A short biography of anarchist communist, Platformist, and one of those who rebuilt the post-war French anarchist movement, Roger Caron.
Born on 23rd October 1914 in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, Roger Caron began work at the age of 12 as an apprentice and then as an electrical mechanic. He joined the Union Anarchiste (UA) a revolutionary anarchist organisation, in the 1930s. He became treasurer of the Jeunesses Anarchistes (Anarchist Youth). He contributed to Le Libertaire, the weekly paper of the UA and started to identify with the Platformist current. In September 1936 he was responsible for the sector of the Parisian Federation of the UA and was the treasurer of the Jeunesse Anarchiste Communiste (JAC). He was very active in the solidarity movements for the Spanish anarchist movement. As a result of this, he was arrested following his handing out of leaflets during a Francoist Spanish ballet in Paris, at la Mutualité concert hall after World War II. Drafted into the Army, from which he had managed to get an adjournment in 1935, he managed to get a second adjournment. However, he was drafted after the outbreak of war and a round-up at the offices of Le Libertaire. He got himself invalided out (he was definitively discharged on health grounds in October 1946). At this time many anarchists dodged the draft and went into hiding or attempted to secretly leave France. Roger gave his military papers to one of these, André Barzangette, who in October 1939 thanks to these papers crossed the Spanish border in order to get a boat to Mexico with 4 other anarchists. André Barzangette was arrested and deported to the Miranda prison camp in 1940.
During the Second World War, he refused to take sides, whilst breaking off all contact with any anarchist who engaged in active collaboration. He kept up his contacts which led him to participate, with Henri Bouyé (ex-treasurer of the Federation Anarchiste de Langue Francaise), in January 1944 in a project to unite the ex-members of the FAF and the UA which led on to the eventual refounding of the post war anarchist movement. Relatively few members of the UA from before the war supported this unification, and in particular none of those who had been closest to him, some because they had been so discouraged from their war-time experiences to re-engage in activity, others because they had moved to a position of militant pacifism. He worked with, among others, Renée Lamberet, Henri Bouyé, André Senez, Vogue, Emile Babouot, Jean-Louis Lefevre and Giliane Berneri, on the pamphlet Les libertaires et le problème social, the first edition of which was published in March 1945. With the liberation of Paris in August 1944, he went to the Préfecture of Police of Paris to obtain permission to publish Le Libertaire from the new authorities. This was turned down and Le Libertaire did not appear legally until March 1946.
At the founding conference of the Fédération Anarchiste in 1945, he was one of the 22 militants elected to the administrative commission of the organisation. He was confirmed in his post at the following conference at Dijon in September 1946. He contributed to Le Libertaire and to Trait d’Union (Paris, 1949-1950) the internal bulletin of the groups of the Paris region of the FA . His flat was put on a police surveillance list. Always a defender of a structured organisation, in 1949 he was one of the main instigators with Georges Fontenis and Jean Senninger (alias Serge Ninn), of the 'Organisation Pensée Bataille (OPB) in which he had the title of "Secrétaire-Adjoint dit conseiller". He was a member of the East Paris group of the OPB, with Cécile and André Moine and René Lustre. Some of the secret meetings of the OPB took place at Caron’s flat just before the official meetings of the FA. This flat was just a few steps away from the offices of Le Libertaire.
At the FA conference in 1952 he was elected secretary of external relations on the new National Committee whose other members included Georges Fontenis (secretary). At the Paris conference the following year, where the name of the FA was changed to Fédération Communiste Libertaire (FCL) he was elected General Secretary in the new National Committee. Whilst himself favourable to a name change to Parti Communiste Libertaire, he supported the change to FCL. At this conference he was also one of those who defended a motion on the incompatibility of being a libertarian and a member of a Masonic Lodge, a position on which he remained intransigent all his life. He was also one of those who believed that the masthead of the paper should be printed in red rather than black, as a clear symbol of a break with the confusion of the old movement.
During the Algerian War, he had proceedings taken against him several times as director of Le Libertaire of threatening the internal and external security of the State, of attempting to destroy the morale of the army, of provocation of members of the armed forces to disobedience, of apologies for murders, Either Robert Joulin or Georges Fontenis were generally charged with complicity, in their roles as manager of Le Libertaire and as General Secretary of the FCL, respectively. Further and similar charges were brought against him later in 1954 and in 1955. In February 1956 he again had proceedings taken against him, along with Joulin for ‘defamation of the Army’ following an article in Le Libertaire denouncing the repression and torture in Algeria. In May of the same year he had to appear before a tribunal on further charges.
At the meeting of the national committee of the FCL on 5th July 1956, he was one of the minority opposed to the majority around Georges Fontenis who proposed the closing down of the paper and the beginning of underground work. He himself proposed the temporary suspension of the paper, considering that articles in Le Libertaire that had brought on the prosecutions could have been couched in different, less provocative language. He felt that this would avoid further prosecutions.
On 4th October, he again had charges taken out against him. In December, he was accused of public provocation of the military to disobedience, along with Fontenis. On the 12th December, he appeared in court on 9 charges alongside Joulin and Fontenis. Heavy fines and suspended prison sentences were handed out. Faced with the de facto disappearance of the organisation and the dispersal of its militants, he broke off all contact with the comrades of the OPB and of the FCL, this break definitively ending his political activity .
He died on 2nd October 1999 at Léchelle (Seine et Marne).
Based on articles in …Dictionnaire International des Militants Anarchistes at http://militants-anarchistes.info/spip.php?article5 and on French Wikipedia at http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Caron