Kalman, S. (2013). French Colonial Fascism: The Extreme Right in Algeria, 1919-1939

By Zentella, Yoly | Journal of Third World Studies, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

Kalman, S. (2013). French Colonial Fascism: The Extreme Right in Algeria, 1919-1939


Zentella, Yoly, Journal of Third World Studies


Kalman, S. (2013). French Colonial Fascism: The Extreme Right in Algeria, 1919-1939. NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

French colonial fascism: The extreme right in Algeria, 1919-1939, covers a time and place in the history of European colonialism not often discussed. Although the title cites 1919-1939 as parameters of focus, descriptions of fascist, or extreme right French settler thought and behavior extends before and after this time. This era is a disturbing, violent and oppositional portrait of settler behavior both toward the Other, in this case native ethnic Algerian Muslims and Jews and metropolitan colonial authorities from about 1870 to 1940. The period spans the French Republic to the onset of the Vichy government, with some glimpses of events during the Algerian War (1954-1962). The book's conclusion connects fascist ideology to contemporary France and its response to Arab Muslim immigration in areas like Marseilles.

In our current age when we are still observing, exposing, and opposing continued colonization in its classic form, and its more subtle forms of economic dependency, globalization, institutionalized occupation, and racial cleansing, this book is relevant. It provides examples of patterns in the relationship between colonization, racism, and fascism. This relationship forms a historical and psychological problem that has waxed and waned throughout history, yet appearing vulnerable to resistance and rebellion; apartheid South Africa has been dismantled, but racist Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and systematic destruction of its population continues.

The focus of French colonial fascism: The extreme right in Algeria, 1919-1939, is the significantly sized French settler movement in Algeria, characterized as anxious, often expressing this anxiety as violence against the Other. The gap in French colonial history that Kalman successfully bridges is the "relationship between the Algerian settler and fascism" (p. 1). The unique colonial French fascist society that developed in Algeria at this time does not appear as an official colonial model. It is rather a homespun, settler version born of encounters with the Other, with the acquisition of territory, and wrestling with the colonial authorities for political control. Part of this encounter was xenophobia and a preference for authoritarianism versus Republicanism. The establishment of the Third Republic (1870-1940) sharply polarized France--the Left, the Reformist heirs of the French Revolution, and the Right, the Traditionalists, or conservatives linked to the peasantry, the church, and the army. In colonial Algeria, settlers developed a distinct brand of Right political policies which departed from those of the mainland.

That the Algerian experience with colonization and the Algerian War represents a horrific expanse of time for native ethnic Algerians is an understatement. The central tenets of the extreme right French colonial settlers were based on racist ideologies. Others--Muslims, Jews, Muslim nationalists, the Algerian Independence Movement, socialists, communists, and Marxists--were targets of violent settler behavior supported by the colonial government's blind eye to atrocities. French settlement of Algeria accelerated the control of its territory, supported by ideas of French superiority, entitlement, and the perception of Algeria as an empty space; it was here where a new French race would develop and thrive. Demonization and extermination of the Other and their inability to assimilate appear as part of the settler perspective, embedded in the extreme right rhetoric of the time and upheld by the idea of l'Algerie francaise and a self-regard as a superior Latinite race. So psychologically ingrained were these perceptions that the transition to Vichy policy beginning in 1940 was not difficult. Petain's Vichy Revolucion Nationale was of a reactionary nature, directly in opposition to many of the changes introduced by the French Revolution. …

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