Mandela, Algeria, Zizek, Truth


I wrote an essay celebrating Mandela using truth as hammer with which to pulverize hatred. This was Mandela’ s primary mission, and it succeeded.

That was not obvious. Look at Algeria. In 1960, Algeria was richer per capita than South Africa, and enjoyed (on paper) more freedom (apartheid, although practically observed in Algeria, was not imposed with the force and arrogance it was in South Africa; the first universal suffrage vote happened in (French administered) Algeria a third of a century earlier than in South Africa.

At first sight, it should have been easier to make Algeria into a democratic commonwealth in 1951 than to achieve this in South Africa in 1991 (the year Mandela was released from detention). However:

War Slashes Souls

War Slashes Souls

The weight of the past can be overwhelmed, though. Mandela showed that. So why did it not happen in Algeria? Intellectual failure. All over.

The situation in Algeria turned out catastrophic, because no man, no leader, spiritual or political, in France, or Algeria had the philosophical, and political stature of Mandela (Camus did not reach Mandela’s philosophical understanding). As I pointed out, Mandela understood something that was not understood, or proclaimed, before: the Will to Truth can overwhelm the Will To Power.

The problem with the Franco-Algerian civil war, was not just that there was no Mandela. But that the whole political and intellectuals landscape was full of short sighted hateful dwarves, full of racism, on the left or the right, on one side of the sea, as on the other (yes, I include De Gaulle, the OAS, the FNL, and all Franco-Algerian intellectuals, Camus excepted, in this global condemnation).

The vicious Franco-Algerian war had hardened hearts, and left only draconian mentalities in power (Draco gloated that most offenses were worthy of the death penalty, 2,615 years ago in Athens).

Mandela avoided this. He avoided vicious war, the type that feeds mostly hatred. As Mandela talked, in his jail cell, with South Africa’s top (white) general, he told him:“General, in this war, you and me are both generals. Whatever happens, at the end of this, we will have to meet, and negotiate. How we treat each other then, depends upon how we treat each other, now.”

In the early 1990s, 19% of South Africa was “white”. Nowadays it’s 9% (the poor tend to reproduce like rabbits, everywhere).

In Algeria, upon so called “independence” 15% of the population fled (including lots of Jews, whose ancestors had arrived in the area 2,100 years before, 8 centuries before Arabs and Muslims invaded by the sword). Many of the Jews ended in Israel, as the French Republic had been, naturally enough, Israel’s main sponsor.

It was independence from Paris, but not from hatred and other vicious habits many of them learned there (such as the pseudo-leftism clamored by hypocrites such as Jean-Paul Sartre, the pseudo-philosopher, and his ilk of ill disguised collaborators).

In the full light of history, one may wonder if Africa and Numidia (in the Roman geographical sense) will ever recover from democratic Carthage’s monstrous demise, and the just as monstrous Arab-Muslim conquest of the Maghreb (647-709 CE)



I mentioned that, ideally, Mandela would have told a few truths that needed to be told, and, first of all, that wisdom pays, and only wisdom does. Long term.

Second, that wisdom arises from a wealth of knowledge, and only from that: Mandela, a king, was also a lawyer, a boxer, and someone who learned Afrikaner as an adult.

The average salary of an employed black man is eight times less than that of a white employee. But Mandela would have shrugged:”Do you have anything better to propose?” Zizek thinks so, but he is just posing:

Slavoj Zizek, the famous European (Slovenian) philosopher, psychoanalyst and social theorist at the Birkbeck School of Law, University of London, wrote an incisive essay for the New York times”Mandela’s Socialist Failure“. The essay is transverse to my “Mandela, Truth Philosopher”. I do not disagree with its spirit. Just the details, where the most pernicious devils lurk.

Zizek says: “South Africa in this respect is just one version of the recurrent story of the contemporary left. A leader or party is elected with universal enthusiasm, promising a “new world” — but, then, sooner or later, they stumble upon the key dilemma: does one dare to touch the capitalist mechanisms, or does one decide to “play the game”? If one disturbs these mechanisms, one is very swiftly “punished”If we want to remain faithful to Mandela’s legacy, we should thus forget about celebratory crocodile tears and focus on the unfulfilled promises his leadership gave rise to. We can safely surmise that, on account of his doubtless moral and political greatness, he was at the end of his life also a bitter, old man, well aware how his very political triumph and his elevation into a universal hero was the mask of a bitter defeat. His universal glory is also a sign that he really didn’t disturb the global order of power.”

Amen to this. Zizek ought to realize though that Franklin D. Roosevelt (from plutocratic background) and Eisenhower (Republican president) were conducting policies way left than anything proposed by the democratic party of the USA, or any “left”, “socialist’, or “labor” party in the West in the last 40 years.

