Messali Hadj was a nationalist leader in Algeria, founder of three political movements, and opposed the violent extremism of the FLN.
Date of birth: 1893, Tlemcen, French Algeria
Date of death: 3 June 1974, Paris, France
Although Messali Hadj was born in Algeria, his family was of Turkish origin. In 1927, at the age of 34, he became the head of the Travailleurs Algériens (Algerian Workers') association in Paris, traveled to Belgium in February to attend the first congress of the Ligue Contre l'Impérialisme et l'Oppression Coloniale (League Against Imperialism and Colonial Oppression), and met Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Stalinist nationalist leader.
Messali Hadj co-founded several political groups which called for Algerian independence and campaigned heavily both in Algeria and France. His first, the Étoile Nord-Africaine (ENA, North African Star), specifically called for revolt against colonial rule in Algeria, was disbanded by the French authorities in 1929. On 11 March 1937 he founded the Parti du Peuple Algerien (PPA, Algerian People's Party) which was also rapidly suppressed by the French authorities. Messali Hadj was convicted of agitation and imprisoned for several years.
In 1945, following the announcement of Victory in Europe, demonstrators in the Algerian town of Sétif demonstrated against colonial rule. When the demonstration turned violent and a hundred or so French settlers were killed, the French colonial authorities sent in the troops. Thousands of Algerian Muslims were killed. Plans began in earnest for the struggle against French colonialism. The following year Messali Hadj returned to the political scene with the Mouvement pour le Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques (MTLD, Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Liberties). Although he was viewed as a moderate, Messali Hadj was held under house arrest at his home in Brittany, France, and was not allowed to travel to Algeria to campaign. He proved to be very popular with Algerians living in France.
In 1954, after being sidelined in planning for the beginning of an armed struggle, Messali Hadj formed the Mouvement National Algérian (MNA, Algerian National Movement). The MNA was effectively an opposition group to the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN, National Liberation Front) which led the revolt against France in Algeria. The armed wings of the MNA and FLN clashed, both in Algeria and in France (the so called 'café wars'), and the FLN eventually wiped out the MNA's military apparatus. When negotiations for independence began, the FLN sidelined the MNA, and when independence was achieved in 1962, the MNA and Messali Hadj sank into obscurity. Algeria became a one-party state under the FLN and Messali Hadj left for exile in France. He died on 3 June 1974 in Paris.