Military Wiki
National Liberation Front
جبهة التحرير الوطني
Jabhet Al-Tahrir Al-Watani
Front de Libération Nationale
Leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Founded 1 November 1954
Headquarters Algiers
Ideology Algerian nationalism,
Democratic socialism,
Social democracy
Political position Left-wing
International affiliation Socialist International (consultative)
Colors Green, Red and White
People's National Assembly
208 / 462
Party flag
Flag of Algeria (1958-1962).svg
Political parties

The National Liberation Front (Arabic language: جبهة التحرير الوطني Jabhet Al-Taḥrīr Al-Waṭanī‎; French language: Front de Libération Nationale, hence FLN) is a socialist political party in Algeria. It was set up on November 1, 1954 as a merger of other smaller groups, to obtain independence for Algeria from France.

Anticolonial struggle

The FLN is a continuation of the main revolutionary body that directed the war for independence against France. It was created by the Revolutionary Committee of Unity and Action (CRUA) and emergent paramilitary networks continuing the nationalist tradition of the Algerian People's Party (APsP). The RCUA urged all the warring factions of the nationalist movement to unite and fight against France. By 1956 - two years into the war - nearly all the nationalist organizations in Algeria had joined the FLN, which had established itself as the main nationalist group through both co-opting and coercing smaller organizations. The most important group that remained outside the FLN was Messali Hadj's Mouvement national algérien (MNA). At this time the FLN reorganized into something like a provisional government. It consisted of a five-man executive and legislative body, and was organized territorially into six wilayas, following the Ottoman-era administrative boundaries.[2] The FLN's armed wing during the war was called the Armée de Libération nationale (ALN). It was divided into guerrilla units fighting France and the MNA in Algeria (and wrestling with Messali's followers over control of the expatriate community, in the so-called "café wars" in France), and another, stronger component more resembling a traditional army. These units were based in neighbouring Berber countries (notably in Oujda in Morocco, and Tunisia), and although they infiltrated forces and ran weapons and supplies across the border, they generally saw less action than the rural guerrilla forces. These units were later to emerge under the leadership of army commander Colonel Houari Boumédiène as a powerful opposition to the political cadres of the FLN's exile government, the GPRA, and they eventually came to dominate Algerian politics.

Human rights during the war for independence

French sources estimated that at least 70,000 Muslim civilians were killed or abducted and presumed killed, by the FLN during the Algerian War.[citation needed] Famous examples of FLN massacres include the Oran massacre of 1962 and the Philippeville massacre. An estimated 4,300 people were also killed in France in FLN-related violence. 30-150,000 pro-French Muslims were also allegedly killed in Algeria by FLN in post-war reprisals:[3][page needed]

Post-independence turmoil

The war for independence continued until March 1962, when the French government finally signed the Évian Accords, a cease-fire agreement with the FLN. In July the same year, the Algerian people approved the cease-fire agreement with France in a referendum, supporting economic and social cooperation between the two countries as well. Full independence followed, and the FLN seized control of the country. Political opposition in the form of the MNA and Communist organizations was outlawed, and Algeria was constituted as a one-party state. The FLN became its only legal and ruling party.

Immediately after independence, the party experienced a severe internal power struggle. Political leaders coalesced into two grand camps: a Political Bureau formed by the radical Ahmed Ben Bella, who was assisted by the border army, faced off against the political leadership in the former exile government; Boumédiène's army quickly put down resistance and installed Ben Bella as President. The single most powerful political constituency remained the former ALN, which had entered largely unscathed from exile and was now organized as the country's armed forces; added to this were regionally powerful guerrilla irregulars and others who jockeyed for influence in the party. In building his one-party regime, Ben Bella purged remaining dissidents (such as Ferhat Abbas), but also quickly ran into opposition from Boumédiène as he tried to assert himself independently from the army.

