The Full Wiki

Anarchism in France: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Anarchism in France dates from the 18th century. Many anarchists such as the Egalitarians took part in the French Revolution. Thinker Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who grew up during the Restoration was the first self-described anarchist. French anarchists fought in the Spanish Civil War as volunteers in the International Brigades.

From the Second Republic to the Jura Federation

Anselme Bellegarrigue launched one of the first anarchist newspapers, named L'Anarchie, journal de l'ordre (Anarchy, The Newspaper of Order) during the Second Republic in 1850. The term libertaire (libertarian) was coined by Joseph Déjacque, who fled France after the December 1851 coup and would create Le Libertaire, the first anarcho-communist newspaper in the United States. Other anarchists of this period include Ernest Cœurderoy, who took exile after the 13 June, 1849 demonstration, and refused to return to France after the 1859 amnesty.

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 Genevamarker 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 and Zo d'Axa published the EnDehors in 1891.

The propaganda of the deed period and exile to Britain

Parts of the anarchist movement, based in Switzerland, started theorizing propaganda of the deed. After Auguste Vaillant's assassination attempt, the "Opportunist Republicans" voted in 1893 the first anti-terrorist laws, which were quickly denounced as lois scélérates. These laws severely restricted freedom of expression. The first one condemned apology of any felony or crime as a felony itself, permitting widespread censorship of the press. The second one allowed to condemn any person directly or indirectly involved in a propaganda of the deed act, even if no killing was effectively carried on. The last one condemned any person or newspaper using anarchist propaganda (and, by extension, socialist libertarians present or former members of the International Workingmen's Association (IWA):

Either by provocation or by apology...
[anyone who has] encouraged one or several persons in committing either a stealing, or the crimes of murder, looting or arson...; 2.
Or has addressed a provocation to military from the Army or the Navy, in the aim of diverting them from their military duties and the obedience due to their chiefs... will be deferred before courts and punished by a prison sentence of three months to two years.

Thus, free speech and encouraging propaganda of the deed or antimilitarism was severely restricted. Some people were condemned to prison for rejoicing themselves of the 1894 assassination of French president Sadi Carnot by the Italian anarchist Caserio. The term of lois scélérates has since entered popular language to design any harsh or injust laws, in particular anti-terrorism legislation which often broadly represses the whole of the social movements.

The United Kingdom quickly became the last haven for political refugees, in particular anarchists, who were all conflated with the few who had engaged in bombings. Already, the First International had been founded in London in 1871, where Karl Marx had taken refuge nearly twenty years before. But in the 1890s, the UK became a nest for anarchist colonies expelled from the continent, in particular between 1892 and 1895, which marked the height of the repression, with the "Trial of the thirty" taking place in 1884. Louise Michel, aka "the Red Virgin", Emile Pouget or Charles Matato were the most famous of the many, anonymous anarchists, desertors or simple criminals who had fled France and other European countries. Many of them returned to France after President Félix Faure's amnesty in February 1895. A few hundreds persons related to the anarchist movement would however remain in the UK between 1880 and 1914. The right of asylum was a British tradition since the Reformation in the 16th century. However, it would progressively be eroded, and the French immigrants were met with hostility. Several hate campaigns would be issued in the British press in the 1890s against these French exilees, relayed by riots and a "restrictionist" party which advocated the end of liberality concerning freedom of movement, and hostility towards French and international activists.


Le Libertaire, a newspaper created by Sébastien Faure, one of the leading supporters of Alfred Dreyfusmarker, and Louise Michel, alias "The Red Virgin", published its first issue on November 16, 1895. The Confédération générale du travail (CGT) trade-union was created in 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.

Only eight French delegates attended the International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam in August 1907. According to historian Jean Maitron, the anarchist movement in France was divided into those who rejected the sole idea of organisation, and were therefore opposed to the very idea of an international organisation, and those who put all their hopes in syndicalism, and thus "were occupied elsewhere". Only eight French anarchists assisted the Congress, among whom Benoît Broutchoux, Pierre Monatte and René de Marmande.

A few tentatives of organisation followed the Congress, but all were short-lived. In the industrial North, anarchists from Lillemarker, Armentièresmarker, Denains, Lensmarker, Roubaixmarker and Tourcoingmarker decided to call for a Congress in December 1907, and agreed upon the creation of a newspaper, Le Combat, which editorial board was to act as the informal bureau of an officially non-existent federation. Another federation was created in the Seinemarker and the Seine-et-Oisemarker in June 1908.

However, at the approach of the 1910 legislative election, an Anti-Parliamentary Committee was set up and, instead of dissolving itself afterwards, became permanent under the name of Alliance communiste anarchiste (Communist Anarchist Alliance). The new organisation excluded any permanent members. Although this new group also faced opposition from certain anarchists (including Jean Grave), it was quickly replaced by a new organization, the Fédération communiste (Communist Federation).

The Communist Federation was founded in June 1911 with 400 members, all from the Parisian region. It quickly took the name of Fédération anarcho-communiste (Anarcho-Communist Federation), choosing Louis Lecoin as secretary. The Fédération communiste révolutionnaire anarchiste, headed by Sébastien Faure, succeeded to the FCA in August 1913.

The French anarchist milieu also included many individualists. Influenced by Max Stirner's egoism and the criminal/political exploits of Clément Duval and Marius Jacob, France became the birthplace of illegalism, a controversial anarchist ideology that openly embraced criminality.

