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60 years of the Evian agreements: the red feet, these thousands of activists who came to help independent Algeria

60 years of the Evian agreements: the red feet, these thousands of activists who came to help independent Algeria

In the aftermath of independence, Algeria lacks everything and in particular executives. From 1963, the red feet as we will call them red for communist leave Paris, Lyon or Marseille to participate in the construction of the new Algeria.

Anti-colonial activists

In the aftermath of the Evian agreements in March 1962, 700,000 Pieds-noirs will leave Algeria in a few months, depriving the country of most of its executives and technical skills. The Pieds-Rouges will do the opposite. These third-world, communist, Trotskyist, anarchist or Christian militants came to help a battered Algeria, the new center of socialist revolution after Cuba, at the gates of Europe. Some of these pied-rouges are close to the FLN (National Liberation Front) in mainland France, carrying suitcases from Jeanson network. Others are already on the other side of the Mediterranean, members of the Algerian Communist Party or supporters of the FLN.

Among them, some well-known names, such as the journalists Henri Alleg who came to relaunch the newspaper Algiers Republican and Hervé Bourges then close to Ben Bella, the future academics Elisabeth Roudinesco, Catherine Levy, Gérard Challiand, Bruno Etienne, Jeanne Favret Saada… And filmmakers like Marceline Loridan-Ivens, Sarah Maldoror or the photographer Elie Kagan, famous for his photographs of the massacres of October 17, 1961, or the psychiatrist Anne Leduc, friend of Frantz Fanon, the Martinican doctor who fought with the FLN until his death in December 1961.

They are also thousands of anonymous doctors and nurses, of whom the country is sorely lacking. They work, set up hospitals to help the 2.5 million Algerians displaced by the conflict. These French find themselves mixed with other white coats from Cuba, Russia and Bulgaria.

Infighting in the FLN

The needs are enormous. Teachers and educators establish schools and institutions to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of orphans who remain after seven years of war. It was a whole generation sensitized by the anti-colonial struggles in Algeria and Vietnam that would be found on the barricades in 1968. Especially since, unlike the Stalinist USSR, independent Algeria gave hope for a more respectful revolutionary process. freedoms with President Ben Bella, socialist and self-managing.

This “socialist hope” will quickly sink with Houari Boumediene’s coup d’etat in 1965. , then threaten the red feet. Many of them become personae non gratae.

Boumediene, who dismissed Ben Bella, moved away from Cuba and turned towards Nasser’s Egypt and the USSR. The French of the first wave leave; they will be replaced by technical assistants and Arab teachers from Egypt.

These pied-rouges, once back in France, will engage in the Vietnam committees, before participating in May 68. We know the rest.

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