Tribute: last to witness Algerian anarchism, Léandre Valéro has passed away

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Léandre-ValéroBigger than life, the militant and syndicalist path trodden by Valéro took him from the struggles in support of Indochinese independence to that of Algeria. From 1954 to 1956, he was also to play a pivotal role in the North African Libertarian Movement (MLNA)

Among the last of the well-known MLNA militants of the ‘50s, Léandre Valéro, died in Auxerre , France, on the 21st of August.

Son of an Andalusian anarchist, Léandre was born in the town of Oran, Algeria, on the 12th of October 1923. He owed to his multiple origins the ability to speak Spanish, Arabic and French, all as fluently.

Just as his father had fought in the ranks of the FAI during the Spanish Civil War, Léandre was to join the French “Free Forces” in WWII, that had him participate in several campaigns, including the liberation of a number of concentration camps.  But it was against his will that he was sent to Indochina as a soldier in January 1946. Once there, though, he didn’t hesitate to discreetly help the Vietminh by organising a gasoline traffic, stolen from the French military stores. Spotted as a “demoralisation agent”, he was sent back to France in August 1946.

Upon arriving in Paris, he joined the Anarchist Federation, in full bloom at the time.  The young party worker that first welcomed him at the Federation’s original quai de Valmy location happened to be none other than Georges Brassens! [1] When he left for Auxerre, in the province of Burgundy, he first worked as a metalworker in a factory, where he set up a significant CNT section (French sister organisation of the Spanish Anarcho-syndicalist union). A close friend of Georges Fontenis, Valéro stayed on as a militant of the anarchist organisation when it transformed into the Libertarian Communist Federation (FCL).

In August 1954, as the FCL asked him to move to Algeria, he accepted to leave for the other side of the Mediterranean in order to reinforce its sister organisation, the North African Libertarian Movement (MLNA).

He found a job in Algiers at the Henri Hamel Establishments, where he carried out as a militant alongside other MLNA comrades such as the dock worker Duteuil, Fernand Doukhan or Derbal Salah.

The MLNA was doing its best to help out Messali Hadj’s independence movement. After the All Saint’s Day uprising in 1954, this was even to become Valéro’s main activity. Léandre was often to play the role of a “mailbox”, or of a driver for some of the heads of the independence movement, while keeping up libertarian propaganda work.

Not without risks though, for selling the Libertaire on the streets required to carry a gun in one’s pocket. And Léandre was brushed by gunfire on one occasion while selling the paper.

In August 1955 he finds a job as foreman on a farm in the region of Constantine, Algeria. He makes contact with the NLF guerrilla and smuggles arms thanks to the contacts he had maintained from his time in the Military.

In the Spring of 1956, to avoid being drafted for the “Territorial Corps”, he decides to secretly take himself back to France. The MLNA, being more and more exposed decides to dissolve itself. All of its archives and material are jettisoned and sunk in the Mediterranean.

After a few months in hiding with other militants of the Libertarian Communist Federation, Léandre Valéro makes the best of De Gaulle’s pardon and returns to Auxerre in 1958, where he goes to work at Fruehauf. He will be in charge of a section of the mighty CGT syndicate and in 1960, will enter the local CGT head office.

Fruehauf’s CGT section will be the first in May 1968 to launch a strike in the Yonne District (Burgundy), making Léandre Valéro a major actor, at the very forefront of the movement in the district.

When he retired in 1983, Léandre, had never ceased to be an anarchist, and had joined Alternative Libertaire at its very foundation in 1991. He remained a member till the year 2000.

Guillaume Davranche
(AL Montreuil)


Footnotes:

  1. Georges Brassens (1921-1981) was a hugely popular French singer and songwriter, a first-time anarchist, and gifted poet.

Translation: Cuervo

This obituary appeared in Alternative Libertaire, October 2011

A short biography of Léandre Valero by Nick Heath is online here