A short biography of French libertarian communist Gilles Durou.
Gilles became active in the libertarian movement in the 1970s. He joined the Groupe Sebastien Faure (part of the Federation Anarchiste) in Bordeaux. In the early 80s he left the FA with other groups, notably the Groupe Emma Goldman of Paris.
He set up the Groupe Anarchiste of Bordeaux (GAB) where side by side with veterans like Jean Barrue, with whom he shared many analyses, were young militants: students for the most part. He joined the Organisation Communiste Libertaire (OCL) at the end of the 80s, having worked alongside its members in South West France in many struggles. In 1986 he set up the Cercle d’études libertaires (CEL) which organised many public meetings and small discussion meetings over a period of 15 years.
He was an active antimilitarist from the 1970s onwards, notably in the Comité de Lutte des Objecteurs(CLO). He was equally active in anti-nuclear struggles within the CLANG ( Comite de Lutte Antinucleaire Girondin).
He was also very active in struggles for women’s rights, especially against the anti-abortion commandos, within the Collectif Girondin pour le Droit des Femmes a l’Avortement et a la Contraception (Girondin Collective for the Right of Women to Abortion and Contraception).
Another important struggle for him was support for the Sans-papiers (literally “without papers”, meaning illegal immigrants), particularly during the hunger strikes of 1991, 1998, and 2002. As a result of this commitment, he became interested in African politics.
This interest became intense with the genocide in Rwanda and he was instrumental in setting up the Collectif Girondin pour le Rwanda in 1994. He went to Rwanda in 1995 to gather testimonies of survivors, and he was able to denounce a Rwandan mass murderer who had taken refuge in Bordeaux.
He opened the libertarian bookshop L’En-Dehors in 1980. At the end of the 80s he became involved in photocomposition, and used this to help many causes including the layout of Courant Alternatif, the monthly magazine of the OCL. He launched a publishing house, Editions Analis, which published 2 booklets, L’Increvable Anarchisme of Mercier-Vega in 1988 and Liberte sur Paroles of Christophe Souliein 1995.
I met Gilles at an OCL summer camp in the French Pyrenees in the 1990s. Subsequently, he introduced us to a number of Basque libertarians in Bayonne. A thoughtful and committed militant, he was a great organiser.
Gilles had to go into hospital in December 2002. Complications followed, and he suffered for a long time, until a fatal heart attack at the age of 49 on 22nd September 2003.