50 years later, the film about Guerilla’s war of independence continues to inspire freedom struggles.
Sohail Daulatzai, author of the Fifty Years’ Battle of Algiers: The past as Prologue, a dialogue with the former Black Panther Eddie Conway to discuss why the 1966 film was still influential in the era of the War on terror and dictatorial capitalism.
Sohail Daulatzai is an Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, as well as African-American research at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Black Star, Crescent Moon: International Muslim and Black Freedom outside the United States (2012); Born to use Mics: Read Nas’s Illmatic (with Michael Eric Dyson) Basic Cititas, 2009, and most recently, Fifty years of battle Algiers: Past as Prologue.
EDDIE CONWAY: Welcome to Real News. I’m Eddie Conway, come to you from Baltimore. Currently, a new book has been published about a film that affects the lives of many people, including me, called the Fifty Years’ Battle of Algiers Battle ??.
I have with me today, author Sohail Daulatzai, an associate professor of film and media research, as well as African research, at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Black Star, Crescent Moon: Black Islamic International and Freedom outside the United States, and most recently the author of this book, In the Fifty Years of Battle Algiers: Past as Prologue . Thanks for joining me.
SOHAIL DAULATZAI: Thank you for having me, my friend. It’s an honor to be here with you, Eddie.
EDDIE CONWAY: Alright. I’m just curious, how did you come to write this book now, at this critical moment in history, and why did you write it?
SOHAIL DAULATZAI: Yes, I mean, you know, this is a movie close to me for a long time. I remember seeing him as a child, a teenager, and it just blew into my mind in the late 80s. It was a movie stuck with me. And when the world is changing around me, in a special way and I feel, especially after 9/11, when that happens, this movie continues to tell the world, you know?
And then when you started to hear that, the Pentagon watched the movie and used it for the purpose of countering it and I just felt like, wow, this is an important movie that I think in some way. is flying by radar. And so I decided why not write a brief and concise book about the film’s history,
EDDIE CONWAY: Mmm. Well, from the beginning, I thought I mentioned to you that I actually saw this movie as a member of the Black Panther Party in 1969, but when I was in prison, I actually organized it. a group of anti-war veterans entered an organization and we asked to bring the Battle of Algiers into. And the government thought it was a war film so they approved it.
We brought it in. We discussed the group about it. We talked about its tactics. And it is a tool to help organize and raise the awareness of those veterans. But this is, like, in 2002, before the war. Why do you think the movie is important now, that it is used by both left and right?
SOHAIL DAULATZAI: Yes. I think on the one hand it is like a story about a group of people trying to resist and reclaim a dignity against a colonial and imperialist power, right? And I think more and more and unfortunately, the history of colonialism has not ended.
In fact, the fight against terrorism has in many ways prolonged the old history of colonialism. But we also see it happening here in the United States in different ways with police occupation in mostly black and brown communities. And so, I feel the film in many ways still involves providing an allegory, if you want, but like a detailed plan to think about how people can resist , and give dignity to that resistance.
I think that is one of the strong points of the film, that it brings dignity to people’s resistance against those forces. Now, For these right-wing dictatorships and like the Pentagon of the United States and military regimes during the time since the film was released, they found themselves in Colonel Mathieu.
They consider themselves French, and they are trying to find a way to crush these rebel or rebel forces. And so, how do I feel about the way the world has changed? not necessarily changed ?? but about moving from Europe to the United States and the way these forces continue to suppress people, the film provides a way that oppressed people can find themselves in Algeria. But unfortunately, people with more guns are seeing them in Mathieu and they also learned a lot from the movie. So,
EDDIE CONWAY: Mm-hmm. Well, one of the things is that this movie is based on urban guerrilla warfare, mostly around the battle of Algiers. And I wondered with the new movements that are taking place in South America, Africa, and Europe, for a long time with leftist groups using political elections, taking over governments like Venezuela, or Brazil’s MST. , or mine workers in South Africa, or organized in Spain, in Greece.
I mean, it seems to me that small guerrilla warfare is no longer suitable for today’s struggle. That makes this movie, say, unnecessary a lesson now?
SOHAIL DAULATZAI: That’s a good question. I think that part of the time when the film appeared was an era of disintegration in which was a worldwide rebellion, in Africa, Asia, Latin America and between blacks and browns. in the United States, against white race capitalism, right?
And you’ve got a kind of bipolar world. You had an alternative called the Soviet Union, Russia, socialism, but you want to see it with that kind of power. Today, that doesn’t exist, and so you have the kind of domineering global capitalism.
And so, as a result, now groups are trying to fight it, where are those alternatives, right? What is the real way they have ideological genre but even diplomatic or political, hang up hats to talk?
And so, because of that, yeah, I think electoral politics is a path that groups are using to try and have some remedies for what they’re dealing with. But I think the question you’re asking also shows how we think about today’s armed struggle? It’s correct? And in what context is it necessary or useful?
And I think one of the things that I tried to say in the book is how specifically the fight against terrorism ?? it’s correct? ?? It encrypts the idea of armed struggle as illegal. They call it Islamic terrorism, quoting, not necessary, and they declare a war on terror.
And so, terror has brought a very different meaning today, and I think it really is about continuing and breaking and undermining any possibility of armed struggle against these kinds of forces. this government is more repressive. People do not see armed struggle even a possibility when it comes to political mobilization.
