The French Communist Party and French Contingent Soldiers during the Algerian War: Favour Insubordination or Accept Mobilisation?

Histories and Memories of Soldiers
By Marc Giovaninetti

Around 40 “refusing soldiers” from the ranks of the French Communist Party (PCF) became known for their refusal to fight during the Algerian War, between the years 1956 and 1959. This act of insubordination, for which most of them had to serve two years in prison, was nevertheless contrary to the Leninist vulgate, which called for Communists to fight alongside their comrades sent into combat. One young Communist broke with this rule, and after being disavowed for a year, was supported by a campaign by the PCF and its satellite organisations, with some militants then encouraged to follow his example, until Secretary General Maurice Thorez expressly recommended that this action be suspended. These hesitations and turnabouts received various reactions in the ranks of the PCF, often bitterly, and also indicated certain dissensions at the top of the party apparatus. Then, a heavy silence fell over the destiny of these militants. Their actions, and the erratic orders of their party, remain a source of tension between veterans when they sometimes speak about this subject.

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