Camus on the French Algerians

Great read here from TNR:

Camus’ view of the French Algerians allowed him to make an observation about the Arab nationalists that somehow escaped and still escapes his critics and detractors. In the eyes of the anti-colonial dogmatists, the FLN expressed a political and geographical truth, which was the legitimate desire of indigenous people to govern themselves. This was a great truth, but, in the eyes of the dogmatists, the great truth dwarfed any conceivable doubts or worries about the revolutionary cause that somebody might reasonably entertain. Camus entertained doubts and worries, even so. In the nationalist ranks, he saw people whom he respected, but also he noticed an aspiration for a new imperialism in place of the old imperialism of the French. The new imperialism was, in his phrase, an “Islamic empire,” and its inspiration came from Cairo. This meant the revolutionary Arabist doctrines of Gamal al-Nasser, the Egyptian dictator—though Camus surely had in mind the broader revolutionary ideology that was also upheld, in slightly different ways, by the FLN, the Baathists, and various other people who, like Nasser in the course of the 1950s, tilted their nationalist and Islamic doctrines ever more closely to the Soviet Union, which was advancing its own new imperialism.


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