Those who are serious about debt reduction ought to follow Republican president Eisenhower’s drastic remedy: bring up the highest margin tax rate to 93%.

In general, most of today’s economic and social ills would disappear if one returned to the conservative fiscal methods of the 1950s. Those would allow to keep in good functioning order the welfare state established in the period 1933-1965.

Roosevelt and Eisenhower would have certainly presented themselves as free market liberals, pro-capitalists. And they were. So, Zizek, it’s not about “capitalist mechanisms”.

It’s about having forgotten the wisdom of the past. And it’s about intellectuals who, like Zizek, do not go inside the machinery enough to make a cogent critique of what went wrong.

Mandela did not do such a mistake: he had the Algerian disaster in full view, and tried to avoid it. This, Zizek does not see.

And it’s going wrong all over, in newer ways: witness the suicidal rise of fossil fuel companies’ influence, in the last 15 years. Something never seen before, and that no socialists of the past could have envisioned, in their worst nightmares.


Patrice Ayme


Note: 1) Millions died or fled from the Algerian War. Nearly all the population of Algeria suffered, and the suffering extends to this day.

2) The accusation of racism against De Gaulle is amply documented. Through many statements. On 5 Mars 1959, he confessed the following to Alain Peyrefitte : « Si nous faisions l’intégration, si tous les Arabes et Berbères d’Algérie étaient considérés comme Français, comment les empêcher de venir s’installer en métropole, alors que le niveau de vie y est tellement plus élevé ? Mon village ne s’appellerait plus Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, mais Colombey-les-Deux-Mosquées ! »

Translation: France is so rich, all Algerians want to come here. So we will not do integration. Down with Mosques.

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3 Responses to “Mandela, Algeria, Zizek, Truth”

  1. Dominique Deux Says:

    I think the great, festering wound in Algeria is not that left by the Independence War. That one is buried under swathes of selective memory (like in France) and is not a divisive issue. The civil war in the Dark Years, pitting jihadists against secularists, was much worse in its sequels. The Government may have extended a peaceful hand to Jihadist rebels, but a majority of the population wants them not only disarmed but dead. And since the reconciliation process is swaddled in layers of lies on all sides, it cannot succeed. You do see female students chatting together wearing indifferently jeans or full veils, but the deep rift is also everywhere to see. Women resist the creeping erasure of their hard-won rights, French speakers resist the enforced spread of Arabic, Kabyle minorities turn to Christianism as a gesture of defiance and are duly quashed.

    There is much that France should and could do. But obstacles include a stereotyped perception of each other which is not about to go away soon.

    I was there shortly after 9/11 and, withe the widely reported popular support for OBL in “the Arab street”, I expected to find rejoicing. It was there but with a twist: “what happened is an atrocity,” I was told. “but now maybe the Americans will understand what WE are fighting, and lend us a hand”.

    Or again, when there was national outrage in France after a largely immigrant audience at a soccer match booed la Marseillaise, I found the very same feeling of outrage in Algerian media and streets.

    Things are moving. And I daresay keeping them moving is much more important, for France and the EU, than trying to breathe life into an ossified, Tory-eaten Britain.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Dominique: It seems that agronomy allowed you to travel all over in depth!

      Everybody agrees about Britain. One problem there, just as in the USA, is that the population augmented enormously, through immigration alone. They came, from all over the world, because of the jobs or the tax haven tricks, that Thatcher offered them. So this amplified the plutocratic mentality.

      Immigration into France, or Germany was from more organized groups (Algerians, West Africans in France, Turks in Germany) who did not need just to espouse the greed mentality.

      My thesis on the Franco-Algerian War is complementary to yours. I explain HOW the mentality that led to the 300,000 dead of the Jihadist war arose. Some, as I said is straight coming from the incredible establishment, within one lifetime, of the largest empire the world had known. That, forever persuaded many, those who believe in force, namely nearly everybody, deep down inside, that there was something deeply right about Islam.

      But much was a failure of the so called “colonial” regime of France in Algeria. Not to have extended to Muslims the treatment the Jews got, or something approaching that, was the fundamental mistake. Also not extending to Islam the treatment the Christian churches and Synagogues got (still not done).

      The enormous trauma of the Algerian War created the mindset under which the generations after 1961 were brought. In particular, the betrayal by the Republic was no conducive to believing in its principles… Forever thereafter. Betrayal was all what De Gaulle’s despicable little maneuver was.

      But that story is not over. It never will be, because the Maghreb is just too close to Europe to be alien to it.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      I guess a distinction I wanted to point out is not that the Algerian War was “festering wound”, because, indeed, it has been buried under misemotionality. The Algerian War was causative of what happened later, including the French Republic doubting itself, and seeing its educational and integrational systems collapse in parts. And including, of course, the dictatorial/civil war/economic stagnation status of Algeria since.
      So the AW is not perceived as a wound, but it ought to be.


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