Cottin, Louis Emile, 1896-1937

Louis Emile Cottin

A biography of Louis Emile Cottin, who attempted to assassinate the French president and fought in the Durruti Column in the Spanish Civil War.

Louis Emile Cottin
Nicknamed Milou, born 14 March 1896 - Creil, France, died 8 September 1937 - Farlete, Spain

Born 14th March 1896 at Creil, Emile Cottin was raised at Compiegne in a working class family, becoming a carpenter-cabinet maker. He starting reading Zola and became interested in libertarian ideas.

In 1915 he met the French anarchists Emile Armand, Pierre Chardon, Sebastien Faure, Louis Leco in and Spaniard Buenaventura Durruti. He maintained a close friendship with the Spanish militant over the course of the years.

In May 1918 he saw municipal guards charge and fire on strikers in the munitions factories. He was profoundly disgusted. In anarchist meetings he attended, he heard cries of "down with Clemenceau, the strike breaker" and decided to kill him.

On 19th Feb 1919 he fired on Clemenceau's car with a Browning revolver and one bullet passed hit Clemenceau. The crowd almost lynched Cottin, who was arrested by the police. Clemenceau drolly remarked: "We have just won the most terrible war in history, yet here is a Frenchman who misses his target 6 times out of 7. Of course the fellow must be punished for the careless use of a dangerous weapon. Eight years in prison with intensive training in a shooting gallery".

He was condemned to death on the 14th March 1919. Lieutenant Mornet prosecuting said "It's not just M. Clemenceau that the anarchist aimed at, it was France ."

Cottin had received a death sentence, whilst the murderer of the socialist leader Jaures, who had been opposed to World War I, was acquitted. Le Libertaire, the anarchist paper, set up a campaign on this theme and managed to get the death sentence reduced to 10 years.

He was freed in 1924, but had to face house arrest in the Oise region. He ignored the ban and continued to travel and was arrested in Lyons in 1930 and condemned to 3 months. In September 1936 he got to Spain and joined his old friend Durruti to fight in the Civil War and Revolution.

He died on 8th September 1937 at Farlete, fighting with the International Group of the Durruti Column.

"I don't understand present society... it is authoritarian and only creates a mass of miseries. This authority has always been a scarecrow in the hands of the governors to the detriment of the masses. I hold all governments responsible for all wars which have resulted in the murder of millions of individuals."
- Statement at his trial.

Nick Heath