Mouvement Pour le Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques

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algerian organization that sought to attain national rights through electoral participation.

The Mouvement pour le Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques (MTLD; Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Liberties) was created in 1946 by Messali al-Hadj, leader of Algeria's clandestine Parti du Peuple Algérien (PPA; Party of the Algerian People), which colonial authorities had banned in 1939. Under French detention almost continuously since 1937, Messali urged his followers after World War II to boycott French elections. Released in 1946, he hastily organized the MTLD, however, to enter candidates in the elections to the first National Assembly of the Fourth Republic held in November. In spite of harassment by the authorities, the MTLD won five of the fifteen parliamentary seats reserved for Muslim Algerians. Major business of the National Assembly included drafting what became the 1947 Organic Law of Algeria. MTLD deputies regularly denied the competence of a French legislature to determine Algeria's status in any way. In the meantime, the MTLD became by far the most popular party in Algeria. But colonial authorities, fearful of a nationalist victory, openly rigged the Algerian legislative elections of 1948, and they tampered again with the elections of 1949, 1951, 1953, and 1954.

After years of urging Algerians to spurn the process, Messali's abrupt decision to present slates of candidates in 1946 confused many Algerians. They did not know whether the party was seeking national rights by direct action or through electoral participation. In fact, it was doing both. At a clandestine party congress in February 1947, delegates determined that the MTLD would pursue political strategies within the existing colonial framework, while a secret PPA would continue to press for independence by whatever means necessary. By the end of 1947, the PPAMTLD leadership had, in fact, approved the creation of an Organisation Spéciale (OS), which conducted armed robberies and other acts of violence until broken up by the authorities in March 1950.

It appears that MTLD cohesiveness was constantly torn through these years by the partisans of direct action and those of political participation. The decision to pursue both strategies simultaneously reflected irreconcilable internal contradictions more than rationally chosen strategy. This fundamental conflict lay at the heart of a series of internal disputes that progressively sapped the party's effectiveness in the early 1950s. The weakening of the party was hastened by conflicts between the Central Committee and Messali Hadj, widely accused of authoritarianism and of attempting to establish a cult of personality. Banned from Algerian soil in 1952, Messali in 1954 called a party congress at Hornu, Belgium, that declared the Central Committee dissolved and elected him president for life. Since the Central Committee failed to recognize the authority of the Hornu Congress, the party was split down the middle.

In the spring of 1954, a group of militantsmainly veterans of or sympathizers with the OSformed the Comité Révolutionnaire d'Unité et d'action (CRUA; Revolutionary Committee of Unity and Action). Disillusioned with the "politicals" and their failure to produce, they determined to launch an insurrection. By 1956, most of the MTLD centralists had rallied to the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN; National Liberation Front), which the CRUA had created. Messali, in Europe surrounded by the émigré loyalists who were his original base, refused to join. His wing of the MTLD became the Mouvement National Algérien (MNA; Algerian National Movement) entering into often violent conflict with the FLN both at home and in France.

see also algeria; comitÉ rÉvolutionnaire d'unitÉ et d'action (crua); front de libÉration nationale (fln); hadj, messali al-; mouvement national algÉrien; parti du peuple algÉrien (ppa).


Horne, Alistaire. A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 19541962. London: Macmillan, 1977.

Ruedy, John. Modern Algeria: The Origins and Development of a Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

john ruedy

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Mouvement Pour le Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques

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