Relations between individualist and communist anarchists remained poor throughout the pre-war years. Following the 1913 trial of the infamous Bonnot Gang, the FCA condemned individualism as bourgeois and more in keeping with capitalism than communism. An article believed to have been written by Peter Kropotkin, in the British anarchist paper Freedom, argued that "Simple-minded young comrades were often led away by the illegalists' apparent anarchist logic; outsiders simply felt disgusted with anarchist ideas and definitely stopped their ears to any propaganda."

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 Manifesto of the Sixteen supporting the Triple Entente against Germany. A clandestine issue of the Libertaire was published on June 15, 1917.

From World War I to World War II

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 series of the Libertaire was edited, and the anarchists announced the imminent creation of an Anarchist Federation. A Union Anarchiste (UA) group was constituted in November 1919 against the Bolsheviks, and the first daily issue of the Libertaire got out on December 4, 1923.

Russian exiles, among them Nestor Makhno and Piotr Arshinov, 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-Lachaisemarker.

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 Orleansmarker Congress (July 12-14, 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 (November 13-14, 1926 in Lyonmarker, 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 October 31 and November 1, 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 February 6, 1934 far right riots in Paris. All of the left-wing feared a fascist coup d'état, and the anarchists were at the spearhead of the anti-fascist movement. The AFA dissolved 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 in 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 Summer Olympics in Berlin, and to support the People's Olympiad in Barcelona. Some anarchists became members of International Antifascist Solidarity (Solidarité internationale antifasciste), which helped volunteers illegally cross the border, while others went to Spain and joined the Durruti Column's French-speaking contingent, The Sébastien Faure Century. A Fédération anarchiste de langue française (FAF) developed 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, there are two organizations, the Union anarchiste (UA), which had as its newspaper Le Libertaire, and the Fédération anarchiste française (FAF) which had 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 lacked any clandestine infrastructure 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

After Operation Barbarossa and the Allies' landing in North Africamarker, Marshal Philippe Pétain, head of the new "French State" (Vichy regime) which had replaced the French Third Republic, saw "the bad wind approaching." ("le mauvais vent s'approcher"). The Resistance began to start organizing itself in 1942-1943. Meanwhile, the French police, under the orders of René Bousquet and his second in command, Jean Leguay, systematically added to the list of targets designed by the Gestapomarker (communists, freemasons and Jews) the anarchists.

On 19 July 1943, a clandestine meeting of anarchist activists took place in Toulousemarker; they spoke of the Fédération internationale syndicaliste révolutionnaire. On January 15, 1944, the new Fédération anarchiste decided on a charter approved in Agenmarker on October 29-30, 1944. Decision was 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 October 6-7, 1945, the Assises du mouvement libertaire were held.

The Fourth Republic (1945-1958)

The Fédération anarchiste (FA) was founded in Paris on December 2, 1945, and elected George Fontenis as its 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 E. Armand, who published l’Unique and L’EnDehors, 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 December 6, 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 later split 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 and elsewhere). Some communist anarchists organized themselves early in 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 February 24-25, 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 the 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 July 6, 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 split in October. The latter regrouped in l'Entente anarchiste, bulletin de relation, d'information, de coordination, et d'étude organisationnelle du mouvement anarchiste, which first issue is dated October 30, 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 June 5, 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, came out in October 1954. On August 15-20, 1954, the Ve intercontinental plenum of the CNT took place.

On November 1, 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 responsibility and support to the National 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 person to be incarcerated for his solidarity with the Algerian cause.

Regrouping behind Robert and Beaulaton, some activists of the former Entente anarchiste quit the FA and created on November 25, 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 and others) 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) and May 1968

The Situationist International was one, 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.

An uprising and general strike of students and workers in May 1968 in Paris (and subsequently spreading to the rest of the country) was led in part by some anarchists, including Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

Notable individuals

See also Category:French anarchists.

List of French libertarian organisations


  1. "1. Soit par provocation, soit par apologie [...] incité une ou plusieurs personnes à commettre soit un vol, soit les crimes de meurtre, de pillage, d’incendie [...] ; 2. Ou adressé une provocation à des militaires des armées de terre et de mer, dans le but de les détourner de leurs devoirs militaires et de l’obéissance qu’ils doivent à leurs chefs [...] serait déféré aux tribunaux de police correctionnelle et puni d’un emprisonnement de trois mois à deux ans."
  2. Project of a doctoral thesis, continuing work on "French Anarchists in England, 1880-1905", including a large French & English bibliography, with archives and contemporary newspapers.
  3. Jean Maitron, Le mouvement anarchiste en France, tome I, Tel Gallimard (François Maspero, 1975), pp.443-445
  4. Jean Maitron, 1975, tome I, p.446
  5. Jean Maitron, 1975, tome I, p.448
  6. Maurice Rajsfus, La police de Vichy, Les forces de l'ordre françaises au service de la Gestapo 1940-1944, Le Cherche Midi, 1995 ISBN 2-86274-358-5


  • Berry, David. A history of the French anarchist movement, 1917 to 1945 Greenwood Press, 2002, new edition AK Press, 2009.
  • Maitron, Jean. Histoire du mouvement anarchiste en France (1880-1914) (first ed., SUDEL, Paris, 1951, 744 p.; Reedition in two volumes by François Maspero, Paris, 1975, and reedition Gallimard)

External links

See also

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address