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Anarchism in France

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Anarchism in France dates from the 18th century. Many anarchists took part in the French Revolution, including Pierre Joseph Proudhon, the first self-described anarchist. French anarchists fought in the Spanish Civil War as volunteers in the International Brigades.

19th century to World War I[edit]

Anselme Bellegarrigue launched the first anarchist newspaper, named L'Anarchie, journal de l'ordre (Anarchy, The Newspaper of Order) during the Second Republic in 1850. After the creation of the First International, or International Workingmen's Association (IWA) in London in 1864, Mikhail Bakunin made his first tentative of creation an anti-authoritarian revolutionary organization, the "International Revolutionary Brotherhood" (Fraternité internationale révolutionnaire) or the Alliance (l'Alliance). He renewed this in 1868, creating the "International Brothers" (Frères internationaux) or "Alliance for Democratic Socialism".

Following the 1871 Paris Commune, the anarchist movement, as the whole of the workers' movement, was decapitated and deeply affected for years. Bakunin and other federalists were excluded by Karl Marx from the IWA at the Hague Congress of 1872, and formed the Jura federation, which met the next year at the 1873 Saint-Imier Congress, where was created the Anarchist St. Imier International (1872-1877).

Peter Kropotkin published from Geneva Le Révolté in 1878. La Révolution Sociale, the first anarchist newspaper since the Commune, began to be published in 1880. The next year anarchists gathered at the London Conference. Émile Pouget founded in 1878 the Père Peinard newspaper.

Le Libertaire, a newspaper created by Sébastien Faure, one of the leader supporter of Alfred Dreyfus, and Louise Michel, alias "The Red Virgin", published its first issue on 16 November 1895. The Confédération générale du travail (CGT) trade-union was created the same year, from the fusion of the various Bourses du travail (Fernand Pelloutier), the unions and the industries' federations. Dominated by anarcho-syndicalists, the CGT adopted the Charte d'Amiens in 1906, a year after the unification of the other socialist tendencies in the SFIO party (French Section of the Second International) led by Jean Jaurès and Jules Guesde. The International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam then took place from 25 to 30 August 1907. An ephemeral Alliance communiste anarchiste group was created in 1910, but the next year a Fédération communiste anarchiste (FCA) was founded with Louis Lecoin as secretary. The Fédération communiste révolutionnaire anarchiste, headed by Sébastien Faure, succeeded to the FCA in August 1913.

After the assassination of anti-militarist socialist leader Jean Jaurès a few days before the beginning of World War I, and the subsequent rallying of the Second International and the workers' movement to the war, even some anarchists supported the Sacred Union (Union Sacrée) government. Jean Grave, Peter Kropotkin and others published the Manifeste des Seize supporting the Triple Entente against Germany. A clandestine issue of the Libertaire was published on 15 June 1917.

From World War I to World War II[edit]

After the war, the CGT became more reformist, and anarchists progressively drifted out. Formerly dominated by the anarcho-syndicalists, the CGT split into a non-communist section and a communist CGTU after the 1920 Tours Congress which marked the creation of the French Communist Party (PCF). A new weekly serie of the Libertaire was edited, and the anarchists announced the imminent creation of an Anarchist Federation. An Union Anarchiste (UA) group was constituted in November 1919 against the Bolsheviks, and the first daily issue of the Libertaire got out on 4 December 1923.

Russian exiles, among them Nestor Makhno and Archinov, founded in Paris the review Dielo Trouda (Дело Труда, The Сause of Labour) in 1925. Makhno co-wrote and co-published The Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, which put forward ideas on how anarchists should organize based on the experiences of revolutionary Ukraine and the defeat at the hand of the Bolsheviks. The document was initially rejected by most anarchists, but today has a wide following. It remains controversial to this day, some (including, at the time of publication, Voline and Malatesta) viewing its implications as too rigid and hierarchical. Platformism, as Makhno's position came to be known, advocated ideological unity, tactical unity, collective action and discipline, and federalism. Five hundred people attended Makhno's 1934 funeral at the Père-Lachaise.

In June 1926, "The Organisational Platform Project for a General Union of Anarchists", best known under the name "Archinov's Platform", was launched. Voline responded by publishing a "Synthesis" project in his article Le problème organisationnel et l'idée de synthèse (The Organisational Problem and the Idea of a Synthesis). After the Orleans Congress (12-14 July 1926), the Anarchist Union (UA) transformed itself into the Communist Anarchist Union (UAC, Union anarchiste communiste). The gap widened between proponents of Platformism and those who followed Voline's Synthesis.

The Congress of the Fédération autonome du Bâtiment (13-14 November 1926 in Lyons, created the CGT-SR (Confédération Générale du Travail-Syndicaliste Révolutionnaire) with help from members of the Spanish Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), which prompted the CGT's revolutionary syndicalists to join it. Julien Toublet became the new trade-union's secretary. Le Libertaire became again a weekly newspaper in 1926.

