|To us leaders of the Algerian revolution, the Manifesto of the 121 rang out like a thunderclap, as it did for many Algerians. That stand protected us, I must admit, from some unlovely feelings, such as hatred. The struggle for liberation was terrible. We were bruised and wounded by colonialism. The manifesto reminded us that the French people could not be reduced to the war that was hitting us. Some French people had taken our side under terrible conditions. The French people was also a great people, bearing a rich history and a genius of its own. We were no longer alone. They were not traitors — the opposite. They expressed the best of France. We knew it, and that was why it moved us. These men and women were rising up against something they considered abominable.
We must remember the obstacles of the era. The long walk to independence was not easy. The war did not unfold in a continuous manner. Forceps were required for the delivery. It was very difficult. There were periods that were hard, with abrupt stops and steps forward. But the collective action of autumn 1950 showed that something was happening in France. The manifesto was a step toward the end of colonialism. Those 121 intellectuals, our lawyers and the ‘suitcase-carriers’ [of the Jeanson network] became more than our friends, they became our family. They embodied that raising of consciousness, that Omega Point that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin spoke of, where human beings reach the highest degree of spirituality. We admired them, we loved them, we knew that it was difficult for them. They confirmed to us that humanity was present everywhere and we shouldn’t despair for it.
I was in prison at the time of these events. But I have known this solidarity, too. I remember being transferred to a prison near Saumur. The Organisation armée secrète (OAS) had plans to liquidate us in our cells. We knew about them. I will not say what our lawyers did to help us, which must remain a secret. But I can say that we prepared our escape to avoid this attempt. In the end, it wasn’t necessary.
I remember the suitcase-carriers and the lawyers with feeling. They were the best of the French, the best of the Algerians.
Ahmed Ben Bella
Leader of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN); first president of Algeria (1962) deposed by colonel Houari Boumediène in June 1965. President of the Movement for Democracy in Algeria (MDA).