The 17th October 1961

Froggy November 2017


The 17th October 1961


The 17 October 1961 is the date of a set of demonstrations of Algerians in Paris, against the imposition of a curfew. Police reaction was extremely violent, many Algerians were killed and injured, 14 000 were arrested and taken to internment centres where more deaths and injuries occurred.   The state news next morning only made mention of ‘3 deaths’; there is no official tally of deaths or acknowledgment of responsibility to this day.


At the time, De Gaulle had already conceded that Algeria should have autonomy; on 20 May 1961 negotiations had opened in the town of Evian between the French government and the FLN (National Liberation Front). The representatives of the FLN were given protection against possible attacks by the OAS (Organisation de l’Armée Secrète) who opposed Algerian independence. In August, De Gaulle agreed that the Sahara should belong to Algeria, and that paved the way for the negotiations to proceed.


Why then this massacre of unarmed Algerians demonstrating peacefully in Paris?

There was strong opposition to granting independence to Algeria or giving up ‘French Algeria’ as it was called. It wasn’t just the OAS that fought against the independence of Algeria, members of the government also shared that position, all the way up to the Prime Minister, Michel Debré. Debré at the time no longer had responsibility for the Algerian question, but he was in charge of law and order in France.

Debré was so opposed to De Gaulle’s position on Algerian independence he presented his resignation, which was not accepted. Debré then demanded the replacement of the minister of the interior, an ex collaborator of Pierre Mendès-France, who disapproved the violent methods of the prefect of police, by another man who shared Debré’s hostility to Algerian independence.

A book published 2017 throws light on the question.

It is Marie-Odile Terrenoire’s “Voyage intime au milieu de mémoires à vif. Le 17 octobre 1961”  [Personal Journey through burning memories: The 17 October 1961] and it contains the notes written by one of De Gaulle’s ministers who supported Algerian independence, Louis Terrenoire, published by his daughter. The notes were written by Terrenoire during cabinet meetings (he was minister of information); diary extracts are also included.

During WW2 Terrenoire engaged in clandestine operations from 1940, was secretary of the National Council of the Resistance, was arrested by the Gestapo, tortured and deported near Dachau. There he met Edmond Michelet, a Christian like him.

Edmond Michelet was a Resistant, arrested and deported in 1943. He became minister of Justice in 1959; he improved the prison conditions of FLN prisoners, stopped executions and let FLN prisoners organise life in camps and prisons. Debré accused him of protecting writers who had denounced torture and summary executions practised in Algeria.   Debré had Michelet replaced by someone more in tune with his own ideas. From 23 August 1961, when Michelet went, extra judiciary repression together with increased censorship became the order of the day. Debré also wanted Terrenoire removed, but De Gaulle kept him as his personal spokesman and minister delegated to the Prime Minister.


With the removal of Michelet, the prefect of police, Maurice Papon, was able to organise auxiliary police forces which made night raids in the shanty towns of the suburbs, demolishing homes and arresting residents, who were imprisoned or herded in internment centres, some of which had been used to detain Jews during the occupation; other paramilitary groups machine-gunned cafes and hotels frequented by Algerians; these attacks were described in the press including Le Monde and the radio as ‘FLN attacks’. On the 5th October a night curfew was imposed on the Algerian population. This curfew was illegal since Algerians at the time had French nationality. It was implemented by threat of violence. The leadership of the French FLN reacted by organising a number of large peaceful marches in several locations in the centre of Paris.

Police reaction was massive and went on for several days, as thousands of Algerians were arrested and corralled in internment centres, beaten, tortured and killed, in addition to those killed on the streets; and near the bridges (St Michel, Neuilly, Clichy), thrown into the Seine.

After the massacre, there were very few, muted, protests.  In March 1962, a general amnesty was declared for crimes and misdemeanours committed related to law and order operations during the Algerian war; the matter of the massacre had been dropped much before that. Since then, even when there has been some official recognition that events had taken place, they were mentioned as a general ‘repression’ and no responsibility assigned or acknowledged. For example the Mayor of Paris presided over the unveiling of a plaque on the St Michel Bridge on 17 October 2001 “to the memory of the many Algerians killed during the bloody repression of the peaceful demonstration of 17 October 1961”. The same day there was a walk out of the right of centre and right deputies in the Chamber of Deputies when mention was made of a ‘racist curfew’ in 1961.

