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Ben Barka, Lumumba, Hached – Gone – murdered is more accurate – but not forgotten

December 29, 2009

(First Part of a Two Part Series on Farhat Hachat – Tunisian Trade Unionist and Independence Fighter, Murdered by French Colonial Authorities in 1952. rjp)

1. Three Knights of African Anti-Colonialism

Mehdi Ben Barka – (1920-disappeared 29 October 1965) was a Moroccan left-wing politician, head of the National Union of Popular Forces and of the Third World `Tricontinental’ movement was abducted in Paris on October 29, 1965 by French police officers. 44 years later, his disappearance remains a mystery, although he is presumed dead, assassinated by his political opponents.

On Dec. 29, 1975, Time Magazine published an article called “The Murder of Mehdi Ben Barka”, stating that three Moroccan agents were responsible for the death of Ben Barka, one of them former Interior Minister Mohammed Oufkir. Speculation persists as to CIA involvement. French intelligence agents and the Israeli Mossad were also involved, according to the Time magazine article. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, in 1976, the CIA admitted that it had 1800 pages of documents on Ben Barka but none of it has been released

Patrice Émery Lumumba – (2 July 1925-17 January 1961) was a Congolese independence leader and the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo after he helped win its independence from Belgium in June 1960. Only ten weeks later, Lumumba’s government was deposed in a coup during the Congo Crisis. He was subsequently imprisoned and murdered in circumstances suggesting the support and complicity of the governments of Belgium and the United States.

According to Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman, (Le Dinosaur) Lumumba was taken to Katanga Province, tortured, killed and his body dissolved in sulfuric acid to eliminate his grave become a shrine to would be supporters.

Farhat Hached – (2 February 1914 – 5 December 1952) – a Tunisian labor organizer and leader of that country’s anti-colonial independence movement was assassinated on the morning of December 5, 1952. A recent documentary film on Hachat’s life and assassination was made by the Aljazeera Documentary Channel (in Arabic) included testimony from a member of a secret French pro-colonial paramilitary organization known as The Red Hand (La Main Rouge) who said he was responsible in part for Hached’s assassination. `I believe what I did was legitimate, and I would do it again if I had to’, Antoine Melero said in the documentary

Could It Have Been Different?

Ben Barka, Lumumba and Hached – all killed between the early 1950s and the mid 1960s – shared a great deal in common: in all three cases they represented the left wing of the independence movements in their countries. It being the period of the Cold War, all were accused of being communists although none of them were. Instead they were left-wing nationalists, the kind of Third World political figures that threatened US, French and Belgian (in the case of the Congo) corporate interests in their countries.

It was they who would limited foreign corporate access (or controlled it) to the resources of their countries; it was they who called for allocation of profits in their countries for the good of the whole; it was they who seemed less fearful of democracy than those came to power. Although none of them lived long enough for history to evaluate what might have been their contribution to nation building, they seemed the least corrupt and corruptable of their nationalist movements, and therefore were viewed as threats by both external forces (the former colonial powers, those like the US seeking easy access to Third World resources) and domestic rivals. In all three cases, domestic rivals – who benefited from their removal,  cooperated with foreign intelligence services (or so it appears) in their elimination.

It remains an open question as to whether they would have guided their countries on a sound path of development and greater democracy, or if they would have, like so many other Third World anti-colonial leaders made their peace with `the global economy’, squirreled a fair amount away for themselves, let their nations go to hell in a hand basket and like Mobutu, the worst of the lot, become little more than kleptomaniacs and dictators. This we’ll never know as theirs was the path not taken. Indeed, we’ll never really know what `left models of development’ (more state, less market) could have produced in their countries because virtually none were ever tried, and as the example of these three leaders of peoples’ movements suggest, that particular spark was snuffed out before it could catch fire.

The Unacceptable Nationalist Option

But what we do know is US, French and Belgian Imperialism considered them  intolerable, unacceptable threats. Their kind of nationalism would not be tolerated – and it wasn’t. With cunning and viciousness, their lives and social vision were eliminated. A tamer nationalism, its arms open to foreign penetration took their place. A half century later we can see the results of this policy in the continued impoverishment and political collapse of so many Third World countries. And although its roots have long been lost, the decisions on the overall direction of Third World nationalism were made, for the most part,  in Washington DC, Paris and Brussels, not in Rabat, Tunis or Kinshasa.

It is interesting that among the people of these countries, for all the problems they face the names of Ben Barka, Lumumba and Hached live on. In Morocco, Ben Barka remains a revered figure in the left wing Moroccan opposition and among the broad masses of the Moroccan people. He is recognized through the Third World as an early leader of the anti-imperialist movement, OSPAAAL – Organization In Solidarity With the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Patrice Lumumba’s son, on a recent visit to Denver, spoke of the power of his father’s name even now, nearly fifty years after his assassination. Even not long after Lumumba’s assassination, his memory and impact on the people of the Congo, then known as Zaire was so strong that Mobutu, only a few years in power in the mid 1969s, had to rehabilitate him. He is considered nothing short of a national hero in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Recently, by a presidential decree, the Brouwez House, site of Lumumba’s brutal torture on the night of his murder, has been designated a place of pilgrimage in the Congo.

And if Hached’s name rings few bells here in the United States, in Tunisia he is Still treated as one of the heros of anti-colonial movement. Even now, 57 years after his death, his life continues to be honored. A few weeks ago, on December 7, a ceremony, chaired by Mr. Abdesselam Jrad, Secretary-General of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), was held at the Kasbah Farhat Hached Mausoleum, with attendance of members the labor organization’s national executive bureau, several trade union cadres and relatives of the defunct. So in many ways, time – and imperialism – has not been able to kill either the visions or the contributions of these three


Note: this piece was translated into German on 2/5/2011

6 Comments leave one →
  1. mondher mami permalink
    December 29, 2009 2:08 pm

    the murdered of the militant hedi chaker and the patriot and nationalist Dr abderrahmen mami in tunisia(1953,1954) are not forgotten to.

    • December 29, 2009 2:16 pm

      Thank you.
      Can you send me – if it is not too much trouble – something in English or French about them?
      Rob Prince

      • mondher mami permalink
        March 29, 2010 1:04 pm

        vous pouvez trouver de plus amples informations sur wikipedia en tapant abderrahmen mami.

  2. August 23, 2011 11:20 pm

    This is really a wonderful web site, would you be interested in doing an interview concerning just how you created it? If so e-mail me personally!


  1. Farhat Hached and the Struggle for Tunisian Independence « Rob Prince's Blog
  2. Farhat Hached And The Struggle For Tunisian Independence – 3; 1952 Tunisia’s Year Of Agony « Rob Prince's Blog

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