Algerian Anarchists in France pt 1

Screen shot 2014-06-23 at 12.53.44 AMSail Mohamed Ameriane ben Amerzaine (October 14, 1894 – April 1953) 

Sail was based in France, and wrote for French anarchist journals, agitating about colonial conditions and the plight of Algerian workers in France for three decades until the early 1950s. He is one of the few known Algerian anarchists (anarchist in the strictly Western tradition).

Born in a small village in Kabylia, a mountainous region east of Algerias, populated for many millenia by ethnic Berbers, the native people of Algeria before the arrival of Arabs in the mid-7th century. After imprisonment during World War 1 for military in-subordination and desertion, he settled near Paris and joined the Union Anarchiste, the principal anarchist organization in France at the time. From the early 1920s to his death in 1953, he continuously wrote articles denouncing the misery and repression of French colonialism in Algeria and the only slightly better condition of Algerian emigres in France, while also organizing committees to defend the rights of the latter.

As well, Sail joined the French anarcho-syndicalist union, the CGSTR (Revolutionary Syndicalist General Labor Confederation) in 1929, orgazined there a separate section of Algerians, and published Terre Libre, with anarchist Andrew Proudhommeaux from 1934. He volunteered for the International Group of the Durruti Column in Spain in 1936. Wounded in Saragossa, he returned to France and continued his activism, including demonstrating against French repression of Messali’s ENA.

Arrested and imprisoned several times in the 1930’s and ’40s by French authorities, upon each release he returned to militant anarchist organizing among Algerian workers and writing for anarchist journals. After apparently escaping a detention camp during the German occupation, Sail helped produce conterfeit papers. Following the liberation of France, he sought to organize committees of Algerian anarchists and wrote further articles for the UA’s successor, the Federation Anarchiste.

Sail is pictured in the middle, bottom row

Sail is pictured in the middle, bottom row


He viewed traditional rural Algerian society, especially in Kabylia, as culturally embracing though without Western anarchist terminology or anarchist principles of mutual aid, decentralist community organization, and individuality of expression- much like the description of anarchist cultural tendencies in Spanish society before Bakunin’s emissaries arrived in 1868 with the newly formulated explicit anarchist ideology.


(the above is taken from several excerpts of David Porters’, “Eyes to the South: French Anarchists & Algeria, 2011)