Similarly, on the 2012 anniversary, Francois Hollande made an official announcement that ‘On 17 October 1961, Algerians demonstrating for the right to independence were killed in the course of a bloody repression. The Republic acknowledges these facts with lucidity. Fifty-one years after this tragedy, I pay homage to the memory of the victims.” (The demonstrations were not ‘for independence’, but it is true that they were part of that struggle.)

Marie-Odile Terrenoire was shocked to hear, in the course of a non governmental commemoration which took place in Paris in 2011, the events qualified as ‘state crime’. That demonstration was organised by a number of associations. Marchers held up silhouettes bearing the names of Algerians killed or disappeared on the 17th and subsequent days. The son of one of the ministers who were like Terrenoire and Michelet in favour of the independence of Algeria, Denis Joxe, had made the silhouettes. Unlike the original marches, this one was mixed Algerian and French.


When historians began to attempt to write an account of the events, they found many documents had been destroyed. When archives started to be opened, two reports ordered by ministers were written, neither of which satisfied historians.


So, why this massacre when negotiations were underway?

Marie-Odile Terrenoire wishes to show that it was not a state decision or a state crime, since some ministers, including her father, were in favour of Algerian independence, as was De Gaulle. British historians Jim House and Neil MacMaster, authors of an important book on the subject, on the contrary throw the blame on De Gaulle. According to them,

it was to put pressure on the FLN that, from July to October 1961, De Gaulle gave Debré and his associates enough room of manoeuvre to implement a strategy of intransigence. The extreme anti Algerian violence unleashed during September and October 1961 is not so much due to uncontrolled extremist elements in the police (the official version of events) but rather the instrument of government policy.

In other words, intense repression was designed to challenge and weaken the FLN and make sure they were not in a position of power during the negotiations.

Anti-FLN police actions continued unabated after the event of mid October, leading to the arrest of important FLN leaders 9-10 November.



Froggy March 2016 The NHS (Reinstatement) Bill

Froggy March 2016


The NHS (Reinstatement) Bill


The dismantling of the NHS in Britain has advanced at such a rate that a bill, put forward by Allyson Pollock and Peter Roderick, will be discussed in Parliament on 11 March to ‘Reinstate the NHS’.


One example of the NHS disappearing into the private sector without anyone noticing is the phone service formerly known as ‘NHS Direct’, now NHS 111.  The media in its usual NHS bashing mode has ferocious headlines of ‘catastrophic NHS failures’ to do with that phone advice service.

That phone service is in fact privatised. The private company is using the franchise name ‘NHS”. This was highlighted in a letter to the Guardian:

“The government know that the key to their devious and subversive plot to privatise the NHS has to be to soften up the public to the idea. This started years ago, even before Andrew Lansley blocked the release of a report praising the service, and continues with the almost daily denigration of the quality of care.

Much of the media seem to collude with this. The latest example is how the tragic case of baby William Mead was reported. NHS 111 failed on several occasions. Nowhere was it said that NHS 111 has been privatised and is run by Care UK, whose one-time chairman – and his wife – donated to the Tory party and to Lansley’s private office. It was portrayed purely as an “NHS” failure. Nor was it mentioned that Jeremy Hunt was warned years ago that NHS 111 was not “fit for purpose”, that its launch should be postponed and not rushed as it was, and that the downgrading of the call handlers from clinical to lay staff was dangerous.

Similarly, every time there is a nursing home scandal such as Winterbourne View, headlines warn of “NHS failure”, despite most of them being in private hands.

This is misleading the public to unfairly think the NHS is failing, when it is actually the privatised side that is letting down patients. The NHS is failing but only because of the lack of investment by this government – the lowest in the G7 – and the wasteful commercialisation.”

Meanwhile the Health Minister is engaged in a confrontation with doctors to force them to work Saturdays as normal days. We have a 7-day service for emergencies and this is not changing. Jeremy Hunt wants to force a 6-day routine service, without increasing staffing or resources. It is an absurd measure, which is causing almost universal indignation, and fresh rounds of strikes which are supported by the public.


