made during the Eighth Congress of the French Communist Party in France from January 22 to 25, 1936, in the presence of representatives of Algerian communists led by Ammar Ozgan. The founding conference was held in Algiers in July 1936 in a land tunnel in Bab El-Wadi, and it was attended by the majority of Europeans living in Algeria. This is what caused his activity to focus on Europeans rather than Algerian citizens, who did not accept his ideas and principles despite his emphasis in his appeal on working-class demands.

2.               Its program

The Algerian Communist Party showed no clear interest in the national cause, instead focusing on social demands such as improving people's lives, raising wages, and achieving social justice. This is what prompted some writers to classify it as a trade union organization rather than a political party. And what the party published in Algeria, such as "El-Djazair El-Djadida," "El-Djoumhouria El-Djazairia," and the newspaper "El-Kifah El-Idjtimaii," demonstrates the Algerian communists' program, which can be summarized as:

  • Equality between Algerians and French within the French Union.
  • Considering French and Arabic as official languages.
  • The formation of a dual French-Algerian parliament.

These demands clearly show the Communist Party's call for permanent association with France, as opposed to Algerian patriots' demands.

3.               Its political path

The Algerian Communist Party remained closely linked to the French Communist Party, making it a hostage to leftist propositions, and further alienating it from concern for the fundamental issues of the Algerian people. And this connection had an impact on the party because it followed the directives of Maurice Torres, the leader of the French communists, and thus did not sympathize with the Algerians during the massacres of May 8, 1945, but more importantly, the party considered the Algerians fascists and Nazis. In most cases, the party opposed the national movement, having refused to join the Ahbab al-Bayan movement in 1944 and continuing to deny Algerian people's demands until the outbreak of the liberation revolution, viewing it as a suicide operation and the Algerian state still in the process of formation.