Boesiger, Andre, 1913-2005

The biography of a veteran Swiss anarchist militant

Submitted by Ed on September 20, 2004

Andre Boesiger
Born Switzerland, 22 July 1913, died 13th April 2005

Born in Switzerland in the Jura, he left school at 13. He arrived in Geneva at 16 in 1929. He became active in his union and in its anarcho-syndicalist wing Ligue d’Action du Batiment (League of Housing Action) which practised direct action and sabotage on the building sites AND against recalcitrant landlords and helped unemployed workers when they faced eviction The LAB fought against Saturday work and extra overtime hours. As a worker he practised the tactics of “Bad pay, bad work”. He also joined the Geneva Anarchist Group. 50 people met every week, among them Italian workers who had fled fascism. On 9th November 1932 a thousands-strong antifascist demonstration, which Andre was on, was fired on by the Swiss Army with 13 dead and many wounded - the Geneva Massacre. Andre’s best friend was among those shot dead. He was at his side when he was shot through the head.

During the Spanish Revolution, Andre made sure that truck after truck was sent from Switzerland to the anarchist militias in Spain. Among the clothes, tools and provisions were hidden arms. He also loaded many trucks for the French Resistance during World War Two. Twice he was imprisoned for a year’s stretch in prison for refusing military service. He used this time to read the Petit Larousse from cover to cover (French language equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica). He commented : “Is two years of prison a long time? Well, I would have needed 2 more years to finish everything I had to read!”

During the Algerian War he smuggled many people (war resisters, Algerian dissidents etc.) and arms over the border to and from France. He found work and lodging for these refugees and even discussed workers control with Ben Bella and Raptis (Pablo), then without money or lodging. He did the same for deserters and anto-Francoist activists. He was also active in setting up cooperatives in Switzerland. He had a lifetime companion in the anarchist Ruth (Coucou) Boesiger, who died in 1990, and together they represented an active anarchist couple, not a frequent occurrence in their generation and still rare today.

In 1957 he was one of the founders of the CIRA , the library and archive of international anarchist material in Switzerland., helping with its construction, its various moves, and its rent. He wrote his memoirs Souvenirs d’un Rebelle in 1990. He also appeared in a film Ecoutez Andre Boesiger, filmed by Bernard Baissat and the historian Alexandre Skirda., and in a film about Swiss volunteers in Spain.

The Swiss working class and the international anarchist movement has lost one of its most warm and generous personalities.

By Nick Heath