Bouyé, Henri, 1912-1999

Henri Bouyé
Henri Bouyé

A short biography of Henri Bouyé, who kept the French anarchist movement going throughout World War II and rebuilt the movement following the war.

Submitted by Ed on September 21, 2004

Henri Bouyé
Aka André Deval, A. Vigne, born Mornac sur Seudre, 18 October 1912, died 9 September 1999

If anyone was responsible for rebuilding and restoring the French anarchist movement after the Nazi occupation, it was Henri Bouyé. Born 18th October 1912 at Mornac sur Seudre he was the youngest of twelve children of a Protestant family. His father died shortly after he was born. One of his aunts-brought him up. At the age of 12 he was placed in a community at Etaules, his studies being supervised by a preceptor. He learnt to play violin and piano, mastered the Morse system and trained as a florist.

In 1928 he started work in the flower trade. At the age of 16 he led a strike, acting as the spokesperson for the workforce. Around 1930 he began to frequent the anarchist movement, reading the paper Le Libertaire, and abandoning religion. He joined the Federation Anarchiste when it was set up in 1933. He was co-founder of the paper Terre Libre in 1934 (see bio of Paul Roussenq for more information). In 1936 during the Popular Front he led another strike in Paris. A union was set up in the workplace and he also founded the florists union as a section of the CGT union. With the end of the social unrest he was sacked.

In 1939 he was called up and managed to be discharged on health grounds. Under the occupation he went underground under the alias of Henri Duval. In Paris on the Avenue de la Republique, he set up a florist shop run by his companion. The comings and goings of customers were a good cover for underground activities. Despite several visits from the Gestapo, the underground work remained undetected. In the cellar was equipment to manufacture false papers, and it served as a hideout for people about to be passed over the border, mostly to Spain. Scores of Jews had their lives saved by the Bouyé network.

The anarchist movement was also underground and Henri maintained the Paris liaison and its contact with other liaisons in the rest of France, above all in the Midi and South West. The florist union office was used as a meeting place on several occasions. In 1943 anarchists of Paris and its suburbs met in secret in the forest of Montmorency under the cover of a country walk arranged by a non-existent naturist club.

Henri was a real power-house in setting up the networks, above all in developing the contacts with the rest of France and setting up the Federation Libertaire Unifiee (United Libertarian Federation). He travelled at great risk under false papers through the Midi, meeting the Russian anarchist Voline in hiding in Marseilles. He also journeyed to Spain to establish contacts with the Spanish anarchist underground.

Leaflets and manifestos were produced and a Manifesto of the Federation - prepared by Henri - called for revolutionary action based on internationalism. A duplicated internal bulletin Le Lien (The Link) was also produced. A leaflet and poster were distributed and flyposted massively under the Federation Anarchiste emblem as the Germans were still leaving Paris.

As secretary of the Federation he prepared for the October 1945 Conference at Paris which put the organisation on a firm footing. He remained on the secretariat until the Dijon conference in September 1945. He actively worked for the reappearance of Le Libertaire, obtaining the hard-to-get paper for the first issue.

Up to 1947 he was the pivotal point in the Federation Anarchiste. Political differences made him quit the National Committee in November 1947. He also had employment problems. It was his disagreement with the tendency in the FA around Georges Fontenis that made him leave the organisation in 1952, which transformed itself into the Federation Communiste Libertaire. Others who had left or were expelled from the FA/FCL set up a new Federation Anarchiste in 1953, but Bouyé had personal disagreements with some of them (above all Maurice Joyeux) and abstained from this new initiative. By 1956 the FCL had collapsed and with it Le Libertaire.

In 1967, with Andre Senez, he founded the Union Federal Anarchiste, composed of three or four groups, based mostly in Western France. This produced a newspaper Le Libertaire which ran for ten issues up to 1972, when the UFA disappeared.

In October 1991, with the Val de Loire anarchist group, he decided to join the Federation Anarchiste, contributing articles to its weekly newspaper Le Monde Libertaire. He made an impressive contribution to the conference on one hundred years of the libertarian press in 1996. His last appearance at a conference of the Federation Anarchiste was in 1997.

After seventy years of anarchist activity, Henri Bouyé, died on 9th September 1999 at the age of 87 years and eleven months.

By Nick Heath
Based on an article which appeared originally in "Le Monde Libertaire".