Nor did I suggest, like Fanon, when he argued that in Earth’s Misery, violence was indiscriminate and absolutely necessary. Violence and armed struggle are a central part of everyone’s search for freedom, and they must be considered part of a larger set of tools. FLN in Algeria, they used armed struggle, but they also used diplomatic measures.
They went to the United Nations, they tried to appeal under a variety of traditional electoral political processes, but the armed struggle they felt was an essential component of the work they were doing. And so it’s interesting to me why the film is still relevant in many ways, hoping to tie us to the left to ask very serious questions about what and when to fight armed. or even necessary.
I think in the present time, armed struggle is already there, and the idea of political violence, has been coded into Islam. And they put a special face on the person who carried out the violence. As a result, there is a lot of ideological work that has been done to encode that kind of activity is illegal and worth dying.
We need to kill those people. That’s right movements. And it is served in many ways to legitimize the power of power because it is cracked, I think, the potential alliances we have on the left may be because of the question of violence sometimes.
EDDIE CONWAY: This whole fight against terrorism, as you say, right now, it’s coded in a way that it targets Islam and it targets Muslims, and I know, you point out in the book. It makes Western civilizations say that Islam or Islam, which is the codeword for the barbarians now.
SOHAIL DAULATZAI: Yes.
EDDIE CONWAY: That’s the same thing they used against the original Native Americans. That’s the same thing they use when they say Muslim thugs in the black community. But I recently noticed with Trump there, that there is a pushback and what I realized is that there are one billion Muslims in the world. A billion.
And repelling seems to be strong. And I wonder, is the same Western society in decline, or is Western civilization in decline, or are these things really close to people? Does the same thing happen in the Muslim world, among those billions of people about how they see the West?
SOHAIL DAULATZAI: I think it’s hard to say in some way, like you said, 1.3 or 4 billion people, right? Twenty-four percent of the world is Muslims, nearly a quarter of people. So it’s hard to say with wide brush strokes. But I think, as a result of what is going on for centuries, a deep skepticism, if not completely criticizing what the West claims.
Western claims to represent one thing, right? Ideal for freedom and democracy for everyone. But obviously that is not what is put into practice. And so, the experiences are not only with 1.4 billion people, but the overwhelming majority of the non-European world, not white people, is one of the subjugations, of extreme violence, impairment. weak -determination itself, of exploiting natural resources and labor, right?
And then there’s a complete war, to implement those ideas. And so, not only do Muslims around the world have deep skepticism and criticism about the West, and I think part of what we are seeing in the present moment and I think a little more why The film has a special kind of revival that we are seeing characters like Trump and Obama in a different way.
But Bush before him, there was a crisis in the West and there was an attempt or desire to maintain control of the world outside Europe. It’s correct? Still have access to those resources. And I think that’s why we continue to see the rise of a character like Trump.
I mean, Trump is saying, Make America great again. He is trying to come back for a while and I think part of what we are seeing at the present time and I think a part of why the movie has a special revival is we are looking at See characters like Trump and Obama in a different way. But Bush before him, there was a crisis in the West and there was an attempt or desire to maintain control of the world outside Europe. It’s correct? Still have access to those resources.
And I think that’s why we continue to see the rise of a character like Trump. I mean, Trump is saying, Make America great again.
He is trying to come back for a while and I think part of what we are seeing at the present time and I think a part of why the movie has a special revival is we are looking at See characters like Trump and Obama in a different way. But Bush before him, there was a crisis in the West and there was an attempt or desire to maintain control of the world outside Europe. It’s correct?
Still have access to those resources. And I think that’s why we continue to see the rise of a character like Trump. I mean, Trump is saying, Make America great again. He’s trying to come back for a while.
And I think that’s why we continue to see the rise of a character like Trump. I mean, Trump is saying, Make America great again. He’s trying to come back for a while. And I think that’s why we continue to see the rise of a character like Trump.
I mean, Trump is saying, Make America great again. He is trying to go back to a time where for many of us is a very brutal and ugly time, some people may say, more than now. But it is also about the West.
It was no coincidence that he met Theresa May, and he talked about an alliance between Britain and the United States, right? So this is about empire. And I think Trump’s resurgence cannot be considered separate from what’s going on throughout the rest of Europe on these extremist movements.
And that is a reaction to severe instability and uncertainty as a result of a relationship with the world outside Europe. So, part of the reason why I wrote the book and why I think the film is still suitable is because of that unbecoming project that Algerians and the rest of the third world are trying to do. does ?? it’s correct? ?? We want to be free, we want to decide, that project has never been a completed project. It is still ongoing. The third world, as it once was, never had freedom.
And the power has shifted from Europe, England and France, now to the United States. And we’re still where those struggles are still going on. So I don’t see the fight against terrorism as a disruption as many people do, like 9/11 as a break or break from what happened before it. It really is just an extension.
It is another chapter in a European-American super-exploitation project about the non-Western world. I don’t see the fight against terrorism as a disruption as many people do, as on 9/11 as a break or break from what happened before it. It really is just an extension.
It is another chapter in a European-American super-exploitation project about the non-Western world. I don’t see the fight against terrorism as a disruption as many people do, as on 9/11 as a break or break from what happened before it. It really is just an extension. It is another chapter in a European-American super-exploitation project about the non-Western world.
EDDIE CONWAY: Okay, we will choose this part in Part 2. So thank you for joining me, Sohail and thank you for joining me at The Real News.
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