I only just noticed that one of my favourite blogs has been back for a few weeks from an enviably long summer break. Thanks to him for this fascinating obituary.
A short biography of Léandre Valero an anarchist who “critically supported” the Algerian independence movement
The recent death of Léandre Valero on 21st August shines a light on the activities of the Fédération Communiste Libertaire in France in the 1950s and its attitudes towards the independence movement in Algeria.
The son of an anarchist from Andalucia,who had fought with the FAI during the Revolution and Civil War, Valero was born in Oran in Algeria on the 12th October 1923. This meant that he became fluent in Spanish, French and Arabic.
He joined the Forces Françaises Libres, the groups initiated by De Gaulle which refused to accept the capitulation of France, during the Second World War. He took part in several campaigns and was involved in the liberation of several concentration camps. Following this, and apparently against his will, he was then sent to fight in Indo-China in January 1946. Here he established contact with the Vietminh and supplied them with petrol from French bases. Reported as a “demoralising element”, he was sent back to France in August of the same year.
Here he went to Paris. He made the decision to join the Fédération Anarchiste. The first person he met from the FA was the full-timer at their offices, who was none other than Georges Brassens, later to become known as one of France’s greatest singer-songwriters. He then moved to Auxerre working as a toolmaker-fitter. At the Gardy factory – where he set up a large section of the CNT – Valero allied himself with Georges Fontenis within the FA, and stayed with the organisation when it was transformed into the Fédération Communiste Libertaire.
He accepted the decision of the FCL to send him to Algeria in 1954 to aid the Mouvement Libertaire Nord-Africain (MLNA) in close relation with the FCL. Its main activists were the docker Duteuil, Idir Amazit, Derbal Salah and the teachers Fernand Doukhan, Jean Decharriene and Guy Martin. He obtained employment in a factory at Alger.
The MNLA gave assistance to the independence movement of Messali Hadj (distinct from the FLN). The FCL gave critical support to the independentist groups and Valero was to say : “You suffer from double oppressions. We are going to help you to get rid of colonial oppression. After that, it’s up to you to get rid of the oppression of your own capitalists!”. After the 1954 insurrection the main activity of the MNLA was support for Hadj’s organisation. Valero served as a “letter box” and sometimes a driver for the independentist leaders. At the same time Valero carried out propaganda selling the FCL paper Le Libertaire in the streets. He always carried a revolver in his pocket on these occasions and had to fire off several shots during a street sale.
In August 1955 he got a job as a foreman on a farm in Constantine province. Here he made contact with the guerrilla groups of the FLN ( Front de Libération Nationale) and supplied them with arms. In summer 1956, to avoid a military call-up in Algeria, he decided to return to France and live underground. The MNLA , now more and more under threat, decided to dissolve itself and all its archives and arms were thrown in the Mediterranean.
Part of the FCL had decided to go underground in summer 1956. These included Fontenis, Pierre Morain, Paul Philippe and Valero himself. With the amnesty offered by de Gaulle in 1958 Valero returned to Auxerre where he again got work in a factory. He was active in the CGT and in 1960 served on the departmental union of the CGT in the Yonne department. The factory where he worked was the first to go out on strike in the Yonne in May 1968 and Valero was one of the chief activists in the movement in the department.
Valero retired in 1983. In 1991 he joined the libertarian organisation Alternative Libertaire at its foundation, remaining with it until 2000. He remained active in free thought agitation and a neighbourhood association until the end of his life.
Sources: obituary in Alternative Libertaire no. 210, October 2011
- 17 October 1961: Fifty years on (oup.com)
- France remembers Algerian massacre 50 years on (guardian.co.uk)