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Alain Krivine


Defense campaign decisive to victory

(10 August 1973)

From World Outlook Supplement, The Militant, 7 September 1973, p WO1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following interview with Alain Krivine is reprinted from the Aug. 10 issue of Rouge, formerly the newspaper of the Communist League, French section of the Fourth International. The translation is by The Militant.

The Communist League was banned by the French government June 28 for its sponsorship of a demonstration protesting a meeting held June 21 in Paris by the fascist group Ordre Nouveau (New Order). The fascist meeting was aimed at whipping up racist opposition to immigrant workers in France.

Alain Krivine, the Communist League’s candidate against Pompidou in the 1969 elections, was arrested for supposedly instigating the anti-fascist demonstration, even though the night of the action he was speaking at a meeting in another city. He was charged under the infamous “anti-wrecker law,” which enables the government to hold leaders of an organization responsible for any illegal acts that take place in a demonstration sponsored by that organization.

Krivine was released from prison Aug. 2 as a result of a massive defense effort, but still faces trial this fall.

Pierre Rousset, formerly a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist League, was arrested simply for being present in the Communist League headquarters when it was sacked by police, who found weapons there.

The international defense campaign continues, demanding freedom for Pierre Rousset, lifting of the ban on the League, and dropping of all charges against Krivine and Rousset. A Militant reader from the Socialist Workers League of Australia writes that a broad united-front meeting of 150 people took place in Melbourne Aug. 16. This followed a similar meeting of 230 in Sydney Aug. 1.

The Melbourne meeting was sponsored by a wide spectrum of left groups, as well as the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union, the Seaman’s Union, and Bob Hawke, federal president of the Australian Labor Party and president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

The French National Committee Against the Dissolution of the Communist League asks that letters and petitions of protest be sent to the Pompidou regime, with copies to the defense committee c/o M.F. Kahn, 15 rue Clerc, Paris 75007. Financial contributions to the defense campaign can: be sent to Michel Foucault, C.C.P., Paris 26-115, France.

* * *

Q: What are conditions like now in La Sante prison?

A: They have been improved slightly since the last [prisoners’] rebellions and the growth of public awareness they fostered. But the scattered reforms of 1972 have not fundamentally changed the depersonalizing and degrading setup that the French penal system represents. Isolated in tiny cells, the prisoners spend months awaiting their trials. A large part of them are young people, and there are many immigrants, who are put together in a special section.

Pierre Rousset and I were given a special status, what they call “political.” Among other things, this allowed us to have a radio, daily and weekly papers, and one-hour visits each day. But we were kept totally isolated, with no possibility of seeing or meeting other prisoners.

Q: How did you get news from the outside?

A: You could get news through the visits from your family or friends, but also by mail, and that was very important. Pierre and I received dozens and dozens of letters from all over France – from former militants of the Communist League, from Maoist militants, from members of the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the United Socialist Party. This is how we were able to get a sense of the breadth of the solidarity movement that developed despite the vacation period. These letters were all opened but they have not as yet been censored.

Q: What is there of importance in the prosecution’s case?

A: Unfortunately for Marcellin [minister of the interior], nothing. There is a memorandum from the Political Bureau of the former Communist League explaining to the militants in two pages why it was necessary for them to come to the June 20 demonstration organized by the Communist Party and the United Socialist Party for the defense of civil liberties. The memorandum also explains in a few lines why – in the context of this action – it was necessary to prevent the June 21 meeting of the New Order. That’s the famous “secret directive” discovered by the minister of the interior. And the manuscript is written in my handwriting! As for the rest of the “directives,” they are nothing more than press releases published by Le Monde, which is, as far as I know, neither secret nor confidential.

Finally, there is a call for a united meeting to organize the anti-fascist campaign, a call signed by Michel Recanti for the Communist League. More than 20 organizations received this “secret” letter. And the site of the meeting was the Parisian café best known for the left and far-left meetings that are held there. Another indication of how clandestine the “plot” was!

Q: What has the role of the defense been?

A: Decisive. Attorneys Jouffa and Compte have succeeded in bringing out the whole political character of the case without neglecting to utilize the bourgeois laws to the maximum, fighting step-by-step on all the procedural aspects. One of the goals is to show concretely what a scandal the “anti-wrecker” law is.

Q: What exactly is the situation of Pierre Rousset?

A: Pierre had the misfortune to be at 10 impasse Guéménée [then headquarters of the Communist League] with 22 other militants the day after the demonstration. It was the normal rotation of militants to guard the headquarters. Today they are accusing him of concealing Molotov cocktails and guns in the headquarters.

As far as the Molotov cocktails go, we have never denied that we have stocked them for our defense since the attack on us by a New Order commando squad. As for the two army rifles, we have already explained their presence at some length. They were brought to the headquarters in broad daylight, poorly wrapped and bundled, by an unknown person who can only have been a provocateur or mentally ill.

What were we to do? The provocation could have consisted of arresting this person in the act of leaving the Communist League headquarters with the weapons. We had no way to verify this hypothesis. We therefore kept the weapons, and the person in charge at the time gave instructions for getting rid of them rapidly.

This affair – a secondary matter – remained at this stage until the day of the brutal search by the police, which brought to light the fact that the instructions had not been carried out. No one knew this. Pierre Rousset did not know it.

Furthermore, there is no one who is not aware that the Communist League is not preparing for immediate armed struggle.

Moreover, a court-ordered test was carried out. The Molotov cocktails, such as they were presented to the judge by the police, were inoperative; thus they are not Molotov cocktails. And ammunition for one of the two rifles has not been available for years! Pierre Rousset has appealed the judge’s refusal to grant him provisional liberty, and a higher court must still rule on the appeal.

But Pierre had already been given an eight-month suspended sentence last year for an act of solidarity with Latin American revolutionaries. If he is sentenced to more than two months in prison this time, he will have to serve the other eight months as well.

The essential task today is to organize the campaign to free Pierre Rousset. The greatest danger would be to be lulled to sleep by what seems to be a spectacular victory (my release) but is really only a modest success.

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