At the Orleans Congress of 31 October and 1 November 1927 the UAC became Platformist. The minority of those whom followed Voline split and create the Association des fédéralistes anarchistes (AFA) which diffused the Trait d'union libertaire then La Voix Libertaire. Some Synthesists later rejoined the UAC (in 1930), which took the initiative of a Congress in 1934 to unite the anarchist movement on the basis of anti-fascism. The Congress took place on 20 and 21 May 1934, following the 6 February 1934 riots in Paris. All of the left wing feared a fascist coup d'état, and the anarchists were at the spearhead of the antifascist movement. The AFA dissolves itself the same year, and joined the new group, promptly renamed Union anarchiste. However, a Fédération communiste libertaire later created itself after a new split in the UA.

Anarchists then participated to the general strikes during the Popular Front (1936-38) which led to the Matignon Accords (40 hours week, etc.). Headed by Léon Blum, the Popular Front did not intervene in the Spanish civil war, because of the Radicals' presence in the government. Thus, Blum blocked the Brigades from crossing the borders and sent ambulances to the Republicans, while Hitler and Mussolini were sending men and weapons to Franco. In the same way, Blum refused to boycott the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, and to support the People's Olympiad in Barcelona. The anarchists became members of International Antifascist Solidarity (Solidarité internationale antifasciste), which helped volunteers illegally cross the border. A Fédération anarchiste de langue française (FAF) developped from a split in the UA, and denounce the collusion between the French anarchists with the Popular Front, as well as criticizing the CNT-FAI's participation to the Republican government in Spain. The FAF edited Terre libre, in which Voline collaborated. Before World War II, they're are thus two organizations, the Union anarchiste (UA), which has as newspaper Le Libertaire, and the Fédération anarchiste française (FAF) which has the Terre libre newspaper. However, to the contrary of the French Communist Party (PCF) which had organized a clandestine network before the war — Edouard Daladier's government even had made it illegal after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact —, the anarchist groups hadn't any clandestine infrastructure set in 1940. Hence, as all other parties apart of the PCF, they quickly became completely disorganized during and after the Battle of France.

Under Vichy[edit]

After Operation Barbarossa and the Allies' landing in North Africa, Marshall Pétain, head of the new "French State" which had replaced the Republic, saw "the bad wind approaching." (le mauvais vent s'approcher). The Resistance began to start organizing itself in 1942-1943. On 19 July 1943 a clandestine meeting of anarchist activists took place in Toulouse; they spoke of the Fédération internationale syndicaliste révolutionnaire. On 15 January 1944 the new Fédération anarchiste decided on a charter approved in Agen on 29-30 October 1944. Decision is taken to publish clandestinely Le Libertaire as to maintain relations; its first issue was published in December 1944. After the Liberation, the newspaper again became a bi-weekly, and on 6-7 October 1945 the Assises du mouvement libertaire were held.

The Fourth Republic (1945-1958)[edit]

The Fédération anarchiste (FA) was founded in Paris on 2 December 1945 and elected George Fontenis as first secretary the next year. It was composed of a majority of activists from the former FA (which supported Voline's Synthesis) and some members of the former Union anarchiste, which supported the CNT-FAI support to the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War, as well as some young Resistants. A youth organization of the FA (the ‘’Jeunesses libertaires) was also created. Apart of some individualist anarchists grouped behind Emile Armand, who published ‘l’Unique’ and ‘L’En-dehors’, and some pacifists (Louvet and Maille who published “A contre-courant”), the French anarchists were thus united in the FA. Furthermore, a confederate structure was created to coordinate publications with Louvet and ‘Ce qu’il faut dire’ newspaper, the anarcho-syndicalist minority of the reunited CGT (gathered into the Fédération syndicaliste française (FSF), they represented the “Action syndicaliste” current inside the CGT), and ‘Le Libertaire” newspaper. The FSF finally transformed itself into the actual Confédération nationale du travail (CNT) on 6 December 1946, adopting the Paris charter and publishing ‘Le Combat Syndicaliste’.

The Confédération nationale du travail (CNT, or National Confederation of Labour) was founded in 1946 by Spanish anarcho-syndicalists in exile with former members of the CGT-SR. The CNT since splitted into the CNT-Vignoles and the CNT-AIT, which is the French section of the IWA.

The anarchists started the 1947 insurrectionary strikes at the Renault factories, crushed by Interior Minister socialist Jules Moch, whom created for the occasion the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) riot-police. Because of the CNT’s inner divisions, some FA activists decided to participate to the creation of the reformist CGT-FO, issued from a split within the communist dominated CGT.

The FA participated to the International Anarchist Congress of Puteaux in 1949, which gathered structured organizations as well as autonomous groups and individuals (from Germany, USA, Bolivia, Cuba, Argentina, Peru...) Some communist anarchists organized themselves early 1950 in a fraction, named ‘Organisation pensée bataille’ (OPB) which had as aim to impose a single political stance and centralize the organization.

