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How did de Gaulle end the Algerian Crisis?

Updated on December 30, 2013

The Algerian crisis came to an end with heavy costs and consequences. Many sacrifices had to be made, and several changes had to be evoked. Such a crisis needed a high number of factors to determine its outcome, as it was roaring out of control, leading to complete mayhem. Change was essential, and it was brought through gradual modifications, arising from key events and personalities. Change was immediately inspired with the re-instalment of Charles de Gaulle at the head of the French government. His spearheading the French from the Fourth Republic to the Fifth Republic marked the resolution of the Algerian Crisis, and he did this by reconciling both the French and the Algerians, to inevitably appease the situation, and to grant Algerian independence.

Firstly, de Gaulle’s role was decisive in the ending of the Algerian Crisis. Since 1958, the year when the National Assembly voted for his return, de Gaulle persevered to end the crisis that was at hand. He did this by primarily accepting that Algerian independence was necessary, as even though an empire was a utopian concept, in reality the Algerian Crisis was badly affecting both the French and the Algerians. He therefore firstly tried to give more liberty to the Algerian population, for example by giving the vote to Muslims, even to women, and this made way for a referendum, that would actually show what the entire Algerian population would want, and not just what the Pieds Noir desired. De Gaulle also solved the crisis by attempting to reconcile both the Algerians wanting independence and the French wanting to keep their colony, because the battle between these two sides was blocking decision making and upsetting any advances in the crisis. De Gaulle mainly did this by introducing economic, social and political reforms to please the Algerians whilst strengthening the French political system and overall situation to gain public support. Step by step, by slowly reforming French politics, by slowly loosening the grip that the French had on the Algerians and by using decisive moments, de Gaulle proved to be an important factor, possibly the most determining, in the outcome of the Algerian Crisis.

Moreover, de Gaulle was linked to other factors contributing to the resolution of the Algerian Crisis, as his decision making was decisive at every turn. For instance, the changes in French thinking and in French society overall allowed Algerian independence to be accepted, because when the stubborn French spirit and objective was to maintain Algerian control with all costs, decision making was stalled, much like any hope at resolution of the crisis. After many years of suffering and war, it is possible to note a difference in French thinking, due to a gradual cohesion between the French and Algerians that was being inspired by de Gaulle. For example, at the Evian talks in 1961, the French public opinion had changed, and it is possible to remark that the majority of the French society was ready to accept Algerian independence. A similar fact can be seen with the Pieds Noir attitude. By 1962, following “The Generals’ Putsch” of 1961, only 30000 colons of the previous million had decided to stay. 97% of the settlers had realized the situation in Algeria, and it is possible to therefore see that even the Pieds Noirs, who were determined to hold onto Algeria until the end, obtained a new way of thinking, through the change of society inspired by “The General's Putsch”. The key events and personalities behind this turning point were undoubtedly de Gaulle, who inspired this change of thinking, the Evian talks, the referendum but also the extreme activities of the OAS and the FLN, who showed the destruction arising from the conflict. All these events and personalities induced a change in thinking because people witnessed the horror and consequences of the conflict, and they were therefore ready to move on.

Moreover, action was taking place outside France and Algeria during the crisis, holding a certain number of factors that influenced the situation. For instance, France’s struggle to keep control was becoming apparent to the other leading nations in the world; the monstrous executions and terrorist rampages that were taking place in Algeria where becoming known worldwide and the French reputation was therefore decreasing with every event. Criticism was accumulating and pressure was continuously added on, reaching a peak in 1961, when many countries continued to criticize France, and help was continuously decreasing. This therefore convinced de Gaulle that for France to continue to appear like a real international power, war in Algeria could not continue as it was highly out of favour, and the worldwide media succeeded in creating a certain, displeasing opinion of France’s role in the crisis. Within France itself, especially in Paris, the media succeeded in condemning the horrors, under the example of Jean Paul Sartre who argued that the violence in Algeria was France’s own fault. Because of the overwhelming world opinion and effect of the media, de Gaulle was forced to give Algeria its independence. Today, we can easily remark that the war was out of public opinion, both in France and in the rest of the world, and de Gaulle was pushed by this to solve the crisis.

In conclusion, de Gaulle solved the Algerian Crisis by attempting to reconcile both sides, by mutating for the better good the thinking process of French society and finally by realizing the impact of the crisis on France’s credibility. He inspired change through reforms and speeches, through changes in politics and by applying democracy. De Gaulle allowed the Algerian population to speak for itself, whilst calming the Pieds Noirs and allowing them to see what was better for their nation.


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