Boumediene era

In 1965, tension between Boumediene and Ben Bella culminated in a coup d'état, after Ben Bella had tried to sack one of the Colonel's closest collaborators, Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika (who was in 1999 elected President of Algeria). A statist-socialist and anticolonial nationalist, Boumédiène ruled through decree and "revolutionary legitimacy", marginalizing the FLN in favour of his personal decision-making and the military establishment, even while retaining the one-party system.

FLN under Bendjedid

Boumédiène held tight control over party leadership until his death in 1978, at which time the party reorganized again under the leadership of the military's next candidate, Col. Chadli Bendjedid. The military remained well represented on the FLN Central Committee, and is widely held to have been the real power-broker in the country. During the 1980s the FLN toned down the socialist content of its programme, enacting some free-market reforms and purging Boumédiène stalwarts. However, it was not until 1988 that massive demonstrations and riots jolted the country towards major political reform. Rival political organizations were permitted, after the Algerian Constitution was amended to allow a multiparty system and democracy. The FLN was cut off from its privileged position in the state apparatus and military.

The electoral gains of the Islamist ISF, however, led in 1992 to a military coup d'état against the weakened FLN government. Algeria was under direct military rule for some time, and after formal democracy was restored, the FLN remained outside the ruling apparatus; the military clans in power now drew political legitimacy from other parties. The party remained in opposition to the government during the first part of the Algerian Civil War, notably in 1995 signing the Sant'Egidio Platform, which was highly critical of the military establishment. After internal power struggles and a leadership change, it returned to supporting the Presidency.


The FLN's ideology was primarily Algerian nationalist, understood as a movement within a wider Arab nationalism. It essentially drew its political self-legitimization from three sources: Nationalism, and the revolutionary war against France; Socialism, loosely interpreted as a popular anti-exploitation creed; Islam, defined as a main foundation for the national consciousness, and a crucial factor in solidifying the Algerian identity as separate from that of French Algerians or pied-noirs.

As the name implies, it viewed itself as a "front" composed of different social sectors and ideological trends, even if the concept of a monolithical Algerian polity gradually submerged this vision. A separate party ideology was not well developed at the time of independence, except insofar as it focused on the liberation of Algeria. Its nationalist outlook was also closely interwoven with anti-Colonialism and anti-Imperialism, something which would remain a lasting characteristic of Algerian foreign policy; but also with pan-Arab solidarity. This latter aspect led to the denial of or refusal to deal with the separate Berber identity held by Berber-speaking Algerians who made up about 50% of Algeria, something which caused fierce opposition and led to the splintering of the movement immediately after independence, as Hocine Aït Ahmed set up the Berberist and pro-democracy Socialist Forces Front (FFS).

The organization committed itself to Socialism, but understood this along the lines of Arab Socialism, and opposed doctrinaire Marxism. The existence of different classes in Algerian society was generally rejected, even if several of the party's top ideologues were influenced to varying degrees by Marxist analysis. Borrowed Marxist terminology was instead commonly reinterpreted by party radicals in terms of the conflict with France, e.g. casting the colonizer in the role of economic exploiter-oppressor as well as national enemy, while the label of "bourgeoisie" was applied to uncooperative or pro-French elites. The FLN did for pragmatic reasons absorb Communist activists into its ranks during the War of Independence, but refused to allow them to organize separately after the war, and quickly moved to dissolve the pro-Moscow Algerian Communist Party (PCA). This proved of little significance, however, since independent Algeria was set up as a single-party system under the FLN soon thereafter. Many Communist intellectuals were later co-opted into the regime at various stages, notably during the early Ben Bella and late Boumédiènne years, but the ban on their party and refusal to accept Marxism remained in place.