The GAAP (Groupes anarchistes d’action prolétarienne) were created on 24-25 February 1951 in Italy by former members of the FAI excluded at the congress of Ancône. The same year, the FA decides, on a proposition from the Louise Michel group animated by Maurice Joyeux, to substitute individual vote to group vote. The adopted positions gain federalist status, but are not imposed to individuals. Individualists opposed to this motion failed to block it. ‘Haute fréquence’, a surrealist manifest was published in ‘’Le Libertaire’ on 6 July 1951. Some surrealists started working with the FA. Furthermore, the ‘Mouvement indépendant des auberges de jeunesse’ (MIAJ, Independent Movement of Youth Hostels) was created at the end of 1951.

The June 1952 Bordeaux Congress of the FA clearly adopted a communist libertarian orientation, leading to a first scission in October. The latter regroup in l'Entente anarchiste, bulletin de relation, d'information, de coordination, et d'étude organisationnelle du mouvement anarchiste, which first issue is dated 30 October 1952. The Entente gathered Georges Vincey, Tessier, Louis Louvet, André Prudhommeaux, but also Raymond Beaulaton and Fernand Robert, two strange individuals who would turn far right during the Algerian war.

Le Libertaire published on 5 June 1952 a letter from Albert Camus concerning Gaston Leval’s study of “Bakunin and ‘L’Homme révolté”

The FA transformed itself into the Fédération communiste libertaire (FCL) after the 1953 Congress in Paris, while an article in ‘Le Libertaire’ indicated the end of the cooperation with the surrealists. The FCL regrouped between 130 to 160 activists. The ‘Entente anarchiste’ dissolved itself and joined the new FCL, forcing Maurice Joyeux to compromise with the individual anarchists of the Entente. The new decision-making process was founded on unanimity: each person has a right of veto on the orientations of the federation. The FCL published the same year the ‘Manifeste du communisme libertaire’.

The FCL published its ‘workers’ program’ in 1954, which was heavily inspired by the CGT’s revendications. The Internationale comuniste libertaire (ICL), which groups the Italian GAAP, the Spanish Ruta and the Mouvement libertaire nord-africain (MLNA, North African Libertarian Movement), was founded to replace the Anarchist International, deemed too reformist. The ICL, however, had only a short life period. The same year, the FCL criticized the ‘bolchevik’ orientation of the federation infiltrated by the secret OPB. The first issue of the monthly ‘Monde libertaire’, the news organ of the FA which would be published until 1977, got out in October 1954. On 15-20 August 1954 the Ve intercontinental plenum of the CNT took place.

On 1 November 1954 the Toussaint rouge (Red All Saints day) marked the beginning of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62). The FCL supported the Algerian people’s struggle, making it a target of state repression.

Gaston Leval quit the FA in 1955 to create the ‘Cahiers du socialisme libertaire’. Several groups quit the FCL in December 1955, disagreeing with the decision to present ‘revolutionary candidates’ to the legislative elections. This scission gave rise to the creation of the GAAR (Groupes anarchistes d’action révolutionnaire) who published until 1970 the ‘Noir et Rouge’ newspaper. The GAAR claimed to be the “expression of the communist anarchist tendency of the libertarian movement”. They adopted the platform, that is tactical and ideological unity, collective responsiblity and support to the FLN liberation front.

The Fédération communiste libertaire (FCL) defined its ‘critical support’ to the Algerian people’s struggle: anti-colonialism, support to progressive factions of Algerian resistance, and work as to make the fall of colonialism a revolutionary transformation of society. The FCL carried explosives and weapons for the MLNA. A member of the FCL, Pierre Morain, was condemned to prison in 1955, being the first French to be incarcerated for his solidarity with the Algerian cause.

Regrouped behind Robert and Beaulaton, some activists of the former Entente anarchiste quit the FA and created on 25 November 1956 in Bruxelles the AOA (Alliance ouvrière anarchiste), which edited ‘L’Anarchie’ and would drift to the far right during the Algerian war.

At the January 1956 legislative elections in Paris, the FCL presented some candidates and obtained some very scarce votes. State repression got worse, trials, censorship and seizing of the ‘Libertaire’ newspapers became current. Some FCL activists (George Fontenis, Philippe, Morain...) entered clandestinity to avoid prison, and the Libertaire ceased to be edited in July 1956. The MNLA, linked to the FCL, dissolved after harsh repression. The last FCL activists were arrested in 1957.

The Fifth Republic (1958)[edit]

The Situationist International was one, often overestimated, influence in the 1950s. Anarchists participated in the riots and strikes of May 1968, and then in the autonomist movement. They were also largely present in new social movements, as well as in prisoners' movement such as the Groupe information prisons (GIP) founded by Michel Foucault and Daniel Defert. In the 1980s, they became involved in the struggle against expulsion of illegal aliens.

Notable individuals[edit]

See also Category:French anarchists.

List of French libertarian organisations[edit]

See also[edit]

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