Repeal of the 2012 Act


The NHS (Reinstatement) Bill is a bill to repeal Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act 2012. One crucial point of that bill was to remove the Secretary for Health responsibility to provide or secure health services. Now no longer does the government – or anybody else – have a legal duty to provide hospital services throughout England. That 2012 bill was not opposed in Parliament.


Will the Reinstatement bill get support in Parliament? Peter Roderick, the promoter of the bill with Allyson Pollock, is not optimistic; he writes in the London Review of Books, December 2015:

“The question now is whether Labour under Corbyn will end its support for the market in the NHS and get behind the bill. The shadow health minister, Heidi Alexander, is still finding her feet, but the signs are not good. Unlike McDonnell, she has not brought in new political advisers. She is being advised by those who advised Andy Burnham, and judging from a meeting I had with her very recently New Labour thinking on the NHS is for now still very much in place. Ross McKibbin, writing in the LRB of 8 October, expected Corbyn’s leadership to end in tears. If that turns out to be the case, one reason may well be that Corbyn just wasn’t able to translate the support he has in the party into parliamentary backing.”


The will to keep a National Health Service


There is worry and agitation in the country about the NHS, with various movements organising protests. But the majority of MPs and practically all of the media support privatisation. The reforms are introduced in ways that make them incomprehensible to the public, in order to avoid the possibility of any dangerous ‘extra-parliamentary’ actions. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 is virtually impenetrable; the Wikipedia entry for it, which echoes many critical commentators, say that the Act “removed responsibility for the health of citizens from the Secretary of State for Health, which the post had carried since the inception of the NHS in 1948.” But the public would be utterly unable to understand this if they looked at the Act itself, which states:


“Secretary of State’s duty to promote comprehensive health service


The Secretary of State must continue the promotion in England of a comprehensive health service designed to secure improvement—


in the physical and mental health of the people of England, and


in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of physical and mental illness.”


You have to realize that the responsibility of the Secretary of Health now is to ‘promote’ a comprehensive health service, not to provide one. This seemingly innocuous change in vocabulary is designed to permit privatization; it is also designed to be incomprehensible.

Add to this the intricate system of financing or ‘commissioning’ services, and the public is utterly lost. Those with an understanding of the matter have not enough political clout to make themselves heard. Jeremy Corbyn is virtually on his own in Parliament, and cannot do enough.


BBC playing at War


The public is being manipulated on another front, by the BBC. The BBC announcers routinely talk about ‘Russian aggression’ and ‘Putin’s aggressive designs’ as if they were facts. On 3 February BBC2 showed ‘World War Three—Inside the War Room”, a mock documentary based on a Russian attack on the Baltic States leading to a nuclear conflagration. The Daily Telegraph described it as follows:

“World War Three: Inside the War Room convenes a war cabinet of former military and diplomatic figures to react to a hypothetical but all too plausible confrontation in Eastern Europe, given Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.” The Daily Mail explains: “The tension builds and the doomsday scenario reaches its climax as the war room hears that Putin has ordered London to be nuked next.”

The programme is supposed to be ‘a warning to Russia’ not to invade the Baltic States, even in the event of attacks on Russians living there. The programme is also a piece of propaganda made to influence British opinion against Russia. Nowhere is the truth said, that Crimea is overwhelmingly Russian and that it was only attached to Ukraine as an administrative measure, in 1954. A referendum on 16 March 2014 gave support to what was in effect a reunification.

20 000 Russian soldiers were present in Crimea legally at the time.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based in Crimea, and no one with any sense would want to deprive a country of its fleet. It was a matter of survival for Russia that Crimea did not become embroiled in the civil war that rages in Ukraine thanks to EU and US interference and regime change policies. The BBC mock documentary of course did not mention any of this, nor did it mention the commitment given to Russia at the time of the dismantling of the Soviet Union that NATO would not encroach on Russia’s sphere of influence. Now Russia is entirely surrounded by NATO countries on its Western borders.

As with the NHS, the public is kept misinformed, and ‘softened up’ to accept what will eventually appear as ‘inevitable’.