Also strongly present as an ideological influence on the FLN was Algerian Islam, especially of the reformist-nationalist variety espoused by Ben Badis and his group of nationalist ulema. The movement absolutely rejected atheism and was not overtly secularist, contrary to widespread perception in the West, and during the war Islam was perhaps its most important mobilizing ideology. Still, after independence, the party would in practice assume a strongly modernist interpretation of Islam, supported social transformation of Algerian society, the emancipation of women, etc., and worked only through secular institutions. Religion was thus relegated to the role of legitimizing factor for the party-regime. This was especially the case under the presidency of col. Houari Boumédiènne (1965–78), but even then Islam was considered the state religion and a crucial part of Algerian identity, and Boumédiènne himself took pride in his Quranic training. His predecessor Ahmed Ben Bella (1962–65) was more committed to the Islamic component of the regime, although always viewed as more of an Arab nationalist than an Islamic activist (and he remains far removed from what is today referred to as Algeria's Islamists). Boumédiènnes successor, col. Chadli Bendjedid (1979–92) would tone down the Socialist aspect of the movement, and during the mid- to late 1980s he reintroduced religiously conservative legislation in an attempt to appease growing Islamist opposition. During and after the Algerian Civil War, the party's position has remained that of claiming Algerian Islam as a main influence, while simultaneously arguing that this must be expressed as a progressive and modern faith, even if the party generally keeps in line with the conservative social mores of Algeria's population. It has strongly condemned the radical-fundamentalist religious teachings of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and other Islamist groups, even while supporting the inclusion of non-violent Islamist parties in the political system and working with them. During all periods of Algerian post-colonial history, except for a few years c:a 1990-96, the FLN has been a pillar of the political system, and has primarily been viewed as a "pro-system" party. Its role as Algeria's liberators has remained the absolute cornerstone of the party's self-perception, and the defining feature of its otherwise somewhat fluid ideology. Today the FLN is close to president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been made honorary chairman. It mixes its traditional populist interpretations of Algeria's nationalist-revolutionary and Islamic heritage with a pro-system conservatism, and support for gradual pro-market reform qualified by statist reflexes. Since the breakdown of the single-party system and its detachment from the state structure in c:a 1988-1990, the FLN has been in favor of multi-party democracy, whereas before that, it upheld itself as the only organization representing the Algerian people.

Present situation

The party received 34.3% of the parliamentary vote in the elections of 2002 and 199 seats in parliament. The FLN's former secretary-general Ali Benflis, emerged as a rival to the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but lost his struggle for control over the party. Benflis won 6.4% of the vote at the presidential elections of April 8, 2004. Abdelaziz Belkhadem took control of the party after the elections, and was later promoted to Prime Minister of Algeria. The FLN serves as one of the three parties in the ruling Presidential Alliance (with the National Rally for Democracy/RND, and the Movement of Society for Peace/MSP-Hamas).

At the 2012 elections, the FLN won 220 seats in Parliament, 84 more than the previous election, thus remaining the largest party in Algeria.

The FLN was admitted into the Socialist International (SI) as a consultative member at the SI's spring congress on 4–5 February 2013.[4]

Further reading

  • Aussaresses, General Paul, The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Algeria, 1955-1957 (New York: Enigma Books, 2010). ISBN 978-1-929631-30-8.

See also

  • French rule in Algeria (1830–1962)
  • The Wretched of the Earth
  • The Battle of Algiers
  • Frantz Fanon
  • Jeanson network


  1. The FLN retained 208 out of the house's 462 seats.
  2. S. N. Millar, "Arab Victory: Lessons from the Algerian War (1954-62)", British Army Review, No. 145, Autumn 2008, p. 49.
  3. Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (1977).
  4. "Decisions of the Council", Socialist International.
  • Derradji Abder-Rahmane, The Algerian Guerrilla Campaign: Strategy & Tactics, NY, USA: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1997.
  • Derradji Abder-Rahmane, Concise History of Political Violence in Algeria in Arms: Brothers in Faith, Enemies in Arms, Vol. 1, NY, USA: The Edwin Mellen Press,September 2002.
  • Derradji Abder-Rahmane, Concise History of Political Violence in Algeria in Arms: Brothers in Faith, Enemies in Arms, Vol. 2, NY, USA: The Edwin Mellen Press, November 2002.

External links

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